Not that my coming is without intimation
What needs be said always remains unsaid
Not an unanticipated occurrence
But yearning for the propitious in the unintended
No word chain disrupted
No effort aborted
And each experience . . . halfway
Yet that is not the problem
Time has not come to a standstill
Time has simply
Our sleepless wait
Altering the date
Was to efface
The bitter-sweet divides.
The nestle of twenty springs
Snuggled in the nest of feathers
Dissolving in the bitter actual . . .
Even as you say, alas,
Will they take you away tomorrow?
It’s already the day
Even as you agitate in agony
Alas, do they already take you
Even while you look on
I am shackled
Like the broken tear
Slashed through the
Squares and rectangles
Of the gratings at
Our counter meetings.
I can only pityingly
The escort van roars
And stirs up dust.
As I turn my view inside
Rifles and Khaki uniforms do
My self writhes
I am agitated
As the petrol smells,
My wailing entrails move
I turn in
My view from you
In the outer world
In the inner world.
Time and I have only two limbs
Day and night
With the desire to work a bit faster
Time grasping its arrow-seconds
Me clasping my quill
And go on moving.
The enemy has four legs
Tele-ear, tele-gaze, radio-mouth
And armed palms.
The rapacity to live on
It is for this
He annihilated his heart,
For this he smothers its vibrations.
In what discourse
Can we converse
With the heartless?
Bloodhound’s gasping tongue
The whip in the prodding master’s hand,
He assumes, from his rank.
What language can translate the utterance
That it’s felony to shackle reflections?
Fractures the human world
Into custodians and criminals
But when I assert and declare
Banishment of the very thing
Property’s cage turns me a defendant, all right,
For the overlord’s eyes
I am a Communist
As if nothing can surpass it
He arraigns me as a
Let us persist to actualize it exactly
Let us perpetuate ‘treason’
For the purpose of multitudes
The Other Day is the work of the poet, Varavara Rao, who was recently harassed for being a well-known Urban Naxalite. The name of the person who translated the poem from Telugu is not given, but one can assume that he/she is also an Urban Naxalite.
These are the days, people tell me, of ageing Urban Naxalites, persons old enough to link their Aadhar cards to their old age benefits so this government and its mother can check whether they are keeping well or are, dead – or preferably both.
In what are my twilight years, when I ought to be spending my sanyas listening to MJQ and tending the basil and strawberries on my terrace, I do not know whether to laugh or cry at this vicious right-wing surge – this attempted Hindutva putsch that has targeted Urban Naxalites I know, I respect and I love.
Maybe we just missed out on the ‘aspirations’ side of our lives. My younger friends tell me it’s all about being ‘happy’ at the end of the day In fact if you change to a major chord and syncopate the sound, modify it for Bollywood, and talk about ”old is gold” then dodderers like us, even get a whole industry targeted at them – although here too, if you are planning to retire and settle in Goa, you could still be in danger.
Just know that when the ATS went to arrest the well-known poet, Urban Naxalite and senior citizen, Varavara Rao, they interrogated his son-in-law, Prof K Satyanarayana (another Urban Naxalite, poor guy), and kept asking him,
Yeah sure, except we have a different take on it!
Let’s cut through the cowshit because when all is said and done, I am part and parcel of this vanguard of senior Naxal citizens in their 60s and 70s or thereabouts – some maybe who were just lucky, because they went ahead and kept opening their mouths anyway; some, perhaps who were better hidden doing the same; some, many, in places so important, so public, nobody dared touch them; and some, whom we love and respect, who, through no fault of theirs, were mercilessly gunned down.
So yeah, forget the basil and tomatoes on the terrace, MJQ will wait.
Let us also say, that those who were gunned down left behind an important legacy – that we know and never forget those who fired the shots and killed ours: those who gave the orders; and those who applied an angry, brusque orange smear from the tip of their foreheads all the way down to where their angry eyebrows met in rage, who tinkled tiny cymbals as they sat in posh conference rooms planning and plotting these heinous crimes. And last of all, we remember the faces of those, once friends, who turned their backs on us and applauded the murderers.
