The deeper the slumber, the louder the alarm needed to wake you up. That is the only 'explanation' that puts into perspective the recent Mumbai terror attacks.
Last evening at the Gateway of India, thousands of people gathered to say,"We are awake and alive, and we want to *do* something". I was one of them but honestly, I landed up at the rally - if you can call it that - more by accident than design.
I mean, sure I too want to *do* something but somehow I was not moved by the idea of lighting candles... Yet, I am glad I went to Gateway yesterday because the half hour I spent there told me this IS the start of something.
First of all, the NUMBER of people who were there. It was truly mindboggling. I reached there @ 6 pm and by then the crowd was packed thick right upto Suba Palace. By the time I left it had spilled over upto Regal circle.
The second important thing was the KIND of people in the crowd. This was not one of those rallies the NSS takes out in memory of Hiroshima where students have been drafted. No sir, here there were young and old, uncle and dude, matronly old ladies and even toddlers in prams.
Everyone was there out of choice and seething with anger. Anger against Pakistan, against politicians and against the System. But united in their love for this country and the feeling that the time has come to make a difference.
A part of me said,"Hey, they are just chanting slogans. Kal wapas kaam pe - aur sab bhool jayenge". A part of me wanted to join in the shouting... And a tiny part of course wanted to record the moment (blame it on two decades in journalism!)
So I have taken a few grainy pics and videos but kindly maaf the quality. I did not go as a reporter, carrying the right equipment et al. Yes, stupidly, some are even in horizontal mode.
Yet I am uploading one just to give you an idea of the *atmosphere*. I know the TV channels covered it but that was close and upfront - at Gateway. Many like me never even made it to Gateway - but it did not matter. We were all connected and part of a giant pulsating organism.
Chants of Vande Mataram and Bharat Mata ki Jai rent the air even as the Indian flag was held high in the air - every 20 metres or so.
And surprisingly, despite NO policemen at all to control it, the crowd was very disciplined. The road was full of people surging towards Gateway, while the footpath consisted of those turning back from there.
For a brief moment I wondered if all the suffocation and crush was really a good thing... It teetered on the edge for a bit, but did not get unbearable.
Apart from slogans, there were also many people carrying placards. Distributing pamphlets. People who had put down a charter of demands, registered urls and yes of course this is much easier than getting *change* off the ground but it is surely a beginning!
I think there were at least a lakh of people present - maybe more - and for the first time People Like Us have taken to the streets and signalled to politicians that hey,"We are NOT okay with what you guys have been doing!"
The next step of course is to say this through the ballot box, use PIL, RTI and all other means possible and make sure we don't drift back into sleep.
What does this mean at an individual level? Well, it means time, and effort and some pain in your day to day life.
As my friend, owns a restaurant nearby mused,"End corruption is all very well but how will we run our business if we stop giving bribes to the BMC?"
Ten restaurants like him in that area need to get together and say okay, all of us are not going to pay hafta. Ab dekhte hain kya kar loge... The question is, will we see initiatives like this?
I honestly think there can be a revolution if:
# Some of us are moved enough to take up citizen's initiatives and social work as a full time career. Given the current economic slowdown and job losses this is actually quite feasible. Besides, there are enough people with old money and new money who can say I will take out 3 years of my life in the service of this nation!
# The rest of us should support these initiatives by giving our time and attention. By volunteering on weekends, taking responsibility in our area of work or residence. 10-12 hours a week is not asking too much I think?
# The media should continue to support and highlight what can be done, what is being done and how it can be done better. And give MORE prominence to this 'boring' stuff than X ke abs aur Y ka butt. Each media house has its own version of 'let us unite against terror' but let us hope that apart from petitions they simply take forward the task of getting good governance by hounding and shaming errant politicians.
Thousands of candles were lighted but in the weeks and months ahead we must keep that flame - the desire for change - burning.
P.S. If you have started an organisation or movement to bring about on any kind of social change and would like to be featured in JAM magazine drop me a line. The id is rashmi_b at yahoo.
My next couple of posts will focus on initiatives arising out of these attacks - and some unrelated ones - which I think are interesting!
And oh, the video upload option in blogger refuses to work! Shall do the needful in a bit - going out to get some fresh air.