Mark Ulyseas – We the People
A Lament for India

Profile Ulyseas LEMag Feb 2021

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Live Encounters Magazine May 2021

Mark Ulyseas has served time in advertising as copywriter and creative director selling people things they didn’t need, a ghost writer for some years, columnist of a newspaper, a freelance journalist and photographer. In 2009 he created Live Encounters Magazine, in Bali, Indonesia. It is a not for profit (adfree) free online magazine featuring leading academics, writers, poets, activists of all hues etc. from around the world. March 2016 saw the launch of its sister publication Live Encounters Poetry, which was relaunched as Live Encounters Poetry & Writing in March 2017. In February 2019 the third publication was launched, LE Children Poetry & Writing (now renamed Live Encounters Young Poets & Writers). In August 2020 the fourth publication, Live Encounters Books, was launched. He has edited, designed and produced all of Live Encounters’ 213 publications (till April 2021). Mark’s philosophy is that knowledge must be free and shared freely to empower all towards enlightenment. He is the author of three books: RAINY – My friend & PhilosopherSeductive Avatars of Maya – Anthology of Dystopian Lives and In Gethsemane: Transcripts of a Journey.

We the People, a lament for India

The grotesque images of mass cremations, litany of news reports of rising deaths and ineptness of those managing the COVID crisis in India is the other face of a country that boasts of being a nuclear, space, software and military power, and the sixth largest economy amongst many other badges of honour.

Despite all the chest beating of an incredible India, the value of life is worth nothing.

The millions of faithful jostling for space to bathe in the holy Ganga at Har Ki Pauri in Haridwar during the recent Kumbh Mela, in the midst of a virulent virus sweeping the country, is surreal. The media coverage of people selling oxygen in the black market, people dying in hospitals due to lack of oxygen and the dead body of a woman lying for hours outside a hospital in an auto rikshaw are but side shows compared to the hundreds of thousands that attended election rallies in various States.

The Madras high court observed that the Election Commission of India (ECI) was responsible for the second wave in the country and that its officials should probably be tried on murder charges for allowing political parties to hold massive rallies without following Covid-19 norms.

The Supreme Court of India has made it absolutely clear that the judiciary won’t be a silent spectator in the current crisis. Indian courts are making sure that the political class is held to account. The high courts in Delhi, Allahabad, Patna, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Nagpur, Aurangabad, Mumbai, Bangalore and Chennai are hearing petitions about the covid-19 situation in the respective states.

In our 75th year of independence we are rushing back to western countries with begging bowl in hand for help to fight the virus, a virus that could have been controlled after the first wave in 2020, if foresight and wisdom prevailed

So who do we blame – the central and state governments, politicians or the bureaucracy?

Perhaps it is our kismet that we remain a poor country, a country where hundreds of millions continue to remain in poverty, where the common folk are but fodder for political rivalry, where money is might and violence in all forms continues to be a daily routine.

Let us forget about those who came before us, who led us out of an era of subjugation, who taught us the need to build our country from the ground up, not just edifices of modernity, but to be self-reliant in all aspects. Why should we remember these visionaries? What is the point of this adulation when we have learnt nothing… When we continue to vote people into power who use money, religion and other forms of persuasion to seize control?

The rampaging virus has exposed who we really are – a pitiful people reliant only on hand-outs from the very people we have entrusted to run the bureaucracy and government. We continue to do this because we hope that our children will be fed, that we would have a roof over our heads, medical facilities and free education, and jobs, and above all a sense of security for our families. That we are now at the mercy of the elements, both natural and human, reveals our intrinsic error of judgement.

Our media too has let us down. They continue to take sides in the dance of death, reporting according to their perspective. But death has its own plan and this is there for us to see in the moving pictures of the ill, the dying and the overcrowded crematoriums – where bodies of loved ones continue to pile up.

Even in death we have lost our dignity.

What is the value of our lives?

Meanwhile, in another world in our country the prestigious multimillion dollar cricket tournament continues in a bio bubble even as some Indian/foreign players and umpires have exited. The tamasha must go on; the masses of dying need this entertainment. It gives us hope that all is well, or that all will be well. The excitement of runs being scored by our favourite player, the thrill of our team winning a match overshadows the smell of death not just in the corridors of hospitals but on the streets and in our homes.

But why are we surprised by this dangerous situation that we have put ourselves in? Why do we falsely assume that our cultural heritage is our strength when every breath our children take is our only strength, our hope? Have we deliberately sentenced our children to a life of despicable inequality?

And why do we blame the leader of our nation for this horrible situation when a few warships of the US Navy’s 7th fleet are more powerful than the leader of the world’s largest democracy?

the US Navy has announced that it asserted navigational rights and freedoms inside India’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) without seeking India’s prior consent.

This has been done to us by none other than a friendly power. And it is this very friendly power that withheld the raw materials required urgently by us to manufacture vaccines. It is this friendly power that has now magnanimously released ‘aid’ to us as we stand outside on the world stage with our begging bowls.

We are not equal among friends.

We are the poor cousins always begging when a calamity strikes. It is as if we have not outgrown our historical subjugation by foreign powers. To be ruled is engrained in us. Perhaps it has become a genetic disorder. It is, without doubt, another lesson we have not learnt – how to manage our country.

We the people have no shame begging, our nationalism reserved only for elections, sports or for rigorous imposition on our fellow citizens.

We the people are to blame because we are lazy. We vote people into power but overlook the need to oversee their work, to hold them accountable. And for this we pay the price with our lives.

We the people have become the incredible expendables.

We the people have the power to change our lives.

We the people can do this not by following a particular faith but by helping one another to rise from the dirt and filth that encrusts our self-worth.

We the people are to blame.

False nationalism and religious fervour cannot make a nation. A nation is made by us, the people. And if we cannot look after ourselves then we have failed as a nation. No amount of statistics and glossy images of achievements can disguise this bitter truth.

Perhaps we have forgotten who we really are and where we have come from because we have imprisoned ourselves in the daily grind of survival and have shrugged off our responsibility to our fellow humans.

We the people live in a multifaceted bejewelled civilisation that has survived for millennia. But will it survive us, now?

The following poem envisions our destination. But are we heading there?

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.
– Rabindranath Tagore, Gitanjali.

Om Shanti Shanti Shanti Om

© Mark Ulyseas