The vermin – let it be said, loud and clear, with no fear – actually believed that this country’s Urban Naxalite elders would quake at cynical, authoritarian might and withdraw their struggle to keep this great country’s ancient multiculturalism intact!
The fact is that they can’t lynch all of us much as they would want to. Our constitution does not permit it.
Do they really think we came of age like they did, standing in line every morning with the right-wing males they were acolytes to? ‘Male’, it must be said, it’s always male with them – that infamous code of Manu, which – dishonest people they have been and are – they now want to change!
Can the beast be prettified?
Just a few days back, they were back to their tricks again, this time, in Donald Trump’s backyard – perhaps even with his blessings. Vice President Venkiah Naidu (unofficially) visited the windy city of Chicago on an unofficial visit to address a meeting of the Telugu Diaspora and deliver the keynote address to the ongoing World Hindu Congress.
Venkiah Naidu, unofficially told the gathering that,
The event was organised in Chicago by several Telugu groups – Telugu Association of North America, America Telugu Association, North America Telugu Society, North America Telugu Association, American Telangana Association, Telugu Association of Greater Chicago, Tri-State Telugu Association, Chicago Telugu Association, Chicago Andhra Association, Chicago Telangana Association, Indian Association of Greater Chicago, and American Progressive Telugu Association.
Would any of those Telugu American associations have heard the name Varavara Rao? Probably not.
The World Hindu Conference kicked off – unfairly harking back to Swami Vivekananda, and co-opting and limiting yet one more cultural icon who may never have embraced their idea of Hinduism as a Multinational Corporation Hinduism. The chief organiser of the event, was Swami Vigyanand – an IIT Kharagpur graduate. The Swami called on “Hindutva’s foot-soldiers to carry the trishul as a way to send a message about the need to weaponise and defend Hinduism”. There were others, with a calmer visage, holding chair.
Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh ‘chief’ Mohan Bhagwat (therefore the de facto leader of this country) was sanguine in comparison but no less dangerous. His main points bear repeating even though reprehensible in their implications (their kind of ‘Hinduism’ dutifully put in single comma!).
The oracle from Nagpur argued:
Think Collectively, Act Valiantly. (Fanfare of trumpets please!!).
In ‘Hindu’ dharma, even a pest is not killed, but controlled.
The ‘Hindu’ community has no aspiration of dominance and will only prosper when it works together as a society.
Enlist all good meaning people, talk to them about need of the hour, need of the time, duty of ‘Hindu’ society, and the ‘Hinduness’ (interesting term, haven’t heard it too often – but am open to correction) of everyone.
Then something said that I agree with that ‘Hinduness’ (my kind too) does not mean any mode of worship or subscribing to any God. (Then of course, he ruins it all by saying) Think about the absolute truth. (!!!)
A sense of idealism was good (just had to be controlled).
(Wow, co-opted this too? They’re good…).
Control ego and consensus (the buzz word!). “Lord Krishna and Yudhishtra never contradicted each other”. Look at the Hindu epic Mahabharata, politics is not a meditation session, it is politics. Accepting ‘consensus (that there’s more ‘Hindus’ on his side!), Work together.
Nothing is ‘untouchable‘ (my single inverted commas). ‘Hindu’ is a dharma – what Anupam Kher does is cinema, part and parcel of life, Hindutva too is life. (He shared the stage with Anupam Kher? Seriously?)
And here’s the clincher, and please, read between the lines!
Fanfare of trumpets, please!!
“’We‘ (commas mine) will work together, there will be so many Hindu organisations, so many individuals, and taking along everyone with us. Then we have to adjust our opinions and that is the biggest thing…(emphasis mine)” Bhagwat said.
Should we ask ourselves what they did all these years, these Fake Indians, to take their legacy ahead? Simple. They wore khaki knickers every morning and sanctimoniously gave their Fascist salutes.
Do we really want to know what role they played in fighting for India?
Where is the right-wing in this country, they innocently ask? It is a figment of our ‘Secular’ imagination, they say. ‘Secular’ is a bad word for them. Like saying the word ‘fuck’ to your father.
