Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Who Will Speak for Us Mallus?

Woke up this morning only to see that three-wheeled autorickshaw, our choice of transport, had kept off the roads. Oh, hadn’t they struck work only last week. Why again? What’s wrong with these rickshaw drivers? Oh, ho, then we receive a call from colleague Harjinder who says that Raj Thackeray the politician has been arrested and there’s unrest in the city. So we go back home. Things could take an ugly turn, so am not going to risk it. Another day lost.

As we write it this there are images on television and talk of Raj’s arrest. There are those images that are put on some kind of loop, again and again we see a woman in dark glasses and confident mien being shown entering a court with a man in a black coat, obviously a lawyer, a man asking a policewoman something, and then the policewoman pointing to something, or some place, and the man walking away, and a lot of hands being raised, waving, shouting something, and the people assembled there are smiling, arguing, shouting, waving flags, there seems to be a lot of screaming into cameras, as a lot of cameras are held upright above the head. And look, there is a cameraman climbing on the shoulders of his colleague to get a better shot.

And it happens. What is called a “lathi charge.” A lathi is a staff carried by the policemen in India and when they charge and beat up demonstrators with that stick, it is called a “lathi charge,” a mild one this time. Mild, because they can be ruthless at times, too. If you ask us we have never seen a “lathi charge” and are amazed the able way our corpulent cops can wield the stick, so lustily they beats them up. Yeah, they are efficient, at least, in this activity. Y’know beating up people comes easy because you can vent all that pent up anger.

Our friend Anthonybhai has a different take: Men, these are people whose pride has been hurt, whose rights have been taken away, deprived, men, by the migrants to the city from far away. We ask: but why the wanton destruction of property? Wasn’t passive resistance the Gandhian method of protest? Gandhi didn’t ask his followers to break glass or blacken people’s faces. Our other wealth-enjoying-brother Dhansukhbhai is fearful, after all he was also under the weather recently for not displaying the name of his company in his posh Nariman Point office in the local script. A mob entered his office and blackened his face. “No comment,” was his reaction. But then he calls me up in the evening and says, “I don’t think I should be saying this, but don’t quote me.” We say, no, we are only citizen journalists, nobody takes us seriously. “Pachi, these regional parties, no, I somehow have a bad feeling about them. Baddu, baddu, gana, gana, che. Raj talks about the right of Maharashtrians, and Lalloo talks about the right of Biharis. Who will talk about the rights of us Gujaratis?”

He is right. Who, for that matter, will speak for the rights of a Mack-English speaking Goan like Anthonybhai? Who will speak for us Mallus?

And here we would like to introduce our new character Poovannamnilkunnathil (it simply mean 'House were the Poovannam tree stands') Mathaichettan. No, don't try to pronounce the first word, you will find it impossible, on your uninitiated tongue, and send Mathaichettan into a tizzy about "ignorant", "arrant" "uninitiated" bourgeoise customs. Just call this president of the local Kairali Association as Mathaichettan, meaning elder brother Mathai (which is the Malayalam equivalent of Matthew). His face quivers with indignation when we ask him for a quote for our blog.

"It's alright for people to fight along regional, er, er, caste-based, er, er, language-based political lines. But according to God and Karl Marx we were all created equal, can't you see," says this god-fearing believer in class struggle.

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