WAKING UP TO GANDHI

In the days when finding Pokémon, addressing Facebook challenges, sending Good Morning messages on What’s app groups weren’t tasks that required our immediate and utmost attention, life appeared easy. There was nothing that our country could offer in terms of entertainment in the early 90s. Globalization and privatisation were yet to display their economic and social might.

In such a scenario, weekends were joyous days that we looked forward to, not for the ‘make my trip getaways’ but because they brought with it – ‘the joy of nothingness’. Weekends were a break from tedious school routines, a time to catch up with friends, play, get hurt, fight with siblings, complete school assignments and all this in the tiny confines of our rooms. Even further surprises came in the form of holidays ‘otherwise’ (national, festival, religious, bank etc.). Holidays that our country is so generously bestowed with.

I always waited for the 15th of August. It was one of the first holidays that came along soon after the start of our school session. While my friends eagerly jostled to find their way in the Independence Day celebrations at school, I merely basked in the jingoistic overtones of the day by indulging in everything mundane (the joy of nothingness!).

This joy of nothingness on our nation’s Independence Day continued until I chanced upon Richard Attenborough’s GANDHI. One of those films, quite proudly, telecasted by DD on every national holiday. “Don’t run around the house and sit down and watch what Gandhiji has done for our nation” was how my mother lured me into watching the movie.

And so it began, the journey of a man so closely intertwined with the fate of his countrymen. Silence prevailed in the house until Godse’s gunshots provided a rude awakening. The film had left an impact, a deep one, and Attenborough had done his job!

I thought about the film. The first time, several times after that, and continue to do so even now. It served as an inspiration, invoked not by Gandhi, the Mahatma, and the exceptional nature of our nation’s freedom struggle, but the manner in which the film was made.

GANDHI was Attenborough’s dream project that began after he received a phone call from an Indian Diplomat in the UK, urging him to make a film on Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. The idea, that emerged in the early 60s, received Nehru’s encouragement and support. Despite being backed by the Prime minister himself, the film got rolling years (18 it is!) after the idea was first conceived. And there began a monumental task of (re) creating the life of a man who was a Mahatma, for some, and for some, Bapu.

Biopics are not easy and require intense research and for GANDHI, this came in the form of trunks filled with books. Books written on Gandhi and India’s history of the freedom struggle. In an interview, Rohini Hattangadi, who essayed the role of Kasturba mentioned, that every time there was a query on a certain historical fact, sometimes as small as ‘whether Gandhi wore a Janeyu or a string of Khadi around his neck, what was his caste, how did he walk’, the book trunk and a an expert came to the rescue. What followed was hours of research unearthing answers to the insurmountable questions that the cast and crew were confronted with at every stage of filming. (A tip which could perhaps be used by some of our film makers – that period films require serious research and not just dramatic sets and dance numbers)

This research translated on the screen through the remarkable performances by Ben Kingsley, Saeed Jaffrey, Roshan Seth and a plethora of budding actors, who were either students of the prestigious National School of Drama or were at the start of their acting careers. These included – Amrish Puri, Alok Nath, Om Puri, Mohan Agashe, Pankaj Kapur, Neena Gupta, Supriya Pathak, Alyque Padamsee and many more! One can’t also miss Ravi Shankar’s melodious music.These efforts culminated in 8 Oscar wins and of course worldwide appreciation.

I wake up to GANDHI every Independence Day (or even Republic Day or Gandhi Jayanti). How Gandhi, the person, has influenced me, are writings reserved for another blog. However, GANDHI, the film kindles a unique spirit. It urges me to think, of the man and his times. It instills within me a sense of tenacity, to achieve a form of perfection that is not just backed by material comforts but by passion, spiritual connect to the subject at hand and of course the willingness to get to the crux of the matter.

So, if you’ve not yet given in to the pleasures of the long weekend, then wake up to GANDHI this Independence Day, not to revel in the spirit of patriotism, but simply to get inspired by a masterpiece!

 

 

INDIA’S (UN)-EDUCATED YOUTH!

