I have always believed that Life can be led in a very transparent, truthful manner; without indulging in “corruption”. I have stood for what I have believed in. Followed the rule book, questioned it if seemed redundant or not relevant (its obvious with the fast pace that things are changing).
I have seen lot many people (friends & family) race past me in life, by taking shortcuts of all sorts – bribe and get a driving license without even being physically present there, breaking traffic signals & bribing the cop to get away for cheap, or evade taxes. I believe that these are short cuts they have carved in their lives.
As kids my sister and I were not ‘told’ to follow certain principles or do things a certain way, but we have parents who led by example. So, there is a lot you learn without being taught and there is a lot you have to live up to – the standards are self-set, happens automatically.
My dad, a civil engineer quit his PWD job as he could not fit into the system of accepting bribes, he refused to give in & he was pressurised by people above and below in hierarchy. He quit to embrace a noble profession – teach. Towards the end of his career, he was put to quest again – where his promotion was withheld to being a Principal, coz he was not the one with the “right connections”. Even now, he took pre-mature retirement & did not give in. Now, he is a peaceful man working as a television actor & living a senior citizens life.
I have learnt a lot from my parents who have not given into corrupt methods & measures of the society. To the best extent possible, even I have lived my life following the same principles. I confess, that I have given in a couple of times – I cannot forgive myself for it. Perhaps, I was too beaten down by the corrupt system.
Image Courtesy: IndiaAgainstCorruption website
Sameer & I have often discussed in length that right now if there is anything that is hindering India’s growth & progress to becoming a super power is its rampant corruption. I strongly believe that if the Jan Lokpal Bill gets its due attention on the floor of the parliament, we will have a respectable citizen ombudsman in place that will check the degree of corrupt activities. This indeed does not mean eradication, but does mean inoculation. So, maybe 10 years from now my daughter can get her passport renewed without paying the clerk money to get it in her hands (this happened to Sameer and we had to pay as we were leaving for Kenya in two days on work – the passport office did not dispatch the document even though we were on tatkal mode, as they knew that this renewal was important for us).
On Wednesday, 17th August, 2011. It was day 2, Anna & his teammates were retained in Tihar Jail (by now, Anna had detained himself & was adamant that he will leave without any condition levied on his fast unto death protest). Sameer, Abhishek & I set out to contribute towards “our” cause for an hour to the Rally Ground, Sector 25 in Chandigarh. There was Section 144 in Chandigarh as was the case in rest of India. At the rally ground, the coordinator asked us if we’re ready to volunteer, we agreed.
We geared ourselves with posters of India against corruption, communication material, pasted stickers on our tee shirts & set out to spread the word. What I witnessed in the next 80 minutes was pure MAGIC! We stood with the posters held by our chests, smiling on the road dividers at a busy Sector 36 & 37 junction. We were 3, each took one divider & stood there spreading the word, asking people to participate by going to the Rally Ground.
The police patrol jeep followed us in less than 15 minutes. The cop started questioning us, asked us to disperse if not he’ll have to take action. Sameer & Abhishek were interacting with him. I did not stop to engage in talk, without wasting time, I continued to stand by the junction displaying the India Against Corruption poster. The police patrol jeep sped away after watching our activities for about 20 mins.
The reactions were varied:
- Uncles, aunts, grandparents all waved at me, made eye contact and said “shabhash” good job. Some said, “good job. we are with anna”
- Youngsters, college going kids, school kids – all of them cheered me in their own way. some smiled, some nodded, some waved, some showed thumbs up.
- Rich, poor, people walking, ones in cars, those on bikes and even auto-rickshaws – all of them made eye contact. Acknowledged my message.
- One uncle came up to me and said, “Good job beta. Keep it up. the entire nation is with anna & so am I”
- Many people stopped to know more, some specifically asked if we were staging a protest or if there was some activity happening as they wanted to participate too.
- A press photographer came a took our photos too 🙂
- Three people asked me to go stand by the shade & spread the word (it was between 12 & 1:30noon that we were there, as it was lunch time and high traffic. This particular day was warm as it had rained a lot the previous night.)
- A gentleman came by, stopped his car in front of me, approached me & said “You are doing a great job. I want to do something too. What can I do for you.” He went to the boot of his car, opened it. Picked up a bottle of “Slice Mango”, came to me and said “Please accept this, something that I can do from my side”. I refused initially, saying I was volunteering. But he pressed saying, “you are doing a great job, I am volunteering too & want to help in the cause”. I was moved & accepted the juice bottle. He had gone around the roundabout and offered Abhishek & Sameer a bottle each, this I got to know later.
Those 80 odd minutes, on the street, spreading awareness in a very silent / peaceful way was the most enriching time of my life. I have supported various causes, done street plays to spread awareness on issues/topics in the past. But this was different, very different. I was proud of what I was doing, super confident, never did my smile wane off – it was a proud smile actually. I also realized that what I stood there for mattered to each and every one who passed by. I saw integrity in their gestures, I saw resentment against the corrupt system, I saw faith in Anna Hazare, I saw positive hope & a confident attitude among people. The experience was a “high” of another sort.
When we got back to the Rally Ground we saw a few people who had taken information with us there. Later that evening, we saw many others we had interacted with participate in the candle march along with their friends. (grass-root level word of mouth in play).
I was proud, full of energy & glad that I am contributing to a cause I believe will change the face of India. Thanks Anna Hazare for knowingly or unknowingly evoking the confidence of standing up to ones own rights amongst us Indians!
I am traveling across 3 other cities in the next week & I will take time from work to raise my voice against corruption in support of Anna Hazare. I want to be a part of this historical movement, a change maker, someone who can proudly narrate stories of my growing up years – when I grow old.