Nothing is everything

It’s the longest gap that I’ve had between two posts.
Did you even miss me? No, na?
Would you have been this silent had your favourite soap on TV gone off air?
Or had your morning newspaper not been delivered one morning?
Or had you got no pokes on your Facebook for a full 20 minutes?
Or, got no new Tweets for 18 long seconds?
No na? Such is life.

Since you aren’t going to ask, let me tell you why this delay.

I have been busy.

I swear. Don’t laugh. That’s rude, okay.
Of course, I too can get busy. Having nothing to do and lots to think, does qualify technically as being ‘Busy’.

It’s not easy to be doing nothing. It takes a lot of effort.
If you don’t believe me, just go stand on any Indian road, doing nothing. You will be turned into a single-window Enquiry Counter in no time.

“Saar, what is time?” (This, even if you are not wearing a watch and he’s wearing one.)

“Uncle, will this bus go to Nanavati Hospital?” (“I don’t know. But if you call me uncle one more time, I’ll personally get you admitted there. That’s for sure.”)

“Echuche me, any idea what score?” (You say: “40 for 3.” He says: “That was last over. I heard 42 for 5 with one ball to go.” See how they now expect ball by ball update?)

“Have you seen rains like this before?” (These are the worst kinds. A smile as response is not acceptable. Neither is an honest reply. They are looking to start a full-fledged conversation. The only way out is to stop standing there and start walking.)

