We, the Government
By Hugh and Colleen Gantzer
After The Great Churning we have reached The Great Introspection. The Churning has spun on to other areas. In Uttarakhand, therefore, those who carry the distinguishing mark of having voted in the world’s greatest democratic exercise have had time to sit back and wonder if they have pressed the right button. Thanks to the Election Commission’s decision, they have been given a long time to brood over the consequences of their choice.
And so, since we don’t know the outcome of The Great Churning, we cannot be accused of pointing a finger at any particular Person, Party or Political Philosophy. Our comments are generic. They are about the new creature We, the Government have spawned: the hyper-filmy Indian Neta. We will use the word “he” but it embraces the entire rainbow of genders.
To start with, have you noticed that these Alpha Netas now flaunt an entire Bollywood wardrobe of headgear? This offers a brilliant range of optics and also nail-biting suspense for the viewer. When will the netaji’s arm-flailing calisthenics dislodge his borrowed feathers and reveal what lies below? It also focuses our attention on the new political dialogue: crude, coarse and often criminal. It reminds us of one of Aesop’s Fables (reputedly lifted from our own Panchatantra): the story of the dowdy bird, jealous of the brilliant plumes of the peacock. He waited for the Raja of the Avians to shed his star-spangled tail and then fitted them onto his own drab body. Sadly, his raucous cawing did not sound like the fluted mew of a peacock. Then, when he began to fly, his borrowed finery blew away. He was attacked and stripped by the other birds. The moral of the story is that fine feathers do not make fine birds!
Such searing fables were, often, distilled in Nursery Rhymes. These little jingles are the cartoons of the pre-print days. Every one of them contains a belief that the common people were not able to express openly fearing execution for sedition. The familiar Rock-a-bye Baby was about the scandal that a King of England had had an illegitimate child who would endanger the branch of royal succession to the English Throne when the wind of the truth began to blow! Similarly, Sing a Song of Sixpence is a satirical political protest against the skulduggery in the court of Henry VIII.
That self-obsessed king merged the interests of Church and State. He first pandered to the black-robed priests (blackbirds) fed them (pocket full of rye) then tortured them (baked in a pie) into submission (the birds began to sing). All this was done to give Henry VIII more power (counting out his money) while his first wife, Catherine of Aragon, indulged herself (eating bread and honey). Henry, however, had his eye on Anne Boleyn who had been a Maid of Honour to two European Queens and was the daughter of a merchant, possibly a cloth merchant (the maid was in the garden hanging out the clothes). After divorcing Catherine, Henry married Anne and then beheaded her (a dickey bird who pecked off her nose).
The historical Indian connection to all this is that Henry and Anne’s child was Elizabeth I of England who was responsible for setting up the East India Company.
The point of our excursion into history is that no law, no amount of state authoritarianism, can muzzle a people who want to protest. In fact, the greater the suppression the greater is the ingenuity in resisting it. We have lived through the dark days of the Emergency when we were writing a fortnightly editorial page column for all editions of a national daily. The Powers that Were did their best to stop the daily by cutting off its electricity and curtailing its supply of newsprint, but the tough old owner of the paper fought back doggedly. The Emergency ended in ignominy, the paper and our column survived.
Incidentally, we are happy to say that yet another suggestion made in this GP column has resulted in action by We, the Government.
But to return to the self-crowned heads of our netas, Indian fairy tales begin with the words Ek tha Raja. Significantly, that’s past tense!