Agitations are the in thing this season. The voyager is witness to many a fast-unto-deaths for various causes. Some to find a solution to the centuries-old problem of corruption and others zealously requesting a separate state. Some of these efforts could be termed genuine but in most other instances, protagonists furtively tend to their grumpy stomachs every now and then, hoping to outwit peeping Toms. Peeping Toms appreciate that fasting can be a tough business; with the indulger often ending up hungry, so an occasional helping of Potato Chips dipped in tomato sauce followed by chicken biryani and tea shouldn’t be a deplorable offence.
The following story relates to a small-time town in the interiors of Andhra Pradesh, India. I shall not bother the reader with necessary details such as motivation behind the demonstration and so on. Henceforth, the demonstration will be referred to as the Movement and the demonstrators, the Illuminati.
A brief introduction to the typical Art of Rural Warfare is in order though, prior to the story.
A street-war in bucolic locales begins with a tuneful jangling of the vocal chords, reminiscent of a tiger’s growl and a visible frontward coiling of the tongue, akin to an elephant’s curl of its trunk prior to attack. The Wail is expected to achieve multiple objectives of revving up one’s dormant battle instincts, striking fear in the hearts of the opponent and arousing slumbering soldiers. It is generally most useful in accomplishing the last objective. Contortions of the tongue and protruding eyes are intended to impress upon the opponent the seriousness of one’s malevolent intentions. The opponent is expected to back down at this warning but generally, in accordance with Newton’s Third Law, the opponents repay with an equal and opposite reaction. For no fault on its part, the loincloth which adorns the gents is then subject to several slaps around the thigh-area, followed by wind-mill like motion of the arms, as the warriors shadow swim above water. The body is known to join in and so do the legs in a rigorous warm-up just before commencement of battle.
Baleful voices found their way into my ears. I craned my neck in the direction of the source and discovered mace-like hands sparring with the air above and determined feet punishing the earth beneath. For a moment, the mob seemed to resemble a pack of irate mongrels. Adorned in colourful clothing and equipped with flags that emitted fluorescence, the Illuminati were self-professed flag bearers of the Movement. The group halted on an open field and on closer inspection, one discovered a range of metal accessories that are generally commonplace in gladiatorial contests. The only missing ingredient (which wasn’t missed for long) was a catalyst to flag off the drama. One wasn’t sure if the Illuminati had a definite objective that they were working towards. Not that it mattered; to them or to me.
The time-tested technique to incite a jingoist mob is a Socratic attempt at a discussion on the pros-n-cons of the issue at hand. This was the Movement. How could anyone question the prudence of such a noble activity? A Socrates regrettably committed this grave sin.
The leader of the pack – a gentleman inclined towards roundness – let out an ungentle-manly growl hoping to drill jingoism back into the fidgety mob, which looked like succumbing to reason. The snarl only succeeded in shooing real mongrels away. The air-beating resumed and the leader’s voice was lost in the debris of cacophony that had broken out. These are things that are too much for the Ego to handle. Smarting from the dismissive nonchalance with which he was greeted by the Illuminati, the leader thought it appropriate to unleash another round of verbal ammunition, this time at a higher octave.
The Illuminati seemed to quieten for a bit. Impressed, the leader stomped his feet and was beginning to consider his next move when a simpleton landed in the leader’s vast constitution. Someone had shoved the simpleton from his left, who lost balance and thought of embracing the leader for support. The latter, however, misinterpreted the simpleton’s decorous intentions. Glowering, he seized the man and decided to let his restive hands do the communication.
The simpleton felt a mace coming to an abrupt halt in his cheek. Dazed at the assault he took some moments to regain his composure. The leader, meanwhile, looked around to his sycophants for approval; nodding his head and smiling in self-congratulation. He hadn’t considered a guerrilla manoeuvre by the simpleton, though. Fleet-footed, the simpleton compensated for the great mismatch in body volume with agility that had never managed to convince the leader of its utility.
A leg, swinging like a pendulum, disappeared into the leader’s underbelly.
The protrusion around his centre of gravity prevented the leader from addressing the point of impact with his eyes. The leader’s hands, abruptly reminded of their primary responsibilities, moved involuntarily towards the gentleman’s ailing sausage, caging it in protection. It was too late. The cost of the lapse was borne by the leader, who let out a roar in pain, whirled around and sat down. In subsequent proceedings he took no further part.
The sycophants swung into action, drawing out their weapons of mass destruction. The simpleton’s camp followed and battle lines were drawn. The reflection of the sun off the metals seemed to stir a whiff of reason into the soldiers, who thought it wise to replace weapons with their hands. The sycophants turned towards their leader for a battle cry and were greeted instead with a low-frequency whine. Overcome with consternation at this sight, the sycophants decided to exact revenge.
The typical Rural Warfare setting outlined in the beginning of this story played out to near perfection. Roars rippled out in all directions, tongues curled in unison, eyes magnified to twice their normal size, thighs suffered in stoic silence and arms waved in circular motion in both camps. This proceeded for what seemed like an eternity with each side inviting the other to take first strike. Heartfelt abuses were hurled to and fro; directed first at the opponent and then invoking ancestors several generations back in time. One felt sorry for the souls who were responsible for putting these Illuminati on earth. So stinging were the abuses to the kindred clans. But the impending fisticuff remained a stillborn.
The ‘war’ threatened to be played out solely in the verbal realm. The sycophants had seen the fate of their leader and as much as they adored him, were loath to join him in pain. The simpleton’s party, meanwhile, wisely considered the mismatch in numbers, apart from the mismatch in physical bulks which was roughly 2.5:1. Both sides judiciously, but regrettably, settled for verbal warfare. As the gullets grew weary, momentum was lost and both sides menacingly cowered away, unwilling to give a quarter. The leader was escorted away by his sycophants, sausage firmly protected by the hand guards.
So, after an entertaining lag, reason had triumphed over jingoism and egos. A magnificent build-up to what promised to be a grand spectacle had fizzled out.
What about the Movement?
It didn’t matter. To them. Or to me.