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Saturday, August 11, 2012



...thoughts in the aftermath of the brutal murder of the Mumbai lawyer because the neighbour refused to open the door at night

Who has been more familiar with rajas and maharajas and the Chatrapatis than us Indians?? Our childhood stories all began with "Ek tha raja aur ek thi rani!" All of us have someone in our line whom we politely (or impolitely) boast about......they are our 'noble' connections!!

I'm also related to the Maharaja of Balrampur (its a really vague connect and one I cannot explain without taking my mother's or sister's help! As a child, it thrilled me. )

I have a friend! He writes a title before his name and is so very peacock-ish about it! 

Almost all of us have illustrious ancestors with impeccable  lineage......and family legend is built alongside their names.

But I admit...the Maharaja of Balrampur and his extravagant parades and his silver clad elephants and his gold backed brushes do not hold the same allure as my grandfather's cousin does for me. For this brother and his only son were great 'lathaiths' (their choice of weapon was the lathi, a stout stick, and they wielded lathis as if born to it! They were musicians and the lathi, their instrument!) They were set upon one dusky evening in a remote orchard by enemies. All 30 of them....with lathis! The father-son duo stood back to back and danced a dance of great beauty and danger for they were trying to beat back death itself! The odds were great...but the duo, brave and stalwart.....the fight lasted longer than it should have. But it ended as it was inevitable.....both stretched out prone, left for dead by their battered enemy! The father stirred a while later and he crawled over to his son....and found that he too was gravely injured but alive. The father climbed up on his feet shakily with the help of his broken lathi and told his son "If you are my blood, my true son....ARISE!!!" The son staggered up! And off they went, weaving and bobbing......trailing blood with tattered flesh.....back home! They survived!!

I lay claim to these relatives of mine. 

This saga always thrilled me!

A father and son, battling together!

A father and son, refusing to give up!

A father so strong that sighting his half dead son, he lamented not but spoke words of fire!
And a son, who got up!!! 

I lay claim to these two....a grandfather's cousin isn't that distant a relative!! Some of this blood runs in me, too! It pleases me to think so!

I cannot claim the maharaja with true passion.....he's too distant! His wealth and power does not awaken mighty longings in me. Its more of a philosophical shrug....but the grandfather's cousin is the one I would clamour to hear about...his story never failed to make me smile. 

I can only imagine how Bishnu Shresta's great grandchildren will recall him! That man single-handedly beat back a gang of 40 armed dacoits....solely to save a woman's honour! With a kukri! And killed 7! And remained alive to tell the tale!

If I had any Nepali blood, I would claim Bishnu as a relative....shamelessly!

I'm tied to all the any form.

No...not because I think I'm brave......only because that is the quality I admire most. Outrageous courage! Courage under fire! I truly think that courage of the highest order, when displayed, is contagious! One becomes brave in the presence of extreme bravery! Its infectious!

Just as one coward who refuses to speak up, when great injustice is meted out before him...makes dumb others around him!

Cowardice is catching too......when a gang beats up one man, or strips one woman...and the passersby quicken their pace to get away....there is a yellow haze of lily livered-ness in the air! 

When a Mr Shah didn't open his door to a midnight bell, he doomed a Mumbai girl to certain death! Her death was pre-ordained as death always is. If she was meant to be rescued, she would have been my next door neighbour! I mean it....this is no idle boast! I shall never walk away. 

Times will change.

The world constantly changes around us.

We must also evolve.....keep pace.

What must not change within us are certain values. What matters to us. What we would like to see around us....we must safeguard some principles of living!

We must lay claim to some nobility!

We must declare to ourselves "THIS is who we are!" And decide when we will make our stand!

And when we make a stand, it matters not if we are alone.

It takes only a few minutes to feel a life long pride!!!

There was a time when I used to pray for courage. And I always added that if I felt incapacitated by fear, and if I could not live up to what I wanted to live up to, then I should be spared this test! I wanted to go through life, not knowing if I were a coward! I would say "Make me a hero, Lord! And if you can't, at least, don't prove to me my cowardice!"

I read about the mortally stabbed, bleeding girl...crawling about, ringing a doorbell for succor, dying alone on her couch!  It is such a sorry image....and such a powerful one, for me! And it could have been turned around on its head, if a neighbour had just opened his door at midnight!


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