Of Protest, State Apathy and Media: A Note from Jantar Mantar

Of Protest, State Apathy and Media: A Note from Jantar Mantar

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A few things Mr. Modi could bring with him – Isn’t it time we chose wisely?

Before you dismiss it like probably you do to everything else, or nod in agreement similarly with other things, process it for a moment.

To the ardent fan and the follower, or to the moderate who today sees no other alternative, there probably is a need for all of us to sit down and talk.

No, not about the same things.

I know for a fact that you are bored of  hearing the same things over and over again. Although that does not take away any bit about the authenticity of those arguments or the convictions of people who have written or spoken these things, there is probably a side of the story which has now emerged which needs your attention – your active attention, if you may look up from your smart-phone for a bit.

So your wish came true, and all what a lot of other people (including yours truly) had been already saying (fearing) came to be true as well – that your favourite political party now has an angry, stern and undeterred face in your Mr. Modi as the PM candidate of the BJP. I remember all of your status messages to each other and in random groups – celebrating the occasion. And likewise, I also saw the anger in stern anti-Modi groups of people. I saw the television media – unsure of how exactly to respond – but finding more and more ways to sell things, using adjectives which do not usually find mention unless you are trying to oversell a bad product.

Image(http://indiatoday.intoday.in/story/delhi-modified-modify-delhi-narendra-modi-modi-delhi-rally-japanese-park-vikas-rally/1/312294.html)

If you are reading this, then you also saw and read those. I do not really need to illustrate it here.

For the ones who believe that it is now time for the Hindus to stand up and dictate everyone around; if you think this is a license to kill and loot at will; if you think this will boost foreign investment which in turn will boost everything in the country or you think that it is now time to do away with democracy, because it is just too much hassle – we need to talk. (And yes! as the rhetoric phrase suggests, it is indeed time for trouble)

Because this is not about the same things, as I promised, it is about the other things – all based on assumption, or projections, as I would like to call these.

I made a list of this from the knowledge of reading minds and writings from a lot of people over the last few years. It may only be appended, not removed, in my humble opinion.

So what is this actually about, if not about the Gujarat model of development, or the charisma of the leader, or 2002, or the rise of communalism, or the effective bureaucratic functioning of the state of Gujarat, of administrative clearances to industries doled out sooner, to forming bigger SEZs, low social indicators, poor reports by national and international agencies on development and human rights, ridicules faced by the leader, of his humble origins, the shrewd overthrow of established leaders and the opportune characters, of the hijack of issues of ‘development’, of the pre-existing vibrant economy of Gujarat, the general apathy of middle-classes, the ghettoization, of intolerance, the building of reactionary politics and more reactionary societies?

It is none of this – and somewhere all of this. It is a call to think maybe a tiny bit more before we take sides. It is a call to think from where we are not – and to be responsible citizens, and be responsible human beings.

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(http://in.reuters.com/article/2013/02/06/narendra-modi-srcc-delhi-protest-idINDEE9150CH20130206)

Did we all not grow up with the idea that most politicians divide the country for votes, that vested interests run ugly nexus of powerful people who run states and corporations? It seems today many are ready to turn a blind eye to all of it. It is not that all of that we learnt from chai-corners or drawing room discussions was all wrong, it at-least reflected the anger and frustrations of the people living off on the streets and in the homes. From a class of people which  has been branded always as blaming politics for even their vehicles not giving enough mileage, this is sea-change. Everything is fair now, everything is right, because it is war, right?

Image
(http://www.firstpost.com/photos/photos-narendra-modi-woos-audience-at-bjp-delhi-rally-1140635.html)

Economic policies lie at the intersections of majority of conflicts in the country. Do you really think putting out fire with fire is a good idea? Do you think that the majority of conflicts in the country which derive their existence somewhere due to aggressive capitalist expansion, can be solved by more and more of capitalist expansion? Is it not exactly the Modi model of development – if there even exists one!

