Shape of things to come

How would we pay our respects to all our Presidents, PMs and other national leaders after 250 years of Independence?

After decades of Independence, India is struggling to pay homage to its freedom fighters, netas, former Presidents and Prime Ministers. Their names are relentlessly repeated on Doordarshan, in lectures, posters, ceremonies, awards and memorials.

I imagined what it would be like after 250 years of Independence. By then we would have had around 50 Presidents, an equal number of PMs and an unaccountable number of national and regional leaders. How would we “remember” and pay our respects to all of them?

First of all Doordarshan (if it doesn’t come under the extinct species list by then) would have come out with special news bulletins called “anniversary specials” – just to announce the birth and death anniversaries of great leaders and to show the long queue of VVIPs paying homage to them at their memorials.

With the number of serials, films and documentaries on the lives of leaders increasing in geometrical proportions, by then a special 24 hour “homage channel” would have started. Soap operas, chat shows, quizzes and telefilms on Indian legends galore. This would be the world’s first and only channel on biographies.

The big screen can’t be left far behind. Hence parallel awards for movies dealing with the life and times of netas. The name of the award? Patriot Award.

The response would be overwhelming with everyone wanting to prove his or her loyalty. The highest award of the Patriot film show, the Richard Attenborough Award, would start with Gandhi.

What about other awards? Today we have the Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding, the Indira Gandhi Award for Peace, the Rajiv Sadbhavna Award… By then there would be an award named after every hero who walked the Indian soil. The list of never-ending awards would be an encouragement for the ever-growing population.

We now have the international year of something. Then it would be “the national year of someone.” Every year, then, would be a jubilee, centenary or bi-centenary of either the birth or death anniversary of one of our leaders.

With years being booked, days wouldn’t be left far behind. We have Martyrs’ Day after the Mahatma, Children’s Day after Nehru, Teachers’ Day after Radhakrishnan and so on. The year 2200 would have all 365 days named.

The rage would then be for renaming towns and streets. How about living on Rajiv Avenue of Indiranagar in Nehru City with a Gandhi airport in the vicinity? It would kill many birds with one stone.

Stamp and coin makers would refuse to be outdone and pursue designing creations for all leaders with great enthusiasm. India would end up a philatelist’s Mecca and a numismatist’s delight.

We have plenty of national and restricted holidays with new ones being added, mostly in the form of Jayantis. (It all started with Gandhi Jayanti) The diary of 2200 would mention a “list of working days” instead of holidays. With the right number of bandhs, there could be holiday years. Not much change in the nation’s progress, as hardly anyone works in the first place.

Raj Ghat is dedicated to the Mahatma. Shanti Van to Nehru. Vijay Ghat to Shastri. Shakti Sthal to Indira… By then a new city would be built to facilitate all the memorials. The twin city of New Delhi would be Samadhinagar. It would be a huge city if the relatives and descendants of the honoured lived there. With the passage of time, statehood would also be granted to Samadhinagar.

The Special Protection Group was formed to protect the PM. Then its cover was extended conditionally to former PMs and their families. By then it would end up unconditionally protecting the families of all former Presidents and PMs. Thus India would have a parallel SPG Army.

What else?

For students in all exams a paper,
on Gandhi, Nehru or Savarkar,
Debates, ceremonies and competitions,
on heroes of all revolutions,
Election posters with photos of all
in the size of a wall.
For every leader institutions
on their lives, experts and exhibitions,
In every town at every corner,
a statue of a freedom fighter.
All this and much much more,
the Indian future has in store…

(This article appeared in the November 1994 issue of Alive magazine)