The democratically elected government in Delhi of course, is in denial; “fake news” we are told, as we patiently wait for our Great Leader to make his monthly (or is it weekly) speeches and put a spin on life itself.
(But give credit where credit is due. Expensive PR has ensured that the spokespersons of this government have improved by leaps and bounds. No longer will they try to shout over the other panellists on TV – and keep on shouting in one never-ending loop – one high, squeaky octave until nobody’s heard anything. Gone is the gash of vermilion, gone is the dhoti and pyjama. Cut to khadi for the new designer, the urban ‘cool’, the footwear made from naturally dead cattle.
Now they no longer shout at a high octave, they have people with lower voices, capable of throwing their voices insistently but calmly – and doing an obbligato without sounding like a diesel engine on its last legs.
The result is the same, nobody hears anything in any segment of the news that has this government’s spokespersons on the stop-the-news detail.
The word ‘vermin‘ is consciously used. Are they for instance, actually saying, that we, noble, ageing, experienced Urban Naxalites for instance, must forthwith forget the name of Sant Nathuram Godse? A man from Pune, where I sit infuriated putting word to screen. Where every year, a bunch of bigots gather to venerate a larger bigot – even as we know that the intolerance grows, and is wilfully aided and abetted??
Let us say that in our twilight years, we did not need their terrible fabrications of history. But here too, our Urban Naxalite elders have been more than active, taking the flanks, and cutting them off before their vile ideology can harm us.
Obviously, we are not thinking of Vellapragada Sudershan Rao, head of the Indian Council of Historical Research and, what else but president of the Sangh Parivar’s Bharateeya Itihaasa Sankalana Samithi – an organisation that seeks to write history from an Indian nationalist perspective from “the beginning of Kaliyuga onwards”.
Fanfare of trumpets please!!
So let’s keep this sweet and simple: they were beaten back, more than once. Our Urban Naxalite elders – starting with its doyen, gave no thought to backing down to superstition and the one-dimensional joys of Fascism; and others were not far behind; within the country and without, the Urban Naxalites grew in number; even in other countries.
The world knew, its mother knew, and our young did not have their eyes closed.
None of our elders needed to splash drops of cow’s urine on their faces before they went to war on our behalf. None could ever – would ever – forget anything they learnt over the years – the learning that made them more human, more inclusive, more compassionate and more open to genuinely touch otherness – regardless of colour, creed, caste and gender…
But I do know two men, way older than both of us – one of who remembered him as a “very bright kid” – the other, who knew Dabholkar’s father and his secular lineage. The second man is the one who visited us on a Sunday recently, who sipped his beer, set it down on the small table near his chair, then asked us about the Urban Naxalites who were being arrested.
In our house, we will never allow the far-right – our home-grown Hindutva fascists – to take over and interfere with our lives. We laugh at them. Lots of things to laugh about them. For instance, there’s a lot of Maharashtrians I could think of and remember fondly but even after filling three pages of a word document, at no point would I ever want to remember the name Tushar Damgude – by his own admission, as if we did not know, a “small person”…
And yes, the same elderly gentleman is the one, who looked like he wanted to cry. His wife, looked like she wanted to cry too. Such weakness, I convinced myself, could be put down to their advanced age. They were nearing 90 – they never expected to see Fascism at their front door. Who did? All I had to do was push the tears and there would have been five persons, over three generations, crying like it was the end of the world.
So we laugh. It’s out armoury. We laugh, we exult. It’s a dictum we all know about, unlike the acolytes of India’s far-right. We laugh as we recount the Maharashtrian ATS’s visit to tell us they knew everything we did, that they had their beady eyes on the Urban Naxalites in our family.
Few years before they slapped their ridiculous charges on them, when the group itself was in a little disarray, I had gone to Mumbai, where, courtesy a young friend who lived in Chembur, I met three younger persons of a ruthless ‘cell’.