When the critiques for global capital systems are made, it is usually not its dismissal in the entirety but also a way to understand the resonance it creates among people who are not ‘you’, people who are somewhere also there because you are ‘somewhere’. All these are perspectives, and are living realities for a lot of people. When most of you have claimed to be wanting to do good to society, (I till date have not figured out what exactly is that supposed to mean!) take care to think of wanting to look at all the aspects before you put a blanket on the definitions of development, growth, struggle, culture, and all of that.

Nationalist and citizenship are evolving concepts. To straight-jacket it into only what you believe, and it gets accepted because someone tells you that is how it is, to serve their own vested political and socio-religious interests is violent political behaviour – and from both sides. Probably this will sting, but not everyone believes in ‘Bharat Mata ki Jai’, or ‘Ram Rajya’, or crying ‘Allah-hu-Akbar’. This cannot determine their patriotism, because many do get anything from this patriotism, and because you cannot build patriots at gunpoint. Is that really so important to hold your head high in false pride – just because it serves some alter-ego for some people, while the others die.
Image
(http://onpoint.wbur.org/2013/04/10/capitalism)

You have claimed all this while to be focused on ‘development’. Because the rest are not issues of development, is it? Only pockets can develop, is it?

Think a bit; because all humans are meant to think. Think something else other than planning your weekend getaways, of where to get booze on the next dry day, or about which malls have the biggest sale offers – because that is exactly the grand way to not let people think.  There are a lot of things to think about. And no, it is not somebody else’s responsibility to do that. If it is, then you will have to keep your mouth shut forever and let anything happen – which you believe has to change, right? Isn’t that the slogan which you chant – Change?

So before the project of fitting dreams in people’s eyes even ventures out, think. I will not suggest what to do with your vote – because personally I do not think much will matter who sits at the helm of political power in the country. But I will not make problematic political choices, however insignificant I think they really are, because I believe in the democratic principles of freedom of speech and expression, and of right to life and liberty – and I will not trade warranties over my own right for the absolving for someone else’s. Maybe it is time you do too, or maybe not – it is your choice after all.

You can choose how to die, and kill, or choose how to live.

To the rest –with love (part 5 of 5)

 

The room was filled with a dim light, red in colour. It seemed a little hazy while watching in front of the computer screen, although he did not have to strain his eyes even a little bit. The camera was right in front, fixed perfectly to give the viewer a first-row view of what was to come about. Arun did not recall his mother being able to handle the camera so well. She used to be a naturist, and a photographer, before she became his father’s wife. Since then she had never touched the camera, not until now – and for good measure.

Such a nice surprise. He liked the theatre-like feel to it. He absolutely loved it.

The video showed her face, clearly, painted in blood, dripping down to the lower part of her breasts  – now a little dried, while she was fixing the camera on the wooden chest. The body of his father was clearly visible, showing multiple openings for which blood oozed out, with almost a hundred strike-marks. His shirt had given way to expose his well-haired chest, almost every inch showing marks of the knife, now lying used near the body. She walked slowly to the kitchen, slowly calculating how much time she exactly had left.

She had it neatly arranged, the butcher knife, black plastic bags, tissue paper to wipe her hands clean, and a bottle of water for her when she got tired in the middle. Facing the camera, she sat on her knees, and used the butcher knife to separate every part of the body, starting with the limbs, moving next to his manhood, of which he was so proud. The head was the most difficult. It took her a little time. She had to smoke a cigarette while the head was half-cut. And when she was done, she picked it all up, and neatly packed the pieces in the plastic bags.

Turning around, she blew a kiss to the audience. “The show is over, go home honey”, were the last words which played before the camera was shut off.

Arun played with the disk drive in his hand, looking again at the message from mom.

“It cannot be lost. It won’t be. I will not let it happen.”

He dialed someone on the phone.

The other voice picked up and said – “I know why you have called. I received a strange mail from your mother before she was arrested. She had told me you would call.”

