September 01, 2011

Chapter Four: You Said It!

Do you ever feel like we live in an increasingly noisy world? I have been around a long while, so I can attest to it. Open up your newspaper, switch on the TV, everyone is jostling to get your attention. And I am fairly certain that it has been getting hotter. It is hard for me to actually feel these things, admittedly, but I am very perceptive.

But we are not here to talk about me. So where were we? Ah yes, the world is getting noisier and hotter. No wonder then that people don’t pay attention anymore to anything that is not about them! As you may have construed by now, those that pay attention and notice a pattern get killed or are very close to being so.

I saw the people that took Khan’s life. Clearly the surface layer in the cesspool of evil, they are the nobodies that do the dirty work for someone else. You have to wade deeper into murkier waters to find the perpetrators, but they are the smart ones with power and money. A woeful combination if there ever was any. Woeful for others, of course. Khan would agree. He was helping Abhaya piece a story together, and paid for it. In this Kali Yuga, there is no reward for good or charity, is there? But I am getting distracted into a theological discussion. I will have to rely on you to keep me on topic. With old age comes a tendency to generously part with wisdom unasked.

You know, I don’t think I will ever understand how people can be so desensitized to killing. There was no emotion when Khan was killed. It was a job to them, and it was done. He could have been a chicken for all they cared. Maybe they would have showed more emotion for the chicken? After a koli’s head has been sliced apart, it still walks around in a distressing circle for a few long minutes before it collapses. Men can be killed without a show like that.

So Khan is dead, as are two more of Abhaya’s sources. I like her, I think she is a plucky child. And her Appa is from Mysore, just as I am. There are those that say it doesn’t matter where you are from. Don’t listen to them. That is just youthful foolishness talking. A place binds you together in its roots and etches its mark on you. There is someone I know that I say this of “you can take a person out of the gutter, but you cannot take the gutter out of the person”. Don’t you agree?

I am intrigued by what we have seen so far. If you knew me, you would already know that I see a lot of things. Such is my fortune. Or fate, you ask? That is your interpretation to make, isn’t it?

I think Abhaya will do well. I am not sure we will need to learn too much about Vittala, one cannot learn everything about everyone in the telling of a story. We may not need to know much about Manoj, the lawyer, either. They are both seemingly good and decent people and we will have to leave it at that. For now. I hope Vittala’s entanglements with the Shetty brothers will be explained by him. Rishab Yadav seems to be someone we have to learn more about, wouldn’t you say? He appears to genuinely care for Khan, but he may be hiding something. As for Khan, he is experiencing life anew as a ghost now. Is he real? That sounds like an oxymoron.

In all of this, however, consider what separates the good from the evil. Is it parenting, economic considerations or the individual state of being? Remember these lines from a popular movie:
"You see, their morals, their's a bad joke, dropped at the first sign of trouble. They're only as good as the world allows them to be. I'll show you. When the chips are down, these...these civilized people...they'll eat each other. See, I'm not a monster. I'm just ahead of the curve."

Let me show you a poem, of my own making, do indulge me.

We cuff their dirty hands
Throw them in jail
Hang them by the neck
Cower in disgust at the evil
Appalled, we point and ask
We are human, decent and good,
Wherefrom sprang this specter?
Power gives it life,
Power over another.
Be it the torture at Abu Ghraib
The diamond mine bosses at Marange
Or the local school bully
Power over another.
At heart you wonder in fear
Wherefrom sprang this specter?
Perhaps, perhaps --The monster is within.

It is part of us I am sure, much like the rainbow hues on your skin when you raise your arm to sunlight. How well we hide it is the difference.

The Shetty brothers started out innocuously enough. Their grandfather had been a lowly mine worker. He worked deep within the mines, in the heyday of the Kolar Gold Fields. Well, I suppose that can be disputed, given that gold has been mined in Kolar for well near two millennia. Alright, the past century then, after the British brought in equipment for large scale drilling. Their father was a shrewd man.