Ironically, I was the only one in the family that did not meet Maharashtra’s famed ATS, when they visited to tell the family, that they knew everything I had done. Which bus I took to Mumbai, riding pillion behind my young friend from Dadar to Chembur, the flat I stayed in for three days, whose flat it was, the visitors who came, the bottle of rum, the bottles of beer, the beef we picked at the Muslim butcher’s, and the clinching argument – the names of the young actors I met.
When the ATS visited, I was touring with a theatre group (in fact at the insistence of my young friend in Chembur – also an Urban Naxalite I may add – I met the Kabir Kala Manch (KKM) to see how we could collaborate and tour colleges in our major cities with them in a joint performance we would work on together).
The ATS first went to my in-law’s residence. If my mother-in-law may have had a moment of shock knowing her son-in-law was involved in a major ‘terrorist’ plot, my father-in-law, knowing who KKM were and what they were doing, was more matter of fact. Coming from an age when it meant something, my father-in-law said to the ATS the exact words the government’s spokespersons parrot when they are caught with their pants down. “If the law has been broken, the law must take its course.”
Sure, so just grab all the Urban Naxalites in firing range and lock them up, and say, “The law…”
That day itself, the family spoke to me on the phone, and the family now knew everything. My wife, before she hung up, laughed: “They are so good,” she said, “they know everything you did the moment you left Dadar, which tells me that if they really do their job they can actually catch the real crooks!”
Do we need their names?
Don’t for a moment believe that the KKM have been left alone, and are no longer hounded. If the ATS, in their continuing investigation into dangerous, ageing Urban Naxalites, demands a statement regarding the devious plans we hatched – or the evidence the KKM shared that they were harassed – I would be happy to key-in the response to Raiot – where it is guaranteed it will be read by them.
For the rest of you, we had a lovely time. My young friend is a fabulous cook – although he injures me by keeping his laptop on and checking whether he’s following the recipe down to a ‘T’.
We left him in the kitchen and settled in the sparse living-room, the three Urban Naxalite actors, and myself. These guys can sing. They translate the lyrics, sing the song again. They tell me about the ATS, about life in a slum, so many things. I should have recorded the conversations for the ATS.
Then we ‘jam’, just hitting notes and hearing what this does; then hitting a riff, then hitting minor notes, then playing. These kids have jazz in their hearts, were born with it, lived it. I stir in a popular ‘Blues’ song, humming it note by note, spending a lot of time to work on the chorus – the heart of the song, and improvising and working out harmonic lines. I’m having a ball, not planning the revolution. I’m the conductor, schooled by default by the great Bobby (so make sure you watch and listen to parts 2 and 3!!)…
I wish we could have sung for the ATS. We ate lunch at 3, because my friend put the gas off in the kitchen and came to listen, throwing ideas of what we could do together to bring on the revolution. His food, when it came, courtesy his laptop, was delicious: cubes of beef marinated in spices and curd, slowly cooked in shredded onion that itself had been cooked for a hour on a low flame and gently massaged to perfection.
And look at the audacity, the sheer thrill of sedition! Cooking beef from a Pakistani recipe on the net…
To Vivek Agnihotri – a filmmaker, people tell me, who spoke on the topic at Harvard University ‘s US-India Initiative Conclave, 2017 – must go the credit for inventing the term ‘Urban Naxalite’ and we cannot praise him enough. Thanks to Vivek, the world and her mother known exactly what an Urban Naxalite is (without the single commas!)…
But let’s get back to young Vivek:
“The faces of urban naxalism,” he writes, “are intellectuals, influencers and activists of importance. They indoctrinate the young by pretending to be concerned about social issues. However, they never make an attempt to find solutions to social problems. They only exploit the situation by organising protests and mobilising the impressionable youth.”
On that count above, we stand indicted, quite gratefully. He doesn’t stop there though, this young filmmaker and intellectual:
“They encourage students to take admission in colleges,” he declaims, “and fail their examinations so that they can continue longer on the campus. For a student from a poor or marginalised background, a subsidised stay in a government hostel in a big city is a luxury which he laps up without questioning the ulterior motives of his mentors.”
