Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The Shakedown

Ever since the mass-capturing of the notoriously fickle attention span of the teeming Indian middle-class by Team Anna began, and through the wide-ranging national repercussions being felt on a day-to-day basis due to the capitulation by the Government of India to what is essentially a challenge to their authority to govern, I have tried to apply for and failed to garner: a Residency Certificate from the concerned government office in my adopted city, a Voter's Identification Card which is the only thing that allows me to fulfill my constitutional duty to vote, and I have nearly failed in my attempt to get my passport (which I have continually possessed and traveled on since I was four years old) renewed, notwithstanding eight trips to the Passport Office over a period of two days.

During these odysseys through the corridors of power (some old and musty, and some new and anaesthetized), I admit I have sometimes felt the urge to shout, 'ANNA HAZARE!' when standing in various queues for the inevitable third or fourth form that required filling out before submitting it at the third or fourth counter wherein the filled-out forms were then to be subjected to scrutiny along with the original certificates they allude to, or the counter-signed affidavit (if necessary) that they were required to be accompanied by... just to see the reaction of all present: officials and fellow-petitioners alike. But, at the last-minute, the urge to find out (as an upstanding member of the Great Indian Middle-Class) exactly what going to a government office as a petitioning citizen entailed, for the very first time in my life, as opposed to the usual; using of influence or expending of a bribe on the concerned person, won out over the other equally adventurous, but more momentary, stupidity.

Reading through the numerous essays in the media about the Jan Lokpal saga, and carefully avoiding all the relevant debates on television, I have finally come to this idea: the Jan Lokpal insurgency is not about the attempt at procuring for our generation a fairer world where merit is rewarded and might ignored - It is about what We as a society would like to see ourselves as.
The middle-class morality we are taught at our parents' and grandparents' knees or by heroes in fiction, we find, is suddenly turned on its head when we first enter the sodden adulthood we are ill-prepared for. The means of communication we have these days and the greater measure of financial resources at our disposal have combined to provide us a platform to exhibit our disappointment with the system, in ways that are still inconceivable to the millions of victims that extortionary corruption affects the most in this country. And we are not concerned with terms like left-of-centre or right-of-centre or blackmail or even democracy anymore, having experienced the existential failures of our Republic from dirt-level up more keenly than any intellectual or academic could ever perceive from his/her ivory tower.
This is most certainly not a revolution for authoritarianism as some commentators are insisting it is.
This is a revolt for a new national identity.

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