Sunday, 8 December 2013

Political Musings From An Aam Kitchen

                                                        Tangy Tuesdays

       The results have come in as Delhi Election draws to a nail-biting end. Euphoric moments interspersed with dejected feelings. As the dal bubbles in my kitchen and I get ready to temper it with the bay leaf, chillies and  ginger (having banned the onion from the kitchen till it behaves itself and comes back to its aukat), my thoughts go up like the rising steam.
       So the " mango people" party seem to have made some interesting notes to take cognizance of, for the "traditional" pedigreed political parties of free India. For the first time, there was a party that stood up for clean politics and for making many of us believe that clean politics was a possibility. Thankfully they adopted the humble 'jhadoo' and gave it a makeover and a distinct identity, which otherwise was relegated to a not-to-be-seen corner. It went on to give a literal connotation to the word 'sweep' that had been doing the rounds for the past so many electoral times, in the print media as well as the news studios. Media personnel were going ballistic with the humble 'jhadoo' and its many usages. In the previous regimes, it was used to 'sweep' the scams and scandals under the carpet and hurried into the cupboards to keep the many skeletons company.

      Secondly, the "mango people" party has given humbly the 'in your face' to all the cynics and detractors who brushed it off as a fad and prophesied it's doom much before it breathed. Call me a romantic, an idealist and what have you, but the fact remains that there is a tomorrow only if you have faith. I'm sure many of us wish for a change in the political scenario. And yet we sit and wait for someone else to make those changes. Frankly, it gets my goat when politicians unabashedly and arrogantly treat the public with condescension during the next five years when in power securing their personal future, and do the rounds with folded hands and promises when elections are just round the corner.

   The Delhi Election this time, was an indication that if you act like onions and hike up your affluence quotient and making us cry with your inaccessibility , we will do just what we do to that snooty vegetable. Refuse entry into the kitchen. After all dishes can be made without the pricey onion just as we can do without the high and mighty and the haughty in politics. 

    For the first time, a party is happy to be in the opposition and not scrambling to do the political arithmetic  leaving aside its reason for coming into existence and principles so it can have a heady taste of power. Wise decision. If you want to have a vegetable on your plate with its identity and flavour intact you might just as well have that instead of losing it's goodness in a khichdi or biryani.

    However, a word of caution to the new ebullient party. Please do not let us down. For the first time we have been made to believe that an alternative is possible in politics also just as alternative medicines and practices have made inroads into people's fancy for their well being. There have been mistakes, terrible mistakes in the past.

   I remember a similar euphoric time in Assam with the historic birth and win of the AGP in 1985. The time when our "own boys" formed the Government promising a new era in politics and an end to decades of misgoverning. Since I see a significant member of the "mango people" party with a very conspicuous Assamese 'gamusa' around his shoulders, I think he already knows those valuable lessons.What happened after AGP assumed power was a treachery of the people pining their hopes for a fresh beginning. Coteries, rampant corruption, shameful flaunting of power and arrogance not just by the chosen leaders but also by those closely associated with them. Their kith and kin also seemed to be enjoying the shares freebies that came with power. So where did that leave the aam admi of Assam? Back on the dilapidated road which they hoped to renew and rebuild. 

    Here, we as the people also need to show some  restrain and self-discipline. Yes, the Delhi Elections has made the aam admi a force not to be brushed off lightly and having successfully forayed into the political scenario, of standing up for our rights in the face of political fiefdom, muscle and money power. Some introspection will clear the way we want the future in politics.

1. Are we willing not to expect our pound of flesh from the winners? For it is this that breeds coterie and corruption.
2. Are we willing to be tolerant and gracefully accept the cultural differences abundant in this country and follow a policy of 'live and let live'? Because that is what the political parties in the past have been feeding on, picking on the differences and deepening the chasms in the name of religion, region, caste, language, ethnicity. 
3. Are we willing to be self disciplined in following the rules laid down for our well being. That would translate into not jumping queues, traffic signals, looking for privileges, evading taxes and back door entries. 4. Are we willing to accept social responsibilities especially towards the weaker sections of the society? By letting them know of various schemes and their rights and right to a dignified life. For the politicians of the traditional schools have gnawed at their wounds and left them festering  with temporary bandages to be exploited every five years. 

