A Cure for Insomnia

Its that long. Title dedicated to the world’s longest movie The Cure for Insomnia

We write poems, short stories, essays and blogposts to interrupt the programme. We sign online petitions – I just did one for saving the tiger. We did the same when Iraq was about to be invaded. One hundred and fifty thousand Iraqis have died since then. The problem is we don’t have a strike force.

How sad were we when
110 stories fell to the ground on Sept 11, 2001
How concerned are we about the
110 stories before and after Sept 11, 2001
Which were never told and
Which perhaps

Will never be told

What happens in Mumbai spreads to Nasik

 

September 11 is a metaphor for silence, a reminder about times when we are comfortably silent and uncomfortably so. I remember the heated argument we had in the much dreaded Electrical Lab on Wednesday – the day after. I realized that religion was not a defining theme there. A few of us argued that killing people, that too in thousands will corrupt both the victim and the invader for generations. Another group argued that this was the only language the nihilistic west and the United States of America understand. I repeat there were no religious lines in the arguments, there were Muslims, Christians and Hindus on both sides of the table. Kerala is that diverse. The fact was, both the points of view were equally safe and to be matter of fact we really didn’t care. So it was with Mumbai when Raj Thackeray did his uncle.

CNN-IBN’s coverage of FOBJP (Friends of BJP) meet in USA threw up an interesting irony. The gathering was celebrating Narendra Modi’s sweep in Gujarat. The man they supported just won. Gujarat was in safe hands. Then CNN-IBN asked a few of them about their overwhelming support for Democrats in the 2008 Presidential Elections. The reply was more than an American diamond, it was a gem. An elderly friend of BJP told the reporter that the Republicans with their extreme right wing stands and religious propaganda did not suit the progressive values of the United States of America, and so they’ll vote Hillary or Obama. I wondered whether we who live in India were born of blow jobs. Swear words apart, there is a Friend of BJP in every one of us.

greater_india.jpg

 

 

As BD, pointed out, in Mumbai we are comfortably silent when the Shiv Sainiks take on the valentines or muslims or the touring Pakistan cricket team or M.F Hussein. They are like that, we know they are crazy. But when the Sena turns to North Indians, there is news value, and perceivable outrage because there is a vague feeling within us that we are all Indians wherever we are born. Because when the NewYork flight lifts off from Mumbai, we have a vague feeling that we are leaving something very important behind.

 

Then again, it is a very vague irritant. It hit close to home when the MNS started destroying shops in Nasik which had boards in Malayalam, Tamil or English. When the malayali gets hit for being a malayali, it hits somewhere near home. But then I should have known that what happens in Mumbai, spreads to Nasik. That the Shiv Sena is not an anti-muslim or anti-art or pro-marathi organization, though its roots lie in the violent retributions organized against South Indians in Mumbai in the 70s and 80s. Shiv Sena is not a hindutva party, they took up hindutva in the 90s because in the 90s hindutva fetched votes. Shiv Sena essentially is an organization that wants to come to power, so it is with the MNS. Now how wrong is that?

jaya.jpg

 

 

The same day, the violence erupted in Mumbai, two more north Indians where killed in Assam for being north Indians. Now explain that to me, a person who thinks anything above Bangalore is North India. Explain that to a Sri Lankan who is afraid of his big neighbour, whose residents are called Indians. Only if we could tell him, that off the cricket ground, there as such is no India they need to be afraid of.

Who is condemning Raj Thackeray? Is it the Namma Kannadiga who once and for all destroyed the fabric of Bangalore when Rajkumar died, who destroyed shops in Brigade and MG Road which didn’t have hoardings in Kannada. Remember Bangalore is just 36% Kannadiga. Is it the Tamilian who blocked buses and trains from Kerala in the “National” Highway on a petty Railway Zone issue. Is it the Assamese who is about to kill a couple of Biharis who are building roads in their state. I hear it when Raj Thackeray asks why Bengal needs to erupt when Saurav Ganguly is dropped from the team. Do they gather around their televisions and condemn Raj Thackeray?

fl1.jpg

 

There are two hypocrisies that come into play here. First and less important is the state’s hypocrisy. I mean the Indian state’s. When India condemns 9/11 and decries all forms of terrorism, what we mean is Kashmir. When India says it will not accept a divided Sri Lanka, we mean Kashmir. When India votes against Iran, perhaps the only muslim country that sided with us after the 1998 nuclear tests, we mean a nuclear deal with the west and in the end we mean Kashmir. A state supposedly based on a destiny to pursue the truth ends up as a hypocrite state. Children in India grow up seeing this hypocrisy of the Indian state and if they learn from the Indian state that it is OK to be hypocrites if there is a tangible benefit in that, you cannot possibly blame them. These children grow up to be marathis, tamilians, gujaratis and kannadigas.

