Author of The Land of the Wilted Rose, of the The White Mahatma Quartet, Anand Ranganathan studied Chemistry at St. Stephen’s College, Delhi, and went on to pursue a doctorate from Cambridge. A man of varied interests, he is researching dengue and tuberculosis at the International Center of Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology at Delhi. We told you, varied interests!
Diya Aur Toofan
The kahaani of Mr Sanjay Jha and his defence of the Congress is the kahaani of diya aur toofan.
This genial Bob Christo look-alike runs the website Hamara Congress in addition to being the unofficial Congress spokesperson. And like poor Bob, he has taken it upon himself to safeguard hamari Congress’ Ranjits, Jeevans and Madan Puris from grievous bodily harm by slipping in-between them and the anchors. Nothing seems to unsettle him, not even vidheshi takatain.
In the process he has suffered more thwacks to the cranium than a washed up pugilist, but with a difference – he isn’t a tuning fork yet. Instead, these constant blows are for Mr Jha mere smacks with a rolled-up newspaper as he ducks and weaves and emerges with yet another impossibly devious rationalisation for the Congress’ failings. An incensed panellist once accused him of vying for that plum and maroon leatherite sheathed Rajya Sabha seat. Mr Jha shook his head and bared his teeth like Bob. It got him thinking, nonetheless.
If his recent opening of tweet floodgates on the back of Rahul Gandhi’s CII Speech ’n Stroll session are any indication, it won’t be long before that maroon leatherite seat takes his weight and fisses down gently.
Machiavelli, that Chanakya of the West, is supposed to have warned a prince thus: “The only man you ever need to worry about, Your Majesty, is one who will defend your wrong-doings till his last breath. For because of him and him alone you will never know what your wrong-doings were in the first place.”
But this is not about Mr Sanjay Jha. Every political party has their washed up pugilists.
For the Left, we have JNU medicine-men who quack endlessly about the failure of all economic systems except the model followed by the erstwhile USSR. For the left-of-Centre, we have a young lawyer – possibly Akhilesh Yadav’s college buddy – who is, frankly, enamoured by how swiftly his leader has done away with Samajwadi Party’s goonda raj image. Likewise, the senapati of the sometimes-Left-of-sometimes-Right-of-Centre Bahujan Samaj Party would have us believe the corruption allegations concerning his party-head are – like her name – an illusion, while the psephologist-turned-oracle for the Aam Aadmi Party extols the virtues of referendum and plebiscite, overlooking the fact that democracy doesn’t mean power to the people period – but rather power to the people to elect a leader who’ll take brave, if at times unpopular, decisions for them.
And what can one say about Mr Rahul Narvekar, Shiv Sena’s redeemer, except to highlight his one sterling quality that’ll put any Sena-ite to shame: he remains seated despite intense provocation by the anchor even as his natural urge is to lift the swivel chair he is perched on high up in the air, pause there for a second or two, and then launch it in the direction of his tormentor. (“Le, saale!”)
Over the years he has defended the thrashing of taxi drivers, the banning of books, the arrest of Facebook users, and man-handling of fellow human beings by Sena legislators. A disaster for him if his party were to suddenly have a change of mind and shun the aforementioned violent means – he comes on TV only when someone’s been beaten or hospitalised or worse.
Finally, for the Right-to-Far-Right-of-Centre, the pain of watching the legendary Mr Gurumurthy defend Nitin Gadkari lessened only when Arun Shourie spoke his mind on the issue. Mr Shourie may have his faults, but in all my years of watching TV debates, he remains the only person I know who willingly points out his party’s short-comings. And where is he in the Bharatiya Janata Party’s scheme of things? Up in the attic writing a book.
No. This is about something much more worrisome, a fermenting rot more Machiavellian than what even Machiavelli could have imagined. This, lest we forget, is about diya aur toofan.
Those who are old enough to remember Chitrahaar, the song ensemble that appeared twice every week on television in the 80s, would recall this incredible song: Ye kahaani hai diye ki aur toofan ki (This is the tale of a solitary oil lamp and the storm), that materialised as routinely on Chitrahaar as our prime ministers did on TV news back then. The song, penned by Bharat Vyas, is from the 1956 Hindi film Toofan aur Deeya. Just listen to the opening few sentences of the spine-tingling lyrics and one can picture what the song is all about.
