Harold Jaffe’s Dispatches from India – November 1, 2015

Gherao

Late for breakfast, head of the long table, alone.
Paratha, chutney, bananas, papaya, spiced chai.
An old man in a white lungi and tattered white scarf wanders in
chanting Ram-Ram-Ram while dusting the furnishings.
I think of Gandhi whose last word as he was shot to death by an
avenging Brahmin was Ram.
Rama, incarnation of Krishna and Vishnu.
I envision Rama and a small monkey scratches at the the dining
room’s screened window.
Sri Hanuman, Lord Rama’s everything monk, from the epic
Ramayana.

In Delhi at last, boarding the interminable third leg of the flight from
the US to Varanasi, the Air India counter is a circus of uniformed
workers and multiple Indians, male and female, moving, gliding in
front and behind the counter as if the manic airport were their
extended family.
Chaos, yet when the aircraft is filled all is quiet, orderly.

The odd Hindi noun, “Gherao,” comes to mind: an intensely
peaceable protest by workers where Indian workers surround the
offending managers, and those workers are succeeded by other
workers, and the other workers succeeded by others.
For weeks, months, as long as it takes management to address the
chronically underpaid workers’ demands.
Numbers, directed chaos.

The city of Varanasi is said to contain 330 million Hindu gods.
India’s crazily outsize population:
Curse and blessing.

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