I told you. The world won’t let you do nothing. My wife’s no exception.
She was this month’s host for that ‘Husband-earns-I-spend’ group’s kitty. (Don’t ask me how she qualifies for that group. Pity, she does.)
She came to me and said: “They asked me to hire a professional to do the theme and invite for the kitty. I blasted them. I asked them what they meant by ‘hire a professional’. I am married to the best one, I told them.”
One can never be modest about undeserving compliments. So, I agreed with her.
“You wouldn’t be out of touch, would you?” she asked.
Such questions have only one answer, and are like one-way streets. No coming back.
“Of course, not.” I said. “Creativity is like cycling or swimming. Once you’ve learnt it, there’s no forgetting it.”
(The worst traps in life are those that you walk into, fully aware.)
“That’s exactly what I told them!” she said and left.
(That’s the trapdoor shutting after me.)
Unlike chefs who have recipes and ingredients in front of them, and unlike manufacturers who have the know-where of raw materials and the know-how of processes, creative people have nothing but a blank slate, paper, canvass or screen in front of them. All they can do is sit there and wait, hoping that something will drop into their heads, from somewhere.
Isn’t it a scary proposition? Millions and millions on which the world economy rides, come from this rather unscientific phenomenon of ideation.
Horrific, isn’t it?
For 3 days, I sat in front of various blank formats, waiting for an idea. Nothing fell from anywhere into anything. Two years is a long time to reboot the left brain.
But thankfully, I remembered the Golden rule for those groping for creativity: Never panic.
It’s like entering a dark cinema hall. If you panic, you are bound to stumble against furniture and land on the lap of the grumpiest hulk in the hall. But if you stay clam and wait, you will soon start seeing enough to choose a better lap.
In my case, it was the work that I had done for an Old Age Home many years ago. I reproduced that.
It became a runaway hit among the wives. “So apt, so relatable, so us! Will your husband do it for our kitties too?” they asked.
The trapdoor, again.
Now that my ‘creativity’ went public, the most dreaded thing happened. Work followed.
For the first time in my life, I had to organise and attend the Society’s Independence Day function. What does one do?
Bankrupt of ideas, I got my second son dressed up like- well, who else?- Chacha Nehru, the easiest leader to clone. I asked him to download and deliver Nehru’s ‘Tryst with destiny’ speech.
That fateful morning after the flag went up limply and dropped to a sudden half-mast ominously, my son went up for his famous speech.
To my horror, he began with “The light has gone out of our lives and there’s darkness everywhere…” instead of “…At the stroke of the midnight hour, when the world sleeps, India will awake to life and freedom…”
Gosh! What does one do?
He had downloaded the wrong speech. This was Nehru’s speech on Gandhi’s death.
Worry was, it sounded so much more relevant than the relevant one.
People awoke. They looked at me as if I had killed Gandhi.
I looked away forcing myself to smile and enjoy the disaster. (Laughter Club learnings.)
It works. Because a troubled mind can only question. A calm mind always answers.
It did.
My son finished, and I rose before anybody else could.
“Ladies and gentlemen, the death he was referring to is of Honesty. The darkness, is the corruption that has enveloped us. The hope, is Anna!”
I saw the society’s biggest thug get up and yell; “Anna Hazare Zindabad!” Everyone joined in. There was a new vigour. It was almost as if he who shouts the loudest would be crowned the least corrupt.
“Gandhi Zindabad!” rent the air. Followed by, “Nehru Zindabad!”
Someone shouted, “Mohit Zindabad!” Soon, “Rameshji Zindabad!”
I think people love hysteria.
However, even in all this din that noise was unmissable: Tup!
The loudest thus far.
As expected, within days I was approached by the Society’s Managing Committee. The plan was to organise a protest in support of Anna.
I was asked to lead it.
“It will be a fast-unto-death protest!” they thundered proudly.
“There will be three others with you, Rameshji!” I was assured.
How reassuring!
Make it ornate and hydraulic, and the Tup might become a Tush, but a trapdoor remains a trapdoor.
Next day at 10 a.m., I finished a meal for five at one go, and got ready. Only when I saw the other three did I realise how big a trap this was. My co-Satyagrahis were: Abdul, who was fasting for his Ramzan; Shruti, who was observing her Shravan Vrat; and Joseph, at 125 kg had half my mass as just reserve, and was there because his dietician had asked him to.
Do you know what the most difficult thing about hunger is? Seeing others eat. I had to sit there and watch McDonald’s and Domino’s delivery boys go in with hot parcels. Worse, I had to watch people come and cheer with wafer packets in hand. And also, keep waving at them.
The real tipping point for me was when I saw the ones who mooted the idea go about their daily business, and come in the evenings to make fiery speeches.
One of them proudly claims to run a Zero-Tax company. The other has encroached and taken common areas of the society into his flat. Another one employs a 10-year-old as domestic help.
That did it for me. It helped me come to a verdict on the Civil Society vs The Government battle.
Yes, I hate this Government. But, I fear the Civil Society.
However corrupt, however inefficient, it is this system of ours that has helped us celebrate Democracy for the 64th time, this year.
Civil movements are good for rebellion. Not for governance.
To govern a plural society like ours, we need power-brokers, big-game players, shameless politicians.
I am not condoning corruption or justifying its existence. I think the way to rid our nation of corruption is not by starting to clean up the Parliament. But by starting at the bottom. Our home. Our minds. That’s where the real problem lies.
Look around, most of us are basically politicians who haven’t got our big opportunity to steal, yet. Don’t ask me how to clean up the minds of 1.2 billion people.
But it definitely is not by choosing a man who was planning to do nothing- not even write a new post in his blog- to fast and become the local Anna.
Ask me personally and I’d any day say: Let corruption be. Allow them to become billionaires.
After all, history tells us that it’s always the richest, the most powerful, the most immoral that have ruled the masses. History judges rulers by just two simple yardsticks: Did they do good for their subjects? Were they good protectors, developers; and not destroyers?
In my priority list for the Government, Corruption comes very low.
The list topper is starvation.
How can we ever tolerate this society or this Government, when every day there are thousands dying of starvation?
Lokpal is not going to solve that. And don’t tell me in a convoluted way that it is the starting point for all the good things.
Maybe it’s the fasting that made me delirious and think such thoughts.
But I was reminded of what Bharatiyar said in Tamil: If there’s no food even for one person, let us destroy this world!
I agree. I had to. The growl was getting unbearable.
I must confess that I had McDonald’s burgers hidden in my pockets which I ate stealthily to survive. After all, diamonds cut diamonds. So, a little corruption to defeat the bigger corruption isn’t bad. Is it?
Don’t bother answering. The good news has come: Anna has broken the fast!
The whole country is celebrating. There’s new hope everywhere. So nice.
My society has already nominated me as their official representative for all future protests by Anna.

See what I meant? It’s the people who have nothing to do that are called upon to save the nation, ultimately.


4 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Kausalya Govindarajan on September 17, 2011 at 5:10 pm

    hi ramesh, a good piece. I too keep wondering if a lokpal bill is going to change anything in this country. The only good thing that has happened is that the Govt has realised that they cannot ignore the voice of the people.



    • The Government is lucky. The original revolutionaries who could have really forced some change have all settled down as busy, working housewives. And idle, blog writers. 🙂


  2. Thanks for finding time to put fingers on the keyboard (can’t say pen to paper in today’s world) Remember a famous dialogue from Trishul where an fired from work employee Rakhee tells Amitabh on her non-employed status, “Jo logo kuch nahi karte woh Kamaal karte hai> Aaaj kal main bhi wahi kar rahi hoon”. Must admit that you are doing Kamaal these days. Afterall inspiring people with gems like these is nothing short of inspiration. I think you should make this blog a charged service. I’ll pay you your guru-dakshina gladly.


    • TUP! That’s one big trapdoor shutting behind you, Kumar. Your bill has been dispatched. (EMI options available.) Remember, by paying up you’d be helping create history. Together we’d have shown the world how to monetise “Nothing” 🙂


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