Oct 2, 2010
It was not a perfect Saturday evening plan as a lot of my friends and colleagues would agree. But guilt (of repeatedly seeing Krishna’s email invites and not being able to contribute/attend) got the better of me this time around. Fate helped as work was lean. So, I walked into the PCGT office at Mahalaxmi Chambers.
An A4 sized paper stuck on the door with ‘Discussion on Constitution and Citizenship’ scribbled on it welcomed me. Initially, the attendance (or the lack of it) struck me. “Indian Stretchable Time,” remarked Krishna.
After a brief introduction, we began.
“Have you ever seen the Constitution of India?” asked Vinita Singh, co-host there. No, my mind angrily shouted within. I mellowed it down to the gathering there. However, the turmoil remained, ‘How could I not have read, what is effectively, the contractual document between me and the Government of India and all its arms?’.
With the time passing, the audience grew. The banter grew. Number of queries grew. Most importantly, the quality of our discourse grew. (Numerous cups of tea and hot batata wadas also helped, I admit)
As an individual citizen, one often feels alone whenever we see a wrong happening. Paucity of time, preoccupation with our goals and the brutal grind of life in general often takes us away from what we are expected to do, as citizens. But still there are people out there who have created a difference.
Like Mr. Murli Deora, who did not like being subjected to passive smoking in public places and thus knocked the court’s door. It resulted in the ban on smoking in public places. So the next time you breathe clean air inside the train or at a bus stop, you know how it was brought about. Then there was Mr. Katara, who read a news report where a person injured in an accident died because hospitals in that city refused to admit him and kept referring him to ‘other hospital.’ He too fought and today, no hospital can refuse anyone who has come in with an accident injury. The commonality in both these landmark changes has been the sensible use of the Indian Constitution by its citizens.
Many of you might have already known these stories; I didn’t. I was inspired and I today feel empowered.
By the way, there were hardly ten chairs which were placed in that room. Perhaps the organisers knew how the public responds. Well, they were not off the mark as a few seats remained vacant even when the attendance peaked. When I walked out from there, however, it came to my mind what Andrew Jackson once said, “One man with courage makes a majority.”