Babaji’s Satyagraha

Democracies are noisy and are also conveniently arithmetical, for they rely on simple process of counting and being counted. If you have the numbers on your side you might justifiably fancy bulldozing virtually anything howsoever sturdy, including the government of the day.

A certain Babaji found this particular truth conducive to his dreams and desires. But then, he seemingly missed something crucial. The number game has its own intricacies. And Babaji turned out to be a complete novice in that respect. His chit-waving adversaries did not fare too well on that count either. It was a battle of two elitist parties with political naivete writ large. They apparently had no idea of how an emotional common man of this country reacts to such things.

Need I specify that India is an emotional country and can be taken for a ride in the name of religion and corruption alike? And we, being a gullible people, can easily trust the seemingly pious ‘babas’ to deal with the palpably corrupt ‘babus’. So, our Babaji here took a leaf out of the bulky black book of corruption and zoomed into the issue of black money stashed away abroad.

The black money talk has been around since the Stone Age, almost. Supreme Court brought it to the fore and the Babaji decided to use it as a springboard to take a plunge into the political ocean of the world’s largest democracy.

The nation watched eagerly the tussle between the most popular Yoga guru of the day and the Central Government, but the closed-door talks complicated the issue right from the start. Corruption is best countered by transparency, and closed doors are the very antithesis of transparency. It suits tactful diplomats, but to simplistic Satyagrahis, truth — and not ‘tact’ — is the weapon to fight with, and also the ideal to fight for. They put up a fearless fight for the right and the truth and do not do a ‘Shivaji-in-feminine-garb’ without an Aurangzeb. It’s hard to imagine our mild, gentlemanly Prime Minister as the Mughal fundamentalist emperor.

On the other hand, it is equally hard, if not harder, to see Babaji as a Gandhian Satyagrahi, which is the only acceptable kind of a Satyagrahi anyway.

Babaji missed both the political and the moral nuances of Satyagraha. Fasting is a tool, a way, a mode of Satyagraha. Satyagraha is not as much about results as about the right endeavour for the right ends very much in line with Lord Krishna’s teachings in Srimad Bhadwad Gita.

One hangs in there to bear the heartless caning and thrashing, and does not seek an escape shivering in terror. The path of non-violence which is a necessary element of Satyagraha is not for the frail hearted and weak spirited, or for those who seek security behind a wall of numbers. One has to step out and submit oneself to merciless violence of the heartless oppressors without looking at the effect it might or might not be having on the circumstances one wishes to change by one’s efforts.

One has to do choose one’s own ‘right path’ and stick to it without resorting to violence of any kind against anyone. It is a form of ‘Nishkaam Karmayoga’ that has no tolerance for egoistic traits. Self-defense by way of violent retaliation has absolutely no place in the scheme of Gandhian Satyagraha. Therefore, any talk of raising a ‘protection group’ or ‘counter force’ for self-defense is clearly out of sync with Satyagraha. If it was inappropriate against foreign oppressors, there is no way to justify the same against a democratically elected government fully accountable to the people as well as other Constitutional authorities for the purpose.

Satyagraha is a tool of protest that can only be employed in its pure form with its essentials unadulterated. There can be no such thing as ‘armed satyaraha’ just as much as there can be no such Satyagraha where the group that protests is different from the group that gets beaten up. So, there is no way to defend the ‘self-defense’ protection group that the Babaji talked about.

May be the Yoga Guru has self-destructed much of his appeal with the people, for even his most ardent supporters find it difficult to defend some of Babaji’s actions.

The issue would keep bouncing back and around for quite some time, for the one good thing that the recent anti-corruption protests have managed to do is make corruption a mainstream debate. And we have clearly expressed our unwillingness to submit to it like meek cows the way we had begun to. However, despite the gravity of the situation the protesters must stick to Constitutionally permissible methods.

Most importantly, religion or communal inclinations of the protesters are likely to do more damage than good. Not even a hint of saffron or green or any other colour except white — the colour of peace and harmony — has any place in the nationalistic struggle that anti-corruption protests necessarily are.

On its part the government must engage constructively instead of raking up issues like place of birth, passports or somebody’s income issues because it can only be seen as an attempt to oppress protesters. And if tyranny is added to the concoction of rising inflation and rising corruption, the ruling party might find itself left out in the sun to dry by the electorate as soon as it’s time for the people to issue a fresh mandate.

We Indians might be emotional and dynasty-worshiping fools, but we do have a knack for ousting anyone who starts acquiring dictatorial colours. Of course, we give second chances but not before heaping loads of embarrassment.

What I fail to understand is why the Babajis and the governments think that we would believe whatever they say when even children no longer trust what their parents say? Did that sound too bad? Well, let’s go back to sleep then.

