Where is Maharashtra’s Raju Swami?

This is from, arguably, India’s most celebrated movie, where a reluctant, accidental swami is trapped into going on a fast-unto-death for bringing rains to a drought stricken place. His this fast achieves a string of miracles: uniting the swami with his mother (on the 6th day of the fast), his beloved Rosy (played by Waheeda Rehman, the most beautiful star of Indian Cinema. She falls to his feet just when a journalist asks swami if he has ever been in love) and his closest friend[1] and brings millions to a remote village temple.

It also brings rains.

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In an interview to a foreign TV channel, the swami is asked if he believes it will rain due to his fast. The swami says, there are these thousands of people who believe in me and now I have started believing in their faith! This answer sounds a bit democratic, does it not?

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Fact is, this reluctant swami did not even believe in God (at least till midway through the fast), as he says in one of his moments of self doubt. In another moment of self doubt, he grabs some bananas offered to the gods in the temple and is seen on verge of eating them.

Before the cruel drought and ensuing fast, swami narrates a story to the villagers, describing a drought that is akin to what the poorest in Maharashtra faced this summer: there has been thirst, hunger, riots, deaths and unrest. Politicians of Maharashtra are fond of saying (though rather incorrectly), that this drought is worse than the one in 1972, which was, not too long after the film was released.

Yes as you may have guessed it by now, the name of the film is Guide, one of the most remarkable films of Indian cinema worth recalling in this centenary year of Bollywood and name of this Swami in the film is Raju, played by the legendary actor Dev Anand.

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The swami is in constant dialogue with Raju and in one doubting moment, Raju questions swami, do you really think there can be any relation between hunger of one person and the clouds? Have you too started believing in such things like these uneducated people? And the swami answers, “I do not know, Raju. I have started thinking of a lot of things that I never thought necessary. Question is not whether it will rain or not, question is not if I will live or die. Question is, is there someone who runs this place or not? If there is no one who runs this place, then it does not matter if I live or die. There is no point in living blindly in a blind world. And if there is someone, then it is to be seen if that some body listens to its poor subjects or not.”

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This sounds like a search for a functioning and responding Maharashtra government, the search in real Maharashtra this year is yet to end. The drought, as we wrote earlier[2], is largely man-made and was completely avoidable, but there was no sign of a functioning or responsive government taking steps to avoid it. Like the Swami says, bigger question is if there is someone responsible for the avoidable disaster. It is this same question that has haunted drought stricken of Maharashtra.

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In another sequence in the film, Rosy asks Raju, resting on her shoulder, have you gone to sleep? And he meaningfully answers, I was sleeping so far, but have started waking up.

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The famous film of 1965 ends with the rains and death of the swami (even though it is unusual for a Hindi film hero to die).

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Leaving the miracle (and other clichés of the film) aside, with monsoon round the corner, Maharashtra is close to that GUIDE moment which hopefully will end the misery of lakhs of people.  However, this end of misery in Maharashtra will not be due to specific efforts from anyone. For there seems to be no one in sight, ready to take the trouble, leave aside an extreme step like fast-unto-death.

Like Raju’s answer to Rosy, let us hope that people and the administration have indeed woken up to ensure that another man-made drought does not occur. With climate change on us, the frequency of such calamities is only going to increase. But this hope of Maharashtra waking up seems pretty filmy at the moment.

It seemed that the Maharashtra Chief Minister Prithviraj Chavan wanted to be the messiah of Maharashtra when he promised investigation into the irrigation scam and Maharashtra’s deputy Chief Minister Ajit Pawar had to resign. However, Chavan proved to be a fake messiah seeing his refusal to launch any credible investigation into the massive Rs 70 000 crore scam or any noteworthy action against the corrupt. Chavan’s initiative on June 9, 2013[3], inaugurating 1497 cement check dams across the 15 taluksa in drought prone areas of the state and declaring that “small dams are key for drought free Maharashtra” is a welcome step.

His promise of participation and transparency in the scheme will be realized or not is yet to be seen.

And till then, Maharashtra will be waiting for a Raju Guide of its own..

-Himanshu Thakkar

ht.sandrp@gmail.com

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