Troubled Past and a Lonely Present

Artwork: Karan Dhawan

Today, on the 18th birthday, when it looks back, the child is lonely and remorse. It has a right to be so, for it has been wronged and exploited by many, but corrected by few…It must learn about its past so that the present appears less foggy. One more day to introspect, to cry, feel sad, lonely, humiliated, cheated, raped, tortured, maimed, orphaned, and exploited. But tomorrow must be a new beginning.

Let me tell you a story today. You may not like it, and that’s exactly what I want.

On November 9, 2000, a child was born in the northern part of India, under the shadow of the Himalayas. Today is its 18th birthday.

18! Yes, the age when one legally becomes an adult. That age when your crimes are no longer juvenile, when you become entitled to elect your prime minister and your consent gets legal validity, among others.

The child was born under difficult circumstances. The gestation period was unusually long, the pregnancy complicated, and delivery critical. Despite the elongated pregnancy, it was an underdeveloped child.

Doctors were surprised, so were the people. But they were content that at least after years of labour, the child was finally born. They said that it will rise on its feet over time and that the scars written on its destiny, before and during its birth, will be erased with the collective hard work that everyone will put in to carve a beautiful future for it.

This was not an ordinary child. It was the hope of an entire nation of highlanders. People from far and wide in this Central Himalayan region had struggled, fought and sacrificed to ensure that it is born. Many were killed, jailed and raped. Each of them had a stake in the child’s future and when it was born, they all promised to contribute in whatever capacity they can.

follow Edaward Munch’s pastel work–‘The Scream’

The struggle for birth was just a part, a greater battle lay ahead—the battle to raise the underdeveloped child in the best of ways.

Besides the complicated pregnancy, the birth was also marred with separation within the family. When the child was born, the property was divided. Being a newborn, the elder sibling played tricks and deprived the child of its rightful share.

The parents watched but did not act.

The elder sibling was very influential and had always opposed the very idea of having this child. Every attempt was sabotaged. The mother had had pregnancies in the past too, but she was forced to undergo abortion.

On the other front, the turn of events was such that when the child was born 18 years back, many erstwhile loyalists of the elder sibling, switched side. Their years of experience of being in and close to power commanded them that newborn could be easily exploited for their personal gains. Since only few among those who had supported the pregnancy had any political experience in terms of electoral manoeuvring, these switchovers occupied the plump positions.

They rose fast and high, in fact very very high. Those who had sacrificed, were systematically confined to their tilling fields in their ‘beloved’ hills.

Bereft of its history and the struggle that others had put in just to ensure that it is born, the child grew up to symbolise everything that was against the dreams and aspirations of those who had struggled for it even when it was not born.

The treachery of the elder sibling was not limited to sharing property. Even the newborn’s naming was politically motivated. The elder sibling ensured that the child is given a name that does not resonate with the demands of those who had favoured the birth.

This went a step ahead and the house that was promised to the child was not given. Instead, a temporary rest house was allotted at a place around 250 km from the proposed site. While within the first 5-6 years of its birth, the name was corrected (of course under public pressure and political expediency), the status of the permanent house for the child remains uncertain.

Over the 18 years, the fatigue has been such that even the supporters are now a divided camp.

On its part, the child appears to be indifferent.

The elder sibling too has moved on. The last that was heard about it was that within 2-3 days, around 60 children died in a hospital that was under the elder sibling’s responsibility, but priorities there these days are focused on creating an ambiance of one-upmanship about protecting cows. Apparently, this sells like hot pancakes in the political market therein.

go here Artwork: Karan Dhawan

So, the child weathered a troubling, if not entirely troublesome, teenage. Orphaned, cheated and exploited it has been in these 18 years.

Today, on the 18th birthday, when it looks back at the bygone years, the child is lonely and remorse. A feeling of regret lingers on in its mind. It has a right to be so, for it has been wronged and exploited by many, but corrected by few, and far between.

But it is 18 now. The time of dependence is over. It must learn about its past so that the present appears less foggy. Many had sacrificed to ensure the child’s birth. It will be criminal to let their hopes diffuse in thin air.

One more day to introspect and retrospect, to cry, feel sad, lonely, humiliated, cheated, raped, tortured, maimed, orphaned, and exploited. But tomorrow must be a new beginning.

After all, it’s 18-year-old now.

Hang on…did I tell you the child’s name?

It is Uttarakhand.