Passing Bite Society

A report from the future

Once the last few elements of the Nightmare Regime were ejected from power by the ballot box, what remained before the nation and the new government was the massive task of clean-up, the fumigation and detoxing from the deadly ideology that had so nearly destroyed the Republic. This was not something that could be achieved overnight, and if indeed it was to be done on a war-footing then that ‘war’, it was understood, would be a long struggle for a more equal society, starting from an education system which would stand the test of time generation after generation as it reached every child in the country and helped them grasp and internalise, among other things, the basics of rational science and history and the complete dismantling of the caste system.

Critical shift

As these processes were set in motion, the larger, centrally-controlled instruments of corruption were tackled first, leading to the removal of secret funding for political parties, the re-establishment of a robust independent judiciary, and the huge clean-up of the gravely damaged federal agencies and commissions. The separation of state and religion, with the weeding out of all religious bias from the business of the state, was urgently and critically required. This was one of the main challenges met not just by the new government but by the people as a whole.

As often happens with a huge and radical change, it wasn’t just the grotesque excesses and mistakes of the most recently deposed regime that needed dismantling but also the ingrained sins and bad tendencies of previous regimes. So, for example, apropos economic planning, the huge shift from blindly aiming for ‘growth’ to ‘contentment’ goals for the general population put the epitaph not only on the crazed crony capitalism of the last regime but also on the accepted economic wisdoms of several previous governments.

This went hand in hand with emergency-level efforts to stave off or reverse the several ecological/ environmental disasters facing the country.

It took a while for the burgeoning entrepreneurial sections to understand and trust that the movement to remove obscene inequality and place strict checks and restrictions to protect the environment didn’t equal some fanatical ‘Communist’ agenda but was, in fact, the pre-requisite for a balanced, reasonably peaceful and just society in which their businesses could thrive.

Cricket magic

Such was the toxic afterlife of the different kinds of destruction the Nightmare Regime had wreaked that people felt its effects for many years after the Regime had ceded power. One of the main challenges facing the country was how to deal with the supporters of the Regime and its infamous ideology. Support for the Regime had withered, especially in the last five years of its rule, but there was still a sizeable number of believers and hangers-on, angry and disillusioned, who were unable or unwilling to give up the lies and myths they had been fed by their leaders. Given the principles of the new Republic people wanted to forge, there was no choice but to try and bring these bitter and disappointed ones back into the fold of a secular, egalitarian society.

Oddly enough, one of the major ways this process of assimilation began was through cricket, specifically the renaming of several major stadiums in the country. Most of the Regime supporters were also serious cricket fans. Once every State cricket board began to follow the policy of removing names and statues of political leaders from the stadiums, a different kind of message began to trickle into the wider consciousness. The team was India, which was greater than any political figure and separate from them; the area of sport belonged to sportspeople and spectators; politicians and political hero-creation were not welcome to piggyback on this.

A few years after the end of the Dark Period, a five-Test tour by Australia had a schedule that read: 1st Test, Mumbai/ Bombay — Sunil Gavaskar Stadium (formerly Brabourne), 2nd Test, Delhi — Bishan Singh Bedi Stadium (formerly Kotla), 3rd Test, Bengaluru/ Bangalore — Rahul Dravid Arena (formerly Chinnaswamy), 4th Test Ahmedabad — Vinoo Mankad Stadium (formerly Motera/ Modi), 5th Test, Kolkata/ Calcutta — Eden Gardens (a couple of iconic venues such as Eden and Green Park retained their old names). ODI games with Bombay and Bangalore were repeated but at the alternate venues of the Sachin Tendulkar Stadium (Wankhede) and the brand new G.R. Vishwanath Stadium.

Along with the renaming of stadiums went the dismantling of grandiose, over-sized statues, the cessation and redirecting of the money and energy from vanity projects such as bullet trains and ugly secretariat buildings. As things became more transparent, as decision-making processes became more inclusive, a different atmosphere was collectively created in the country. It was then observed that things both big and small, both obvious and seemingly obscure, all fed into the larger detoxification process.

Ruchir Joshi is a filmmaker and columnist.

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Printable version | Apr 16, 2021 5:16:30 PM |

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