Evening at Zambezi River, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe, May 2015
and so does everything around... the situation, the people, the perspective, the needs.... and we too change.... the wise and courageous seek change.. because only change is constant!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

144. Devotion-less

I never have been a good devotee. Different people have tried to induce at least a grain of belief in me, and have miserably failed. But without any kind of belief in any kind of sect, religion or God, I have had a cheerful life so far.

However, I like to visit temples, especially when they are not crowded. I like to explore the temples. My creative mind can travel in the past and can see certain things – all assumed of course! I can paint the past and compare it to the present and sometimes there is a difference and some other times there is no difference at all. What amuses me more than the God is people’s perception about that particular God, the astounding stories associated with the spot and the thriving market around it. It is always wonderful to note how common people carry on materialism in one hand and spiritualism in the other. Only they know what happens in the process.

So, the other day when we are entering Karaikal a district town in Puducherry, my colleague tells me about the famous Shiva temple nearby. “Would you like to go there?” he asks enthusiastically. We have lot of work ahead that day and so have started from Puducherry as early as 6.00 in the morning. I do not want to throw cold water on his passion. So as I usually respond to such suggestions, I say, “Let us see how our work progresses. If time permits, we will go.” By experience I know that if I do not strongly say “NO” time always permits!

After different meetings, discussions, visit to four villages, interaction with villagers, discussion on issues and strategies to address that etc, it is 5.30 in the evening. “Madam, shall we go to the temple now?” a village volunteer asks me anxiously. One group of our team does not want to visit the temple so they start off straight towards Puducherry.

The day had been hectic enough and it would take another four hours to reach Puducherry. But I know my colleague wants  to take me to the temple. Additional half an hour is not an issue for me. So we go to Thirunallar.

Here I come across a temple which has both Shiva and Shani. I have seen very few Shani temples so far. In Pune there is a Shani temple and I remember to have visited Shani ShingaNaapur. In Delhi to my surprise I have seen many Shani temples. But almost all these temples are surrounded by beggars and ‘differently able’ crowds. For me, Shani temple is associated with sorrow, pain, shattered hopes, dreams and an urge for survival. My memory of Shanimahaatmya is depressing. For this reasons I have instinctively avoided Shani temples so far. On the other hand I have visited many Shiva temples which are generally cool, elegant, and calm. They have always filled my heart with peace.

The temple reveals history of conflict between Jainisim and Shaivism. There was a king and a saint and a miracle involved. The place was also association with King Nala (and Damayantee) who invoked Lord Shani for his mercy and was successful. The devotees say that this is the only place where Shani is in a ‘blessing’ mode and the devotees believe that it is because of Shiva’s existence, Shani is controlled.

If you have visited religious places and studied scriptures and mythology, you know that the Gods are always very human like in their thoughts, ideas, nature and behavior.  I think that is the only way human mind can connect itself with God – the known tries to relate with unknown in a typical way.

Well, I like the temple. The architecture is attractive. Before I understand what is happening, I am taken ahead of the queue, a Pooja is fully planned. Here when we break the queue and go ahead, nobody complains. Later I realize that “pay more and have quick darshan’ is the usual practice in most of the temples.  I do not like breaking the queue this way – how can someone be more important (and that too because of money or designation) in front of God? That only shows that people do not really believe in God. I never perform Pooja in the temple – but here I am helpless. Well, I could storm out of the temple without doing any of this – but it took me time to understand what was happening. And by the time I understand it, I have as if given my indirect consent by actually participating in it. I am feeling like an illiterate person lost in the library.

The Pooja  begins with  a little hurdle. The temple priest wants to know my zodiac sign (or whatever it is called) – I say, “I have none”. This makes everybody around speechless. All of them say something in Tamil – which fortunately I do not at all understand. But as I am their guest, they cannot get angry with me. Then the priest asks  -which month I was born. For a moment I am tempted to tell a lie – but well, I give the right information. Then my colleague asks me to donate some money – I have kept my purse in the car, so he hands me a note and I put it in the plate. Later I pay that amount to my colleague and he says that because it is for religious purpose, he has to take it from me. Otherwise, I won’t earn the merit of the Pooja. In short I am forced into paying the amount – but I know my young colleague is doing it with good intention.

