Sunday, 7 December 2008

After the candles

So the drama over the chief minister of Maharashtra is all over. Amid another sordid drama, of course. Ashok Chavan became chief minister and promptly Narayan Rane revolted and was expelled from the Congress Party. Even at a time like this, our politicians cannot get over their own petty personal agendas and interests!
Equally disgusting is the reported behaviour of outgoing chief minister Vilasrao Deshmukh. DNA’s Arati Jerath writes in today’s edition that Deshmukh “made no secret of his frenzied efforts to keep his job. His meeting with Sonia Gandhi would have made his film actor son proud. According to reports Deshmukh was embarrassingly contrite and grovelled for forgiveness. He told Gandhi that he would never shame the party again and begged for one more chance.” I have no reason to disbelieve this. Jerath’s contacts in the Congress are formidable and this must be the truth. (Parenthetically, I wonder why DNA, a Mumbai-based paper, didn’t play this up as a story but let it remain as part of Jerath’s Sunday column).
She further writes “Deshmukh's mentors in Delhi worked overtime to save him. What may have tipped the balance for quicker action is Rahul Gandhi's intervention. Take a decision soon, he is believed to have told defence minister AK Antony who doubles up as the point person for Maharashtra at headquarters. The family scion was galvanised by phone calls from south Mumbai friends who warned him that the Congress would be wiped out unless Deshmukh is sacked. This was the PLU (people like us) connection at work.”
So if the south Bombay circle hadn’t kicked in, Deshmukh would have been allowed to continue? All the bomb blasts in which hundreds of ordinary people – middle class, lower middle class – died didn’t matter. How does one describe this – brazen? Callous? Words fail me.
Which brings me to the anger of the swish set. I hold absolutely no brief for Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi’s disparaging comments about lipstick and powder sporting women ("Some women wearing lipstick and powder have taken to streets in Mumbai and are abusing politicians spreading dissatisfaction against democracy. This is what terrorists are doing in Jammu and Kashmir."), but am getting a bit tired of the champagne set suddenly attacking our politicians and breast-beating about the chaos in a democracy, asking people not to pay taxes or exercise the option not to vote. The candles have been lit and extinguished. It is time for some introspection.
Sure the political class is to blame for much of our ills. But what about each one of us? I repeat the incident that ended my last post – about the lady in the chauffer-driven saloon who didn’t stop her car for checking at the Taj Mansingh in Delhi. She belonged to the same set that now wants to hold politicians accountable. It’s a noble enough cause, but what about each one of us, regardless of the socio-economic class we belong to? Aren’t we accountable too?
I was speaking to a former Research and Analysis Wing chief and told him about the Taj Mansingh incident. He said terrorists are sitting and watching such incidents. They are observing the culture and ethos of the nation, not just its intelligence and security set up.
Yesterday, I was driving and my 11-year-old nephew couldn’t understand (as probably a lot of others) why I had to drive 300 metres to take a U-turn and come back to a crossing which was only a 100 metres away if I chose to drive on the wrong side of the road. As a whole lot of other people routinely did. I tried telling him that if everybody broke rules, then it would be easier for criminals and terrorists to operate, since everybody’s guard would be lower. I doubt whether he understood. But he is 11. I wonder if adults would understand the point I am making.
Let’s face it – we are a law-breaking nation. It is not just the politicians and the criminals who don’t respect the law; each one of us is guilty of the same. We jump red lights, we overtake from the wrong side, we drive in the face of oncoming traffic, we keep our cellphones on during flights (some keep it in silent mode, not realising that the phone can still receive signals and this interferes with the plane’s communications), we make unauthorised alterations to our homes. The list is endless. And when we get into trouble for any of these, we simply bribe our way out. The swish set does it, the salaried middle class does it, the lower middle class also does it.
And if such indisciplined behaviour gets us into trouble abroad we scream `racial profiling’. Remember the incident some years back when a panicky flight crew got a Northwest Airlnes flight from Amsterdam to Bombay to turn back to Amsterdam because of the `suspicious behaviour’ of 12 Indians? They were simply being boorish Indians and not following instructions, but the flight attendants didn’t know how indisciplined we are as a nation. Thank God, they didn’t. If they had, they would have just shrugged their shoulders and left it at that. And some terrorist would have exploited that weakness sometime in the future.
Our security is as much in our hands as in the hands of our security forces and politicians. Sure politicians must take the lead – let all those who are exempted from screening and frisking voluntarily subject themselves to it. Of course, it is a moot point whether, if the Prime Minister or Rahul Gandhi says frisk me, our feudal mindset will allow anything but the most cursory frisking by the guards. But let them make a start. Let the lady who didn’t want her car checked because she was getting late for a meeting start by following all security-related rules. And let each one of us start by observing whatever rules there are, no matter how irksome or mindless they are. If they are mindless let us lobby to change them. But till they are around, let us follow them. Let us not provide any chink that terrorists can exploit.

1 comment:

skylark333 said...

Nice piece. Yes, we all should do our bit. However, I would have liked you to write more about this chest beating going on about the politicians. Those who don't even to bother to cast their votes, are more into this.
I should be checking your Blog regularly as I noticed that I did not read quite a few interesting posts written during last some weeks. And why have you chosen the option of 'word verification' - you can afford to be somewhat more democratic. :-)