when I was red…

An item today in The Hindu suggests the way to laughter, which is to look beyond anger to the absurdity of the situation. I glanced at the story and read only the big-lettered nut graf on my way to work and forgot all about the idea when we entered the gate, where, for two months and a half there is the sore sight of workmen on strike, and from yesterday the scene punches the gut, the unbearable vision of unwashed men on a relay hunger strike, and their unwashed cohorts who have slept there overnight.

My anger against those that have misled them, and have them still in their thrall, dried up many days ago.

They want me to talk to them, and their request they have sent to the newspapers and to the television channels, but not to me. A young man came with a TV camera today, himself the reporter, himself the cameraman. He spent good time outside with the workmen and his mind was made up before he entered the factory. “Can you not speak with them? On humanitarian grounds? How can you allow a hundred and seventy workmen to sit outside?” When the HR Manager came to me and told me these questions that the young man had asked him, I remembered my own youth and my strong belief then, which I don't remember whence it came, that only the devil begat businessmen.

He left schlepping his camera and I wondered if I should call him and talk to him myself, and repeat to him that we've been beseeching them every day for seventy days to come in and work; that a matter gone to court is a matter abandoned to its time; that it is not done to press for the recall of workmen dismissed on disciplinary grounds. The things I composed for him sounded awful in my mind, and I decided to let him go, to allow him to indulge in the romance of outrage at capitalists and exploitation and at the oppression of the working classes. Then I cursed the owner of the news channel who is himself a businessman, and a politician, and I asked myself how his channel can send a kid to cover something of which he cannot see all dimensions.

But the boy has stirred remembrances, of when my tilt was toward red too, when my gear was meager, a ten-cent pen and a rough-woven kurta that fell below my knees and let the sun and the wind of Mysore and Manasa Gangothri through to my skin. Now in the evening I'm writing these notes and I'm thinking how I'd have enjoyed it in my time on the campus, if I'd had that boy’s large camera, and his freedom, and his access, and businessmen like me to make a mess of.
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