देशपाठकों के लेख एवं विचार

*Jagrata strikes again!**writer Dr. Subhash Sharma*

1 Tct

Jagrata strikes again!

Tct chief editor

We live in ‘saffron’ times. ‘Hindutva’ is everywhere: in the air we breathe, food we eat, sleep we sleep, dresses we wear, greetings we exchange, songs and bhajans we sing, speeches we make, slogans we shout, people we meet, sounds we hear, arguments we exchange, movies we go to, news we watch, videos and messages we read and share, places we visit, sights we see, brides we wed, rehris we buy fruits and vegetables from, lawmakers we vote for or against; as also in streets, parks, pubs, clubs, vehicles, vans, tempos, trucks and bulldozers.

Dressed garishly, garlanded, and flaunting a big red kumkum tikka on the forehead, it pops its grinning, growling head even when least expected in our daily lives. On mobiles too it sneaks in unbidden and armed, baring its fangs and cracking its whip to turn a light-hearted tete-a-tete between two good friends into a sour and bitter cocktail of main-main-tu-tu. At times, like a raptor, it swoops down from the high skies, at others it surfaces up worshipfully from the depths of salty seas. Ubiquitous, omnipotent and omniscient, it lords over our destinies and has become the very raison d’ etre of our whole worldly existence.

Therefore, it was no surprise when I had a triad of neighbourhood-visitors descend on me the other day. A Sunday forenoon it was: circumspect and ambivalent like a shy bride nursing a seductive half-smile in anticipation of a balmy summer day but afraid lest a sudden sortie by the rain-gods should bedraggle her festive bridal wear and dampen her sensuous mood…

So it was going to be the customary ‘jagrata’ – an annual feature – this evening through the night, I learn. I knew the visitors’ purpose beforehand looking at the ongoing hectic preparations at the usual venue about 300 meters from our home. While we exchanged pleasantries, my better-half promptly handed them a crisp handsome bill as contribution (which didn’t amuse me much!). Finally, with folded hands and a smile, I made a humble request: “Please, please, do stop the loudspeaker after 10.30… For the sake of my 95-year-old mother and a 6-month-old infant, at least.” While the two guys seemed to acquiesce, the moustachioed organiser-in-chief however – having more saffron both outside and inside him – was non-committal. At last, on persuasion, as a compromise deal, it was agreed that the loudspeaker would be turned off at 12.

But alas! it was not to be.

The loud drums kept pounding our hearts, and cacophonous, jarring bhajans imitating Bollywood songs our ears, well past the ‘12’ deadline. Fuming and fretting, we went for a softer option. My prudent wife had the number and she called one of the morning visitors (other than the ‘chief’). He not only answered the call but acceding to our request, had the volume lowered and even called back to ask if it was fine now. Bearable as it was, we said yes and thanked him. But it was a short-lived relief. After a while, the loudspeakers returned with full vengeance. Desperate, we had no choice but to try the harder option which, a few years back had riled my neighbourhood. The police came. Again the loudspeakers went low- but only to resume their onslaught soon after the police had gone. When even after 3 AM there was no respite, we phoned the police again. Again they came. Again we had a spell of reprieve, and again, after a short break, it was back to the same ear-splitting, nerve-shattering toxic mix of harmonium, drums, music and bhajans punctuated by the booming male voice expounding on the sin-dissipating, soul-enriching, boon-granting, benedictory power of a jagrata on its participants. Sleepless, I wondered how this fine traditional folk ritual of song, music and drama once, that held us spellbound as school children, has been upended into this grotesque, hell-raising assault. Assault on us humans and on the slumbering nature. Assault on the tranquil summer night spreading its silken, star-embroidered wings with its sensuous susurrations borne on gentle breeze whispering a lullaby for a restful sleep for all its denizens: voiceless trees, roosting birds and resting animals…

Nursing a burn in the eyes in the morning, my first thoughts were of having earned the neighbours’ wrath yet again and the disconcerting realisation that while earlier the police intervention had worked, this time it didn’t.

Didn’t I say: “We live in ‘saffron’ times?”


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