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Mainstream, VOL 62 No 21, May 25, 2024

2024 General Election Rallies ... | Humra Quraishi

Saturday 25 May 2024


Together with the soaring temperatures, prices of everyday essentials are soaring high too. Food items and fruits and veggies that could keep us somewhat intact are going beyond one’s grasp. Turning the frail frailer and the able-bodied just about a heap of bones!

This combination of the rising temperatures together with the inability to cope with the connected onslaughts, has resulted the obvious decline in the electioneering around. I’m purposely not dragging in the so called ‘star campaigners’ as there’s a different a set of realities to them – they are equipped with several cushioning factors so less or lesser chances of perishing in this heat! Where the average citizen is concerned there seems an obvious lack of enthusiasm; many complaining that peak summer time is not the time to hold elections, as there’s bound to be low voter turn-out and also lesser numbers at any of the rallies.

Perhaps, the only exception to this are our farmers, of Punjab and Haryana. Salaams and salutes to their spirit. Even in the midst of temperatures soaring to unprecedented highs, they are there at the Punjab and Haryana borders, stopping the entry of Right-wing workers and also of the so called leaders in their villages and cities and towns. Farmers are repeatedly saying they have had enough to the farce and lies and double speak. Enough of those promises made to them (to the farmers), with nil or bogus results!

In fact, right now, on 23 May noon, news coming in from the borders of Punjab is that the farmers are trying their level best to halt Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s entry into Punjab’s Patiala. He’s scheduled to be there on this Thursday afternoon for an election-related rally but the farmers are sitting in anger and disgust, even blocking his entry into their territory. Why just the farmers, latest news reports also state that the former chief minister of Punjab who later joined the BJP, Capt Amarinder Singh, is also not going ahead for the Prime Minister’s rally, along with the strain he is keeping unwell and would be resting at home.

If one were to get you to Delhi, then there’s much focus on the North-East constituency, where the Congress candidate Kanhaiya Kumar is bound to give a tough fight to BJP’s Manoj Tiwari. Kanhaiya is aware of the ground realities and speaks of those realities on every given occasion. I have met him on two earlier occasions; both times on the JNU campus. This was much before he’d entered the political sphere…and as we’d got to talk to him and his student friends, he came across as not just highly confident but also exceptionally bright. He had an answer to any of the queries put to him. Coming from a rural background and setup, only added to his charisma and also grasp of the urgent issues that need our immediate attention.

What impressed me about Kanhaiya is the fact that though most of us are usually embarrassed or not -so -confident to talk of our rural backgrounds or those humble and modest homes, but he isn’t. His eyes shine with pride as he describes his home and the very basics he grew up with. Till date there seems little change in his attitude and confidence.
And where AAP is concerned, rather its fate at these elections, there seems the obvious: hurdles thrown in their way by the Right-Wing. One hurdle after another, including the latest Swati Mahliwal’s case. It is seen by many as a political ploy - going by the various turns and twists in the case together with the very timing!

Bitan Chakraborty’s - The Blight and Seven Short Stories

Ground realities are well-portrayed in Bitan Chakraborty’s recently launched short story collection – ‘The Blight and Seven Short Stories’ (Hawakal Publishers). A theatre personality, today he is well-known as an illustrator and also as a poet and above all as a writer of long and short stories.

His stories revolve around the daily grind, the onslaughts, together with those rounds of frustrations and disappointments and setbacks and betrayals that the human being goes through, in an atmosphere dripping with challenges and hurdles, dismay and despair. The prevailing atmosphere only compounding the mess, adding to the human tragedies in these turbulent times… relaying, baring varying aspects to our everyday survival.

Bitan’s stories tucked in this volume have been translated by Malati Mukherjee and it gets significant to quote her on these stories: “Like all of Bitan’s works, The Blight and Seven Short Stories, opens our eyes to the struggles of the ordinary lives. A father who dreams of his son becoming a footballer but has no money to buy him a little fish to strengthen his weak limbs. A man holding fiercely to his ancestral land in the face of daily killings and the emptying out of the village. An office going young man humiliated by the commuters on a train passing through Bihar, who seeks and plans his revenge on the Biharis of Kolkata. A young boy, his eyes filled with dreams of an equal society, feels betrayed by his teacher’s double standards. A colony on the outskirts of the capital, where the meat shops have all been shut down by the self-proclaimed food vigilante groups, and the shopkeepers lynched, a sign of our times.”

After one has read these stories, what keeps hovering around are thoughts on the stark sadness engulfing life of those of us trying to carry on … Not yet perished, determined to carry on against all odds and challenges! Perhaps, that’s what’s called life or everyday living!

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