Here is something that happened during my college days. The year was 1979 and the place, St. Teresa’s College, Ernakulam. One fine day as the classes in the college were in full swing, some boys from some nearby colleges barged in, pushing aside the lone security guard at the gate. This was a rare and unusual occurrence in itself since during most ‘strikes’ our all-girls college was always sidelined. Though we were out of the loop as far as college unions and ‘strikes’ were concerned back then, I am not sure how things are in the present.
The demand of the slogan shouting rabble was that classes should be terminated for the day and the girls forced to go home. We were not immediately worried about the reasons behind the ‘strike’ as this gate-crashing into the premises itself was novel and exciting enough to hold our interest for the moment. Besides ‘strikes’ were dime a dozen even back then.
As for the present, ‘strikes’ have become such a farce that one merely rolls ones eyes and tries to stifle the urge to bash up the whole lot of them for the callous way they treat the common man and the way they hold a city/state to ransom. Traffic is held up for hours and hours to accommodate them walk past leisurely even though the court order says that common people cannot be inconvenienced. The less said of their tendency to vandalize, the better. Burning a bus or two, throwing stones at and breaking window panes of buildings en-route are but routine acts they indulge in as a matter of course.
The slogan shouting students forced the college authorities to ring the ‘long’ bell to indicate classes were over. Some over-enthusiastic ones among them rang the bell a few more times for good measure. We, the students of the college, poured in large numbers out of our classrooms and stood around uncertainly. We were told curtly by the budding politicians to leave for home.
What took us by surprise was the presence among the lot of the wet- behind-the-ears striplings still in their half trousers having not yet graduated to be wearing full ones. Obviously they were school kids. What were they doing in our college as part of this rowdy crowd??
We found out soon enough or rather Sister Emeline, one of the lecturers, did. She like the rest was puzzled by the sizeable number of school children who were part of the crowd running amok inside the premises, What was their grievance, had something of gravity happened (not that it meant that you go and disrupt classes elsewhere by any means) in some nearby school of which all of us were hitherto unaware?? Unable to figure out the reason behind the commotion and intending to enlighten herself, she tapped one of the frisky and still-wet-behind-the-ears stripling and asked,
“Enthina samaram cheyyune??” (Why are you on strike??)
The stripling seemed to be well in possession of the facts and was quick to reply.
“Jnangalude bench ellaam Trivandrutheykku kondu pokunnu!!” (They are taking all our benches to Trivandrum)
The consequences of this and its seriousness only had to be imagined seemed to say the expression of said stripling and a few friends who had stopped to listen to the exchange. A confused Sister Emeline paused to reflect, process this information and make sense of it. As if sensing the confusion or maybe seeing the wrinkled brows of Sister Emeline, a pipsqueak piped in helpfully,
“Jnangalude divisionile bench!!” (Benches from our division)
“Jnangal evide irikkum??” (Where will we sit) asked a third with righteous indignation written all over his young face.
Now, a word about Sister Emeline. Tall (she seemed to be more than her 6 feet to us) and statuesque in appearance, she was a figure of authority not to be messed with. Apart from teaching she also did the duty of warden of the hostel attached to the college. She had a nose better than the best of sniffer dogs to smell out trouble, And as someone in charge of hundreds of girls ever ready to get into mischief, she put this nose to perfectly good use to stop said girls from doing any such thing. The story of how Sister Emeline was waiting at the movie hall for the absconders, who had left the hostel without permission, to catch them as they sauntered in blissfully unaware of what awaited them and how she brought them back with her to the hostel in total ignominy is stuff legends are made of. She did this not once, but time and again. She was as intelligent as they came by and was always one step ahead of the naughtiest of students in her charge.
Hence it did not take her long to crack open what at first glance seemed a difficult one that the stripling had presented her with. And when she did, she threw her head back and allowed her full-throated laughter to flow freely. I am sure the striplings were taken aback at that. The fact that their benches were being deported to Trivandrum may not have seemed a laughing matter to them. They might very well have felt disapproval at the levity the nun had introduced into the proceedings on hearing about this most disheartening of news as far as they were concerned.