Then there is some kind of Emerald. I neither understand its significance not any story related to it. It is locked and the priest comes with so many keys and opens lock after lock. A group of devotees is patiently waiting – underlining the importance of this ceremony.  Then suddenly few women start singing a devotional song praising Shiva. Though it is a Tamil Song, I know it by heart. I had forgotten it so far but it comes back to me without breaks. Long back I used to listen to this song. Like rest of the devotees I repeat the lines and I feel happy like a child that I can still remember and pronounce those difficult sounding Tamil words.

Well, finally everything gets over. The head priest hands over Prasada to me. In his broken English he assures me that :This place is next to Tirupati Balaajee. Well, I don’t understand how there could be such hierarchy in the community of Gods. Are not they all supposed to be powerful and accommodating enough? Just imagine one God – say for example Shiva here – not happy with me because I did not pray him. Sounds like a human being who is hurt if someone does not salute him/her. Gods are not affected by what I do or what I don’t do. Are they not supposed to be beyond all these mundane feelings?

The priest adds: Whatever you wished here, will come true.

Everybody around me smiles. I too smile. Why ask questions if they are happy with their belief?

“What did you wish for?” my colleague asks me on the way back.

“Oh, if I knew the power of the God in advance, I should have definitely asked for certain things,” I say lightly – that is my usual answer to all strong devotees. That generally satisfies them.

I wonder what I was thinking in the temple. I was certainly not praying, I was not asking for anything. I was just watching the devotion of the devotees – there might be honesty and truth in those devotees, there might be quality longing and urge in that devotion. I was as usual observing; I was as usual trying to understand; I was as usual amazed that so much is unknown to me; I was wondering how the place might have been hundreds of years ago; I was imagining how those people might have been; I was thinking what will happen to this place 500 years down the line; I was thinking how everything emerges- lives and gets destroyed; I was feeling happy with whatever I have knowing that nothing is going to last forever.

The best gift of that devotion-less moment is:  Re-establishing of that eternal truth: That my lack of devotion does not affect Lord Shiva and Lord Shani (and other Gods) and it does not affect me as well. We choose to co-exist without demanding, without commanding and we maintain the connection without any apparent give and take.

Well, why do I need devotion?

Monday, September 19, 2011

143. Survival ++

On alternate days, I used to walk to office. It was just a fifteen minutes walking distance. On other days I used two- wheeler to reach the office.

On these walking days, I used to meet Vishal, one of my young colleagues, at the entrance gate. From the gate, it took about five minutes to reach the office. Whenever we met we talked. Slowly, when the comfort level increased, if one of us saw the other behind, we would wait for the other and then walk together. That became an ‘alternate day ritual’ as we named it. Generally we discussed office work, his hobbies, Pune city, visits to field areas, books read etc.

One day he said, “If you don’t mind, I have a question.”

“I hope I know the answer,” I said smilingly. Sometimes talking to young generation makes me feel ‘out of date’! But I don’t mind saying “Sorry I do not know” and hence was ready to answer whatever he wanted. He was sort of technocrat with management degree and not very proficient with softer issues in development. I anticipated some work related question.

“What do you carry in your shoulder bag?” he asked innocently. My office bag is inseparable part of me; I always carry it with me. Occasionally there have been jokes about it. So, at first I felt there was some trick, but he seemed vary serious. Then I laughed with the unexpected turn. I mean here I was waiting to face a very important question and this guy was asking me such a simple one!

Well, every day I carried too many things in my bag – home to office and back home. I sincerely tried to think. Why did I carry this bag? What was there in my bag?

Office Identity card to swipe in and out was essential.

Vehicle license was essential in case I decided to go somewhere out after office hours. Now, when I was walking, it was not necessary. But taking things out of bag and putting those again next day meant unnecessary work. So, it was always there.

Then there were two or three pens. Why two or three? Because someone around would always be without a pen and would ask me if I had extra pen and would borrow it from me. I am used to keep stock of pens as those who borrow pen would certainly forget to return it.

In addition to it, there was a pencil. What for? For marking some important points while reading various documents.

Then there would be money purse. Of course with some money in it! You never know what amount you will have to spend – so the ATM card was part of the kitty. And so was cheque book. You never know when it will be needed.