     If we, as the people want a matured democracy, of the people, for the people, by the people, then it is time we acted as matured and responsible individuals ourselves. Is it fair to expect miracles with just your neighbour's vote while you sit at home and watch the fun. Can we expect the food brought from outside to nourish us everyday never knowing what went into it's making? 
   Ah! The 'dal' is ready and laid on the table. Time to call the family for a wholesome and healthy meal.        

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

Voting For A Change

               A few people trickled into the booths set up by the road just outside the school. By the time we finished our round of morning walk and approached the centre, the trickle turned into a steady stream. Citizens queued up to get their names verified and collect the voting slips before walking into the school to cast their ballot. The officials behind the tables, in the makeshift sheds were warming up to the task that lay ahead, the morning December chill making their fingers shiver as they leafed through sheets of voters list. An anxious voter insisted that his mother's name be struck out since she was travelling, ensuring that her vote was not misused. The old were helped in,  the young walked in with a sprite. Everyone walked towards their allotted rooms taking their place in the queue. Pleasantries were exchanged. They went out of their way to help those who looked confused and lost.
Voting had begun in a quiet suburb as in the rest of Delhi for assembly elections.

        Another place. Another time.
                So, will you go tomorrow to vote?
                Of course!
                 What if someone sees you? You know who I mean.
                It doesn't matter now. There will be many more tomorrow, just see. People have had enough of this 'struggle'. Many lives have been lost and many sacrificed for the cause. And what have we gained? The 'leaders' are snug in their safe havens with millions tucked away for their secured future.
The next morning was silent. No horns honking and no sound of vehicles plying. People stayed at home going about their daily chores as in a holiday. They looked out to see if anyone was venturing towards the polling centre. Streets were empty and the dogs were frolicking around. The ULFA had called for an Assam Bandh asking the people to boycott the election.
       An old man walked slowly. People looked at him as he walked past their houses wondering if he was out for a stroll. The old man reached the gate of the school. The officials manning the centre looked up from their doodles and idle talk. He walked towards them and asked them to check if his name was there on the list. One of them pushed his forefinger down the list looking for the name. He ticked his name and guided him towards the ballot box. The old man looked weary but determined. 
             " That was very brave of you, Sir."
He looked at the officer with sad eyes and  lips thinning into a wry smile.
              "My son was very brave. He died fighting for the cause. He was an innocent fool. He trusted everyone..." shaking his head the old man walked away. 
People streamed in slowly as the day progressed. One by one they made their way into the school. Women, men young and old, students who were first time voters.
               Father's name?
               Husband's name?
               Identity proof?
               Sign here.
And so the process continued. The officers continued shuffling papers, checking lists and guiding the people. The next they spoke to their colleagues was after 5pm. 
               Mohit Bhuyan
               But you are late ,sir.
               But it is only 4pm!
               I mean you are late, as in deceased.
               What nonsense! I am very much alive standing here before you! How can I be dead?
               Here is my identity proof.My wife and my daughter have voted. In their details my name doesn't show as 'late'.
              I am sorry sir. You will have to get this revised for the next time. Next please!

              Delhi was buzzing the last few days. And so were some other states as they went in for poll. Every action of the candidates was followed up in  great detail, scrutinized and discussed at great length. People have had enough of the scams, the scandals, political high handedness and lack of accountability. They ask for good governance now. The media worked itself up into a frenzy, scrambling to be the first in the race to predict the outcome. People were shown thronging the polling centres willing for a change.
A  footage on the television shows long shots of queues and close ups of the people. Some smiling and some  look affronted.
             "My name is not there on the voters list. I've been living here for the last 20 years."
              "My sister's name is shown as deceased. Here she is before you very much alive and kicking!"

Call it dance of democracy or people's call for a change. It is time to realise that at the end of it all, it is the grades in the report cards that will call the shots. An aberration here and there is fine. But people are not willing to be short changed, duped and assailed...

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