Monday, December 29, 2008

Amar- Akbar- Anthony’s handicapping politics

6:30 AM, 13 December, Saturday
Howdah Rajdhani halts at Patna junction. The tussle outside the station clearly showed that there’s no time for rest. But looking at the parking outside, with a gunman in front of every parked car, I questioned myself, why this security?

The driver who came to receive me asked for ten rupees, gave it to the security person accompanying him and asked him to leave in an auto. Driver’s name was Taqdeer who was to take me to the Patna Book Fair. I asked Taqdeer to take the security man along s there was enough space in the car. Taqdeer replied that since it was dawn, so there was no harm. “What harm?” I asked. He replied, “Rajdhani comes at around 4:45 am to Patna; it’s usually dark at that time and driving a car may not be safe, hence I came with the guard”.

A scene of car parking opposite to the station came in front of my eyes. The number of private cars equaled the number of gunmen there. Even before the thought left my mind, the station’s chaos covered me. There were loudspeakers blaring from the nearby Hanuman temple and a mad traffic of rickshaws and tempos honking and creating fuss around. It didn’t seem like morning. No one seemed to be thinking that the morning has not yet begun. And presence of energy instead of yawns made me realize that I can’t rest.

I had planned to rest in my hotel room and then go for sight seeing around 10 am with my wife and children; it was their first visit to Patna. But as I travelled from the station to the hotel it looked as if the old anxiousness no longer existed. The nostalgia took me two decades back. I used to walk in the morning from Rajendra Nagar to Gandhi Maidan. It looked greener before. Amid endless cups of tea, debates were framed and politics was discussed; giving insights was also practiced. However, crowded roads breached my sense of nostalgia; I threw my baggage in the hotel and left to enliven my memories with my family. It was 8:30 in the morning. I left Hotel Maurya for Golghar, on foot. On reaching there, ‘No Ticket’ surely surprised my children but after looking at the pathetic condition of the staircase at Golghar they realized what a ticket could have done. The dustbin and an open toilet in the vicinity caught my attention immediately.

From 1985-1988 this was the place of practice for the street theatre. Various groups practiced here and released their ideology coloured in politics. Even I used to practice here with my street theatre group of 9-10. During that time there was a competition between street theatre and stage theatre, but largely they competed to mirror politics in their ways. Meaning that, scenes of the plays portrayed selfish politics in one or the other way. People related their internal anxiousness to the scenes which were enacted in the play and hence applauded the effort.

And now, that ground appeared more like a dustbin and I couldn’t tell my kids that we once thought of turning it into a theatre. They would have definitely asked, “Why wasn’t the theatre made then?” I think, rather than turning the place into a dustbin it would have served well as a ground. This question would have come up definitely, as Munis Raja made an open air theatre amid trees and landscapes in the JNU campus. And I told my children about this when we once visited the campus. An evening while strolling, Munis Raja, the VC of JNU, saw a group of students performing and hence decided to transform it into a proper theatre. Then questioning Golghar’s ground would have raised a question in the minds of children that whether the VC or the Chief Minister has more powers. And the next question would have been, “If the VC strolls in the campus, so should the CM?” What would have they felt on seeing all this?”

Leaving Golghar from the other side, I saw a daanpeti. I got to know that this peti’s only relation with the Golghar was that, whosoever visited the Golghar, donated, benefitting the nearby temple. Pandit Ramanarayan ji also met. He mentioned about the foreign tourists that donated foreign currency in the peti on passing the Golghar. May be the foreigners thought about doing something for Golghar’s worsening condition.

It was foggy and hence the Ganges wasn’t clearly visible from Golghar. We had to take a rickshaw from Golghar to Collectriate ghat. In the meantime, I explained to my children about the banks of Ganga, facing cleaner vicinity during Chhat Puja. But when we reached the ghat the water seemed so dirty and hence untouchable. However, if one ever felt like touching Ganga’s water, one would have to dirty the feet in the surrounding marsh. Seeing all this marsh around, one wouldn’t even realize that it’s Ganga he wants to touch after all. All creatures, from small poor kids and pigs-dogs were visibly sieving the marsh to find something for themselves.

A used thing can become someone’s requirement; this can be seen and felt on this ghat. Anyone who feels like performing a puja in Ganga has to take a boat, which takes him to a raised platform formed in the mid-Ganga. The boatman revealed that that area is cleaner with more clean water than elsewhere. He offered us to come along. “But even this marsh could be cleaned here”, I offered. On this he laughed and said, “There is an authority (Govt.) this side, but no authority over there”. We left then.

Before going to the book fair, I thought of showing my children the college from which I graduated. B.N. College changed its main gate. The main gate, which was earlier on the Ashok Rajpath; its wall was broken to make a short cut to enter the college. As the time passed, the fissure widened. But never did I think that the fissure would turn into the main gate. As I entered the college I sensed an ideological fissure as well. There was a poster on the wall opposite that read- Raj Thackeray ko faansi do..!

When in the early 80’s caste- based violence took over the whole of Patna University, 6 students were murdered. But no one could ever gather courage to even touch anyone from B.N. College. I know two reasons. First, the students of B.N. College were fiercely united. Everyone tried to breach this unity on grounds of caste, but all their efforts failed. Second, students of B.N. College never supported or opposed any politician.

The 1995 Student movement taught the tactic of confronting Raj Thackeray’s politics. A conversation with the students made me realize that they have the vigour and will to slice Raj Thackeray’s Marathi Manus politics. However, they were also wary of the Amar- Akbar- Anthony or Paswan- Lalu- Nitish politics being played every now and then. This anecdote was given by a B.N. College student only. However, when the question of Bihar’s politics through Raj Thackeray’s land arose, students mentioned lack of options. I never felt that lack of options ever. The conditions that once gave strength to live appeared weak and shattered in the present B.N. College.

I clearly remember that Dr. C.P. Thakur, who contested election in Patna, won by the courage and ideological understanding of the B.N. College students. His speeches were written by the students in college hostel and the immense campaigning was also done by students. I entered the college staff room to meet a Political Science professor. He wasn’t present. It was 11 am; one of the staffers told that he would come around 11:30.

I took my kids to the cycle stand then. It was the only place left untouched; full of cycles, as always. The green alga had grown all over the wall though, there were cob webs and dogs had made it their home. The financial condition of the students studying looked obvious. As my son clicked pictures, some students recognized me and lamented college’s pathetic condition. The eyes were helplessly crying for someone to change the circumstances. This was not the B.N. College I had known. When did B.N. College depend on someone else to do something? Surely, this politics of Amar- Akbar- Anthony has made everyone handicapped and docile.

(To be continued……)

1 comment:

Bikash said...

I m a regular visitor of ur blog but never commented.
This is the first time i m making comment as i cudnt tolerate my silence.
this is one of the finest piece after Taj oberoi( as per my perception).
Highly commendable sirjee.

-Bikash Sharma
Student Mass Communication, Bhopal