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Sreemoyee Piu Kundu
Tuesday , September 11, 2012 at 00 : 57

We The People!


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I was at an upmarket South Delhi mall this evening. Waiting for my car. To my right, a young child wailed in his mother's arms, a young lover whispered sweet nothings in front, sometimes breaking out into a delicious giggle, covering their mouths, a group of youngsters gawked at a plush store window, their constantchatter overpowering the din wafting in from inside.

My driver was caught in a bad traffic, another ten minutes he informed apologetically as I stared impatiently at the bystanders in and around. That's how I noticed. That's when to be more precise.

More youngsters had joined in the first lot of youngsters, more young ladies this time. And no, they weren't admiring the clothes on the mannequin this time around, instead they seemed to be engaged in an animated conversation, reading and distributing some kind of pamphlet - albeit crude, with scribbles and signatures. I stepped in their direction, trying to be as inconspicuous as possible. That's when he noticed.

A young man in a bright pink tee looked up, meeting my glance. 'Yes?' he asked outright.

'Sorry, umm, time kyahain?' - I cried, a tad flustered, having come up with the worst possible line.

'Ten to eight,' a young woman quipped, pulling him back into the motley crowd - around twelve youngsters - maybe more, but not less, definitely not. I moved back a couple of inches.

'How do you know this guy?' I asked pointing at her T-shirt. A print out stuck on it. They all laughed. 'TV, akbaar, Twitter, FB,' some more added.

'You know him too right?' the young guy who I'd spoken with first, stepped forward now, raising his fingers. I nodded.

'Here, take this Madam,' a short, pot-bellied young man added, thrusting one of the pamphlets into my palms. I looked down in silence as he went on, 'We're trying to form a small community Madam, to show our solidarity for Aseem, you must have heard he's the cartoonist arrested on charges of sedition,' he paused.

'Actually, he's been remanded in police custody till 16thSepetember,' the young lady pushed him aside, meeting my hesitant eyes.

I smiled. 'So, what is this? Protest meeting? Or are you guys meeting here before joining some peace march?' I tried to make light of the moment.

The first guy spoke up, his face undeterred. 'None of all that. We're all college students, friends really, we have been to Annaji's rally held recently. We have followed Anees's caricatures also, online, and, and we think what is happening to him is wrong. Really wrong.Our politicians are corrupt, why not put them behind bars or even hi-fi activists like that writer...arre that Arundhati someone... why target a poor cartoonist?'

Another young man with a fancy goatee, looked up, 'Arre, first Mamtadidi does it to a professor and now this? They called him a traitor also, saying that he was plotting some conspiracy. Then, they say, Jadavpur University where the man taught is a hotbed of Maoist activity, what the.'

'The time has come,' the young lady smiled.

I looked flummoxed, around me a semi circle had formed. 'For?' I quizzed, wiping my face.

'Revolution 2012 Madam,' the first man butted in, waving some pamphlets in my direction.

Thankfully, my car had arrived by then. I pushed the pamphlet into my handbag. "Sorry, I'm no ChetanBhagat fan,'" I awkwardly mouthed, hoping to beat a hasty retreat.

The young girl laughed, "That's alright... we know there will be people who don't understand our cause, it's why we were actually meeting here today, to decide what to do next? How to get more folks on our side."

I thrust my face out of my window saying, "You mean through Facebooketc?"

Twelve eager faces now stood in a haphazard line.

"That too... see you around Madam. Thanks for your time," someone shouted out.

I couldn't really tell which one. In the car, I shifted about uneasily. Maybe I should have waited, maybe I should have heard their plans or tried to see what came out of their lively discussion. Given their die-hard enthusiasm a chance.

Who were these youngsters in real time? Members of a dissident Aseem Trivedi fan club? Rich college kids whiling away their time discussing India's politicalpresent over steaming hot cups of café latte at a plush mall? Or just someone angry? Like me, like you, like us?

