Unless I write about my personal experience of losing my head to anger all sharing is incomplete. Most people believe I do not get angry which is partly true as I have major motive behind not getting angry. Too much of energy, which I have in short supply, gets lost and it is not a pleasant experience to be sick on top of it! Well I do get angry but I have learnt to use it constructively. I remember distinctively though when I lost my head and beat my ten years son. The reason is not important but for him it remained till one day as an adult he called to say that he had eaten karela (bitter gourd) with his own hands —supposedly the reason why I beat him. I asked for his forgiveness there and then, but I was so ashamed with myself that I promised myself that this was the last time I will ever need to use violence. I remember getting angry with my little sister when she was a baby at eight and I was old at thirteen, just because she was throwing money around. I find it so strange now even as I write that otherwise whatever she did I would never get angry and I am unable to fathom why this act of hers could have made me angry.
In my selective forgetful memory once when I saw red stays with me. It was 2001.
It was a clear sunny day that morning with tinge of cold in the air. The journey to Moirang was an hour and half. Just thinking of what I experienced later gives me goose pimples. I realized why people who had survived partition or such holocausts were unable to speak about it, and why I had not been able to write about North East. I did not know if I just shoved the feelings under the carpet or if that was what people did when they did not want to acknowledge severe sufferance. And my body, which had no backup, had given way each time I started writing about the trip past five times. I was prepared to fall sick once but not this continuous break in documenting. This time I was determined to finish my writing as I acknowledged my conflict, pain and frustration mingling with the simple people of North East.
I was on my way to Moirang and as soon as we cleared the city of Imphal it felt as if the bus had entered a war zone. Every few metres there were armed sentries, soldiers parading in groups in straight files, and armed vehicles on patrol. The road was sometimes on plains and sometimes through the low hills and there were villages at intervals. The bus was on a plain stretch when commandos stopped it. Armed to teeth huge dangerous cruel looking men asked all passengers to get down. Their language and gestures were all repressive, making me doubt if I was in India. All the men in the bus were asked to go ahead of the bus about a hundred feet, and all the women were just as rudely asked to go around the bus once the men had left. It took all my patience and control to stop myself from reacting at such gross injustice, as I was apprehensive that any expression of revolt would harm the other passengers, many of them women. Even though I kept silent I could not stop the anger from reaching my eyes when I looked at the soldier who was immediately close to me. I for all appearance was meekly following the women taking a walk around the bus. There was a flicker of surprise in that soldier’s eyes seeing my anger. After one round the women were asked to board the bus and the men too were asked to come back and board. More painful was the stoic acceptance of this behaviour by all in the bus. I was seething but rest of the people went around as if they were not affected and it was daily routine, which it was and much worse!
It was still morning when I reached Moirang. The lodge was on a hill top and further away from the city but the INA monument was close by. I decided to visit that before going to the lodge. A woman who was around when I was asking directions accompanied me to see the monument as she had not seen it even though she lived in Moirang. It was a major Border Security Force centre. There was a big statue of Subhash Bose and a Memorial monument to the martyrs of INA was under construction. There was a library and museum where INA related maps, books, photographs and various items were displayed. A few tall strong BSF personnel were accompanying me, I do not know whether they were visitors or just on duty. My Hindi amazed them. I cleared that since I was from Jabalpur it was my natural language of communication.
I still was not over my immediate fuming from the actions of the men in uniform and here there was no one other than me they could harm even if they wanted to. They were mostly from Rajasthan and Bihar, all Hindi speaking and they were stuck addressing me as their didi (elder sister). I asked them if they treated women at home as they treat them here. Immediately they were defensive and asked ‘why didi?’ I told them that for the first time I was ashamed to call myself Indian with the behaviour of armed soldiers towards the people they are supposed to protect. When still they behaved baffled at this accusation from me, I questioned, need I put into words what they do here? That ashamed them, and one of them reluctantly admitted that ‘sometimes accesses happen’. I just repeated, ‘zyaadati (accesses)?’
I can say after a decade now, I would never get over my smoldering even after the fact finding of violence against women in four states the next year. The collective demands of removing the dreaded Armed Forces Disturbed Areas Act could not stop rapes of women nor reduce the violence in these areas. It seems to be increasing wherever the capitalist policies of exploitation are challenged! I walked out very slowly, took my time writing my name at the entrance so the brave soldiers have scope to retaliate against a single woman but my understanding of human beings was not wrong, I was their own Hindi speaking elder sister so they would not do anything but the people and the women of Manipur were not theirs! All posted from across the span of land without their families obviously!
I took a rickshaw and let nature, the sun, the cool clear air, and the water bodies heal me for the time being.
More recently I lost my head on a issue which lead me to start writing blogs. I am waiting for the results of my getting mad. Already farmers in India came in astonishing numbers in Delhi braving the cold and COVID threat against those in power for making unjust policies. P Sainath a senior journalist came out publicly about the laws that the farmers are against (available on U tube). It boils my blood to think that we the people of this world allow such exploitation to happen. In front of this where all the people of the country are involved, two specially challenged girls not being given admission, by one renowned University for Masters after completing graduation, seems negligible, but it is not, as the Constitution on India supposedly gives Rights to Education to all. How many know the Constitution of India, the rights and duties in it is another aspect, where the less I dwell the better for me to remain without taxing my tired brain! Endless reasons of injustice to get angry on but I need to work on myself as that is the one space where I can work to make a difference. It is sure to permeate in the surrounding to make the world a better place where anger will not be required for bringing change.