Scene: A red heart shaped statue. A tourist guide with a bunch of tourists stand at its base
Guide to tourists: And this over here is the monument, the beautiful Broken Heart, constructed to commemorate all those marytrs for love who fell, many of them nameless, on that fateful Valentine’s Day. In the greatest non-violent mass movement since the Non-Cooperation andolan, young men and woman stood together and took a stance against repression. They took blows and punches and had their hair pulled so that successive generations have the freedom to get drunk, pass out, buy overpriced long-stemmed roses and splurge on “My heart will go on” -playing musical cards.
It was a time of great political ferment in the country. Scared that women in low-rider jeans drinking, dancing and cavorting with the Rocky Khannas of the world will wipe out Indian civilization as it was known then, a mass movement of cultural fundamentalists united under organizations with names like “Banar Sena” , “Dushashana Fan Club”. They then announced plans to forcibly prevent Valentine Day celebrations across the country and to marry off any girl and boy who were walking together, unless the boy tied a Rakhi around the girl’s hand and made her a behena.
But this oppression did not go unanswered. Just like how their great grandparents, many generations ago, came out in protest against the Rowlatt Act and braved the baton charges of the British, tens of thousands of socially conscious brave men and women shrugged away their apathy towards national security, economy, crime, environment and decided “this far and no further”.
As one of the greatest women of her age gave the call for “Pub bharo”, Indian youth put aside their petty differences, their entrance exams and ambitions of making it big to storm the pubs and engage in morally ruinous behavior so that the Banars and the Dushashanas may be baited. A secret society called the “Pink Chaddi League” started sending pink underwear (some used and soiled) to the leaders of the reactionaries in a show of brazen deviance. They were soon assailed by counter-reactionaries who formed the “Pink Condom Cooperative” and started sending the leaders of the Pink Chaddi League pink contraceptives.
Tourist: But why pink chaddis? What did underwear have to…
Guide: Simple. Because in those days there was an advertisement slogan for underwear which went “Yeh araam ka mamla hain. Apun ka choice ka mamla hain.” This line succinctly captured the sentiments of the Pink Chaddiwalas…
Old Man (Sitting at base of Broken Heart statue): Aare bhailog what bekar bakwas. This guide is telling you all the stuff she has memorized. Ask me what happened on that fateful February 14 and I will tell you.
Tourist: Why should we ask you?
Old Man: Because I was there that day. Do you want to hear what the text books tell you? Or would you prefer to listen to living history? Twenty thousand rupees is my fee for the story. And please no US dollars. Only Indian rupees.]
Tourists turn away from guide. Look expectantly at old man.
Old man: Myself Prakash. I was twenty two then. Ordinary dude. Used to sit on my bicycle while me and my friends would watch beautiful girls in their spaghetti straps and tight bottom huggers and skirts go clubbing and dancing with rich, English speaking guys , looking disdainfully at us “sadak chaap” folks. There was one girl I really liked. Let’s call her N. Beautiful lady, hanging out with her friends at discos and pubs never giving me even a glance far less a chance.
Guide: What does your love story have anything to do with this old man? Spare us…
Old man: Patience. So as Valentine’s Day came up, I saw from my position at Lala’s grocery store that she was gathering up her friends to take part in the Pub Bharo Andolan. Lots of nice cars with nice fairies, both male and female, started making the rounds of the mohalla. It didn’t take much for me to understand their plans. They were going to go to the pub, drink themselves silly and defy the “Dushashana Fan Club” by wanton public displays of affection. Needless to say, I saw a chance…..to be a not-so-innocent bystander.
The day arrived. A bunch of girls set off from N’s house in skimpy pub attire clutching their purses and cell phones. Now normally I stay away from pubs being more a “desi” person myself though sometimes when I come across some cash by picking father’s pocket I do have a drink or two of the phoren stuff and do some nayansukh. But today, I was enthused with the “Pink” spirit. Just as normal people got inspired and started following Gandhiji on the Dandi march, I too “spontaneously” followed N and her gang to the pub.
Inside the pub, the women were in a militant mood. I felt I was seeing the Rani Jhansis of today. Talking loudly and giving out hugs. I waited my time.