“Congress main ek alasya sa aa gaya hai” (a sense of laziness has swept into the Congress) pointed Ravish Kumar, on his 9’ o clock daily, as he and the other panelists discussed the much-awaited U.P. elections, to be held next year.

In this battle for the ballot, which some say also decides the fate of the incumbents at the Centre, the Congress party is pitted against, amongst many others, the BJP, which has also launched a vehement election campaign. Ravish and his panelist discussed agendas, covertly masked behind those election rallies and token visits to ghats and memorials of some of India’s men (and women) of history. It all comes down to votes that are not entirely decided by issues of social and economic development, but sadly, ones caste and religion. “Brahmin vote, Dalit vote, Yadav vote, Muslim vote…” the panelists excitedly discuss, as I think of my own religion and caste, something, which is of acute irrelevance to my family and me. Sadly, it continues to be that one crucial factor, which every five years decides the fate of our country.

In the backdrop of Ravish’s discussion and my own thought process, U.P. burns and is marred by communal violence, caste based atrocities and uncontrolled rape cases. What follows is the usual political gossip on national television, mud slinging and blame game.

How is it that we let our religion, caste, community and gender dominate every aspect of our life? How is it that we still can’t rid ourselves of social evils? How is it that our economic progress has not wiped out our trivial socio-cultural rules and regulations?

Are ambitious politicians and politics always to be blamed? May be not!

This time I choose not to blame any political party (although they are at the very core of this crisis), I do not wish to point at any ideology, which is being forced down upon this nation, any wave, any personality, any leader, any organization, anything that has the slightest of connect with our political system.

It’s time I analyze the role of my own people – the youth!

It is the youth that gives a nation, an identity, a thought process and decides its present and future. It is the youth that works hard, earns and brings about economic prosperity. India treads on a successful economic path and our well-educated youth are definitely a relevant part of India’s many success stories.

But there are also stories that India may not be very proud of. These are stories, akin to the ones brewing in parts of UP and Gujarat. Stories that sometimes also acquire forms of social injustices, honour killings, female feticides and infanticides, dowry deaths, rapes, religious intolerances and many more. These stories are not always determined by the generation that precedes us or any political organization, but the youth.

That these issues continue to haunt India, emphatically points at the many failures of our educated youth. Unlike, post independent India, when education was still a belonging of a privileged few, the youth today has access to a fine education system. This education, that they receive at private, public, government run and sometimes even illegal institutes, not only hones their latent skills, but also assures them of hefty pay packages. What follows is a technology driven life, investments, stocks, foreign travels and of course blaming the government for all the wrongs that surround us.

Despite this exposure of a unique kind, the youth continues to be dictated by social and cultural norms that are bound by caste, religion, community, gender and more.

Therefore, a well accomplished government officer harassing his wife for dowry, or caste and religion being the deciding factors for social union such as marriages, or honour killings or the continuance of xenophobic ideologies shouldn’t come as a shocking surprise!It is also the educated youth who overwhelmed by their own ideas of jingoism fail to recognize that what they perceive as being anti-national, are actually monumental failures of the state. It is also the same educated youth that sometimes praises and whistles for those who humour rape and walk free despite killing humans and animals!

While education has put India’s youth on the world map and given them an exposure of a unique kind, it has perhaps fallen short at various levels.

Education should be such that empowers opinion, harnesses strong principles and creates a being who is willing to take a strong and absolute stand against all the social ills that masquerade as familial, societal and cultural traditions.

Instead, our education system produces money-making robots! It is perhaps due to the presence of these robots that our nation continues to thrive on intolerance, which is not a politically generated concept but a feeling that resides within all of us, young or old, political or non – political, literate or illiterate.

Having said all of the above, I still wouldn’t blame the youth for everything. The youth today does make an effort to unshackle the burdens of the past and voices its opinion for a better future. Over the past few months, there has emerged a youth brigade in this country who’ve managed a political and social uproar. I do not entirely agree with their political gimmicks, however, it is comforting enough to know that these youngsters may not own a flat in Greater Noida, have a lal-batti at their disposal, or walk around in their crisp corporate attires, but instead have the will to stand up for their principles and are in the real sense of the term, India’s educated youth!