Tag Archives: Gandhi

Of Hockey bats, tyres and torches

In spite of following politics keenly, I am usually ambivalent towards the Supreme Court.

For one, I do not understand the legal world too much. The closest I have come to legal matters is by dating a lawyer, and the only cool thing that came off that was juicy gossip about some venerable legal personalities in the country.

Then there is also the question of understanding. Can I, a Commerce graduate who studied journalism, and now tells jokes on stage for a living – fully understand and imbibe the workings of the highest court of the country? Can a B.Com (Hons.) comment on the Honourable Supreme Court?

I think of it this way. Inside my head, there’s a cynical monkey waiting to go ‘Bola tha; sab chutiyaap hai’ at the drop of a hat. Whenever there’s news of a hero of mine accused of a heinous act, or if the tiffin guy gives me less chutney to go with two idlis and a vada – the monkey gets into action.

This cynical monkey is waiting to go ‘Bola tha’ when I read about Supreme Court mishaps. But deep within, the existential question of ‘Are you smart enough to even understand what’s going on’ – a feeling that last arose while watching Humraaz – crops up at the same time.

But given my limited understanding of legal matters, the Supreme Court’s recent observation warmed by cold, cynical heart. While hearing a case against a Gorkha Janmukti Sangha leader for violence in the region, a bench of Supreme Court judges announced that destroying public property and indulging in violence is not a basic right, no matter how genuine the reason might be.

Read – Violent protests not a basic right: Supreme Court (The Hindu).

This is a phenomenon that we have taken for granted in India. The habit of political parties taking to the streets and burning vehicles, destroying property, and pelting stones. From Kashmir to Kanyakumari, political parties employ jobless youth in arson and loot – and we stay indoors and watch the news on television.

Nobody raises a word, nobody lodges a complaint. Sometimes, the threat of violence is used as a bargaining ploy. On other times, parties announce their presence by burning and breaking. This is a habit that unites all political parties in the wide spectrum of ideologies in this country – this is the common thread – the knowledge that havoc can be wrecked. On the contrary, when a teenager complained on Facebook about the mess due to the death of a political leader, an FIR was filed against her.

I wonder what gives us the absolute confidence to take to the roads. Perhaps it is the nature of our festivals – Holi and Diwali. Celebrated by everybody, out on the roads. And I don’t just mean Hindu festivals either. Muslim festivals are equally outdoorsy – whether it is Muharram processions or Christian carnivals. Our festivals are also celebrated along with other mobs.

A decade ago, one would hear of violence from the norther parts of India. North India, that discordant where the prettiest locations give birth to the ghastliest incidents. But of late, there are reports of vandalism and violence even in the North-east, arguably the most well-behaved part of the country. As if that wasn’t enough, this has become a common sight in south India too.

And what protests they have been! Who can forget that shady guru who had AK-47 wielding devotees protecting their guru. Or those bunch of morons who burnt cars to defend their godman – Ram Rahim Rapist. Or the demands for reservations, or for a separate state – the latter always baffles me. It’s like saying ‘Hey, give us our own state, or we’ll fuck up the one that we already have with us’. And what happens if you get the state, but you’ve broken all the infrastructure? Well, who gives a fuck?

Ironically, the most famous man from our country was famous for a non-violent protest. Like the Kamasutra, non-violent protest is another branch of knowledge that we rarely resort to in everyday life.

Another possible reason for the increase of public violence is the media spotlight that these incidents gain. Bajrang Dal wakes to life when Valentines’ Day is around the corner. Karni Sena has made a name for itself by protesting against Padmavat – inadvertently looking like a bunch of nincompoop morons due to the excessive praise and bravado dialogues in the movie. With 24-hour coverage, the violence has gotten louder, more destructive. And no political party will take real action because grassroot workers of every political party are involved in these incidents. From Congress to BJP to TMC – every political party in India has a history of public violence.

However, if we needed an example, we need to look no further than the farmer protests that happened last week in Maharashtra. These were not urban, English-educated folks; and yet, the dignity with which they handled themselves makes one question the purpose of literacy in our lives.

When the first strains of news about the protests began flowing in, the response from urban Indians was sickening. Log into any news site, and you saw youngsters putting up moronic statements like ‘These guys just want freebies. They are a waste of taxpayer money’.

I’m sick of hearing urban Indians complain about ‘taxpayer money’. What is the fuss about taxpayer money? The term is thrown around every time reservations, or subsidies are mentioned. Should urban India only enjoy the benefits of taxation? And you’re not doing anybody a favour by paying your taxes – it’s your fucking duty!

The farmers’ protest was exemplary when compared to the usual rowdy Indian standards. There was no violence, arson or looting. They came in huge numbers and arrived in the city early in the morning so as to avoid disrupting life of the average Mumbaikar. They put forth their issues, got an assurance from the Chief Minister, and silently went back to their lives.

For all the talk of ‘taxpayers’ money’, those farmers showed us that literacy and wisdom are two diverse concepts. That we might be a developing country, but we are far from being a civil state.

