Sunday, September 21, 2014

Kolkata is where it always was: #HokKolorob

Proud to be acknowledged by #HokKolorob Facebook page. Please visit them (us) to show your support.


Photo courtesy: Ronny Sen (via Manali Roy). Ronny, if you object, please let me know before suing me. I will take it down.
It was that kind of day when it rained in Kolkata and it did not in Mumbai. It was also that kind of day when I was hooked on news channels on television instead of browsing or reading.

You see, along with the skies, Kolkata also poured down in Kolkata. For a cause; for a good cause; and they kept pouring through the day, taking on the rain and the administration: and how!

Let me be honest here: I had been losing faith on the city — the cosiest and homeliest of cities that has ever been — over the past decade. Kolkata still existed, and ruled, over my conscience: but did the people I know as Kolkatans exist anymore?

The city had started moving away from me. Initially I had felt that the problem lay with me, but others agreed. It was not the same city anymore. Roads remained derelict, the sky gray, cars numerous, people faceless; but the city had managed to move away from me. It had lost its compassionate face — the one we were used to grow up to.

Those outside Kolkata yearned to go back to the city, but almost never did. Those in the city were eager to leave. When electricity became surplus, the general consensus was that it was due to the lack of industry.

Then #HokKolorob happened.

The skies had opened to stop them. There were the rulers, who could have landed blows more brutal than they did that night. There were the opposition, who could have lured them to make this a political agenda.

But then, these were Gen-Y Kolkatans. The students of Kolkata: the ones we had dismissed, laughing at their overuse of SMS language and leet, rolling eyes at their IPL fanaticism, feeling frustrated at their seamless acceptance of western consumerism.

What we forgot that they were also the kick-arse generation of Kolkata. Unlike us, they were not going to take things down, just like that. They were going to hit back — in style.

Bathroom singers sang. Strangers held hands. Those who would not brave a walk to Dhakuria braved it. They sat down when they were not allowed to go further, but they refused to budge. They braved weather. They tweeted so vehemently that they made #HokKolorob a trending hashtag.

In other words, they did something we had only dreamed of doing: they got their job done — without resorting to violence — without coming under the wing of any political party — in a day.

They used technology: photographs were clicked, videos were shot, and everything was shared on social media. News of that night from Jadavpur University was all over social media before mainstream media had got a whiff of it.

The kids knew what to do; and did exactly that. They used social media to spread the message; and they went viral; and suddenly people started Googling for “HokKolorob”.

The rally was supposed to start at 2 PM. By 6 the count in the 3-mile long rally had crossed 50,000; the procession took 50 minutes to pass. The protestors sang, held proud (and water-proof) banners, and walked; and walked; and walked. The chant, for once, was not "In-clawb jinda-bawd."

The names of political parties were, I repeat, absent on the banners: if they were present, they were neutral, and were aimed at all parties, showcasing their attitude towards contemporary politicians).

There were others, too. The Jadavpur University alumni; students from other colleges; ex-students from other colleges (even 70-year olds); the ones that could not join protested from their own vantage points (this included Delhi) and promoted their movements on social media.

We, the ones past our mid-lives and in another city and itching to join them, were there, too. We were with them on the biggest city in the world: the internet. There we were, lending out our hands in whatever limited way we could. Re-tweeting and sharing was the least we could, and we did exactly that; #HokKolorob continues to trend.

I repeat, there was no political involvement. Neither did they throw stones or vandalise. There were no reports of ambulances, or any traffic, being held up by the rally. They were, after all, educated people with impeccable civic sense — unlike hired political employees who would come in truckloads to fill up numbers at Brigade for money and free lunch.

A cynic in me died today. I feel like letting the world know that Kolkata can, she still can if she wants to. I feel like yelling (which is not the most intelligent thing to do at midnight, more so given my voice) in elation; instead, I chose to write.

Kolkata is where she was. All she needed was a jolt.

Students are what they always used to be. All they needed was unity.

We can still hold hands to bring about revolutions. Maybe someday we will also bring down Bastille. And from these worst of times, there may arise, almost like a phoenix, the best of times.

#HokKolorob has possibly triggered that. We may not know it now, but we may have probably seen history unfold before our eyes.

I am proud to have witnessed September 20, 2014 unfold before my eyes. I am proud to have seen HokKolorob become a success.

