Lament of a Small Man

Dear citizen,

In this unimaginably vast cosmos, brahmaand as we call it, our planet is a tiny speck of rock and metal – as astronomer Carl Sagan famously said – “where we are like butterflies who flutter for a day and think it is forever”. What then is the significance of a hubris-intoxicated nothing-me, and my idle fulminations?

Putting politics and our individual persuasions and biases aside, speaking heart-to-heart, I have been most deeply disturbed by the current rash of demolitions, the mounting levels of Hindu-Muslim poison in the air and vicious hatred-mongering clogging the social media. Whither is my beloved Bharat turning, I ask myself.

At times, it gives a frightening sense of déjà vu of the pre-Partition/Partition days. But then the dialectic was different. It served the masters of our enslaved nation best. They played their divide-and-rule policy to the hilt to perpetuate their rule, nursing a vile smirk as we rioted and killed one another. But that such sinister monster of communal divide should rear its ugly head and walk the streets inflamed by hate speeches, aggressive processions and abusive slogans makes me shudder with horror.

Surely, our political leaders of all hues can conjure up better agendas to win votes: ‘green’ agendas that promote goodwill, harmony, love, peace. A squabbling, rioting nation can only reverse towards medievalism and never march forwards – only to become an object of ridicule and derision in the world.

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I am personally more carnal than religious and therefore lay no claim to any scholarship in matters religious. But to me, any religion is a path to salvation. Our own speaks of piety, cultivating peace of mind, enlightenment, detachment from materialistic pursuits, meditation and mokhsha. A religious procession – by the Hindus, Muslims, Christians or Sikhs – should indeed be a sight to behold. It can be festive, colourful, merry and joyous but such that evokes deep feelings of adulation among all – including the non-conformists like me.

Please dear citizen, tell me honestly, no malice, no aspersion intended, is it fair and proper or in any way ennobling to take out a procession brandishing swords, guns and lathis, and fouling the air with incendiary slogans? Deliberately stopping at others’ places of worship? I, for one, a Hindu, would only diminish myself and bring shame on my grand religion by shouting rape threats. Such uncouth shouts provoke nothing but retaliation, triggering a horrifying chain reaction.

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As I write this, my mind at once goes to the Sikh processions we all see in our towns. What a riot of yellow-blue, how eye-catching, how enchanting the spectacle is! Likewise, what a visual delight are the jhankis during our Holi festival in my own town of Palampur. People descend from remote villages and vie with each other to behold the bewitching sight of volunteers imaginatively done up as deities depicting some mythological story.

I wish my great nation – so beautiful, so fragrantly diverse – reverts to this festive spirit of celebration and once again becomes the envy of the world, the jewel that it was and still can be – a shining light of multiculturalism, inclusivity, peace, love, goodwill; with citizens sharing each other’s smiles and tears, striving for a nobler, higher goal; a country led by sagacious politician-statesmen fired by the glorious tradition of “sarve bhavntu sukhinah…”; a country made of Gurudev Rabindranath’s, Gandhiji’s dreams…

As Sahir Ludhianvi put it:

“आओ के ख़्वाब बुनें कल के वास्ते
वर्ना यह रात आज के संगीन दौर की
डस लेगी जान-ओ-दिल को…”

Subhash C. Sharma, am a retired zoology teacher living in a small town Palampur in the Kangra Valley. He spends his time reading, scribbling and watching sunsets.

Featured image: Pariplab Chakraborty