War and Peace

>> Friday, November 23, 2007

"Once upon a Time," says my Grandfather at story hour, " we had a curfew. This was even before your parents were born. I was a young boy then."

Look of disbelief in my face. Are not grandparents born silverhaired and wrinkled?

"Back in our days, we had real curfews. Lasting for hours, with armed policemen, ordered to shoot on sight. No newspapermen to warn us about numbers to call if one falls sick. Back then, if you fell sick, you waited. You could recover or you could die. The alternative was certain death. So people waited. People nowadays get it all on a platter. Yet they complain.

"We used to live on the first floor of an apartment building. Not an apartment in the truest sense though. They were two roomed flats. And we were eight brothers and sisters. We were a bit hard pressed for space. Look at you. You insisted on a room of your own because you could not stay with your one sister in the same room without breaking into free-for-alls."

I have two cousins. Were all those brothers and sisters celibates? Or was my grandfather a black sheep and casted off from the family tree?

"On one those curfew nights, all was silent on the streets below. The girl living on the rooms above looked out of her window to see whether anyone was about. She was shot through the head. Her age? Possibly fifteen. Maybe fourteen. Definitely not more than sixteen. Her religion? Its more than sixty years now girlie, I do not think she cares anymore."

Tonight, I passed through all those areas war was declared in yesterday. The bus I took included sleeping men, lecherous men, blank faced women, absolutely no cute guys and me, trying to look like a sad faced Madonna (the Raphael version, not the pop star one). However, as soon as we entered Park Circus, everyone suddenly got alert. Eyes began to search the roads, stripping it of all humility. What were we looking for? The illogical fear that someone might decide to stone us? Or, like the vulture every human is, for a remnant of the horror yesterday, one sign to show us how civilization died? But there was nothing. Just common men walking around for common businesses. The city had moved on. Not proudly, not with a head held high, but with sheer doggedness and force of will.

Which is how I will always identify the spirit of the city as. A bent backed sweeper, sweeping all signs of sins committed yesterday to create a cleaner place to live in. There is hopelessness, for one knows it will get dirtier during the course of the day, but, as always, there is no dearth of new beginnings. So the sweeper sweeps on, too proud to beg, too ashamed to forget, yet, too desperate to give up.

Yet, not a shard of broken glass...


Results come out this Monday. If you hear a silence on this website for more than a week, please assume I have gone on a self-induced coma.

15 scaly flippers:

Angry Voices 4:01 am, November 23, 2007  

Common men and women going about common business. And yet a narrative from a wizened commoner makes it not-so-common.

Excellent phraseology @ stripping the street of all humility.

The Ancient Mariner 5:56 am, November 23, 2007  

amazing,,, especially the sweeper sweeps on part...touching...

FireWhisky 8:22 am, November 23, 2007  

"Look of disbelief in my face. Are not grandparents born silverhaired and wrinkled?"

i used to think that too when my grandad would sit me down to tell me about his stories of the II World War... when he passed away i was crushed... but when i look at how things are right now - the violence in nandigram, the violence that happened in Kolkata, the 5day bandh in Gangtok, a neighbour murdered because she refused to give a dowry - i think i envy him...

Soumya 5:15 pm, November 23, 2007  

First of all congratulation for this nice blog..loads of info,thoughts et al.

I like ur take on this city.esp the last para.Keep scribbling

Doubletake, Doublethink. 9:55 pm, November 23, 2007  

i went through those areas yesterday too.. on foot. and the only thing that really scared me was all the autorickshaw loudspeakers blasting himesh. which should have silenced the most bloodthirsty mob. but i'm diverging. great post.

Noisy Autist 8:56 pm, November 24, 2007  

amazing piece of writing. you do scream the truth with your words.

WHAT'S IN A NAME ? 10:11 pm, November 24, 2007  

U'll do fine. Don't worry. :)

dreamy 1:32 pm, November 25, 2007  

Awl the best for the results.

Moo-lah Buzinezzz! 2:06 pm, November 25, 2007  

Grandparents and most old men,i feel,never lie.About old times or anything.Its a really touching piece of post.Esp the last part.
And exam results,blah blah,whatever!!

anonme 5:16 pm, November 25, 2007  

thats amazingly well written and insightful!
i loved the part about the spirit of a city.. i was crushed when there were serial bombblasts here in hyderabad..
well it happened in my city, it happens everywhere else! sad life and a sad world!

ArSENik 3:23 am, November 27, 2007  

As Amit Varma says, life is futile, death is inevitable and the world is a depressing place. While I can commend you on this post, I doubt that is going to cheer you up, my dear Ad Libber. I am out of options and can only recommend a Govinda or Mithun Da movie to salvage your mood.

PS: Don't worry about the results. They prove nothing, but having said that, I am sure you have done fine.

Karthik Balasubramanian 5:05 am, November 27, 2007  

ooh that was a good one.. u made me forget my Choclate frosty for a while..

Am just assuming that this is calcutta??

ad libber 5:11 pm, November 27, 2007  

@karthik
Yes, Calcutta

Na.Su.Krishnan 3:13 pm, November 28, 2007  

Nice hit!
Last year a Bengali friend and I were discussing the new growth path of W.Bengal. This year we are forced to discuss Nandigram, death and blood.

Hope situations will improve rather than putting a blind sentence 'This is how things work here'

Selina 7:16 am, November 11, 2008  

Great work.

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