Apr 9, 2011

Anna and his witch-hunters...

Long story. Couldn't make it short. :)
Once upon a time, in a land not-so-far-away, in a glorious kingdom, there lived a boring, balding, not-so-young man. But this is not his story. Not entirely.

The kingdom was a happy one. It wasn't very prosperous, but the people of the kingdom had enough opportunities and were making progress. They had just won an archery competition contested by 13 other kingdoms, and were feeling top of the world. 

And then, the villagers woke up one day to a new phenomenon. An old man was standing on top of a tall building and threatening to jump and kill himself. He shouted that there were witches in the kingdom and he wanted to hunt the whole lot down. And he wanted to do it because he wanted to protect people from the witches.

And the people went wild. The witches had been around for quite some time. In fact, the villagers had fed them whenever they needed some favours and helped them grow. But some of the witches had grown into quite a monster, and now were eating the babies of the villagers. And the people were mad. They demanded blood. Besides, people all across the world always loved a witch-hunt. It gave them a rush, it made them feel like they were fighting evil, and it satisfied their predatory instincts even though they no longer hunted for food.

The boring, balding, not-so-young man, let’s call him Sadak (I know, strange name, let it be), was passing by. And Sadak was piqued by the throng of the crowds screaming support for the old man. Curious, Sadak asked someone in the crowd what was going on.

“The old man’s name is Anna. He wants to fight the witches. For which he wants the king’s permission. And he is threatening to kill himself, if the king doesn’t give him permission.”

“But that’s blackmail...”

“Shut up, you idiot. The old man is a great man. He reminds us of that other old, great man, Bapu, the one who freed this kingdom from the foreign invaders long ago. And Bapu did it without lifting a weapon. Entirely non-violent.”

“Is it?”

“And Anna is sacrificing his life for the kingdom. Not the first time he is doing it. He was in the army too. Fought against our neighbouring enemy forty-five years ago!”

“He fought in the army? And he is non-violent too? How come?”

“C’mon now, don’t ask such stupid questions! He is a great man. He has done so much for the country. Why, in his village, there was this witch called Madira. She used to lure some young men who were intoxicated by her charms. Anna warned them once, twice, thrice, but when they did not listen to him, he gathered his team of supporters and had them exorcised. Flogged in public. He said he knew he was causing pain, but it is like a mother giving a child bitter medicine. Ultimately, good for the child.”

“Oh, how is he different from the turbaned people in the hills we know, the ones we call Balitan, who flog their women in public to keep them chaste. They also claim that it is done for the good of the women.”

“They are animals. Our Anna, he is a peace-loving witch-hunter. And now he has decided to go after the biggest witch, Brashti!”

“Oh, Brashti? The same one who some of you guys run to for favours. I thought only you guys fed her with requests for magic potions to get ahead of other people, and get things done quickly.”

“We might have. But that is not important. Brashti is evil, and she must go.”

“Why can’t the king hunt her?”

“Oh c’mon, we all know the king is useless, merely warming up the throne for Prince Charming. The king was had-picked by the Queen Mother precisely because he is toothless. And we hear, even the Queen Mother is friendly with Brashti. So, she won’t let the king hunt her. And so, Anna has to.”

“But we have courts...”

“Aw, you really are stupid, aren’t you? Courts are slow, justice delayed is justice denied. We want Brashti killed now!”

“And how will Anna do it? What magic does he have that the courts don’t?”

“We don’t know all that. All we know is that Anna is a great man. And he is supported by Yogi Baba, the same magical baba who can cure homosexuality merely by exercise. He is also supported by that famous actor, the one who made a play some years back about killing all ministers who were in the evil clutches of Brashti. And the support of famous business heads. And famous Mahashay award-winners. Who, by the way, will also have the power to select the witch-hunters.”

“Oh, impressive. Very impressive. But why can’t we rely on the ministers we elected rather on someone who was given an award from a foreign land? Are we saying that the foreigners are more intelligent that our people?”

“Sigh... your stupidity has no limits. Our ministers have fallen into the trap of Brashti. The whole lot of them. Only these people can resist her charms.”

“Is it? And how do you support Anna?”

“We display badges and banners in our windows, which other people can see and thus spread the message. We also send letters tied to pigeons, but only the free ones, with the same message. We are also doing relay-jumps. One of us will jump 5 feet, then another will jump another 5 feet. That way, we have expressed solidarity with his effort without actually hurting ourselves too. Clever, isn’t it?”

