Thursday, December 03, 2009

Here’s Looking at You 2009

A colleague remarked how the month had gone so fast, I said, month? I don’t remember how the year went, nay, how a quarter century went. Actually time passes at its own speed, the clock ticks quite smoothly and evenly, it’s our anxieties that make us feel time has passed quickly. The reason: we weren’t stopping and enjoying our moments. 1984 was the year I got married (we celebrated 25 years recently), that was also the year of the Union Carbide tragedy in Bhopal, a tragedy that has still not been resolved, its victims compensated. A quarter century has passed since then, some have died, some have moved away, some have given up on getting whatever they were promised, some have lost the fight to bring the guilty to book.

Likewise some of my close relations have died, some have moved to foreign countries, some have given up, retired and have sought to live in friendlier environs. It makes me think that getting justice for the poor and deprived is too Herculean a task in India. They are easily intimidated, ostracised, marginalised, terrorised. The company responsible for so many deaths (20,000 dead and 5.7 lakh affected) still operates in India without any seeming compunction or guilt. It will go as one of the worst industrial disasters in the world. (Compared to it Chernobyl only affected 3,36,000 people.) We have become calloused and inured like a coconut kernel, like the hard exterior of a cashew nut, nature’s protection against hurt and dissipation. We don’t know who will dispense justice. Justice, ah, nice word, but not much of justice exists for the poor, does it?

That was 25 years ago, when I was full of expectations for the future, laid a lot of groundwork, wanting to do a lot of things, all at the same time. Now I am more restrained, but my life is still as hectic, the commute is still harrowing, the pain, all over, more evident. My friend Ganga is retiring after an illustrious career in advertising. He wants to devote his time to writing from now own. I am jealous of him. So he tells me a story narrated by Osho in his (Ganga’s) typical style: A man wants to retire; so he calls his accountant and asks him how much money and property he owns. The accountant adds up his assets, deducts his liabilities – as good accountants are wont to – and tells him that what he has will last for five generations. “Aila, then what will happen to my sixth generation?” and he again goes back to work.

Soon I will be in 2010, can you imagine? I can’t. I think it comes with age, we become so busy that seasons pass, winters come and go, children grow old (a small guy [my son] I had to look down upon, who used to hold my hand while crossing the road, now, I really have to crane my neck to look up to him), localities change (there’s an airport coming in the sleepy village where I was born), trains get crowded, there are more people everywhere, there aren’t the familiar Mallu faces on D.N. Road any more, they have been cleaned up by another Mallu (Johnny Joseph), revolutionaries have become prosperous bourgeoisies, so on and so forth.

There are things that haven’t changed. Among them: Bollywood scripts haven’t stopped meandering, Dev Anand hasn’t given up making movies, Asrani hasn’t stopped acting, Amitabh is still our greatest star, books and book writers continue to be ignored by the mainstream media, television continues to meander through its reportage, and policemen still round up suspects and give them the third degree (which they couldn’t do to Kasab, because he is a high-profile guy, you see).

Enough meandering, my eyelids are heavy, I will reserve the rest of this rant for another day and another blogpost.

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