An aam aadmi’s letter

To whomsoever it may concern.

They call me aam admi. For you babalog, that translates to “ordinary man.” Presumably women are included in there as well. That’s what they call me. I don’t know the first thing about supply side economics. I’ve never listened to Beethoven. I couldn’t tell an IIT from an ITI. There are many things I don’t know. But, I have a God given ability to detect bull shit. Now, if you don’t mind, I’d like to get a few things off my chest.

When we got our independence, I was ecstatic. I was one of the millions who lined up whenever the Mahatma gave us the word. Then, I heard that Pandit-ji had his reservations about me. He wasn’t sure if I would exercise the right to vote responsibly. Well, here’s the thing. Neither did I. Who knows what’s best for the country? Who do we trust? Pandit-ji and his friends came highly recommended by the Mahatma. They had studied at firangi universities, spoke English and rubbed shoulders with world leaders. Once again, I fell in line when the Mahatma asked me to support his protege. I had a job to find, a family to take care of and mouths to feed. I didn’t have time to think it through. So, without protest, I voted for Nehru, in the hope that he was our Messiah and that he would part the Red Sea and lead us to the Promised Land.

I shed tears when Chacha died. He was our Messiah. We hadn’t yet made it across the Red Sea. In fact, there was no sea. I found myself marooned on a desert with no friendly faces. Pandit-ji, in spite of his firangi degrees and polished accent, had blown it. The lone face that I recognized of Lal Bahadur was but a brief mirage. And that’s when the nightmares started.

They say that the fruit doesn’t fall far from the tree. If that’s the case, I must fault Jawaharlal, the tree and not the fruit, Indira. But my gut tells me that that Jawaharlal was not the tree. He was just the guy who watered a tree called the Indian National Congress. This tree did not produce fruits. Rather, it sucked the life out of the ground it grew on, and gave shelter to reptiles and insects and rodents, which in turn preyed on me.

I wish I could write away the twenty years between 1970 and 1990 as a bad dream. Even now, I wake up in the middle of the night, sweating and anxious that the past may return to revive its hold on me. But trust me when I say that I have a short memory and am trying my best to move on.

The damage that Indira wrought was not to my stomach. It was to my psyche. She said, “Garibi Hatao.” I enthusiastically cheered, more in hope and despair simultaneously and not out of belief. As I said, my instincts told me that these were reptiles, rodents and insects. Hope turned to anger and slowly resignation. And then despair, when one of my own turned his back on us and assassinated our Prime Minister. I lost one more familiar face and that hurt me even though I didn’t trust Indira entirely. Her son was another fleeting mirage. I’m told that he did some good for the country, but am not entirely sure what he did for me.

They tell me that we were in a lot of trouble in 1991. And this man named Narasimha Rao bailed us out of this trouble. I didn’t know he was capable of this feat. I voted for him because he was part of this tree that I told you about. Turns out that he wasn’t entirely a reptile. Another fleeting vision as far as I’m concerned.

Things have been getting better in the last twenty years, I’ll happily admit. I’ve got a cell phone. I can see roads being laid. A lot of my friends have left for cities. I see shiny buildings when I visit them. But twenty years is a long time to wait when you have too little to show for it. There was a time I had resigned myself to my fate. Now, I am not being allowed to even do that. I’ve seen things that I now can’t put out of my mind. My aspirations are spinning out of control. My country has changed a lot. And it doesn’t stand by itself any more. The destinies of all countries are now inter linked, they say. I wouldn’t know too much about that. I have no idea what current account deficit means, and why we need foreign investment so we can have supermarkets and megastores. All I know is that there still aren’t enough jobs for my people and things need to get a lot better before we can afford to fritter time on ideological and political debates. I’ve been waiting for a long while. I wish these fellows would get on with the program so my children can have a better future.

