As I was reading Vidhu Vincent’s drawings and the lines that accompanied them on the Emergency, I wondered, a bit ruefully, how Narendra Modi failed in ensuring that trains in India ran on time! If he willed Indian Railways into punctuality in May 2014, that would have given a magnificent ‘Sab ka saath sab ka vikas’ resonance to it. I suspect the reason for this apparent failure lies elsewhere. Being a man of futuristic vision, he thought it would be better to focus his attention on smart cities and bullet trains instead of wasting precious time on India’s unmodern, noisy, inelegant trains. The numerous smart cities across the country that materialised from nowhere in the past seven years, and the hundreds of brand-new bullet trains that crisscross our vast republic at breakneck speed, testify to this assumption made in good faith.
Vidhu’s graphic memoir on the Emergency is a personal tale and a critique. She is, literally, a child of the Emergency. Like ‘midnight’s children’, one is tempted to call people born during the 21 dark months of the 1970s ‘Emergency’s children’, but the trouble is they are now living through a hell much worse than the one they were born into. Although the period between 1977 and 2014 cannot be described as heavenly by any stretch of imagination or intellection, one realises, rather poignantly, that even heaven and hell are perceived in relative terms.