 

The second hypocrisy, the one of comfortable and uncomfortable silences, is a little more innocent. Language is a simpler, more basic emotion in comparison with religion. When we argue that our fellow hindu or fellow muslim is being ill treated, like say the Fiji hindus or the Hindraf in Malaysia or the muslims of the Balkans, we are aware of a pointlessness within us. Because we have nothing in common or no stake in their welfare, and it really doesn’t hit home.Language presents a different picture, and that is why Tamil Nadu reacts to the situation of Tamils in Malaysia, Gujarat reacts to Kenyan crisis or the communists sweep elections in Kerala on the back of a crisis in the middle-east which directly affects malayalis.

 

Our silence moves from comfortable to uncomfortable when the discrimination moves from religion to language. Maybe because religion is abstract enough to easily distance yourself from it, but there is no denying your language.The fact that language is a motivation potent enough to make people uneasy, like the attack on malayalis in Nasik by MNS makes me sit up, should give us a better idea about the tower of Babel that is India.

babel.jpg

 

A silent majority of marathi speaking people who see a point in what Raj Thackeray says today or what Shivsena has been saying for decades, is the quintessential cross section of vernacular India. It is only a matter of time before Chennai explodes with similar sentiments, and so will be the case in all the knowledge economy hubs across the country attracting a high inflow of migrants like Bhubaneswar, Ahmadabad, and Calcutta.

The spike in investments, fast growth and the accompanying congestion and further migration will be a continuing story. In these cities people wake up everyday, more and more strangers to the place they once called home. Bangalore, a retirement paradise with fresh air, wide roads, clean water, and a lot of flowers and dogs, is a smoggy city today. If the erstwhile Bangalorean wants some order restored, and supports the right-wing Kannada groups which promise this, can we blame him or her. Do we explain to them, that we are all Indians? Try explaining that to yourself when you lose your city.

It is inevitable that the idiocy of village life be replaced, scattered populations be agglomerated into cities and towns, centralize means of production and concentrate property in very few hands. This will in turn remove all separate interests like religion and language, and integrate everyone into one colossal system of production. We will all work for one trans-national corporation. But end of history is still far out in the horizon. We need some immediate patch up solutions before Chennai starts smouldering like Bangalore and Mumbai.

How about legislating?

Rising above language is theoretically not possible. But what is theoretically not possible is politically possible. Like George Bush did in Iraq – every theory of war and geopolitics advised against it. When you have political will power, anything is possible. Because political action needs only 75% proof (any random percentage between 0-100).

sam.jpg

But what do we legislate? I don’t know, neither do you. Thats why we spend 1500 crores on general elections.

One question is, for how many more years will we dodge the need to make Hindi our official language?

But political action needs martrys. Without bloodshed, the state wont wake up and take notice, the state won’t touch something like language. Otherwise politicians will evade the issue like Maharashtra CM Deshmukh did. Cities across the country will have to shut down with rioters on both sides speaking different tounges, the programme needs to be interrupted for the couch potatoes to legislate. This is taking the solution a bit too far. But Indians need to have Civil Rights in India. The hundreds of North Indians who fled Nasik in the past two weeks will agree to this.

Interrupting the programme

The root cause of migration into Mumbai is the investments being done in the city. The capital inflow and the surge in development in the city are triggering the need for migrant labor. Rather than asking the north Indian migrants to leave the city, Raj Thackeray could have asked the investors not to invest in Mumbai or Nasik. Raj could have easily stopped the handful of investors, compared to the pain that he took in terrorizing the hundreds of thousands of laborers. I wonder why Raj didn’t do that. I still wonder why Kannada Rakshana Vedike didn’t do that in Bangalore.

Maybe because if the wall is not there, you can’t write on it.

