An Open Letter to the Father of the Nation

POV

An Open Letter to the Father of the Nation

D

ear Bapu,

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Happy Independence Day! I thought you might appreciate an update on India as you peer down on us from the Great Ashram in the Sky. It’s been a while since you were last here and some things have changed, while others are still very much the same.

For starters, there are a lot more of us than there were in 1948. Trivial fact, but our population has approximately tripled since your time. Imagine how much faster we could have sent the British packing if we’d had three freedom fighters for every one we honour today!

Of course, it’s not like sections of the country aren’t trying to thin the herd. We’ve come up with so many different ways: exhorting a change of address to Pakistan, forcing military rule on marginalised communities, and running over people on pavements. You might want to look both ways while crossing the street before attempting a Dandi March these days.

But I don’t want to depress you. We’re getting to be a clean country now. Swachh Bharat is the baby of our current Prime Minister, from your home state of Gujarat. He invokes your name and uses your glasses as the emblem of the movement. He wants to gift you a clean India for your 150th birthday in 2019 and has released many campaigns and spent millions of rupees trying to tell us to stop littering and defecating. Why, he even roped in Lakshmi – yes, the Goddess – yesterday!

I’m not discouraged by the fact that the pile of rubbish on my street corner hasn’t diminished in size and the fact that there are more crows and rats picking up garbage than sanitation workers. I put it down to an avian/rodent quota for these posts.

Speaking of quotas. Now I know why you weren’t too keen on the idea back then. You once even stated that reservation in government departments would be “fatal” to good government. Still, you went along with the Poona Pact with the assumption that in 10 years our society would have progressed far enough that the reservation system could be discarded.

We messed up on that front, Bapu. We’re still holding quotas for various posts. People are still classified as SC and OBC, and instead of it being an unfortunate marker for the socially downtrodden, it’s become a desirable one. In 2016, we have large-scale civil unrest and violence from communities that are looking to earn that tag. Some people blame you for indulging Babasaheb Ambedkar in Poona and acquiescing to the reservations policy. But don’t be fazed by that: Blame game has become the national sport of our country.

But cheer up, Bapu. We’re still naming streets after you, stamping currency with your face and what’s more, we still don’t drink on your birth and death anniversaries.

But again, I seem to be sounding pessimistic and on Independence Day that’s just not right. After all, India is shining. Or maybe it is shining too bright and we are being blinded. Well, at least half of Kashmir is. Following your non-violent philosophy, we’ve stopped lethal weapons and started using pellet guns up there. Sure, it has had some side effects but you can’t say that we’re not trying.

But yes, on the whole, we’re not so much into the whole ahimsa thing now. Switch on the news, if you get any TV reception up there, and take a look. It really doesn’t work. You have a nation of men eating beef, students protesting deaths in Kashmir, women wantonly drinking, lovers unabashedly necking, artists being anti-national, and people refusing to stand up for the national anthem. All kinds of things that piss us off are happening every day, so we keep mobs handy. I don’t know how you’re going to take this Bapu, but we’ve taken justice into our own hands and now feel free skinning people for all kinds of real and imagined transgressions and then making viral videos out of it. Yes, viral videos are new weapons that we’re using to Make India Great Again. (You had President Truman in your time; we have the genius whose words I’m paraphrasing here.)

I can sense that you disagree with the way things are unfolding, Bapu, but really it is a whole new world now. Why, even Nathuram Godse is celebrated as a hero today. The ideology of the banned outfit of which he was a part has inveigled its way into the Centre and started to influence public life.

But cheer up, Bapu. We’re still naming streets after you, stamping currency with your face and what’s more, we still don’t drink on your birth and death anniversaries. For this generation, that’s like giving up salt. And in the ultimate tribute, as we put all anti-national elements on a train to Pakistan, we’re practically giving your Quit India movement a sequel!

Anyway, I’ll end this letter now. The PM is getting ready to speak at the Red Fort. If last year’s speech is any indication, we’ll witness the announcement of a slew of new campaigns and missions. Maybe one of them will be the Pradhan Mantri (Gau Raksha Peedit) Suraksha Yojana. Until then, Jai Hind.

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