Homage to Catalonia and Kerala

“It is the same in all wars; the soldiers do the fighting, the journalists do the shouting, and no true patriot ever gets near a front line trench, except on the briefest of propaganda tours. Sometimes it is a comfort to me to think that the aeroplane is altering the conditions of war. Perhaps when the next great war comes we may see that sight unprecedented in all history, a jingo with a bullet-hole in him.”

Homage to Catalonia is a field report about war front actions by the anarchists against Franco’s Fascist army.

Heroic dares and martyrdom are rare occurences for the combatants. Here, in cold Catalonia, the war is all about fighting lice, stealing potatoes, waiting in the slush rolling cigarettes and trying to figure out which way to run when a gun comes unstuck enough to chatter frosty ricochets.

Communists, internecine fighting, haphazard organization, widespread chaos. I wondered what was happening back home in Kerala.

Lazarus of Kollam

Kerala did not disappoint. Around 100 locals were crisped in an unholy display of fireworks at a temple bonanza in Kerala last week. Unidentified charcoals of human flesh were buried with due solemnity. Netas mourned and relief packages were apportioned.

A couple of days later one of the “buried” turned up alive much to the surprise of his bereaving mother. Not to be outdone she now bereaves for the unknown man’s parents.

A human tragedy is never a good time to say “I told you so”. Which is precisely why I am going to do that. And just for the record I also nominate my other local tragedy-in-waiting award to the Kollemcode Thookkam festival, a primitive thronging of the pious that also involves dangling babies carried by men yoked to a pole high in the air. Every time I see pictures of the festival I cannot keep away images of a mishap ending with mangled tiny limbs from my head.

I tell you so.

It is only Human Folly

A quick rejoinder that one hears when pointing out the rather apparent dangers in a throbbing crowd is the human folly repartee. A shrug, a cavalier attitude to life.

I am always reminded of the solitary oarsman in the dugout canoe balancing himself easily (or perilously to us city folks). So at ease is his journey always. At one with the scenery, how aesthetic the act of traveling. This is in complete contrast to the motoring, fume spewing abomination that is the modern industrial vehicle.  Traveling only as far the body is willing to take you. Not how much you can run on the plunders of the earth.

A deliberately conscious life does minimize the risks to earth. But just like an elephant has to tread where an ant can waltz, a city dwellers life is always a trample on fragile ecosystems as compared to the idyllic chetan.

Back in the city, I realize that like in any Sathyan Anthikkaad movie, most Malayalees hold a non existent idea of a homeland in their mind.

A tiled house set among coconut trees, a rock hewn mortar in the backyard, and an early-morning-rising-chaya bringing- always pretty wife. They saw that during their 1 month “trip”. It is only human folly. 

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