TV was B&W, not our politics

Perhaps one of the advantages of those times was the absence of television. Radio provided entertainment
Last Updated : 28 March 2023, 19:53 IST

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Recent pronouncements in high places, set me ruminating on matters that I had not given serious thought to, earlier. With maturity, the realization dawns that one’s accident of birth has much to do with everything that one takes for granted; including the privilege of a decent education, denied to so many in India.

This apart, I have never contemplated so seriously about the regrets of being born before 2014. One thing that I can feel certain about is that I am certainly relieved to have not been born at a time when Sati was prevalent and women’s education, not a priority. To this, one must necessarily give thanks to visionaries like Raja Ram Mohan Roy, who petitioned the British government against the inhuman practice of Sati, which finally led to it being abolished. The education of women was also central to the Brahmo Samaj, the religious reformist movement that
Roy founded.

Among the many other pioneers should also be added the name of Mahatma Jotiba and his wife, Savitribai Phule, who fought obscurantist notions and forged ahead with their plans for the education of women, especially from the downtrodden classes. To Jotiba goes the credit of educating his illiterate wife and helping her start and run a school for girls in Pune. Unusual for those times; they opted for a Western curriculum that included Maths, Science, Sociology and the teaching of English. In a sense, Savitribai can be considered a forerunner of the women’s rights movement in India. For me, to be born in Post-Independence India meant being influenced by the idealism of parents, who shifted from being British subjects, to becoming citizens of a free India, which granted them adult franchise and the choice to choose their own leaders. Through their eyes and their words, the freedom movement that we studied about in history, was brought alive.

My mother, who despite her soft spot for British royalty, had stories for us about Gandhi, Nehru, Patel and how the assassination of the Mahatma had made the country and the world recoil in horror over the actions of a misguided patriot, whose backers slipped into
the woodwork, after this horrific killing.

My father’s socialist leanings, which were part of my growing up years, I understand much better only now, especially his constant reference to “the vulgar display of wealth”, which was a Ram Manohar Lohia aphorism. He would talk to us about the Non-Aligned Movement of Nehru, even as we were quizzed over names like Nasser of Egypt and Marshall Tito of Yugoslavia. Interesting how NAM has found traction, in India’s stand over the invasion
of Ukraine.

Perhaps one of the advantages of those times was the absence of television. Radio provided entertainment. Reading, especially during long school vacations, was a hobby that was necessarily cultivated, as was playing community games with friends, like Seven Tiles, Gilli Danda, Kabaddi etc. Sometimes, the Dads also joined in, providing another dimension to the game.

Come election time, we accompanied our parents and waited as they went inside to vote. The black ink marker on their fingers seemed intriguing and one could not wait for one’s voting turn to come along.

I cannot recall anyone trying to influence my vote, as I did the run of all the major parties on today’s spectrum. The thing that seems to be of import, before 2014, is that you voted and hoped for the best.

The biggest difference that strikes me is that after 2014, one is expected to wear one’s politics on one’s sleeves and can become anti-national, with one’s opinions and patriotism being called into question, at the drop of a hat. This becomes particularly hard when it involves friends and family with whom you bonded with, for all of your life.

Never have I felt the chasm between me and others whom I have thought of as close, grow as much as it has, since 2014 --India can only be viewed through a monochromatic lens. One can only look back and mull over the good old days and wonder if they will ever return.

(The author is a Bengaluru- based independent writer.)

Published 28 March 2023, 17:49 IST

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