April 05, 2007

Trembling lip

Jottings from Ahmedabad, April 2002.


Trembling lip of Anand -- young college student, rage barely controlled, whom I meet at Sabarmati Ashram -- as he voices a stream of grievances and abuse against Muslims. We spend nearly an hour talking: acrimonious, heated talking. Eighty per cent of Muslims are terrorists! he says. We never touch their Haj pilgrims, why did they kill our Ayodhya pilgrims in Godhra? he asks. And since they did, since Muslims are so "anti-India", this reaction was "inevitable."

At one point, another journalist butts in to ask him, what about the 200 women at the Juhapura camp who were raped? This gets him, if possible, even more irate. That's a lie, he shouts. You media people -- and here he turns on me, looking ready to strike me with those muscular arms any second -- spread these lies about Hindus! The journalist, she practically snorts in scorn and disbelief and stalks off. Anand, he looks ready to explode.

Look, I tell him, I don't know about 200 rapes. I'm not spreading any such story, because I don't know. But I do know about one woman -- one dazed woman with a soul-deadening emptiness in her eyes -- whom I met at a camp in Godhra. She was raped. By more than a dozen men. She is now pregnant. Let's not talk about numbers like 200. Let's talk instead about this one woman. Why was she raped?

It gets him quiet, thinking, for a short while. Suddenly the equation has changed from a number -- 200 -- to one flesh-and-blood human being, one degree of separation distant. Right there, and even if for just that spell of mere seconds, I feel I have got through to him. He calms down just a bit after that. He also seems to appreciate that I listen instead of scorning him, as he is furious at the other journalist for doing.

And because he thinks that, he gets me thinking about some things he says too. At the end, he actually apologizes for being angry, I do as well, we promise to stay in touch.

Some little achievement: a few moments where we move beyond shouting and anger, manage to talk and listen, think about each others' views. How much blood have we lost because we don't listen any more?


Anonymous said...

Ya it is true we don't listen any more. We stopped reading too. And all we know is some jumbled up words and trendy fashions of spring.

Anonymous said...

Mapping a phenomenon on real faces has an enormous effect. Jared Diamond always tries to investigate historical phenomena by mapping them to real faces of real people. Its paradoxial how numbers lie 200 have hardly any effect on people cos they are most of the times used for sensationalizing things (?) but one real person and his/her face can bring out all our empathy.

I shall use it the next time to explain to Puppy Manohar why he should renounce meat. ill stick a poster of Bhanumati, the goat on his ken(n)el.

-Baby V and Puppy M
P.S Just so that you know "Why India needs a dictator" - Harsha Bhogle : http://www.indianexpress.com/story/27534.html