The missing rage

‘Routhiram Pazhagu’ -( practise anger) – said Poet Bharathi. Of course, by prevailing standards in the nation, both in his time and now, Bharathi may be deemed a terrorist or at least, be accused of inciting violence. Really, he was only telling his countrymen to be human, for it is perfectly natural to get angry. But Bharathi also had much loftier varieties of anger in mind, not the kind that one let’s loose on one’s wife or receives from her, with due respect to gender equality. The anger of Bharati’s prescription was for individuals as social and political beings towards the unseemly happenings around them. An anger that is extinct, or so it seemed, till the nation witnessed it a couple of days back, on the 13th of December, in the Capital.

‘We did not order Afzal’s execution. But this vile politics over his death sentence, which is being delayed made us return the medals’. With these words the families of the martyred jawans duly handed back those symbols of national recognition for gallantry to the Rashtrapathi’s office, with the promise that they would take them back once Afzal is hanged. Can there be a more emphatic expression of anger and anguish and a better exposition of the genre that Bharathi talked of? It is an anger that stems as much from personal tragedy as national interest, combines distress and dignity, is rooted deep in legitimate indignation and delivered with earthy eloquence. What a slap in the face of a spineless regime and what a grim message to an ungrateful nation! I can’t remember seeing such original, unadulterated anger lately.

So, why this celebration of anger and in any case, is there not already much anger in the air? Because, genuine anger and righteous indignation which are necessities for a sane and secure nation, have become a rarity. Rather, much of the anger that we see around are actually either motivated, misplaced or orchestrated. Sidhu’s anger was a foolish impulse. Politicos’ anger is sheer power play. The anger in Parliament is a privileged pastime of a chosen few. The jihadis anger’ is raw fanaticism. The anger on primetime is a sponsored show. The anger of unionists and strikers is a cultivated habit. And at the bottom of all this anger is vindictiveness, venality, vanity or mere vested interests. All these angers cancel themselves out, serving no useful public purpose. But they do swallow up a lot of public resources and time, leaving behind a spent nation, with neither the will nor steam for legitimate and deserving causes.

Why has public outcry become such a far cry? And even when it does occasionally manifest itself, why is it so temporary and toothless? A mass welling up of anger as a response to injustice, grave or routine, is a four-stage process. It begins with awareness which is a sensation. Then comes knowledge, a faculty. Next is the feeling of being wronged or the realisation of an offence which is an emotion. The last, decisive action, then becomes imperative. An anger founded on such firm footing is sure to be sustained and substantive. But alas, for Indians such anger has been nipped in the bud itself. The first element, the sense of awareness, is often sorely missing, thanks to a combination of factors: generations of slavishness, secular injunctions, saintly instincts, a succession of soft States and worst of all, sheer mental laziness. Where is the question of anger when there is not even perception of danger?

Is such impotence an Indian cultural trait handed down over the centuries? Most certainly not! From the Baghavad Gita to Vivekananda to Aurobindo to Bharathi, there is no denial or negation of genuine anger. Rather, there are only exhortations to meet injustice with an iron hand, fearlessly, ruthlessly and mercilessly. When Arjuna shied, Krishna urged him to fight for Dharma, as otherwise he would be failing in his duty. Says Aurobindo: ‘ A certain class of minds shrink from aggressiveness as if it were a sin …The sword of the warrior is as necessary to the fulfilment of justice and righteousness as the holiness of the saint. Ramdas is not complete without Shivaji…’. Gandhij’s non-violence too was an expression of anger as was Netaji’s militancy. Dharmic anger has indeed been a running theme through the ages.

But alas, the inspiring and soul-stirring heritage of Bharat and its true heroes have been hidden from public view with both academia and media either genuinely oblivious or feigning disinterest aided by the active patronage of the ‘secular’ State. Instead, particularly post-Independence, we see the plain piffle of pompous personalities and power hungry politicians passing off and parading as profound truths and even public policy. This cutting off from the roots and imposition instead of banal concepts in the name of modernity and liberalism has had a direct consequence: The insipid, ignorant, indifferent Indian, immune to indignation, but ever in readiness to imbibe any kind of insult or ignominy on his culture and country. No worries, so long as self is safe! With such a citizenry, little wonder that the rulers too do not feel shamed by the anger of the martyrs’ families!

Indeed the country needs to rediscover its anger. Not to vent it out on public property or …statues and idols. But to save itself from certain doom wrought by rampant corruption, criminality, cross-border terror, communal tensions and cultural degradations. These are not macro issues to be debated in secluded seminar halls, but immediate concerns knocking on every door. Say, as immediate and potent as your …er, wife’s wrath!

So let’s get back to Bharathi, Line one, Para one!

e-mail the writer at [email protected]

Jawahar T R