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IN POOR SHAPE

It was a joy to be disconnected from the daily barrage of shrill, superficial voices on television, from newspapers, from political shenanigans as well as from the absurd games of coalition politics that are played primarily to grab the seat of power in Delhi. There was no internet connection either. The four days were spent looking at the spectacular landscape; agile, good-looking Rabari herdsmen and their families; leopards snuggled inside natural crevices and cavelike formations; green fields interspersed with low-lying shrub forests; the Jawai lake and the wonderfully diverse avian life around it. Hundreds of sparrows — extinct in our neighbourhoods — peacocks, parrots, langurs and even a hedgehog shared this unspoilt space.

The brutalization of India by insensitive and crude interventions of ‘modernity’ and by its political and administrative classes has managed to degrade a great civilization with unmatched natural beauty, extraordinary human skills and a rich material inheritance. India has been turned into a sprawling slum choked with filth and pollution that is grappling with alien intrusions which are tearing at the seams of its priceless inheritance. Modernity could have been introduced effectively by intelligent initiatives that would have enhanced the latent and active strengths that reside within the DNA of this modern nation state. Instead, the babus, who know no better, have cloned what they believe is the ‘best of the West’. Little do they know that all that was the worst that those economically advanced nations had on offer.

Steel cages

India lost out in the post World War II period as it struggled to cope with the injuries of colonial domination. Instead of creating an indigenous and contemporary architectural framework for this layered and diverse land and people, we were suffocated with a rigid, failing style of governance borrowed from the Soviet Union that was laced with the rhetoric of an egalitarian State. Sadly, the restrictive formula ensured an unchanging state of poverty — the poverty of ideas, poverty of perfection, poverty of governance, poverty of mind, body and soul. We descended into mediocrity even as we moved forward.

India cannot be caged within a command economy in which a bunch of privileged men and women call the shots and determine the lives of over a billion human beings. The colonial rulers and kings, who incapacitated the local rulers, masterminded the mindless division of a culture and its stakeholders, and, having recognized the energy and the potential of the people, maimed our countrymen, destroying a part of the world which, if it were left alone, would have matched Western economic supremacy.

Why is the leadership in India so utterly inert and apathetic towards changing the course and restoring a sense of pride? Why is its response devoid of imagination and a sense of fraternity? Is this because our leaders have had no real education about civilization, literature, art and craft? Are they conscious of the enormity of their limitations and their insecurities? As a result of their aggressive, domineering and unrelenting nature, the leaders stall every new idea or even the reinvention of an old one. From being the builders of forts and palaces, capitals and towns with havelis and smaller homesteads, which have stood the test of time, we have deteriorated into a community of builders of unacceptable monstrosities.

Governance, too, has become a similar cocktail, with the colonial master being replaced by his native clone. This is a tragedy. This country and its people have developed an allergic reaction to this deadly spirit. There is thus an opportunity for a radical overhaul.