Monday, February 8, 2010

30. Oye Kanjar, Kanjar Oye!

Every day past midnight, the police comes knocking at their door. Half asleep, each one from their dilapidated dwellings (see picture) is forced to crawl out for the mandatory headcount. For fear of retribution, no one dare remain absent without prior permission from the `protector of law' . It isn't a work of imagination but a narrative on the daily ordeal of over 600 families in a district of Rajasthan. These are Kanjar, members of a semi-nomadic tribe, who wonder what freedom is all about? They haven't slept well for several years now!

Household name across north India, Kanjar carries double-edged expression. While some mothers call their naughty children `oye, kanjara.', for many others it is an abusive expression. Derived from the Sanskrit kanana-chara, kanjar means wanderer in the jungle. Claimed to have originated in Rajasthan, they served as servants of the Rajputs & Jats before Moghul invaders forced them to flee to the jungles to avoid persecution. Since then they have been on the run, as hunter gatherers or petty criminals.

While the British had listed them under the Criminal Tribes Act, 1871, a tribe addicted to non-bailable offences, the denotification of law in 1952 placed Kanjar under the Habitual Offenders Act. Though most have left their past vocation, they still carry an absurd social stigma for which their children are often forced out of schools and their women remain vulnerable to exploitation. Bereft of any assets, Kanjar have been literally driven to the wall. No one offers them any respectable job either. Most survive under the shadow of perpetual fear, with less than Rs 1,500 a month to survive.

However, for police they remain a potential catch! Wonder, if the law enforcement agency were to look beyond and hound other potential offenders amongst bureaucrats and politicians?

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

29. P stands for creativity

P is silent in psychology but not in the movie 3 idiots. Unlike in a swimming pool where its presence could only be speculated, pee provides the apparent flow to the story in 3 idiots.The very idea of innovation is pitched around this saline excretion, it being a good conductor of electricity. Pee is so creatively woven into the script that for once the Hindi-challenged Chatur Ramalingam's (see picture) struggle to find a place for mutra visarjan (urination) through the 180-minute entertainer doesn't seem stupid.

Can pee trigger creativity? Not only in reel life, pee has its creative dimension in real life too. Not long ago, I was witness to a bizarre incident when my midnight travel from railway station was punctuated at a traffic junction. A minor commotion ahead of my autorickshaw raised my curiosity and I soon learnt that branded liquor was being sold for a pittance. Wow! The driver however cautioned me to avoid getting trapped into that late-night sale gimmick. Why?

Because, it isn't country liquor but fresh pee in a new bottle, sold every day at that traffic junction! After an initial shock, I could only laugh my way home. It may sound unethical but does it not speak volumes about the survival strategy of those who are engaged in this innovative vocation? At least, our pee bottlers are not playing with the lives of their unsuspecting customers. Else, they could have filled the bottle with country liquor!

Is human pee not better than country liquor? Only Morarji bhai could answer that!