It’s been a hectic and exhausting last week. Therefore no posts. Tonight as I sit on my newly formatted PC (a real pain to format and install all those programs big and small that you seemingly can’t do without).

I attempt recall all those ideas and observations that I tried hard to keep in an easily retrievable portion of my brain. But like in the computer hard disk, there are things which refuse to reveal themselves even with the help of wildcards.

Last week marked the 150th anniversary of a momentous event, the Mutiny of 1857 or the First War for India’s Independence, depending on how you wish to look at it. With my limited sense of history and irrespective of what a few MPs feel, I would go with Veer Savarkar’s interpretation. All the previous battles were with a motive to regain or retain territorial sovereignty and had an impact within a specified geographical domain and the participants had a greater degree of homogeneity. But 1857 was different.

My first contact with the turmoil of san sattawan was through Subhadra Kumari Chauhan’s eulogy of the Queen of Jhansi – Rani Laxmi Bai, which formed a part of my primary school Hindi text.

सिंहासन हिल उठे राजवंशों ने भृकुटी तानी थी
बूढ़े भारत में आई फिर से नयी जवानी थी
गुमी हुई आज़ादी की कीमत सबने पहचानी थी
दूर फिरंगी को करने की सबने मन में ठानी थी

चमक उठी सन सत्तावन में, वह तलवार पुरानी थी
बुंदेले हरबोलों के मुँह हमने सुनी कहानी थी
खूब लड़ी मर्दानी वह तो झांसी वाली रानी थी

[Complete text of the above poem can be found here. For the poem in Roman script along with an English translation click here]

The intermittent years between Subhadra Kumari and the higher class history text were filled by tales of valour and horror fed to me by my ever eager elder brother.

Pity the celebrations had to coincide with the Uttar Pradesh election results and all the celebratory joy was drowned by a greater din of a socially-engineered election victory. It was clearly obvious even before the elections that Maya would successfully cast her spell on the most populous Indian state and yet again psephologists were way off the mark, the only thing that they got right was that the BSP would be the single largest party, but got the figures all awry. It is time that the ‘electoral pundits’ are relegated to a small box or a ticker scrolling across the screen and spare us from their gaseous pontifications.

Coming back to 1857, it was a year which neither literature nor cinema could make the best of. There would’ve been so many tales to tell which just remained a part of the folklore, ever more distorted by each passing generation. Even my village has an 1857 connection – some mutineers had stayed overnight there (or something similar that I was told during my younger years). I can hardly recollect any notable Hindi films based on the life and times of the Great Revolt other than Shatranj Ke Khiladi, Junoon and Mangal Pandey.

Even the media did little justice to the epic event. The Election Commission should’ve taken note and adjusted the dates accordingly. Talking about the Election Commission, do read the transcript of the Chief Election Commissioner N Gopalaswami’s interview with Shekhar Gupta on NDTV 24×7s Walk the Talk. The problem is that the sense that the Election Commission talks incites fear within the political class and therefore they are hardly implemented as many of them would require modification to the current set of laws. Anyway, I get to meet the CEC in person tomorrow (unless the boss thinks otherwise).

Map courtesy: William Carey University

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