For the last couple of days, I’ve been reading all over Facebook about how people are being gagged by the government.
The internet in general and Facebook in particular are my link with the real world. I sit in a corner, in my end-of-the-road house in a non-descript village, surrounded by jungle, away from sand, surf and tourists. Post after post tells me India’s being gagged. I narrow my search in the newspaper for ‘public transport’ and ‘garbage’ headlines, my areas of interest these days. No gagging of voices anywhere. Taxi-drivers/owners and passengers are both cribbing loud and clear. As are locals and tourists alike, regarding disposal of plastic bags, sanitary napkins, biscuit-wrappers, banana peels, half-eaten wada-paavs, etc.
The gagging business has got me curious. Familiar faces shout out of my television screen in decibels whose vibrations scared away the two-metre monitor lizard that was sunning itself in our compound last week. Those voices have been unchanged for years and unchanging in their ways, ruled by the advertisers, day after day, 24-hours/day. To switch channels, one has to choose between insane yelling, vigorous hyperventilation and boredom, with program-repeats every couple of hours. Methinks, some form of gagging would be a good idea.
I read some old opinions on military affairs in Kashmir and naxal-territory written by a novelist. Was impressed. The author should pronto be made a starred general. Those who do professional courses and put themselves at risk on crazy heights in miserable weather are wasting their time. All they need to do is check with her how to sort out complicated political stuff and convince the powers that rule, and the powers that divide, and some violence-happy guys, and make peace prevail. She hasn’t written for a while. If she’s been gagged, she should be un-gagged immediately. In a democracy, all PoVs should be heard, even absurd/irresponsible ones.
I hear friends discuss how such-and-such politician hasn’t kept his/her word and is so-o corrupt. That’s what politicians do. And no one’s being gagged (in India) for saying so…yet. And no one’s discovered (anywhere) a method to gag a politician…yet.
Over the phone two acquaintances from Delhi tell me about the happenings in JNU: one says the government has no business to stifle students’ voices, the other says students should get involved in politics after their studying years are over. This is life in a free country, everyone voicing contra-views. Gagging will kill that charm.
An ex-colleague from the hotel industry tells me how putrid the health care industry is. Medical professionals say a few greedy ones are giving them all a bad name. Builders/industrialists say you can’t stop progress; environmentalists say you mustn’t destroy the earth. Such a cacophony. When irritated, I feel, gag ‘em all.
Parents say dilute the school syllabi; the government says fail nobody, and when the school-children become young adults, they don’t get jobs because they don’t have skills. So many people complaining, so many complaints. More the merrier. Complaining is our birth-right. In calmer moments, I feel, gagging will destroy this national pastime.
Actually, when I began doing homework about gagging, what should or not be gagged, I was expecting reporters, anchors, people around me to feel nauseated, be throwing up. Because gagging is what happens when an ENT surgeon shoves a spatula into my mouth to depress my tongue or a dentist opens my mouth wide and wider until my insides protest with a couple of unexpected, involuntary, violent consecutive jerks. (Doctors/dentists/nurses dealing with the likes of me get nightmares: of that another time.)
Gagging is what I did as a child… when the thin cream that happened on the surface of cooling coffee/tea got inadvertently swallowed.
Gagging is one reflex that recognizes whether a patient is unconscious or dead. And the health of Freedom in a nation.
Nowadays, everyone in Delhi-Gurgaon is wearing masks and keeping windows closed. Some are not daring to even do pranayama in case they inhale too much of that dense fog of smoke and grime.
When I listen to what’s making everyone wheeze and choke there, what makes me gag is the question “What has the government done?” We all know the government is irresponsible. It’s been like that for almost 67 years, nothing new about that.
What makes me gag is that no one’s asking us citizens what we have done to reduce the pollution that’s causing everybody to cough and gasp. I don’t hear anyone insisting on having comfortable and reliable buses so that they don’t have to use cars. Or bicycle-tracks. My point: want single-use cars? Want multiple cars per family? Then learn to gag. The air clogs poor lungs, rich lungs, middle-class lungs, healthy lungs, ill lungs, domiciled lungs and lungs passing through. Masked and yet-to-be masked nostrils means a lot of money to be made for certain manufacturers. India’s on the move. A trillion-trillion masks to make. A billion-plus of us are ready to pollute, and in all parts of India, too. I don’t hear anyone volunteering to stop or reduce using air-conditioning, or burning crackers/sparklers.
Using wood for cremating the dead adds to the smoke. Electrical burning pollutes less. Do we insist on the latter? Nah, tradition is more important, gagging be damned.
Burning in the fields in another, major, problem. But not the only one.
We’ll soon have packaged air. Some years ago we thought bottled water was not possible. More packaging, more plastic in the gutters, more burning of garbage, more fumes, more gagging. Some guru will invent and broadcast the gag-pranayama on tv. And we’ll have families/schools doing this together: “on-the-gag, get-set, breathe”.
The media says: “The government must do something.” We have our rights, the government has the responsibility.
To me the biggest gag moment of all is hearing a fellow countryman do ‘khaak thoo’.
India has the distinction of being the only country in the world that has a problem with disposal of spit. Any ideas how we can deal with it? Want to start a Gaggers’ Group?