Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Remembering Bhagat-Sukhdev-Rajguru, Ram Manohar Lohia, Kanu Sanyal and Tagore's Tota Kaahini

March 23, 2010 is the 79th death anniversary of Sukhdev Thapar, Shivaram Rajguru and Bhagat Singh and 100th birth anniversary of Ram Manohar Lohia. Today morning, Kanu Sanyal, a leading figure of the Naxalbari movement and the Communist Party of India (Marxist-Leninist), was found dead in his house. Initial reports suggest that the 78-year-old communist hanged himself. I would not have known about Sanyal, or remembered the martyr trio and R M Lohia, but for Vinod Dua's 9.30 news slot on NDTV India.

Seems unnerving that these Indian intellectuals, who remained staunch in their varied beliefs till the end, should be united in their life and death by this trivial, albeit uncanny coincidence.

On March 23, 1931
Three youths died
shouting slogans till their last breath
to keep the revolution alive.
More than six decades of sleep later,
they perhaps still scream in their graves:
Wake up.

Sadly for someone like me, a person born in a free, lethargic nation disillusioned with politics and corruption, the driving force of legends like Bhagat Singh that propelled them to defy leadership with such unflinching confidence can only generate awe, surprise and disbelief.

I feel alarmed and disgusted with the way Maoist cadres and socialist parties are behaving in recent times. My brush with die-hard communists has been limited to invisible and continuous waves of masses of thousands of people rushing towards Esplanade on foot or on trucks that make their presence felt by choking the traffic of even the city's most far-flung corners and its every single arterial road. They speak the same tune, argue the same logic and could be just as loyal to their cause as thousands of young men and women may have been during the freedom struggle more than six decades ago.

Any movement seems just when it takes birth. Slowly, the movement becomes the organ itself, the mission gets sidelined and finally buried under layers of big, hollow talk. Perhaps Rabindranath Tagore had envisioned the way the Communist movement (or any other governing mechanism as such) would end up as long back and had tried to warn the masses with his harmless-looking short story called Tota Kaahini or The Parrot's Tale.

To me, this story has wise metaphors. The foolish parrot is the uneducated, ignored mass of faceless people. The expensive gold cage, sham education, revelry and rigmarole is the all-powerful state machinery that tactfully misleads the masses from their objective. The fault-finder is a person who still has the ability to see and speak the truth - and so is a nuisance.

The biggest sorrow is that with time, people with strong, honest ideals (and not blind transfer of faith into a glorious-looking mass-movement) are becoming a rarity. The country is producing generations of self-engrossed young men and women (including me) each more below-average than the previous.

A dear teacher once confided in a casual, sad remark — "Since the past few years, all the new batches seem worse than the previous ones." Another teacher had also pointed out the same degeneration. "My old students would make my palms sweat with their string of questions. You people just eat up my words without arguing," he had sighed. Have we become a race that is too lazy and/or meek to ask and argue?

I hope that at least for the time we remember people like Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev, our sleeping conscience urges us to be as truthful and courageous as we can be in our daily affairs.

I end with an edited excerpt from Bhagat Singh's prison diary. Courtesy Wikipedia.

"The aim of life is ... not to realise truth, beauty and good only in contemplation, but also in the actual experience of daily life..."