I wrote this first when I was in high school, then went back and added contemporary references towards the end of my first year of college. It wasn’t written for a special day or event. From textual evidence, this lack apparently caused my tiny audience some discomfort. But as I re-post this today, I hope I do it with a certain amount of Significance.
[For those of you who don’t know — or haven’t had time to check Google Doodles thing morning — the 15th marks India’s independence from British rule. It is our 65th years of putative freedom this year.]
Excuse my scatty verbosity. I was a teen.
There’s an Amitav Ghosh article called ‘The Ghost of Mrs Gandhi’. I was reading it when my eyes started stinging, and there was this constriction at the back of my nose. For insensitive bone-heads, it means I very nearly cried.
And then I immediately thought, aren’t I supposed to be a student of English literature? Shouldn’t I be able to focus on the content, but be magically disconnect from the emotion it inspires? I read an article about unthreatened people (in terms of community) risking their lives to shelter the threatened minority in the middle of a violent riot, Nehru’s ‘bhai-bhai’ sentiment out in full-force, people fighting the system with their will and their humanity and their goodness — ooh, such heroes! — and my first reaction is heart-swelling tears? Yuk! No wonder Bollywood works!
But that’s not actually true. In fact, the heart-swelling tears only happened at the bit where the women in the group surround the men, to protect them from the violent goons. The rest of the article brought out the anger I’ve been feeling at the world lately, in my own unvoiced, understated way.
Actually, I’ve been furious.
It’s difficult to convey this anger, because nothing’s been happening to ‘justify’ it. Mangled spoon-fed religious belief and calculated politics don’t need a justification, but if you want to pour your heart out about the state your country, your whole bloody world is in, you need a mass-murder at least. Or a hideous accident in which loads of little kids die or have their limbs wrenched away. Or a bomb to go off in one of the nerve centres of the world. If there isn’t a ‘tragedy’ there’s no point speaking your mind. People are going to look at you and wonder what you’re on about. It’s irrelevant and slightly insane, you see, till something big happens. Life goes on, because it must.
For example, I grew up in a family where people didn’t particularly discuss the religious aspects of the Babri masjid event, even as we lived through it. I remember a lot of concern, a lot of worried mutterings over tea, but only between fishing out the purse to give the domestic help money to go buy telebhaja from the bazaar, and searching for a particularly scathing editorial in the day’s newspaper for everyone to appreciate.
But then, I was a child. Maybe my family were secret fundamentalists. After all, they came from Bangladesh, didn’t they? But growing up, I found no inkling of anything discriminatory in my surroundings. Which is why the world comes as such a shock. Some day, the newspapers say that in Mumbai it is against policy to paint public buildings green, because of it’s association with Islam. On other days, in a different vein, they report that cops at Narkeldanga have refused to escort CESC people to disconnect hookings which lead to frequent power failures in east Cal, because they fear a ‘law and order situation’. Instead they have unofficially requested the CESC officials to restore the hooked connections to placate the local slum dwellers.
And I am not taking anyone’s side here, just in case you are wondering. If the majority had been reversed, these stories would have a reversed point of focus. If another party was in power, they would have protected illegal hookings too.
And that is what worries me sick — that these stories of reality, no pun intended, exist at all.
It’s just that, I sort of used to believe all that stuff on my country being a melting pot of cultures and languages, on being truly multi-ethnic and happy about it. Now I feel stupid, gullible, dumb and made a fool of. And I hate being made a fool of. So you see, I have a selfish, personal, spiteful axe to grind against the people who beat up a Muslim man in Mumbai for being a Muslim and reading a Bengali newspaper, a Hindu man in UP for pulling a Muslim girl away from an oncoming lorry (he touched her, see?), a Sikh for having a beard and wearing a turban (terrified Americans thought he was an Afghan terrorist. Like he would walk up to the friendly neighbourhood counter after 9/11 if he was), those who kill tiny little three bloody minute old girls, and force their children into marriage. Those who let ‘situations’ get out of hand and sit in AC rooms and calculate the benefits thereof. Who think if they ignore the problem of the seven sisters of the north-east long enough and fire enough rounds into the people, they’ll quit making a racket and behave like proper, docile Indian women.
So I am vindictive, you see. I am cold, angry, and unforgiving.
And all I can do about it is cry over ancient articles and write silly pieces on a blog. But then, what can I do? The nation that I belived my country was never really existed. I grew up within a ghost.