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First of all sir congratulations on becoming the Vice-President. Some may say that congratulating you for this is like congratulating eleven o’clock for coming after ten o’clock, or congratulating an apple broken from its stem for dropping to the ground or congratulating P K Nag’s sons for taking over P K Nag and Sons.
So I read your speech, the speech that you delivered to the party after your coronation…err…selection after studied deliberation by your peers in the chintan shivir.
And I noted a few things.
You said you felt optimistic. I understand why you would sir. I would too if I had a national party as a family heirloom, if I knew I would have an army of qualified courtiers watching my back, an army of guards clearing the road of commoners, and an adoring media to pump my ego. Yes. I would feel very optimistic then. About the future. My future. Which of course I would, using the royal pronoun, address as “our”.
You recognize that power being centralized is a bad thing for the nation. I applaud you sir for realizing what the problem is. But you do not tell us, for reasons known best to you, who the problem is. Overreaching federal power is the very legacy of your party. Playing favorites with the development of states through the formulation of destructive policies often made without the approval of the states affected, dismissing state governments based on political considerations, subverting private ownership through nationalization, and finally binding industry by magical spools of red-tape of the kind rarely seen outside Communist states. You of course now take credit for unchaining the very dragon your line once bound, credit that rightfully should go to a man, a man from your very party who did try to make things right, imperfectly perhaps. I realize he is an usurper, a historical aberration, a Hemu in the line of Mughals. Hence he must be quietly forgotten and his legacy appropriated.
You say, dear sir, that youths are alienated because they know that politics is not for them. Very true. They know that politics, like the Bollywood movie industry, is a system of concentric rings of walled privilege. It’s easier for a camel to walk through the eye of a needle than for a normal person, that is one without pedigree or one not willing to kowtow before one with pedigree, to get into politics, at least in the army you command. It’s a culture where people do not respect knowledge but respect position. I am sure you will agree with me on that. After all you said it yourself in your speech.
Except that when you say it, you say it as if that’s not something which is part of your party’s heritage, as if this culture where lineage is respected over and above all is not something that has a direct effect on where you are today.It fills my heart with wonderment, this your almost creator-like detachment. One might assume, hearing this speech and the others you have made, that you are a prince from some distant planet, perhaps the one shown in Prometheus, who flies down in his alien craft, comments on the follies and foibles of the human race before flying back again to the Great Beyond.
Your troubadours would say that you have merit. And that I am, to quote you “being negative, asking Bhaiyya what is your weakness?” No sir. I am asking “What is your strength?” As a matter of fact, I am desperately looking for it. Your voluble foot-soldiers say that you are an inspiration for the nation. Now I am an old man, even though I am quite a bit younger to you. And the way I look at it, and you can call me an outdated fogey, there are only two kind of people who can claim to be inspirations. One are our parents, who through their personal examples, set standards for us to live up to. And the other are great men whose achievements echo through history— a Mahatma Gandhi, a Tagore, a Swami Vivekanand, an Einstein. Which brings me back to the question, what exactly have you done that warrants the label of “inspiration”?
I do something very simple. I look at your record as a legislator. The part that can be measured. Your attendance is 40% in Parliament. In the world of mice and men, an attendance of 40% in college leads to being expelled, in a job leads to a pink slip. In your case, it leads to elevation. Your supporters, of the type that hail your tryst with destiny in words florid, would say that even Tagore never attended school. Didn’t stop him from getting a Nobel.
And so I ask—what did you do even outside Parliament? In the last few years, the country has been in tumult over corruption and the safety of women. This may be just something I missed but somehow, I could not find you anywhere on the public stage when this was going on. Nowhere did I find you expressing your opinion. Never did I see you taking responsibility, the hallmark, they say, of a true leader.
I know what they will say in response. They will say that you do not speak or act till you are ready. And all these years, you have been preparing yourself, understanding the problems of the people, in the manner children start solving Irodov problems in Class 6 for their IIT exams.
And there itself lies the crux, the very heart of problem.
You need to “understand” the problem of people, just like we need to understand quantum mechanisms.
You need to “understand the problems” because you sir, unlike us, never live these problems.
You are like a scientist observing a specimen, the “aam aadmi”, underneath the microscope, telling your assistant “Make entry in lab note book. Subject responds to stimulus with tremor in knees and shoulder.”
In a way, this is not your fault—growing up with bodyguards it must be difficult to internalize the collective insecurity of those whose bodies are under attack everyday in the streets and in the fields, growing up with an assured future must make it impossible to feel the despair of those that do not have such a guarantee. That is why you need to make an effort to be ordinary; to walk without bodyguards, to shake the hand of a commoner on the street, to stay over at a poor man’s house and break bread. That which is reality for others is for you mere “experience”, in the same way that bungee-jumping and skydiving is for the yuppie, bringing as it does a sense of comforting danger to his otherwise antiseptic life, not to speak of the opportunity to snap Like-magnet photos that look good in Facebook albums.
If I have said more than I am supposed to say, kindly forgive me. Blame it on my age. Or my lack of it. Whatever works.
So congratulations again, dear sir, congratulations. Congratulations for just being you.
(Reproduced with permission from Arnab Ray’s blog, greatBong.net. Arnab has authored two widely read novels, (“May I Hebb Your Attention Pliss” and “The Mine”) and blogs here. He can be followed at @greatbong on Twitter.)