What galls me is that, not only are they frittering away precious time but they are using that time to loot my house. There are thieves inside my house, emptying it as I speak and there are folks outside my house yelling “thief.” It’s like I’ve become invisible to both of them. Neither is helping me.

Anna Hazare, God bless him, says he wants to help me. But, I don’t have the time to make it to Jantar Mantar each time he asks. With due respect, he’s not the Mahatma. Those were different days. And they were different men back then. I trust Anna-ji. But he also wants to tie me to a tree and whip me if I try to drown my sorrows in cheap liquor. So I wonder if I should trust a guy who wants to whip me. Like I said, no one helps me anymore.

This chap, Kejriwal, seems to have his heart in the right place. But I don’t believe I’ve ever met him. I guess it’s hard to meet up when one of you feels the need to be in a city and on TV all the time. To Kejriwal, I tell you this. It’s not enough to start an Aam Aadmi party. It’s not even enough to be an Aam Aadmi yourself. You need to come out here and meet me. Don’t tell me about those reptiles. I know about them already. I’ve seen more than fifty years of reptiles. Help me. We’ve been waiting for a Messiah. We’re so jaded that we’ll give you too a chance. And we fear that you too will blow it.

You know what I don’t need? I don’t need sermonizing and moralizing. Don’t tell me things I know. Don’t tell me that I’m illiterate. I know that already. Don’t tell me that I suck because I vote for my religion and caste. I have good reasons for doing so. If anything, my religion and caste guys are the ones who’ve shown up in times of my need over thousands of years. I can’t abandon such instincts easily. Don’t tell me that we need a dictatorship because only dictators can control fools like me. I’m not the fool that I’m made out to be. In fact, quite the contrary. I’m the product of evolutionary intelligence that’s been gathering steam over millions of years. If I’ve come this far in the evolutionary game, I’m pretty sure that I can handle a few reptiles. So don’t tell me anything.  Just step aside and allow me to be. And help, if you can.

I’ve always dreamed of this Messiah in shining armor, who’ll swoop down from the skies and carry us all away into this land where there is freedom and dignity in life. And you know what? I don’t think that’s ever going to happen. I’ve come around to believing that I, and only I, have my fate in my hands. For that, I need to be responsible. I need to change my habits. And I need to stop making excuses and think things through. I know all of this. But it’s going to be a while before I get there. I wonder if we have the time for me to get there. I don’t think there’s another choice. Let’s see how this one plays out.

Until then, although you may call me an Aam Aadmi, keep in mind that I’m anything but ordinary.

Best regards.

Mango (wo)man.

30 Replies to “An aam aadmi’s letter”

  1. Every country gets the government it deserves. In a sense the government simply reflects the morality of its people. We often bemoan corrupt politicians being voted into office on the back of bribes offered to the electorate. But then bribes are a two way street – votes are up for sale and it is only natural that there are buyers. I guess what I am getting at is that the "aam aadmi" is not the innocent victim – s/he is as immoral and unscrupulous and often downright evil as the people that end up ruling them. In fact, it is perhaps because the aam aadmi is so that they are ruled by such.

  2. Every country gets the government it deserves. In a sense the government simply reflects the morality of its people. We often bemoan corrupt politicians being voted into office on the back of bribes offered to the electorate. But then bribes are a two way street – votes are up for sale and it is only natural that there are buyers. I guess what I am getting at is that the "aam aadmi" is not the innocent victim – s/he is as immoral and unscrupulous and often downright evil as the people that end up ruling them. In fact, it is perhaps because the aam aadmi is so that they are ruled by such.

  3. To respond to this post, I cite Subhorup's poem: http://subhorup.blogspot.in/2012/11/million-magi….

    In btw, my friend visited Anna's village Ralegon S. and asked the women there about the whipping thingy. Well, women tie their own male folk and mostly castigate them and sometimes use a jhadoo. Women of the same family as the male folks who are drunk. Having seen many many women suffer miserably because of the addicts and their lack of responsibility to their families, I am sorry I cannot fault them for the process they choose. Addiction has indeed been reduced in the village and women are happy.

