24 July, 2006

My Freewheeling Mind

Born and raised in Gujarat, communal riots with their tense prequels and vicious sequels are nothing new to me. Like any other Indian reading his newspaper diligently, with a tiny sting of conscience always pushing its ugly head into imagined peace and prosperity, the numbers of people injured, killed or reported missing become mind-numbing. Horrid but true, if today's journalism has achieved something with a cast iron stability it is this callousness for numbers. Whether five were killed or five thousand, arithmetic and its implications cease to affect us...

A freewheeling mind, according to my personal definition is one that does not get fettered with the irritations near at hand nor the massive preoccupations that keep us bogged down with scant regard for the clock's creeping hands... a freewheeling mind has its own whimsical agenda. Much like dreams, such idle thoughts come and go on their own will.

Often my freewheeling mind comes dwell on the tufts of green growing under a huge black shadow of a tongueless tree. The seeds of kindness are there everywhere in each human psyche, just as seeds of grass are there in almost every single inch of fertile land. What drives my memory to keep such images sharp and focused, eludes me, but I can always recall a stray incidence of huge human kindness whilst much larger bloodletting and uncalled for torture of innocents, fades in my memory.

During the late 1960s there were really vile sort of riots in Baroda, where I had seen things upclose and experienced quite a few unforeseen events. A few years later when the dust had settled, some political riot went out of hand and it took on the communal shade in hours... as usually hundreds of innocents, dirt poor and helpless, who must work and earn their daily bread or else go to bed hungry, were maimed, mauled, mutilated and murdered.

A group of likeminded university folks got together meeting regularly at the house of a lecturer who had relocated to Baroda after fifteen years in USA. He decided after days of deliberations, for there are always dissenting voices amongst the most likeminded folks who have come together, to take a goodwill trip to a hospital. We would visit the victims of the other community... I would comfort a Hindu lying in bed with grievous injuries, and he would comfort an angry young Muslim attacked for no reason.

It wasn't easy. It took not only guts and integrity and solid belief in face of the vile response we got from the relatives of the victims, their friends and neighbours, sometimes even the victims himself or herself...but it took constant reminding oneself that this was the only option. One has to face the flak and keep one's emotions under check. Anger breeds more anger, we knew, and often our fellow good Samaritans from other religions would have to intervene fearing a mini riot in the hospital ward itself. Things were sticky and things were reducing our communicating vocabularies to monosyllabic orgies. A lot of head nodding and futile wringing of hands would have to be resorted to.

After a couple of visits, even after a couple of patients in the first visit, the humane side emerged. I was nearly astounded to hear the voice of reason. Slowly like three day old kittens thrown to the alley cats, we too became a little bolder, asking hypothetical questions that seemed almost explosive.
" Would you require vengence as justice?" one of us blurted out, and I nearly fainted, " you wish to go and stab someone from 'their' side?"
The reply, always quick and firm was a resolute No.
Each one wanted to go back to his routine, earn his measly bread, be with his or her family, forgive the strangers who came to attack, and be much more friendly with their own next door neighbours who practised a different religion.

This led to more visits, even after hospital discharge of some of the badly wounded ones, to their homes. We were always moved to tears by the simplicity of these folks -their lifestyles, their thinking, their enormous lack of political ideas or bias...that really touched each one of us. We kept reading newspapers, listening to the radio [the television was not so common then] and we kept discussing with friends, but these simple folks were totally cut off, both Hindus and Muslims, from anything but their animal-filled living quarters and their courtyards full of peace.

My freewheeling mind wants a break....
so see y'all later !

(c) Max Babi 240706


Blogger Batul said...

Yes, Max. I agree, that sometimes you need to function with a freewheeling mind. To float above minor and major irritants, and keep reminding oneself of what one believes in. Sometimes, you may not even in your subconscious believe that peace is possible, but small actions and gestures can make it work.

24/7/06 17:06  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are dead right, Batul.
One hears of people blanking out completely, under a trauma too large in magnitude for words or acts. But the mind whirrs on...

Thanks and cheerz!

24/7/06 18:21  

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