Sunday, August 28, 2011

Nothing by Chance

Richard Bach is known to have flown biplanes. Striking rarity for a perspective on life’s ways on the ground. “Nothing by Chance” was a book Richard wrote from those experiences. That was a pilot’s barn hopping narration that explained coincidences in life. This book was a reading referred to me by Ajay Pathak, when we studied together for our Bachelor of Arts degree at the Fergusson College, Pune. To quote Bach "Nothing happens by chance, my friend... No such thing as luck. A meaning behind every little thing, and such a meaning behind this. Part for you, part for me, may not see it all real clear right now, but we will, before long.
- from "Nothing By Chance" . It strikes me again in the city of Pune, where the rains have showered more vigorously than the powder drizzle that irritates the Punekar more often. In most cities, a heavy rain dampens a civic strike too. Not this time.

Two of my classmates from school stopped on their tracks on the wet Friday evening discussing how corruption may be a gene in Indians. They were taking up the context of the unlikely crusader Anna Hazare. I was then being accompanied by yet another classmate Gautam. We joined them after work hours. I recalled for them how I went against the grain of the rat race to take up Humanities as a stream in academics. Our Sociology Professor Mrs. Khopkar arranged a study tour in 1987. This was to Ralegan Siddhi. The check dams and the engineering that used the lie of the land cleverly addressed the water table and the needs of farmers there.
The source was the might of the villagers. They had created cooperatives to ensure micro-economics that catered to their needs, and not to feed the greed of the city. They got fellow villagers to close down liquor shops and adopt a non-smoking zone around them for miles together. No external reward would make this possible. Mastery over their own destiny and autonomy over their wills apart – it was their Purpose that mattered to their unity. The experience mattered to us students, as the man who inspired them was not there. He was taking up their causes elsewhere. Anna Hazare had that impact then. That it became 2011 in a jiffy is a testimony to the extraordinary will of the uncommon man. Anna Hazare has a wider influence now. Revered as a God like figure, he is an uncommon determination..

On September 9, 2001, Gautam and I were with another classmate in Mumbai, when we saw the live television coverage of the New York twin tower collapse. Today all of NY is readying to face Hurricane Irene. On Sep 9, this year 2011, 20 years after the killing of Rajiv Gandhi, his killer would be hanged. September mornings are not far away. Yet the following strikes me.
1.       A government confined a man to a prison where more notorious elements have begun to be housed. As George Vettikunnel, Special officer in Maharashtra’s Police department once mentioned in 1998 or so to me, “There are more dangerous minds outside prison walls than within them”.
2.       The same government befriended the media. They did not muzzle it as Team Anna was.
3.       The same government huddled now and again to get it right. They bowed to a moral pressure, unparalleled in independent India.
4.       The same government held a reasonable debate on the state of polity for 12 hours or more to accede to the will of a steadfast man.
5.       The same government did not wish to be seen to choke its own functionaries, who spoke variously on the way they thought they were being treated by the media, or by the citizens of the country.
6.       The same government embraced a vulnerability that stronger governments would have glossed or dismissed, as the fleeting criticisms seemed to indicate. They may not get the credit for that courage, given its early misdemeanors, if not errors or mistakes.
7.       I did not see a single luminary or a common citizen who said, “This is all very new. It will take me some time to understand what is going on”. Everyone wished to sound opinionated and sure of what is happening.

I caught up with a Bangalorean on the plane back to Bangalore from Pune. He felt that the entire political class ganged up to tease its citizens because beyond moral corruption, they were united in the share of the spoils. “Caesar may be in power, but his wife’s accounts may be more powerful” seemed his take. The system is a rotten one in his opinion.  It takes one to challenge it. Silent awe is what I observed on that note of his assertion. Nothing by Chance indeed.

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