Stories

Singing the freedom blues

blue.jpgShe goes and she comes. Sometimes in the wee hours of the dawn when the street lights begin to dim in the lull before the surge of the tropical sun. Head down, always, tugging at the end of her flimsy dupatta, trotting in unsure rhythm with the deflated soles of her magenta slippers. Once in a while she would look up, citing the matronly look of a matured woman, so knowing of worldly matters.

Yet, her gait would reveal the hapless child lost in the folds of tranquility. She would wake up; walk every night to die a hundred deaths in the hands of merciless circumstances that threw her prematurely to fend for herself. Raped, brutalized, agonized she would wake up. She would still walk this path every night only to come back to an even harrowing reality. She was abandoned by her father, they say.

He was too engrossed in fighting his own battles to be able to bear the burden of a listless child. That night when she was left in the middle of a railway station, she needed some handholding to get her composure back. She never saw so many people in her life. So much light, so much noise! Somebody stood by her side then, grasping her tiny little hand with whopping greed and a great deal of lust. She was sold that night like a petty commodity in the walking street of a bustling bazaar. As the atom of her spirited self would expand by the course of nature, she would immerse herself deeper and deeper in the whirlwind of impoverished, demented slavery. Yet, she would wake up and walk this path day after day.

As she was crossing the street in pensive haste, the unsung man was passing by on a shabby two wheeler. He was rushing past, away from another day filled with a sense of loss. He needed that job. Badly. Day in and day out he prepared for the moment, when he would face the vulture eyes across the table and emerge victorious. He would flow with the rogue questions, breathe away the answers and dance his way out. He knew his calculations well, the growth strategy and his five year plan.

He knew the debt, the balance, the bulls and bears of the game. He knew, he is at his perceptive best at this point in life. Only, if he could express himself that well. In English. They seem to understand only that language. Just that one language. Why on earth, did he take birth in an idealistic family? His folks went on and on about patriotism, nationalistic spirit, advocated everything indigenous – attitude, attire, language, way of life. What good is it to him now? Were they with him today, when he stood there, pursed lips, clenching his fists in desperation? If only he paid heeds to this foreign language that subjugated the very being of this nation! All he wants to do now is stand face to face and wipe the very face of pseudo-sophistication that those men in suite epitomized. In their terms, in their language. If only he could speak his heart out…in English.

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When he went inside the pub, to drown his failure down the drain, the place was bustling with jovial crowd. The twenty somethings were jiving in the corners, the centre stage being occupied by some nouveau rock band, humming an American beat that apparently has rocked the world.

Cocktails were flooding the floor while some teenage couples laughed at secret images on their iphones. They were happy, grabbing their burgers, gulping their sodas, getting high on life. They looked a world apart in their blue jeans, trendy t-shirts. He was still sporting khaki pants and crisp, white shirt that his mother had once gotten tailor made at the dingy neighborhood grocery store-the grocer’s wife used to sew well you see. As the mood turned from rock to rave, conversations got slurry. The crowd thinned out and hovered over one another. The music attained a flavor that he could only hear, not feel. At the strike of midnight, however, everything stopped. Somebody announced that it’s the onset of August 15th. The Independence Day. The crowd cheered and tinkled their half filled glasses.

Somebody cheered in ecstatic glee, some other reclined back in the sofa with boredom looming large. Suddenly the parade and the flag hoisting flashed his mind. They used to distribute sweets in his school on Independence Day. The students would sing songs, recite poetries on such occasions. Once, His Hindi poetry on the freedom struggle got a place in the school magazine. But all that is only wrapped up in sepia tainted memories now. So far from reality. As he got up to get going, the percussionist played his remixed version of Jana Gana Mana…somebody shouted back, “I heard you my friend, the freedom fries are on its way.”

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Author’s Note: The two characters in this article are real. I know them personally. I’ve known many such characters. We, as a nation carry such a huge baggage of centuries-long slavery. The structure of our socio-political disposition, our education system, our constitution, our judiciary- almost everything relevant to our day to day existence is borrowed from some other culture. Even freedom of thought and expression is curtailed by age-old influences of subjugation. What we call our own is hardly preserved and most of our present is dwindling in the face of corruption. A lot have been written on this subject and a lot could have been written still. I’ve only touched a few dimensions of slavery that affect the lives of many Indians. BBC News had reported 3 million prostitutes in India in 2004. I dare not look into the present day numbers.

These women have never felt the touch of free air till date. Never known the joys of mental or physical freedom. Or economic liberation.

Then, India happens to be the second largest English-speaking nation, just after the United States. The number, as I found on the Internet is 100,000,000 , which is very good. I am proud that so many of us have mastered a foreign language. But why is it a matter of shame, when one is not so fluent in English but can express very well in his/her mother tongue/ vernacular language? Why does this prevent their entry to the professional paradigm even if the recruiting organization is local in nature, not having global interface of any sort? This is happening, after 63 years of independence from the colonial past. Now we’ve found another hero to follow. America. American materialism dominates our lifestyle today. Is it not time that we leave behind the stigma and dogma of slavery and embark on a path to original thinking, the road to redemption?

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Desh Kapoor

The panache of a writer is proven by the creative pen he uses to transform the most mundane topic into a thrilling story. Desh - the author, critic and analyst uses the power of his pen to create thought-provoking pieces from ordinary topics of discussion. He writes on myriad interesting themes. Read the articles to know more about his views and "drishtikone".

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