Will Hindutva make monsters out of Indians?
The taxi driver that arrived to drop us(me and my family) at the Delhi Airport was a thuggish looking rustic(villager). He looked sullen and complained about the time the moment he arrived at our Delhi home. But it was his demeanor and the expression on his face that struck me the most. A certain vacuity defined his eyes , and his face reflected suppressed rage. The combination distorted his face into an ugly compendium. I asked him his antecedents. He did not want to engage but was compelled by my insistence. He was from a village from Haryana and had recently arrived in Delhi for work. He drove rather wildly and dropped my dad and me at the airport rather brusquely. The man returned to pick the rest of my family who on their arrival at the airport had a rather unpleasant experience to narrate. The man had driven wildly but this was not all. He had switched off Radio FM and had turned on Bhajans(Hindu devotional songs) at a high decibel and made my folks endure listening to these. All the while he would peer into his rearview mirror to check out the effect on my folks. And then he had dropped them off brusquely. The driver and his visage found an eerie echo in the visage and demeanor of a couple of boys who would just hang around near our Delhi home and then stare at us in a disturbing way- the same vacuous gaze and suppressed rage defined faces. These-the driver and the boys- were not the denizens of India but Bharat; their comportment, accents and accouterments suggested a class orientation that was an admixture of peasant-hood and an underclass of India. But, what was alarming , was that this class of people were the most susceptible to the simplistic and black and white blandishments and seduction of Hindutva the ideology that is gaining traction in India: ready made foot soldiers at the back and call of this ideology. All that would be needed is an intense , catalytic spur to render these people , into monsters.
Bunty, Babloo and Sanjoo
As I entered the Nehru Place compound to get my lap top fixed. I was approached by a young man, lap top repair, Sir?. Delhi is full of touts, aggressive salespersons and an assorted people who want to sell or inveigle people to buy. I looked at him intently; his eyes were clear, and his face suggested honesty. Maybe I was being credulous here, but I said yes. The boy, who I later came to know as Sanju, led me to what he called his shop- essentially a horizontal stretch in a basement. The thoughts that crossed my mind were that what I would like to think is my good nature had led me into a situation. Sanju, an immigrant from UP , introduced me to his cousin, Babloo, who had no skill but would just around the shop- looking after it. I asked for tea and they promptly brought it. Sanjoo then took a look at my lap top and cited a figure for its repair. I said it was way too much. We negotiated and settled on an amount. Sanjoo disappeared for a moment and brought back with him a boyish looking young man and introduced him to me as Bunty. Bunty energetic and gregarious- began to dissect my lap top with such expertize, panache and dexterity that I was amazed. All the while, Bunty talked to me. Bunty traced his origins to Bengal but was born in Delhi. His father was an auto-rickshaw driver who barely made ends meet. Bunty started working when he was 13 years old- basically freelancing and offering his services to clean shops of computer repair wallahs and running errands. Bunty- a naturally bright boy- would , in his free time, intently and curiously follow the older boys( repair mechanics) and ask them questions. Gradually, he picked up the basics of computer repairing and after a long struggled struck on his own. He did not have a shop; not even tools. All he had a skill , a mobile phone and a network of friends or fellow travellers who would call him when he was needed. The network was basic and informal but it worked like in the case of Babloo and Sanju , who had hired a piece of property at Nehru Place which, in turn, was rented out by one well entrenched class in Delhi-the rentiers or the absentee landlords who made a living from renting out property. Under pressure from their respective families,(the families wanted more money), Bunty, Babloo and Sunjoo had, one day, escaped from Delhi. The obvious choice for them was Mumbai- a city they knew about from Bollywood movies. Their view about Mumbai was shattered when they arrived in the city in the middle of night. They asked a man wandering outside the railway station where they could sleep. The man , either a police look out or a drunk slum dweller, had scared the boys so much that, they slid back to the railway station and boarded the train that they found on the platform. Ticketless and money less, the boys arrived in Gujarat where they begged someone for a phone and called their families. The families had alerted the cops; the boys were made to speak to a police constable who threatened them with slapping a kidnapping charge on them unless they returned home. Sulking, fearful and wanting to return home, the boys came back to Delhi and recommenced working. Bunty made about 10,000 rupees per month, Babloo, 5 thousand and Sunjoo 10 thousand. Sir, Bunty, asked, in a pleading tone, if you have job for me, can you help me? This thing is not sustainable. I will soon have a family of mine. What will I do?
It was a heart rending plea and the stories of the boys were poignant.
It was getting late. As Bunty gave finishing touches to my lap top, he said, Sir, there will now be no problems with your device. You can take it to America, Europe or even the moon and it will work, . As I was about to pay, Sunjoo looked at his watch and asked Bunty to hurry up. Sunjoo, why are you in a hurry, I asked? Sunjoo smiled sheepishly but Bunty , the full of life and gregarious boy, grinned and said, Its Maha Shivratri today Sir. We will celebrate. How, I asked? Bunty gestured- the motion of having a drink and said, We will have Bhang tonight( Bhang is cannabis added to drink or food in India) and then, Bunty said, a dreamy look , in his eyes, we will go home in a BMW all for twenty rupees each. I paid and bid good bye to the boys- a few among the many stragglers and strugglers of Delhi- living a life between despair, struggle, fantasy and hope in Delhi. One jolt or a major disruption of life would make them teeter from the edge into the abyss of crime.
An experience at the Airport
My Dad is a paraplegic. As we arrived at the airport and as the frisking began, my Dad was frisked thoroughly and intensely even when he was sitting on a wheel chair. This upset me. When my turn came, I was subject to even more intense frisking. I was asked to remove my shoes, my laptops were opened and my hand bag searched twice. I am usually a serene person but the sight of my paraplegic dad subjected to this sort of scrutiny had probably cracked something within and when the security people were done with me, I vented out and hollered at them. A coffee and my Dads cheerful disposition calmed me and I thought about the whole saga and losing my equipoise: Was my reaction normal? Or were we, being Kashmiris, singled out?
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