Fire Without a Flame…!

Very often, we find patronizing each other…do what your heart says…do what you really like… Little do we realize (exceptions aside) that how many of us really understand what our heart longs for? The very idea of retrospection appears ponderous to our young and expedient mind. Our mind runs from pillar to post in this nomadic search. Unfortunately Google has no answer to it.

Supporters of Anna Hazare during the ‘August Kranti’ in 2011 Source: Wikimedia/Hemant Banswal CC By-SA 4.0

  • (This article was published in Woman’s Era in August 2012. A shorter and updated version of this was also published in the Hindustan Times (Dehradun edition) under the column Xpressions on November 23, 2012)

Six p.m. Yes, this was the time I was in the sabji mandi (vegetable market) in Katwaria Sarai, New Delhi. “Anna tum sangharsh karo….Hum tumhare saath hain” “brashtachar hattao….imandari lao…!” (Anna you strive ahead, we are with you”….”remove corruption …bring honesty).

These were the slogans ringing in my ears. Soon, the intensity increased and within no time a vast procession of youths armed with burning torches, banners and black bands occupied the scene which otherwise has a feminine populace in the majority . It was all midst Anna Hazare’s crusade against corruption (Part-II) in mid-August last year.

The euphoria in Delhi was so enchanting that I too wanted to throng to the Ramlila Maidan and participate in the huge rallies that were engulfing the national capital. However, something within restrained me from doing so and I limited myself to following the events on the newspapers. It was not the fear of a lathicharge or any other charge that could be possibly imposed on me if I was caught. A strange series of unbounded hysteria drenched me throughout the carnival. My heart, like any other person’s then, was swelling with pride that the members of my generation (even though I was not involved) were raising their voice loud and clear against corruption.

Two weeks up the timeline, after the matter was rested temporarily for the winter session of the Parliament and the grand carnival ended with Anna ending his fast on a bright Sunday morning after weeks of heavy downpour—both physical and metaphorical.

I was on my way back home from my class, in a state transport bus. A quarrel broke up between the flying squad of DTC and a group of youths (the elite members of the pompous Generation X, of which I too am a member) with the latter having not purchased the tickets of high denominations— Rs.5 per head!

Since the group was a big one, the squad gave in and an illusionary normalcy was restored. Trying to poke my nose into the unwelcomed domain of theirs, I attempted a friendly chit-chat with one of them. I was mildly trying to lecture him on morality for some fice-odd  minutes. At the end, when I had finished, he resorted, “yar itna to chalta hai, kaunsa inke ghar ka kuch ja raha hai?”(This much is acceptable. After all, nothing is going from their wallets)

I was wondering: is this the same youth that was enchanting those anti-graft slogans with great fervour and joy, marching like swarms of bees for one common goal—a corruption free India? Were those pledges and vows that they took so hollow, that they could not withstand the test of time even for two weeks? I could not understand how things could change just in a little over 12,09,600 seconds (don’t calculate its two weeks).

“No”, came the big answer from within me. It said, ‘this is just a small fraction of the youth that you saw today. How can you crucify the entire community for the wrongs of one or two?’ I was convinced.

Months have elapsed since the “August Kranti”. The winter session of the Parliament ended on a souring note with an exuberant but unproductive marathon debate in the Rajya Sabha—the house of elders. When the eloquent orators from either side in the House were finding it hard to face off the session , one among the “honourable” elders stood up, marched forward and reduced the copies of the dreadful Bill(“dreadful”, since it was giving goosebumps to one and all) to pieces with the muscular might of his shaky little hands. It thus gave his fellow elders some space to breathe. The house was adjourned. The matter closed.

Since then, a lot more has changed on the political spectrum. State heads were removed on graft cases to muster votes. High-ranking politicians have found themselves entangled in cases of murder, rape and money laundering. Five states and two big universities in the national capital have gone to polls. Tremors of uncertainty are being felt in Maldives and the erstwhile Persian Empire. But the most catastrophic one for me is that my encounter with similar bus quarrels and more absorbing incidents involving the “youth” in petty corruption (small though they appear) has taken an upward curve, with no point of inflexion in it. Now, I find it hard to digest my earlier explanation of the group being a fraction of the “youth community”.

