A day after the anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi’s birthday, I feel lucky to just happen to be in India during an opportune time, while a massive people’s movement was ignited across the country, led by Anna Hazare and his team.
It makes me wonder if even they imagined that it would resonate so broadly and engage such mammoth public support. These kinds of movements just don’t happen everyday!
So, to be here, on the ground watching as it unfolded, not knowing which path it would take, and yet rooting for one side to win – well, like I said, I feel lucky. It just would not have been the same watching from afar – in the US – and trying to observe and relate to what was happening here. Even with access to Indian TV channels and the internet, the experience simply would have been aloof and just different.
Here I could talk to people – in the office, on the street, while shopping, to the domestic workers, my driver and others; it’s been amazing to see how engaged they were!
I still regret not braving the rain and traffic to get to the big march from Bandra to Juhu on August 21st to feel the energy of the thousands who were there (I have heard reports of everything from over 50,000 to 150,000 people marching that afternoon). Despite the numbers, it was a peaceful march, uniting people from all walks of life.
Even as a mere witness, it was great to be here and somehow, unknowingly become a part of what was happening – an awakening of sorts in India that stirred up strong emotions, opinions and passions.
What I would have missed
These were some of the interesting things that I saw along the way-
1. It was a movement that brought together massive numbers of people of every caste, creed, religion and income level for a common cause.
2. It also saw cohesion develop among various generations – from the young to the middle-aged to old and very old.
3. It cut across state and language boundaries.
4. It provided a bird’s eye view of people feeling empowered and that they could, in fact, be the change that they seek.
5. Another perspective provided to people was an idea of what true freedom felt like, and what it meant to be a democratic society.
6. There have been questions as to whether Gandhi is relevant anymore in modern India. This journey answered that question rather well. This was an amazingly peaceful demonstration of will and strength.
8. And for those of us who were not out marching on the streets, the media took great pains and care of transferring some part of that passion and sentiment to our homes.
With More to Come
All I hope is that the interim results accomplished were not just a passing phase. This is exactly how one cynic I met described it to me. More specifically he also said to me, “you really don’t understand India”. (That’s certainly a true statement!). He then went on to describe other movements – all temporary and accomplishing nothing in the long run.
True, in a couple of months, this is not headline making news anymore. But, I simply don’t buy that argument, because others in India have told me the opposite – that they have rarely seen something of this scale, something that did work to change how events unfolded and what results were accomplished. Sure, about all we can do at this point is watch and wait for the rest of the Jan Lokpal journey to occur. But far better to be vigilant. And to participate. Lest promises made are “forgotten” by the powers that be.
Team Anna is continuing to work relentlessly in the background and has not gone away anywhere. The government knows this and they will think long and hard before making any decisions towards another toothless Lokpal bill. That, in itself, is a victory. With more to come (says the optimistic expat).
Note: All photos, images and cartoons are courtesy of the India Against Corruption facebook page – a place where you can participate in the cause.