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Location: Mumbai, Maharashtra, India

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Namdeo Dhasal - a saga of unfulfilled potential

The tragedy of Namdeo Dhasal is where he has ended up today as against what he could have become.

During ones growing up years, Dhasal's was the voice of protest emanating from the labyrinths of Bombay. The balladeer who drove a cab through the narrow alleyways of Bombay. The son of a butcher who saw it all and set it to music. The rambling tones in free verse that ripped off the facade of a respectable city that one was raised in. Golpitha and the city's red-light district. Long before one became a journalist and ventured close to the cages that housed birds whose songs were long dead.

The songs of experience that quickly overwrote the songs of innocence from childhood.

Noted litterateur Dilip Chitre aptly calls Dhasal's "the voice of the lowest of the low, the scum of the earth". Unfortunately, it got muted early on and promised walk never followed the talk. For yours truly who learned to turn away from the Brahminism of his ancestors early in his teens the first stirrings of political awareness sadly coincided with the dying embers of Dhasal's Dalit Panthers. The first of the many crushes of adolescence that simply faded away.

The agitation over renaming the Marathwada University after Dr Ambedkar promised a Dalit uprising against the Marathas that never came about. Dhasal himself faded into the background consumed by alcoholism while his erstwhile comrades sought to rend asunder the legacy of Ambedkar.

The final blow came during the 1992-93 riots when the Dalits joined hands with old foe, the Shiv Sena to carry out a pogrom against the Muslims of Bombay.

Dhasal changed too. In a perverse example of Sanskritisation (where a backward caste as a group tries to raise its status by imitating the mores of a higher caste) Dhasal decided to sup with the RSS. The torchbearer of hardline Brahminical Hindutva that has only lip service on offer for the Dalits. Recent times have seen Dhasal share common platforms with RSS Sarsangchalak K Sudarshan. Little has been heard from him on the post-Godhra riots orchestrated by the Narendra Modi government in Gujarat. As his credibility waned Dhasal has in recent times been reduced to a shadowy figure flitting through literary functions scarcely noticed by the mainstream media.

So what a fall it is for Dhasal my countrymen when the old, ill suffering from myasthenia gravis, songbird of the gutters has to auction his manuscripts for a ticket to an international bookfair.

The Maharashtra government dominated by the powerful Maratha community couldn't careless about Dhasal. A mere trophy for his new-found friends from the RSS the crumbs thrown at him have disappeared a long time ago.

Heaven could have been at his feet, but Namdeo Lakshman Dhasal is on the road begging for an air-ticket!

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Mumbai's polio crisis: Nothing but a load of shit

Will the nonsense stop on the polio debate?

Advocates of Fortress Mumbai are crawling out of the woodwork demanding that Bombay shut its doors to the unwashed hordes descending from the badlands of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

You see we were one step away from a parchment from the World Health Organization certifying Maharashtra as a polio-free street. Till a bunch of slum dwellers from god-forsaken Govandi visited their village in UP and returned home with the polio virus. And pulled down Bombay several notches below Shanghai.

The call to throw up the barricades against the swarming multitudes trying to eke out a living in Bombay is as old as the hills. But the voices are now resounding from what was considered saner quarters. After reports warned of a new drug-resistant P1 version of the polio virus affecting even those children already vaccinated, cries for a cordon sanitaire are getting shriller.

See, see, even the First World is blaming UP's Azamgarh of incubating the P1 polio virus before spreading it to Congo and Niger. Didn't we warn you when Azamgarh sent Abu Salem to raid Bollywood. Now its latest export has even conquered the Heart of Darkness! Up the barricades. Batten the hatches. Load the cannons. Out with the vermin.......

So, when will people stop talking shit? Or rather start talking shit!

The polio virus is spread via fecal matter. That is when a healthy child consumes food and water contaminated by the shit of someone suffering from polio.

Now in the slums of Govandi as in other slums across Bombay, there are not enough toilets. Colour televisions in every house, but not toilets. Streets in most parts of the city are pockmarked with lumps of turd in varying sizes and colours. Vendors of vegetables and cooked food blithely sell their wares to even the well-heeled sections of society. How many people share a toilet in the slums of Mumbai? 100, 200, 2000? Guess correctly and somebody will send you to represent India at a conference in Geneva. By business class. Of a full-service airline.

The P1 polio virus may already have entered the bloodstreams of scores of children supposedly immunized against it. I won't be surprised if there are fresh incidents of polio outbreaks across Mumbai. More kids dragging their useless limbs in bulky callipers. Fewer children clamoring for a place in the housing society's cricket team. Middle class parents stepping out of Maruti cars demanding college admission for their children under the quota for disabled....

What crap? Indeed!


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