Underbelly


O'Cracy, D.E.M., beloved husband of T. Ruth, loving father of L.I. Bertie, brother of Faith, Hope and Justicia, died on June 25.

Democracy died for them in 1975 but revived in 1977.

For them, it has always been dead.

We call them rebels.

They call themselves revolutionaries.


The khadi was stiff under the glaring sun. He tugged at his bandgala nervously. The scratchy threads at his neck seemed to tighten their vice grip around his neck with every passing second.

Similarly dressed politicians stood around him clad in trademark uniform of khadi and dhoti, hopping from one foot to another, balancing the protruding paunch. Some squatted on the ground around black transistors – eyes closed, ears cocked in concentration as the announcer described the Republic Day Parade in New Delhi.

The old, white heads bobbed, passing their approval on the floats of different states as they went down Janapath. As the float of their state was described, a small appreciate gasp left the keen audience. However it maybe, it mattered not. What mattered was that it was 'theirs'. It represented 'them'.

Just like their Fake development, their Fake assurances, their Fake plans, their Fake officers, their Fake public.

Fake. Fake. Fake.

Disgusted, he extracted himself from the crowd, distancing himself from the hypocrites, their hollow beliefs and their elitist leaders.

They did not care what befell people like him.

It had been a struggle right from the start. Fighting with others in the wadi for food, Fighting with others in school for the governmental schemes that gave free food and Fighting with the government for basic rights of his people.

Fight. Fight. Fight.

Between the fight for a single grain of rice and the constant dull ache of hunger in his growling stomach, he had found guns. And another. And another. Between two silent deaths was another one – stirring up a hornets' nest before going out forever.

Better than dying of hunger, alone unaccompanied in a remote village.

Better than dying of wait on the steps of the Ministry.

The end was inevitable, but he was prepared to go out with a bang – literally and metaphorically.

Hence the Republic Day function in the middle of nowhere with the State Minister of Agriculture as the chief guest.

Hence the scratchy khadi.

Hence the 5 kg of RDX beneath his Nehru jacket.

The crowd listening to the static of the announcer shifted slightly. The minister was an hour late. The State's float had already passed. If it had not been for the hawk eyed, bandook toting guards at the corners of the ground, people would have already left.

The sun was harsh and the wind stirred the brown dirt. It rose in a circle to fall down again. As the wind danced, so did the dirt, rendering temporary blind to those who still waited.

Throat parched, eyes watering, they looked up at the blue sky like the chatak waiting for first rains. Eyes empty, stomachs empty, wallets empty. The baksheesh for staying will fill the wallet, which will satiate the stomach. The evening keertan at the village temple will satiate the eyes.

Not his. They are empty.

He wanted answers. He wanted to know why the Jamindar ate burfi each day when his son cried of hunger. He wanted to know why his pocket was empty when the greed officials stuffed wads of bundles down theirs. He wanted to know why his wife was always ill and his son had to leave school simply because he did not have money to continue.

The blades of the chopper resounded across the playground. Solace entered the eyes of those who waited, but in his, they heralded the beginning of the end.

His son would now attend school and his wife will buy a new sari for the first time in two years, albeit a white one.

He grabbed a garland from the large pile and walked towards the oily, smiling neta. Throwing the garland around the false face, he leaned in for the last embrace.


Originally written for the July WCC, but did not submit the piece.

Glossary:

O'Cracy, D.E.M., beloved husband of T. Ruth, loving father of L.I. Bertie, brother of Faith, Hope and Justicia, died on June 25.

- This advertisement appeared in Times Of India during the Emergency rule in India (originally in a Sri Lankan newspaper). Regarded as one of the bravest steps taken during the dark patch in the history of Indian Democracy. The country survived the Emergency rule and emerged as the largest Democracy of the world.

This piece deals with the Naxalites in India.

khadi - a type of cloth preferred by the politicos, originally hailed by Mahatma Gandhi

bandgala - a type of apparel mostly used by politicians

Janpath - the road in front of the Parliament building where the Republic Day Parade takes place. In the parade, each state has a float which they decorate with items specific of the region.

Nehru Jacket: A type of jacket

wadi : settlement

bandook- gun

chatak: A mythological bird that drinks water only from the first rain of the year.

keertan: religious discourse

Jamindar - Rich landowner

burfi - sweetmeat

Dedicated to the CRPF men who died in the recent Dantewada massacre.

Note: Will be taken down soon due to the sensitive nature of the subject.


Oh, best luck to all the WCC participants! :D