Introduction: Barkha Rani Jam Ke Barasti Hai
Barkha Dutt is a name I knew when I was still a teenager in college. You were this beaming, fierce journalist that became the first female "Embedded Journalist" in the Kargil war, one of the early ones, years before US christened the official title in the 2003 Iraq war. I admired you, so did the entire country and of course Bollywood! It didn't matter if the movie was an A, B or C grade production; if there was a female reporter character in the lead, they knew exactly who to base it off on.
There was this massive earthquake resonance that came with your name and for you – or anyone for that matter – it must have fueled that synthetic high, the kind that comes with a lethal drug called ‘sudden fame’.
Situation: Barasti Barkha Rani ki har boond mein dum hai
Around the same time, the demographic of India had begun to change. The floodgates – of jobs – had opened and it wasn’t just changing the spending power of the young middle class, a yet dormant sense of revolt to change the country had begun brewing as well.
Of course in air-packed power centers of New Delhi, no one had figured out what was going on or that how long will this bubble of growth last. As far as politics was concerned, it didn’t matter, and good old' religion based vote bank of the battleground communities was still the most important factor that could make or break a government. So, driven by incentives –- and a promise for more -- for those battleground communities, Congress got back in town in 2004 and this time they didn’t come alone, they brought along an evil consortium of power hungry creatures that would feed off the flesh of scams, corruption, influence, prestige, and the proximity to the center, that was powerful enough to translate even a comma into a policy.
A little bit of all these dishes touched you, some more than the other, transforming your nascent addiction of ‘sudden fame’ into a chronic lust of absolute influence, that if not fed with the syringe of power would quiver you in a fit of absolute desolation. Every word was becoming more powerful, every Saturday party was getting more interesting, every diplomatic foreign tour was like a trippin’ high, to a point that you had begun to matter to everyone in India – and in Pakistan, but more importantly to your ballooning ego.
Complication: Boond bhi paani ki hatash ho gayi
Years had passed, and it had become evident that the growth in India was no longer a bubble. It had become a way of life, a very good way of life! But the epidemic of success and growth in middle class had also brought with it a sense of fear. A fear stemmed from the lack of security for our children, our houses, our cities, our country. While every terrorist attack was condemned, there were no counter-actions. Everything was submerged deep in the water, all in the name liberalism.
The dim flame called hope was all but gone with the wind of congress rule, until, a phenomenon called Narendra Modi fast mobilized to the national stage. A phenomenon that would sweep the elections and give people hope, excitement, emotions that India will be our country where we won’t feel boycotted in the name of liberalism, where we will feel safe; and perhaps for the first time ever.
As far as Congress was concerned, nobody did anything to it. It shattered under the weight of its own outdated guiding force, and with it, crumbled the consortium of evil power-hungry monsters. Each one of them was left to feed on its own, to whatever it took to survive or to fade back in the mangroves.
Change is hard, I get it. The moment of realization that ‘I don’t matter’ isn’t easy. In fact, it’s complicated enough to throw one in a dimension of imagines, dreams and delusion. A desolated state in which one could do either of two things: a) Hope that the greener days shall return. b) Become an irrational tireless agent to make it happen at all costs.
You can’t just sit and hope, you are a fighter. But you also must note that India today is more passionate than ever and neither statements like let Kashmir be its own state, nor slamming our own army will go unpunished. The battle will only get from bad to worse.
What Next: Kya Barkha Rani Fir Barsegi?
Here is an analogy: A man with immense money lost it all. When asked how did this happen? He said, little by little in the beginning and then all at once.
Does it have to be this way for you too? The world isn’t black and white and neither are the choices we make. I am here to tell you, that there is still a chance. What you have built may have been badly scarred, and the foundation may have cracked a bit too, but not all is lost. The legacy can still be cemented with bright colors.
You claimed in one of your open letters, that your coverage of Godhra was what got you on the bad side of Modi. Now figure this, Modi was denied US visa multiple times, so accordingly to your image of Mr. Groggy Grudgeholder, he should have been in bed with Russia only, but is he? Learn from him to embrace change and focus on the job rather than the spasms triggered by glory of the past.
We met at the IAAC lit festival in New York and you came across as an intelligent person. You were articulate, impactful and glazed with wit. You even commented on how to be smart with your words and how to take it back when misspoken; now it’s your turn to take that advice. It's time to think hard about the legacy you'd leave behind. Think of this addiction that you have -- for power, influence and to be the person that matters -- as a curable disease that can be fixed by a rehabilitation program inspired by good old journalistic principles, love for the nation, and the desire to continue to be an idol for today’s kids.
When today’s kids grow up and look at your legacy, what will they find? Will it still be Barkha Dutt or you’d have faded away as some irrelevant anagram of your name that means nothing -- or something far worse that nothing.
Dhirendra Tiwari is the author of 'Punk Sunk Love'.
The intent of the article was socialized with Ms. Barkha Dutt and her verbal consent was obtained. The content of the article, however, was not shared.
For more information: http://www.amazon.in/dp/9382665684/