It was the 1980s. And in the hostel at Delhi College of Engineering, we were a true representative sample of India – Sikhs, Muslims, Christians, Hindus, believers, non-believers, Tamils, Telugus, Malayalis, Kannadigas, Biharis, Pahadis, Marwaris, Maharashtrians; add here the mix of castes; in short, a virtual Tower of Babel. Interests varied – the food we ate, what we drank, the books we read, the movies we saw, the games we played, the causes we espoused. In the midst of all this was the great unifier – Ek, Anek Aur Ekta.
Today’s world may laugh at the thought that we watched Films Division documentaries with interest, but we did. And some of them were very good indeed though by and large most were panegyrics to the then PM, Mrs Gandhi. Among those that stood out was one that poked fun at our keeping our homes spick and span while caring two hoots about the streets outside. And there was also Ek, Anek Our Ekta.
It was meant to teach us that no matter what our personal beliefs and faiths, we were one nation. The storyline is simple – a girl is writing a poem while her kid brother is trying to pluck a mango from a tree. No matter how hard he tries he is unable to succeed. The girl then sings about how the sun is one and so is the moon while there are plenty of stars. The song goes on to show a squirrel and then several, a butterfly and then many, a flower and then a whole garden of them and so on. The story of the pigeons caught in a net and flying away with it to a kingdom of rats where they are set free then follows. The song ends with the note that we in India are many people but we are one nation and that remaining united is our greatest strength and only hope.
The whole production is animated in what I understand is the traditional way – frame by frame, with the song being the running thread. We loved it in the hostel and never failed to see it when it was played. I think we came away as better people, more tolerant of one another.
I had never heard of Vijaya Mulay till this morning when I read her obituary and later the good entry on her in Wikipedia. And it was from the obit that I came to know that she was the brain behind Ek, Anek Aur Ekta. Hats off to you ma’am and I trust you had a happy and healthy 98 years of life on this earth. For those who have not seen the production, I give the link here. The technology may be grainy given todays facilities but still, it is the thought that counts.
And yes, I do hope Mr Narendra Modi watches it before he takes the oath of office, assuming the exit polls are correct in their prediction.