Wednesday, April 27, 2011

नरदेवताओं से कुछ सवाल

कुछ दिनों पहले करीब बारह साल का एक बच्चा गुज़र गया। वह मेरी कलोनी से कुछ दूर रहता था। उसका नाम बिर्जू था और वह ३ रुपयों में आते-जाते लोगों को निम्बू-पानी पिलाता था, तब भी जब जनाब--आलम सूर्य अपनी चादर खोले किरणों के स्वर ऊँची से ऊँची तानों पर लगा रहे होते थे। एक-आद बार वह मेरे साथ बॅट-बॉल भी खेल चुका था, ऐसे करारेपन के साथ कि पूछो ही मत! यह पता नही कि वह मर गया या नही, किंतू वह पिछले सप्ताह से गायब है, और यह उसके करीबी लोगों के लिये मौत से ज़्यादे अलग नही।

अगले दिन मैने अख़बार मे उसकी ख़बर ढूँढी। पिछले शाम ही को उसके बाबूजी ने रपट लिखवाई थी। लेकिन मुझे वह न दिखा। बल्कि, बहुतेक पन्नों पर सत्य साई बाबा को श्रद्धांजली देते हुए कई लेख मैने पाये। नरदेवता, चमत्कारी, दयालू, और पचास हज़ार करोडों के कारोबार का मुखिया। ऐसा लगा कि बिर्जू के पास नरदेवताओं के लिये कुछ सवाल ज़रूर होंगे, तो ये रहे वे सवाल:

. ऐसे नरदेवताओं को, जो चमत्कार से सोना, हाथ-घडियाँ, अन्य वस्तुओं को प्राप्त कर लेते हैं, पचास हज़ार करोडों के कारोबार की क्या आवश्यक्ता हो सकती है?

. जहाँ इतने लोग भूखे, बेज़ार, या जीवन की कगार पर खडे हों, वहाँ इतनी भव्य पूंजी जमा करनेवाले दयालू कहलाये जा सकते हैं?

. कयों एक प्रधानमंत्री या मीडिया - जो जनता के प्रति जिम्मेदार नहिं - नरदेवताओं के प्रति जिम्मेदार हो जाते हैं?

. शंकाजनक चमत्कार ठंडे निम्बू-पानी से ज़्यादा कीमती कैसे होने लगे?

. क्या श्रद्धा, प्रशनसा और मुनादी मिलने से झूठ सच बन जाते थे?

मेरी फ़र्याद यह ही होगी कि बिर्जू जहाँ भी हो, खुश हो।

A Few Questions To Godmen

A few days ago, a lad of about twelve died in my vicinity. His name was Birju. He used to sell nimbu-pani to passers-by for Rs. 3, even in the afternoon, when the sun would stretch out its robe and send down all it had inside. He had once played cricket with me, and had been a formidable player. He said he would buy a Honda Activa when he grows older, though he didn't say why, and I didn't ask. We don't exactly know if he has died or not, but I learned he had disappeared a week ago, and to his family and social circle, that would mean as good as dead.

I opened up the papers next day expecting to find something written about Birju, given that a formal complaint had been launched the evening before by his parents. Instead, I read about the death of Sathya Sai Baba, miracle-worker, godman, philanthropist, and head of a fifty-thousand crore empire. I thought Birju would have a few questions to ask godmen today, so here they are:

1. What purpose would a fifty-thousand crore empire be to godmen, given that they can derive things by miracles, more importantly that they are godmen?

2. Given that godmen claim philanthropy unto themselves, how do they lead fifty-thousand crore empires when so many people are lying helpless, hapless or at the brink of survival?

3. How is it that a Prime Minister that is not accountable to people is accountable to godmen? Or likewise a media industry? After all, it is rare that newspapers report - yes, report - obituaries for pages and days on end, of people.

4. Why are dubious miracles priced more than cool nimbu-panis in the hot sun?

5. Does widespread belief, devotion and praise change falsehoods to truth?

I hope Birju is happy, wherever he is.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

A Determined Father

A very peculiar scene disrupted some of my notions about human behaviour. I had just got off the train and was heading towards the exit stairs, when I saw a man, his wife, and his girl (around ten or twelve) rush towards the train that would start again in a few seconds. The wife and the girl were lagging behind, and the man had focused his attention towards the train rather than towards them, and once he approached the train, he was goading his females to hurry. The train had already started as the wife and the daughter reached it; the man seemed rather ill-bent upon making them board the train. In what seemed a dangerous move, he and his wife caught hold of their daughter and started running along with the train. They managed to shove the kid inside (who was of no trivial size), then somehow the wife boarded the running train (the husband pushed her in by her buttocks), and as the husband made to dive in, the train had already sped beyond his ability. At this point, stunned onlookers, unanimously rooted to spot, saw him wave his hand in a gesture that read “oh, that was bound to go.” He seemed to be all smiles after this incident, and managed to efficaciously evade the demanding looks of the frustrated onlookers.

There were many things that could have struck the confused minds of the bystanders, perhaps many did strike them. The man could have fed his daughter, his wife or himself to the unforgiving wheels of the train, given the distance between the platform and the train-floor, could have sent his daughter alone, unaccompanied if he failed to make his wife board, and he certainly did set a bad precedent for his daughter (which may not be altogether unsuccessful if she gauges how wrong a thing to do it was). The possibilities for the onlookers also seemed bleak: had they tried to intervene, it might have back-fired, so not only would the accidents take place, but their moral responsibility would be theirs too. So it seemed as if the gore was consigned to take place, and the people around were condemned to watch. Only the rear-guard of the train admonished the man who otherwise escaped unquestioned.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Some remarks on hierarchies, power and justice

Why is economic equality is essential and why are our hierarchic professional structures (which are , more importantly, power structures), along with other power structures, and unjust?