The questions that I wish to raise here are: is it justified to say that the youth today has really awoken themselves from their deep and long social hibernation? Is the youth today not being fed with pompous words just to portray a picture wherein the youth appears socially vigilant and vibrant? Aren’t the reality and the projections an antithesis to each other? Does the youth today really feel what it says and if it feels, does it express it eloquently? More importantly, whom does the tag “youth” exactly refer to?

The very term “youth” appears quite ambiguous to me. Someone in the wrong side of forties is tagged as the ‘youth icon’ or “yuvraj” in a country where the average human life expectancy is 65 years! It is not that we accept it very joyfully or other options don’t exist; the fact is that, we are in a way ordained to accept it because nothing else is projected to us.

By youth, I hope we don’t mean only the fashion divas who dominate the city pullouts in our newspaper or the ones who are literate and fortunate enough to get enrolled into a college in our metros.

I hope our ‘youth’ also include those lusty bison’s, whose number is ever increasing, and whose names are slashed in our dailies in cases of murder, rape, molestation and the like. You may argue that these are a handful but aren’t the well-to-do members, on whose laurels we proclaim ourselves the mightiest, also a handful?

I hope our ‘youth’ also include the class of rag pickers and the labourers in the unorganized sector (most of them do fall in the same age group that of you and me). Isn’t it that by ‘youth’ we often talk about only a small percentage of the actual youth which inhibit our country?

When we use the term “the youth” does it include a teenager in the remote districts of Ukhrul and Serchhip in Manipur and Mizoram respectively? Are these unlisted and often unwanted millions, taken into consideration or is it that our myopic eyes fail to see anything beyond the facebook-twitter world of the metros?

We are a generation at the crossroads of time. We are enthusiastic, we are exuberant but we are pretentious too. We want to do things, in fact many things, but often we have little idea how to go about it. In an acute absence of a leadership (at all levels) whatever comes our way, we run headlong into it.

Very often, we find patronizing each other…do what your heart says…do what you really like… Little do we realize (exceptions aside) that how many of us really understand what our heart longs for? The very idea of retrospection appears ponderous to our young and expedient mind. Our mind runs from pillar to post in this nomadic search. Unfortunately Google has no answer to it.

However tall be our claims, that today we have raised ourselves to greater heights than ever before on the social front, the bitter truth is that these towering heights are often confined to the debate halls and our literary pen-pushing alone. Our words and our deeds are often antithetical to each other. Aren’t they?

Our generation relies on expediency. It fears to dream hard because it has been trained and has self ordained to lead a pre-defined mechanized life. To dream we need time and patience both of which are rare in this techno-crazy world of ours where statistical figures speak louder than the things they actually represent. Great dreams are often the seeds to great deeds. When we start dreaming, we lift ourselves from the mundane.

It is a fact too hard to digest that we-the youth, today still lacks the desired amount of moral scruple for the country and the society in general. Involvement of youth in different spheres of society thus becomes imperative to live this cherished dream. Many are of the opinion that replacing the aged is a solution to the rotting skeleton of our work culture. But, I feel in a country like ours youth and experience has to live in coherence with each other.

I do not deny the fact that youth today are an integral part of any social activity. They do bring a lot of energy in it. Yes, things have definitely improved over the last half decade or so but not as much as is being proclaimed. Let us restrain ourselves from this self-boasting tendency of ours,which I fear otherwise, will lead us to a situation where we cannot balance our heads on our shoulders. The fire definitely needs some more fanning…!

  • (This article was published in Woman’s Era in August 2012. A shorter and updated version of this was also published in the Hindustan Times (Dehradun edition) under the column Xpressions on November 23, 2012)