Today we had a ‘forced holiday’ throughout India.a Bandh. The opposition parties had called for a Bandh (Bandh means a General strike. The word literally means ‘a tying up’ in Hindi) to protest against the recent steep hike on petrol prices.
Bandh is a big affair in India. Shops remain closed, offices do not function, roads deserted and people pretty much stay indoors. The severity depends on the party that has called for Bandh. The communists are notorious for making Bandh a big success and the Communist ruled states in India enjoy at least one such ‘forced holiday’ every month.
Are Bandhs the right way to protest or are they simply causing damage to the nation’s progress by losing millions of hours of productive work? It’s hard to say. On one side is the right of every man to protest against what he thinks is unjust and on the other side is the huge losses incurred by Corporations and the economy in general (Not to mention about people unable to reach hospitals on time, marriages postponed, people stranded in Railway stations etc. and the inconvenience caused. They don’t matter much; it’s at the personal level and people will need to sort it out themselves) I leave the question here for your to ponder, that’s not the point here.
There is another side to it. Bandh has an un-seen spiritual significance. It’s a sort of meditation at a grand scale.
On any normal day, this is what you see in Indian cities: People running around because they are late to work or some other important appointments, people making frantic calls demanding updates, giving instructions, people honking restlessly at traffic signals, vehicles trying to squeeze through the almost-standstill traffic, people trying to pile in to elevators, follow-up meetings, midnight con-calls…..
The message that everyone is conveying: I am someone important, I need to be somewhere at this point in time, otherwise something is going to go wrong. What I need to do is important.So I need to rush. Hurry.
People are always running; because they are important, what they need to do is important, time is important, commitments are most important.
And then comes the Bandh. Everything comes to s stand still. No office, no tasks, no commitments, you don’t need to be anywhere. No one cares.
And nothing happens.
What is the message?: Relax, even if no one does anything here for the whole day, NOTHING happens.
The Bandh makes a mockery of our ‘inflated self-esteem’ and reminds us how insignificant we are.
We try to pretend otherwise. The next day Newspapers give the estimated loss caused by the Bandh and that’s somewhat satisfying – we are important. Aren’t we?