While the adrenalin is still pumping, here are a few thoughts and memories of the last few days.
There are many issues in Indian Civil Society that bug the hell out of me. Corruption ranks high on that list, with Poverty and Uncleanliness. I had never heard of Anna Hazare before. Nor of the Lok Janpal Bill. When I read headlines a couple of days back how he was going on an indefinite fast for the passing of the Jan Lokpal bill. I was in awe. I asked around and was explained what an icon that man is. Built not of skin and bones, this man is made of Principles and Values.
There had to be something that I can do to support his movement. I was smsed the following day by Dr. Mateen that there is a meeting of India Against Corruption at new park, Freedom Park. Freedom Park? Where’s that. No one has heard of Freedom Park. Well, pretty soon, the World got to know about it. The Old Central Jail in Bangalore, was where Freedom Fighters were jailed during the British Occupation. Keeping a lot of the same infrastructure, the jail is now converted to Freedom Park.
Me and Ali headed to Freedom Park on Wednesday evening. There I saw a handful of individuals sitting on stage, who have taken the pledge to fast indefinitely till the Jan Lokpal be passed. Who were these people. Gandhi is a simple Yoga Teacher. A couple are the regular Bangalore Techies. Yet another an entrepreneur. Here were people with regular jobs and families, and were willing to put it all aside. Why? So that justice takes place. Gosh this is what the Quran has been teaching me for the last 1,400 years!
Quran about Bribery and Justice
2:188 And do not consume one another’s wealth unjustly or send it [in bribery] to the rulers in order that [they might aid] you [to] consume a portion of the wealth of the people in sin, while you know [it is unlawful].
5:8 O you who believe! Be upright for Allah,bearers of witness with justice,
4:75 [Shakir 4:75] And what reason have you that you should not fight in the way of Allah and of the weak among the men and the women and the children, (of) those who say: Our Lord! cause us to go forth from this town, whose people are oppressors, and give us from Thee a guardian and give us from Thee a helper.
Corruption and it’s Victims
God, is asking me “Arif, what reason have you that you should not fight in the way of Allah (SWT).” Fight against who? Against oppressors. Those who are usurping the rights of the weak. You want to know what Jihad is. This is Jihad. It’s stand in the face of the Oppressor and till him that he is wrong. That he is an oppressor. And we are going to do what it takes to stop him. What is corruption? It’s when those in Position abuse their Power to extort those weaker than them to submit to their demands. Want to know how bad corruption has gotten in India? Here are live cases, people who have told this who have experienced this first-hand or almost first-hand:
– Women who stay in Bangalore Slums, when they have to go have their babies delivered, they have to pay a bribe to the Government Hospitals so that they can give birth. Once the baby is born, they have to pay an additional bribe to see the face of their baby. The bribe is higher, if it’s a boy.
– If your home/office/factory burns down. The fire fighters will take a bribe to prepare a report for you, so then you can claim your insurance. The bribe depends on the insurance value.
– For those who wish to or are forced to have a Post-Mortem. You cannot till you shell out extra dough.
4:75 [Shakir 4:75] And what reason have you that you should not fight in the way of Allah and of the weak among the men and the women and the children.
Here were people who are living the principles of the same Quran and I wasn’t! I could not live with myself if I did not do the best I could to support this cause. And here enters my most amazing family. I took my brother’s views on joining the hunger-strike and he immediately said, “Go for it.” I asked my wife, she said, “I’m proud of you.” I asked my parents, who said, “Son, do what you feel is best.”
It’s time to go
I packed a change of clothes. My tooth paste, toothbrush, a pillow and a bedsheet and headed to Freedom Park. I didn’t know how long I was going to stay there. All I knew was that I wanted to give my best. And here I met, the most Amazing people in the city of Bangalore. Such wonderful volunteers. Constantly asking if we were drinking enough water to stay hydrated. Is there anything else we needed. Each time I thanked them for anything, they’d snap back and say don’t thank us. You are our Anna Hazare here. One of the volunteers (Rajashekar) saw me offering my namaaz. I was doing so on the grass. He came to me right after my prayers and said that he saw me offering prayers on the grass. He asked me if he could arrange for me a prayer mat or something like that. I was so deeply touched by his concern and empathy. I told him no thanks but I enjoy praying on the grass and under the sky.
