During the 2009 election campaign in some remote part of Uttar Pradesh, I noticed a frail but good-looking man sitting in the front rows, hearing a politician make an election speech.
The man was obviously very poor. But, his eyes conveyed hope. And that to me, both as a person and as a filmmaker, was quite intriguing.
After all, that wasn't the first time he was hearing a politician attempting to buy his vote after selling him dreams of a rosy future — promising to change his life forever.
He neither has bijli (electricity), nor enough paani (pure drinking water) and not even proper sadak (roads).
Still, this aam aadmi hasn't given up dreaming that one day, one fine day, that change will come, that someone is going to stand up and reward him for his patience, for his perseverance. He still believes in the politician. Listens intently to flowery speeches and when the netas fail to bring about the promised change in his life, he doesn't get cynical. Not yet.
So far, this man, listening intently to a politician yet again, somehow seems to have blamed himself for the mess in his life. He feels that probably it's a result of misdeeds in his previous birth. So he blames it on the fate and sleeps sans electricity after a hard day's work during which he travelled on back-breaking potholed roads (assuming there are roads!) and ran across dry taps.
This man and so many others have been living and dying in hope. How long?
TV has exposed him to the lives of the rich and the famous. He is seeing rich India flaunting its wealth.
And I suspect that when I come again to campaign during the 2012 assembly elections in UP, I might come across a touch of impatience and suppressed anger in the eyes of the people.
Perhaps we have tried his patience for far too long. And I have this feeling that unless the politician delivers now, this impatience and anger would spill out on the streets.
The ubiquitous aam aadmi may as well storm inside our homes, our malls, our five and seven star hotels and clubs to snatch what he may truly believe is his. Yes, the passive Indian might as well shed his timidity, stop cursing his fate and if that happens, God save us. Time to deliver.
Lucknow is Uttar Pradesh’s face. It is the show-window and the beautiful face, but the soul of Uttar Pradesh resides elsewhere. It resides in those underdeveloped villages, those electricity-starved towns where life has remained unchanged since India got its independence.
My 2009 experience shattered the illusion that India and Uttar Pradesh were heading towards better times. The blunt truth is that only a few of us - and those few may be in large numbers since India is a nation of 1.2 billion people (I am referring to the middle class and the upper middle class) - have benefited from the freedom of this country.
The political class - and I blame all the parties here - have collectively contributed to the situation. Unless the political class is graceful enough to accept this bitter truth without blaming the other, nothing can be done. But like filmmakers change their scripts to adapt to the changing mood of the people, I guess the politician too would be forced to change.
Politics of development
Why can't we talk of inclusive growth? And then make it a reality? Why can't brilliant minds from Uttar Pradesh serve their own people rather than go out to serve the rich?
We need people like Neelesh Mishra's (Bollywood lyricist) father Dr SB Mishra, a world class scientist who hails from UP and who came back to serve the people of the state. There must be a few others. We need so many more people like them.
The time is here now for the people of Uttar Pradesh to assert and say once and for all to the politicians: "We want the world and we want it now". Man lives and dies in hope. The time is for Uttar Pradesh to stop hoping for the better tomorrow and demand a great today. Enough is enough.
I believe in the Congress, for its ideology, I believe is the ideology of India, woven with secular fibre. I am not saying everything is correct in the party. There are several Congressmen who either don't know or don't care to know what the Congress value system is. But, still …