The choice we make…

BY MANOJ KEWALRAMANI

That we are in the midst of a crisis is not well understood, is how I would phrase the Indian condition, borrowing much of the words from Barack Obama’s inaugural address.

This is not a lament against the system neither is it a prosaic call to arms that urges a new battle against tangible and intangible ills plaguing India. It is a humble introspection about the choices that lie before this generation of Indians – a somber reminder from the ghosts of our past and the spirit of our future.

Over the past two months, none of us has remained insulated from the public discourse that has ranged from faint-hearted defeatism accepting a rotting order to boisterous and repetitive calls seeking “action” and “change.”

These words, however, are deceptive devices; they invoke the images of a euphoric, bright destiny but fail to vanquish the darkness along the road that has to be endured.

Yet ever so often each one of us has the good fortune of this dichotomy materializing before him/her and there can be little more poetic than that being the day your nation consecrates its belief in its core ideals.

On the one hand was a ‘civilized’ debate on an English network about the state of the nation and on the other was the state of the nation and the need of the hour displayed in a microscopic example as Kiran Bedi adjudicated an ugly domestic dispute on a Hindi channel.

The language of the first appealed to my senses and the second ensured that the creases on my face portrayed a disgustful grimace.

As I digested the combination, the words spoken in English sounded hollow – another debate on another network, yet again identifying the well-known symptoms (systemic corruption, religious and caste divides, political ineptitude, public apathy) and calling for change and action.

In stark contrast stood the former cop whose effort lent meaning to some of those expressions and shed light on what was being asked of the young and old, the fortunate and not-so-fortunate and the interested and not-so-interested people of this country today.

The only analogy that can be drawn with regard to our task ahead is of that worker who without fanfare draws his cart at the edge of the tarmac, rolls up his ripped trouser and launches himself in the gutter outside our homes and offices to rid it of the gunk and unclog it.

The predicament of this generation is not new – many others in the past have faced similar if not the same challenge – but unique it is.

India today is in a state where Adam Smith’s invisible hand, if not ineffective, seems to have lost direction – pursuit of individual interests is unfortunately not maximizing the socio-political revenue of the community at large.

It is therefore a time to reassess the nature of these interests and sacrifice some of the individual glories and ambitions that we desire; only to hope that those who walk this land in our name, 40 or 50 years from now, can achieve their personal and national goals on the platform that we built – just as we have cherished the fruits of our forefathers’ endeavors.

At first thought, it feels almost criminal to ask ourselves to make that choice – it’s ludicrous to not end up paying a bribe when the system frustrates you to do so; it’s impossible to not look elsewhere when the government fails to offer basic facilities; and it is hopeless to seek justice in a structure that pushes you in all directions to ensure that you not only suffer for raising your hand but also pay for that suffering.

Yet in a larger sense, it seems simple enough as the choice between death and amputating a limb.

The real question is are you and I willing to do so?

(Manoj Kewalramani is a guest writer with Canary Trap. He has worked with top media houses like NDTV before becoming an Independent Blogger and Writer.)

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