20 years later- the year 2031 or thereabouts.
He felt at peace. Free and light, as light as air, floating in nothingness. It was delicously cool-the breeze was sweet and fresh, a mild flowery scent immediately transporting him to bliss-it was all stark white. And then suddenly everything went dark. The cool air was getting sucked out-it was getting hotter, a rotten stench polluted him. And then it was cool again.
Bapu was there. Bapu in his loin cloth, just the way he was frozen in popular memory. Yet, this Bapu seemed odd- younger, yet with deep worry lines and a bent spine. Smiling, yet with an aura of melanchony sadness. So many contradictions came to his mind that he suddenly felt conflicted;as if being torn apart.
‘Where are we?’ Anna demanded in Marathi quite forgetting that it wasn’t Bapu’s language.
But Bapu understood. He smiled that sad smile again, ‘Neither here nor there. Neither hot nor cold, neither happy nor sad. We call it the island of in-between.’
Now Anna tried to decipher his surroundings. Slowly the pearly gates to his right, came to view. From there emited every promise of beauty- sweet smells, peaceful melodies and cool breezes. Then he floated away again and was faced with the utter darkness from which burst out flames of fire. He leapt back in fright.
‘But Bapu,why are we here? We are the good guys! You made the country free. And I made it corruption-free! Why aren’t we there?’ he gestured toward the pearly gates as they came to view again.
Bapu sighed, his pain more evident now. ‘Are we the good guys? Did we do more right than wrong? Did I do more right than wrong?’
But Bapu smiled as if he knew all the murmurings- which later became allegations, and then accusations -of weakness, of partiality, of plotting. Anna remembered a period of darkness when the country had wished Gandhi hadn’t happened, that they had been better off under the British rule.
Bapu spoke now. ‘All I wanted was freedom.Peace. Equality. Secularism-such high values, yet I left behind a nation torn and devastated in the hands of a misguided leader.’
‘It wasn’t like that! It wasn’t your fault!’ Anna protested, but he suddenly felt small and young in front of his hero. Too young to decipher the complexity of actions that had affected millions. Silence fell between them.
Anna couldn’t take it anymore. ‘But I made the country corruption-free! Roads are built without potholes. Bridges dont fall anymore! Court cases are solved within a month! Passports are issued online! Even Lalit Bhanot’s son was refused his driver’s license yesterday.India has become as clean as Singapore!’
‘Yes. And how many people has that helped? All the millions of workers employed again and again to waste money on filling potholes have lost their jobs. All the middle men have lost their daily bread. No one even wants the once highly sought-after job of a Government Department Peon anymore.’
‘But we have almost 100% literacy thanks to our new Government schools system,’ Anna protested.
‘But how many school children did not get into college because of abolishing donation? Car sales have dropped because people actually fail driving tests-there is not a single car in the entire city of Delhi! No one wants to join politics- Not even the lower-castes! ‘
‘But prices have fallen…’ Anna pointed out weakly.
‘Yes, all prices have fallen. Property prices, gold prices, stock markets. No black money, so there is no money. But you know what? That is not even the tip of the iceberg. There is more-and its much worse…’
‘What worse? You haven’t pointed out that red tape is cut down. Any firm can get approval in 3 days! Modi’s slogan of ‘teen din bijiness in‘ has really worked…’
Bapu looked even more pained as if he hated having to be the one to tell Anna the truth. ‘No, son. That was the final straw. You robbed the country of its very spirit-the competitive advantage that put us on the world map. You broke India’s ethos of ‘jugaad‘- of getting what you want by hook or crook. In your new clean and transparent system, jugaad was redundant and we lost our competitive spirit. And then you made it so easy for foreignors to start their companies here, sell their goods, take-over our businesses.’
Anna was silent. He knew that the ‘India’ story was dead and gone, but he never thought that he was the reason behind it. Now he knew why Afganisthan and the new Arabian Union with their teething problems of corrupt fledging democracies were the new growth centers of the world.
The Mahatma smiled once more. Frankly he was beginning to irritate Anna. ‘Did you see the Dark Knight?’
Anna stared at him incredulously. Surely this Atma of the Mahatma had gone crazy. Another parallel thought came to his brain ‘They let us watch phoren films here. He Ram! This was certainly hell.’
‘The Dark Knight had a dialogue. Either you die a hero or you live long enough to see yourself being made a villian.’
The Mahatma put a comforting arm around him and smiled more happily. ‘And we-the atmas of mahatmas…we get to do both!’
Disclaimer: The author is staunchly opposed to corruption and lauds Anna Hazare’s ideals. Its just her quirky take on current events. In case this post offended you, I plead asylum on the island of in-between.