Rang de india
Friday, February 10, 2006
Its been a couple of weeks since I saw Rang De Basanti and to be honest it affected me. There was a strange sense of bonding that one felt with the characters that one was not completely at ease with.
What was it that made sense at one level and was disturbing on the other?
Firstly let me explain the ‘connection’. As the son of an army officer there was a strong emotional bond with the Air Force pilot and the trauma that his family undergoes.
Secondly, having undergone the emotional upheaval of the ‘Mandal Commission’ in college there was an instant bonding with the ‘coming together’ of college students against the system. The defense minister was instantly connected with the then prime minister VP Singh. The images of the state using undue force against its people remind one of the stark images of hapless students being brutalized in Delhi. Thanks to Prannoy Roys’, Newstrack, the images reached an large audience.
In those days of the Doordarshan monopoly, those images could well have been stifled. All those who found the images in the movie to be too far fetched would do well to get hold of some old copies of Newstrack.
What disturbed me was the fact that I had moved on so easily from that feeling of oppression and angst with the system, to a free citizen in the new India.
What matters today is living life to the fullest and ensuring that all the benefits of the ‘new India’ are fully utilized. In today’s India, there are two factors that did not exist till a few years ago. One, the fact that the majority of the new generation do not depend on the state for most of their needs. Barring some administrative documents like a ration card or a driving license most of us are unlikely to visit a govt. office. The state in our perspective is merely an invisible facilitator to the new age industries that provide jobs that are based on merit and compensate us so that we can live lifestyles of their choice.
The second is that with the media overload, scandals such as the Mig spare part fiasco fail to make a mark. In the entire Tehelka expose, the only poor sods who got punished were the Army officers who got suckered into trading honor & a lifetime for a couple of thousand rupees. Another scandal. Another Mig. Pilot dead. Big deal. Dude are you coming to the third Bryan Adams concert in as many years?
That’s when it hits me. There’s nothing to get disturbed. Whats happening in India is actually a process that in the next few decades will result in the eventual rebirth of this country.
Take a look at the mammoths that have fallen by the roadside. Firstly the ration card. How many of us actually go to or know a person who goes to the ration shop. In most parts of India, yes people do go, but I’m talking of the RDB generation.
Secondly, MTNL. Just seven years ago you would have to wait at least a month to get a new connection. That too after several hands had been greased. Imagine a mobile company executive asking you for chai pani for a connection.
Thirdly, the Indian Railways. There was a time not so long ago when the Rajdhani was the source of much pride. People would gush on how much time you saved and how the food had improved. Now with an air ticket being available for roughly the same price, the writing is on the wall.
Hospitals, Life Insurance, Foreign travel, education, postal services, you name it, there is a private and more efficient service provider available as your first choice.
The state as a provider will slowly find itself being marginalized and this change will not happen by you and me joining the civil services, police and the armed forces. That process will take place without the struggle, by simply raising our standards and not accepting anything less. If the state cant provide it, use a private service that can. The government service will have to adapt or be left behind.
Secondly the people in the civil services, police & defence services are not living in a separate world. They too come back to homes like ours. The attitude is bound to change as they too will see the benefits and change will come from within.
The political class would do well to take heed to a crucial economic indicator. The great rural urban migration. As a huge number of people move from rural to urban centers, they are easily converted to the benefits of the new system. Each one becomes a catalyst of change when he heads back to his village.
Once the rural mass gets the bug then the system will per force have to keep pace with its people. Imagine a farmer who decides that there is a more efficient way to improve his lot without agricultural subsidy? Or a village that wants more than just free power for its pumps, because they have a captive power source. Once the tools of control are taken away from the politicians they will be forced to look at matching the expectations of the people at an entirely new level.
The scope for a clash with system as an individual will reduce as the system adapts to the new way of functioning. Anyone who has dealt with the passport office in the last few years should compare notes with someone from the eighties. As systems change, so will the process for redressal of grievances. The need for protest and violent suppression will reduce.
The change will not happen overnight, but then this is India. The country has changed more in the past ten years than perhaps in the past 2-3 decades. Not bad for a 50 odd year old nation.
Perhaps then Rang De Basanti is a marker of the process of change. A symbol of progress as India grows as a nation and makes up for lost time. It’s a wake up call for those still living in the past and a hurrah for those making the New India possible. Whatever your role in this, don’t fret about the past or worry about the future. Just enjoy the ride and come celebrate the new ‘Rangs’ of India.