A volunteer meeting was organized by ‘India Against Corruption’ on the 27th of March 2010.
We’d come to know about this campaign spearheaded by Anna Hazare, through SMSes forwarded to us - which we were asked to send on to others if we supported the causes espoused in the campaign.
As we arrived for the meeting, slightly apprehensive about being half an hour late and not knowing what to expect, the sight of four college students walking up to the gate, and of two ladies who alighted from an auto-rickshaw looking for the same address, reassured us.
We walked into the premises, our architectural training as usual manifesting itself in a quick appraisal of the building. Clad in buff and red sandstone, its proportions were pleasant; the entrance doorway to the building was clearly marked out without being intimidating; the windows in reflective glass, past the side entrance that we were directed to, were neat and rhythmic. The fact that the meeting was being held here and not in the supercilious glass-boxes that pass for so much of contemporary architecture, seemed to us appropriate.
Our pace unconsciously quickened, as walking past the building and up the stairs, we heard the sound of someone speaking forcefully. Kiran Bedi? On the first floor, in a packed conference hall, we saw it was a young girl, head covered in a green chunni, kurta and jean-clad. We stood at the back, wondering how much of the discussion we’d already missed, indescribably glad that there were so many people there that we had to stand.
The energy and enthusiasm in the room was something we have never experienced. It became evident that we had come at the end of the first part of the meeting in which people had been talking about what they had personally gone through, the menace of corruption, the absolute necessity of doing something – letting off steam and gathering momentum as it were. Now it was time for ideas about how to do that something.
“Idealogy ki bahut baat ho gayee, ab ideas ki baat karein”, as the girl – who one of the older gentlemen present called ‘a Lakshmibai of today’ – said.
And ideas poured in– both for and against jamming the roads of Delhi and the NCR akin to the Jat Campaigners, to forming human chains, doing street-plays, fasting at homes, at Jantar Mantar, distributing pamphlets, speaking to people in buses, metros, local trains, resident associations, sending chain-emails, door-to-door campaigns. From an autorickshaw driver, from retired army officers and ex-servicemen groups, from a librarian, from college students, union leaders, Art of Living practitioners, teachers, even serving government officials - not just from Delhi and around but from Haryana, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Maharashtra. And it seemed to us, that this was truly another Freedom Struggle. The will of the people there; the complete commitment and confidence with which the young leaders channelized the concentrated and sometimes divergent outburst of feelings; the fact that so many people of such diverse backgrounds had gathered there as Indians who cared enough about what was happening to their country, is something that will always remain with us.
We fasted on the 5th of April. And again on the 7th. It was not easy, and we can better appreciate what it must be for Anna Hazare to go on a continuous fast while being in the public eye. We feel blessed that we have at least one person like him who can give direction and inspiration to us when so many of our so-called leaders and public figures do nothing but shame us and the idea of our nation. We hope to be able to go to the Jantar Mantar Road to express our solidarity with Anna Hazare and with the extraordinary courage and unity of so many Indians there and elsewhere in the country, who give us reason to be proud and hopeful for today and tomorrow.