The forefathers of a youth movement?More Anna's in the making?Another baba turned Baba? Or just one of us?Armchair critics of the system?Skilled social media staffers? Scared that we too will be silenced... in time.One by one.

As I beat the evening traffic, a part of me felt restless - craving their company once again. Something about youth... just so damn intoxicating. Toxic almost. I urgently logged on to the Internet - the scene of many a present-day sedition, trying to absorb whatever I could on the cause the youngsters I'd left behind had been ardently championing all this while.

"If telling the truth is against the country, then I am a traitor.... If raising your voice against injustice is against the country then I am a traitor...If the definition of 'Patriot' and 'Traitor' have changed in the course of time, then I am a traitor...I oppose disrespect shown to the Constitution. I believe in the Constitution as well as Dr. BR Ambedkar. Seeing disrespect to the Constitution pains me and I am trying to stop this through my cartoons. I am following the path shown by Mahatma Gandhi and serving the nation... Do not get bothered seeing me inside the jail. Remember, Anna Hazare has said that one should go to jail for the sake of nation."

I could almost see the fire in 25-year-old, Kanpur-based cartoonist AseemTrivedi's eyes. His ire... the file shot of Aseem being hauled away by the Mumbai cops - his lips parted... as if he was shouting a slogan. Something the kids I'd earlier met had probably deciphered. Like, like lip reading or something.

'Modern day Jesus Christ,' I remember my mother joking at the breakfast table, as we sifted through the headlines. I hadn't paid attention. Another one bites the dust I'd scoffed keeping the day's paper away.

But, here's the absolute truth, something Had Been stirred. Something that went beyond an impotent anger, beyond a feeling of burning resentment against the insecure and thoroughly inept present UPA Government slowlygunningdown bloggers, twitterati, cartoonists and their likes for having the balls to be 'democratic.'

To call a spade a spade, to be in a manner of speaking almost akin to the brazenWashington Post scribe who had no qualms labeling our Prime Minister as a 'a dithering, ineffectual bureaucrat presiding over a deeply corrupt government.'

'First, I didn't call up PMO, PMO called up. I didn't apologize for the piece. There was apology from me about the piece, this is absolutely not true,' Washington Post reporter Simon Denyerhad lashed out at reports rubbishing claims that he'd held out the symbolic olive branch.Just a couple of days back.

India at 9 - I dashed to the telly as soon as I reached home as simmering thoughts racing in my head. Debates, voices, angry hosts, animated panelists - some for and some against a man called AseemTrivedi who held the nation hostage in a test of faith.

Attaboy, you've done something right, I said to myself, while surfing news channels. You've managed to get us angry again - and God knows that anger counts. How? You naturally are about to ask. Okay, so here's my point - my version of this evening's events.For me, an average, everyday Indian woman, who has voted just once in her life and is cynical to the core about the country she lives in, here's what I find noteworthy.

The nature of protest in this nation is slowly beginning to shift - the fulcrum now vested in the hands of the youth. Gone are the days when it was only the khadi type who started a morcha or even threw their arms up in rage against social injustices or political anomalies. Gone are the days when only grey haired, so-called 'intellectuals' had the right to coin phrases like 'corruption'. Gone are the days when Gandhigiri was relegated to the rich and famous or the absolute downtrodden - or their pimps, authors, social activists et all - who conveniently spent their summers in London or even clean shaven ministers's sons and their likes, second hand sufferers.

There's something middle class about today's anger - something that makes it almost seem like a democratic right. Maybe it's the current menghai, the latest Coalgate scam, or the serpentine traffic snarls or the long waiting lines in the Passport office. Maybe it's that beggar's bony hand knocking on your car window, in her arms a child... desperate for a rupee.

Maybe it's the flagging Indian currency... maybe it's the voice of anguish about Assam... or the sense of hopelessness when your child is denied admission in a good school because you didn't save up enough for the donation, or that much awaited holiday that the tout you bribed messed up... or maybe it's nothing that deep.

