Home > Archives (2006 on) > 2014 > Remembering Nehru

Mainstream, VOL LII, No 23, May 31, 2014

Remembering Nehru

Sunday 1 June 2014, by Badri Raina

“Milton! Thou shouldst be living at this hour:

England hath need of thee: she is a fen

Of stagnant waters....we are selfish men;

O raise us up, return to us again;

And give us manners, virtue, freedom, power.”
William Wordsworth

When you died, without notice, from
 
A heavy heart, I was twenty three, but
 
Cried all day long, uncontrollably.
 
It felt as though our umbilical cord
 
Had been severed from that infinitely
 
Caring , infinitely daring, infinitely
 
Childlike god who had steered a riven
 
Ship full of chaos, cacophony, woe—
 
A babble of skins, syllables, rituals
 
  Caverns of fear-ridden ignorance, 
 
 Hate-filled hunger, and suspicion
 
 Of what we did not know, which
 
Was indeed head to toe—
 
So adroitly,— resolute in love, sure
 
In reason, all-embracing in clasp,—
 
That the vessel , guaranteed
 
To sink into smithereens, steadied,
 
Cleaved, charted a course yielding,
 
Without force, a common route
 
To a common fate, neither rampant
 
Nor flamboyant, but erect in gait.
 
You left, beloved of us all, and
 
Of an admiring world, and soon
 
We came into our own. This is not
 
Enough, some said; dismantle
 
Now this socialist rot, and let the rich
 
Be richer and the others strive
 
In their poverty to merit our company.
 
For decades you have been a memory
 
Even to your own, secretly, of what has 
 
Kept us from those animal spirits which alone
 
Can bloat what was a common ark
 
To the size of a battle ship, ready
 
To embark on conquering the world,
 
Even as we poison the earth, air, water
 
Around us to make demons of humans,
 
Armed with lolling avarice and righteous 
 
Intolerance, vanquishing mere kindness, and
 
The timidity of peace. Our treasury grows
 
As we shrink into munching midgets
 
And mechanical mannequins, replete
 
With silliness, vacuity, aggression, and pose,
 
All stridently garnished with religion and noise.
 
Jawahar that you truly were, our gems
 
Now are made from synthetic things.
 
The least trinket with a brand does
 
The highest price command. In such
 
A Bharat may be even you could not have
 
Done much. You taught us to be global
 
In the best human ways; our globalization
 
After you is a branded craze for thinginesses
 
That have flattened our souls into dresses,
 
And filled our skulls with buying and selling
 
To the accompaniment of twittered yelling.
 
To them who can neither buy nor sell
 
We simply say there is heaven and there is hell,
 
And never the two may gel. You will
 
Not pull us down, and we will not pull
 
You up; be you green or dark, and
 
Speaking out of turn, beware of the trident
 
That bears the blazing fury of saffron.
 
There we have arrived, O noble one,
 
Best gone, where you never failed to warn.
 
May be the catastrophe will impel us
 
To return to the riches of reason you so
 
Strenuously taught us to learn.
 
May be the tear that now drips down
 
My cheek is harbinger of that churn.

May 27, 2014        Badri Raina