Then there were some blank papers – of different sizes – to write notes, messages, task lists, phone numbers etc. There were always needed in meetings. The pocket telephone diary; as I have not stored all the numbers in the mobile handset.

I also had some office documents – which I used to take home for reading and working. Similarly some printout taken at home was brought to office for filing, sharing, review etc.

Then there would also be a book – in case I needed to wait for someone (delay in appointments) at his/her office. Many people have this habit of spending lot of time on their mobile even when someone is sitting in front of them. Instead of getting irritated, I read something on such occasions.

In addition to it, there were home keys, office keys and vehicle keys. Some bills to be submitted would also be there. So would be the digital camera to download work related photographs on the office PC. There also was a pen drive, a CD.

And so on. I realized that I carried too many things in the bag assuming the daily need but most of them I hardly used everyday. I assumed a range of activities every day, but I certainly carried on very limited activities on a given day. Somehow, I had trained myself to be ready for any situation that demanded various resources. I feel responsible for the surroundings, for the people around me. This habit had certainly saved me from some awkward situations and always made me ‘resourceful’ person. 

While explaining this list to Vishal, I too saw the lighter side of it and started laughing with him.

For the first time I realized that I never have seen Vishal with any office bag. He came to office empty handed and he left office empty handed.

“Well, now I want to ask you a question,” I said to Vishal.

“Yep, I know, now you are going to ask me why I do not to carry such a hold-all to the office, am I right?”

Vishal was smart, I smilingly nodded.

Vishal reflected a bit and then pronounced – “I keep office life and home life separate. I do not carry anything from office to home and the other way, unless that is absolutely necessary. Is it not the responsibility of all others to bring in whatever they need e.g. pen or paper?  I carry only the swipe card – without which I won’t be able to enter in and out of the office. Rest of the stuff I need in the office, I keep it in the office. I do not take office work at home.”

Personal and Professional  - well I know about it.  I admire people who can live in such a segregated way. It must have its advantages. However, I have never been able to keep these two identities apart. For me, my work is expression of my interests and my values; my work reflects my personality – good or bad there could be debate about it. Like Yin and Yang, personal life flows into professional and professional life influences the personal. The co-existence of personal and professional life is absolutely essential to peace, harmony and happiness. If in one area I have trouble – I have trouble in both. If I am glad in one sphere, I carry the joy in the other sphere too. How can I be unhappy at one place and happy in the other sphere?

I am not sure whether it is right or wrong, but people like me need more of integration, synthesis rather than segregation, division. We are at our best when we are one across the sphere of activities. People like me feel good when we belong to, when we can contribute, when there are bridges of relationships. There are always people who are sensible as well as sensitive, they would volunteer for any kind of work and any amount of work - it is fun to team with such people. Though detachment, delegation of responsibilities, and withdrawal also happen – it is done as a process and not as  'the' outcome. They happen in its own way and independent style. Every time it happens, one changes, one wonders, one reflects, one grows. The process of withdrawal is initiated separately for each of the steps that professional (as well as personal) life brings across. Doing it in bulk, doing it hypothetically does not work. This part by part process builds the magnificent Whole.

I shared these thoughts with Vishal. He laughed and said, “You are indeed so old fashioned. The world is changing, with this kind of attitude you will not survive in this world. You need to have a paradigm shift to have better prospects in your career.”

Well, to be frank, this is one of the areas where I have not yet changed. I don’t think I need that kind of change. Why should I worry about few more ‘Professional years’ ahead? Till now, I have survived on my terms; there is of course, much more than just survival.

Even if you are ‘segregating’ type, you will agree that in both Personal and Professional life, we aim beyond survival. The feeling of attainment is much broader, wider and deeper than survival and we all seek that kind of joy. Life actually offers us many opportunities. I fear Vishal was still too young to have experienced it: If you don’t survive at one place, don’t be worried. There are other times and other places, where you not only survive but blossom. You will have the satisfaction of having crossed the limits, the boundaries of survival.

It is Survival ++.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

142. 'BAT'ing For......

Regular readers of Times Change are aware of Blog -a -Ton (BAT) - in which I have been participating for almost 2 years now. My first BAT post happened to be on 5 September 2009.