Maybe it's the guy who you see peeing daily on your office boundary wall or the skeleton like cows lurking on the main road or the cabbie who just refused to take you on - or maybe it's bloodier... maybe you lost a lot.

Maybe your son died in the Uphaar tragedy or was maimed in a bloodied Mumbai bomb blast. Maybe you slept on a pavement, on a cold December night when some drunk actor or industrialist's son mowed down your wife? Test run for his latest BMW? Or maybe you'renot poor at all. Perhaps you were the one dining at the TajMahal hotel when you first heard the gunshots, clad in your latest Abu Jani.

What if you're somepetty sub inspector's wife whose husband was gunned down because he wasn't wearing a bullet proof jacket that could have saved his life, or a jawan'sblind mother, a young man who went down thinking he was saving something... something real.

Think about it.

Today's anger, the anger that I witnessed - the anger I chose to not look back upon is not like yesterday's anger. Everyone has felt its scourge - at some point in the past or present. Cynicism is passé, as is India Shining and all the other hocus pocus that justified our impasse over the last few years.

Today, we are a nation up in arms against the political framework - the very democratic bastions on which our forefathers framed the crux of our Constitution. Today, we are screaming our lungs hoarse - the Parliament is a privilege - abuse it and you'll be made to stand outside. Like a classroom, like an institution that needs to be respected, not ragged. Majority is a privilege; stop exercising it as a right to exploit a nation of millions.

Stop taking us for granted. It's we watching this time. And not the other way around.

And before you start, nope, we're not sorry we elected you guys. Yes, we are ashamed of our choices. But, unlike the past, when we would skim over our bad decisions and prefer watching Raaz 3 or eating vadapao, here we are joining hands. Thinking about a way forward, even if that means ganging up with Team Anna as it were. Or at least putting up a status message - or a Twitter update - or collecting a group of friends in front of a mall.

A new dawn has come. No denying.

Faces are unimportant, voices matter. Do something - start a site, blog a thought, expose the TT who asks for a bribe, say no I'm not breaking the line, even if it's to take a leak after a movie you watched,vote again - and again. Know that you count. It's time we reached out - looked back into Aseem's eyes. Heard his voice.

Is Aseem really the 'new age Christ?' Meant only in terms of deliverance. The answers delude me at this point. To my mind, maybe Aseem is like Professor AmbikeshMahapatra, maybe just angrier. Younger too - more brawn.Oran upgraded version of Anna Hazare - prettier for sure, if not anything else. Or, Baba Ramdev, if, if only Aseem today was standing in front of a microphone, instead of sketching satirical toons.

Let's face it. Aseem is just a thought - a principle - in a theory book we thought we'd tucked away a long time back. He's a germ of an idea, the storm after the lull... the India that no arrest or ban or curb can destroy... the India that fights back... that wakes up every morning and starts its cars and bikes and makes its way to work - in an imperfect regime - an India that is ever alive. Even if it is by holding out a torn text book sheet and standing in a crooked line. Trying to convert a cynic.

Governments may come and go. But, ideas are invincible. As are our people - as is each one of those young boys and girls who tonight taught me something this evening. Something that perhaps many more Aseem's will be caught saying. In the days to come.

'We the people!'

It's what the pamphlet said, incase you wanted to ask.Earlier on.


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More about Sreemoyee Piu Kundu

Sreemoyee Piu Kundu is the author of 'Faraway Music' just out from Hachette India. Her next offering is an erotica 'Sita's Curse', followed by a lad lit 'You’ve Got the Wrong Girl' being published by Hachette. An ex lifestyle Editor with publications like TOI, MetroNow, India Today & Asian Age and PR head, she’s currently working on her fourth title – 'Cut!' Based in New Delhi, Sreemoyee calls herself a 'rebel romantic’ whose writing helps her discover ‘music in the mundane.’ She is an intrepid traveler, an incurable fashionista and an avid poet too.
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