The argument of these powers is that each class that is occupied by a person – from the most drudged of scavenger to the businessman or bureaucrat – the person has found as per mechanisms of social life that are just and unquestionable. Some claim that these mechanisms are within law. Some that they are open, free and hence merit-driven. For them, however low they might be in the order, there is always a chance to rise up.

However, the mechanisms of social life are not prior to people. They have been created and changed by people, and passed on from time to time. And most importantly, they are not free because those at the top have the need and the power to maintain the drudge conditions at the bottom. In fact, the free circuit they seek to offer as theory is a euphemism for a regulated and relentlessly drudge environment they have imposed on those below which offers very little. This imposition itself contradicts any possibility of freedom or choice beyond the options given, or to be more descriptive, imposed. Suppose manual construction labourers were to enjoy a life-style, if not similar to the people they build homes for, but at least to those who have secure homes and incomes enough to take care of basic nutrition and good health and things they would like to do for a better life, just imagine how much more their contractors would have to pay them. Is it any surprise then that these contractors bank upon the labour of migrants and the poorer slum-dwellers who are desperate and cannot make demands for better lives? A govt. that wants to save money, but also save face, deputes its conservancy jobs to private contractors, who, by reason of laws it can hide behind, must neither worry about saving face or nor about the conditions of those they employ.

The argument isn't that a society preaching freedom and justice must stick to it, so that another which has established that these ought to be curtailed in one way or another is free to do so. We've already seen that happening in monarchies, oligarchies and dictatorships, and in each case which now belongs to the past, the argument for force has been put down by a more basic principle for freedom. In fact, the ideas of our own present society increasingly tend towards restriction and curtailment. While conditions are morbid for those down the ladder, even those somewhere in the middle who are convinced that they are heading upwards will find it difficult to stretch their legs, to question the diktats of power without falling off. The only justification to this mechanism is that one may have accepted and even enjoys this state of affairs, but then, that justification also exists in and for slave societies. In fact, bigger societies are always slow to change due to such conditions, give the tedium of expanse and the puny local nature of unrest. But the onus of questioning only becomes heavier by this reason. It is unmistakable that power be questioned.

April 16th, 2011

Saturday, April 9, 2011

बाल दिवस

यह गीत कई साल पहले हमे स्कूल मे सिखाया गया था। हमारे संगीत शिक्षक – अवस्थी सर – हम बच्चों को बहुत पसंद थे। उन्होने एक दिन हमे 'चाचा नेहरू' के बारे मे बताया। उनसे हम यह समझ पाये कि बाल दिवस जवाहरलाल नेहरू के जन्म-दिन पर इस लिये मनाया जाता है क्योंकि उन्हे बच्चों के साथ बडा लगाव था। यह गीत इसी बात को दर्शाता है।


बाल दिवस आया है आज

चाचा नेहरू का जन्मदिन है आज

आओ खुशियाँ मनायें

हम झूमे-नाचे-गायें


बाल दिवस आया है आज.....

चाचा नेहरू बच्चों को भाते थे

उनके मन को लुभाते थे

सब बच्चों को गले से लगाते थे

चाचा बच्चों पे खुशियाँ लुटाते थे


बाल दिवस आया है आज....

आज जब यह गीत याद आता है, तो हँसी नही रुकती। सिर्फ इस गीत का बचपना ही नही, इस हँसी का इक और भी कारण है। आज इतिहास पढने पर यह मालूम पडता है कि नेहरू जी का बच्चों पर लगाव सिर्फ स्कूल मे नन्हे-मुन्नों को ही पढाया जाता है। इतिहास के पन्नों मे बच्चों के इस प्रेम की याँ तो कोई जगह नहि, याँ तो यह बस महॉल हलका करने के काम आता है। ढूँढने पर पता चलता है कि 'बाल दिवस' पंडित नेहरू के देहांत के बाद सन १९६४ मे पहली बार मनाया गया था। इसके पहले अंतर्राष्ट्रिय बाल दिवस २० नवंबर को मनाया जाता था। '६४ के बाद कोई स्कूल शायद १४ नवंबर मनाने से नहि चूका होगा। हाँ, वे बच्चे ज़रूर चूके होंगे जिन्हे पढाई नसीब नही। मानो ऐसे किसी बच्चे को बाल दिवस पर हम देखें, तो हमारे मन मे क्या आये......? कभी कभी तो यह भी ख़याल आता है कि क्या ये सब दिखावा तो नहिं ? जहाँ इतने सारे बच्चे बेज़ार पडे हों, वहाँ बाल दिवस मनाने से क्या मतलब बनता है ? हाँ, ये ज़रूर है कि आप बच्चों को उनका अपना इतिहास देते हो, जो उन्हे पसंद आता है। फिर वह बच्चे आपका विश्वास करेंगे, क्योंकि वे आपका कहा समझते हैं। और बच्चों का विश्वास आपका भविष्य मज़बूत बनाता है। जी हाँ, मै आपसे ही बात कर रहा हूँ, आप जो उत्सव तारीकें और आज का इतिहास रचते हैं.........