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Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Strike! Strike!!

"Bandh Karo!"

Certain days which I always looked forward to as a young student in Calcutta and then as I was just starting off in building a career was what is known as 'Bandh'. For those who came in late 'Bandh' is a strike conducted by any and random organization to protest against any and random issue that catches his/her fancy. This Hindi/Bengali word literally means 'close' and is a euphemism for bringing a city or a state to a 'close'. If you assume this is going to be an exercise in outraging about 'Bandhs' leading to economic loss, loss of mandays, loss of opportunity, how it keeps a daily wage earner hungry, loss of 'image' of the city/state/country then you are doing nothing more than betraying your ignorance! What I propose to do is to open your eyes to the benefits of bandhs.

Ma, Maati, Maanush, Michil, Mushkil!

Organizing a 'bandh' is not a child's play as you would imagine. There is a whole lot of science involved in the same. No! The reason to call a 'bandh' is not the toughest among them, in fact is the easiest. From protesting against petrol price hikes to price rise in general to saving 'secularism', our political landscape gives enough and more reason to protest. The difficult part is to select the day to go on a 'bandh'. Any random day will not work. You must first give advance notice to the people so as to enable them to 'spontaneously' support the bandh. To be doubly sure of peoples' support, you must organize 'michils' for a week before the actual bandh which should throw the life of the citizen topsy-turvy. This will ensure they are trained to be in the right frame of mind to support the noble cause. Secondly, you must schedule the bandh on a Friday or Monday so as to ensure you present a long weekend. This gives the people ample time to support the strike by leaving on a holiday! The other logistical nightmare is to ensure sufficient foot soldiers are on the ground on the day of the action to 'persuade' any shop/office/factory which in its ignorance decides to function on the D-Day. Usually a well placed slap to the owner of the establishment, a well directed rain of stones on the shop window makes them see the larger point of your noble fight against the 'American imperialism". The most crucial piece of planning  while organizing the bandh is to ensure the your friendly neighbourhood bootlegger is well stocked and is exempted from observing the strike. Nobody will work for you to make a bandh successful without his quota of 'hooch'. The other item to be ticked is to ensure the establishments under 'essential services' are well protected. No! Not hospitals, medical stores, ambulances but the 'chai shops', 'theks' 'paan-biri' kiosks. I would not support  no cause however noble if I am denied my peg-sheg, soota or an opportunity to socialize in an 'adda' over 'moodi-chop-cha'!   

If you get a feeling I am a fan of 'bandhs' then you are right. Every year during my stay in Calcutta it used to add a few days to the annual 'holiday' calender. A 'paid' holiday to boot! Once before the visit of the Boss from Head Office for what was likely to be a particularly messy meeting, we in the Calcutta branch office ganged up and persuaded him to cancel his visit. We invented a very very plausible reason for the cancellation of the visit, a 'proposed' bandh on the day of his arrival! And he swallowed the bluff without battling an eyelid! 

What Shivaji Park? G.T.Road it is!
Those of you who have been following my memoirs here know that I am a great fan of Cricket. And like all cricket enthusiasts in India, I too started with gully cricket. However my cricketing ambition was bigger, much bigger. I wanted to graduate into the big league. Not for me the suffocating 'gullies' of Calcutta. I wanted a much larger canvas to express myself. I wanted the wide spectrum of the National Highway! To bowl a few and bat a few more. Thanks to the 'bandhs', I realized my ambition. Many times over! On the Grand Trunk Road no less!

As I always say, my glass is half full. And many a times I dig deep into this dictum to make use of the positives that a bandh offers! However much some ill informed politicos like Shashi Tharoor and his small band of merry men may try and dissuade me with his #SayNoToHartal campaigns, I will continue to enjoy the fruits of 'bandhs'. Poor Shashiettan! How is he to know that me and most of us country men, we are like this only!

Say 'No' to 'No Hartal'


PS: 'Bandhs' are banned in India as per a Kerala High Court ruling. However we smart Indians renamed the 'bandh' to 'hartal' and ever since it is business as usual. Now you know where Hafiz Saeed and LeT/JuD got their idea from!


Michil : Protest rallies
Hooch : Country liquor
Chai : Tea
Thek : Dens selling country liquor
Paan : Betel Leaves chewing of which is popular in the Indian subcontinent.
Biri : Filter less cigarettes.
Peg-Sheg : Colloquial for 'pegs'.
Soota : Puff of a cigarette.
Adda: An informal get-together.
Moodi-Chop_Cha : Moodi (Parched rice), Chop (Spicy fries similar to Bajji/Bonda), Cha (Bengalese for tea)
Shashiettan : Shashi (Name) Ettan ( Elder brother) 
Hartal : General strike 

1 comment:

  1. Haha! The lighter side of bandhs. I saw the worst side of them in the "Cholbe na, cholbe na" days on the late 60s-early 70s in Durgapur.