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Conflict Versus Violence

June 18th, 2006

Sometimes just a scene gets you to write.

I write …

This evening I was walking past the bus stop to get to home. On the outsides of Byculla market is a garbage dump. About four to five cows are always hovering around the dump, getting some grub (just as much as some urchins hover around the dump for their daily bread and possibly a bit of butter).

It was about 9 PM. I saw one of the cows upturned. She was on her back, her four feet crouched onto her stomach. I could not understand what was happening to her. I wondered whether she was suffering from a terrible stomachache. She rolled to the sides, then attempted to get up. As she got up, she tottered on her feet, clamoured, tottered, and then fell sideways. Another cow, brown in colour, standing by her started to move into the space left open by the small crowd, looking at the bystanders (many of who had collected by then out of curiosity and some waiting for their bus to arrive). The brown cow stared into the crowd, as if asking for help. A man on a cycle shouted out, ‘pour some water onto her. She is giddy’. He went on to say how the cows are not fed and made to do a lot of work which is why this one had gotten giddy. Meanwhile, the cow continued to get up, totter, and fall. The condition of this cow was pathetic. I am almost feeling helpless as I write because these futile words are just unable describe the visual I have witnessed.

Tottered, stood, wavered, tottered, fell.
Tottered, stood, wavered, tottered, clamoured, fell.
Tottered, stood, wavered, tottered, clamoured, stood, fell.

The man on the cycle continued, ‘everyone is standing, staring at her. No one is coming to her rescue. She may just go mad and hit out at the crowd.’ All the bystanders were feeling something – some felt pity, some expressed sympathy, but no one came forward. I got frightened. The word VIOLENCE rang into my head as I witnessed this all. I wondered when the cow would go mad and lash out at the crowd. Meanwhile, I almost felt as if the brown cow was advancing towards me. I quickly decided to move away and head back home.

(Frightened
Vulnerable
Ashamed
Guilty)

I feel indifferent these days. I walk around the city as if I were numb. There are times when I get aggressive. I wonder whether I will also feel giddy, totter, waver, stand and then fall …

CUT TO BANGALORE

The autorickshaw was standing at the signal of Forum Mall at Koramangala. A dark girl was selling cotton ear buds. I looked at her as she moved around. She was as beautiful as a doll. I felt a strong sense of affection towards her. I decided that if she were to come by me, I will buy the cotton buds. And she came by me.
Ten rupees, she said.
I brought out the coins from my purse and gave it to her.
Ten rupees, she said.
Ten rupees, I said, counting out the coins to her.
Ten rupees, she said again.
Ten rupees, what the hell, I said to myself, until I quickly realized that for her, ten rupees meant a ten rupee note. She could not count. She could not decipher. I fished for a ten rupee note and gave it to her. She smiled and handed out a packet of ear buds to me.
I went back home that evening and narrated the story to Nick. He looked at the cotton buds and said to me,
Careful, these are risky. The cotton can just come off and the plastic can hit your ear drum and cause damage.
As I lay in the bed that night, I wondered how it would feel for the plastic to hit my ear drum and I go deaf. DEAF! How I wish I were deaf! Life would perhaps be easier then. I would not be able to listen.
I would not be able to listen to the screams of apathy.
I would not be able to listen to the screeching silences.
I would not be able to listen to things not spoken, but definite.
DEAF, I wish I were.

(Coward
Vulnerable
Fragile
Guilty)

CUT TO BANGALORE PUBLIC TRANSPORT

Where else do you get the flavour of the city but for its public transport! I started to do a jaunt on the Bangalore buses. The lines of gender division are clear in here. The front portion of the bus is for the women, the rear for the men. On my first trip on the BMTC bus, I happened to get pushed to the rear side when a man, himself squashed, said to me in Kannada to move ahead because that’s the place for women.

The ladies section was crowded to the core. ‘Solpa solpa,’ ‘little, little’, they kept saying. Little to me implied space, just a little space, push a bit, shove a bit, twitch a bit, solpa, solpa, little, little.

I now equate solpa, solpa to mean space, a little space. And I think that’s where my city and Bangalore city are positioned today, positioned at solpa, solpa, a little space – inch, centimeter, millimeter, solpa, solpa. The city has been a space of conflict, everyone fighting for territory, space and economic holding. There will definitely be no situation where there is no conflict. I notice conflict in Bombay’s local trains and there will always be. Women fight for water at the standposts and there is conflict but violence happens when access is denied, when the space, solpa, solpa, becomes difficult to reach to. There is no question for adjust maadi then. And I guess this is what is happening in our cities today. The conflict seems to have escalated and is assuming proportions of violence. The space for ‘adjust maadi’ is getting scarce as we stand on the edges, the brinks of precarity where violence is absolutely imminent. A little spark and the next thing I know will be
Tottering, standing, wavering, tottering, falling.

As I write the above words, the transition that I see from conflict to violence, it will seem like I am talking of a prophetic doom, as if violence were imminent and the futures of our cities have been already written. But I must reassert that our futures are not written so completely. Today I feel angry, apathetic, dejected, pessimistic, but at every moment, some spaces get carved out, some stories get enacted on the stage of the urban and the script just gets altered. The drama is upturned, four feet crouched on the stomach.

THE END.

Claimer: I hereby take responsibility for the above words which may appear patronizing, emerging out of a sense of guilt, disregarding anthropological positions of subject, object, practice, induction, etc. Rubbishing every theory, I call this state of mind, state of being!

xanga

  1. June 19th, 2006 at 01:09 | #1

    welcome back, girl… i really missed u…

    *hugs*

  2. June 19th, 2006 at 01:54 | #2

    Hey thanks man!

  3. June 20th, 2006 at 05:34 | #3

    Hey, there’s always a beginning and then an end and you stitch it all up so flawlessly.
    And I agree with you: I am numb. Don’t know if I am comfortable with it, though.

    So good to see you back in the blogosphere.