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Annus horribilis

columns Updated: Dec 28, 2011 14:22 IST
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Why is Indian politics so depressing and disillusioning? And why is it so repetitive? We seem to ceaselessly hurtle from controversy to crisis, from drama to debacle and from hysteria to histrionics, but all the while the stories doggedly stay the same. It's like a wretched record that keeps playing over and over again, except each time it sounds more shrill and more raucous.

Frankly, I can't bear the prospect of the lokpal issue dominating our lives yet again. It's not that I don't want a strong lokpal. It's not that I don't admire the conviction and determination of Team Anna in fighting for one. And, like you, I'm grateful to them for making corruption a front rank issue. But the thought of having to live with the same high decibel disputes that we experienced in April and August, with angry protests at Ramlila and screaming debates on television, with all that passion, anger and anguish, isn't easy to accept. The world ought to move on. Ours goes round and round in tiresome circles.

The lokpal issue has been alight since April. Why is it that even after eight months we cannot douse the flames? Why is it that our politics cannot find a solution that is acceptable to everyone? Are we that divided that we have no common ground among us? Or are we so obstinate that we cannot compromise with each other?

Sometimes, I feel we wait for a crisis to become a drama, we wait for a dispute to become a debacle, before we find the will or the sagacity to sort it out. Only at the brink does wisdom or caution dawn. Isn't that how we tackled the FDI in retail mess? Or the demand for a JPC? Or the handling of Anna in August?

Looking back, who can deny that 2011 has been a particularly bad year. Not just because so much has gone so badly wrong, but also because it's happened after a few sustained years of hope and, even, progress. Consequently, this time the dismay and disappointment is sharper and more painful.

Today, as a result, I can't help feel India is a demoralised country. Our hearts are weary, our brows furrowed, our hopes dashed while the future - or the forecast, if that's your preference - seems bleak. We're not marching out of 2011 so much as slinking and scurrying round the corner. And this also means we won't enter the new year erect and unbowed but with our heads hurting and our morale low.

The sad truth is that the biggest casualty is our belief in ourselves. This is more than self-esteem, it's more than optimism and confidence, it's more than national spirit. Quite simply, the hope that makes us believe tomorrow will be better and the day after even more so is dented.

Of course, flagging spirits can revive, a flickering flame can again glow brightly, but this rarely happens on its own. Someone needs to light the path, dispel the darkness or just hold out a hand. But who?

Look around and be honest - do you see a credible saviour in the crowd? Is there a single person you might willingly place your faith in? A clear voice you want to heed? Or an example you feel ready to follow?

If your answer is yes you are truly lucky. Mine is a sorrowful no and I fear that's true of most of us.

Views expressed by the author are personal