Thank you for making a tired, pessimist, 37-year old cynic cry; and die. Sleep in peace, little veterans of war. It has been a long day. Thank you for letting me sleep in peace as well.

I am proud that supermen like these romp across the city, completely oblivious to what they have pulled off today. 


This picture turned up under #HokKolorob hashtag on Twitter. The person is called Rizal Saifullah Khan, but his peers prefer to call him Biceps Khan. The caption is mine (yes, I suck at these).


38 comments:

  1. this read made me miss the city more. more than ever. my plight was similar as yours, refreshing the fb page every 5 minutes for any updates!
    shob bhalo jar shesh bhalo!
    #hokkolorob

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for understanding. Yes, I have been doing that all day. And was on Twitter too.

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  2. Feeling proud. Hope only the beginning

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  3. Proud of those kids.
    I wasn't aware of all this happening till I read your last post and googled.

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    Replies
    1. Phew. Happy to know that this blog has served some purpose.

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  4. You left me crying today. I badly love my city. Badly miss her every moment. I hope this will go on.

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    Replies
    1. I hope the same too. And yes, it hurt when I could not be there.

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  5. Feeling so proud and good. You have echoed my sentiments...

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    Replies
    1. It is a warm feeling to get in touch with like-minded people. Honoured, Ritwika.

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  6. Tathagata ChatterjeeSeptember 21, 2014 at 10:45 AM

    hok hok hokkolorob... :)

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  7. And it was needed..
    Some said yesterday - an organised march of un-organised groups can always bring #Kolorob..
    It poured yesterday, from the sky, and from every corner- showing the silver-line, after the frustration we had of helplessness to the LIES by every person of the "Gorment"

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  8. Elated I am after I read this. And I am sure everyone who reads this would be elated as well.
    Missing Kolkata.

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  9. Let the "Kolorob" continue. প্রতিবাদটা দিকে দিকে চলতে থাকুক।
    The cynics in us were born because of the world around us. If that world changes, as it is in this case, those cynics are bound to die.
    Keep writing.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you for the encouragement.

      আর হ্যাঁ, প্রতিবাদটা দিকে দিকে চলতে থাকুক।

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  10. The cynic in me still lives. It will only die a much-awaited death if and only if this movement doesn't fizzle out with time and if justice prevails.

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    Replies
    1. I hope it comes at the receiving end of the Avada Kedavra shortly after this. The cynicism, that is.

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  11. dori dhore maro taan, ..... hobe khan khan. Cynicism deserves to die like this.

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  12. You have boosted our energy up one more level to continue this revolution!
    #hok_kolorob, this blog is really awesome! Must share :) thanks again for such a lovely piece about kolkata! :)

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    Replies
    1. Honoured to hear back from a war hero, Sayan. Please do not let the fire in you subside.

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  13. This was much needed a revolt. Now, the politicians know the might of the students. I am glad to be a student myself :)
    Shotrur Mukhe Chhai! :P #hokkolorob

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  14. Brilliant again..as usual
    But really..i am also from kolkata,a born pessimist and in the wrong side of the 30's...
    you've echoed my feelings exactly...we needed a jolt..and we got it and how!

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    Replies
    1. Thank you, thank you. At least my blog is doing something worthy of existence.

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  15. Exactly my feelings. Was almost giving up on the city I love most, the city I pine to return to, but which only seemed to exist in my dreams. Then #HokKolorob happened, and how! I truly hope this is the beginning of a new chapter, the birth of a Kolkata better than ever before. Thanks for this beautiful piece :)

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  16. This is a wonderful piece and i thank you for honoring studnents through these wonderful words . :)

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    Replies
    1. Thank you, Ayushi. Trust me, you have earned every bit of it.

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  17. Wonderful post! Made my heart swell with pride and joy. I don't know whether you are a JU alumnus, but being one, I thank you with all my heart for your glowing words. Also, after facing four months of "eshob kore kichui hobe na", "kaj kormo nei deshodhar korte choleche" and "JU is a bunch of hooligans", not to mention, the constant familial pressure not to involve ourselves in this "shokher bidroho" against a "powerful rajyo", this kind of unflinching support fills my heart with gratitude! And, hope the cynic in the person named rags has died now that the kolorobis have emerged victorious after four months of vehement struggle.. :)

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    Replies
    1. Thank you, mademoiselle. No, I am not a JU alumnus, but I an alumnus of somewhere, so I understand. :)

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