Originally published as part of my monthly column — STREET LAWYER — in LAWYERS UPDATE [August 2011 Issue; Vol. XVII, Part 8]

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Delhi Belly: Shit, literally

Ah! Delhi Belly is realistic, yes, and how! Realism gone to stinking, sick pigs. That’s Delhi Belly’s variety of it, if it was realism that the director actually wished to serve us with.

Funny? Yes, if you can laugh at semi-solid human excreta spread over a velvet cloth like jelly, the regular roadside abuses splashed around like monsoon rain and the mock threat of turning testicles into earrings.

And if you think it is a little too gross, well, you are sane and possibly are an old-fashioned, prudish puritan like me. Delhi Belly has actually been a commercial success by and large, which says a great deal about where we are headed.

It’s not my concern as to where we, as people, are headed because it’s better that we learn our own lessons from personal experience like all kids do. Lessons learnt by burning one’s own fingers last longer in the memory, often forever.

Must not real life be portrayed as it is? Yes, that’s what realism is about, but movies are not documentaries. ‘The world as it is’ is not and cannot be their central dictum. Representing reality in art is more about what is communicated by implication rather than by express representation.

The cover of ‘realism’ cannot be used to hide bad taste, and shocking obscenities are not entertainment. If ‘realism’ together with the excuse of ‘A’ Certificate is allowed, we could be justifying the multiplex screening of full blown pornos next. The private party thus goes public in the name of realism operating under creative license without there being a shred of creativity involved.

And who is DK Bose? Fictitious name like Munni and Sheila? Granted. Where is the fictitious people whom that name refers to? Sheila and Munni are dancing, and we can see them dance. Where do we see DK Bose running? I couldn’t spot him despite my best efforts.

The fact is that it’s just a crude Hindi expletive split into two benign parts for the sole purpose of defending it when the need be by ‘blaming’ the meaning on the interpreter. It’s the you-dirty-mind defense tactic that adolescent boys use all the time with their double meaning statements. The curious thing about such statements is that if they do not have the offending meaning, they have none significant. Therefore, the offensive meaning is the essential import. Same goes for DK Bose, for a plain advice to flee directed to nobody in particular makes no sense in the context of the movie, but saddle the offensive meaning into the general foul-mouth atmosphere of the movie, and it fits in perfectly well.

So, the tongue-in-cheek innocence feigned by the makers of the film is quite disgusting and the failure of the Censor Board to nip it smacks of incompetence, carelessness and indifference mixed in loathsome proportions. I wonder why Censor Board should not be penalized for negligence and failure to perform its duty under the law.

The movie opens in a dingy and visually stinking living room with the three roommates sprawled on different ‘arrangements’ that serve for beds.

Before you encounter the first human face or voice, you find yourself staring at a ‘smiling’ human bottom — the fat, wobbly kind — peeking through the top of the shorts that are — if you permit a little exaggeration — almost half way on their way down while the massive human hippo snores turned away like his other two friends.

The next thing one hears is the sound of water cruising through the pipes and meeting the rude welcome of the cold floor next to the bucket arousing a expletive-peppered friendly exchange in the ‘sleeping-area-cum-living-space’ from under the covers as to whose turn it is to get the bucket under the tap. They argue about turn and responsibility inconclusively in a tri-logue generously sprinkled with crass abuses, and the bucket never gets filled. Things get further complicated when the fat one has gets his stomach up, and, seated relieved on the commode, realizes that the bucket is empty! And we Indians, being environment friendly by culture, have no use for toilet paper. What now? Orange juice. So, the ‘smiling bottom’ gets sticky from repeated application of orange juice.

And then, there is this mixing of packages where diamonds get mixed up with stool sample. The gangster comes to retrieve his diamonds, and by some bizarre turn of events, the hero conveniently slips out of love with his girlfriend without a heartbreak justifying it, and smoothly slides into love with a separated woman of a trigger-happy, ‘almost divorced’ husband. And, again, we have no inkling of the ‘budding love’ until the bizarre kiss at the end with the boy’s lips plastered on the girl’s, the better half of his body hanging out of the backing car’s driver-side window and the girl in the driving seat reversing the car by sheer grace of god in an astounding display of incredible multitasking. I am not sure how realistic is this unrealistically passionate gush of inexplicable emotions, if we choose to attribute the kiss with any, that is.

So, Delhi Belly is about these three friends who get hold of some diamonds without knowing and the goons behind the diamonds come knocking. The giggles that one hears in the theatre are mainly a reaction to an unusually sickening concoction of cleverly placed obscenities that sound like smart remarks and a combination of scat, fart and orange juice. Got the idea? No? Watch it. And puke. If you somehow don’t, congratulate yourself over your admirable resistance to unfunny nonsense. And if you really break into a hearty, full-throated laughter, well, my friend, you certainly have a ‘very different’ sense of humour.

Originally published as part of my Legal Movie Review column LEGAL SCANNER in LAWYERS UPDATE [November, 2011 Issue; Vol. XVII, Part 11]