Of course every single one of us who heard it subsequently laughed out loudly as well. The joke spread like wildfire. I still laugh remembering it. But I also feel infinite sadness at the way innocent children were (for that matter, still are) led astray by those with a political agenda.
Back in those days there was a call for moving a Division bench of the High Court from Ernakulam to Trivandrum (which is still unresolved) against which there was much agitation going on. The ignorant kids recruited to ‘swell the ranks’ were under the impression that they were fighting to retain the benches in their classrooms for themselves. Need I say more??
I was reminded of the above incident when I read a news item. Activists (or plain goons??) of some political party stormed a school and damaged premises and many of them were seemingly ignorant of the reasons of why they were doing it. These were not school children, mind you, but grown adults. What would you call people who vandalize without even knowing why they are doing it?? Anyway, you know and I know too, what they should be called. My post is written in a lighthearted manner. But can this be taken lightheartedly?? Do read what a mother says: Does my child deserve this?
LOL! These people just follow orders because they are getting paid…There’s no ideology involved in strikes…
I remember a journey from Kolkota to Bishnupur where there were a lot of these ‘activists’ all in high spirits, returning after a hard day’s work with packets of food and money in their pockets. Ideology?? The only ideology here is of who pays better for their services. This is just ‘work’ like any other.
Thought- provoking post, Shail!
I agree with Sraboney- it’s doubtful if these people at the school knew what they were protesting. No ideology involved. I wish we could ship all the politicians out of Mumbai- all this has gone too far. 😦
The ‘striking’ incident from your college days was very entertaining, though. 🙂
‘Strikes’ and such protests have become meaningless because of the way some people have hijacked it for their personal agenda. I wish too Manju that we could ship all such people away!
aunty… m in luv with all ur works…
Welcome to Shail’s Nest Ishani. 🙂 And thank you so much! 😀
Indian Homemaker said:
Sad Shail, specially when small kids are involved anywhere.
Reminds of the time when there were protests against Raj Thakre’s arrest in Pune, I was half way to my daughter’s school for a meeting with the principal and they called to say there was rioting somewhere so school was closing immediately. My driver was no more than 19 and he had lost a job as the driver’s helper in another school, which he said was ‘run by North Indians’, he said he was glad Shiv Sena was organising these protests and the North Indians were taking away their jobs. I asked him if he supported Raj Thakre or Shiv Sena, he looked at me condescendingly and said, “Raj Thakre is from Shiv Sena, they are fighting against the North Indians in Maharashtra taking away our jobs..” 😐
Yes it is IHM. How easily they provoke and influence and with such far reaching effects. All for their own personal glory alone! 😦
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Most of the people who get involved in strikes do it blindly, without even knowing the reason, why they are doing it. My servant maid’s mother in law often participates in strikes like ‘road roko’ etc. They give her Rs.50 plus a packet of biryani for shouting along with the others, her friends, for shouting slogans.
The Mumbai school episode really shocked me! How safe are our children here?
Your college strike episode is really funny, but thinking of tiny children who were used by dirty politicians in those days itself is frightening to read.
What interests them is only the money and food Sandhya but the way the news channels and the political parties go on about the numbers one would think they are talking of genuine followers of the ideology. They take us for fools…or may be we are! 😦
When I wrote about this incident some time back I remember a guy who defended vociferously the student politics in Kerala. But he was strangely silent on the matter of the involvement of misinformed school children.
nalini hebbar said:
Most strikes are instigated by outsiders…political patronage of college unions breeds a set of political leaders who know nothing but violence.
loved your style…wonderful how you include Malayalam effortlessly
Thanks Nalini. 🙂 With both my children out of the college scene in Kerala, I don’t come to know much about the dime a dozen ‘strikes’ that happen there.
karate brat said:
I guess its the government and the law enforcers tht r to be blamed for such acts of stupidity! I mean protests are good for just causes.But it shouldnt done by bullying people and through voilence!
