It’s time for Azadi

Published: November 1, 2010 - 14:39 Updated: November 1, 2010 - 14:40

This is the time for Azadi. Freedom at the vast sunshine square of Tiananmen in Beijing next to the forbidden palace with a benevolent Mao looking down at the distance, his gaze turned redundant in totalitarian, capitalist China. Touching the shimmering blue waters at the Dal Lake's yet-to-be-frozen expanse, or the stream at Chashme Shahi, in Srinagar,  the hundred plus dead bodies of the young, including children, floating in the collective amnesia of half-dreams like the stones of non-violence becoming butterflies of freedom. Digging with a piece of branch the underground sand which is the Ganga, which suddenly disappears at Chilla near the dense forests of Rajaji National Park in Rishikesh: you can feel it flow invisibly down there below the layers of sand, like heartbeats of the earth, as the winter rain turns the swaying monsoon moist trees and leaves into unrequited love poems of insatiable desire. You flow with the river like Hermann Hesse's Siddhartha, listening to its philosophical discourse on the meaning, megalomania and meaninglessness of life, its achievements, awards, rewards and manufactured brilliances, stuffed up possessions, infamy and fame, the immortality of having money and the mortality of not having money, and the river becomes eyes and lips and hair, as ephemeral as the last sunshine of yesterday's today, the slow cold entering the intestines of an empty stomach like dark rum soaked with tobacco and food for thought. 

This could also be the pristine Lhasa river, at the epicentre of the amazing Himalayan beauty of flowing rivers, mountains and meadows of imprisoned Tibet, next to which the young monks walked in protest, and then they too disappeared like the satyagrahi summer protestors of 1989, at Tiananmen, like little Deng bottles, like the flower children of May 1968, ravaged by the political establishment's carnivorous flowers, cannibalised, brutalised, eliminated forever from the footnotes of 'communist memory'. Is this memory communist? 

But they come back, they always come back. like the man in a Chinese prison, imprisoned because he wrote a charter of freedom, suddenly awarded a Noble prize, his wife's mobile damaged and forsaken, her cloistered new jail without sound or echo, trapped in a cold cell of silence, the two of them, separated by a regime which claims to be communist, more draconian than the barbarians, more Stalinist than Stalin, almost as fascist as the fascists. If you are so afraid of ideas, why choose Marx?

You walk the sunshine bylanes of Plato's republic, you pause around the breathless myth of Sisyphus, besides Lenin's mausoleum at the Red Square in Moscow, through the old quarters on the pebbled streets in Amsterdam with its beautiful architecture restored from the past where veterans play the electric guitar on the streets, where the fascists made their holes; you enter the inner lanes of Jama Masjid in old Delhi, the four gardens of meticulous balance at the Humayun's tomb, the backyard at Qutub Minar, Purana Qila or Taj Mahal or Fatehpur Sikri; you inhale the music and the smell of marijuana at the Free School Street in Calcutta, you smell the peepal tree's leaves next to your school in small town Saharanpur, you float through the Rose Garden in Chandigarh with an empty bottle of rose water waiting for an experiment with magical realism. You sleep on the rocks at JNU reading Jorge Luis Borges, still full of last night's lovely insomnia at the same place. 

You smell old clothes, mufflers, books, hair, eyes, lips, skin, absences, presences, memories hanging like fog in an empty space as night enters day like Jim Morrison's moment of angry angst. You think of freedom from the despair of the cruel Indian summer.

 Freedom to look at beauty while crossing violence and unrequited love, and the pain, effortless, painless pain, of desire, hanging like the fog of a winter night. Because the morning too must arrive, even if you have not slept through the fog, and it will bring the smell of the north wind on the pages of the unfinished, unwritten book. This is the fifth season of Vivaldi, as much as Beethoven's Ode to Joy, and it's time for detachment from the achievements and rewards and awards and successes and pettiness of the world. Because this is the time for Azadi, from the cruelties of the seasons, and the cruelties and cholera of the times. The world is about to change. Winter has arrived. Here comes the sun.

This story is from print issue of HardNews