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Delhi One-day / Kotla’s Rage Of The Lumpen

 
 
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> Delhi One-day / Kotla’s Rage Of The Lumpen
catch22
post Apr 27 2005, 06:02 PM
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Wednesday, April 27, 2005
Kotla’s rage of the lumpen
Respect and pride drive a culture. We are losing both

Malvika Singh

A melee, an obnoxious happening, a crude play of anger against the better of the two, a revelation of a crass mindset, these realities were once upon a time a complete anathema to Delhi, an historically gracious city. It all began to change in the mid-seventies when the declaration of a state of emergency brought to the fore the worst kind of street tamashas, horrors that usurped the public space, that over time, came to be seen as “legitimate”.

In my book, 1975 was the watershed year when the rules of the game changed and with which began the arrogance of those who ruled and peopled this city. There was no looking back because the new, unsanctioned “rules” suited those who called the shots as also those who were looking to make it. As these “intruders” overwhelmed the city, the traditional Dilliwallah retreated into the decades, even centuries gone by, slipped behind the walls of this layered city and lived on memories of a rich and energetic, plural and multidimensional past, unable to deal with the new ethos. Them and us came to be and to stay.

The recent One Day Cricket match between India and Pakistan brought this new and “pulsating” ethos into sharp focus. Strangely, the fear that the rowdies would shame us all lurked in one’s psyche, till the bottles hit the ground. One was instinctively right about the possible vulgar recoil. It was disgusting but predictable, the mentality being no different from that of those hordes who pulled down the Babri Masjid and also those who slaughtered innocent Sikhs in Delhi after the assassination of Indira Gandhi. Shades of that same unthinking lunacy, only the scale was different. And, increasingly, situations such as this one, are becoming the norm.

Cut to Pakistan. The genuine warmth towards Indians visiting is, from all reports, unprecedented. A friend described how she discovered things in her shopping that she had not bought and when she went back to the shop to return them, she was told that they were a gift. Do we reciprocate in a similar fashion? We are the same people, divided by a manmade border that cannot change the cultural strengths that have bound us for centuries. Therefore, what made us so utterly inhospitable? Why have we stripped ourselves of grace and dignity? Why did we not applaud the skill of the Pakistani team? Why did we not take the defeat smiling, in the spirit of the game? Why are we so desperately insecure? Why do we shame ourselves?

There is one answer here, amongst many. The labour pains of the birth of an urban middle class have been hellish. In a society besieged by scarcity, grabbing the spoils has been the only goal. Means have ceased to be of import, only the ends, regardless of the route, are of any substance and magnitude. This has compelled the shedding of values in the rush to beat all at the game and “get there”, wherever that “there” is. The rootless-ness of the “new” inhabitants of Delhi, the refugee mentality, makes them react to situations and events in this unrefined and boorish manner. They make a noise in an attempt to assert their rights over the public space.

Needless to say, the political personages that strut the expanse of this city, have been responsible for the degeneration of behaviour as well. From the time of Jawaharlal Nehru and his colleagues in Parliament to the characters performing in the many dramas of today, the slide downhill is palpable. From those wretched cars with red and blue lights on top of their heads screeching their way down the avenues of Delhi creating the worst noise pollution, to the unacceptable behaviour in Parliament, urban Indians too are beginning to descend to the level of those who rule us by diluting their intrinsic cultural traditions as they ape the men and women at the helm of this country. They see their postures and stances as an example of upward mobility. Examples are, more often than not, set by those that society “looks up to”, the rulers! “If ‘they’ can get away with ‘it’, why not us?” is the refrain.

The contrasts are distinct. A country on the threshold of a boom in the economy, with an energetic marketplace and unlimited entrepreneurs, with many a vibrant and refined cultural tradition, juxtaposed with the representatives of this polity who appear intellectually limited, greedy and extortionist, breaking the norms to suit their ascent, seen as operators who have, by their actions, endorsed the anarchy and therefore, the breakdown of a civilisation that was hailed for centuries as humane, enlightened, refined and elevated.

The public explosion at the Ferozeshah Kotla grounds symbolised the offensive minds and manners that have engulfed the streets and landscape of the Capital. The performance of the Indian team at the crease that day was pathetic and shabby, as was the reaction to the defeat by the bottle throwers. The dignity of the Pakistan team was outstanding. We were shamed, and they went home with double laurels, having defeated us on two counts. On one, the irony was that we are, in fact, one people with the same diversity of tradition and values, why then this response to a friendly defeat? What was the trigger? Language, the great communicator, has something to do with it. Many words in Urdu describe and define graciousness, style, manner, and gesture, adjectives that continue to resonate in the lifestyles of those who belong to that tongue, despite “modernisation” and “globalisation”. They seem to have retained their special attributes as they join the world in the march towards “robotisation”, while we seem to have succumbed to the “invasion” and whittled away our similar cultural strengths.

Respect and pride are the two sentiments that drive a culture. We are losing both. Till we do not begin to fiercely protect and grow what has been left to us by our ancestors, our many legacies that encompass many world cultures, the philosophies, the man-made environment, the natural environment, the countless skills, the languages and music, we will continue to behave like anchorless philistines.

The writer is the publisher of the monthly magazine, ‘Seminar’



URL: http://www.indianexpress.com/full_story.php?content_id=69165


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