My friends are never on time and this was probably the millionth instance (exaggeration) when I had been left waiting for them at a coffee shop, a period which I initially spent mentally rebuking their lack of punctuality. I am accustomed to it by now, and find myself focused on one distraction or another. For example, this morning my attention was subconsciously riveted to a lively conversation taking place among three people on the next table.
“C’mon you have to admit yesterday’s debate showed Trump at his best!” insisted a young man.
“How does it matter? Hillary will win. Serves the racist dickhead right!” refuted a woman.
“I am surprised the sexist pig is not in jail already! How can someone still run for president after so many allegations of sexual assault?” said another woman, this one’s voice squeaking in disbelief.
“Leave aside the sentimental bias – Clinton made false claims about energy independence. She wasn’t even aware that the ACA provision had been active in 31 states before the law was enacted!”
“Are you suggesting she is more clueless than a man who opposes abortion because he thinks a baby can be ripped out of its mother’s womb at nine months?”
The other woman sniggered.
“How can you expect a person who had no clue her was husband having sex with a different woman in the same bloody house to be alert enough to run an entire nation?? Trump showed up at a time when he was still recovering from weeks of thrashing from the media, and still made Hillary fumble when talking about policies. Now That’s a true leader!”
Finally, one of the women said, “You are doing a great job at following your misogynist idol’s footsteps. Whatever be it, I will not remove Donald Trump’s caricature from Facebook account.”
To uphold ones political stance is courageous for any youth.
The irony here, however, is that we were not seated at some barista in Washington, D.C., where the pulse of the U.S. presidential election campaign throbs strongest.
We were at CCD in Shyam Bazar.
It is very easy to lampoon the politics of a nation which you are located far away from, and even easier when you don’t happen to be its citizen. There will be many who won’t agree with your views and challenge them vigorously. We call it freedom of speech.
There will be many who will openly criticize foreign politicians through caricatures. We call it freedom of expression.
But they wouldn’t dare exercise these rights on politicians of home-grown variety. And for justifiable reasons.
I am reminded of three particular works of Aseem Trivedi – an award winning Indian political cartoonist. The first one depicts the Indian parliament as a public toilet, underscored by the accompanying line ‘the toilet paper used here is also called Ballot paper’ in Hindi; the second replaces the four Sarnath lions of Ashoka with vicious wolves with the tagline ‘Bhrashtamev Jayate’ that translates to ‘long live corruption’; and, lastly, a depiction of ‘Mother India’, clad in a tricolour sari, on the verge of being sexually assaulted by a character named ‘corruption’. Trivedi was arrested on charges of sedition in 2012.
Back in 1987, Mr. Balasubramanian, the editor of the Tamil weekly, Ananda Vikatan, was arrested when he released a cartoon with an imagined exchange of lines between two characters, which were:
Q: “Of the two persons on stage, who is the MLA and who is the Minister?”
A: “The person who looks like a pickpocket is the MLA and the person who looks like a masked dacoit is the Minister.”
Closer home, Prof Ambikesh Mahapatra, a professor of chemistry in Jadavpur University, was remanded for a day in custody in 2012 for circulating only among friends a caricature of Mamata Bannerjee, the Chief Minister of West Bengal.
If I were to overhear that heated a discussion about our own politicians who we have elected democratically (which also gives us the right to remove them from power), would I have been anti-national to think of the speakers as courageous instead of seditious?
While I pondered that, my phone pinged with a notification from Facebook. One of my friends had just shared an article from the Guardian, “Who is the real winner of the third Presidential debate?”
I wouldn’t be reading that.
I had heard enough on that topic from these three.