April 04, 2007

Soot, jeans

Five years ago this week, if I've got my dates right, I wandered through a Gujarat I could not recognize, even believe. To remind myself of that, I'll post here a few of the pieces I wrote then: small vignettes, longer things, etc.

First, a few lines I actually scribbled while I sat in what used to be a train.


The carriage at Godhra. Black soot everywhere. Here a pair of blue jeans, neatly ironed. There a child's Hindi exercise book. Near the entrance, a bag of rice. What's underfoot is a spongy mass of ash and who-knows-what. Memories of death that weigh on me so much that I suddenly have to sit, on what used to be a berth.

Indeed, the fire has reduced the carriage to a skeleton of girders and beams that once were seats and berths. If it looks like anything, it looks like those inhuman bunks at Dachau or Auschwitz.

As I look around sick to my heart, I'm trying hard, but unsuccessfully, to evade the comparison. Are we hurtling towards those horrors?


Samir said...

Godhra and its aftermath were terrible. But invoking Dachau and Aushwitz is WAY out there... Those were places where millions were systematically massacred with all sorts of industrial-scale horror. What triggered such hyperbole?

Dilip D'Souza said...

Samir, good question, thanks for making me answer to the hyperbole. (I am always cognizant of Godwin's Law).

In this case, as I sat in that carriage at that time (i.e. while there was still this crazed violence going on), its burnt out innards truly brought to mind the bunks in barracks at Dachau. Five years later, revisiting those few lines, I thought of just what you ask: hyperbole.

But then I thought I should put these bits of writings up just as I wrote them then. No editing.

Horn Please!! said...

No we are not hurtling towards anything, we are same old same old. Tigerwill eat rabbit, rabbit will eat grass, grass will bury tiger.

Remember what we saw, by chance, at the Maharashtra - Gujarat border, the four Muslims leading away the quaking with fear Hindu truck driver because he dented their car, and none present - you and me included - had the balls to intervene? We because we were "foreigners" and the rest because the four were toughies?

So where does anything resemble Dachau and Aushwitz?

Dilip D'Souza said...

GBO/HP/VM: I remember that border scene. Actually I think we did have the balls to intervene, and did so: which is why I think we stopped the men from whacking the truck-driver some more. I suppose it's possible they took him somewhere else and hit him, but having been in 3-4 such situations in the last 10-15 yrs, my feeling is that the outside intervention cools/shames the assaulters into at least stopping the beating.

Nevertheless, may I repeat: the Dachau/Aushwitz parallel popped into my head when I sat there in that carriage looking at the charred inside, which brought that image of the bunks to mind. Right then and there, knowing of the killing that was still carrying on, I wondered if we were heading for a future as horrible as that.

Anonymous said...

1. While Dachau/Auschwitz may be far-fetched, what we have here is non-state actors indulging in pretty similar activity albeit on a smaller scale, often with the connivance of the rulers.

This can be more dangerous since the rulers scoot with the "this is not state-sanctioned, we condemn this" etc. I think thats the truth behind the hyperbole.

2. GBO, I remember the last discussion you had with Dilip on that truck driver thing:

You suggested it was people playing out a local issue between individuals based on their local strengths and it was people like you and me (ie. GBO & DDS) who read into it Hindu, Muslim etc.

Without questioning your right to change your opinion, maybe you would like to reconsider your "4 Muslims taking away the Hindu driver" in light of this earlier comment of yours.

Thank you,