Staying at Freedom Park, reminded of a camping trip that I had done eons back. But here I was with nobody that I knew. But all were so strongly connected with a common cause, that it just didn’t matter. The spirit was, what more can we do. How can we increase our support for this cause. How can we make a bigger noise so that this bill is passed. Failure is not an option. I sat and wrote to almost everybody I knew. Most of you must have got my mails. Then I proceeded to live-blog the event there. And when I got tired in between, I napped.
At the end of the second day, I really couldn’t believe it. Rumors were there that the government has unofficially accepted Anna Hazare’s demands. Yet we were not sure. We held back our congratulations. Then we heard from our official connections in Delhi, that although demands have been unofficially accepted, Annaji, will not give up his fast till it’s official. And till then our protest will go on. All night long, patriotic songs were sung. Our favourite “Hum Honge Kamyab”, was repeated again and again. Tired and happy we snored. The mosquitoes managed to wake me up a couple of times, but not for long.
Hum Hogaye Kamyaab!
Next morning the excitement was thick in the air. You could almost touch it. What was determination the day before, was replaced by the Just-Before-Euphoria Feeling. It was as if we knew we had won the cricket match, but the team still has to complete their overs before we could celebrate. The crowd kept accumulating as the hours ticked by. The team worked hard to have a live relay from Delhi. We received the news that the official Gazette has been passed but Annaji was yet to open his fast. We watched eagerly at the flickering scene on the makeshift screen. And finally the words flashed across “Anna Hazare Breaks His Fast”. We howled, We Screamed, We hugged, We cried. For 42 years, the guilty were keeping away the handcuffs and now they had no choice but to accept. And we did it together. Each and everyone’s effort mattered. Every man’s presence made the difference. There was no one hero. That’s why we all became Heroes.
The atmosphere became just crazy. People broke into one patriotic song after another. I wasn’t tired (not to mention smelly and sticky due to no shower for several days) and I had to get back to work. Giving my new friends a tight farewell hug, I bade them goodbye.
Take Away Lessons
– My purpose of sharing this story with you is not to share how great I am. (With all due respect guys, I prefer you please not posting that in the comments. I know my weaknesses and sins that God has kept hidden from your eyes). The idea of sharing this story with you is this. Make the most of life. In this case making the most meant following your conscience. Do so and you’ll live a life of no regrets. Sharing this with you, puts greater pressure on me to do the same. Inshallah I will.
– Before starting I was filled with a gazillion fears. Oh my Gosh, how would I do this. This is so out of my comfort zone. Over the last few years I’ve always been in an AC environment, with soft cushions around me and always someone to serve me. Here I would be open to the elements for an indefinite time with nothing to eat. But it’s remarkable how God gives strength. Not only did I find it mostly easy. Man, I actually had so much Fun!
Allah (SWT) says “Take one step towards Me, I will take ten steps towards you. Walk towards me, I will run towards you.” Hadith Qudsi.
– A Key fear was that I was sure that there is no way my family would agree. I thought my wife would say no. I was certain my parents would. Yet, I asked them anyway. I asked them so then I knew I was giving my best. If they said no, I would try to convince them. But I knew it would be no use. My jaw dropped and my mind spun inside my skull, when they actually said yes. Moral: Do your Best. Be Persistent. Just take the next step. The world will automatically fall into place. At this note, I’d like to say a BIG THANK YOU to my family. There were so many who told me repeatedly how lucky I was. They reminded me time and again that it’s thanks to my family’s support and encouragement I could do this. And they are right.
– i stayed two nights and almost two days at Freedom Park without food. Was I hungry? Not even a bit. It’s amazing how strong your body is, once you make your mind up. I’m serious. And I’m a guy who munches on something or the other every two hours, otherwise I get a smashing headache. Yet, I didn’t feel a thing.
– The Euphoria and Confidence of participating in what you know is right is indescribable. You are provided with a tonne of confidence that when it matters next, you can do the same next time. And the next time. And the time after that. Ad infinitum.
There are probaly more lessons, none that I can recall at the moment. I am so glad I did this. Next time you are overcome by your fears, i hope you will take the step into the unknown. Trust me. It’s worth it!
Here’s a pic of Sreekanth, me and Ali. We’re busy helping with post announcement celebrations.