There goes one more independence day marking India’s 67 years of `freedom’! Freedom from what ?
Being ruled by the British – certainly a Big Yes.
Freedom from everything else a society or nation ought to be free of – A big question mark!!
Like every year else, Indians celebrated their nation’s independence in the usual way – putting on their traditional attires taking special care to wear colours resembling the national flag; hoisting national flag in their respective localities; standing as the national anthem was played; going shopping to nearby malls to avail `freedom discounts’; eating out as the domestic help chose to take an off on this important day; some took off to distant destinations to enjoy their long weekend while a few flew tri-colour kites. And yes, we didn’t forget to wish our Facebook/Twitter friends a happy Independence Day. That’s about it!
Celebrating Independence Day in our country (& perhaps everywhere else) has been turned into a wonderful ritual full of tokenism. Anyone who doesn’t do any or all of the above stuff risks the chances of being perceived as `unpatriotic’ & weird.
Chasing away the British in 1947 was, at best, a symbol of natives taking charge and not the dead- end of our quest to shape our own destinies. Unfortunately, this is what things have boiled down to- Independence Day has degenerated into a mere `event’ instead of being a day of strengthening our resolve get rid of so many other things that continue to plague and fetter us as a people. This day should have ideally been treated as an occasion to constantly review & renew our goalposts about creating a truly emancipated society; truly reinventing ourselves and doggedly pursuing our common destiny as truly liberated people.
It is said that education is the key for change and a catalyst for making a better human being, better people. I too believe this, rather used to believe in this. But from what I see day-in & day-out, I wonder if education (getting a couple of degrees from an institution, coveted or otherwise) actually does anything to make us discharge our duties as socio-political-cultural change agents, something that educated citizens are expected to do in a largely uneducated & illiterate society like ours. On the contrary, I am increasingly getting convinced that India must stop looking at its educated middle class to liberate itself from the myriad ills it suffers from.
Sample these three cases, all involving urban, upwardly mobile, educated and well earning middle class & you’ll know what makes me think like this.
Case – 1
An MNC executive employed with the world’s highest selling mobile phone brand learns that an employee of his residential condominium has tried to molest his 11-12 years old daughter in the elevator. He rushes home, fully charged, frothing at the mouth with a lawyer colleague in tow and barges into the RWA office threatening the staff & office bearers of serious consequences and demanding that they file an FIR against the alleged culprit. The RWA informs its security agency and also the police. Subsequently a criminal case is filed, the alleged culprit is arrested & sent to jail and hearings in the case begin. The court issues summons to this gentleman to come & depose. He, in turn insists that the RWA attend the hearings as it was the RWA’s employee who did what he did. Cops kept visiting his place with summons after summons to depose but he didn’t bother to oblige. When pointedly asked as to why did he raise so much hue & cry if he didn’t want to pursue the
matter and ensure that the alleged molester gets punished so that others don’t dare to repeat such offences, he confessed & hinted that getting leave from office would have been a problem. Also, if he did take leaves to attend court hearings, chances are that his work would have been allocated to someone else who then would have got promoted over him. Frequent absence from office may also have led to him getting fired.
What about your wife? She too is an educated woman, why can’t she go?
She too is working you see…same compulsions.
After six months, the court released the alleged molester for want of evidence/witnesses but not before his family in Bihar had sold off the little piece of land to pay for his legal expenses etc.
In a high-end 15 floor multi-storied residential complex, the elevators in one of the towers has been breaking down frequently despite a sum of over Rs. 9 Lakhs having been spent by the RWA on their refurbishment. People get stuck in the elevators while going to work, school, shopping etc. and have to be rescued by the security chaps. And this rescue can take up to 30 minutes given that most security guards have no idea about elevator mechanisms. Climbing 15 floors can be a daunting experience for even the able-bodied, what to say of children and elderly who have no choice but to trek up & down.
The other day, one encountered this corporate animal puffing & panting while climbing stairs to his flat on the 14th floor. Barely able to speak out of exhaustion, he grinned & cribbed about the lifts.
Hey, this is serious. Have you complained to the management about these shoddy lifts?
“No yaar, what’s the point in complaining! I’m sure someone or the other must have complained given that a similar breakdown took place last week also. The management guys must be knowing about this”.
What if there were a medical emergency! And if it hasn’t been mended in a week, shouldn’t you be raising your voice against such sad state of affairs. After all, what for are you paying hefty maintenance charges? Someone in the RWA needs to answer!
“Well, the RWA guys are one of us only. They are our neighbours & I don’t want to screw up my neighbourly relations with them. You see, my wife is a good friend of President’s wife and my kids go to the same school as Secretary’s. I look at it as an opportunity to get some exercise, something one doesn’t get to do very often. I think climbing stairs is good for my health”.
But think of others who aren’t as fit as you. And by the way, you can climb up & down may be once in day, but what about those who have to go up & down many times a day. What about children & elderly. Shouldn’t you be thinking of them & doing something about that?
He simply grinned and moved on.
Case – 3
A teenage girl studying in a sought after Delhi school visits my home during Diwali festival. She is accompanied by her parents who work in MNCs. I don’t remember clearly but at some point one started discussing cars. The girl told how her family car has been giving trouble despite being under warranty; how despite making multiple rounds of the authorized workshop, the problem remains.
The manufacturer has stopped responding to the written complaints and is forever asking us to visit their workshop & get it rectified.
I suggested to her to escalate it to the higher ups and maybe put pressure through media by writing about it to their consumer grievances columns/shows; sharing the family’s experience on manufacturer’s social media pages and if everything else fails, approach a consumer forum.
She promptly rejected all these suggestions saying that if she did any of these things, her career may get jeopardized; she may not get admission to colleges abroad and may find it tough to land a job.
How Come ?
“You see, if I do any of these things, I, in all likelihood shall be perceived as a nagger, complainer, troublemaker, quarrelsome and difficult to work with types. I agree that one must fight for their rights, but not at the cost of one’s future & career”.
Her parents couldn’t have been more proud of her…their eyes said it all!
I would still like to continue believing that education could be a game changer in deciding the destiny of a nation, culture, a society & a community. I am convinced about its power to transform. But how does one explain educated people being conformists, regressive, reluctant or rather opposed to change, happy with status quo, scared, worried about consequences and their failure to see their roles in transforming the society or building a nation.
Just think- would the villagers and tribals of Odisha have managed to assert their legal rights in their fight against Odisha government batting for giant corporations like POSCO & Vedanta to protect their forests & ecosystem, had they been educated (educated in the sense middle class perceives it)? I don’t think so.
Which raises another question – who among the two is educated & wiser and deserving of your respect?
Have our education and the educated failed us?