Anyway here goes my stuff on it:
The past couple of weeks have seen a lot of changes in my life. Chief among them being a change of job, which has meant moving back home. I have now moved bag and baggage to Hyderabad after spending 16 years in Mumbai.
My last stint in Mumbai was with Mr. Anant Pai a.k.a. Uncle Pai, the man behind the “Amar Chitra Katha” series and “Tinkle”, the monthly comic book for children. (The “Amar Chitra Katha” series deals with Indian history, culture and mythology in the comic book format. I have a feeling that most of my generation had its introduction to Indian history and mythology from Amar Chitra Katha.)
Two years ago, at 75, when most people are well into their retirement (at least in India) Uncle Pai decided to use the animation and television medium, along with comic books, to popularize Indian culture. To this end he set up an animation and television software firm. I can’t think of too many people who have set up new ventures at 75. His enthusiasm and energy is absolutely unbelievable and totally infectious.
It was a delight to interact with Uncle Pai on a daily basis. He would recite shlokas from the Vedas, talk about Kabir and his life & times, quote from Zauq and Abdul Rahim Khan-i-Khanan – all in the line of business.
Working with him was a breeze also because I loved doing what I did. And that was handling the promotional activities for our products (in an earlier stint I did the same for the comic series “Amar Chitra Katha” and Tinkle). I enjoyed interacting with the bright young kids and their parents. The interesting part was that almost invariably whenever we conducted a promotional campaign we would have parents come up to him and say that they had participated in some competition that he had conducted in 1979/1985/1990 (or whatever) and that they were delighted that their children were now participating in the same event.
The other reason that I loved working with Uncle was because of my own interest in Indian history and mythology. I found that I could pick his brains about almost any aspect of our history.
One of my favourite books is the Mahabharata (An epic that has at its core the battle for territory between two sets of cousins – the Pandavas and the Kauravas. The Pandavas, the good guys, triumph in the end. The Mahabharata also contains the Bhagwad Gita, Krishna’s advice to Arjuna delivered on the battlefield of Kurukshetra). I have read and re-read the epic and every time there is something new about it that I appreciate.
Indian history is another area that fascinates me. But it is more of ancient Indian history that I like. I feel completely depressed when I read the later medieval and modern Indian history. This is so because this period in Indian history is replete with:
I succeeded in doing that but how am I to block out the fact that these are the very same ills that are plaguing India even today. Try as I might I cannot ignore the events of the past one week in Srinagar and Mumbai. Especially the Mumbai train blasts.
What really gets to me is the seeming inability of the Indian state to act with firmness. All of us know, with a reasonable degree of certainty, who is behind this latest terrorist attack on Indian soil and yet all we get are bromides from the powers that be that India will no longer tolerate acts of violence against itself. Wow! I am sure the terrorists are quaking in their boots after listening to this statement.
Contrast that with the Israeli response to the kidnapping of two of their soldiers and the difference in approach is starkly apparent.
The other thing that irks me is the way everyone has gone on and on about how resilient Mumbaikars are. Yes we are (oops, I am no longer a Mumbaikar…but the spirit lingers on). But why do we need to be?
Mumbaikars are termed resilient when we pick up our lives after there is unprecedented flooding, after riots and when bombs go off. Mumbaikars are always termed resilient. The rest of the country applauds as they see us come out onto the streets to help people in distress. They even applaud us when we hand out water and food or when we offer a ride home to stranded fellow citizens during an emergency.
I find this applause quite sickening.
Why do we need to exhibit this legendary “spirit” and “resilience” year after year? It would help if the world stopped applauding us and instead got down to the business of making the life of the average Mumbaikar a bit easier and safer.
I realize that I have come across as angry and a touch bitter but there are times when anger is a virtue and patience a vice. I do not subscribe to the view that being patient and virtuous and “spirited” is the way forward. There has to be constructive anger that the citizens have to express against the government. And hopefully that will force the authorities to act in a more decisive manner and all of us can get on with our lives in peace.