“We are all visitors to this time, this place. We are just passing through. Our purpose here is to observe, to learn, to grow, to love…and then we return home.” – Australian Aboriginal proverb
To observe, to learn, to grow, to love.
14th June, 8 pm – It’s the third day of our strike and ex-AAP member Yogendra Yadav is on campus to express his solidarity to our cause. We are happy but also wary of the protest being politically hijacked. The head of the media team, a close friend, is sharing her concern with me about these dangers. She is worried. She is a natural leader, a born-fighter and survivor and this is not her first fight against tough odds. She will also do this as many times as needed, but the memories of that one night refuse to leave her. When she was leading one such protest in her college. Where four men from a political party followed her at night. She was just 19 and terrified.
I place my hand on hers. I see her still shaken from the old old memory. I also see the courage that makes her go on.
16th June, 10.30 pm – Fourth day of the strike and I am taking a dinner break before we re-group for another round of exhaustive meetings. I am stressed and tired and mum calls. I haven’t spoken to her in ten days and have been wondering why neither she nor dad has called to check on me yet. She doesn’t know about it. I fill her in. She is completely removed from the world of politics and she asks some very simple (not simplistic) questions. I tell her in brief and she replies, in an upbeat and encouraging voice, ‘You kids go ahead! Datt ke strike karo and make sure you get what you want. The Government can’t do this!’
I hang up and feel all stress has left me. The innocence and honesty in my mom’s straight-talk has unwound something inside me. Refreshed me. I decide to make this my go-to memory every time the stress of the protest gets to me.
17th June, 4 am – The sixth day of our strike has just ended. An intense meeting with all students has just ended. A group of us are still hanging around outside MT (Main Theatre) grappling with unresolved questions. A dear friend and one of us who is leading the strike says he got a call from his mother, who has been out of town and just returned to the news of the strike. In the middle of the conversation his mother suddenly asks him to hang up because she was scared his phone is being tapped. Stunned, he hangs up. We sit in silence and look into his eyes. He is not scared, but immensely moved. He has never ever heard such paranoia in his mother’s voice. It stops him. It compels him to look deeper and ask more questions of himself.
19th June 6 pm: Eight days have passed. Eight exhausting days of media interaction, solidarity calls to the world, strategising, debating and above all self-introspection.
Each day we put ourselves through the intensive rigour of asking ourselves tough questions. Of striving to remove the curtains the world has put on our souls in order to get in touch with the core. The core from which our art pours forth. The core that is all we have. For the art that is all we have. What are we really fighting and who? Are we becoming what we are fighting? What for? And for whom? These questions refuse to leave us. Everyday we find an answer, everyday we find a new question. And it goes on evolving.
I like questions. They open up a whole new world; it’s like taking a trek through a yet undiscovered dirt road. The kind of exploration trips Enid Blyton’s kids take into the forest, spurred by curiosity, excited to meet the unknown. And then find something they have been looking for, a resolution. Till the next search begins. Life resides in the journey, after all.
We spent the first six days of the strike intensely strategising our moves. Only to realise we are beginning to play the same games we are fighting. We had begun to deliberate and measure our words and actions. We were censoring ourselves while we were fighting censorship. Why weren’t we tapping into or creative sides, our emotional sides? We were becoming hardened because we had stopped looking at our fears. In our drive for a ‘purer’ way of functioning, we were allowing ourselves to become corrupt. We were fighting, not standing up for anything we believed in, becoming totalitarian ourselves. Where is the tolerance in us, that we are looking for outside? Are we becoming part of the same mob we are up in arms against? Where are our individual, rather human voices? Fear is born of fear and fear feeds fear. Why are we shying away from our own fears when fear-mongering is what we are against? In that case, are we really standing up for ourselves, or running away? And running towards what? Labels and images? In between rejection and acceptance there is a flux. Why weren’t we engaging with it so that we can ‘be’ what we are standing up for?
This protest has pulled all of us out of our cocoons, jolted us out of our complacency. I see all of us grappling with our deepest fears and facing them, looking for cracks in the walls we have built around ourselves to break them, trying hard to understand the world we live in and our relationship with it. The girl who was followed, she is facing her fears because of this. The boy who heard his mother’s paranoia has discovered a more human aspect of this struggle. I, someone who has always been scared of confrontation, am beginning to understand the nature of a fight and my place within it. And it is spreading.
We are students, still learning. We are budding artists, still growing. We are fumbling, we are foolish, we are emotional, we are impulsive, we are sensitive but that’s what makes us who we are. We are vulnerable and struggling to find our strength in it. That’s the only way to create for us. Until we accept this we don’t grow.
There is an alive-ness on the campus these days. A vibrant, throbbing life I haven’t experienced in my one and half years here yet. We are waking up. To ourselves. We are faltering, falling too, picking ourselves up and others alongwith us, only to be met by the next seemingly unscaleable wall. But that’s part of the process of growing up, no one promised it was going to be easy, anyways. It’s awe-inspiring to see life bloom like this in front of your eyes. In people you live with, study with, care about, relate to, whose fears you share, whose angst you understand, whose walls you can see but can do little about… And in oneself, whose impasses one is almost tired of countering anymore. It takes immense courage, this insistent self-criticality. But I’ve realised, this is what FTII expects out of us. Honesty to oneself. All else will simply follow.
I see the living, breathing nature of our struggle. There is so much beauty in it, so much innocence, its humbling. And it has united us in a deeply stirring way. In taking the individual journey inwards. Together.
There is a churning that is happening in the womb of the erstwhile Prabhat Studios that has something life-affirming about it. It will see us through, I think.
For us, it’s not about FTII anymore. Neither is it about certain agendas of the Government we or you happen to see as ‘wrong’. It’s about all of us who are ‘fighting’ something.
How can we stop fighting and stand up instead?
How can we be the change we want to see?
Simple questions we are still trying to find an answer to.
To know more about the strike pls read –
Why we are doing what we are doing – https://campusdiaries.com/stories/the-ftii-strike-why-we-are-doing-what-we-are-doing
Beena Paul on the deeper problems of the issue – http://scroll.in/article/734769/dont-ignore-the-ftii-protest-its-problems-run-deeper-than-gajendra-chauhan
Ajith Kumar B and Kamal K M on FTII’s dilemma – http://www.countercurrents.org/ajith160615.htm
Prayaag Akbar on nationalism and killing cinema – http://www.catchnews.com/pov/prayaag-akbar-on-nationalism-and-the-art-of-killing-cinema-1434470651.html
A brilliant feature on culture and identity – http://www.jansatta.com/politics/ftti-pune-row-ftti-gajendra-chauhan-ftii-students-gajendra-chauhan-bjp-ib-ministry-rss/29575/
Sanjay Kak on BJP’s scorch-earth policy – http://www.catchnews.com/culture-news/sanjay-kak-what-have-chauhan-and-company-done-to-deserve-ftii-posts-1434460130.html