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April 24, 2011
The Ambedkar party
Siddharthya Swapan Roy
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A procession to celebrate the 120th birth anniversary of Dr. B. R.
Ambedkar in Dharwad, Karnataka, last week.
The Hindu A procession to celebrate the 120th birth anniversary of Dr.
B. R. Ambedkar in Dharwad, Karnataka, last week.
We are having a party in the slums of Maharashtra tonight, April 14.
It's got everything that you can think of in a rollicking bash. There
are DJs spinning awesome dance beats, remixing everything from
matkajhatka numbers to lawanis with bits of angrezi lines thrown in
and the adrenaline is rushing out in blaring pulses through huge black
speakers. Our women have coloured their lips, dabbed their faces with
powder, put flowers in their hair and turned out in the best dress
from their trunks. If they look cheap, then you have noted correctly.
The dresses and the make-up were bought in a low-end bazaar at places
that hold defective dress sales. They had saved this dress from many
temptations gone by just for this special day.
Our children too have been dolled up in even cheaper frilly synthetic
dresses and the talcum powder stands out on their dark-skinned faces.
As for our men, they have a bit of cheap liquor in their breath and
are dying to let loose and dance like mad men. Our rowdy young boys
were never really known for their decency and hence have thrown all
care to the winds and are dancing like clowns while our young girls
look at them coyly and giggle from some distance.
Many of our homes will be cooking beef; it's far cheaper than mutton
and chicken so frankly we can't afford to care about your religious
sentiments. In fact, if you look at us everything about is low on
price, save the million-dollar smiles on our face today.
What's the occasion? It's the 14th of April and we are celebrating
Babasaheb Dr. Ambedkar's birthday.
I know you dislike us and everything we are doing. But today is our
day and you must simply endure us. And why not, I say? We put up with
everything you do every single day, and have been doing so from time
immemorial, so save us that look for today. You turn up your pretty
noses at the stench of our slums when you pass by. Have you ever
realised that the stench is because we live beside a gutter that
carries the shit out of your clean houses? Tonight, we dance free from
the straitjackets of your decency – which we of all people know is
bloody fake because remember we work in your homes silently and see
all your dirt all the while.
Tonight, we dance because it's the birthday of the man who showed us
clearly that we were human beings. He didn't simply rename us and
soothe your guilt by being euphemistic. He actually told us we were
humans who had the right to dream and the right to be happy. We know
you find us dirty, ugly, ignorant and wretched. But he showed us we
were dirty because you took away our clothes and our water, ugly and
undeveloped because you took away our food and left us to eat the
rotting things, ignorant because you wrote books in languages we did
not know and you wouldn't let us be taught and we were wretched
because slaves are always that. And from then on we worked at stopping
to be dirty, ugly, ignorant and wretched. Of course, most of us are
still all of that but that's because you have had a few centuries of
head start and even now you'd do everything in your power to stop us —
including buying some of us out.
We know we are dancing in the middle of the road and your car is held
up in the traffic. Don't swear like you own the road! What makes you
think the road belongs exclusively to you? Why should it? Because you
drive home from glass covered buildings? Look around someday. For
every car you drive, a score of us are walking by the side or have
stuffed ourselves into buses and share autos. In fact, when the mud
was dug and the tar as black as our skins was laid for your car to
zoom smoothly, it was we who were here working in the sun and into the
late night while you cursed the country's bad system in your imported
style. Whether or not the road belongs to you is of little importance,
the bigger truth is we belong to the road! Do you even know how many
of us were born here? Or how many of us eat, sleep, love, have
families and live out our entire lives here on the roads? And yet you
think you have the right of way?
And by all means we will dance, drunk and ugly, on the road. We could
never go to the places your spoilt brats go to do their drunk and ugly
dancing, could we? What you pay as tip is what we spend for food for
an entire day! Even otherwise, the only way we go into those places
where your kids act out their orgies is when we stand in the toilets
waiting to clean up after them. So we will dance on the road. Think of
it, when we are drunk and dancing and out on the road, we merely hold
up your car. But when you have done your drinking and dancing and are
out on the roads, you bloody drive your cars onto us and smash us into
the pavements. That should set the record straight about who is more
dangerous when drunk.
Even though we know will be back to working for you tomorrow,
underpaid, abused and putting up with your acting as though you carry
the world on your shoulders, tonight we celebrate. Clearly, you have
two options. Sit in your cars and curse us, or join The Party.
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