Politicians are forever doing this. I mean, reimagining the world. They have glorious day-dreams of cleaning up the safes of the rich and the poor, the mighty and the insignificant, the tax-payer and the cheat… they love clean safes. Even their safes in their homes are generally clean, unless the transfer to their Swiss bank account is delayed, of course. Minor hassles and we must over-look these.
These future occupants of pedestals where stone sculptures are placed also love clean slates, clean images, clean pasts, and clean quotes. Don’t they always tell the media, ‘My image has been deliberately painted black. I am a clean servant of the public with a clean attitude. The media has misquoted me.’ Of course, they must have if you have not sent the media their miserable share of the booty in the form of vouchers or gifts for their little baby!
Reimagining our world is the favourite pastime of activists too. Aren’t they always whooping down upon unsuspecting poverty-stunned kids and swooping them in their arms to say, ‘Aw! This kid is so lovely. She needs her creative instincts to be put in the right direction.’ We know how a lot of them make these kids and their star-struck mothers and fathers make shabby little trinkets of no value… or even paint a few sheets… or even go wild clicking inane pictures of their surroundings… and then display them all to ladies in pashmina shawls and stilettoes with a glass of red wine delicately poised in their right hand who go cluck-clucking on the state of poverty in India and how these poor souls need activists and patrons. They then rush to clean up the delicacies served and with the wine fumes making them braver than they usually are, they buy the things on display for unheard of prices. Everyone goes home happy. ‘It was a clean sweep,’ the activist murmurs with a satisfied burp.
Now if you have noticed, all these ‘clean-up’ activities involve others. Politicians clean up safes that belong to others. So do the activists… and the media… and most of us. We love to reimagine a world that is clean but it hardly ever involves us.
Specky, my wife, was reading the words as I was writing, and she asked, ‘So this is all a national affair. I’m sure clean-up in a global sense isn’t so horrible.’
‘It is quite competitive,’ I said, ‘look at Pakistan. Don’t they always try and reimagine a world free of terrorism and keep throwing them all unceremoniously across the border into our territory? It is almost like the housewife who throws a polythene bag full of her household garbage from her second floor balcony, away from her home.’ Well, globally too we want to remain as clean as ever. Hitler reimagined a world that would be genetically clean and without the aberrations of Jewish chromosomes. The Americans want a clean economy where China doesn’t pock-marks it with low-prices that seem so unworthy. The ISIS and the Taliban have their own version of a clean world.
So yes, cleaning up from the other man’s (or woman’s) perspective is quite infective and a truly global phenomenon. Look at dynasties trying to cleanly reach the top of the decision-making hierarchy in a political party or Bollywood or even professionally managed sports bodies. This bug to clean and reimagine our world is there everywhere.
So I am really surprised to find Mr Modi calling India to join him in his ‘Swachch Bharat Abhiyan’… doesn’t he know how we hate to go inwards and apply ‘clean’ to our own selves? Come on, Mr Prime Minister, do you actually want us to stop crossing a traffic junction even though the light is red? Aren’t you aware of how much of a hurry we are always in? There is after all, that kerbside discussion with my friends that may get delayed… and when I am so ready to load Facebook with pictures of others violating these traffic laws. Don’t involve me please. I love reimagining India and reimagining a clean India with everyone else walking a straight path.
When it comes to reimagine a clean India, our favourite words are ‘They’, ‘He’, ‘She’, ‘Them’, and ‘Their’… they need to stop unrolling their car window to throw out banana peels or empty packs of namkeen. They need to stop bribing that poor traffic cop to escape a challan. They need to keep their eyes under control and not peep down cleavages and molest subliminally. They need to desist from asking for money to move a miserly file from one table to another. They need to dress up properly and cover themselves up to escape rape. They need to stop using mobile phones and stop wearing jeans and tempt poor males from leering. They need to stop leaving the ‘malba’ from drains by the roadside until the next rain forces it back in its clogging avatar. They need to construct toilets for women. They need to… phew! This list is really long and will need too many pages, but the point is that we need to address all these concerns to us. I must do something first and then expect others to follow.
I know that adding ‘I’ everywhere isn’t easy for the common man. If I were a politician or a bureaucrat wanting a page 3 picture of cleaning, all I had to do was to ask the Class IV employees to spread some horticulture garbage outside the Islamic Centre in Delhi and ‘make sure that the surrounding area is shining clean, please’… and then pose for the shutterbugs from newspapers and the cameramen from the TV channels to capture me awkwardly swinging a long-handle broom! But then I am an ordinary citizen, a common man with no power connections… and this is precisely why the common man needs to wake up now.
I need to wake up.
I need to stop violating traffic rules.
I need to resist from offering a bribe to get work done or to escape some punishment.
I need to respect women and children.
I need to stop cheating at the workplace and elsewhere.
The secret to reimagining a clean India is to be selfish and always say, ‘I must do this the right way and only then expect others to follow.’ Once you are doing everything the right way and the clean way, you have the right to question the way the politician is ‘cleaning’ up safes belonging to the nation. We need to get our act done properly and only then will we gather enough courage to question any act of impropriety with confidence.
Be like the protagonist in the Strepsils campaign and speak up. The time to speak up is now… but do remember that only if you are actively involved in cleaning up will you be able to remove the kichh-kichh in your throat.
Kyuki Bin Bole Ab Nahi Chalega #AbMontuBolega
This post is written to support the ‘power of voice to clean up India’ campaign run by Strepsils on a prompt on indiblogger
The #AbMontuBolega campaign website | Facebook page | Twitter account
This article was published in ‘The Education Post’, dated 01 December 2014:
29 November 2014