By nature I am not a competitive person, so many of my friends raised eyebrows when they read my Blog-a-Ton (BAT) entries. What surprised me was: many readers who do not know me personally (and know only through blog ) asked me why did I participate in such blogging competition. Well, I have answered all of them and probably they were satisfied with the answer - or they just gave up - who knows?

BAT invites 'Veteran' (those who have participated in more than 10 BATs) bloggers to share their experience. The Marshal (yes, BAT has all its aura ...) invited me to share my experience. When I am requested, I generally don't say no. So, I wrote a post for Blog - a - Ton.

I thought readers of this blog might like to read the post; here it is.

It was in September 2009, that I came across Blog a Ton (BAT). I am a member of IndiBlogger and I came across the information of BAT through IndiVine. The first BAT was conducted in August and the second one was announced. I decided to participate in BAT.

For me participating in BAT was indeed a challenge in many ways.

First, I was very new to blog-world. I was blogging about a year. None of my friends or people around me read any other blog; leave writing one. But my friends and colleagues at workplace read whatever I wrote and encouraged me to write more about my experiences. So, my blog was a sort of ‘family affair’.  I was not sure whether my blog would appeal to ‘outsiders’ – meaning those who do not know me personally.

Secondly, those of who read my blog beyond BAT entries (I hope some at least read it) know that my blog is mostly narrations of my experiences. I don’t write scholarly articles; neither do I write movie or book reviews; nor poetry. My writing range is indeed limited. So, whether I would be able to write on different topics and satisfy the unknown readers was a question to me.

Third, I have always believed in freedom of writers. My blog should be a place where I have complete freedom about what to write, when to write, how to write, and whether to write it or not. Accepting BAT terms was little contradictory to these values. I mean I was still free to ‘not to write’ and I could still choose the form of expression. But the topic of BAT though decided in democratic manner – was not always of my choice. It was like writing according to someone else’s command.

Fourth – my travel schedule did not allow me the luxury of 24X7 connectivity. It was not necessary that on every first Saturday (that was the initial regular schedule of BAT) I could post for BAT. But here the Marshal came with support. On many occasions I have scheduled my post and requested Vipul, the Marshal to publish the link on the BAT date – and he always did it.

Fifth: I am actually not a competitive person. If you are reading my blog regularly, you know that I do not participate in any kind of competitions – that does not mean I doubt intention of those who participate in various blogging competitions. I am not cut for it – that is all.

In spite of all these obstacles, I have till date participated in as many as 18 BATs. My blog has ‘Blog a Ton’ as one of the labels and it shows 19 posts – but the post RETURN, though written for BAT, could not be published due to technical reasons.

Honestly speaking, I have never felt competition in BAT – though it has clear voting (now cheers) guidelines and deadlines and clear winners. I have almost always read all the BAT entries and I am sure most of the ‘BAT’ers do it. For me the most creative aspect of human thinking is brought to the forefront through BAT. It amazes me every time I BAT to see how a single word creates so many different ideas, so many different perspectives, so many different forms, so many different expressions, and so many different feelings. The whole canvas of writing opens to you, you get to know a range of experiences. That is the reason I love BAT.

BAT balances discipline and freedom – you need to post during a timeline on a particular topic but you are free to choose the form, the tone, the presentation etc. As my blog is mostly about sharing experiences, after couple of BATs I started to feel the bondage. Then I came up with an idea. I had always wanted to write short story but had never explored it. BAT gave me an opportunity to work in this direction. Though my short stories are always long enough, I have enjoyed writing those stories. The whole gamut of experiences could be woven together through story. And then for me BAT became a Story Writing Challenge. Except for four posts - Teachers Aaja Kal, The Indian Dream, If I were a Baby Again and Pencil Pull, - I have always written stories. It is because of BAT, that I started writing a story. Good or Bad – does not matter!

Through BAT I came across many new blogs and of course good ones and many virtual friends. I follow some of these blogs regularly. I interact with some of the bloggers whom I have never met. It is another matter that the old batch of ‘BAT’ers is disappearing – they must have valid reasons to make such a conscious choice. But nevertheless, the whole new batch of fellow bloggers comes in. I enjoy the flow, I like the movement, I love reading new styles and new expressions. This flow of ‘BAT’ers does not allow me to take anyone for granted. That is great. It mirrors real life.

