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Some Mixed-up, Hazy Thoughts

There were some unusual things which happened this week. First the most pleasant, the weather, fast receding winters, was held in the course by the sudden, uncertain rains. There is always something therapeutic, something pleasantly nostalgic about rains. It provokes thinking, which it did amply. I thought so much about so many things that I lost the sense of what I was thinking.
Then there was something called “A Billion Rising” to protest against the suppression of the women folks and the put forth the argument, an absolute one, for the equality and freedom of women across the globe, marked by impromptu dances, congregation of women and gender-rights activists and debates and speeches, the high point of the week gone by. The news of  the brutality meted with on a six year old girl on the city borders of National capital of India sneaking in to the dailies as a small column, was not much impacted by the high profile protests on the streets of the country and the world. A man convicted of raging war against nation, finally hanged, to quote from the Supreme Court’s judgment to ‘soothe the collective conscience of a nation.’

I have always been for a hard posture, but the delays, deliberation and final enactment at this time, of the court decision, raises more questions than it answers. A swift justice cannot be questioned, but a delayed one, is bound to raise question. A swift rebuttal by the state is what the nation looks for, and that might in a way offer hope to the battered and deterrent to the perpetrators. But this was different, it converted a nation striving to be the thought leader for a now not so new century, into a group of high decibel, blood thirsty crowd, asking for blood.

The clamor for the death was also much in the chorus during the protest for the brave heart of Delhi. While I was much a part of the protest, I was wary of the power which the populace wanted to place in the heart of an autocratic, unloving government. I wish people took note of the rounding up of protesters from places so distant from the point of the sad death of the policeman (some were caught from a Mall, and even metro trains) charged with the murder of the policeman, even when the doctors of government hospital who attended him, took a view contrary to that of the state, regarding the death in the question. It is not hard to imagine, what hell can break loose, when we bestow too much of the power in the hands of the state which has no love for its citizens and which is so deeply alienated from its masses.

Further, violent punishment has its place in the retribution, no denying this. It is troublesome when the state uses it as a tool to please the mob, and it takes horrifying proportion when you realize that the state has understood how to sway emotions by kills. It can not clean up the world. Not in itself. Violence against women is not a gender issue. People do not rape women, or for that matter, molest women because they are blinded with lust. They do it because, it imparts them with some sense of power. A street hoodlum who refuses to pay small fare to the grocery shop is not doing that because he cannot afford to, or because he feels that he can establish his power by avoiding to pay up. An act of violence against women is nothing but a sense of inverted insecurity about power.
Education consists of two parts, one is acquiring power and the more important part of education is to inculcate a capability of handling power. It takes more effort to set of schools and colleges to impart quality education, even more to get people to value it. What I refer to by the term is not the industrial concept of education, heralded  by Arindam Choudhury, where Anyone can dream- with a silent corollary - as long as you dream similar to others, and you are rich enough to afford it; I refer here to the education which Sir Ken Robinson struggles to propagate. What we often mistake for education is merely qualification, and which to my mind is a great reason behind academic inflation, term first I heard in the TED speech of Sir Ken Robinson. We do not need the education which promises to create an assembly-line to mass produce millionnaire (it doesn't do that, anyways, forget those full-page newspaper advertisements), but the one which listens to your callings and makes more of what you have in you, and which teaches you to be a better human being with sound understanding of old-world morals. Trust me, when I say, we need to those old moral values more today then ever; Moral values, not the principles of orthodoxy. An education, which challenges, awakens and struggles but retains an inherent calm and kindness beneath. But that is a subject for a separate full-fledged post. We need education to  How sad is the state of educational system, we all know who struggle to get our kids to good enough schools. We know how our educational systems at the very basic of it is manned mostly by failed professionals, particularly at the formative age.

To modify the social paradigm is an onerous task, as onerous as the task of handling plague and lawlessness in the Roman capital, compared to instead embark on the festival of gladiatorial games which the Roman emperor chose to indulge his citizens with in the Ridley Scott’s movie, ‘The Gladiator’, as he says, “ I will give them something they have never seen.”

The steps which can actually make a difference to the lives of the current and future citizenry of a nation will always be difficult to take, will elude public acceptance simply because we today are so steeped in the idea of instant gratification. We disbelieve, and more importantly dislike anything which is to happen far in the future and which requires more efforts. We tend to take the easier path and laud those who suggest easier path.

Sometime back when all political groups were struggling hard to gain political legitimacy riding on the bandwagon of caste-based reservations, I remember reading a journalist, who quite courageously wrote in the thick of it, that it is amusing that those coming out on the streets and vandalizing public amenities have never thought of coming out on the street to claim for schools and colleges meeting the best of the standards for the brethren of the sects and castes they claimed to represent. That would have made sure that from those sects which are not fairly represented at the moment in the share of power, would have given rise to bright intellectuals which the system would have no choice but to assimilate as one of its own at the highest levels. But then, that would still need a lot of work. It takes less effort, and creates greater visibility to be a cause-fanatic instead.
Do we have it in us to teach our kids the old world values, to vacate the seat for women and elders alike in a crowded bus, to tell them not to jump the queues? Each action of ours, however insignificant it might seem at the time, carries in its womb a larger societal change, as the society changes bit by bit. How often do we teach our kids that the whole point of becoming stronger physically and intellectually is to support, nourish and protect those who are lacking? You cannot threaten people into behaving,  after all you can not be keeping watch on everyone, at all places.they have to be taught into that. This is what differentiates human species and helped us survive this long. This kindness, which ensures that like lions and other predators we do not throw our olds from our prides, and which ensures that unlike other animals, our offspring get years on end to grow and accomplish, before being required to hunt for themselves. It is not a matter of gender discourse that this basic human kindness be kept alive. It is not us against them, it is about Us- the Humans.

 The path of right will always be long and tedious and will demand sweat and blood. But to me it seems, we are many times so driven by our own selfish needs and at times sense of uprightness that we do not want to take that long, winding path to justice. I am not suggesting that the fundamental changes will weed out the aberrations. They will remain, but much less. They will not be a pattern, but a rare sight which can be easily addressed with swift hand of law. It is because of our intent to follow the easier path, that we instead of demanding the structural, fundamental changes to protect the rights and well-being of those with less of power, we seek resolution in deaths, killings and violence, in sudden spurts of uprightness. In doing so, we seldom realize, that the demon in governance we thus release will some day, hold us up by the neck, and then trudging in our own blood, we will stand up and throw the question at our selves, just like Russell Crowe-‘Are you not entertained?”
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