“But I thought the idea was to get the attention of the king. The king doesn’t read what banners you have hung in your windows. Nor does the Queen Mother read your pigeon-mails.”

“Don’t be stupid. The message will spread. And will reach the King. Somehow. We’ll also light candles. So, are you ready to hang a banner too?”

“I don’t know. I don’t fully trust people who claim to have your support, but will not contest against the Brashti-tinged ministers in a fair contest, with the results to be decided by you.”

“What? You dare to criticize our Anna and his witch-hunters? What have you achieved in life? Do you have a solution?”

“I never knew I had to achieve something to criticize. I mean, you guys don’t know how to shoot an arrow, but you all criticized Mahasingha, our kingdom’s captain, when he choose the long-limbed archer for the final shoot-out instead of the turbaned archer. Besides, just because I don’t have a solution does not mean I cannot criticize a bad one.”

“That’s archery, a game. We all know it. We played it in our childhood. This is different. It is service to people. You need to have done something before you dare to call our Anna any names.”

“I am not calling him names. I respect his opinion. And all I am asking for is that he respect this country’s rules. And not resort to such blackmail.”

“Oh, you are not only stupid, but one of those contrarian types, eh? Always clinging to an opposite view, just to hide your stupidity.”

“Er, if anything, I am the one who’s arguing for following the sacred book called the Constitution. And you guys are the ones going contrary to it. Anyways, not much is going to come out of it. Soon, we’ll find a new witch to hunt.”

“Oh, stupid, contrarian and cynical too? No wonder, you don’t have many friends. Such negativity!”

The boring, balding, not-so-young Sadak just sighed. And returned home. To learn that Anna didn’t have to jump. The king agreed to his witch-hunt.

And the people. They were too busy trying to see if Brashti can give them entry to watch the new archery competition that had started.

Apr 4, 2011

I have a dream...

I have a dream...

I have a dream that one day this city will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all money is created equal."

I have a dream that one day on the mud hills of Ghatkopar, the sons of pure-veg Jains and the sons of daily-fish Kolis will be able to sit down together at the table of housing society dinner.

I have a dream that one day even the suburb of Chembur, a place sweltering with the heat of smoky traffic, sweltering with the heat of chemical factory emissions, will be transformed into an oasis of open spaces and Acres club greenery.

I have a dream that my measly little bank balance will one day live in a city where they will not be judged by their color of black or white, but by the currency of their full-convertibility.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day, down in Colaba, with its vicious elitists, with its building secretary having his lips dripping with the words of marital status and food preferences; one day right there in Colaba, little bachelor boys and bachelor girls will be able to join hands with slimy uncles and suspicious aunties as tenants and landlords.

I have a dream today.

I have a dream that one day every basement shall be exalted, every rate per square foot shall be made low, the car parking will be made free, and the super-built up will be made carpet, and the glory of the land shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.

This is our hope. This is the faith that I go back to the South with. With this faith we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our homelessness into a beautiful symphony of home ownership. With this faith we will be able to work alone, to live alone, to struggle alone, to go to bed alone, to stand up for bachelorhood alone, knowing that we might be married one day.

And if Mumbai is to be a great city this must become true. So let freedom ring from the prodigious hilltops of New Mumbai. Let freedom ring from the mighty mountains of Mulund. Let freedom ring from the heightening skyscrapers of Panvel!

Let freedom ring from the Rahejas of Colaba!

Let freedom ring from the curvaceous slopes of Powai!

But not only that; let freedom ring from Mud Mountain of Ghatkopar!

Let freedom ring from Lodha's Fountain of Thane!

And when this happens, when we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every building and every tower, from every suburb and every town, we will be able to speed up that day when all of evolution's children, bachelor men and married men, Jains and Gultis, vegetarians and meat-eaters, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old tenant hopeful, "Free at last! free at last! thank SBI teaser rate, we are free at last!"

PS1: Apologies to Martin Luther King, Jr. May his soul rest in peace.

PS2: This is what happens when one hunts for real estate in Mumbai. With the twin disadvantages of being a bachelor, and a non-vegetarian.

PS3: I seriously have a dream. Of buying a house in Bombay one day. And I shall make it happen. Not by hook or crook, but going strictly by the book!