Modi Sarkar has been texting me about the importance of yoga for the past three days, urging me to perform it.
Yet, I want to confess I didn’t take to the mat on Sunday as part of the International Yoga Day celebrations.
Here are five questions for which I was unable to find answers and, hence, refrained from participating in any Yoga Day event.
Will I emerge healthier in a day?
“Rejuvenate with yoga: It enriches the consciousness and makes one alert, aware and active,” said Saturday’s SMS from the ministry of Ayush or Ayurveda, Yoga and Naturopathy, Unani, Siddha and Homoeopathy.
By sending the message at 6.24am, the government perhaps wished that having woken up, I would head straight to perform my asanas, and after stretching my limbs and chanting ‘Om’, I would emerge a better human being – all in a few hours.
But my intuition told me that since I don’t practice yoga regularly, I won’t emerge healthier in just a day.
Perhaps a government drive to make people health conscious though a series of events – which are not related only to yoga – can truly improve the health of people like me.
What purpose will it serve other than being a massive PR drive for the government?
So, since I will not emerge any healthier just by exercising on a day chosen by my government, then perhaps, I should ask if the day’s observance will serve any other greater purpose.
Will millions of people – including students, government officials and soldiers – rolling out yoga mats and performing asanas provide any solution to scores of issues which afflict the country?
“Will the Yoga Day celebrations remove poverty, hunger or malnutrition rampant in the country?” a bookstore owner near Delhi’s Jama Masjid had asked me recently.
Therefore, I felt no pressing need to be part of the mega celebrations on Sunday.
Why this ‘Day’ only?
Talking of issues far more important than yoga, one will be surprised to find that the United Nations has listed more than 130 “Days”, one of which is the International Day of Yoga on June 21.
These “Days” range from International Day of Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation to the International Day for Preventing the Exploitation of the Environment in War and Armed Conflict – including almost any issue under the sun that one can think of.
In June alone, there are 18 such “Days”, some of which are the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought (June 17) and the World Day against Child Labour (June 12).
Child labour and desertification of large parts of states such as Rajasthan are actually major issues for the country. If we chose to celebrate the International Yoga Day with such pomp and splendour, shouldn’t the government take up the other “Days” for celebration as well?
For example, on June 12, we could have organised a massive drive to trace families that employ children from poor families as domestic help.
There are political undercurrents, isn’t it?
If someone says that there is no political undercurrent in this massive push by the NDA government to celebrate the Yoga Day across the world, then I feel his knowledge of politics is challenged.
As Pratap Bhanu Mehta, director of the Centre for Policy Research in New Delhi, wrote in a recent article in Open magazine, “…when Narendra Modi does yoga with Baba Ramdev, it will be a reprisal of an old trope: the king projecting power through his yogic mastery, blessed by yoga masters.”
There was a political element when a controversial BJP MP, who coincidentally uses the title of Yogi (yoga master), said people who are opposed to yoga should leave the country or drown themselves in the ocean. Similarly, there was a political motive behind certain Muslim groups trying to portray the event as the foisting of the Hindu right’s agendas. There is a definite political connotation when leaders from the Hindu right say, “Hey! So many Muslim nations are celebrating the Day, why will Indian Muslims have any problem?”
Should I allow the state to dictate what’s best for my health?
The final question. If I allow the state to dictate what’s best for my health today, then why should I complain if it tells me tomorrow which films I should watch?
Maybe, day after tomorrow, it will tell me which websites I should visit. Then, gradually, which books I should read and what I should wear.
Isn’t my fitness a matter of personal choice? Or is it something which can be manipulated to further the agendas of political parties?
(The views expressed by the writer are personal. He tweets as @saha_abhi1990)
Full coverage: International Yoga Day