I’m not being a plain pessimist but a true realist, in stating rather loud and clear that these last eight months have been somewhat suffocating and more than different! A complete contrast to the basic human survival. Emotionally sapping and draining. What, with the inability to even attend close friends’cremations or condolence meets. In fact, few weeks back when one of my close friends, Sushma Yadav, passed away in New Delhi I couldn’t forgive myself for not being able to attend her cremation …A strange sort of helplessness overtook …And I could get to meet Wasifuddin Dagar and his family only after a couple of months of the passing away of his elder sister Musarrat Dagar and also his French disciple, Laurence Bastit … And till date I have not been able to meet my close friends, Saroj Prashant and Roswitha Joshi, who lost their spouses earlier this month…Too many deaths taking place. The young and the not-so-young are passing away all too quickly.
With news of human deaths gaining ground, one sits back wondering – what’s more in store. Isn’t this level of sadness more than difficult to handle so what happens if heavier strains of sorrow hit and bruise?
In fact, coupled with the emotional stress are the political strains. The rulers of the day are now putting obstacles in way of love and marriages. Coming up with communally tainted slogans of love jihad! Intrusions into the personal lives of those adults who dare to fall in love, giving a damn to caste and creed!
Another very disturbing build-up is the arrest of young men who didn’t even dare to rebel. The journalist from Kerala, Siddique Kappan, was arrested when he was on way to Hathras to report on the rape of the Dalit girl. But before he could even reach his destination he was arrested and imprisoned by the Uttar Pradesh police. Why is it that this journalist is not even allowed to meet his lawyers or put forth his arguments? Why is he made to sit cut off from his colleagues, his family, his lawyers and the rest of us! Why should we be compelled to believe the State theory that he was on way to Hathras to cause communal tension? Strange, the ruling brigades who are publicly giving speech after speech to cause distress and divides are moving about all too freely but a journalist gets arrested on grounds of mere suspicion!
And I’m left baffled by the arrest and imprisonment of social activist and peace- promoter, Faisal Khan. About ten years back I had interviewed him for the Times of India soon after he had set up the Khudai Khidmatgar — a movement, in memory of Mahatma Gandhi and Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan. When I’d asked Faisal what had prompted him to get started with this massive movement, he told me — “For the last 12 years I have been working as a full-time activist. I have been disillusioned and unhappy with the working of civil society at the grassroots level. I don’t believe that speeches or seminars can actually reach out. We have to connect with the youth. So, we set up the Khudai Khidmatgar movement to connect with the masses, cutting across religious and regional divides. After all, Mahatma Gandhi and Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan did exactly that and did it with so much of focus and selflessness. I want our youth to take the course of non-violence. I strongly believe that no matter how hard-hearted a man can get, he loathes killings of human beings and it’s just that he has to be shown the non-violent path…The response we have been receiving is overwhelming, especially from young Indians…We have members from all over the country, from different sections and religions. A member must take out one day in a month to work for the masses, whether it’s in a jhuggi cluster or to teach affected children or whatever else is required. A member must also give/donate 20 a year and take an oath to work for this Khudai Khidmatgar movement.”
He had also stressed that he wanted to bridge gaps and lessen divides, “We follow the path shown by Gandhi and Khan sahib… Our volunteers went to the Kumbh Mela with a peace delegation, distributed literature and interacted with others there. We’ve travelled to Gujarat where we conducted a sadhav bhiksha abhiyan along with the Kabir panthees, going from house to house and distributing booklets on harmony and peace. We also took a peace delegation to Ajmer Sharif, held a youth meet in Bhilwara — where a hundred young Hindus interacted with a hundred Muslims. Countering communal poison has to be an ongoing process. Just being there when a riot or a pogrom breaks out is not adequate, for poisonous communal propaganda has to be countered by a sustained, focussed effort which we have begun.”
Shockingly, the State arrests and imprisons a man like Faisal Khan!
Just a couple of positives around!
In the midst of this gloom, two positives stand out. One — Poets and writers have come up with books during this Corona crisis phase. Several have used this phase to not just write but to self-publish, taking to online publishing.
Poet Jayshree Misra Tripathi has published three of her books this summer –Cameos recollected in pandemic times, Uncertain times – a collection of poems, Conundrums and tributes in lockdown: From the sorrow of Unanswered Questions.
Writer Niloufer Suhrawardy brought out her poetry collection, This is Love!: Poems on Love, Anguish & More. And the well-known author Milan Vohra states, “These are times when we must be kind to ourselves”. In fact, Milan Vohra, India’s first Mills and Boon author, used the months of the lockdown and pandemic to re-visit and re-write her first book, ‘The love asana’ and ended up e-publishing it in its 2020 Avatar as ‘Head over heels’.. To quote her “‘Head over heels’ brings out the highs and lows, the twists and turns in relationships that involve power-play and the opening up of vulnerability that’s a corollary to love. The bigger story is in the way the protagonists, while fighting their own inner demons, find their way to love by forgiving and acceptance.”
♦ ♦ ♦
The second positive of this ongoing Corona phase is the news coming in of the New Delhi-based cop, Seema Dhaka, who traced 76 of our missing children.
Seema Dhaka not just traced them within three months but even managed to re-unite them with their families. This could be the first time that such large numbers of our children could be traced and re-united with their families. A hugely positive news. How I wish many more of our missing children could be traced with great urgency, before their childhood gets destroyed and they perish.