Candlelight tamsha

Candles have always been associated with romantic dinners, aromatic baths and love-making sessions for the rich. For the rest of us though candles are the first thing our hands reach to in case of a power cut during the long summer evenings. Almost each one of us has studied for atleast one exam under the light and warmth of a candle. It’s a different story however where morons like me spend time perfecting shadow animals instead of reading about Lord Dalhousie and his ‘Doctrine of Lapse‘. Candles were a welcome replacement for people tired of lanterns and bulbs of petromax lights. Our moms miraculously always could reach out to the candle whenever the power snapped, it was almost magical. I’m sure each one of you can relate to the scene where the darkness of a hot sticky evening is broken by the glow of the candle on your mothers face. We’ve all played with the flame of a candle as it dances like a courtesan when you run your fingers through it. The advent of affordable emergency lamps has hampered the candle business in cities though one might suspect a candle-maker and electricity board nexus in the smaller towns! This post isn’t about the different layers of a candle flame nor is it about modern day aromatic candles. The former an be found in a 5th grade NCERT textbook and only heroines of yesteryear who are desperate for invites to Page3 parties indulge in the latter.

In the past couple of weeks my inbox
been flooded
with pictures, messages
and invites
my inbox has been flooded with pictures, messages and invites to various candlelight marches in various cities of India. The slide shows that accompany them are sure promising and strong enough to evince interest. There was one wherein protesters were requested to bring a picture of themselves that would be burnt in an act of self-immolation. Why you may ask, well the answer was that it was supposed to send a message to the two favorite worms of the society, terrorists and politicians. We love to find a person to blame and when we do find one, we have a go at them with everything we’ve got. I don’t mean to support either here but rather stand and watch the events unfold. One thing was clearly evident from all these mails, people were angry and wanted urgent action. They more seemed like out of personal insecurity rather than expressing sorrow. There were however strong emotions attached that made people emote and this ensured strong media presence. There was plenty of media fodder like posters and t-shirt carrying vocative messages and plenty of slogan shouting. I still remember the day I woke up to live coverage of the candle walks in 6 cities with media personnel getting bytes from highly effervescent protesters.

Candlelight walks are the new in-thing and newest form of silent protest after human chains. I see a lot of tweets where people ask each other if they are attending one of these. Gives me the feeling that it’s become like a social responsibility and a lot of people are expressing their solidarity only because they don’t wish to be left out. It’s sad that such meets lose their cause the moment people attend only for bragging rights at next weeks party or office gossip. It’s cool now to go out and be part of such a protest and even better if you’re caught on camera. There is a lot of interest in these events and every group vying for some airtime, that results in multiple candlelight vigils at different times of the day in different landmarks of the city. They are also the easiest and cheapest means of protesteasiest and cheapest means of protest all you need is a bunch of people to conglomerate near a landmark with a candle in their hand, a slogan on their lips and an hour at their disposal. For those of you who feel that I have sinned in attacking this gregarious display of emotion, let me clarify that I have no problem with ones right to protest but I only wish to see the other side of it and whether they really make a difference. There is also a feel good factor associated with these candlelight protests for your shirts maintain their crease and they don’t get soiled or stink in sweat. There are no burning stomachs, parched throats or bruises of a police lathi, atmost you might sound hoarse after some slogan shouting. Protest is a word we associate with acts of civil disobedience like the satyagraha and hence calling these candlelight vigils as a protest is like demeaning the very word.

Calling Malaika a matured actress might sound like sacrilegeCalling Malaika a matured actress might sound like sacrilege to many, especially when the term is often associated with divas like Madhuri Dixit, Sridevi etc. Mature yes, but of a different kind(NSFW) and my feeling towards such events is somewhat on the same lines. All you do is loiter around for some chitchat and vent your frustration in life by shouting slogans and spewing hate on the politicians. The attention span in these cases is shorter than the short-term memory of Ghajini for both the viewer and protester. Let’s just safely put their expiry at the melting candles or till the TV cameras hop onto something more interesting. There is no followup nor does anyone pick up the pieces and take it forward, it’s just like that movie you downloaded that your friend recommended which now lies orphaned in your downloads folder. People hold them just for the sake of holding them without any afterthought or strategy to channelize this anger and they are just like dangling pointers in C++. My initial thought was that these vigils were meant to express solidarity in a time of sorrow and showing support for the victims. It however turns out that they were instead targeting politicians and either wanted to offer them to the sea god or turn them to the firing squad.

Mind you that this is the voice of the working and educated middle class, who will shape the future of our country. I fail to comprehend how this mass genocide of the lawmakersmass genocide of the lawmakers would solve any of our problems and the culling of the very political system that gave us the right to protest openly. War is never an option and that should be pretty clear by now, having observed our brothers in the west. Acting in haste in a fit of emotions always seems the right thing to do then, but we fail to stifle our emotions and think if we would ever repent in the future. I followed the broadcasts religiously for it was my morning dose of news but I failed to see even one constructive message that showed any promise or looked at the larger issue of accountability. All they yelled in unison was the need for an authoritarian rule that would keep people in the fear of a sword hanging above their neck. This is very similar to the emergency rule where trains and buses ran on time and the streets were always promptly cleaned. I’m quite not sure if that is what we should be rooting for, though it may seem logical to a few.

You may argue that these vigils were successful as the backlash of angry protesters led to resignations of the Chief Minister and the Union Home Minister. Think all you may but the fact stills remains that these were a result of political calculations. The Govt had to outscore the oppositionGovt had to outscore the opposition that was going to use this as a weapon going into the polls in summer. Also few heads had to roll to suppress the anger of the people and ensure that it didn’t spread beyond Mumbai. For a long time there have been discussions about the incompetence and inefficiency of the two men and the attacks were just a catalyst. The protesters have nothing to cheer about all the anti-politician hate that was spilled in the streets as the replacements were again politicians, with a cleaner image maybe. What do we gain from these marches? An hours worth of live media coverage, a couple of panel discussions at prime time, some articles in the paper and letters to the editor! This doesn’t include the traffic snarls and tonnes of molten wax on the streets. Molten wax isn’t degradable and is just unnecessary pollution the way I see it. Since nobody is going to achieve anything this way and this is all going to be forgotten pretty soon. I’d be happy if the elder leadership gives way to some young blood at cabinet posts for then we can atleast hope for some radical changes. Again it’s all going to be forgotten and people will get on with their lives.

The anti-politician anger was at it’s zenith when drama took place at the residences of the slain officers. The chief minister of Kerala was humiliated and the reason being that he visited only owing to his political compulsionshe visited only owing to his political compulsions. My question here being, don’t all politicians visit sites and families for political compulsions or are there any other reasons? Didn’t the Karnataka CM visit them out of political compulsions or did he know them personally? Personally I don’t subscribe to the ideals of communism but irrespective of all factors I’d still expect some respect for an 86yr old man of the same age as my grandfather. Again I don’t approve of the language used by them CM who in the anger of being turned away brought canines into the equation. In times of death, enmity is momentarily atleast forgotten however things got worse here. A quick flash to remind us of the women dancing in the ecstasy of lament during the pantheon games held to honor the death of Patroclus. It was quite contrasting to see the reaction in the Karkare household when the same man who spat fire against the officer for his investigation of the Hindu terror links, stood at their doorstep as the CM of Gujrat. He was treated as an elderly man and graciously shown his place. Now as I think of the sums of money handed out to the families of of the brave, isn’t that again a political compulsion and more like public pressure?

PS: Long post, kindly adjust…

(Image Courtesy : Frank Boenigk)