Sunday morning – I woke up with a strong desire to overcome my laziness and finish my part 2 Travel blog. But as they say the best laid plans of men and mice…. I came upon this brilliant piece of journalism on the famous Kanwar yatra in Hindustan Times (http://www.hindustantimes.com/india-news/shiva-s-band-of-men-into-the-world-of-the-kanwariyas/story-4Z6ocbSPL2PoaSshyl1KwN.html )
A bit of a background- The Kanwar yatra is a famous religious pilgrimage in North India wherein devotees walk all the way to Gangotri to collect water from the Ganga which is then poured on the shivlings in their villages. Of late as with many large religious gatherings the scale of the yatra has increased and it has become more socio cultural in nature
But the article promises an in-depth coverage but instead gives out prejudiced opinion Here I deconstruct some brilliant lines from this piece. Snippets from the article are in Italics.
“Thousands of young men taking over every inch of public space to do what they think is their right – walking, running, driving, dancing, dressing, undressing, bathing, sleeping…”
Oh my God, these uncouth people how the hell do they have a right to walk, run and drive in the space shared with us.
And bathing like this….. How dare they offend us with their bodies?
(Above Picture from the said article)
Can’t they be more stylish and enjoy themselves in an appropriate fashion like below. “Zara ke dukaan kam pad gaye kya”
(The above picture is from an article from rediff ( https://goo.gl/nS9H9V ) of stylish fans in a Justin Bieber concert. )
“Kanwariyas make headlines for coming in the way of law and order. This season alone, Kanwariyas have been in the news for falling off trains, being electrocuted on a street, being hit by a bus…”
These morons – how dare they break the law& order by being hit by a bus?
“But who are these young men taking over the streets in much of north India and why is everyone afraid of them? For one, they are armed with hockey sticks.”
Oh my God! They are armed with hockey sticks in this peaceful city with absolutely no road rage.
“All of these men were born in the same village, belong to the same caste – Mali (OBC) “
Yes, let me run them down by mentioning the caste and then just to complete the job mention OBC in parentheses. For a supposedly detailed article let me not bother to get a holistic profile. Ideally, caste should have been avoided but if it had to be mentioned it should have been worded like this —that the only group I met among 20 million pilgrims were from this particular community.
“He is a small man with dark skin, high cheekbones and sunken eyes. “
Shee Shee. He is small and has sunken eyes… Caste run down done, appearance rundown done now let’s move to economic run down……
He and his friends make up the first generation of men in their families to work outside the fields; only one of them has gone to high school. Naresh himself dropped out in fifth grade to support his family. A vegetable vendor, Naresh makes Rs 15,000 a month and saves at least Rs 7,000 through the year to put in the Kanwar kitty. “Why spend the saving on Kanwar?” I ask him.
- Chalo economic rundown doe.
- School dropout, vegetable vendor, and 15k a month—The contempt just drips…
- Why save and follow your passion for a few days in the year. How dare they dream of a road trip? Who the hell do they think they are – Do they think they are cool bikers on their Harleys, Triumphs, Ducatis, And Bullets ( middle class wannabes are also OK ) going to Ladakh
“A vast majority of Kanwariyas are young men from low-income families in Delhi, Uttar Pradesh, Haryana and Rajasthan who are themselves hanging on to the edges of the informal economy as drivers, laborers and security guards. The four words – Bhole has called me – are uttered less in devotion and more as a code for escape from the uncertainties of their daily lives, from chances of earning fixed wages to chances of finding a good wife. The Kanwar Yatra is their one chance to prove their talents – physical strength, resourcefulness, wit – without being faced with market realities.”
How dare they have escapist fantasies? Don’t they realize that they are poor help who can dream of such things? They are so disgusting that they can’t earn properly or get good partners and they dare to dream. Anyways what do they have in real life: strength, resourcefulness wit—useless skills.
“Apparently, only a man can understand what a Kanwar yatra means to another man. Married for four years, Naresh has never brought his wife along on a Kanwar trip.”
These uncouth people—they can have no concept of male bonding –who the hell do they think they are—characters from Zindagi Naa Milegi Dobara that they can do a male bonding trip. (And no its not harassment when you sing — ‘Mujhko baahon mein tum ghero Samjhi Na senorita’. They are not classless poor people-they can buy Birkins)
“Delhi this is when Naresh and his friends come face to face with an urban middle class they only provide their services to otherwise. “
Finally, these louts are in Delhi—don’t they realize in this city they can only serve as cheap laborers as I have previously mentioned and not enjoy like us.
And create traffic—who the hell do they think they are? Are they a fashionable marriage party?
“To have a good time with friends. To have fun,” he says, sharing on Facebook a selfie he has just taken with me.
On a serious note, that is the one line that touched me. Ultimately some (unlike the ‘journalist’ I can’t generalize and I agree that there are some bad elements in every gathering thus I use the word some) of these young men are just like us. Want some fun.
Not for once am I suggesting that the Kanwar yatra is all pristine and innocent. As per the journalists own figure 20 million people take part—even a fraction of these people being unpleasant elements will have a large impact. What I am against is the outright condescending and prejudiced article that reeks of arrogance.
Most of the so called sins of the Kanwars have been committed by practically each and every rock concert. Recently Justin Bieber had a 3 hour concert in Mumbai and it left the city in a chaos with people struggling on the road for hours, the venue was left incredibly dirty with the educated, ‘class-wale’ log strewing food and beverages everywhere. So many of us have either gone drunk or smuggled alcohol or other contra band into concerts. Two years back I was in Ahmedabad and attended an Arijit Concert- the new city with barely any traffic was choked up and the lesser said the better about the behavior inside the venue. It was so surprising then that my own class mates from Ahmedabad were complaining about the Kanwars. Forget concerts, even the few IPL matches held in Mumbai cause the same problems. The lane behind Taj is invariably jam packed after the match with people boozing up at Gokul and having kebabs at Bademiyan.
And it’s not just the Kanwars and this journalist–whenever there are mass gatherings of people who are not like us we upper classes invariably react this way. Obviously, the number of people who gather in such event will be more, much more than those at a rupees 10k, 3 hour concert and thus the impact may seem different. But the basic principles are the same.
One of my friends pointed out to me that it is natural to be prejudiced, however, a relative put it more colloquially in Bengali—Loosely translated – Your own farts don’t stink.
Maybe we can try to be more compassionate towards others, towards those who are not as fortunate as us—who can’t live the way we do. It doesn’t mean that we should condone all activities and encourage litter and congestion. But it also means that we should tolerate public celebration during Ganpati Visarjan and not abuse them for dancing on the streets of their own country while we dream of having our own Mardi gras or Tomatina.
I for one support and encourage occasional public celebration irrespective of class or religion. I am all for concerts and religious processions. I believe the authorities both police and civic should manage these events better (they largely do so). The over worked cops managing traffic should get extra wages ideally from the organizers. They can rope in organizers to ensure that people are educated on civic behavior so that neither Kanwars cause a mess on Delhi streets nor do Beliebers strew food all over the venue.
We may be an imperfect nation but we are a nation of equals. We all have our own problems which are hard very hard but as the young Kanwar, Vikram said—sometimes we just want to have fun and click a selfie with friends while grooving to a techno version of har har mahadev or shape of you or better both.