It’s People

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In a world far removed from its own ancient history, one of the great consolations of contemporary time is the uncovering of evil. The word consolation has been used to remember that even in the face of great evil, there has been redemption. Not so much to the credit of people, as to the vagaries of fate and, a particularly implicit term established by contemporary jurisprudence – that of “natural justice”.

But long before Courts of Law came to exist, we walked, as “petty men…peeping about to find ourselves dishonourable graves …” utterly at the mercy of all that we came upon that towered over us. Literally, like the Colossus; and metaphorically, at the receiving end of those more powerful.

For the five thousand years over which present society has developed, it has always been haphazard, on unequal terms. Paradoxically, the mightier the sword the better the chance of subjugation. Subjugation has often evolved into rulership; and strong rulership, frequently enough through history, has allowed peace to prevail.

In times of peaceful reign, unburdened of perpetual war, men and women were more able to think, ponder, intellectualise by introspection, write, create, and search. And also to spread the quality and immensity of imagination; by intrepid journeys undertaken, carrying experience and learning to other lands; and sometimes, returning with similar riches in exchange.

It led to regard and respect. To enlightenment and the mitigation of abusive fear and hatred, brought about by diktat and the never-known. It made way for others to recognise others and realise that Grace does exist. Society has thus nurtured thinkers, philosophers and religion, even if, in the process, there was ostracism and death. But what was, was. And at the very least, it opened the “doors of perception”, for the whys and wherefores of human existence. And therefore to live creatively, in peace, came to be recognised as the higher form of a civilization, no matter how different the mores, how threatened the priesthood, or how vulnerable the laity to the ambitions of the powerful.   


Today, when we are already light years away from the last century, this conviction, instead of diminishing in face of the breathtaking strides that science, medicine and technology have made, has in fact multiplied several fold. Vicious murder and violence are instantly transmitted via “live feed” to wherever it is to go. Peace and consolation have followed, perhaps more slowly, but hard on the heels of calamity. And human compassion, caring and selflessness have repeatedly stolen our attention from the blood and guts of incessant strife.

Mr Pawan Varma’s excellent article in the Times Of India systematically put our present state of evil into comprehensive focus. Quoting, pretty much from everywhere, he concluded with the Gita, that at the end of all discussion the one fact of our actions which encapsulates all evil, is violence.

The word itself leaves little to the imagination, such being its suggestive power. But in present day society, there are a thousand and one manifestations of violence, unbelievably served up with graphic telling and an instantness that even twenty five years ago was not thought possible. Widespread wilful harm to people you don’t even know; deceit to destroy without consideration; deliberate lies, falsehoods, greed, irrational fear and hatred, stopping at nothing to get ahead; stoked and restoked viciousness, anger from insecurity and rage from a sense of helplessness and frustration, and deep, deep bias. Each bespeak violence. And the unprovoked, inexcusable loss of courtesy and respect, the gutter levels to which public speaking has been reduced, have thereby opened the gates to the evil of violence, both physical and traumatic, perhaps as never before, in this erstwhile gentle country.

‘Emerging India’ has emerged. But it defies description in its ugliness. Gold watch and chain, questionable wealth, political arrogance, “hard right” intolerance, vicousness and barefaced subversion have led to the insidious infiltration of the “tika” and its questionable oaths; murderers and murderous lumpen – the hired assassins of our today; the suicidal paradise seekers, strapped in on RDX; a vicious woman minister better known for her bankruptcy of intelligence, buoyed by a sneering, baiting public image, much to the delighted approval of her mentors and sycophants; an unscrupulous Minister running roughshod over sensibilities, devoid of any laudable talent but that of a spin doctor, claiming credit for the reforms marathon he had little or nothing to do with, neither in concept nor initiative nor execution and the glorification of the unread. For their dangerous passions and the support they provide, have all, suddenly, turned on their back in glee, legs kicking in the air, for the licence to do what they like. And thus for all to see, the slimy, sticky wetness of its underbelly, smeared of sleaze, bogus religiosity and vicious intimidation.    

The problem with the present government is not so much that it is short on thought but that its peripherals are toxic. Alive. Predatory. Like the killing corruption of Chernobyl or Fukushima, the predation is neither slowing nor stopping, despite daily public outcry in some city or town or the other. Injustice abounds. Insecurity marks all – dissenters, critics, Muslim meat markets, Christians. There is almost no “live and let live” philosophy to profess or fall back upon. And if you don’t fall into any of these categories above, then you must do as you are told, whether it means turning against a neighbour or upon your children or parents. Or your livelihood. Whether you earn or not is of little concern in the face of greater good and progress of the country. Don’t question that because you will then detract from the ultimate. If you are starving or unhappy or ill or uneducated or jobless, that’s all right. When things are going the way we want, your lot will automatically improve. The sacrifices you make today, without money, without jobs, without an intelligible education, are all well noted and will be rewarded. You will reap the benefit of our foreign currency richness and you will then understand why your present-day of hardship was a sacrifice worth making.

Your fealty is presumed, taken for granted. You may question at your own peril. Mr Modi is not going around the country correcting the erroneous late at night with knife and spade in hand. There are others to whom that privilege has been entrusted and the vocabulary of governance and election politics handed down is reasonably simple: We are going to conquer the world and our Hindu nation shall be the greatest in the world. Your job is to make sure there is no threat to that goal. Understood?

Yes sir, but at what cost?

Good marks are earned by kowtowing to the powerful custodians of temples. The bigger and more famous, the more inflexible in the felt need of assertion. As if a time has come at last, when the might of the juggernaut is no more answerable to any, irrespective of its diktat.