He told her all about the video. She wanted to see it herself before she could do anything. Without saying anything, she gasped for breath, closing her eyes and remembering all that she herself had to go through. Luckily for her, her husband had moved abroad after a year of marriage and her family had helped her get a divorce.

Not everyone could.

She had met Arun’s mother for the first time while their husbands had forced them to…., she did not want to think further. “I am with you. I will make sure this is done”, she said wiping her tears.

The video was out the next day. Before it could get banned, or the people who released it could be found, it had spread everywhere. It made headlines, struck up debates whilst the most sensational case was to be decided by the courts.

People were outraged, the horror was everywhere. The world was discussing it. Stories were published everywhere by god-men, or their devotees, expressing shock and spate for the violence perpetrated in society through this case. The world debated the reasons for this barbarity. Some wanted to know the reason for this, while others lectured on over the inhumanity of murder not being the solution. Someone somewhere had just gagged laughing on this.

Mother was sitting on the ground, looking from the insides of her solitary prison cell, in the days before her execution was to finally take place. She was looking at the stars, wondering if today it was bigger than the other days. She knew what was happening. She had seen the TV. Her interview was playing on the screen.

“What do you regret the most today, now when your hanging has been announced?”

“I should have not quit using the camera. This could have happened earlier”, she said with a genuine smile.

A genuine smile, at last. Finally.

_____________________________________________

 

To the rest – with love (Part 4 of 5)

They had to break the door down. The smoke was clogging the other windows nearby. Living in an upscale high-rise apartment still has its demerits. It was on live television – the fire from the windows of the 28th floor.

Arun was standing with the police outside, shouting his lungs out. Mother still would not open.

When they could finally turn the door down, he rushed to the place where his father had last breathed. He was not there anymore, atleast not how he had left the body. There were three plastic bags kept where he had initially stabbed the father. The last one was packed loosely enough, showing just enough for people to cover their face with their handkerchiefs. He rushed to the balcony from where the smoke escaped, going straight to national television.

Everyone was watching the same thing – ‘FIRE IN ACE BUSINESSMAN’S HOUSE. MURDER SPECULATED      ’

A rolling text scrolled at the bottom – ‘Whereabouts of wife unknown, she had called the police last 45 minutes back with a murder confession.’

Arun saw mother in the last room, on the armchair in the corner – with lights out, the expensive blue lamp hanging near the end of the door, barely affected with the smoke from the master bedroom that had filled the room.

She had put the entire bedroom on fire – the site where her chastity was tested so many times, in front of so many strangers, and in so many ways. She remembered her husband had never spared any effort to prove his voyeuristic capabilities to all these people – who took turns bringing their wives at times as well – you know – to just add to variety.

She turned around when her only son called her by the name, and showered him with a smile, a genuine smile, as she turned around to face him.

“I made sure I chopped him in as many pieces as I could”, she said, as if trying to conjure up a smile. There was no horror in that voice. There was no remorse, no pain, no repentance. There was delectation, a delight in the account.

A fit of silence had struck the room. She had committed no crime, atleast not in the eyes of anyone in there. There was no such doubt. Still, an argument was about to break out.

The firefighters were trying to extinguish the fire while the great Indian middle-class held their breath, sucking whatever drama which could come their way.

“You cannot do this. I was the one who struck him first. If anyone is responsible, it is me. I will not let you do this”, Arun shouted at her, sensing she was in no mood to let him take the fruits of the work he had done.

The trap was laid. He was at the door with the police, with the house locked from inside. There was no way he could convince the police that it was him. The neighbours also had deposed of having seen him wandering in the park around the time that the killing took place. There was no way he could win this fight with her mother. She had played the final trick.

He might have struck the body, but the right to take away that life belonged to her. Nothing else was said.

He sat away, as headlines reported the ‘MOST GRUESOME ACT BY A WOMAN IN THE DECADE’ for the night – playing a 8 second clip of his mother being taken in custody. He saw nicely-combed reporters, half-drunk and half-sleepy, brooding over every tiny detail – of what was told to them, or what they could imagine.

