February 2, 2013

Measuring upto India’s Bullies

I have long wondered why I live here. In India. A country that counts its cultural heritage on its fingertips, a place where everyone responds to crisis with godly intonations. Where I, for a long time in my life, was a also a honorary exponent of the ‘chalta hai’ phenomenon. Where I saw things done and felt angry and helpless and said that nothing could be done and just walked away. I saw this and wondered what could be done, after all this is what it is, if you want to be an Indian, this is how you live it. And I remember instances where I could have done something but did not and where I did too little to make a change.

I remember a school bully missing classes and sometimes taking others as well to loiter around. I saw him abuse people and still get away. I remember him looking older than his 17 years and misbehaving with his teachers. And I remember the one thing I did right. I walked up to his class teacher and told her Mrs. Berger, that this guy was lying and wasting his and others’ life around. The guy got scolded. I possibly escaped beating because I was really a kid, maybe in the fourth and also perhaps everyone was scared of my father.

I remember my sister getting teased and I remember her slapping the boy smack in his face in the middle of his boy’s school, St. Vincents. She stood, waited for her bus and left for home. That boy was not seen again.

I remember my hostel mates looking forward to the exhibition at Pragati maidan in Delhi so that they could press the breasts of as many girls as possible. In Holi, they would enter the nearby colonies and do the same and run away. I remember not being able to do anything about this. I remember that phase as a painful one.

I remember not being able to fight off raggers who would force us to listen to them. Yet, I remember standing upto them one day and was led off by one considerate senior who knew that I could have been bashed by them.

I remember two fights more than anyone. A gang threatening a friend and we going to help. One of them pouncing at me and I remember a huge basketball friend of mine, some Tyagi coming in and protecting me. I remember this other time when I confronted, if you can believe it, 40 of them and standing my ground, about to be jostled. When suddenly, another friend, this time a volleyball player, literally lifting me and taking me away.
I remember getting cowed by the police in Sector 10 in Chandigarh when four of us were walking close to the arts college. They asked for a bribe to let us go or they would take us to the Police Station. And I remember losing it and also four of us coughing up 50 rupees each. I remember that exactly the same spot, policemen coming to check me and sister walking together and remember her giving them a dose.

I remember my friend Rawat standing upto 10 armed fellows and them backing off. I remember him being chided and joked about for months that here is this short tempered man. I remember standing up with him all through.

I remember fighting group mentality during post graduation and I remember falling prey to it so very often. I remember them as making fun of girls as if they owned them and I remember standing up to them. So much that by the time, I finished that course, I was the lone man standing and the girls had fought back by then. The girls infact took this gang by their horns and showed them their place. The next one year, these guys were quite.

I remember teasing and violence, slowly giving way to intolerance and political and official domineering. And this is where I stand today. Having to fight and give way sometimes. Managing a different type of an Indian everyday who are connected by a common thread of being intolerant and suggest complete acceptance of their way. Their way or no way.

I don’t remember anything now. I am living it. Apathy of our people, the dadagiri of the gentry, the meek acceptance by us to most of their demands. And the growing feeling that I must fight on. Must keep on. Else whatever fine idea, I had about this country will remain a pipe dream.

But what does one do of the politician who demands free stay, of the officer who expects a bribe, of the another officer who sends free people for safaris, of the man who is deep in corrupt waters, of the men who indulge in political backbiting and make it their favourite pastime, of the chauvinist who won’t accept you as you can’t speak his language fluently, of the friend who can’t accept a fault in Sachin Tendulkar, of a man talking that the movement in Delhi means we are getting aware now, of the man who says that his uncle is this MLA or that MP and won’t pay for an extra cup of tea, of that familiar face who would call a powerful fellow to throw around his weight, of the clerk who would take days to send a file, of the doctor who never works at the public health centre and is instead found in Mysore practicing his trade, of the narrow-mindedness that these broad-minded people in developed cities are trapped in, of the man who illegally carries away sand or mud or trees or coal, of them who are developed yes but sensitized, no.

I would fight them all.