See how People in china,hongkong etc conduct peaceful protests & rallies.They do it in colorful and peaceful parades sometimes making use of colorful flags and songs.And they still are able to convey their message!
I guess ‘Gandhism’ & ‘Gandhigiri’only exists in movies nowadays,not in the real world 😦
Welcome to Shail’s Nest Karate brat. Protests for just causes have given place to bullying people through violence. Seeing the violent ways of the protesters and their total disregard for ordinary people one wonders for whom they go on ‘strike’!?
That is sad! It is so easy to brainwash people with half baked information! Even worse when children are enlisted to do such political campaigning!
As for grownups taking part in such activities without even realizing what they are demonstrating against, well, it just goes to show how many unemployed youth are just as easily brainwashed.. Age makes no difference when it comes to mob-mentality, I guess.
Absolutely Smitha. Tell them half truths and let them loose seems to be the idea. We see it all around us in many forms. Thanks for dropping by.
Sad indeed! Whats worse is when children involve themselves in this dirty game of politics without even realizing the repercussions. They are so blinded by this want to emulate adults that they just join the fray without thinking twice.
The ‘division bench samaram’ reminded me of the movie ‘Sandesham’. I’m sure you must have seen it. There was this scene where the youngest son, an adolescent, plans to go on a strike and form a union of sorts to protest against his expulsion from school :D.
Congratulations on the Spicy Pick, Shail 🙂
That day they were really running amok, very happy to be involved in a ‘grown up’ activity like a ‘strike’ and I am sure just a signal would have been all that was enough for them to start throwing stones, though thankfully nothing like that happened!
Ans Sandesham, OMG, that’s one of the best!! At our house we are all big fans of the movie, especially the scene that refers to Poland. Hilarious!!The sad realities of real life are presented in such rib-ticklingly funny manner. The scene you speak of comes to the end of the movie, isn’t it??
And thanks Deeps! 🙂
yes it comes in the end. And that ‘Polandine patti onnum parayarudu’ warning from Srinivasan is a favorite with my husband too. Its a cult movie. Its sad such movies are hardly being made these days.
Congratulations for the award, Shail!
Thank you Sandhya. 🙂
In 30 years not much has changed 🙂 . still the ebches are being deported……..
It was a really a good read. It reminded me of the incident in mid 1990s. I was a PG student then. We use to sit in library and prepare for civil services exams. Every one had a fixed seat no one even bothered to take it even when the person was late. One time some one came to my seat and asked to me leave because library was being closed as they were protesting for something. I asked what and he could not answer so I refused to move. He tried to shut my book; I got up and slapped him hard on the face and I said I paid for using the library so you don’t get to tell me what to do.
There was pin drop silence and the crowd left and there after I became really notorious man beater in the folk lore.
Here on the same note is Atreyee Sen’s research called “Shiv Sena Women” http://www.iupress.indiana.edu/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=54641 really good work on how women and children are fighting a war without a cause. A war that is not even theirs…
Welcome to Shail’s Nest Desi Girl. 🙂 Lol, yes they have yet to decided about the benches!!
OMG, that was absolutely brave of you!! Though I wouldn’t call myself violent in the least, I would definitely like to do that to a few people.
Let me check your link.
OMG, they used school students 😮
their interpretation was so full of innocence 😀
Yes Sundeep, the kids innocently thought they were fighting for a just cause, retaining the benches of their class. 🙂
LOL, Shail, that little boy’s answer indeed bring a smile to me…but look at the way they are being used by these stupid politicians. They stop at nothing.
Kudos to Sister Emeline !!! What a lady !!! 🙂
Congrats on the Spicy Saturday Pick !!! 🙂
Thanks Uma. Yeah. Sister Emeline was one wonderful lady. Feeding misinformation and letting school children join the ‘strike’ is just not cricket. But then political parties don’t seem to have any such scruples.
Brought back memories Shail…of the time we were in Dehra Dun and there were agitations for Uttarakhand as a separate state.
We had college boys coming and disrupting our school in the name of the state.