Soon they came. The saffron banded Dushashanas. They assembled outside the pub and started shouting slogans, calling the girls “Draupadi”, “Kunti” and such-like. I could see beautiful N was getting angry, I loved the way a nerve in her temple used to start throbbing when she got pissed off . She was answering the Dushbags back in her Anglicized Hindi.
This was my chance. The girls were forming a line, holding people’s hands. I slipped besides her. She was too busy exchanging heated words with the Dushbags to notice me.
And then just as the scuffles began I held her hand. And turned to the Dushbags and said “Chal kya kar lega…maar hi to sakta hain. Aur kya?”
N looked at me with startled eyes. I could see her cringe as she tried to brush me off.
I whispered “Mam, if you let me go, then they will think you are afraid of holding hands in front of them. Come on mam. Show them what you believe in.”
N whispered back “You are so…….” (rolling her eyes in digust) and looked around to see her friends engaged in increasingly heated verbal exchanges. She could not back down. So despite her obvious aversion to me, she held on to my hand.
Then one of the Dushbags shouted :”Besharam auraat. Holding hands with a mard…kya bhai laagta hain tera?”
Angry and close to an aneurysm she just turned around and in a show of defiance that will go down in the annals of history, planted a kiss on my lips.
That was it.
Soon we were surrounded by the goons punching and trying to seperate us. Though initially carried away by the Matangini Hazra-Pritilata Waddedar passion, N had now realized that she had just kissed a smelly, sadakchaap, “never been kissed” person, the kind of man whose friend ship requests on Orkut she declined every day by the dozen, the kind of man her profile message “If you do not know me, do not bother to add or scrap me you loser” sought to keep away.
But it was too late. She was now on the crest of the wave of history and there was no turning back. I kept the kiss as best as I could and every time I got dragged away I whispered “Mam you cannot let go. If you do, these bastards win. And there will never be any freedom”….poor N was torn between her revulsion for me and her belief in the cause.
After all “Rang De Basanti” was her favorite movie (her Orkut profile said that) and right here, she was being the change.
Except I gather she didnt quite like it all that much.
The crowd dragged us away. One of the Dushbag chieftains said “Enough. Bring the priest here. Let’s get these two married.” N was close to tears and totally silent. But still defiant. I was yelling “Yes yes get us married. We are lovers. We are not afraid of the world. We shall not resist. But we will not accept tyranny.” The priest started chanting some gibberish. Someone took a picture of us garlanded. Defiantly I smiled at the camera. N looked downwards in shame and disgust which I think made her look quite bridelike.
By this time, the cops had arrived and people were dispersing. N was only too glad to leave the Kurukshetra. Needless to say, I never saw her again. But for those few minutes that I shall never forget, I was part of something much greater than myself. A part of the nation’s voice. Connected to another’s voice in a way that was beautiful, poetic and utterly enjoyable.
And that young fellows is how our generation sacrificed so that you may walk freely today.
Tourist: Wow that is so moving. Did the blows the “Dush”bags rained on you not hurt?
Old man: Sure it did. But how different was it from the blows that rained on us poor frustrated men every day, the blows to our hearts and egos when we saw those rich kid’s sons leading a life we can only dream of, the cars, the women, the debauchery? That day was different in that I only exchanged one type of blow for another….
Guide: Hah ! What humbug. You just took this opportunity to get a kiss and a hug….how cheap !
Old man: Not just that. I had made a bet of Rs 2000 with a friend of mine that I would marry N one day. I showed him the picture and made him pay up….the poor sod cried and cribbed a lot saying this was not what he meant but a loafer’s word is sacrosanct. A kiss or two, a few hugs, and Rs 1000 at the end of the day—not bad rewards for political action eh? Now please everyone put your money in this hat—it better sum to Rs 20,000..
Tourist: Wait wait wait. First of all, if you made a bet with your friend for Rs. 2000 how did you gain just Rs 1000 at the end of the day? And second, if the Dush-bags forcibly took that “wedding” picture, how did you get hold of it in order to show as proof of having won the bet? As in why would the Dush-bags, who were beating you up, give you back the picture they took…unless you and the Dush-bags…..”
Old man smiles gently, shakes his head, winks and moves away.