House sparrows are an endangered species. On Monday, my cat caught one bird on the terrace and had his fill before I could stop that goddamned carnivore. It was a loss to me. I am a conservationist. And on Wednesday, I sprained my ankle somehow.
The lady doctor who I secretly want to sleep with charged a fortune for a miniscule amount of ineffective painkillers. I let it slip anyway. Now, I want to call a so-called general strike. I have a good mind to do it.
I'll stage a dharna against my cat's unruly behaviour and the doctor's swindling character. So please pull down your shutters tomorrow and join me. I've some unused tyres that you can burn. Give me a call before they run out of stock.
I want the whole affair to go smoothly without anybody getting injured. We will use the philosophy of nonviolence. But if some smart cop shot a tear-gas at you, you can respond in a nonviolent way by picking up that smoke shell and hurling it back to where it came.
If you happened to get back in the mood or some sort of creativity struck you at the heat of the moment, you can tie a red band around your forehead and ram the cop crowd with a handful of bricks. Unless you have played Half Life 2 or actually studied the workings of an AK-56 on Wikipedia, don't dance like a clown in front of the barricade.
The cops won't like it and they will prove it too. For those few who are really nonviolent, I mean the likes of our welfare groups, who say something and do something else, they can paint their faces and make a reality out of Rambo.
So much for nonviolence.
Those who depend on a daily wage have to go hungry when somebody, somewhere, somehow calls a strike for any reason whatsoever that has nothing to do with anybody else except the person who's calling the strike. What can be done in the name of the land is infinite.
I was increasingly becoming disillusioned with all this, so on a strike day I gunned the engine of my Bajaj and set out to roam the nooks and corners of the town. If they stoned me for this, so be it.
If they stopped me and burned my rickety two-wheeler, that would also be okay. All I wanted was to find sense in this habit of calling strikes every other day. I wanted to see firsthand what results come from forcing people to down their shutters and chaining them at their houses on a perfectly fine day for business.
After raking my brain for days, I found no merit in the strikes called by our welfare groups in protest against the denial of a Beijing ticket to our weightlifter. Why she was grounded is a different matter, and that can be discussed in another space.
In those four days of paralysis in the streets, I saw hungry old men pushing carts to sell vegetables. One very old woman with a bandaged leg came out from the hospital and walked all her way home because the rickshaws were told to keep off the road. In my area, kids could be seen wasting away because the schools were nailed shut.
I cannot imagine what the people who earn their living by hauling bricks must have eaten in those four days. Sitting in our air-conditioned cubicles and talking about the plight of the weightlifter while hogging a burger requires a blown-up ego and very little effort.
For the janitors, from where the next meal is going to come is more important than the next Sichuan earthquake or the weightlifter's tears. Self-styled scholars spew high-sounding words in an equally useless auditorium while rickshaw drivers get beaten up outside for no good reason.
I'm not a traitor to my land. I've done my bit too, like everybody else. What bothers me is that the uselessness of some social activism that we do stares at my face and I want to give an honest answer.
On the last day of the strike, I landed at Kolkata. I heard not one single utterance of anything related with the denial of a Beijing ticket to our lady. Looking back, we ended up calling a strike and making life hard for people who have got nothing do with the issue.
Why I went home was not because I wanted to take a vacation, but because it was my job to report from there, being the only accessible correspondent at Imphal at that week. I laugh at those who accuse me of behaving like a one born with a silver spoon. I always ask them to check their own base first.
Unquestioned sentiments have swayed us in the wrong direction for far too long now. We are the next generation. You are the one who should question certain practises now. It's a hard thing to do, to tell people what is right. Sometimes it's also scary.
But one has to do it. It's easy to be carried away with sweet words of some welfare groups, but it's the same group of sweet people who have pushed poor men and women to the barricades only to get shot and die a painful, irrelevant death. How many dead names do we remember?
I appreciate their effort, but it's good sense not to believe in everything they say. Otherwise, you also become like them, talking one thing and doing another.
* Debby A is a Bangalore based Journalist working with a big news media company. He writes for the first time to e-pao.net.
The writer can be contacted at debanish9a(at)gmail(dot)com .
This article was webcasted on September 15th, 2008