Well, we enjoyed the long school breaks at that time (sometimes weeks in a row!!), but looking back, I can’t help but realize that the amount of loss we suffered wasn’t worth it at all 😦
Very nicely written 🙂
Lol, Noorulayn, those days we were more miffed about being left out of the loop and not getting a holiday like the rest when ‘strikes’ happened. Wrong mentality, right?? 😛 I remember in the 90s there was a month and a half long break in school due to some violent agitations in Trivandrum. But the Kendriya Vidyalayas functioned normally. The kids of course did not like it all that much. 😉
As long as politicians are there anything can happen. Unless they are reformed (??) nothing tangible can be achieved. You see, they have money power. They keep the people uneducated. They play on their sentiments. They always keep the people to come to them begging for everything. We people are also responsible for this. Why should we elect such people? So, we have to think very seriously.
Welcome to Shail’s Nest Sundararajan. Yes, politicians want the people uneducated and poor so they can sway them the way they like and of course the responsibility is ultimately with us as you have rightly pointed out.
Hello, back again…very nice post. Now this is what I call a serious comedy of errors. On a more sensitive note, the last paragraph of your post actually reminded me of the horrifying TV telephonic interview of the Mumbai attack terrorists on a news channel, I remember when it was asked to them- ‘Tumhara maksad kya hai? (What is your motive?)… The terrorist on the call got shocked, and he didn’t have the answer, he called his other fellow terrorists and started asking them – ‘Humara maksad kya hai? Humara maksad kya hai??’. It was the most shocking site of my whole life because that day I saw the darkest side of human beings where one is just killing the other people without any reason or motive. Anyway, lets hope, we all spread the love and peace, and there be no violence and people start valuing a human-life.
Hello again! Thank you. 🙂 I really find such a situation (Humara maqsad kya hai??)comical and sad. Value of human life just vanishes when a mob take over and inciting that mob is done expertly by most political parties.
I remember similar incidents…close to home was a roit between Hindus and Muslims, the reason “one community’s” Boy had teased a Girl from the “other community” the result a whole scale escalation to a religious roit… where did anyone with some sense go? I have no idea. I was getting back from college and one person travelling with me on the same bus wanted to know if I was Hindu or Muslim…I asked “Isnt that a matter between God an Me?” The man gave me an accusing look of “traitor!!” Well, so be it, if I am going to be a traitor I might as well be a sensible one.
It is surprising how when ‘a boy from one community teases a girl from another’ it becomes such an issue, but no one is much bothered about what girls go through on a daily basis in the name of teasing! Well I am with you on that ‘sensible traitor’ bit. Better that than being one of them with no sense at all!
Exactly my point….a girl/boy is a girl/boy regardless of her/his faith. Eve-teasing hurts, regardless of the victim’s faith. And the Irony – no one raises an eyebrow when teasing happens within the same faith… there is it alright and some idiots will say “Boys will be boys” Oy! I dont like belonging to the same species.
Yeah, makes one sad that one belongs to the same species! 😦
thats absolutely crazy … i feel so bad for the kids …
luckily, schoold have a strong security these days …
Welcome to Shail’s Nest Deepa. Yeah its crazy, isn’t it?? I hope schools are more secure these days!
Sadly, use of kids in politics is going on.
Funny and sad, isn’t it Basanta??
Very good post Shaila. Sorry for the late reply. Ahem..I would seem to be out of place here because frankly I have taken part/led quite a few agitations where one had to close down colleges. Not all were without a cause but then that would take more space than your blog. No attempt at justifying anything, but most of the time we took to the streets when all channels had failed.
Thank you Vivek. No problems, I know you are a busy, rather a too busy man. Well agitations are a necessary last resort at times, but not the way it has been made a farce over in Kerala. There is a strike for anything and everything, even for the silliest of reasons. Even the ruling party calls for bandh. The hartals are way too many. And sadly there is no respite for the common man. May be the common man will have to go on strike or resort to hartal for the right to live free of strikes and hartals?? Ahh you think I am crazy, right?? You have to be a true blue Mallu who lives in the capital city of Kerala to have such insane thoughts of resorting to a hartal to stop hartals!! Lol.