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Sunday Special » Columns

Posted at: Mar 19, 2017, 12:02 AM; last updated: Mar 19, 2017, 12:02 AM (IST)
Ira Pande
TOUCHSTONES
Ira Pande

Better politics awaited in season of change

Ira Pande
The lessons learnt from the experiences in all the states that went to polls will have important consequences for all Indians and must be seriously contemplated
Better politics awaited in season of change
When it became clear that the next government in Punjab will be formed by a person who is widely respected and loved, I must say I heaved a sigh of relief. This was not simply because the state has suffered enough under years of misrule and corruption but also because my husband and I are still deeply fond of the state where we spent almost all our youth. He was connected with the administration while I taught at the Panjab University, so we had the privilege of being in touch with a wide spectrum of people. Our children were born and grew up there and still refer to Chandigarh as ‘Chandi-ghar’. So when several opinion polls predicted that AAP was set to sweep the polls, they left a deep sense of foreboding. Who knows better than us Dilliwalas of the anarchy and confusion that the same party has wrought in Delhi? All their shenanigans may be bad enough in a small Union Territory like Delhi but to let them loose in a border state, gutted by the previous government and troubled by a serious agrarian crisis and drug problems was a prospect that filled one with fear. So here are our sincere good wishes to the new team and may the state be restored to good health in every way over the next five years.

I will not waste my breath on the other results because for the last few months, we have had a deluge of predictions, speculation and analyses of the 2017 elections. However, I will add that since three of the five states (UP, Uttarakhand and Punjab) are those that I am connected to by birth or work, I wish them all well. The lessons learnt from the experiences in all three as well as the other two (Goa and Manipur) will have important consequences for all Indians and must be seriously contemplated. Too often, we treat election results like cricket matches and forget about them after the winner takes the prize home. Most of us go back to being the indifferent citizens we are the rest of the time, leaving the new government to clean up the mess. Let us not make the same mistake this time and all the citizens who participated so enthusiastically in the elections must lend a hand in rebuilding a broken home. The winners and losers, too, must learn to be graceful in victory and humble in defeat to be able to see the verdict in its totality instead of declaring, ‘My Daddy strongest!’. 

Spring is playing hide-and-seek with us this year and just as one prepares to put away one’s woollies, comes a sharp drop in the temperature. However, every garden is ablaze with flowers and the red silk cotton tree (tesu or palash) is laden with flowers. My cousins from the hills send pictures of the apple, peach and plum blossoms there and the rhododendrons and chestnut trees with their cheery bunches of red and pink flowers. My modest garden has a bottle brush tree that is festooned with red blooms and gladdens my heart. Everywhere around us there seems to be an air of hope and the promise of good days, so let us cross our fingers and hope that this lumbering giant of a nation awakes from its slumber and sloth.

As I was writing this column, a friend who is working on the legendary writer/philosopher Agyeya rang up for some information. We chatted and exchanged names and authors who may be of assistance to him and I was struck afresh at how quickly we have forgotten some of the greatest minds of the last century. Known popularly by his pen-name, Agyeya, Sachchidanand Hiranand Agyeya was a towering figure in the world of Hindi literature: essayist, philosopher, poet, critic and novelist. Born in Kushinagar (the place where the Buddha attained nirvana), he was a graduate of the erstwhile Punjab University (then in Lahore). An ardent nationalist (then not a bad word), he was a member of the Progressive Writers’ Association (then not considered anti-national), vehemently opposed to fascism and spent time in prison. He was also associated with the underground activities of the anarchists (again, not a bad word then) and became a committed journalist in later life. His reports of the Bihar famine are still considered among the finest despatches on pro-poor reportage. 

What a pity that his soft but firm voice is now almost lost under the shrill cacophony of our present crop of media persons, busy defending their political mentors. 

Another forgotten Hindi writer is Rahul Sankrityayan, known also as Mahapandit for the extraordinary range of his knowledge. This polymath and polyglot pioneered the tradition of travel writing and was avidly read and heard on AIR by his fans. How I wish someone would translate some of his travel writings, I am sure he would give William Dalrymple and Bruce Chatwin a run for their money, whose enormous popularity (also Naipaul’s) is largely due to the fact that they write in English and so command attention in the world of letters. This is not to say that they are not great writers themselves. However, before we dismiss our own literary heritage and declare (like Rushdie) that there are no seriously good writers in India, we must at least listen to those who do not only read and write in one language.

Correction: In the print edition, last week’s column was wrongly credited to Ira Pande. It was written by Saba Naqvi. The error is regretted. 

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