Yatha Praja, Thatha Raaja!

When I woke up this morning and realised that I am so ill that I can’t get out of my bed, I decided to do all the writing that I had postponed for so long only because I could get out of my bed and do other work. The first of a marathon of blog posts (that I dream to finish by tonight) is about a Gentleman I met a couple (when I say couple, I mean two. Isn’t that what everybody should mean?) of days ago.

16 Nov 2010

Just at the end of a long day at work, Poornima (a wonderful colleague) and I left for Hanumanthnagar, where Mr. Suresh Moona resides. After a slightly claustrophobic drive, we finally stepped out of the car and met Mr. Moona. He was a simple man standing outside his gate waiting for us to arrive. Before I met him, I had known nothing about him (a terrible act considering I was meeting a man of such stature). So, I expected it to be a drab session where Poornima interviews him and I sit there giving unnecessary company.

He walked us into his house and gave us a seat. He sat on a diwan right under the window getting ready to share his thoughts with us (There was a tube of Volini and a bottle of Vicks on the window sill, only a reassurance that he was only a ‘distinguished’ common man). Initially, I was reluctant to even take out a book and write notes (such was my expectation from the interview). But the moment he started talking, I knew I was terribly wrong all the way. I pulled out my little book and a pen and started taking notes frantically. Every word was so meaningful individually and in context. Then began one of the most interesting evenings of my life. A few excerpts here! 🙂

There are so many wonderful lessons of Bangalore history that he gave us. I am consciously abstaining from writing them here as I believe it would be best for one to know it from him. He has written close to 1500 articles for Deccan Herald, TOI and Udayavani in Bangalore. He is also authoring a book presently and I can already vouch for it’s magnificence and relevance. But what I am going to write about are the few notes of culture, faith and humanity he gave us. I am going to write about the additions to my value system that I got from him.

While he was talking (of course in a tangent off the issue we had scheduled the meeting for) about the current state of politics and governance in Karnataka, he said “kaarana naavene” (we are the reason). Recollecting his experiences as a Polling Officer during elections he said “The people who come at 7 in the morning and wait in the queue to cast their votes are people from the nearby slums. The educated middle class casually walks in at 11 and almost never are ready to fight against voter list discrepancies. Parties like Lok Satta could have at least raised their voice, if not win the elections. We deserve what we get”.

Isn’t that so true? We did nothing for the Govt. Not even vote. I am sure there is a (valid) reason why we chose not to vote. Perhaps, no one was worth the vote? Fair enough! But our abstinence did not stop corruption, bad governance, consistently bad infrastructure or anything that we chose to sit at home and fight against. So, abstinence is very evidently not working. (For all those who are pouncing on me to say that you voted and yet nothing changed, all I can say is, keep at it. Take friends along. Democracy works on collective spirit!)

While I am writing down that thought, I recall Mr. Moona saying something similar. He said “In days of Monarchy, it was said ‘yatha raja, thatha praja’ (Like king, like citizen). But in a a democracy, it is always ‘yatha praja, thatha raja’ (vice versa). If people are responsible, the Government will be.” Even after saying this, he does not blame the public for the sorry state of affairs in the country. On the contrary, he believes in the power of democracy. He says informed and participative citizenry is the only means to a powerful democracy. He says research and information should always be disseminated all the way to the last common man. This is the only way we can educate and inspire the general public. As an educated, inspired common man himself, he is determined to take upon him the duty to empower as many people as he can.

In this context, he gives the example of Inayathullah Mekhri who told the Govt of his day that “every citizen has a right (and duty, as a corollary) to contribute to civic amenities as much as he/ she has a right to use it”. This is why Mr. Moona says “Naan Vidhansoudha, Corporation yaar hathrakku hogalla (I don’t go to Vidhansoudha, corporation or anybody else). I see what I can do”.

It was quite late in the evening and almost end of the interview. We decided to take leave and walked out of his house. He came along to see us off. We exchanged thank-yous and bye-byes and got into Poornima’s car. It was an enlightening chat with a man who has seen the sea of change that Bangalore has gone though and remained loving and proud all along. After years of meeting Bangaloreans who crib about Bangalore, this was a fresh perspective. In a world of cynics, the perspective of the hopeful!