  4. To respond to this post, I cite Subhorup's poem: http://subhorup.blogspot.in/2012/11/million-magi….

    In btw, my friend visited Anna's village Ralegon S. and asked the women there about the whipping thingy. Well, women tie their own male folk and mostly castigate them and sometimes use a jhadoo. Women of the same family as the male folks who are drunk. Having seen many many women suffer miserably because of the addicts and their lack of responsibility to their families, I am sorry I cannot fault them for the process they choose. Addiction has indeed been reduced in the village and women are happy.

  5. You have successfully inserted the laproscpic mirror into the minds of millions of aam admis like me and reflected the hazy picture, still masquerading in the mental screen of the VISIONS we dreamt of and the REALITY we face to day. The day of deliverance we are chasing is a mirage and our desperate hopes are dissipated in frenzied debates and pious platitudes of our elected representatives day in and day out.

    I am no longer an aam admi, but an ambivalent admi, to say the least.

  6. You have successfully inserted the laproscpic mirror into the minds of millions of aam admis like me and reflected the hazy picture, still masquerading in the mental screen of the VISIONS we dreamt of and the REALITY we face to day. The day of deliverance we are chasing is a mirage and our desperate hopes are dissipated in frenzied debates and pious platitudes of our elected representatives day in and day out.

    I am no longer an aam admi, but an ambivalent admi, to say the least.

  7. Your closing lines deliver the punch. I may be the Mango woman, but I am not helpless. I can transform things if I decide that I can make a difference.

  8. Your closing lines deliver the punch. I may be the Mango woman, but I am not helpless. I can transform things if I decide that I can make a difference.

  9. um in what better way can you put your feelings of the 67 years of national wastage we call our national freedom. I think, it is too late, the majority Indians are famous for hero worship; otherwise would have that lady Indira priyadersini come to be their leader and the downfall in my opinion started there.

  10. um in what better way can you put your feelings of the 67 years of national wastage we call our national freedom. I think, it is too late, the majority Indians are famous for hero worship; otherwise would have that lady Indira priyadersini come to be their leader and the downfall in my opinion started there.

  11. Beautifully and succintly written with what telling word!.I am one of those millions who hoped that the visionary would deliver the goods.But lo!i hate this very words "aam aadmi' and" garibi hatao",designed to cheat people.I dont think Kejriwal is the man destined to lead us to the promised land,as his methods speak poorly for him.

  12. Beautifully and succintly written with what telling word!.I am one of those millions who hoped that the visionary would deliver the goods.But lo!i hate this very words "aam aadmi' and" garibi hatao",designed to cheat people.I dont think Kejriwal is the man destined to lead us to the promised land,as his methods speak poorly for him.

  13. Much of the state of the nation can be attributed to plain lack of luck.
    1. Mahatma wanted to demolish INC after freedom. It wasn’t done, bad luck.
    2. India is simply too diverse to bring about massive changes easily. Unfortunately Nehru made diversity as a foundation for unity. IMHO, bad luck.
    3. Since different religions are “respected” and “heard” even simple essential rules aren’t yet implemented — ex. Uniform Civil Code. Even today Muslim & Christian groups argue against a common rule!
    4. A string of unlucky incidents in the beginning has ruined India considerably. I feel sad for this.

  14. Much of the state of the nation can be attributed to plain lack of luck.
    1. Mahatma wanted to demolish INC after freedom. It wasn’t done, bad luck.
    2. India is simply too diverse to bring about massive changes easily. Unfortunately Nehru made diversity as a foundation for unity. IMHO, bad luck.
    3. Since different religions are “respected” and “heard” even simple essential rules aren’t yet implemented — ex. Uniform Civil Code. Even today Muslim & Christian groups argue against a common rule!
    4. A string of unlucky incidents in the beginning has ruined India considerably. I feel sad for this.

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