I guess you should chuckle when you read that…
Better in fact, you should smile and picture young Vivek quaking, faced with a few hundred (if not more) teachers whom he stupidly accuses. In fact, spontaneously, at random, first one from the bag, I would willingly recommend a friend to take him on – without any anchorpersons humming and hawing, and no government spokespersons squeaking – and she’ll tear him to shreds. Non-violently. A good Urban Naxalite. And that’s only one name of several thousand teachers and their students who would queue up to get a bit of the action.
While we are on the topic of Urban Naxalites, of those who have been arrested and charged with anti-national activities, one cannot leave out the larger Christian Church in India – and especially when it is strongly rumoured that Urban Naxalites in cassock and habit have infiltrated the Church itself (the Catholics, the Anglicans, the Baptists, the Methodists, the Episcopalians, the Eastern Orthodoxies, the whole bloody lot!) and are positioned firmly to the left of the cross, where they lead the Maoist Revolution while singing “Glory, glory, hallelujah!” at the top of their voices.
Such zeal, of course, is manufactured.
This is particularly true when the spotlight falls on Reverend Father Stan Swamy. I don’t think that Stan would remember me. We met at a seminar on Paulo Friere (also a Christian Naxalite) and I remember him speaking to me about the Holy Roman Church, and how it needed to decolonize itself and look at its own tenets in the light of the prevailing poverty. This was in the early 70s of course – when poverty was still a problem and not, as with the present government, a banned item.
Strangely, from 1973, the last and only time I met Stan, I can’t count the number of people who knew him much better and couldn’t stop talking about him. So it is not surprising the number of Urban Naxalites who have come out in support of him. In defence of Stan too, we have a Vivek Agnihotri ‘moment’, people volunteering to take on the khaki knickers.
I wish just one of them would come on this page tell the congregation of Urban Naxalites what kind of confession this Naxalite Priest, Stan Swamy, meant by:
Or, read this interview with him. Just bear in mind that when it comes to the larger Christian community in this country (including those retired), our no longer nascent right-wing intellectuals and hacks build their premisses on sand.
For instance, look at a rightist drudge to add to the Harvard-returned filmmaker, Vivek Agnihotri: Vicky Nanjappa (who?), special correspondent with Indiaone (who?), “specialising in internal security” (wow!!).
Fanfare of trumpets, please!!
So, here is young Vicky reviewing a book by some Hindutva personality who operates from the United States – a kind of videshi Sri Sri. Vicky’s brief is to take off on Christian missionaries infiltrating both Church and Indian State:
Airforce, Navy and the Church. Several security analysts and officials say that the problem being posed by the Christian missionaries is immense. Like Islamic terrorism which is a more open threat, the threat posed by a large section of missionaries is veiled, but extremely dangerous.”(!!!!!!?).
A patch of mud, a basin, a bowl, anything to puke in? Time to take away the bitter, acrid, taste.
We began this excursion into the dusty cob-webbed world of India’s right-wing with a young filmmaker, a shining firmament in the sky. In fact, he suggests the title of this long, polemical, Urban Naxalite rant.
Here is a piece fawning, straight from their headquarters in Nagpur:
“Describing Vivek’s meeting with a few Urban Naxals, he writes, “Nazis wore a stiff uniform and as (sic) stiff face. They never smiled. Similarly, I have observed that Leftists don’t smile. They have only one expression on their frowning faces – anger. Together, as a group, they give a sense of an army marching forward, in order to stop the ‘motor of the world’.” His writing is full of such insightful observations.”
You need a patch of mud, a basin, a bowl?
We began with news of the ‘arrests’ of friends that we know, we admire, we respect, and we love. In defiance, because we can love passionately, because we are Urban Naxalites – and they can do their worst – we will not stop loving.
