I went to the Ramlila ground yesterday to be part of the anti corruption agitation led by Anna Hazare. I had of course been watching the agitation on telly and doing my bit by spreading the message but had shied away from actually going there in person. The reasons were many: my hurting knees, my low BP that dips at its own sweet will sending me into unexpected swoons, my agoraphobia and so on. Don't forget I am a lone wolf. Anyway all this kept me away for a whole week but a little voice kept telling me to get off my high horses and get there.
I guess the little voice had a lot to do with Kamala my mother. As I watched the crowds on the small screen, I found myself going back in time to lessons learnt at mama's knee, lessons that were often heard and forgotten as they seemed alien to a child growing up in the lap of luxury. Yet they must have struck a chord before being filed in the recesses of my memory as they all came rushing back bringing with them a plethora of emotions. There were stories of want, of patriotism, of sacrifice, of national pride. Was not Kamala the deprived little girl who had to know the extreme humiliation of having to stoop in front of a malicious cousin to get a sweetmeat, or the child whose task was to nurse her father's and his companions' lacerated backs when they returned from non violent manifestations having borne the brunt of police beatings, or the young girl who was willing to live life as an old maid rather than give life to a child in a colonised land. You see she was the daughter of a freedom fighter.
I remember fondly the story she once told me of how she and her friends who had decided to emulate their elders and stage their own Satyagraha were bundled up in a truck by the police and deposited miles away from home. The children were frightened and terrified. Thankfully her father had been able to trace them and bring them home in a horse cart. And every story she told me was punctuated with the very slogans that are being heard today: Vande Mataram, Bharat Mata ki Jai! There were also stories of the innumerable hunger fasts my grandfather undertook in jail, stories of force feeding valiantly resisted by consuming red chillies so that their throats were swollen and thus they could resist such attempts. The stories were many and I listened intently more so because of the passion with which they were told. And all the stories had one leit motiv: India's freedom from British rule. And what is touching is that Kamala carried the same feelings into the initial years of her life as a diplomat's wife. When she came to know that one of the guests at a dinner party was to be he British Ambassador it took all of my father's persuasion skill to convincer her to be graceful to her guests!
The Vande Matarams and Bharat Mata ki Jai heard for the past days from every corner of the country resonated deeply in mind as a clarion call urging me to get out of the four walls of my home and lend my voice to the fight against corruption being waged at my doorstep. So yesterday I did set my fears aside and headed for Ramlila grounds. I must admit I was a tad nervous but at the same time filled with a excitement. We got to the group and promptly purchased an Anna Cap reminiscent of the ones worn by my grandfather and by my father at official functions. I donned it proudly and set out for the entry where we joined the queue shouting slogans. Needless to say I joined them enthusiastically and felt my spirits soar. I was transposed to another time.
We finally entered the grounds and though it was not filled to capacity as this was a working day, there were thousands of people around. Some had flags, others banners and yet others just stood watching the stage in the hope of getting a glimpse of their beloved Anna. He finally appeared looking frail bit his spirit soaring to infuse every one of us with renewed commitment as he shouted Vande to which the crowd roared Mataram. The atmosphere was nothing short of magic. The positive energy was palpable and infectious. Everyone exuded cheerfulness and bonhomie. People from all walks of life reached out to you with smiles and greetings. All barriers visible and invisible were forgotten at least for the time being. Everyone was united and it felt incredibly good. I was so glad I had come. I felt the spirit of Kamala right next to me reminding me that I was my mother's daughter.