Although the quality of being sensible has very little to do with the age of a person, still as we grow up we are supposed to behave in a more understanding and levelheaded manner. Quite often though, we see the opposite of it. Instead of ‘growing up’ with age, we often develop such biases and misconceptions that prevent us from being rational in our action and behaviour. They affect our deductive and logical sense to such extents that we lose our sense of empathy, which is a prerequisite for living together in a civil society.
Unable to overcome our prejudices, most of us remain like this throughout our lives. In some cases, however, people do ‘recover’ and their level of understanding enters a third stage of evolution. Interestingly, however, when they reach to this ‘third level’, their behaviour reflects the same traits as in their initial level of understanding.
I’d like to give a couple of examples here to make my point clear. Look at our perception of ‘love’. When we are young, we believe in ‘love at first sight’ and often fall in love at the very first interaction. Then, as we grow up, we realize that it’s not love; it’s in fact infatuation or a mere physical attraction or something else but, surely not love. Going a bit far, we may even declare that there is no such thing as love. Then again, there comes a phase in our life when we start trusting the vibes we receive from the other person and this time, we actually believe in love at first sight; thus, finding ourselves back to the basics.
Similar is the case with our understanding of Gandhiji. When we are young, we revere him as the Father of the Nation and believe that he is the person who got us independence. Then, as we grow up and exposed to various disparaging views about Gandhiji, we stop idolizing him. Many of us even become contemptuous about him. Then again, as our level of understanding grows, we realize that he was ‘in fact’ one of the tallest persons to have ever walked on this earth.
Something similar happened in the life of that schoolboy I mentioned in the previous episode of my current work (that’s me), who despite being the target of that Sikh guy’s resentment, felt compassion for him and disapproved of the ‘insensitive remarks’ made by his classmate about the Sikh community. In the course of next five to six years, however, this very schoolboy was going to be a ‘changed person’.
I would briefly recollect the events of 1984 to 1990 which might have triggered the impending change in the outlook of this sensible schoolboy, who took another two and a half decades to regain his lost ‘conscious’.
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The sympathy wave following Indira Gandhi’s assassination had led the Congress party to a massive victory in the General Elections of 1984, which was held within two months of the fateful incident. Indira Gandhi’s pilot son Rajiv Gandhi took the office and went on to become the youngest Prime Minister of India at the age of forty.
Rajiv Gandhi had a very charming personality with a disarming smile. A symbol of modernity, he was credited with providing the basis for telecommunications and Information Technology in India. In his speeches, Rajiv Gandhi often spoke about his dream of taking a strong, self-reliant and technologically sound India to the 21st Century.
Rajiv Gandhi was also projected as ‘Mr. Clean’ by the media during his initial years in office. This image of his was however severely tarnished within two years of his Prime Ministership with the disclosure of Bofors pay-off scam by the Swedish Radio (April 1987). This was perhaps for the first time our generation was hearing the word ‘scam’.
Allegations of stashing black money in Swiss Banks by several Indian politicians and businesspeople also cropped up and a huge public furore was created. Rajiv Gandhi’s infamous remarks – ‘can’t respond to every barking dog’ (June 1987) directed at the eminent lawyer Ram Jethmalani only made things worse for him. Ram Jethmalani not only retorted back with “dogs bark when they see a thief” but also unleashed a barrage of questions on Rajiv Gandhi. Jethmalani’s ten questions a day for 30 days brutally damaged the image of Rajiv Gandhi and his party. The party which was taking pride in the sacrifices made by its leaders barely a couple of years back suddenly turned into a party of looters in the eyes of people.
Rajiv Gandhi’s tenure as Prime Minister was very eventful and full of controversies. Though as a teenager I had a very little idea of the issues, I feel that without touching them, at least cursorily, would leave my work highly inadequate as many of the decisions taken during this period had a huge bearing on the future events. Government handling of the Bhopal gas tragedy (December 1984); passing of Muslim Women (Protection on Divorce) Act, 1986 overturning the Supreme Court verdict in Shah Bano matter; unlocking of Ram Janmabhoomi – Babri Masjid (February 1986) and sending Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) to Sri Lanka (1987-1990) are some of the issues I would briefly discuss in the next part of my current work.