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Will the Messiah of the Hour please stand up?
Saisuresh Sivasawmy
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December 01, 2008
Choose the odd man out: March 12, 1993. September 11, 2001. November 26, 2008.

September 11, 2001, since it is the one without a sequel.

That is the only apolitical sms I have received since November 26, all the others have been simply scathing about our political establishment.

Why just sms, online message boards, television talking heads, the man on the street � all are unanimous that Mumbai, and India, is sorely let down by its political class.

There was outrage when the train blasts happened in Mumbai on July 26, 2006. Now there is just rage.

Not the kind of rage that will beat up the next person; not the kind of rage that will pick on innocents. Not the kind of rage that wants war.

It's the kind of rage that that will find expression through the ballot, as and when. The politicians are on notice, and they don't seem to either know it, or care.

As a helpless Mumbai-ite and Indian I too feel enraged at the callousness of our political class. Seemingly decent and competent men and women holding high office turn to jelly when confronted with the biggest problem facing India, terrorism, and they evince neither the will nor desire to tackle the problem head-on.

But, I had told myself, I will not articulate my rage, for nothing much has changed since I cried out Enough is Enough! two years ago. My blog has strangely been silent through the traumatic week, as has my Facebook account. What do you say that hasn't been said before, what do you say when everyone feels the same way?

Having lived through both of Mumbai's worst encounters with terrorism, in 1993 and 2008, I can say categorically that nothing has changed. The ones capable of making a difference, have indeed made a difference -- to their careers and, presumably, bank balances. Sharad Pawar [Images] was chief minister in 1993; he is now a central minister. But his city remains the same sitting duck it was. Today his party holds the home portfolio in Maharashtra -- can there be a more cruel joke on us!

Then too the deadly explosives were smuggled in through the sea, through the Raigad coast. This time, too, the perpetrators have taken the sea-route, in both instances corruption down the line clearing the trawler's path. After 1993 there was talk of strengthening our coastal security. What has been strengthened is the politician's bank balance.

But, I had told myself, I won't point fingers. The ruling class doesn't give a damn anyway, so busy is it feathering its nest for an uncertain future.

And the ones who do the actual work, the bureaucracy, is no different. Crises such as the one Mumbai has emerged from are the result of omissions and commissions by them. Yet, they have recently given themselves a huge pay hike, relegating to the doghouse the ones who got us out of the terrorist attack by wagering their lives, the men in uniform. Even by the standards of an unfair world, this is criminal.

What worries me is whether the political class, even now, grasps the damage its inaction has wrought, not merely on the nation's morale, not merely on the men in uniform who form India's backbone, not merely on its polity, but among its people. For too long have we patted ourselves on the back for not succumbing to the terrorist's provocation to civil war. Yes, riots have not broken out on the streets, and will hopefully never happen, but civil war can also happen in hearts and minds.

And the more I hear voices, not the dolled up oh-so-liberal sound bytes masked for TV studios and newsprint but candid voices around me, I worry that complete partition of minds is not too far away. Once the mind has seceded, geography becomes irrelevant even if maps don't depict the reality.

But, I had told myself, I won't be a pessimist, I won't be a Sad Sack, I won't paint a Doomsday scenario. God knows there are many already doing that.

Instead, I had resolved, I will be forward-looking, positive, and suggest a way out, as befits one with limited intellect but infinite passion for India.

The need of the hour is not to point fingers -- everyone knows who is responsible for Mumbai's trauma.

The need of the hour is not to bemoan what was not done � the stark denouement is before us on Marine Drive [Images] and Apollo Bunder [Images].

Rather, the need of the hour is someone who can heal, who can soothe, who can restore the citizen's confidence in the system, who will bridge the chasm that is slowly growing between Indian and Indian.

A politician, we know from our long and painful experience with that abominable set, does not do any of the above. The good ones among them are the ones who don't do the opposite.

The tragedy of India is that neither the ones in power, nor the ones who believe they will be elected tomorrow, do any of the above. The prime minister does and says nothing. The man who hopes to replace him does and says the wrong things.

Perhaps it is just as well. Given the groundswell among the public against politicians in the wake of the terrorist attacks on Mumbai, neither of them can be the messiah the nation so desperately needs.

Is there such a one among us?

Someone who is politic yet not a politician.

Someone who can inspire us, give our faith back, restore to us our tryst with destiny that lies tattered.

Someone who can unleash the immense potential of our largest wealth, our youth, who are lurking in that shadowland between yesterday and tomorrow.

Someone who can assuage the Muslim angst that they have been underserved by the system in democratic India; someone who can assure the Hindu that his hoary, glorious heritage is not under threat in secular India.

Is there such a one among us? If yes, will the messiah � such a one can be nothing else � please stand up and be counted?

There is one, yes, but he is not going to step forward. For he is not seeking any office. In fact, in the last office he occupied, he moved in with just a suitcase; and moved out five years later with little else. Such is the man's simplicity and earthiness.

At times he reminds me of the humble Hanuman [Images] who doesn't realise his prowess before leaping to Lanka. Other times he reminds me of Arjuna in the battlefield unaware of his dharma.

His popularity is the envy of any politician. In fact, I daresay he was denied a second stint at his last office because the politicians felt he was outshining them.

Not since Rajiv Gandhi [Images] in 1984 has anyone mesmerised the youth of India as he has.

Not since Rajiv Gandhi in 1984 has anyone articulated a vision for developed India as he has. Yet, his vision of India as a superpower in 2020 may not be realised because of the politicians' folly.

Today, such a man is out of the system, nurturing his pet project, Providing Urban Amenities in Rural Areas, PURA, away from the spotlight, sharing his experience and knowledge with the youth in various academic environs, continuing to inspire them about an India that we may never see.

Yes, Bharat Ratna Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam [Images] is the man I am talking about. If anyone can restore India to Indians, heal the rift among Indians, and lead us forward in our oft-interrupted march, it is him. Will he please step forward?

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