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THE HEROES ARE DEAD

When Yuvraj Singh arrived at the Delhi airport yesterday morning, the photographers of the press corps of India behaved in a ludicrous manner, besieging the cricket icon for a ‘shot’ regardless of the fact that he is weak and vulnerable to infection after undergoing chemotherapy, which, itself, is a debilitating procedure. Unthinking and selfish, these men converged on him as he exited the airport instead of respecting him and giving him way. The madness that surrounds us in the public space is palpable as we as a people choose not to abide by the norms of decency and dignity. Collective compassion seems to be missing.

Once a great civilization, we in India are going through a terrible contortion where nothing is sacrosanct anymore. Teachers are run over by a car and killed by students who were prevented from cheating; women are raped by goons who are given bail to carry on; political players take money for distributing election tickets to the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha as well as for assembly and municipal elections; individuals have to ‘pay’ to get into the police and other government institutions that guarantee regular haftas and, therefore, a better life; income-tax officers harass citizens, and there is no point in complaining because the sword of revenge hangs over the head of the honest; getting a passport, which is the right of every citizen, has become a traumatic experience as only bribes can hasten the process. The list is unending and makes for a shameful reading about everyday life in India.

This reality of life and living has got so deeply entrenched in the social fabric that it has become the ‘Indian way’. Honesty is ignored and those who break the rules and grow rich with the help of black money are honoured and protected. To maintain a semblance of ‘form’, a handful of perpetrators are reprimanded. There is not a single sphere that has remained untarnished by the corruption that benefits only high-handed rogues.

No answers

The worst impact of this breakdown of dignity and morality has been in the political domain. People with a semblance of integrity do not want to enter politics. This is in sharp contrast with the reality of the past when the best and the brightest gave up the luxury of their professions and dedicated themselves to nation-building, bringing their intellectual skills and creativity to public life. Today, there are no ‘heroes’ for those who live a life based on idealism and morality.

Our channels of communication — television and the print media in English and regional languages — continue to be titillated by scams and scums. Those stories are important. But stories featuring people defying the ‘system’ and bad governance need to be broken with the same passion and excitement. For example, in the arena of politics, journalists are not inclined to write about the work done by politicians who do not have the funds to turn their constituencies into isolated havens standing out amongst the poverty that surrounds them. Thoughtless comparisons are made between leaders who have transformed their pocket boroughs into mini Singapores with monies received from wheeling and dealing and those who have generated income and employment but have refused to be involved in nefarious activities such as making payments to hand out thekas for roadbuilding, issuing appointments for a price, and so on, that have destroyed this nation and its pride. Such leaders are usually described as politicians who have ‘neglected’ their pocket boroughs in an attempt to keep the poor impoverished. The premise is ridiculous and unacceptable, but no one wants to descend into the mire that Indian citizens continue to wallow in to find the real answers to the many questions.