Days of Emergency in India
I don’t know whether you remember the political movements from your childhood. I remember some, and forget some. At times, I want to learn some lessons from it, but I can’t put my finger on those lessons. At best they end up becoming personal anecdotes with no significance.
Any rate, I lived through the Jai Andhra Movement. To date, it is not clear to me what it was about. Our village was largely untouched by the movement, until one day, from pallapadu, a group of students came and spoke emotionally. Of course, I was a kid and I didn’t understand it. We were taught the slogans “mulki dam dam” [In retrospect, it was “down down”, but dam dam was more sonorous for us kids]. Along with kite flying, swimming in the canals without permission, even this slogan shouting has become a summer pastime.
I even had a brush with “relay hunger strike” when I went to pallapadu. There they were, some older kids”, sitting under a banner and busily not eating — as I soon verified when an offer for pakOdees were spurned; the offer came from the less serious, disbelieving crowd.
In that age, there was no concept of news. Radio was a precious thing, available to a privileged few, only to be taken out on a special occasion, to be kept clean, free of rats and mice. [That was the literal truth; they were so big to accommodate rats and mice inside.] Newspaper still hadn’t made inroads into the road-less village like ours. We figured that news really doesn’t effect us, and for most part, news and history passed us by.
Just like Emergency. The only change in the situation was radios became smaller and plentiful. In fact, it became a standard part of the dowry package [radio, watch, and bicycle]. It was dishing out entertainment, news, and “nilaya vidwaansula sangeetam” [For a long time I thought that it was “nilava vidwaansulu”]. As an upwardly mobile kid, I latched onto radio for the world news, which means about India.
Through what I heard over the radio, I was convinced that the country was saved by Emergency. I figured that India had many enemies, all of them to be arrested at the end of “one act dramas” under mesa act. Why, the primary reason for our plight was the smuggler who somehow was effecting my father, the farmer! I was whole heartedly for our great, fearless leader, and was glad that the radio was singing her praises.
Then came elections. The pack of cards came tumbling down, except in Andhra Pradesh. Apparently, it was a state full of radio listeners and believers. They returned Congress with 41 out of 42 seats. Slowly the news percolated, with the atrocities and the abuses committed by the previous government through the radio (again), newspapers, and popular authors with encyclopedic reportaire like “ambatipooDi”.
My childhood ended during those days.