Apr 9, 2011 Sat 9 : 45 AM IST
36,000 feet above sea level ! Flying in from Mumbai to London on my way to Krackow, Poland ! The rising sun of a new day has just made its appearance behind me spreading its warmth through the soft cover of clouds and the reddish winter line.
It is Jaya’s birthday today. She has reached ahead of me a few days back and awaits our arrival. Our ..? Yes … Shweta our first born, travels with me to wish her Mother and then accompany us to Poland and Krackow.
Krackow invites us for a couple of days to be a part of their Festival of film and to honor my Father at their University. ‘Black’ shall be screened on one of the days, and a recitation by me of some of my Father’s works for the students is part of the schedule. And then back to ‘Bbuddah’ which seems to be progressing with some rapidity and possibly an early release.
Some extraordinary pieces of writing were witnessed in the responses yesterday, on issues that I had addressed and I am most grateful for them and their content.
I think many among the extended family got the essence right. For one as vulnerable and as profiled as myself, each breath we take invites a certain measure of caution. The circumstances that we get subjected to despite wanting to be treated as normally as possible, does not I am afraid warrant immediate instant vociferous reactions. We would be sitting in our homes doing nothing else but commenting on every issue that gets thrown up in society. The media, with its immense and stratospheric presence waits patiently, or compels us to give reaction to all, that would get them the eyeballs. Nothing wrong there. It is their job, their culture, their business that drives them to it. For every action there will be an equal and opposite reaction, the laws of physics not withstanding, and soon what would normally have passed over as drawing room banter, becomes a ‘devastating’ crisis that needs a Socratic solution !
As an artist in cinema, my ability and intelligence is limited to our craft. As a proud citizen of my country, a national, I am without doubt and question an Indian. Have always been and shall remain so ever. In life struggle has been an integral part of our existence. So long as there is life there will be struggle. Each struggle has its own parameters and conditions. And each individual shall have his or her own concern on its importance and relevance in their lives. But yes, there are some struggles that encompass us all. As citizens, as a national. Those demand immediate and collective attention and support. Now how they be addressed cannot be dictated by some informal dictat. It is something that comes from within, on its own accord and will. The mode of its expression shall vary, but that does not vary the intent.
What seems of paramount concern to me or several others, may not necessarily be of much concern to others. Corruption will be an issue to those conversant with it. How will the poor laborer, or the farmer tilling the earth react to it is a pertinent question. For them their immediate need for better working conditions, for having the capacity to pay back loans without contemplating suicide is primary. They do not even know how to spell the damn word ‘corruption’.
My Father did a poem in free verse on a similar condition in society.
The poet walks out of his home one morning and encounters a whole group of laborers, poor, in despicable condition, and in torn and disheveled clothing, working in the heat of summer in repairing the road in front of our home. The women carry the heavy basins full of rubble and coal tar on their heads towards their men who dressed meagerly lay it into the ground, their sweat mingling with the contents of the paving. By the side on the road, the woman has put aside her new born child, wrapped in what ever pieces of garbage clothing she has managed to pick from dustbins to cover the babe. Hungry and devoid of nutrition, the mother has perhaps given the crying and anguished child a bit of ‘apheem’ so that it sleeps and forgets its hunger !
Today is not an ordinary day says the poet to the woman laborer. “ Do you not know that the Prime Minister of India, Lal Bahadur Shastri has suddenly passed away in Tashkent while there on an official visit to put an end to the Indo-Pak war hostility. Every corner of the nation is abuzz with discussion and debate on who shall now be the new Prime Minister – Indira Gandhi, Morarji Desai or … Crowds are collected outside Rashtrapati Bhavan, Parliament House at important junctions of the city, anxious to know who their new leader shall be. And here you are, busy with your work, not concerned at all about the outcome or have any interest in who will replace the late Shastri ji. What kind of person are you ..?? “
The woman worker lifts the veil covering her modesty over her head and in subdued voice answers, reluctantly –
“ Saheeb ! If you can replace my Supervisor here where I work I shall be grateful. He is a vile and incorrigible human. He harasses and troubles us to no extent. Change him ! Can you do that for me please !! “
The poet is stunned by this response and says he has no words to offer beyond this. He stands beside her looking and observing her, allowing what she has just stated to sink in. The woman has gone back to carrying her burden of duty, to earn a meager living to feed her hungry child, to face the humiliation and the pain of poverty and her rogue supervisor …
The poet has walked away deep in thought …
It’s a poem I love and have recited on many an occasion. Not just for the beauty of the verse, but for the universitality of its social expression …