Take my friend Susan Abraham, a criminal Lawyer based in Mumbai, who, good Urban Naxalite that she is, was forthright as ever:
The world and its mother now know that there have been serious procedural violations in the arrests of the five accused: the senior Urban Naxalite, the widely respected Gautam Navlakha; and Sudha Bharadwaj, Arun Ferreira, Vernon Gonsalves and Varavara Rao who blew his bugle for us on the first page. If right-wing memories are consciously kept short, they would do well to recall Gautam Navlakha’s discerning words, put it in their pipes, and smoke it:
But this is about ‘love’ isn’t it, and not about being arrested, and even though – because we are Urban Naxalites – love is never far away, it is palpable, real…
This is Sudha Bharadwaj’s daughter, Maaysha:
Mumma is being called a Naxalite. I don’t feel bad, but I just feel people have gone mad and they have got into the habit of saying anything without even knowing the reality. I am not affected by what people say or what the police are says because who can know my mother better than me?
If fighting for the rights of Adivasis, fighting for workers and peasants, fighting against repression and exploitation and giving up one’s whole life for them is being a Naxalite, then I guess Naxalites are pretty good!
Let people say whatever, I am proud to be her daughter. Mumma always used to tell me, “Beta I haven’t earned money, I have earned people,” and yes she is right. I can see that.
I love you, mom.
Or let’s take somebody older, like Sagar Abraham-Gonsalves, son of my friends and stellar Urban Naxalites, Susan Abraham and Vernon Gonsalves, who opens the discourse of love a little more, for instance, on breaking up with his girl:
I remember one time in 2013 when I was in my first year of college, I visited him in Nagpur jail. I don’t know how he knew, but when we met, he asked me about breaking up with my first girlfriend. Sitting inside jail, he told me that all of this happens, that I shouldn’t be bitter, these things happen.
Not that Sagar doesn’t know the world he lives in either:
It’s why the term Urban Naxal is pretty disgusting. There’s so much hatred for someone you don’t know, someone you haven’t interacted with, and like sheep in a herd, people are attacking him because someone called him an #UrbanNaxal. I saw it personally over the last two days—the kind of hatred that exists in certain sections of the media and how that sentiment permeates into a large section of the society today. My father, though, as strong as ever, has remained unaffected.
Time for the Troll headquarters to get to know about Urban Naxalite love, about optimism, strength, and resilience. Like young Urban Naxalite, Sagar Abraham-Gonsalves:
Seeing someone fight gives you a sense of optimism; which was increased twofold with the kind of support I’ve gotten from people. It has been overwhelming. People who I don’t know are sending me messages on Facebook and WhatsApp. They’ve come out in droves. Now, I hope we can channel this energy better. I’m not as sad, only because of how my parents have brought me up. Like the man was in prison. I don’t even know what kind of circumstances he was in, but in spite of all that, he never bothered about himself. He came back from that experience with a smile on his face.
When they were taking him away couple of days ago, he had this bright smile on his face again. And I hugged him and told him, “Be strong.” He laughed and said, “I’ll keep the other guys company.” It’s like learning by doing. If he has the power to react positively, so can I.
We began with ‘love’ and we must end with love. And revolutionary poetry, because revolutionary poetry is written only because of love.
I didn’t meet Susan and Vernon for more than moons I can remember. We met this very year though, after we had kept in touch with each other through common friends in our vast Naxalite networks. At a memorial meeting for a very dear friend of ours (a soul-brother to me), Eddie Rodrigues, an Urban Naxalite teacher, a Dalit in the lion’s den itself, who gave in to cancer with his finger pointing to the rise of fascism. Sad but joyful evening in Mumbai, watched I am sure by the beady eyes of the ATS.
Susan and Vernon invited me home. On their mobile connecting me to friends I hadn’t seen for God knows how many other moons. We got high on love. After I read what Sagar told the media, I know I will meet him. I am just one of his many Urban Naxalite soul-fathers. An elder of the tribe. Our task as elders of the tribe is to give our young Urban Naxalites, poetry, because love will always come with poetry…
The Urban Naxalites, both young and old were tested and passed with flying colours. We threw out the infamous 377, laughing, singing, dancing in the streets in cities in different parts of the country. The rest of the country, if they hark to a progressive understanding of sexuality and gender in our cultural past, will get a new pair of rainbow-coloured lenses and have no problem with a changing world…
The Hindutva right will have problems, huge problems. Manu will come back in fashion stronger than ever while behind their masks, these small people will seethe in rage, bubble in bile, choke in their own homophobic venom.
