“I will complain to Kejriwal”, the funny man of Indian cinema, Johny Lever hollered as he was being forcefully locked into a bathroom!
This was a scene from the Hindi film, Khiladi 786, that I went to watch with my daughter over the weekend. The character that Johny Lever was playing was being illegally detained by some anti social elements. Arvind Kejriwal has today emerged as the voice of the common man against corruption and public ill being committed by those in power. Over the last one year, he has emerged as the ‘top-of-the-mind’ recall factor on the subject. Qualified as an engineer from IIT, Kejriwal was an Indian Civil Services officer, before he made the fight against corruption his mission in life, notwithstanding the occupational hazards.
Mission in life? At my age today, I often think; “What have I done in life?”. This question fuels me to do something better (and hopefully less stressful) with the rest of my life. I like to feel that I have another 30-40 years to achieve this. The attraction of ‘years of come’ and the need to earn a mix of peace and materialistic needs; does not allow me to put ‘eroding corruption’ as one of the top 3 ‘must do’ items.
VOICE OF THE COMMON MAN
Now, what Arvind Kejriwal is voicing today, is largely the voice of the common man; rich and poor. Isn’t everyone fed up with corruption? It’s just that the common man on the street does not have the will, power, courage, time, money, charisma, focus or bandwidth to raise his voice against corruption. If someone rises to the occasion and does raise his voice, everyone rallies behind him and are willing to stand by him. Unless the voice of the common man is loud, no one hears it. In India, from the time of Gandhi, such ‘loudness’ comes from typical Indian symbolic gestures like protest marches, hunger strikes, public functions, etc. It was the Congress which started such practices in India and were successful in evicting the British rulers from India. Team Arvind Kejriwal has only chosen the time tested and most effective way of letting the common man’s voice be heard. Is there any other way?
Through arrests of Team Kejriwal members and other tactics, the ruling party in India make attempts to silence the common man’s voice. A common man’s voice for a cause, which everyone agrees, is for the benefit of the country. Where does the common man go?
Although much is being debated about the efficacy of the other big democracy USA, one must ask some questions about the sense of freedom one enjoys in the USA vis-à-vis India. When I walk through the streets of Mumbai at 1 am, I feel free. When I walk through the streets of Manhattan at 1 am, I do not feel half as free. Even if you replace me with a local in Manhattan, it is quite possible that the Mumbai man will come off feeling ‘free-ER’ than his Manhattan counterpart. This is one kind of freedom.
To understand the other type of freedom, one must read up on American writer and film-maker Michael Moore. Caucasian Michael has written books like “Stupid White Men” and “Dude – Where’s my country?.”He has made films like “Capitalism-A love story”, “Sicko”, “Fahrenheit 9/11” and others. In all his books and movies, he has always rallied for and exposed one government fault or the other. He openly questions issues of national importance, while exposing people, corporate organizations, and governments; today he is a feared man with government officials and CEOs of corrupt corporations. Although his books and films are not easily available, he is relentless in his efforts to rid the American society of its many ills. Although there has been tremendous pressure on him from several quarters to slow down, he continues in his fight. And he is alive. Can we expect this kind of freedom in India? Can any of our Indian film-makers dare to take the Michael Moore path? You know what happens to the whistleblower in India. You know what happens to “Tehelka’ in India.
WHERE IS MY COUNTRY DUDE?
Can India’s common man walk and talk freely without the fear of getting castigated? Will that happen sometime soon? Only when that happens, can we truly call India a free country and celebrate Independence Day with fervor. Our forefathers have given their blood and sweat to give India independence….let us earn our freedom now. Give the common man his voice back! Give my country back….this is certainly not what my grandfather fought for. Where is my country dude?