Somewhere in the deep recesses of a broken-down home flickers a solitary diya, bracing itself for what is approaching, a toofan of unimaginable ferocity. In time the storm arrives, uprooting trees and blowing away roofs, but the diya flickers on, doesn’t die. There are moments when one feels no hope for the frail diya, as it battles on with the mighty toofan – …Nirbal se ladai balwaan ki, ye kahaani hai… – but in the end, the toofan subsides and the diya wins, its flame back to being steady and resplendent.
Ever since the UPA retained power in the 2009 general elections, all we have witnessed day-in-day-out is but a gathering of storms: small storms, big storms, colossal storms – it is as if India’s been host to a perpetual storm conference for the past four years. And just when the participants think the conference is over and the farewell dinner all digested, yet another storm, in the form of the chopper scam, has barged into the conference hall unannounced.
Meanwhile, where is the diya? What’s he been up to? Most importantly, is he battle-ready? Remember that those who brought it to life in the first place – rolled the oil-soaked cotton lovingly into a spindle, replenished the diya with oil periodically – they have always fashioned their palms so as to shield the flickering flame every time a storm has threatened to extinguish it. They have transported it lovingly from one corner of India to the next, taken it inside pitch dark shanties of destitute and dalits, in the hope that the meek shall see the light – see the light – those who have been kept purposefully in the dark since Independence!
All along this tortuous journey into the shady alcoves of this great country, the battery of Jhas has consistently disregarded the non-Jhas who’ve warned that the flame is too low, the wick not straight, the swab hardly drenched, the clay poorly baked.
Make no mistake, baked and topped-up with oil or not, the diya will fight till its last flicker. It will fight anti-incumbency, it will fight accusations of rampant corruption, it will fight mercurial and slippery coalition partners. The fate of a nation has been reduced to this: that a few thousand will fight and fight to win.
Win what? Why has democracy become a parlour game where people must fight and lose and win? What is this victory, and why is it so dear?
Incumbency: a word I didn’t know the meaning of until well into my 20s – it sounded to me like a disease or a Scandinavian vegetable – why should incumbency matter, and why do all politicians who lose elections cite always the “anti-incumbency factor” as the one responsible for their defeat?
If only they had done their job properly for five years, if only they had helped the poor, cured the ill, developed the cities, irrigated the farmlands, produced more electricity, dispensed true justice, brought back stashed money…if only they had heeded to Machiavelli, if only the incumbent had done what any incumbent should, they wouldn’t have feared this, this disease or vegetable, called incumbency.
I distinctly recall how, back in 2004, Arun Shourie had warned the incumbents about the perils of Shining India, about how they should be – for want of a better slogan – less Ad and more Vani (voice). But there’s no Jha today who can counsel the prince to be less Rahul and more Gandhi.
Instead, fear not, they proclaim from their studio podiums – the diya will battle on, it will wrestle determinedly all those toofans, and were it to flicker out nonetheless, fear not! For the diya will be back, if not in 2019, then in 2024 or 2029 or even later. The Sanjay Jhas of this world know: in this nation people succeed not because they are successful and worthy, but because someone failed. How else can one explain the architect of the Emergency returning to power so soon after being dethroned – was it her success or was it the abject failure of the Janata Government? And what about the Russian roulette being played out in Tamil Nadu for decades, where one of the only two available parties whooshes back to power every alternate elections – is it AIADMK’s success or is it DMK’s failure?
And so the diya knows, come rain or squalls or storms big and small, it will flicker to life one year – even if 2014 is not that year – for it is in our destiny to be shown the light. It is what they call Karma! And that is exactly what the Sanjay Jhas of this world advocate: to buckle up and wait for the Scandinavian vegetable to work its magic.
…sar patak-patak, pag jhatak-jhatak
na hataa paayaa diye ko apni aan se
baar-baar vaar kar, ant me haar kar
toofan bhaagaa re maidaan se…
Image By: Sakshi Bhatia