We write poems, short stories, essays and blogposts to interrupt the programme. We sign online petitions – I just did one for saving the tiger. We did the same when Iraq was about to be invaded. One hundred and fifty thousand Iraqis have died since then.The problem is we don’t have a strike force.

strike.jpg

When construction workers were chased out of Mumbai and Nasik in the past few weeks, CNN-IBN, true to its nature, asked Sharukh Khan what he felt about the situation. But the problem is King Khan is not a strike force. If construction workers across the nation went on strike to protest the violence and discrimination, the programme would have been interrupted, the Biharis wouldn’t have fled to their hometowns. That is a strike force. The state which badly needs a double digit growth would have made amends.

 

When IT and ITES employees in Bangalore spend days hiding from rioters in the Bangalore streets after Rajkumar died a natural death. The state didn’t even think of banning the organisations involved. Banning an organisation is important. That sends out a signal that working or affiliating with that organisation is illegal. These organisations lie awake in Bangalore, for another trigger. If IT and ITES workers, the motors of Bangalore’s growth quit work till the state acted, they would have been a strike force. They wouldn’t be afraid of negotiating with an autorickshaw driver just because he is a Kannadiga.

The point is, we are different in collar colours – white or blue, we are the same in existence – unorganized and helpless.It is not the malayali or tamil or kannada or marathi culture or language that keeps the engine running. When the motors of this nation realize their true potential, we will rise above irritants like language and religion, and make ourselves and our lives comfortable. It will take time.

Because it is easier to sleep than to wake up. It is easier to be enslaved than to be free, which is a responsibility. Because it’s easier to believe that you are a Muslim or a Marathi than to believe you keep this world going. But when the breaking point comes, we wake up. And when we wake up, we won’t be watching it on television. Nobody will, this programme will be interrupted.

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20 Responses to A Cure for Insomnia

  1. jiby March 1, 2008 at 9:27 pm #

    The best post here till date. Wish you would send it to a mainstream newspaper and see if they will publish it. I don’t know man…I wish we Indians would make the attempt to see what our actions, inactions will lead to. I got into an embarrassing situation when I criticized Raj, in the presence of this Marathi friend, who I thought was well-educated and would concur…instead he also let loose a list of grievances on what outsiders had done to Mumbai.

    I am wondering then, what makes India a nation. Was it the presence of the britishers and the freedom struggle that followed, was it the mostly harmonious unification of the princely states and provinces at independence, was it the presence of an enemy in Pakistan that helped, or is it IT, cricket and bollywood today that gives us common cause to move together? Really nobody cares right…you have stated it very well in the last 3-4 paras.

    I am fascinated by the way your mind works… your writing is very unique and effective…some day we should meet up. Pardon me for saying this, not meaning anything derogatory, but i will say it to only a few people who i think are very special…you are not somebody who should work in the IT field…there might be other fields where you can make a bigger impact.

  2. kuffir March 2, 2008 at 7:08 am #

    -‘I repeat there were no religious lines in the arguments, there were Muslims, Christians and Hindus on both sides of the table. Kerala is that diverse.’

    interpreting diversity on the basis of one/two markers alone is a narrowing down of it, in my view. apart from religion, one needs to look at language, culture (by which i mean how people eat, dress, live and have fun), geography, class, sect/caste etc., what you describe is exemplary harmony, not broadly diversity, . diversity is about accepting people who differ from you on not just one, but two or three of those counts.

    from that perspective, the maharashtrians in general and urban maharashtrians in particular have been very accepting of diversity.

    great post bvn- provoked a lot of thinking..

  3. Alex March 2, 2008 at 12:46 pm #

    That’s so funny, look here http://samsonblinded.org/news/bush-schizophrenic-or-ignorant-1823 Bush don’t want even talking to Iran because it keeps dissidents in jail, but that’s exactly what Israel does, keeps Arab and Jewish dissidents in jails. Why don’t Bush stop talking to Israel?

  4. Naga March 3, 2008 at 2:01 am #

    The other day I was in this village in Samastipur district of Bihar, a remote corner where avg village population is around 4000-5000 and the total agricultural land in the village is in the hands of 8 men.!! So irrespective of the community you belong to, you migrate for a living. The lower the ladder, the more menial the job. In a hamlet of the deprived clasess, there is panic today. People have been forced by labour contractors to leave for home from across Maharashtra. You quiz them on what would they do if they meet up with Raj and the answer is scary! Labour rates in rural Bihar range from Rs 50 to 60 for the unskilled ones. With the process of reverse migration setting in, we are in for some serious trouble. Hmmmm.

