We seem to be a strange people!

Delhi is a nice place to live. It depends upon what you are doing in Delhi. If you are interested in politics, then it is the place to live. If it is just a government job, then also it is a nice place to live. If it is other than politics, say, academic life or pure joys of living or any deeper contemplation of thought or philosophy or even a decent upper class lifestyle, then Delhi should be a terrible place.
Delhi makes you and unmakes you in days, not months! Yes, today, you may be nobody, tomorrow you might turned out to be somebody, even the Prime Minister! Yes, that is the fatal attraction of Delhi, the political capital of the country.

See the number of Prime Ministers in the post-Indira Gandhi era. Also the fate of the same PMs, once they lost their office! They simply sink into nonentities! May be the ex-PMs might have some state paraphernalia like a bungalow or security guards. I haven’t seen much of the ex-PMs lately and so I don’t know much.

As for the Rashtrapathis, the situation could be more bad, if not worse. They have to be content with some past memories. That is all!

Why this much of introduction? I am disturbed by the thoughts that came to mind immediately after the tsunami disaster. There were so much to mourn and cry for the unfortunate victims. As days grew, new stories came up, we are able to look back and do much introspection. What disturbs me? Now, having had this great tragedy what thoughts run through our minds? Through the minds of the high and the low, the classes and the masses? The professional classes and others?

There is this painful thought: when a tragedy of such enormity hits the people, our leaders went silent! The President of India is a highly sensitive individual no doubt. But he is looked upon by the large mass of people as a technological wizard. We expected such a high dignitary to speak out, to give consolation and answer some badly painful doubts in the minds of the people. Why there could be no early warning or some alert system with all our scientific advances and as one columnist in the Business Line put is, with all our knowledge base, the large scientists base, why we couldn’t respond as scientists and technologists establishments should have?

Is this all our S&T base comes to? In times of disaster? Yes, such doubts must have crossed the minds of many, many people.

I am disturbed by the fact that though the disaster came unexpectedly there was this two and half hour early signs of the disaster or some thing like that coming. Yet, news come frequently how the alert warning systems, be it in far of Hawai or in nearby Met Dept. didn’t function as they should have? Why India didn’t become part of this 26 nations alert system? What pained deeply is the thought that so long we have been talking rather, endlessly about our science and technology power. Yet, our technologies failed the country. The unfortunate victims paid for our limitations.

Much more disturbing for me was this particular painful thought: I imagined our leaders might declare a national mourning period.

Or, they would set out touring the disaster affected areas and went around the country, collected relief funds and consoled the people. No, nothing like that happened. The top leaders (should I name them or their offices?) fell silent or not forthcoming enough. There was this killing failure of leadership to speak their minds and share their anguish in a more demonstrable manner. After all, what else we can give? We should have been more forthcoming. This didn’t happen.

After some two full days the President spoke out in a sort of way and then he was off to Assam to participate in a science function. The PM simply was not forthcoming at all. As for Sonia Gandhi, yes, she did go to disaster areas and consoled. But that is all. The rest of the time, it was only some bureaucratic exercise. One intelligent reader pointed out to me, after nearly some full week : “See the Delhi people. They are now more concentrating on Port Blair, Andaman Islands where 800 people perished. While in Tamil coast TN (7,844), Kerala (166) AP (106) Pondicherry (575). Andaman and Nicobar Islands (818) 5,681 still missing, Indonesia (1,00,000 & more), Sri Lanka (40,000 deaths), some 7,500 people perished. But the Delhi government setup seem to be more concentrating on the islands, not elsewhere where more quicker responses are called for….”

While the Delhi newspapers and the rest of the media were reporting the political configurations, in the aftermath of the UP by election results and how the Gandhi family heir was not showing leadership qualities. Why, even there is much heartburn in the political parties, in the allies territories, about the UPA’s own configurations and even breakup of the alliance, once the next phase of the State elections lead to some debacles or other. After all, we, as politicians, are not having our horizon extended beyond our immediate survival. We, Indians as a people, are only archetypal survivors. Who said that? Ashis Nandy or other?

What disturbs me is the poverty of our leadership. Yes, where power is unaccountable, morally and legitimately, then there you can’t anticipate genuine leadership to flower. After all, what is leadership? It emerges or comes from within individuals when they are thrust into their own compulsion.

In the current political power structure we witness in Delhi, we see many playing political roles with no moral or electoral endorsement. I would add the Leftists and other alliance leaders who have their proxies but want to operate from the sidelines. Then comes our Prime Minister who, seen positively as a strength. But seen in terms some political belief or ideology is a typical case of power with no accountability.

May be history would rate him in its own perspective later. But if Narasimha Rao who died recently and the articles on him are an indication, no Prime Minister even with a five year run can go unscapthed.

So, we have to simply watch with our fingers crossed?


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