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   Volume 10 |Issue 46 | December 09, 2011 |


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One Off

9 against 1

Aly Zaker

I was sitting on a long bench by the Arabian Sea in Mumbai. There's a nice park there called Priyadarshini where people go to jog, walk or to while away their time doing nothing. Whenever I am in Mumbai, I make it a point to visit Priyadarshini at least once in the morning. Besides the attraction of the park or my weakness for workout, the name itself is very close to my heart. This middle name, Priyadarshini, is what made Indira Gandhi more affable and attractive to me. And is there anybody who can contest the fact that she was indeed “Priyadarshini”? So, I was sitting on a long bench at the Priyadarshini Park after my workout that morning. A cool breeze was blowing from the southwest. I was not thinking. 'Thinking' is a tough task. I was simply looking blankly towards the horizon. I adore my time when I just gaze at something, gaze at it and keep gazing without thinking at all.

Photo: Courtesy

All on a sudden I saw that a lone seagull sitting on the wire netted fence was encircled and crowed at by nine crows. At times the crows would swoop down on the lone seagull and try to harm her physically. After a little while the gull could take it no more and decided to beat it. She started to fly towards her hub, where her strength lies. She started flying west ward, towards the open sea. The nine crows pursued the gull for some distance and then realised that they were in a territory other than their own. So they swerved southward and back east to where they belonged--- a filthy dustbin full of waste by the roadside with flies hovering about and now crowded by the nine returning crows. I kept looking at the lone gull flying further away until it became just a dot against the blue autumn sky and then was seen no more.

This innocuous incident centering on birds suddenly made me turn towards human beings, people like us, who I thought, were no different from the scavenger birds that put up a despicable show of ugly strength. Well, it goes without saying that nine are collectively stronger than one and therefore, the crows had the guts to take on the lonely gull. I thought, just as in our so called civilised egalitarian world the majority has the right to overrule the minority, so is it in the world of the lesser beings, number connotes might. Might then becomes right. I hope I would not be misunderstood. I am not against democratic norms. When it comes to self-aggrandisement, almost anything that you do, can be passed on as a valid action. Alas, judgment has fled to brutish beasts and all have lost their reasons (apologies to William Shakespeare).

Sitting in Priyadarshini, pondering over the plight of the lone gull, I was transported back to my own country, where such show of power by a bunch of people working together to harass and demolish an individual who sides with righteousness is so common. I have seldom seen the 'majority' getting together in instituting an action that would protect the 'minority'. I have seen this 'crows & gull' battle happen at every level of our society. As long as the gull cannot assimilate cohorts and pose to be equally strong as the band of crows, the gulls would always be underdogs. The gulls will evidently be beaten by the crows and the likes of crows, which individually can do nothing but together can merrily initiate on a rampage. I was instantly reminded of a lone gull that, during the communal riots of 1964 in Dhaka, had protested against the rioting Muslims and laid down his life valiantly. He was the first martyr of that riot who belonged to the community of the offenders and not the offended. Amir Hossain Chowdhury, a journalist, did not seek the refuge of the sky and the sea but turned around to fight the transgressors. Lo and behold, he lay quite dead in a matter of minutes. Incidentally, Amir Hossain Chowdhury was the son of the sister of Begum Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain and this year is his birth centenary. It might surprise some of my readers to know that his birth centenary is being observed in Kolkata but we remain oblivious of this gallant soul. We hardly even care to know about him.

This 9 against 1 factor is becoming phenomenally dreadful with the passage of time. Something that comes to mind readily is the stalking and sexual harassment of girls on the streets of Bangladesh every now and then. Usually, the girl is alone and the boys are 9- add or subtract 1 or 2. It has been seen recently that a lone man, in most cases her father, has to succumb to the physical abuse meted out by the hoodlums, should he muster enough courage to protest. Many a times the girls themselves cannot withstand such ignominy and decide to end their lives themselves. Unfortunately they do not have the open sea or the blue sky where they could fly away and avert such aggressions.

I think about all these and return to my hotel lazily. Suddenly, a thought occurs and I start wondering if these lonely gulls could manage to unite, would 9 crows still be far too many to beat?


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