We, the Citizens
By Hugh & Colleen Gantzer
We had planned to write a follow-up on our High Altitude Farming column, but cruel events have overtaken us. We have lost two of our Mussoorie friends to Covid. The virus is raging like a fanged predator across the world. But it will end as other mass decimators of humanity have ended.
What then? Historically, every mass-extinction has lead to a quantum-leap in social evolution. Post-Covid, the world will leap into a new era. We foresee that India could play a major role in this multi-national resurrection, as it has, repeatedly, in the past.
In the 14th-15th century, Europe and its off-shore islands were filthy, disease-ridden places. In England, the streets were ankle-deep with offal, animal dung and human excreta. A fierce plague had ravaged Europe killing an estimated 50 million people. Rich Europeans started breathing air through masks filled with Indian spices. Spices also disguised the taste of non-refrigerated, spoiled, meat. Most spices were imported by Merchants of Venice through profiteering Arab traders. In 1492, Christopher Columbus pioneered the great Age of European Discovery, helped to misname Native Americans as Red Indians, broke the Arab monopoly, rediscovered the sail-filling seasonal (mausum- Monsoon) winds which propelled the exploitive Colonial era.
The colonies enriched Britain and Europe, pulled them out of poverty and squalor. India had started the Colonial era, and a single Indian and his dedicated followers, ended it. Nelson Mandela worked Gandhian magic in South Africa; the disciples of I Have a Dream Martin Luther King are still struggling to fulfil his dream.
When Britain was forced to surrender the pretence of lifting The White Man’s Burden, the US picked it up as the Global Cop. It plunged into the Vietnam War, devastated rich forests with its Agent Orange, and alienated its own youth to create the Hippie Movement. The Indian underpinnings of this revolt were projected beautifully by Dev Anand. He directed Janice, played by Zeenat Aman, smoking ganja while undulating to Asha Bhosle’s Dum Maro Dum in a filmy Kathmandu bar. Our holier-than-thou censors would never have permitted such a sequence to be shot in an Indian setting. But which country inspired such holy smokers in the first place?
Having asserted humanity’s traditional right of access to the Good Things of Mother Earth for so long, what assets can India give to the post-Covid world?
First, an enormous, growing, non- Anglo-Saxon, English-speaking population. English is the lingua-franca of the multi-racial digital world, and India’s working generation has taken to it in a big way. Our self-bemused netas know this. They use everything at their command to get their children into “English Medium schools” but ostentatiously promote “indigenous languages”. Are they ashamed of our Diaspora? Or are they trying to undo Sardar Vallabhai Patel’s great achievement and build their own princely class who can lord it over the masses? Looking at how arrogantly netas behave, today, this is very likely.
Second, we have at least two, huge, computer-savvy generations. This, combined with the first point, gives us an enormous edge over our fiercest, and nearest, competitor: China. That country is driven by a fascist obsession to make every citizen fit a uniform, Han-dominated, mould. Some of our own, history-deficient, politicians feel that this is the ideal solution for India. It is not. Variety, argument and dissent is how new knowledge is acquired, not by blind acceptance of a guru’s diktats. That is why Gautama Buddha’s teachings continue to have such global appeal while less liberal faiths are endangered.
Finally, these globe-spanning generations value personal choices: tattered jeans, live-in relationships, diet. Ridiculing the increasing tendency of righteous netas to impose love jihad bans, they asked three interesting questions. “Don’t political parties demand adherence to their practices? Don’t they promise rewards if you embrace their party? Is that political jihad?”
People with such views are likely to lead the iconoclastic, Post-Covid generation. They will be articulate, impatient for change, and in contact with their like-minded peers around the world. In other words, future politicians will have to deal with such Activists-Without-Frontiers.
Consequently, those politicians who are not equipped to meet them on their level, and on their terms, might as well fold their tents and fade, slowly, into the sunset!
(Hugh & Colleen Gantzer hold the National Lifetime
Achievement Award for Tourism among other National and International awards. Their credits include over 52 half-hour documentaries on national TV under their joint names, 26 published books in 6 genres, and over 1,500 first-person articles, about every Indian state, UT and 34 other countries. Hugh was a Commander in the Indian Navy and the Judge Advocate, Southern Naval Command. Colleen is the only travel writer who is a member of the Travel Agents Association of India.)