Wednesday, September 17, 2008

One fine day

It was 1975. Indira Gandhi had imposed emergency rule in India. The beureaucracy had unlimited powers and the common man had not much recourse against the excesses of the beureaucracy.

It was a fine day in September. The sky was a bit cloudy and there were fleeting showers. There were these guys at a college in Agra. Kid#1 was of the 'bhailog' sort and had his own coterie of chamchas who were ready to join him in any mischief.  Kid#2 was from a poor Sindhi family who had migrated after the partition and were trying to build a new life in a new land. Kid#3 was an out-of-state student. #2 and #3, being outsiders, were usually at the receiving end of the mischiefs thought up by #1.

Since it was really a fine day and none of the students was in the mood to go to class and study, #1 took the leadership and exhorted the students to ask the principal for a holiday. The mass of students was milling around in the college grounds instead of going to their respective classes.

When the principal came to know of this, he was enraged. The usually mousy principal, who had been emboldened by the powers bestowed on him because of the emergency, ran out into the grounds. It was obvious to the students that he was in a fury. He demanded those students who wanted a holiday declared, to raise their hands.

#1 hissed, 'Don't do it. He can expell us.' He and his group all stood there silently, with heads bowed. Only two hands went up and you can guess whose. The principal immediately ordered those two to leave the college and the rest to go to class.  And no further action was taken agaist these two later.

One incident can provoke different reactions from different people. #1 had a new-found respect for #2 and #3 from that day onwards. Quite a few teachers and students approached them later and praised them for their courage, while others thought they had acted foolishly.

#1, Ajay Dixit was working for Indian Airlines at Delhi, the last I heard of him. #2, Khub Chand, I have no news of, after we finished college and parted ways. #3, yours truly, blogged about it 33 years later.

There are a few defining moments in your life, when you are required to plant your feet firmly on the ground and take a stand, regardless of the issue or the consequences and this was one of those.

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