Saturday, December 17, 2011

Protest please

The junior wing Science Exhibition is one of my school babies. Two days prior is usually when we finish up since it is mounted the day before the final event and some of us happened to be hard at it that day.

We make a good team; there is Asha with her ideas and vivid visualization, Chhaya with her terrifically neat and spirited handiwork and Sulekha with her calm, consistent execution. 

While we fixed panels, pored over the projects with the children and worked out the peripherals, a senior student appeared at the door, trailing a Class IV child, quite obviously a sibling. It is true that I took time to register her and did not at first understand the words. We were a terribly pre-occupied bunch of teachers with an eye on the clock and the usual din in the background. All I saw was a mouth opening and closing, no sound emanating. She had begun speaking from the door without waiting to come in or be prompted. It did sink that she had come to canvass for her baby brother's inclusion in the event.

I shook my head. The exhibition traditionally drew upon Class V resources, although under a wider, looser format, the occasional Class IV student had exhibited in the past. But just a day short and in a theme specific presentation with a flaky in-house rehearsal nipping at us, there was no way. I turned back to my group of reciting students. But we were interrupted this time by a loud and demanding, "Why?" I remember turning to Asha for help. I also recall the sharpness in that, "Why?" It was forceful. I had expected the pair to walk off; they stood their ground instead. And even though I chafed a bit at the whiff of insolence, we dealt with their enthusiasm and went back to building the exhibits.

Later, driving home from work, over lunch, even while huffing over the treadmill, the sister's miffed face and belligerent voice nagged at me. Protest is such an anti-Indian emotion. We are brought up to revere, to acquiesce, and to count our blessings. It is in our legacy to put ourselves after the group and community. So we grow up neither knowing how to object nor knowing how to deal with one when it strikes. And here was this young person asking a simple, "Why?" The more I thought about it, the more I saw her courage and openness. It suddenly sounded like a great word. Why didn't we use it a bit more?

Why is India's growth story slowing down, for instance? Why have I found it so difficult to get a voter's card all these years? Why does the VIP cavalcade security, all but push me off the road in the rudest ever manner? Why are India's best and brightest so dissociated and distant from her Parliament? Why is there so much govt. contempt for the country's educated middle class? Why do you not get good service despite full payment in our nation? Why does the opposition hold up work under the barest of excuses? Why do we continue to tolerate the 'chalta hai' attitude? Why don't we speak up more? Why don't we protest a bit more? 

Why this, why that, why not Kolaaveri jeee.....

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