Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Sunlight, shadows and Dhoop

Perhaps it was a matter of chance that I was watching the film Dhoop which deals with the subject of the family of a Kargil martyr on Republic Day. Perhaps it was incidental that the film has a shot of the ritual laying of the wreath at the Amar Jawan Jyoti by the Prime Minister as a sequence. Watching the movie raised two questions in my mind – the first perhaps has been addressed often enough though not remedied ; and the second question – well that is perhaps very little asked.

The story line is simple. There is a middle aged couple – Om Puri – who is a professor and his wife(Revathy) who is a librarian. Their only son (Sanjay Suri), initially somewhat against their wishes to join the Army and eventually does so. He is posted to Kargil as a Captain and in the 1999 hostiles is martyred. After the initial ceremony honoring the dead is over , the family including Sanjay’s fiancĂ©e (Gul Panang) begin moderating their grief and begin to pick up the pieces of their life.

It is at this time that a letter arrives from the government allotting the family with a petrol pump plot – apparently a routine bureaucratic gesture to the families of the martyred. The middle class family is initially reluctant to accept the offer – they are middle class professionals content with their jobs and salaries but are persuaded to accept the pump as a memorial to their dead son.

It is at this point that reality hit home . The harsh reality that after the garlanding of the body is done with and the Last Post has been played , the martyrs are just another statistic. As they begin the journey to take possession of the plot where the petrol pump is to be located , they encounter apathy, corruption and behavior of the vilest kid possible. One police man who(among others) has to give an NOC and needs a bribe to do so, gleefully informs the parents that is a windfall for him as so many people have been martyred from Haryana and each martyred family is a potential bribe giver.

Coming back to the two questions , I started this write up with. I have heard the first question posed often enough on television channels and a lot of breast beating at the apathetic treatment that is meted out to martyrs’ families. And this is a sad fact and must be deplored. But the other question that tormented me as I watched Om Puri on his scooter go from office to office and in almost every instance be confronted by the demand for a bribe was this : in the dance between the one who gives bribe and the one who takes it, who actually is the villain ? So often , we paint the giver and the taker with the same brush of criminality and sin when the one who empties out his pocket is often a victim of extortion and utter helplessness.

In the film , the grit and determination of Om Puri and Revathy, aided by the spunky Gul Panang is commendable , but how many people in real life can really sustain the pressure of being surrounded on every side by venal, greedy, vulture like people with no semblance of feeling except that of becoming richer at the hapless expense of the other. Can you ? Can I ? Every time I bribe, am I the sinner or sinned against ? Makes me wonder.

1 comment:

The unsure ascetic said...

Hey Shantanu,

I will watch this movie soon. Sounds very interesting.

Ideally we must not bribe and instead choose to face the consequences/go against the system/make sure our things are done the moral way. You are right when you said that it is difficult.

But when ideally condoning a mistake/sin is a mistake/sin itself, how then can we lead our lives?

I have written another facet of the pain that the families of martyrs go through.

Check this out.