Emerging India has emerged. There can be no further doubt about that. But how it has emerged and what it is, are shocking and distasteful and sets us back on the respect clock for a hundred more years, Hypocrisy, dishonest misrepresentation, yet another education policy framework sans debate, are constantly being handed down.     

Big business, really big business, can barely hide a smirk as the convolutions of politics, bureaucracy and manipulation provide greater and greater opportunities for the oligarchic orchestra. From mining to telecom to banking, the big players may not have ever had it so good. Whereas, agriculture, education, health, employment and environment are foundering, 

Moody’s, Modiji’s, IMF and FMji’s joie de vivre notwithstanding.

In the words of a respected friend and professional financial authority, quote – “…..scarier still to see what’s in the works with Jobless Growth for and by the 1% psychopaths who rule the world….“Its sweet-spot” (timing wise ..yr 2025) arrives just as India’s demographic “dividend” morphs into a “nightmare” for those of us in white towers as 300Million testosterone filled unemployed/underemployed (kkm: unemployable) youth turn their wrath upon those who “managed” to create their ivory towers by sucking / brown nosing up to powerful masters. Even if you can sing along to Pink Floyd’s chorus of “Comfortably Numb”, it will matter not, as the lumpens huff-n-puff and blow your house down…..just multiply that by 300 million similar, but worse off, in the rural badlands and Mad Max looks like a Peter Sellers Party meeting.” Unquote.

The issue is not the GDP and international approvals. The issue is people. It is this that led to  Bill Gates  saying we have a lousy education system. Hundreds of millions of our young, the ill-described “demographic dividend”, are either completely unread or, if “read”, as in having been through school and even college, are unable to actually read, write, speak, or think. Or understand the spoken or written word – neither in English nor even well enough in the mother tongue; – the 92% we have rendered unemployable.

Worse, many many of those who can read, write, speak, think & think they understand, have simply not had the catholicity of upbringing, to shed bias, prejudice, abuse of freedom, disrespect of others and the scheming deceit to subvert any and everything and everyone for shallow, narrow personal gain. It has nothing to do with money and everything to do with insaaniyat. And in that one word lies our ruin. As well as the hope of salvation. 

The present elected leadership embodies this poverty. It seeks to subvert. It instructs a country where nothing is the way it should be except for those who want it the way it is. Hence the tacit permission to the “hate brigades”, through whom the scheming conspiracies are not limited to political strategies but extend far enough out to even touch their own.   

And yet, we have to accept that the tendency for power is a real human trait, undesirable though it may be from the outside. But for those wishing to make of the present something; something of real worth and notability, in the raising of the country to levels of international respect, in the correction of wrongs imagined and true, there is a need to be in power. From where orders can be issued, errors can be erased and obstacles and hindrances removed. It is not so much wishful thinking as it is compulsive thinking.

But as in all things human, the line between power & misuse is very very thin. If the elected government of today is enjoying their leaders’ happy traipsing through the clover patches of success such as foreign exchange reserves and the promulgation of a dubiously structured GST regime and the poorly spun but spun demonatization, not one of these is actually to their credit. Rather they are to the credit of ownership of collective vision. To the planners and initiators, the inclusive conferences and to the men and women who have personally worked really hard to make attainable the  country’s ambitions irrespective of discouragement, contempt and scorn.

When India achieved WHO recognition as the latest country in the world to be polio free, an initiative at least sixty years old but buoyed recently by an enormous philanthropy, courtesy the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Mrs Gates credited the success almost entirely to those government employees who accessed villages and hutments in the remotest corners of the country, road-less, almost unreachable, to slowly, painstakingly, cover every home, in thatch or cement, to deliver this life-enriching little dose to hundreds and thousands of Indian babies.While it drew regrettably little attention from our star-crossed media, the world understood the scale of the achievement. It was the overcoming of near impossible odds; a huge, massive stride in the face of overwhelming difficulties. Overcome by the country’s government. Not this government or that government or the last government but The Government. Peopled not by politicians but by clerks and officers and bureaucrats.

Kalyug and what it means, and St.John’s Revelations have much in common ( as indeed they should, sharing a common heritage in the belief of creation, preservation and correction). But more pertinently, that evil must be allowed to show itself, in order for it to be decapitated. 

That’s where Ma Kali comes from. Or when Tandav happens and Pralay is unleashed and goodness is finally made to prevail. At huge cost. But it would appear, we have arrived at that time. 

And so it was for Yeats to wonder, ” What rough beast” (after “twenty centuries of stony sleep”…brought to a nightmare by a rocking cradle)….slouches its way to Bethlehem to be born…..”



Kabir Kumar Mukherjee-Mustafi has been a passionate school teacher since 1974. He was the Head Master of Bishop Cotton School, Shimla, till 2004, and continues his work in the education sector (along with his wife Kamini, also a dedicated school teacher) as an institutional Director.

1 Comment

  • Nodnat says:

    Quite frankly I wonder how many can figure out this “darkness at noon”? And for those who do, the hope (and wait) for any Second Coming could be forever. The ‘Pralay’ is more likely to come out of environmental indifference and neglect; the car owners of Delhi refusing to cycle or walk or take a bus. Its the People who have to figure out how to fight the “Evil”, just like they did in eradicating Polio in India. But the people are angry and hungry and unemployable; a combo that easily transforms youthful passion into violence, which in turn is used to justify imagined discrimination (as for Reservations for the well off, upper castes) or ‘hurt sentiments’ (as of gau rakshaks or of Rajputs against Padmavati). What really makes this ‘darkness at noon’ frightening though is the silent but perceptible nudging encouragement at the elbow. Will the few voices shrieking in the wilderness, ever be heard?

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