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Has Anna Hazare Lost His Relevance…Already?

2011: How It Was

Rewind to about 8 months ago and you will see that this nation was in an uproar about corruption in government. All because of one simple man, Anna Hazare. With his actions – including his fast unto death – and aided ably by the incompetence of the ruling party, he soared as a hero in the country’s collective imagination.

I remember how exciting it was to feel the pulse of people who were protesting with him. There was an unhampered enthusiasm among the people as they fought this war against corruption. I also remember writing about it more than once, since there was so much to capture. To me, it represented one of those movements that happen so rarely that you felt lucky to be a part of it, even if just as a witness. I still feel this way.

Then, There Were the Odd Cynics (Realists?)

In addition, I remember sharing my excitement with one particular person -a middle-aged corporate executive who has lived in India all his life and one who was obviously a hardened veteran. This was at the height of the Jan Lokpal movement. I remember clearly what he said – Corruption go away because of Anna Hazare? No, that will never happen. Not in this country.” 

I remember thinking to myself, “What a cynic! Of course, there will be change”.

Today, I sit here and wonder whether I was the naive one.

Anna Hazare is still very much around but I am just not sure how relevant he is anymore to a discussion and decision on a national level anti-corruption bill. He continues to be a respected and revered figure. But I don’t know who listens to what he says about this. And it’s difficult to pin down whether enough people here really care anymore that corruption needs to be rooted out with a strong set of laws.

The media appears to be be giving Anna some polite coverage in the back pages, every now and again. But then the media is all about stories that sell and it appears that this story has petered out. Lately, there’s been more talk about local murder and mayhem – Bollywood style.

How is This Even Possible?

It was mere months ago that the nation appeared to rally together for Anna Hazare and his inspiring movement, with the media helping spread that notion, every step of the way. Are memories really so short and emotions so transient?

This is so very sad since India badly needs a strong anti-corruption crusader who won’t say die. He would not be needed if the government was taking adequate actions on its own. But, we know it’s not. That’s a bit like asking the fox to guard the hen house.

Here are some random thoughts that occur to me at this turn of events (or rather non-events). They’re more questions than answers unfortunately:

  • In these intervening months, Anna Hazare has been raising his voice against state-level corruption and non-corruption related activities (unfortunately, I don’t remember most of them) – has he been diluting his bigger efforts towards a nation-wide Jan Lokpal bill?

  • People have returned to their everyday lives after the energizing activist movements of last year. They seem to have stopped listening to what Anna and his team have to say. Another compelling clarion call is needed

  • Perhaps, Anna is just waiting for the government to act on all their commitments…but what if it doesn’t?  What happens then? Does he have another silver bullet he can use?

  • Movements like these take time. Whether you are talking about India’s independence struggle or that of the U.S. Civil Rights movement – those efforts took many years, from concept and vision to reality. This one, while not of the same scope, will be a long process too, so maybe I am simply seeing a temporary lull? Let’s hope so!

  • What will revive the movement again and build momentum like it once had? (It seems like that is what made the government begin to act on this front). I’m afraid that I’m stumped on this.  

Can I help the conclusion that I have arrived at?  That, at least for the time being, Anna Hazare’s words and actions don’t seem to matter much to the majority of people. Or even to a minority. 

Let’s score another one for disappointment and discouragement about this country.  😦

As I close on that downer note, I am promising myself right now that I will actively seek out an uplifting, positive topic that I can think about soon.  I need that!

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Photo credits:

Anna Hazare supporters: By Hariya1234 (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons

Newspapers: By Ganesh Dhamodkar (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

My Top Ten 2011 ‘Yin and Yang of India’ Moments

The Top Ten of Everything

TIME magazine has invested a lot in creating a section called the Best & Worst Lists of Everything in 2011.  And, believe me, they’ve  got everything. They have fifty-four of these lists! That’s some investment! Some of their more ‘interesting’ lists?

How about the Top Ten People NOT Running for President? I bet if you reviewed this list, you would find the people on this list more President-worthy than the ones that are running for President. Another one is the Top Ten Ridiculously Obvious Study Findings. 🙂 Obvious for who (or is it whom?), one may ask. Or it may be interesting for you to read  Top Ten Business Blunders where one can learn from the ‘big’ folks about what not to do in business.

Here’s one of my favorite ones, The Top 10 Protest Signs. [Note – I have been through a tiny portion of what they have published…anymore than that and you’d better have a lot more time on your hands].

As a half-way movie buff, one of the lists that I decided to take a walk down was the Top Ten Best Movies of 2011. I discovered that I had not seen a single one of these movies! 😦 That’s kind of sad.  Have I been spending too much time with Bollywood, then?! The good news is that I had not seen any of the Top Ten Worst Movies either.

With all the usual end of year hullabullo on lists, I thought it would be kind of neat to have one of mine too. Something like, The Top Ten Yin and Yang Moments about Life in India. Oh yeah, since we are abandoning any idea of brevity here, let’s also add “in 2011″ to that heading…

The Top Ten Yin and Yang Moments about Life in India in 2011

I am curious  to see what these might be. I only know that these should be events or moments or people that stick out in my mind – either good, bad or ugly. Other than that, I have no preconceived idea whatsoever on what they are and am trying my best to be completely off-the-cuff.

So, here goes (I wrote these down as I thought of them so they are listed in the order that they occurred to me; format refinements, images and links added subsequently):

1. The Will and Integrity of One Man…Anna Hazare moves India. And how.

2. Incredible Corrupt India…this is a colossal scourge on the nation. Will it ever fade? 

3. Mumbai Monsoon …. rain, relentless rain.  And then it was over.  🙂

4. The Mumbai Energy. Add yet another terror attack on the city….bad, but mercifully not as bad. It was another sad reason for Mumbai to have to put on display its renowned resilience.

5. Discovering Yoga and Surya Namaskar in the country where they were first conceived. The benefits: Simply astounding!

6. The Amazing Mall Scene on Sunday. Any Sunday…the entire population is out shopping. I’ve never seen these kinds of crowds in any mall anywhere else!

7. Sibal and Chidambaram and the bungling of Anna’s arrest…are they for real? And how about The (Unheard) Scion, Rahul…amazing to think he is in line to inherit the crown. Anyone know what he thinks? About anything?

8. Discovering excellence unexpectedly, among so much political mediocrity and depravity…Nitish Kumar, CM of Bihar – take a bow. More of you are what this nation badly needs!

9. The Decline of Karnataka…what happened?!  Why do I pick on this one state? Because it was the shining star once, so recently. And I hold fond memories…of how it used to be.

10. India’s Wild & Wholehearted Celebration of the Cricket World Championship – putting on show its national passion and obsession. Does it surprise you too that this was in 2011? Seems so long ago!

And so it goes…

All in all, it’s been an enlightening, enlivening experience to return to ‘new’ India for more than just a fleeting visit.

After years and years of living in the US, there are two competing emotions that prevail.One is that I truly miss that beautiful country – and my family and friends who live there. [Perhaps not surprisingly, the US seems even more wonderful from way back here]. The other is that I wouldn’t trade this experience in India for anything. It feels like the perfect time to be ‘visiting’ my transforming (but still imperfect) native land.

For me, the journey is absolutely the destination, and it continues still. At the end of the day and whichever way I cut it, all of it ultimately amounts to this for me: that I am just plain lucky to have this interlude with the yin and the yang. Hai na?

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