Filing the report as quickly as possible I went to the hotel where the Delhi based environmentalist was put up. Mangalore that evening saw unexpected rains and hence I was drenched slightly by the time I reached the room of the environmentalist. As I entered the room I saw Vidya Dinker seated there discussing environmental struggles and the issue of Mangalore Special Economic Zone. On seeing me drenched Vidya asked, “Is it raining here too?” and when I said “Yes,” getting up from her seat she moved towards the window to peep out saying, “It is raining in Kudubi Padavu. I dint realize it is raining here too.” On confirming that it is raining in Mangalore too she said, “Yes,” to herself.
I was shocked to realize that Vidya though did not know of the rain in the place where she was, knew of the rain falling on the soil on the land on the Kudubi people for whom she was fighting. It was a moment which in a strange way said how deeply she was connected with the Kudubi people who were to be dislocated from their land by MSEZ. She was more with them then with herself, the moment revealed to me. “You are unbelievable,” I said staring at her for a moment before I sat on an empty chair.
Kudubi Padavu is a village where the Kudubi tribal people live, near Mangalore. Their land was to be snatched away from them for the MSEZ. Vidya was spearheading the fight against MSEZ and for the Kudubi people.
The Delhi based environmentalist while conversing with Vidya and me that evening recollected someone having told him that “There is only one man in Mangalore and that is Vidya Dinker.” That made all of us laugh. But before the echo of the laughter could fade away Vidya said, “I am not a man and there is no need for me to be one.”
Vidya Dinker, along with similar minded people, felt the need to start an organization for the victims of gender bias and atrocities. The need was felt more than ever when the issue of moral policing, which Vidya, like many, likes to call immoral policing, was on the increase. She has fought for the justice of women across all religions and against fundamentalist groups putting to shame the name of all religions.
Once when Vidya and I went to Kudubi Padavu a group of people, sent by the MSEZ, surrounded us and picked up a fight with us. They also took out the blow from the Tyre of the vehicle we had taken. Behind these people were standing the goons of MSEZ which made my entire life flash before my eyes. But throughout the fight Vidya just did not loose courage or appear frightened. She actually wasn’t frightened. Thankfully her strength made the people back off and thankfully our friend Naveen Soorinje who we had called came to the spot and took us back on his vehicle.
While fighting for the Kudubi people’s justice the fight at one point involved the seer of Perjawar Mutt which angered quite a few like me. When I raised my objections to the same Vidya said, “Its not about your faith or non-faith but about the Kudubis, their land and their life. She was of the belief that the seer’s involvement will add strength to the fight. Plus the Kudubi people had faith on the seer as a religious leader. Kudubi people’s faith was respected, by Vidya whatever her faith her stand was. Pejawar seer was never disrespected, by Vidya whatever her faith her stand was.
When Gregory Patrao’s house was demolished by the MSEZ people, Vidya, as I saw in a video recording of the event, faced the police bravely. In the post-Amnesia pub attack incident I have seen her bravely taking on, in public, the moral police. Whenever Vidya created ripples here and there all these memories always made me say, “Vidya is brave and one need not fear for her.” But now when the goons of Bajarang Dal have unleashed a hate campaign and war against Vidya threatening to rape her and kill her, following her filing case against the Bajarang Dal gooons who interrupted the screening of Dilwale in Mangalore, my heart is shivering and I am gripped by fear.
I am gripped by fear even when Vidya, amidst all these threats, asks me for the translation of a romantic Kannada poem, when I call her to express my solidarity with her. She romances life even at the face of death, such is her love for life, such is her faith in love (in the most humanitarian sense). Such is her courage, such is her bravery. Yet, my heart shivers and I am gripped by fear.
The reason for this being what happened around Mangalore few months ago. One Bhuvith Shetty openly threatened to kill someone and the police did not take action on Bhuvith Shetty. In some time Bhuvith Shetty did end up murdering an innocent human. Even now the police are not taking necessary action against those who have threatened to rape and kill Vidya. How am I to believe that another Bhuvith Shetty is not in the making? Especially when the Hindutva fundamentalists, in the current atmosphere, can pull the courage to threaten people openly and in an atmosphere where the police are also silent.
I fear for Vidya Dinker. I am with Vidya Dinker.
Couple of months ago I went to a nearby city with a friend just to buy books, watch a film, roam around, have ice cream and come back.
It was after a long time that I enjoyed myself as much as I did that day. It was a fulfilling day. But I was so happy that day that I started feeling too anxious by the time I got back home and hit the bed.
For the next few days I was anxious and kept feeling deeply that something in my life was about to go wrong. There was no logic to it. There was no reason for the anxiety, the fear.
But if any kind of joy any kind of happiness has become so alien to you and any experience that brings joy and happiness has become so inaccessible to you, it need not be surprising that whenever such a moment occurs, by chance, you are not able to handle it and by constantly wondering if it is real you fail to live it and savour it. The unfamiliarity of happiness makes you feel frightened by the sight of joy’s unknown face. You cannot trust the moment, like you can’t trust a stranger.
More importantly you become suspicious of the moment of joy and happiness granted by life and assume that probably something disastrous is going to follow the moment of ecstasy. It becomes difficult to believe that life can be kind. Any act of kindness, you start believing is a lie.
Being unused to happiness unused to joy kills the taste bud for them. If the night is very dark and that too for long, then the sunlight can blind you.
A year ago my friend Chintan Girish Modi as a part of Friendships Across Borders, an initiative of Chintan, wrote an article aiming to contribute to a peaceful and harmonious relationship between the people of two countries, for which he interviewed people from across borders asking them who, from the other side of border, they admire the most. Here is what I had to say to Chintan and to FAB.
“In Anand Patwardhan’s film War and Peace there is a sequence at the Lahore Grammar School. A debate competition is taking place, the topic of debate being the nuclear tests done by India and Pakistan.
The competition begins with this girl who very passionately supports and defends the nuclear test by Pakistan. She is followed by few other debators who argue for and against the bomb.
Once the debate is over Anand begins a conversation with all the girls in the room. In this conversation all the girls speak against the bomb and the girl who spoke first in the debate speaking for the bomb, invoking religious identities etc. also speaks the opposite of what she said in the debate.
When Anand questions the shift in her arguments the girl says, “usually in debate hum wahi baat kartey hai jis mein zyada josh ho zyada dam ho. Majority jis mein hogi usee taraf lengey,” to which very calmly, Anand responds saying, “gaur se sochiye iss baarey mein. hamaare leaders bhi aise hee kartey hai. Wahi josh waali baat kartey hai aur wahi baat kartey hai jis mein zyaada dam ho.”
Feeling ashamed, the girl with great guilt says, “hum galat tey. humein aisa nahi kahna chaahiye tha, aisa nahi bolna tha. hum maafi chaahtein hai.”
In my entire cinema viewing experience, this was the most humbling experience. It is that unknown girl from Pakistan in Anand’s film who I admire immensely.”