Monday, August 22, 2011

Ram Leela Grounds

When I was very small, five years old and earlier than that, I remember walking to the Ram Leela grounds to see Ravana the ten headed monster of Hindu myth, burn with his brothers. They were funny and fierce, there were no speeches, and everyone had a great time, walking back in the dusty late evening, with the stars beginning to emerge, the large trees shadowing in the glare of the motor car lights, and the kerosene oil lamps of the merchants who lined the streets. That was circa 1960 to 1962 when I was just beginning to have the power of recall.
Going to see Anna Hazare today had the same ambience. It was the same kind of crowds  that one sees at Puja Pandals and at Dilli Haat, and at the Railway station. Happy families, general populace consisting of the youth, sometimes paired, and sometimes in gangs, and sometimes solitary. Everyone there on a week long carnival of emotion. In the distance, one saw Anna get up and go to lie down, just as he does on T.V. A sea of flags, tricolour flags, and a sense of how much Indians hope that the Gorement will hear them! The T.V vans gave out a great deal of diesel fumes, the savoury merchants and the mint drink vendors were all doing brisk business. Right opposite at the turn where the former antique/waste door and window shopkeepers and  erstwhile tonga keepers kept their horses, the buildings were moulding, but boys stood and flew freedom kites. A traffic jam, and then hey presto, a cavalcade of expensive white cars with accompanying policemen...every moment something happens in that field of some fargone 19th century moment. I remember  in 1962 perhaps, heading there to see the Queen of England wearing darkglasses and a scarf, heading past in an open van.  I went with my father to hear long speeches too by some citizen or other there. It still carries the sense of a people's place, though Turkman Gate looms with modern buildings.
Parliamentary institutions are too slow for people who have paid bribes for everything for too long, regardless of the political colour of the functionaries who were employed by the State, and who asked to be paid regardless of their political affiliation or yours. Yet, freedom to protest is a great space, and we need it as much as any other space which protect our legal rights at every turn.

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