Bandh

‘Pull the shutters down, the goons are coming,’ someone screamed. The shopkeepers began drawing their shutters as the wagon with loudspeakers entered the scene. Men huddled behind closed doors as the enhanced jeep thundered.

“We want… Freedom!”

“We want it… Now!”

The slogan shouting was at its crescendo. Spit flew in the air and so did gulaal. The men partaking in the procession looked possessed. There were sticks and stones. A riot control vehicle stood in the corner with the police constables holding up their sticks to counter the possibility of riots. How the sticks were going to help was still a mystery.

A man who had just come out to eat something stood in a corner and saw the shutters of his favourite eatery fall. The medicine shops and pathology labs were also forced shut. The movement, which was for a noble cause, had consumed the town. An ambulance was stuck behind the procession and a few brave men made way for the ambulance by forcing the crowd back. The leader screamed in the microphone that they cared very much about the ambulance and way should be made for it to pass. Once it was ascertained that the van was carrying a dead body, the procession poured back on the road and the ambulance was again blocked.

A small child who worked at a tea stall asked the stall owner what the ruckus was about. The man asked him to mind his own business. The kid felt like the man was hiding something. They were playing songs of war and bravery and the kid wanted to smash all the tea glasses while dancing to those tunes. The man with the loudspeaker was talking about some sort of revolt. The poor had to rise and take control. Enough was enough. The government was being tyrannical. The kid ran toward the procession but before he could reach there, he slipped on a rock. He fell hard and suddenly a red, vicious pain filled him. He had pulled a toenail and it was hurting like a son of a bitch. He rolled away to the side of the road and grabbed his foot.

The men who were wielding the sticks and giving final warnings to non-compliant shopkeepers walked by the kid. The kid muttered a curse under his breath. A man turned around a looked at the kid. ‘Just who do you think you are?’

The kid was writhing in pain. The man screamed, ‘I am talking to you, you little son of a…”

The kid was not a kid in the eyes of the rioting crowd. He was an inconvenience. So they kicked him aside. He spat blood and cried. The tea stall owner watched in silence. The next day, the newspapers carried the news of a successful bandh.

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