Ever wonder what it feels like to be part of history that will be taught in textbooks? It feels like this. And it looks like this.
I am history. I am stuck to the Delhi election website.
The AAP is leading in 65 seats in Delhi. Out of 70. Delhi is waking up. Power to the people. Jai Hind.
After 10 years of being away from home I am returning in 19 days to live among my own once again. A momentous time to return. I have spent the last 3 years watching the slow yet steady rise of the fundamentalist right wing in India and at time have been overcome by anxiety. I watched Narendra Modi’s aggressive speeches and felt sick to the stomach when my own friends started to drool over him. Ending in the historic landslide win giving total control of the Lok Sabha to the BJP. The fear of losing my home as I knew it became all too real when recently just a few miles away from my flat communal riots broke out in Bawana and Trilok Puri. The government was silent. Delhi felt like a pressure cooker blowing off steam. I saw a chilling photograph of police drones flying over the riot stricken area taken by my friend. Two things struck me. The police use drones? What was my friend doing in riot affected areas two days after the violence happened?
Leading positions in 66 seats. The Congress is at 0. Is this real?
This told me two things. First, India has changed since I left. Second, my contemporaries have the courage and the means to question the system. 10 years of separation is a lot. I am 33. I cannot state verbally what the difference is between a 23 year old and a 33 year old but for the first time I can feel it in my bones, in my heart. I have lost that kind of scared, wide-eyed look. That amalgam of fear, wonder and curiosity. It has been replaced with a steady gaze. The gaze of observation and responsibility.
My father just called. He says Arvind Kejriwal ne inka raita phaila diya.
I still remember the day I saw the picture of man with spectacles and a Delhi-Uncle-Ji moustache in the papers. He was smiling and waving to the crowds surrounded by cameramen. Arvind Kejriwal. I scanned the article headline. Something about an Aam Aadmi Party. Without knowing anything about either the person or the party, some very muted ray of hope emerged for a second deep in my psyche and died out. I read the article in a trance. I couldn’t understand what was going on. This man had broken away from the Anna Hazare movement and started his own party to battle corruption. The rest is history. I devoured his interviews, his speeches and everything about him on YouTube. Not a day would go by when I didn’t type “Modi news” in Google and spend half an hour getting depressed as more and more ridiculous news poured in about changes in school curriculum, crazy demands by the saffron right, ghar-wapasi and perpetual stony silence from the Prime Minister. This morning routine changed. I would now type “kejriwal news” in to the text box and watch him tackle interviewers, have egg thrown on him, get slapped, be ridiculed.
The Aam Aadmi Party became a permanent fixture in my life. To my delight, I saw more and more of my friends become interested. I saw people me age giving interviews on television. This was nothing short of revolutionary. Ever since childhood I had seen these angry, violent people in my neighborhood be associated with politics. The jobless, loud son of the uncle-ji who lived downstairs and mysteriously owned a Honda Accord when most people had two-wheelers was a member of the Congress party. When I was in college, the guys in the youth wings of political parties were people that you basically never saw on campus. Smarmy, oily faces and you’d see them sometimes waving from a truck full of hooligans. For the first time, I saw “politicians” who were professors, social activists, journalists.
One day I watched Yogendar Yadav give an interview on television. He told a story about how he was called Salim when he was born. The story went that his father watched his grandfather be butchered to death by a Muslim during communal riots. His response was to give his son a Muslim name because he refused to accept that an entire community could be violent. Yadav ji cried when he told the story. For the first time in my life, I felt what could be termed inspiration from something a political figure had said on television.
Still leading in 66. It is the age of absolute majorities. Our family friend just called from College Station. He is a long time BJP guy. He conceded gracefully and said he was happy. He invited me to come stay with him in Texas. I should go.
I am an emotional guy. I am an actor. It goes with the territory unless you’re Christopher Walken. But the AAP is more than just hard-hitting personal stories. They have hired some very smart people in the last 8 months. They’ve got people from IIT, from CSDS, from the entertainment industry, lawyers. They already had amazing people from the street movement. They have redefined what social media means to Delhi politics. Kejriwal has tempered his words, he gives one knockout interview after the other. A new era has begun. In Delhi politics and as it happens, in my life. I am so full of hope. I don’t fear the right wing juggernaut as much. Apparently, Modiji has called Kejriwal to congratulate him and promise support from the Center. A fitting response. Modiji is smart, no denying it.
Down to 63. Any bets for the final tally?
Its all new. Its all for the very first time in Delhi, not since Independence, since forever. 67% of Delhi turned out to vote. A record. The Pandavas would have been envious. It is like music in my heart. Sweet music. If you are a young person (0-40 years), never again underestimate your voice. The AAP will come to power but it is not on them. They are only 60 odd people, by the looks of it. We all have to commit to reforming ourselves beginning from the core. No more bribes. No more littering. We will demand governance and we will ask questions because no government is perfect (even if they have an opposition of 7 Vidhan Sabha members). It is a thing of the past when blogs were just a hobby. When YouTube was just a novelty on the Internet. They are now tools of transformation. There is a lot of work to be done. The work has begun now.
Sitaaron se aagey jahaan, aur bhi hain, Abhi ishq ke imtihaan aur bhi hain.
Come, let us dream together. Imagine Lajpat Nagar without all the encroachment and illegally parked cars. Imagine the slums in Okhla Tank turned into flats and the people who have worked in our homes as domestic helpers have real homes and water and 24×7 electricity. Imagine when you get into a fight on the street and you call the police and they come and help. Imagine if the guy who has sold vegetables to you for the last 20 years can send take his sick wife to the government hospital without coming and asking you to put in a good word. Imagine when a church is attacked and vandalized in the capital, the government takes action and issues a statement. Imagine, not being helpless. Imagine, being served. Imagine. And work for it. It will take years. There will be a lot of mistakes. There might even be abject disappointment and shock at times but mistakes are better than ennui and helplessness.
You gotta feel for Shazia Ilmi. You know, I feel bad because I know she means well. I think she got steamrolled in the Arvind Kejriwal parade but Shazia ji, this has got to say something to you about a process called delayed gratification. If you can learn from mistakes, you will remain a leader in my eyes. I think you will do well. I feel like I should say something to Kiran Bedi ji, but I don’t know what. She is a strong lady.
Just saw this headline. “Gloom descends on BJP offices in Delhi.”
Yeah, no shit. Delhi is not Gujarat. Today I feel like Delhi is the Capital with Capital C. Like the people from Delhi cannot be played and like the bad rap we’ve got for being badtameez and loud and stupid can finally take a chill pill. Oh my word. I just saw Sambit Patra on TV. It is honestly, the best thing I have seen … basically ever. Crap, it was live online streaming and I can’t take a screenshot. Probably for the best. Some things are best experienced once and laid to rest.
They’ve won in 3 seats and leading in 60. That’s 63/70. 90%. Its still not as good as Harshita’s board exam score. The thing is why are they trailing in 7 seats. What happened? I just heard someone say that unlike Narendra Modi, Rahul Gandhi’s performance is at least consistent. I can’t sleep tonight.