“It is not natural”; “It is against nature”; “How they can do like this, putting penis in the bum??”
That night, I admit it, I watched the TV with whiskey and tears of happiness, just watching people being happy and in love. It’s complicated though. We may have won the battle to tell the Hindutva gang once and for all – that we must all wear black T-Shirts emblazoned, in white, with the words – I am STRAIGHT not NARROW.
But the battle ahead will test us as never before. The lynchings may start. LGBTQ persons added to the list of beef-eating Dalits, Muslims, Christians and Parsees. Divide the country. Us versus Them.
But there is hope we will all win because there is love, not venom fuelling us, giving us our drive. On one of the feedback columns in one of the sites I read the next morning, I saw this comment by one Mrinmay Dey, one I would gladly endorse any time:
After years of struggle, the Supreme Court has finally decriminalised homosexuality. Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code came more than a century ago. It is our duty to strike down a law the moment we find it to be in conflict with fundamental rights.
What makes us human is the right to love. To criminalise the expression of love is profoundly cruel and inhumane.
Then, with a cup of freshly brewed coffee, I got into a long Sunday morning read and felt I was expanding my male consciousness to feel ‘love’ anew, feeling that I was hearing a trio – piano, bass and drums – Sandip Roy, piano, playing a blues in D Minor:
…he suddenly asked, “Sir, do you have a girlfriend
No, I said shortly. Just to be polite, I asked if he did. The floodgates opened and he told me a Bollywood-worthy star-crossed story about loving a woman he had met in Koran class. They had done it all, he said to my amazement, from “oral” to “full everything”. But he didn’t dare ask for her hand in marriage. He was afraid it would lead to a Romeo-Juliet bloodbath. She came from a much richer family. Her brothers, he said, had done a “few murders”. Instead, he gave her a silver anklet, chucked up his MBA and became a driver to get away from it all. He had tears in his eyes as he vowed that if she ever came back, he would not let her go, even if she came back with children.
Feeling I had to match up to his raw honesty somehow, I looked straight ahead and slowly said, “It’s true I don’t have a girlfriend. I have a boyfriend.”
For a moment there was silence. I was trying to calculate how far we were from Varanasi in case he deposited me on the highway. Then he shook his head and said “I would have never guessed. Chalo, koi to hai. At least you have someone in your life. That’s what matters.”
As we said goodbye in Varanasi, on the banks of the Ganga, where water buffaloes dozed in the muddy water, he hugged me and blurted out “You don’t hurt anyone by loving someone, no? Why don’t they just let us alone?”
When all is said and done, when only love remains, where inclusiveness is not a problem but a challenge; when we have to resist and reject narrowness; when we have to love anew and cull the other view that there is only one kind of love – only one form of plumbing known to man and woman, of which pipe goes into which hole – then we need a new world. We need poetry, we need the children and the hope they engender, naturally, as if it’s no big deal – which it isn’t.
We need poetry for our young Urban Naxalites like Sagar Abraham-Gonsalves, which we, their soul-parents, will read to them, telling them that love is alive and kicking – like the love his parents had for each other when they copulated with joy to make him; like the love he had for them when the Hindutva footsoldiers came for them early in the morning; like that great revolutionary poet, Pablo Neruda – Urban Naxalite by any other name, unafraid of celebrating his immense love – who wrote that he did not love except because he loved:
I do not love you except because I love you;
I go from loving to not loving you,
From waiting to not waiting for you
My heart moves from cold to fire.
I love you only because it’s you the one I love;
I hate you deeply, and hating you
Bend to you, and the measure of my changing love for you
Is that I do not see you but love you blindly.
Maybe January light will consume
My heart with its cruel
Ray, stealing my key to true calm.
In this part of the story I am the one who
Dies, the only one, and I will die of love because I love you,
Because I love you, love, in fire and blood.