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Sunday, November 30, 2008

My City. My Country.

"You must be the change you want to see in the world.”
Mahatma Gandhi

I feel guilty today as I helplessly watch my beautiful Taj burn. I hang my head in shame. I am part of that vocal majority that expresses outrage at every act of violence perpetrated against my people and I point my silent finger at the politicians and so called leaders of my country. I sit in my comfortable armchair and sip my scotch as death looms in every shadow around every dark corner on my streets. Today, I feel like I am part of the problem.

The reality is a pill much harder to swallow. When you realize and accept that no matter how you articulate this defense, the fact remains that our politicians who rule and whom we blame for all our woes, are only there because we have put them in office. If they are corrupt it is only because we feed their corruption; every time we offer ‘chai paani’ to a cop for a traffic violation or an MTNL worker to set up that broadband connection at our home. They are never held accountable for their actions or lack thereof because we do not hold them responsible nor do we ever demand accountability, especially if it means having to get up off our comfortable little armchair. Today, I accept and realize that I am a large part of the problem that plagues the country that I love so much.

On many days I fret and fume, amongst likeminded friends, and convey indignation when the likes of Raj Thackeray stir up hate and communal passions for personal gain and imposters calling themselves Hindu’s protest and succeed in blocking the showing of “Through the Eyes of a Painter," an award-winning short film directed by M.F. Husain, at the 39th International Film Festival of India. I am embarrassed when people like Mamta Banerjee succeed in taking the country back 61 years and the center and Sonia Gandhi stay silent so they can ensure TMC support to fill their vote banks, in the next Lok Sabha elections. And today, once again I wonder who is actually calling the shots and running my country when I see Manmohan Singh’s spiritless leadership; a man whose intellect and integrity I had a great deal of respect and hope for. And I shout and scream silently from my comfortable armchair.

And once again today, I am silently heartened when I read Amitabh Bachchans’ blog where he adamantly states, about the 26/11 attacks, “But let us not conveniently use it as our cover sheet, pull it over our heads and go off to sleep. Because that is what has been happening every time." I too smile with pride when Rahul Bose, on CNN-IBN, vilifies Pramod Mahajan and Milind Deora saying that “this is the last straw,” and that Bombay and India will never again tolerate her politicians and leaders’ incompetence and indifference. As I sit upright, I can feel my sense of hopelessness and despair momentarily dissipate. I feel a part of their righteous anger and protest and I too am willing to do nothing more about it, as I adjust my posture and then recline comfortably back into the depths of my armchair.

But on this Twenty-Ninth day of November 2008, I feel something different. Mr. Rajan, a Taj maintenance man who put himself between the bullets of one of the gunmen (and a hotel guest, his wife and two daughters), Major Sandeep Unnikrishnan, the nameless stranger at Café Leopold who jumped on top of a British tourist, pushing him to the floor as a barrage of bullets reigned, ATS Chief Hemant Karkare and VD Zhende, the VT timetable announcer, who had the presence of mind to warn people not to come toward the main platform and refused to leave his post despite being fired at and Gajendra Singh, along with countless other nameless women and men who gave up their lives to save others, make me proud to be Indian. Today, they are responsible for killing my apathy and making me want to get up off my comfortable armchair; so that their sacrifice for their country, my country, and our country will NEVER be in vain.