 

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Sachin and Gandhi : The Bringing Down of an Icon

When Sachin Tendulkar struck his long awaited 100th century about a month ago in Bangladesh, the nation was supposed to celebrate. He was after all, the darling of the country, someone who has been followed wherever he went for the last two decades, an idol, a role model, even a god. And this was a feat that was never thought achievable in the history of the game, and doesn’t look like it can be broken by anyone else. It was but expected that the nation would go into a frenzy.

The national media did their bit : feature stories describing milestones in his long career, TV channels churned out their bulletins with Jai Ho playing in the background. But on websites like cricinfo.com and youtube.com, there was an outpouring of hatred by fans. Many called Sachin Tendulkar selfish, others said he was playing for records, and that he needs to hang up his boots.

Not once did anyone say that he didn’t look fit on the field, no one spoke about him unable to run, or his eyes and hand-eye coordination getting worse, or anything else related to cricket. The argument was that he was selfish and needed to be dropped.

It was then that I could see a clear reflection of my thoughts a few years back. I was out of my spiritual boarding school. I felt like a free bird, and a rebel. I remember having strong hatred for Gandhi back then. I could attribute some of it to the simultaneous release of three films on Bhagat Singh, but there was more to it than just the release of the films.

I didn’t know enough about Gandhi – just that he was a freedom fighter, and whatever else our books and teachers in school told us about him. There were a few others from our class as well, and we regularly sat together and spoke about Gandhi, along the lines of how he was responsible for all the problems in our country.

Much later, when I read more about him, I learnt that Gandhi was more than just a freedom fighter. And I also realised that most of the opinions I had harboured about him were wrong in the first place. What then, prompted me to hate him so much? I have asked myself this many times, and this is the closest I have come to as an answer.

Throughout our childhoods, we are surrounded by Gandhi, his principles, his photos, his teachings, his songs, his stories, and films on him. We had a subject called Human Values and books by Gandhi were used as our course material. This ubiquity, after a point, felt suffocating. And to be able to criticise Gandhi seemed like an act of rebellion for me. I did not understand him enough, so I went ahead and made my own opinions, often basing them on things my friends (who were equally, if not more ignorant) told me. Through some twisted logic, we believed that Gandhi was responsible for the partition, and that he was a propagator of Hindutva.

I have made my peace with Gandhi today. I have learnt to dissect his public from his private life, and have learnt to look at things with a broader perspective. But when I see criticism of Sachin Tendulkar, I can’t help feel that he has reached the same stage as an icon.

The most common criticism about him is that when he scores a century, India loses the match. This fact automatically translates to him being a selfish player who is intent on achieving personal milestones. This could not be further away from the truth.

The nature of the game of cricket itself means that individual performances are not as crucial to a side’s fortunes, as it is with other games. Take football, for example, where a goal by a single player could tilt the match totally in the favour of the team, thus critically affecting the match. In cricket, batting is just one aspect of the game. A century by no means implies that the team is going to win the match, because the game is divided into two halves – batting and bowling – and each of the aspects affect the match equally.

To further illustrate my point, let me give you the example of the match between South Africa and Australia in the March 2006. Australia batted first and scored 434, the highest score ever in a One Day International, and the first time any team had crossed 400 runs in 50 overs. Australia, however, lost the match at the end of the day because South Africa was able to score 438, thanks to the shoddy bowling by the Australians.

There have been umpteen such examples where individual performances did not result in the team winning the match, and this by no means implies that the performances weren’t good enough, it just means that the other aspect of the game wasn’t good enough on the day. That it happens with surprising regularity with Sachin is a reflection of our universally acknowledged poor bowling skills, and not because his centuries are not good enough.

Here, let me take you back a little into the past again. This was in the same phase when I was vehemently against Gandhi, circa 2005. Sachin Tendulkar at that time had been struggling for a year or so to score his 35th Test century, one that would result in him beating Sunil Gavaskar’s then highest 34. He was suffering from recurring back injuries, tennis elbow, and seemed nervous and edgy in the crease. I was among the many that rooted for his retirement from the game.

I remember the day he scored the century, this is what he said to the media – “Landmarks happen. You just go and bat because you want to bat well and get runs for your team. If you chase landmarks then it becomes a problem.” He made it clear that the fans had been demanding the century for a long time, and that it was quite stressful. I remember reading it with cynicism.

However, if I look back at the incident now, I realise he knew what he was talking about. If he had retired then, we wouldn’t have witnessed some of the greatest knocks in the history of the game. He went on to make a spectacular comeback, a resurrection that culminated with him becoming Player of the year in 2010. We wouldn’t have seen his knock of 200, or his crucial role in the World Cup last year.

It is actually a matter of great credit to Sachin Tendulkar that no one is talking about the way he is playing his cricket, how he is running between the wickets, or his fitness. The criticism is always generic – that new blood needs to be infused into the team, and that it is high time he retired. From my experience seven years ago, I know that the decision to retire is best left to Sachin himself.

With the ruckus about him becoming an MP, I can see a clear link between my criticism of Gandhi back then, and the criticism Sachin faces today. It is not to do with him as a cricketer. It has got more to do with the rebellion involved in the bringing down of an icon.