Every evening, in my paternal home, in my father’s room, the entire family would sit to watch the news on Doordarshan. My grandmother, my father’s mother, would follow both, English and Hindi telecasts. She could understand the full intent in the English News without understanding the language. On good days, we would have two or three of my uncles also in the house and the post news discussions would continue in between the two telecasts and after the second News. I was a small, insignificant girl, hanging onto each word spoken. My elder brother would participate in these discussions a few years down the line.
My maternal grandfather and maternal uncle would have similar discussions too, and when visiting them, I would get to be regaled by my grandfather with the stories from the pre-independence times. My maternal uncle would talk of little known instances from the various political meetings from the past.
I remember like a blurred dream the time of emergency, the election of Janta Dal, the rising of Indira Gandhi like a phoenix. I remember a few things more clearly. One episode etched in the memory is the pall of gloom on the faces of Doordarshan News readers when announcing the 1979 election results. Indian voter is unpredictable. We love dynasties. We do not care to research, to understand the implications of our actions. A major change requires a major upheaval, a major churning, a major movement to wake us up to the ground realities. Once done, we get complacent again. We stop researching and start believing whatever the media and the neighbours are telling us. My mother and aunts were similar. They believed in dynasties and in ‘Khandaan’ (blue blood).
I was too young to understand much at the time. However, I remember another incident about my appreciation of history and politics. I was in seventh standard. We used to have constant visits from a Mr. Bahuguna, who was leading the education board in Delhi at the time. My first introduction and interaction with the gentleman was during a history period. We were studying about the moderates and extremists leaders in the Indian history during our independence movement. We were being introduced to the philosophies of Naoroji and Gokhale on the one hand and Swaraj movement and aggression of Bal, Pal, and Lal (Bal GangadharaTilak, Bipin Chandra Pal and Lala Lajpat Rai, Aurobindo Ghosh) on the other. Mr Bahuguna found it interesting and asked us a few questions. He then asked a question to the effect that do we feel that any leader from the history has influenced us. I remember raising my hand and talking about Gandhiji’s surrendering to Nehru’s ambition to be the first prime minister of the country, which could be one of the reasons for India’s partition. I must have been twelve or thirteen years old at the time.
Thereafter, I have mostly remained apolitical, too busy with my life. I never voted, due to postings and also, due to lack of interest. There were no political alternatives. All ambitions of seeing India as a world class country, a force to reckon with seemed distant dreams. There were not many thoughts to spare. Personal life took over completely. The same personal life woke the responsible citizen in me when my daughter became eligible to vote. My first vote was in 2012 Delhi municipality elections with my daughter. I voted for her, and with her. Thereafter, I voted in Delhi elections and general elections in 2014. Delhi elections of 2015 had another significance. My son was voting for the first time and we went out as a family to vote.
I remained apolitical all my life, never bothering to choose sides or to vote. An ex-colleague forced me into choosing sides during this period of 2012-15 by his incessant hackling and name-calling in favour of one party over the other. The more he pushed, the more I researched, and chose what was right. All those discussions from the childhood, the hushed facts, the living room discussions, all seem to be crawling out of the woodwork, being published in blogs, in articles. The digital media has become so powerful. Add to that are the declassification of the reports from the past. Sixty years is a long time to keep things under wraps. The confidentially is lost after the confidantes are lost. Future generations may have their own truths from this era to deal with. However, that is a future discussion. I have become vocal recently. May not remain so for long, and it could be a passing phase. There are much more important things in life than the country’s politics, and these will eventually take precedence. For now, I am unable to resist the need to share what I know to be true.
||Sarvam Sri Krishna Arpanamastu||