‘‘ Rau mein hai rakhsh-e-umr kahaan dekhiye thame
Nai haath baag par hai, na paa hai rakaab mein.”
The great Urdu poet Mirza Ghalib’s above sher (couplet ) quintessentially reflects the historical situation in India and Pakistan today. Let me explain the above sher.
‘Rau’ means speed, ‘rakhsh ‘ means horse, ‘umr’ means time (it also means life, but here it means time or era ), ‘baag’ means ‘rein’ (of a horse), and ‘rakaab’ means stirrup.
Hence the above sher means :
“The horse of the times is on the gallop
Let us see where it stops
The rider has neither the rein in his hands
Nor the stirrup in his feet.”
In other words, events are taking place fast, and everything seems out of control.
Ghalib was probably writing of the happenings at the time of the Great Mutiny of 1857 when events took place at a galloping pace. But the beauty of Ghalib’s poetry (as also of much of other Urdu poetry ) is that it is often universal in time and place.
Today in India and Pakistan the pace of history has speeded up. Events are taking place more and more rapidly, and one wonders where all this will end.
An event occurs which catches the highlight in the media for a few days or a few weeks, and then disappears, only to be replaced by another event which too catches the highlight for some time, but thereafter disappears, to be replaced by yet another. Such events are like meteors which flash across the sky for a few moments, and then disappear.
Some time back there was the farmers agitation in India which caught the public eye for a couple of months, and then disappeared.
Of late, we may refer to Rahul Gandhi’s Bharat Jodo Yatra, the movie Pathan, the purchase of NDTV channel by the Indian tycoon Gautam Adani ( who owns several ports, airports, mines, electricity generation plants, etc ) and Adani’s subsequent exposure of his underhand dealings by Hindenburg Research, the BBC’s commentary on Narendra Modi‘s role in the Gujarat killings of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002, the arrest of Manish Sisodia, Delhi’s Deputy Chief Minister by India’s Central Bureau of Investigation in connection with the liquorgate scam, renaming of towns, roads and places like Moghul Gardens ( to wipe out traces of alleged Muslim tyranny in India ), the new Khalistan movement in Punjab headed by the radical Amritpal Singh, etc
In Pakistan one may refer to the collapse of the economy, the political turmoil, created after Imran Khan’s ouster as Prime Minister, etc
The situation is reminiscient of the pre-revolutionary period in England before 1642 when the Civil War commenced, in France before the 1789 Revolution, or in Russia before the Bolshevik Revolution of October 1917, where too events were occurring fast.
Below the surface, public anger is escalating due to high inflation, record and rising unemployment, etc. Although some people claim that India has a fast growing economy, one must further ask who is getting the fruits of this alleged growth, a handful of big businessmen or the Indian masses.
India slipped from position number 101 to 107 out of 121 countries surveyed by Global Hunger Index, and half of its children are malnutritioned, stunted and wasted.
In the media one sees scam after scam, often involving politicians who swear by the poor and disadvantaged sections of society.
Talleyrand said of the Bourbons (the French royal family ): “The Bourbons saw nothing, remembered nothing, and forgot nothing.” Most of the Indian and Pakistani politicians today are like the Bourbons. They do not see the public anger rising against them and reaching boiling point. They do not remember the fate of the Stuarts, the Bourbons, the Hapsburgs, and the Romanovs (if they have even heard of them, which is unlikely ). And all they think of is power and pelf, believing this will continue forever (as did the ill-fated dynasties mentioned above ).
Massive poverty, huge unemployment, skyrocketing prices, absence of healthcare for the poor people, farmer suicides, child malnutrition etc are all an explosive mixture. If the Bourbons do not wake up now (of which I presently see little likelihood ), a prolonged period of chaos and anarchy seems inevitable in the Indian subcontinent in the near, not distant, future. The horse of the times is galloping fast in that direction.