Like most of the writers I do enjoy appreciation and feel happy when readers take notice of my post. But somehow, I have never bothered about votes and cheers. Initially I thought of writing “Please do not vote” as a footnote to my BAT posts – but that would have sounded like a very egoist declaration.  And anyways, I realized that very few people were actually voting for my post- so dropped that ridiculous idea.

I do not bother about votes for three reasons. One: I am grown up enough to have crossed these boundaries of success and failure. Two: somewhere within I know that I am not a great writer as yet. I have a long way to go. Three: I trust ‘BAT’ers for their fairness. I am sure if they like my post the best, they will cheer for me, if they don’t they won’t. If I don’t get cheers means I still need to excel my performance. The credit goes to all ‘BAT’ers who have maintained this ‘fair play’ rule intact – voluntarily.

For me, BAT is more of ‘support group’ rather than a competition. We all strive together to excel. We all work hard to express. We all long to reach out, but more than that we all long to search within. The beauty of BAT is: it is more like a long distance running and not sprint. Here we run together, draw energy and inspiration from each other, encourage each other. In the end, only one or two are going to be winners, but there is always a joy that “I tried my best once again.”  

So, even after 18 innings, I am not tired. I would love to keep ‘BAT’ing – for the joy it gives, for the horizons it widens, for the challenge it brings, for the variety it presents and for the fun it assures. 

Link to all the BAT posts:

Saturday, September 3, 2011

141. Raamaleelaa Maidaana: 28 August 2011

Year: 1987. Place: RaaLegaNa Siddhee, a small village in Maharashtra. Even then Shree ANNaa Hajare was very famous, though not surrounded by media – like he is today. During this year I had  opportunity to meet ANNaa many times. We wanted to organize a Youth Camp in his village. I went to RaaLegaNa for getting permission, then couple of visits for the preparation of the camp and then stayed there for eight days along with the youth participants. I met ANNaa a number of times during that period. He was in RaaLegaNa during that week. Everyday he used to interact with the participants for an hour or so. He was always there – around us, and even when we had a trivial problem he was there for us. I could go to him anytime and talk at leisure. He was soft, kind, never raising his voice and never looking irritated. He always listened to people with calm and peace. He did not carry the aura of “I know All’ or “I have done lot of work” – which would have been obvious for him given his name and fame then. However at the same time he unmistakably conveyed that he was not the kind of man to easily surrender, he was not the one who feared obstacles.

We stayed in RaaLegaNa like pampered children. Actually we were so young and had not done anything substantial in life, but ANNaa looked after us. He won the hearts of all youngsters in our camp by his simplicity, his renunciation, his softness and his work. Generally I do not touch anyone’s feet, but as I remember, while leaving RaaLegaNa, I saluted ANNaa in traditional way.

Year: 2011. Place: New Delhi. It is morning of Sunday, 28th August. Naturally, the attention of the entire nation is here today. Media has already brought the news to the nooks and corners that ANNaa Hajaare is breaking his fast at 10.00. The crowd wants to observe this historic moment as closely as possible. In the search of front rows, people have gathered very early here in Raamaleelaa Maidaana. Last Saturday, I had spent about half in hour in queue, to avoid it; I am here very early in the morning.

New Delhi Metro Station is not much crowded – not as I expected. There are people – mainly passengers reaching Delhi. Outside the station, in Kamala Market area, city buses are ready to go. New passengers have a confused look about which bus to take. The scene is like any other railway station in any other city on a normal day. For a moment I think that I have alighted down at a wrong metro station. But next moment, I see young children and women selling Gandhi topee and tri-color in various shapes and sizes. They are aware that ANNaa is going to break fast; they are in a hurry to sell whatever stock they have. The road is full of food vendors. If someone does not know about India Against Corruption (IAC) campaign, one would be tempted to think that there is some kind of political rally.

Last Saturday, I had to be in queue for about half an hour, so even though it is Sunday, I have reached here rather early.  Fortunately I enter the venue just within five minutes. Half of the ground is still muddy. So when I read next day the crowd estimates, I realize how media exaggerates – in good moments as well as in bad moments. Only when one is physically present during such events, one can understand the exaggeration.