The house was sealed by the police, all important evidence with the plastic bagfuls of body collected and sent away to determine if there was anything they could find from it.

He sat there in the park, in his favourite place once again, perplexed at how the night had turned out. Nothing he had imagined had transpired today. Dawn was almost there – just on the horizons. He stretched his neck, trying to think what to do next. He did not feel like smoking.

He searched for his phone in his pockets. He found a disk drive with a label – ‘So this never dies away! Love – Mom.’ She had somehow slipped it in his pockets before he could even know.

He found a place where he could see it, safe and sound. She had recorded something to give away to her son, before the police took her. It was a recording from the room – of everything she had done.

He watched it over and over again, till noon. Then he stood up, and called his lawyer. “Time to take this story out, where it is worth telling”, he had decided.

It indeed was worth telling. Only to someone who cared. And as it turned out – someone did.

To the rest – with love (Part 3 of 5)

She simply lay there. Her husband did all the work. All of it.

And after he was done, he slapped her once again, for moving a little in the middle – mostly out of routine, turned around and slept off. She woke up, washed those little drops which had managed to slip past those eyes, and covered her face.

This had become a daily affair. When (ever) he would come home, sober or drunk with madness, he would force himself on her. The first few days she had resisted – invoking her sense of duty, the ingrained sense of duty towards her husband. But when nobody paid heed – her mother, sisters, the friendly neighbourhood aunty, her mother-in-law, the police, she just stopped.

Everyone told her was no crime committed.

These cannot be crimes. Of course not. Such an idiot she was to even think that.

She sat in the balcony, puffing away the smoke with slow drags. This was her first cigarette in decades – and probably her last. Or perhaps not.

Stealing stares at the body which once used to walk up to her in fits of murderous rage, now lying haplessly in the corner; she turned her face to the TV. Someone was talking about how the crocodiles mated; and how this was the best season to capture it, and how he was risking his life trying to record such a show.

“Such a fool”, she thought – almost thinking aloud – “He should have learned from my husband. He knew all about recording mating sessions without knowledge, or consent, or information. Even telecasting them to his set of friends was never too much of a risk for him.”

“What is the big deal about crocodiles then! Such a fool indeed”, she gasped.

Her cigarette was almost over. Putting it off in the ash-tray, she turned to the kitchen. Fetching the biggest knife she could find.

The wretched body took a few more stabs.

A little more than a few.

She sat motionless there near the body, as like her everyday chore – went up and smeared an ounce of blood on her face, and then scoured it on her chest.

The TV were showing  the crocodiles had now mated successfully. The show was over.

She woke up from the floor, cleaned the carpet  – cleaning everything but the floor on which the body lay, and her face – and her chest.

She left a message for Arun to come back home. She placed a second call. The police was now on its way.

She was perfectly alone. Not a living soul around. Locking the main door, she grabbed her husband’s pack of cigarettes and lit another one.

“A well-deserved smoke”, she assured herself.

 

 

To the rest – with love (Part 2 of 5)

Mother came running upon hearing the sound. There was nothing much to it, he went quite silently – did not resist much. Surprisingly even for once Arun had not imagined it to be this silent – this quiet – never in all those years. He had somehow imagined a lot of throwing around – of a lot of people outside to witness what had just happened. There was none of that. Absolutely none of that.

She did not shriek a cry. She just stood there, bound by some ancient ritual to not move around much when her husband was there – even though this time he lay dead, quite dead. He had died a few stabs back. Arun did not seem to care. Or notice. Neither.

It was 23 years back when he had first heard them – the cries, those specific cries. He had heard several slaps before. These were definitely different. He had already woken up in the next room. Mother was crying, rather chocking on something, resisting something. This was peculiarly odd for him, he had rarely heard mother resisting anything. This was definitely something different.

Among the loud gushes his father was taking, there was also constant shouting from mother. Arun was at the door, his ears reluctantly pressed against the newly painted wood – listening very intently. All he could clearly hear constantly was the word ‘no’.

