I had never heard of Anna Hazare before; Or the Lok Janpal Bill; I was in awe. I asked around and was explained what an icon that man is. Built not of skin and bones, this man is made of Principles and Values.
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There had to be something that I can do to support his movement. I got an sms the following day from my friend, Dr. Mateen that there is a meeting for the campaign ‘India Against Corruption’ at Freedom Park.
Freedom Park? Where’s that. No one has heard of Freedom Park. Well, pretty soon, the World got to know about it. The Old Central Jail in Bangalore, was where Freedom Fighters were jailed during the British Occupation. Keeping a lot of the same infrastructure, the jail is now converted into Freedom Park.
I packed a change of clothes. My tooth paste, toothbrush, a pillow and a bedsheet and headed to Freedom Park. I didn’t know how long I was going to stay there. All I knew was that I wanted to give my best.
My brother Ali and I headed to Freedom Park on Wednesday (6th April) evening. There I saw a handful of individuals sitting on stage, who have taken the pledge to fast indefinitely till the Jan Lokpal is passed. Who were these people? Gandhi is a simple Yoga Teacher. A couple of your regular Bangalore Techies. Yet another was an entrepreneur. Here were people with regular jobs and families, and were willing to put it all aside for this cause.
And here I met, the most amazing people in the city of Bangalore. Such wonderful volunteers. Constantly asking if we were drinking enough water to stay hydrated and if there was anything else we needed.
Each time I thanked them for anything, they’d snap back and say don’t thank us. You are our Anna Hazare here. One of the volunteers (I think his name was Ram) saw me offering my namaaz. I was doing so on the grass. He came to me right after my prayers and asked me if he could arrange a prayer mat for me. I was so deeply touched by his concern and empathy.
Staying at Freedom Park, reminded me of a camping trip that I had done eons ago. Only, here I was with nobody that I knew. But we were all so strongly connected with a common cause that it just didn’t matter.
At the end of the second day, rumours had it that the government has unofficially accepted Anna Hazare’s demands. Yet we were not sure. We held back our congratulations. Then we heard from our official connections in Delhi, that although demands have been unofficially accepted, Annaji, will not give up his fast till it’s official. And till then our protest will go on. All night long, patriotic songs were sung. Our favourite “Hum Honge Kamyab”, was repeated again and again. Tired and happy we snored. The mosquitoes managed to wake me up a couple of times, but not for long.
Hum Hogaye Kamyaab!
Next morning the excitement was thick in the air. You could almost touch it. Determination from the day before, was replaced by the Just-Before-Euphoria feeling. It was as if we knew we had won the cricket match, but the team still has to complete their overs before we could celebrate.
The crowd kept accumulating as the hours ticked by. The team worked hard to have a live relay from Delhi. We received the news that the official Gazette has been passed but Annaji was yet to open his fast. We watched eagerly at the flickering scene on the makeshift screen. And finally the words flashed across “Anna Hazare Breaks His Fast”. We howled, we Screamed, we hugged, we cried.
For 42 years, the corrupt were avoiding the handcuffs and now they had no choice but to accept. And we did it together. Each and everyone’s effort mattered. Every man’s presence made the difference. There was no one hero. That’s why we all became heroes.
The atmosphere became just crazy. People broke into one patriotic song after another. I wasn’t tired, but smelly and sticky due to no shower for several days and I had to get back to work. Giving my new friends a tight farewell hug, I bade them goodbye.
My purpose of sharing this story with you is not to share how great I am. The idea of sharing this story with you is this – make the most of life. In this case making the most meant, following your conscience.
Before starting I was filled with a gazillion fears. Oh my gosh, how would I do this? This is so out of my comfort zone. Over the last few years I’ve always been in an AC environment, with soft cushions around me and always someone to serve me. Here I would be open to the elements for an indefinite time with nothing to eat. But it’s remarkable how God gives strength. Not only did I find it mostly easy. Man, I actually had so much Fun!
A key fear was that I was sure that there is no way my family would agree. I thought my wife would say no. I was certain my parents would. Yet, I asked them anyway. I asked them so then I knew I was giving my best. If they said no, I would try to convince them. My jaw dropped and my mind spun, when they actually said yes.
I stayed two nights and almost two days at Freedom Park without food. Was I hungry? Not even a bit. It’s amazing how strong your body is, once you make your mind up. I’m serious. And I’m a guy who munches on something or the other every two hours, otherwise I get a smashing headache. Yet, I didn’t feel a thing.
The Euphoria and confidence of participating in what you know is right is indescribable. You are provided with a ton of confidence that when it next time you can do the same, the next time and the next time. And the time after that. Ad infinitum.
There are probably more lessons, none that I can recall at the moment. I am so glad I did this. Next time you are overcome by your fears, I hope you will take the step into the unknown. Trust me. It’s worth it! ⊕