Raamaleelaa ground is large enough- so even when it is half filled at eight in the morning, I am sure there are thousands of people. When I am trying to find a spot, I am told that there is a separate sitting arrangement for women. I think this arrangement would save me from being pushed by men in the crowd – however when ANNaa appears on the stage, the crowd erupts with emotions and the bamboo barricade between men’s section and women’s section is brought down and I have to face the pulls and pushes of the crowd. But it is to happen about an hour later.

The atmosphere is highly charged with patriotic emotions. Patriotic songs, slogans and the tri color make it very exciting. Volunteers are at their best initially – if someone stands, they immediately approach and request the person to sit down. The crowd seems to be self-disciplined at the beginning. But now a days people are not used to 'cross legged' sitting. So around nine, people start to express their restlessness. When the television cameras move towards crowds; all the discipline disappears within a moment. The next hour is to show me how women and men crave for ‘two minute’s fame’. The way women push each other (I am sure men did the same too) to capture the attention of cameramen, is disgusting. They are dancing, shouting slogans and trying to speak in the microphone. When the drinking water pouch (of course free) arrives on the scene, it almost creates a stampede. Whatever maybe the event, people cannot easily overcome their selfishness. It was only the beginning of the madness of the crowds.

When Anna appears on the stage; the crowd becomes uncontrollable. It is a moment which tells me that ‘Jana Sansada’ (Parliament of People) would be as good and bad as ‘Sansada’ (Parliament of elected representatives). Some of us are trying to tell others, “Please, sit down, from this distance we cannot see Anna clearly, but if we all sit down, we can at least have a glimpse of the stage”- but to no avail. The crowd exhibits typical Indian mentality – ‘if she is not sitting down, why should I?’ – is the question every one of them asks. Nobody realizes that we need to  follow rules even when others are not following, we need to set example, and we need to do certain things not because others demand but because we believe in it as core value of life. Even if strong Lokpal bill is passed, there is no guarantee that such people would not bribe and try to get undue benefits. While watching the people around, I felt extremely desolated.

Mr. Arvind Kejariwal begins his speech by ‘thanks giving’. In the last few months, I have read a lot about him and I am eager to listen to him. However, I am completely disillusioned. I mean even if I don’t like I can understand ‘Thanking Media’. But when Mr. Kejariwal said: “We thank Delhi Police. Some of them were on duty in uniform during the day and the in the evening after their duty was over, they joined us.” (Not exactly in these words, but meaning almost the same). I think Mr. Kejariwal is bit immature in declaring this. I hope those police personnel do not have to face internal inquiry!

Everybody seems to have forgotten those 30 persons who are also fasting at Raamaleelaa with ANNaa. Leave informing the crowds about the names of these 30 persons and appreciating them – at the last moment they are mentioned collectively and hurriedly (my guess is it happened when someone reminded Mr. Kejariwal about them). It is said that heroes are forgotten by later generations, but here they are invisible even in the present. The clarification that “we never said all political leaders are bad’ is amusing. That the IAC team had shared the stage on the earlier evening with few political leaders gave a clear signal about the change of mind of IAC team.

Mr. Kejariwal appeals the crowds to ‘gather at India Gate in the evening to celebrate’ – I am smiling at that. What victory? Whose victory? I think Mr. Kejariwal declared this due to the habit of last 11 days. Otherwise both Mr. Kejariwal and Ms. Bedi know fully well how the power circle in Delhi works. If I say that they do not understand the meaning of process in the last 4-5 days, I would doubt their intellectual capacity.

The crowds are mostly relieved that ANNaa is finally breaking fast. I wish colleagues of ANNaa had the opportunity to listen to the voices of the crowds. Amongst themselves people are discussing the whole issue and the common feeling expressed and agreed to is: Good that ANNaa finally is breaking his fast. Otherwise the ambitious people around him might have killed him. One person even said,” It is good that ANNaa finally realized that whether Lokpal bill is passed or not; there is no point in giving life for phaltu (useless) people like us.” Actually I feel that the issue of corruption, Lokpal are not on people’ mind there – there is only concern about ANNaa’s health. Some people are happy to find out that ANNaa is speaking with youth like energy and others are surprised at that.