Arun knew what he was hearing. He was already 10. He just didn’t know what to make of it – till he heard a third voice, and then a fourth – all male.

Then he knew.

He was not cleaning the granite floor – he was cleaning his hands with the blood, or dirtying them – he was not certain. Soaking all of whatever that came out of that body which once could move, and eat, and drink – and inflict hurt – all of that, now lay perfectly still. The proud owner of this dead meat sat next to it, staring at his mother in the eyes, while she looked at him with love, rage, horror, affection, all packed up in a single glare.

“You know what he just did?”, he asked her laughing.

“What?”

“He hugged me and said he was about to die. Of something…Yes! Cancer. I couldn’t give him such a peaceful death, could I?”

“No.”

“I need to finish picking up the glasses from the kitchen floor.”, she receded back.

“Sure, I also need a smoke.”

“Can you just lend me one?”

To the rest – with love (Part 1 of 5 )

 

“I am not you. I am an evolved person”, Arun shouted and banged the fine cutlery off the dining table. Little pieces of the left over food flew across the room. His mother watched these fall on the neatly-spread blue engraved carpet, while standing silently in the corner, her head shaking with unparalleled rage, and insurmountable fear. He lit a cigarette, and almost threw the lighter at his father’ face. It nearly gave him a tiny scratch. He came out of the house, banging the door behind him and went straight ahead to the neighbourhood park, to his cave of fury. He found the little-found solace in his life, all emanating from sitting at the little crouched spaces between the trees.

He did not like the benches. They were too comfortably designed.

He picked his favourite rough spot and sat there, looking around. “Today was the same”, he was reassuring himself in a way, “This will pass. This will all pass, soon enough.”

He disconnected the phone. Mom was calling. He switched it off and kept it back in his pocket. Remembering the first time he had raised his voice against his father, when he was 12 year-old, a strange laugh came to him. Mom has not changed much – she still wants to make sure I come home and sleep in the house. “After all this time..”, pausing a moment in his head to understand why. Why has she never said anything against those bruises, those slaps, those burns, to none of that? Why has she never called the police, or alarmed the neighbours? Why does she still obediently serves food for his good-for-nothing father when he returns back home from wherever he goes?

He didn’t have an answer. He didn’t want to answer.

She never did say a word, not to anyone, except those ones which one had to speak while living with other people in the same house – with requests to eat the food, drink the water, update the status of the laundry – things like that. The rest of the time she was quite, she didn’t even probably speak to herself. Or perhaps she spoke a language nobody else understood.

Nobody could know. Nobody wanted to know.

Something crossed his mind, juxtaposing his already-filled mind with a sense of horror, and shame, and pleasure – all at the same time. His mind had wandered off this way before, but he had never really given this a serious thought. “This naïve sense was now coming back, how else could one seriously consider murder”, he wondered, in his head of course.

Delusional he surely was, at times – that in itself is not a bad thing at all. At school, when the guys would tease him when he came to school with that sore eye, or with a broken wrist – day after day, these thoughts had crossed his mind – that of cold-blooded murder – that of thrusting knives after knives into the bare chest of his father. He had imagined it in his head for all these years.

He was now ready.

But that was just school. This was 20 years back. He couldn’t still think of doing this, really do this – or could he? Could he really?

He stood up, checking his phone if it was still switched off. It was. He went finding something. All it took him was another hour.

Today was the day. Today is the day.

The staircase today took him forever. He knocked, and waited. Mother was in the kitchen, cleaning up some broken glasses. He could hear his dad opening the door and shouting at her, all at the same time. He saw his father’s eyes, drunk with alcohol, red with anger of being made to leave his drink – all staring at him, with the numbest expression he had seen.

His chest seemed bigger today. “It would now be easier to strike then”, he smirked. Reaching for the knife inside his pocket, he smiled again “Today is indeed the day”.

 

(I shall update the next part as soon as I can. Your comments are most welcome)