He was sitting near the Kalyani in front of the temple, lost in contemplation when the idea struck him. Now I must tell you about the temple. The Kashi Vishweshwara temple is about 4 kms from Kolar and you have to climb a few hundred steps to reach the top of the mountain, which is nestled in the Antaragange mountain range. Antaragange means ganga within, and is an obvious reference to the holy river of Ganga thousands of kilometers to the north. Most Indian temples have water near them, which is allowed to conveniently collect in a pond, also called Kalyani. The water for the Kalyani at this temple comes from the mouth of a stone bull. No one knows the exact source of this underground stream, but water flows throughout the year. If you ask nicely, the poojari will let you drink the water from the stone bull, and it is as sweet as they say it is. Watch out for the monkeys, they are quite notorious for prying food away from unsuspecting hands.

One day, as Ramanna sat at the temple surrounded by the smell of fresh flowers adorning the deities, he contemplated the coming liberation. He had been married the year before at the tender age of 14, his bride a few years younger than him. His father was exhibiting signs of what would later be defined at Kolar for the first time in the world: silicosis. He did not want to work in the mines all his life like his father had done. Nor did he have the desire to toil knee-deep in the earth as was the norm in the agricultural belt. The British were readying themselves for an exit; everyone knew that long sought after day was near.

To some people freedom meant a period of birthing joys of bravely struggled for ideals come to fruition that presented itself through new governance, to some it changed nothing: they barely noticed, and for some others, it meant a period of painful disruption. The Brits had until 1956 to transfer rights over to the Indian government, and they did what you would reasonably expect them to do: exploit the hell out of it. This may have been where the expression “it’s a freaking goldmine” was born. I jest. I seem to have learnt a few phrases from RKL’s grandchildren.

Of Ramanna Shetty, we may return to his exploits another day. Suffice to say that shortly after that day by the temple pond, Ramanna Shetty left town, and the next we hear of him is a little over a decade later, as a man of means, in another town that was fast becoming a center for iron ore mining. When those from unprivileged backgrounds emerge from the shackles of their circumstances, there are whispers of wrongdoing.

“Did you know, he horded away temple jewellery and artifacts, sold them to foreign buyers for a lot of money…that’s how he got started”
“He hid some of the gold that he had mined for the concessionaire”
“He lied on his permit forms”

The tales go on like a game of Chinese whispers. The version at the end of the chain has perhaps a modicum of truth, if at all. But no one has any doubt that for someone to rise to miraculous heights within a lifetime, some misdeeds remain hidden.

“The misdemeanours of the parents visit their children” they say, hope and fear mingling in their envious voices. It is an important tenet of Karma. If it were not so, everything they had believed all their lives would have been false, wouldn’t it? They follow the rules of dharma because they are told to do so or suffer the consequences. When the spawn of the Ramannas of the world seem to lead carefree lives, they watch carefully for misfortune, and pounce on it to say “Aha! It had to be thus!”

But when there are no apparent calamities that befall that next generation, they begin to wonder. Was Tolkien right when he said “History became legend? Legend became myth?”. Maybe our gods are merely aggrandized stories of extraordinary people. What if there are no supernatural powers watching over us to ensure our happiness? They question: do we have a creator? Does He have a plan for us? Do we exist? Maybe we are all part of someone’s imagination and none of us really exist!

I asked you to keep me on topic! I don’t think I have any more time today to talk about the Shetty brothers. But I will leave you with an anecdote that is reflective of how they turned out. There is so much of a nexus between government and crime that kids these days say they want to get into organized crime when they grow up and the parents in turn ask, “Government or private sector?”

Now that I have given you some background, you are probably wondering what my role in all this is. My friend, I will tell you who I am. I am always on the fringe. Like the extras in a movie scene or like the hairdresser that gives you a haircut while you chat animatedly with your friend. No one notices that I am there. People discuss their secrets in front of me because in their eyes, people like me do not matter.

I am one of those people that watched the Times of India go from a respected institution to a trashy tabloid not worthy of the paper it is printed on. Who am I, you ask?

I am that befuddled spectacled creature, The Common Man.


Find Chapter Five here.


Meena Venkataraman said...

Loved it Rush!..need to chat to you about it later though :)

Rush said...

Thank you so much Meena! :) Ping/Email as usual, would love to chat about it with you!