Thursday, August 21, 2014

Mengaobi: The Fair One

One look at her and you see many emotions reflected through her eyes, serenity, passion, love and most of all, anguish. You still do not recognize or acknowledge her pathos, until you learn that she has not been eating since past fourteen years. And you wonder what it feels like to be force fed through nasogastric intubation, feed her through a tube attached to her nose?

Such people are rare who can demonstrate such relentless courage of conviction and determination in the face of intense pressure and intimidation by this hypocrite system. Irom Chanu Sharmila is rightly called as the 'Iron Lady of Manipur', a civil rights activist, political activist and a poet.

It all started on 2nd November 2000, when ten civilians were shot and killed while waiting at a bus stop in Malom, a town in the Imphal Valley of Manipur, allegedly by the Assam Rifles which is a part of the Indian Paramilitary forces under the comfortable shelter of AFSPA (Armed Forces Special Powers Act). This incident outraged the 'Iron Lady' to such an extent that she resolved for a fast undo death, unless the AFSPA was revoked.

AFSPA is apparently a law that gives the forces the right to raid without warrant, kill innocent civilians, molest them,rape them or just announce them as 'terrorist' and then kill them. Its about barging in a home at midnight and arrest their daughters, kill the males, even the kids and leave the women wailing. But all this is justified, perhaps, because this law is a 'national necessity'. Who are we fighting with? Who are we protecting? And who are we protecting from whom? All this remains a conundrum for me.

Recently a court ordered her release from custody, subject to there being no other grounds for detention. She was under custody for her 'fast' interpreted as 'attempt to commit suicide'. The casual manner in which she walked out of the court and the simplicity in her greatness was intriguing.

'How do you feel Irom?'
'It's God's will.' And her eyes wells up.
'You are crying. You should be happy. Why are you crying Irom?'
'I just got emotional...but it's a draconian law. The fight will continue.'

One often wonders about the intriguing and self-sacrificing nature of activists. What gives them the courage to stand firmly by the causes they believe in, or give up so much of their life for the well-being of others? Perhaps sometimes the inner conscience of people takes them so far that they stop fearing anything. And that's a place of ultimate peace. Irom has always maintained that her struggle is spiritual. Perhaps that's where she draws her strength from.

This particular poem titled 'Wake Up' by Irom Sharmila herself is very apt here.

Wake up brothers and sisters
The savior of the nation
We have come out all the way
Knowing we all will die
Why the fear is
So shaky in the heart?
Yes, myself too
In the impact of this hard step
Overwhelmed with anxiety and fear
With the prayer to almighty
Praising the spirit of truth
Touchily from this frail body
I am bidding farewell
Yet longing for life
Though birth is followed by death
So fond of to accomplice
My desired mission

                        Wake Up

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Basanti Ka E-Rickshaw

The perspiration accumulated right below my nose, started to feel soothing with the onset of cool breeze on that summer afternoon...almost evening. And then the wind gained pace…became ferocious...roaring…and eventually filled my hair and face with the finest quality of Delhi sand mixed with five percent silt. I was going to community center to have a cup of lemon tea and have some party time…alone.

The e-rickshaw driver asked for extra ten bucks as I was el-solo-lobo at that time. And trust me, riding on an e-rickshaw ‘alone’ for just ten extra bucks is a good bargain considering the mehengai-wale-achche-din. And this vehicle was particularly decorated with little neon lights and jhalars around its ceiling. Put a ‘Just Married’ banner and it was perfect for a romantic ride with your special one. The journey started only after he switched on music in his high decibel mobile phone imported from China I guess. The Bollywood movie song about estranged lovers played out loud…saajan mera us paar hai…milne ko dil bekaraar haifeel like humming na? Me too and I was transformed into a different dimension.

Before we reached Okhla head, it started to rain and within no time it was like downpour. As if the shower that God was using broke down and it was direct flow from the tap. And understandably Okhla head was quite deserted, except for that damsel in distress. There she was…in her salwar suit having 16 million colors…drenched…just enough to let my imaginations run wild…eco-friendly...with those light green frame spectacles...and some gigabytes of attitude. Her eyes were like large sized peas. Man…they were green. Figure-wise she looked like a pumpkin…regular kind of pumpkin…not very big…not small either. An eco-friendly fellow rider for an eco-friendly ride…perfect camouflage.

She approached the e-rickshaw and the driver stopped instantly…paying no regard at all to our el-solo-lobo contract. I didn't mind either. She sat right in front of me…glared at me through her anti-glare glasses…took out her Sony Xperia Z and started browsing her call log. The song changed to…saat samundar paar main tere peechhe peechhe aa gayistop humming that gave me a chance to examine her...a little closely. And for some strange reason she seemed vaguely familiar. The combination of those eyes and those fragile specs seemed familiar, while she kept on browsing through her endless call log.

Now I had two guesses. She must be the girlfriend of any of my acquaintance...or she is a witch. The curiosity about a person who seems familiar increases many folds if she is a pretty girl. The potholed road from Okhla head to Tikona Park gifted our clothes with mud. While the rain continued.

"Do you believe that ghosts actually have a gender?"

Now that was obviously not the best conversation starter from my side, especially in those weather conditions. But I guess being different and abstract sometimes work.

"Yes they do. Or else how come some of the ghosts are helpful? Those are the lady ghosts."

"I don't think they are ever helpful. It's just a movie thing. And even if you go by movies, most of the benevolent ghosts are the male ones."

"Yeah it’s a movie thing. They have actually stereotyped the lady ghosts."

"Aww their population must be rising then?"

Now that wasn't meant to be anything naughty, but she did have a chuckle in her face.

"Yeah it is."

"But how is that even possible? I mean ghosts do not have any physical presence."

"A ghost offspring do not have physical presence too."

"Okay point. You seem to know a lot about ghosts. Am I safe in this situation?"

"Ha ha ha. Don't worry. You are safe."

"What about this scaring thing? Do they target random people or they have special liking for certain people?"

"Well...It depends on the mood."

"Hmm hmm."

"I mean if they have nothing to do and are terribly bored then anyone could be the prey. Or else they have specific targets. In general kids are fun to play with."

“Hmm reasonable. And how about ghosts being in romantic affair with human beings?”

“Only if he is six feet two and owns a Ferrari.”

That wasn't funny but I got the message, while she again got herself busy with her call log. The rain slowed a bit, the breeze was amazingly soothing with the drizzle coming to my face. I closed my eyes. The e-rickshaw kept on moving stealthily devouring whatever nature and peace could offer to mankind. And I was about to transform to yet another dimension when I was woken up.

The damsel was gone or perhaps vanished.

“Brother 20 bucks.” He seemed content with a hint of achievement in his face.

I got down, paid him the money and took out my phone. The news Live Tile updated.

Delhi High Court Bans E-Rickshaw

I cried to the same driver.

“Brother take me back. I am done here.”

He smiled, flipped his vehicle, wiped water from his face and put the music back on…kisi ki muskurahaton pe ho nisaarkisi ke vaaste ho tere dil mein pyaar…jeena isi ka naam hai…