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For a long time now, we have othered people basis their caste, religion, region, culture, and colour. This time our collective grief unites us; let’s push for dignity in life and death.
My late father was a fan of Bhupen Hazarika; his baritone voice and poetic compositions made his songs ethereal. He introduced me to many of his songs in the mid-90s. Bhupen Hazarika was the reason my father adored the Rudali soundtrack. The song which my father would occasionally hum was ‘ek kali do pattiyaan’.
He was also the one who introduced me to the Hindi rendition of the Bengali song – ‘O Ganga bheti ho kyun?’ (O Ganga, how can you still flow?). Original Assamese song here.
In this song, Hazarika evokes Ganga and asks her why does she still flow. As people helplessly cry for help, as corruption takes over the human mind, why does Ganga shamelessly continue to flow?
I can’t help but correlate this song with the current times. As corpses after corpses are found in the Ganges or on her banks, how does Ganga manage to drift emotionless? Dainak Bhaskar’s front-page headline in one of its Delhi editions read, “In the proximity of just one-kilometre, uncountable corpses on the banks of the Ganga.”
Hazarika is pleading with Ganga to give power to the weak. To make the strong comply in front of the poor. I smile because I know that the arc of the moral universe is long, but it does bend, towards justice. Yet, it doesn’t happen on its own. It happens only because people pull it towards justice.
I wonder when will my pained nation realize that this suffering is optional? That accountability exists only if you ask questions. That those eroding the responsibility cannot be allowed to go scot-free in ‘lal batti’.
We the people of India are foodless, dying because we cannot arrange for medicines, hospital beds, and let us not forget oxygen. We the people of India are left to the mercy of God, unfortunately, we the people of India did not vote for God.
Are we even registering what is happening in this country? On phone calls, we ask our relatives if they are doing fine. In reality, we are asking them, are you still alive? Is this the outcome for which our ancestors toiled?
For once for the sake of our own lives, the lives of the people we love, we must ask ourselves whether we deserve this (mis)treatment? Whether we the people of India deserve to be mocked in misery and death?
Bhishma was Ganga’s son. But today Ganga has millions of sons and daughters. When they will realize that now is not the time to grieve but to ensure a dignified goodbye. This dignity in death can only come when we can love the living.
For a long time now, we have othered people basis their caste, religion, region, culture, and colour. This time our collective grief unites us. The responsible should be punished and the deaths should be accounted for. We should get what we rightly deserve – dignity in life and death.
We can invoke the invisible God a hundred times, we can invoke Ganga Maiyaa a hundred times, yet we shall be all but futile if we don’t invoke the dignity within. Hazarika’s song was a belief in Ganga, he thought of her as a Goddess who will wash away the corrupt and bring justice to the meek. I’ll wait to see how long it takes for the children of Ganga to find their voice and start asking the questions.
Image source: shylendrahoode from Getty Images Signature Free for CanvaPro
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