For ANNaa’s ‘break fast’ two young girls – Simarn and Ikrah are invited on the stage. Mr. Kejariwal takes pains to tell Media that Simarn comes from Dalit family and Ikrah lives in Turkman Gate area in Delhi (meaning: she is Muslim). I am aghast that the IAC campaign is ‘using’ seven year innocent kids in this way. Till then I had known only politicians using caste and religion as identities to show their ‘mass base’. Do these kids know:  what is corruption? What is Parliament? What is a Bill? What is Jan Lokpal? They are too young to know and they are not responsible for the mess created by adults in the society. Mentioning Dr. Ambedkar to reach out to Dalit communities is again a political trick. Does IAC mean that Dr. Ambedkar belongs only to Dalits? Let us stop assuming that Dalit are fools and they can be made happy by just mentioning Dr. Ambedkar’s name! During that morning I see an illustration of how people (movements, campaigns) compromise when they try to establish claims of representation and numbers!

The crowd is so chaotic that neither the volunteers nor Mr. Kejariwal can control it. Mr. Kejariwal has to say: “If you do not keep quiet, ANNaa will continue his fast. He was fasting for last many days; he can fast for few more hours.” The statement shows how helpless Mr. Kejariwal is and what kind of ‘supporters’ have gathered there! So, some people do not capture the moment of ANNaa breaking his fast. Even after ANNaa’s speech is over, people are asking, “but when is he going to break his fast?”

ANNaa’s speech is extensively covered by Media, so I am not going to repeat it here. While ANNaa is speaking crowds are moving out of the pendal and they are replaced by new groups coming in. Some of those who are moving out , are turning to queues – one for ANNaa kee Rasoi (where free food is distributed) and other for ANNaa kee mupht chai (where free tea is distributed). I am wondering about the idea – when masses are coming to support ‘fasting for cause’, what is the point in providing ‘free tea and food’ for them? These supporters are not interested in the next steps of the campaign, the future direction and strategies of the movement. They are engaged in slogans –the louder, the better! I see most people – either slogan-ing, on their mobile phones, weaving tri-color, talking with friends, taking snaps – I wonder who is listening to ANNaa. I am pushed backward by the crowd and by the time ANNaa finishes his speech I am at the rear end of the pendal.

I realize that ANNaa did not say ‘Vande Maataram’ even once in his speech. During his Jantar Mantar fast in April, one evening I met a group of Muslim youths who were chanting Vande Maataram. I spoke to the group about it and they said,” Hama bhee to isa mittee se pale hue hai” (we too are brought up by this land!) – I still remember their fervor and their conviction. Equating Vande Maataram with a group of Hindus and avoiding to say Vande Maatarm to appease other group – is it a good strategy? By such act, we are pushing youths in the control of religious fanaticism- which is equally dangerous as corruption. In this way, the youth enthusiasm will die even before it strengthens.

Whether the person I met in RaaLegaNa Siddhee twenty five years ago is the same? Or has ANNaa changed – I keep on asking myself. In some ways, he remains unchanged. Simple, soft speaking, determined, naïve, ready to renounce his comforts (and his life in this case) for others, facing opposition with sternness. These are ANNaa’s qualities – many of us revere him for that. I find no reason to disagree.

However, there is also 'other' ANNaa emerging. Surrounded by the camera, away from people, the man sitting on the stage seems different. ANNaa: who accepts ‘I am ANNaa’ printed on caps and T shirts; who allows his photograph to be printed in the middle of tri-color on T Shirts; who calmly listens to the song eulogizing him; who is sharing stage with people who are accused of corruption (I know they were representing government, so what?); once he used to speak a lot about how he was inspired by Swami Vivekananda – today he does not mention him. Why? I feel that this ANNaa in the midst of thousands of people is a strange person, I do not know him. Whatever relationship I had with him and with his cause, and which I had nurtured, is destroyed in a moment. I feel completely away from him.   

I need to go to RaaLegaNa again. In 1987 I asked him many questions; I would ask him all these questions again. I hope as in 1987, he would answer me calmly, thoughtfully and with smile. Before this dialogue happens, I should not change my opinion about ANNaa. The person is at her/his best where s/he is rooted. Raamaleelaa Maidaana and the crowds are not the best times and place to find that old ANNaa again!