The reality of the public sphere in India is less enchanting, more prosaic. The political class often comes under censure for ruckus in Parliament, or elsewhere, but as citizens we do the exact same thing when push comes to shove. We wholly lack in discipline, etiquette and regard for the other person’s space. We are often so blindsided by the seductive narrative of a ‘free thing’ that the baser instincts in us effortlessly come to the fore. Friday’s state-level International Yoga Day celebrations in Rohtak, where Union Home Minister Amit Shah was the chief guest and Haryana CM Manohar Lal Khattar presided, saw some indecorous moments that put into sharp relief this irrational exuberance, as participants jostled, snatched and made a dash for yoga mats up for grabs.
The confidence that the art of yoga calms the body, mind and spirit came undone at the event. Thousands of people had gathered at a pandal to experience this ‘equanimity’. But the objective was lost with the exit of the VIPs from the venue. Mats packed in boxes near the stage were too good to be true, and had to be appropriated, even as some idle onlookers made videos that soon went viral. The Deputy Commissioner endorsed the behaviour, saying the mats were meant for the participants as a ‘memento’. Indubitably, a generous thought, but anticipating the ‘enthusiasm’, the state administration should have either made a provision for several thousand mats or have steered clear of it. A large number of schoolchildren and the elderly could have gotten hurt in the ensuing scrimmage.
Again, we can’t lay everything at the government’s door. As public, we, too, have responsibilities, chiefly among them, to conduct ourselves with a modicum of dignity. We can’t let the lure of freebies evoke such greed among us. We must recognise the manipulation that may come under the garb of dispensing benefaction through freebies. Also, the me-first proclivity must end, be it in trains, mall escalators, queues, roads. With yoga, let’s cultivate patience and respect for fellow beings.