As a Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi was a controversial figure. Whether she was a good prime minister or merely a power hungry hypocrite is left to individual discretion. What is undeniable is the fact that she was a born leader, an eloquent speaker and a brilliant writer. In a 1967 convocation address at Shantiniketan she says –
As we enter the third decade of freedom, certain over-simplified ideas of democracy have begun to gain currency. There is a feeling that whatever the people do is right. But the divine right of the people, which is enshrined in democracy, also requires that the will of the people be expressed through reflection and judgement. Every democratic system evolves its own conventions. It is not only the water but the banks which make the river.
This marvellous analogy of democracy and even society being a river is especially true today. Too many people today mistake democracy as merely being a right and not a responsibility. Indian democracy is a river not like the Amazon, wide and strong, but more like the Mithi, narrow, meek and a cesspool of much that is wrong with us.
People I know whine about the legal drinking age not being 18. They want the freedom to drink, yet some do not respect the laws which are aimed at preventing drunk driving. They complain about the rickshaw drivers cutting them off yet they inch over the zebra crossing till they are halfway across the red light. They complain about the noise made by neighbours but don’t stop yelling out at their friend’s birthdays in restaurants.
Truth be told, we all hold some things sacred and we cannot bear to see someone violate our principles. If what someone else does is their personal choice which does not harm anyone else, what is our problem? But hardly anyone shares this view. Even if they do, they do not practice it. And the people in power take advantage of our hypocrisy and make the river even narrower.
If any of my MNS or Shiv Sena supporting friends go outside Maharashtra and get the same treatment as “outsiders” get in Mumbai, naturally the reaction would be outrage and anger. Yet they don’t stop to think about this but espouse Raj Thakarey’s views.
The freedoms we enjoy should be limited to the point where we respect the freedom of others. As Uncle Ben says to Peter, “With great power comes great responsibility.”
Cliched as that sounds, we should stop and ask ourselves what we want to be, the Amazon or the Mithi.