I watched “Bhaag Milkha Bhaag” yesterday. A lot has been said about the movie itself, the story line, the direction, the music and Farhan Akhtar’s performance. Most of it is correct. Its a stellar film. But after watching the movie what I brought back from it was a feeling of despair.
Are you surprised? Despair, from a movie that’s suppose to be about hope, and following ones dreams and achieving the impossible!
Despair, because the movie captures correctly the faults of our system. The godforsaken conditions in which our athletes train. The ‘trivial things, that most of India fights to achieve everyday (A glass of milk and two eggs!!!)
Milkha’s story is set in 1960’s. But the sad truth is it seems relevant even today. In fifty years , we have been able to come up with many misleading slogans like ‘India shining’ and ‘Incredible India’ but we haven’t been able to come up with policies that bring real progress. (At least not the kind that goes beyond fancy statistics). The coat of glossy paint that clever politicians have painted with help of overpaid PR agencies comes off with the merest of a scratch, to reveal our naked, ugly underbelly.
If things continue the way they are the time is not far when India will become a black hole no one wishes to look at. Already most of our ‘well educated’ ‘ promising’ youngsters flee the country at the first chance they get. They cluck and make all the right noises each time they visit “We miss India, the culture, the festivals etc. etc.” But one doesn’t see many of them returning. A lot is being said about the reversing trend of expats coming back home. My humble submission is that barring a few, most of them have returned due to the economic slowdown or negative visa policies in host countries, not because India has become more appealing. The day the slowdown reverses and visas become available again most of them won’t bat an eyelid before hopping on to the next plane back to their ‘civilized’ western worlds. Where tap water is ‘safe’ and the bulb lights up each time you flick on the switch.
I for one don’t blame them. You get only one life. Who wants to lead it running from one office to another to get an electric connection, paying bribes to gutkha chewing babus for documents that are every citizen’s right by birth? Who wishes to open the newspaper every day to read even gorier tales of corruption, rapes, murders, that never get solved. Or the horrible heart wrenching stories of mothers who throw their babies to death because they are unable to feed them. Or wait in trepidation every night to see if their loved ones make it back home from the death trap we call roads.
India is seething with rage. Anybody whose head is not buried in the soils of vested interest can see that.
I know we started with very little. I know Britishers sucked us dry. I know we have a very large population. But honestly! I know too that those are just excuses. After more than sixty five years we should be banned from using them. Other countries with lesser resources have managed to turn around. Why can’t we? Each time one wishes to take an honest stock of our country’s progress. The few achievements that we have made are brought out and paraded. Implication being that since we have achieved “secularism (have we?), being the “world’s largest democracy’, so on and so forth….we should be exempted from other measuring standards.
I am a mother. If my child does well in one subject and fails at other three year after year, am I to pat him on the back and say “Very good son at least you have done well in one. You can continue to fail in others” Or am I going to tell him that since he is obviously capable, he must make an effort to improve his grades in other subjects too. Indians too are not dumb! They are hard working, intelligent, resourceful people. Our huge population is not a burden it’s a capital. Or could be if we allowed it to be.
My blood boils each time a young one rattles off that India is poor because it is overpopulated. Or when the elite tut tut over the “ignorant” villagers who won’t send their children to schools. I get mad every time the dinner table conversation turns to blaming the economically disadvantaged for their conservative practices like using quacks, having too many children, keeping women at home. And I get specially angry when the economically and socially disadvantaged are touted as being ‘untrustworthy’ , ‘thieves’ ‘murderers’ or born ‘liars’.
I have faith in the innate goodness of people. I believe people don’t wish to kill/ loot/ steal (barring a few anomalies, most of them in politics). Most People just wish to lead a safe, secure and happy life. They wish to step out of the vicious cycle of poverty or illiteracy or poor health that they are trapped in. Most of them only wish to make their future better than their present.
Give them an honest chance to do so and if its reasonable considering their past experiences, current beliefs and present circumstances, they will take it. Those of us with access to better education, newer opportunities are constantly moving forward. But some of those who don’t see a feasible honest way out of their ‘miserable’ lives may resort to crime. It is our job to stop this from happening by providing everyone with an honest opportunity to improve the quality of their lives.
I also have an objection with people who believe that the poor or illiterate need to be counseled or convinced to make lifestyle changes that are truly better for them. I believe if we want to get women into the workforce , we must make work spaces and public spaces safe for them. We must equip these spaces properly, ensure that women in workforce get treated fairly. Make sure there is a system that takes care of their household jobs. And then lets see if women don’t step out of their homes.
We want children to study. We must ensure that the schools are run well. That the education that is imparted is relevant and has the ability to turn their lives for the better. That it’s the kind of place where you or me would gladly send our own off springs. I guarantee you, regardless of how ‘ignorant’ or ‘backward’ the area is, children will flock.
We want people to stop using quacks or neglecting their healths. We must ensure clean, dignified, modern health services at the hospitals. Then let’s see who doesn’t avail of them.
If the services we provide are good. No other sops are necessary.
Bottom line, people want to change their lives for the better. They want to realize their full potential. They want to be productive.
If only the governments would stop distributing us inedible one rupee grains, coarse free uniforms, poisoned mid day meals and start giving us our rights!
India is sick. Its suffering from the worst kind of ailments. One food security bill will not change anything.
Along with other concerned citizens I implore Sonia Gandhi/ Rahul Gandhi/ Narendra Modi or whoever the heck claims to or dreams of leading this country.
Do something! Take action! Change now!
Milkha Singh ran himself out of his life of poverty and obscurity. Our pants are on fire too and if we don’t take charge now, we will burn to a gruesome death. It’s time we shook ourselves out of our stupor. Its time for us to start running.
Bhaag India Bhaag!