My dad decided that he had had enough of the Gulf and one fine day told us that he wanted to come back home. So we did. We, dad, mom, brother and I, returned to India back in September 2007. That's when I started yearning for knowing more. I developed the habit of reading the news every morning and have stuck to it, albeit not religiously, till date. And if there was one thing, rather one entity, that amused both my brother and I, it was Shiv Sena - the political party in Mumbai. We'd literally laugh out loud upon reading news of their antics in the city everyday.
We got so used to it that if one of us was reading the newspaper and burst out laughing, the other would come running and ask, "Shiv Sena right?" We found a lot of what they did funny - torching buses, vandalizing public property, running around the city assaulting couples making out during Valentine's Day and so on.
As I grew up, I realized how this wasn't so funny anymore. On the onset, it was a little amusing that they needed brute force and dadagiri get people to notice them. But I wasn't laughing anymore. Their attempts to curb free speech, curb equal rights and basically go against the very Constitution of India under the aegis of which they lived didn't humour me anymore. I was outraged by these atrocities.
It affected me because, as a writer, I know the importance of free speech. As a person who's been in his own fair share of relationships, I know how screwed up it can be for random people to assault me when I'm with my significant other. As a citizen who lived under the same rules and laws as they did, the had no right to do what they were doing and get away with it.
What are we teaching the people out there? Wielding the stick and using physical and verbal assaults can ensure that you remain on top. That's the picture we portray. Agreed, biologically speaking, in evolutionary terms, that is the case. But humans have long since grown out of instinctive behaviour. And since most of us have, all of us are expected to have grown out of it. (P.S. A debate on this is most welcome! Instinctive behaviour will actually bode us well if all of us threw "civilization" to the winds).
These atrocities kindled in me a burning question.
"How can the policemen just sit back and not do anything?"
This was when I still had faith in the system, back when I wasn't slapped in the face with all the corruption and the "as long as it's not under my roof" attitude we Indians have nurtured over the last few decades.
I visited Mumbai in the summer of 2013. On my list of things I wanted to do, one was to have chaat (because my friend insisted I would never have had better food in my life anywhere else) and another was to see some of these "Marathi" goons. Of course the list also had a host of other things - the Gateway, the Taj hotel (particularly because I wanted to see where the attack had taken place), Victoria Terminus, etc etc. You know the run.
During my stay there, I DID encounter a few of these people. We were stuck in a traffic jam that was as far out as the eye could see. Suddenly there was some violent honking and some loud jostling, the likes of which can be heard when they open the doors at Tirumala. I turned around in my seat and saw a Bolero-ish vehicle with the Shiv Sena flag fluttering on top.
I was actually a bit excited. I felt like I was in a safari and a prized animal strolled past our car. But, to my astonishment, the cars around us were rolling up their windows and so were we. I knew why. I didn't need to ask. I didn't like it. But I had no say. Not my car. Not my city. What's worse was that people GAVE WAY to them!
I mean, what is the point of sitting in closed cars mumbling about the injustice of it all if you can't even use your car to block their way?
I'm not all talk. I know how difficult it can be to stand up to these people practically speaking.
"They'd simply break my car and maybe beat me up for not giving way."
Maybe they will. Maybe the won't. Gandhi did a great many things - some great, some foolish. But he did teach us that oppressors get bored of wielding the stick after a point.
All said and done I know that I'm just one more nameless blogger on the internet venting out his anger after reading the news about their stupidity in targeting Shobhaa De the last few days. I know that little will change after this post. I know that I cannot bolster even a few people into action, let alone a country. I know that India will forever be ruled by fools who can't see the bigger picture. I just know it will always be the same.