This is India, my friend
We complain about corruption,
and bribe the police after jumping a
As India completes its 64th year
of Independence, a lot of the
baggage it used to be identified
with has stayed on.
Caste and pocket strength are
still calling cards of social stand-
ing. Having a ‘jack’ in a govern-
ment office still gets things done
smoother (with a few bundles of
currency bills, it gets even
smoother). The girl child is still considered a curse.
Witchcraft and black magic still dominate the hinterland.
Despite ‘figure-backed’ tall claims, the number of people in
India who are below the poverty line is still over 300 mil-
lion. MiG-21s still keep dropping off the sky; Bofors is still
a mystery. Pakistan is still an ‘archrival’; China is still a
threat. Doordarshan still lives in the pre-historic make-
believe world of its own.
Hockey is still India’s national game; the tiger the nation-
al animal (both of which are dwindling). Parliament ses-
sions are still Chai-Samosa jamborees at taxpayer expense.
Farmers still keep committing suicide; Sharad Pawar is still
in power. 70 percent of India’s villages don’t get a full-day’s
electricity. Women still can’t walk alone on the street after
10 pm in the nation’s capital. The definition of literacy in
India is still based on the concept ‘If you can write your
name, you are literate’. Zebra crossings are still meant only
for four-legged species. Cops still let you off for jumping a
traffic signal for Rs 50.
The only people who really have improved are our
s. Each one seems to be jostling to stake claim
to have embezzled a bigger amount. And they are success-
fully doing so as well.
Traveling back home from work well past midnight, the
cab driver and I got into an argument. Not over the fare,
but about what is not fair around us.
As his Padmini Fiat bounced over Mumbai’s rain-ravaged
roads, he asked me: ‘
Why can’t the government
maintain these roads; they do collect road tax from us,
Why can’t the government control prices?’
After a few more whys, he came up with a solution. The
entire country should come out on the streets and protest.
I laughed out aloud. Seeing him perplexed, I told him that
people are so busy figuring out their lives that they would-
n’t have the time to make a united front. Also, even if the
government buckles to public pressure and agrees to do
something about it, no matter who’s in power, things are
going to stay just the same eventually. There would be more
committees, more meetings, more reports — and then
fundas run through the
veins of India. Sundarlal Bahuguna tried, Medha Patkar
tried, and more recently Anna Hazare and his Sena tried.
All in vain. The lives of over a billion Indians continues like
Some months ago while I was swaying my way home in a
suburban train, a sharp exchange of the choicest of cuss
words caught my attention. Apparently, a bespectacled
‘respectable’ man in his mid-thirties had nabbed someone
who had got into the first-class compartment to escape the
evening rush. After things settled down, I asked him how
he picked the errant man out from the 50-odd souls in the
compartment. His instant reply:
Shakal se hi neechi jaat ka
lag raha tha
he resembled somebody from the lower castes
How much caste still dictates our day to day life is shock-
A supporter of Indian social activist ‘Anna’ Hazare shouts anti-government slogans from a police vehicle after being detained during a protest
rally against corruption in Mumbai, August 16
Theory never interested me
during my college days in
Delhi. The charm of
Sociology was dead and
buried by the end of the first
half of the first year in college.
Obviously, the fact that the
curriculum in our country’s
colleges had hardly changed
in the last two decades or so didn’t help.
Theories about society propounded by white-haired
social thinkers around the time tigers became extinct in
Bali used to bore us to death. Amid the backbench gossips
and snores, the only bit of academic rays that reached out
to us was when the topic of discussion was about
(caste and sub caste). People in India grow up with
caste in their pockets. The equation is visible all around us.
From college admission forms to students’ unions to public
transport to government offices to mainstream politics —
caste plays and dominates.
I hate watching debates on news television channels. The
opinions of clowns who appear on these debates — the so-
called voice of the common man — make me puke. Every
time, the same old government bashing, opposition bash-
ing, character bashing, question this, question that; there is
no solution available ever.
Vipin Vijayan is News Editor, Rediff.com
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