  5. BVN March 3, 2008 at 4:02 am #

    Jiby, Thanks man 🙂 despite the question of why India ticks (if at all) is the prospect of living in a country at the verge of barbarianism. The visuals on tv since gujarat’02 just cater to our basic instict – fear. You have to be afraid outside your tiny state – thats unnerving and fearful. If we don’t act, we’ll balkanize. its that bad. point is you cite all this economic growth, and still you stand a chance of getting beaten up in India’s most cosmopolitan IT hub, if you dont speak their language. thats bad.

    About IT 🙂 which other job gives you 4-5 hour telecons where they discuss databases and you muse about whatever you want 🙂

  6. BVN March 3, 2008 at 4:40 am #

    kuffir, this one line you quoted was around where i was confused the most and probably spend got stuck.

    after reading that “caste base schools” post of yrs, a friend and me pulled up our supposedly elite school’s rolls and started counting. yeah it included most of the parameters you mentioned. We didn’t agree, but the feel was right on. We need caste based reservation in schools starting from kindergarten 🙂 no i mean it.

    and here again, i had an idea of how our opinion was different on 9/11, but i decided i’d rambled enough and just generalized on religion.

  7. BVN March 3, 2008 at 4:43 am #

    Alex, Bush man! Bush! if he can mess something up, he’ll.

  8. BVN March 3, 2008 at 5:03 am #

    Naga, but will the impact be that bad, i mean what percentage of the people are outside? Oh but the inflows will be high compared to erratic the 50-60 you mentioned. and when you say classes i assume you can replace that with ‘caste’ and all that comes with it.

    kochi is growing very fast, and most of the labourers are N Indians. thank god, no one wants their jobs around here, atleast for now.

    and pay a visit to GPO in tvm on a sunday, there will one very long queue of N Indians with money order forms. they have a separate unofficial queue for malayalis and foreign tourists. never felt so good about being one 🙂

  9. alakananda March 4, 2008 at 6:30 am #

    hard hitting. what do u mean by having a strike force? at the core the idea sounds good. but being mallus u and i know that a ‘strike force’ can one day bite the hand that feed sit.

    as for reservations… been there/felt the brunt of it.

    “Because when the NewYork flight lifts off from Mumbai, we have a vague feeling that we are leaving something very important behind.” just for that one sentence this post ought to be an all time best.

  10. scorpiogenius March 4, 2008 at 6:40 pm #

    Politicians need such dirty games for their survival. The poor, less educated public easily fall victim to this guile using the delicates feelings of language, region and religion. Unfortunately, this will continue in India as there will always be hyenas like Raj Thakkarey waiting to feast on innocent people’s blood.

    Animal instincts, to be precise.

  11. BVN March 5, 2008 at 4:23 am #

    Alakananda, the choice is between exodus and protest. The society has no control over the forces at play in urban india, in kerala, every bandh and hartal is a societial handbrake.

    Scorpiogenius, its a game for survival afterall. point is can we stop them?

  12. sunshine March 6, 2008 at 1:33 pm #

    Honestly I did’nt read your post but that picture about not makin gfun of the natives made me lol….

  13. Vibhash March 7, 2008 at 1:59 am #

    really nice post…i had read something on similar lines by some RSS leader smdays back…probably we are terrific at turning our boon to bane…the diversity in the country

  14. BVN March 7, 2008 at 5:01 am #

    sunshine, welcome. tell you – i slept off 3 times reading this. its that long!

    Vibash, Thank you. and true!

  15. Payyan March 14, 2008 at 6:27 am #

    beautiful post… wish i could write like u… 🙂

  16. Anand January 20, 2011 at 12:41 pm #

    U are not a thinker.. u are a Hindian not Indian.. write these stories to BIMARU state ministers so that they will wake up and improve their home and people, would get some investment that those poor people would not move out… and what s that rubbish??33% kannadigas in Bangalore?? have u ever tried knowing the local flavour in Bangalore?? According to we Kannadigas, any person who can speak kannada in karnataka is a kannadiga. we dont mind if he s an assaese, a kolkata friend or a Bihar help seeker. why do you claim publcity frm your Hindian friends? stop this and face any pro kannada or marathi or assamese group if you can.. even i will support you..

    Anand

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