The revolutionary

Amalendu Upadhyaya
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By Justice Markandey Katju

The revolutionary

The great Urdu poet Mirza Ghalib wrote :

"Hoon garmi-e-nishat-e-tasavvur se naghma-sanj

Main andaleeb-e-gulshan-e-naa-aafariidah hoon"

हूं गर्मी-ए-निशात-ए-तसव्वुर से नगमा-संज

मैं अंदलीब-ए-गुलशन-ए-ना-आफ़रीदा हूं


''I sing with the heat (excitement) of the delights of the things I imagine and foresee.

I am the nightingale of the garden that is yet to be born.''

This sher (couplet) succinctly describes a revolutionary. He is a visionary, always thinking, and fighting, for a future country, in which his people will be happy and prosperous.

In his imagination, he lives in that future, unborn, prosperous country, and delights in it, and momentarily forgets the present state of affairs, in which the masses live in misery.

He is like the stormy petrel described in Maxim Gorki's famous poem 'The Song of the Stormy Petrel'.

Yet his life's journey is full of hardship, and his chosen path is full of thorns :

''Hum inquilabiyon ko naya jahaan banaana hai magar

Yeh safar hai mashaqqat-o-museebaten liye hue.''

(हम इंकलाबियों को नया जहां बनाना है मगर

ये सफर है मशक्कत-ओ-मुसीबतें लिए हुए।)

And he sings this song :

 The revolutionary's life is lonely, and he often has to face great hostility by the common people who are conservative by nature and do not like changes. Yet he does not flinch or surrender but carries on a lonely struggle.

He is a creator of new, modern values, and does not follow the morality of the common people, who have feudal mindsets ( as in India, full of casteism, communalism, and superstitions ). The revolutionary rises above them, he overcomes great obstacles, engages in epic struggles to change the existing social and political order ( not always successfully), pursues new goals unfamiliar to the common man, and transcends and transforms existing values.

He knows he may not live to see the day when his dream comes true, and he may die in this struggle, and not see in reality what he sees in his imagination.

But how does that matter? As Zarathustra said in Nietzsche's book 'Thus Spake Zarathustra':

"What matter about thyself Zarathustra? Say thy word and break into pieces".


''Speak the truth, even if it results in your death.''

In Charles Dickens' famous novel 'A Tale of Two Cities', at an early part of the novel, there is a conversation between Defarge, a wine seller, and his wife Madame Defarge, both of whom are secretly revolutionaries.

Defarge is despondent and dispirited because he thinks that the revolution for which he has been working for many years may not occur in his lifetime. To which Madame Defarge replies :

"What of that? It will come."

Defarge says, "But when will it come? How much time does lightning take to strike the ground?"

"How much time does it take to build that lightning?" replies Madame Defarge. "An earthquake strikes suddenly, causing massive death and destruction. But how much time does it take to build that earthquake?

You may not see the end. But you have contributed to it. Let that be your consolation, and be satisfied by it."

A true revolutionary is like Madame Defarge, who patiently continued with her knitting.

(Justice Katju is a retired judge of the Supreme Court of India. These are his personal views.)

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