The current disenchantment with, and ire and fire against, politicians makes me remember my first brush (or should that be scrape?) with politics.
I forget the exact time, but it was before the general elections after Indira Gandhi’s assassination. There was a huge sympathy wave for the Congress-I, led by Rajiv Gandhi, the son of the assassinated Prime Minister. But, West Bengal, as usual, was a red bastion, a Communist (CPI-M) stronghold, or should that be strangle-hold?
Hectic campaigning was going on, with regular evening marches by the contesting party-members and their supporters (mornings were presumably too hot for slogan-shouting). Almost every available inch of wall-space was partitioned between the Congress-I and the CPI-M for wall-painting and poster-pasting, with, expectedly, the red-party hogging the major share.
My friend Mampi and I deeply felt the injustice of this unequal distribution. Why should CPI-M’s Tarit Topdar have his name written all over the place and why should Congress-I’s Debi Ghosal languish in (comparatively) lesser space? All our adolescent sympathy gushed over for the underdog (who was also the perennial loser in a chain of previous elections, and, like all losers, reputed to be a ‘good man’).
There was a dilapidated wall encircling an empty field opposite our houses, ignored by the political paintbrushes for its unprepossessing appearance. To redress the imbalance of political justice, Mampi and I took some white chalk and some broken pieces of red clay-tiles (we could not find the green favoured by the Congress-I, so we had fall back on the red colour of the 'enemy'), and, with painstaking effort, we etched the legend “VOTE FOR DEBI GHOSAL” in somewhat uneven handwriting all over the discoloured wall. We scripted the letters as big and as bold as we could make them, scraping over and over again to make the letters legible from a distance (feeling decidedly ‘un-bold’ at our own daring – we would drop the chalk and run away as soon as we saw someone coming, returning to our task only when the lane was clear). We also drew a large and rather misshapen HAND – the election symbol of the Congress-I.
And so, this was my first idealistic, if anonymous and unsung, contribution to the political circus of the elections. The Congress-I won on a landslide of sympathy, but Debi Ghosal, as usual, lost with good grace. Mampi and I, however, felt that our efforts had been vindicated because the margin of loss had reduced considerably.
DO YOU REMEMBER YOUR FIRST BRUSH WITH POLITICS?