ZEE Jaipur Literature Festival Blogging Competition Shortlisted Entry
The Freedom to Dream – Mr. India at 70
Prasad GR, 37 years old, Bangalore
On his way back home, he doesn’t feel anything other than frustration. It had been a long day, and the least he expected was a gratifying end. Instead, the experience at the concert he is returning from turned out to be anything but that. First, there was this lone guy who took the seat next to his wife, forcing him to swap the carefully chosen aisle seat with his wife. And then there was this tall lady seated in the front row and blocking his view of the stage, leaving him with no option but to forget any idea of reclining in his seat. Which at 70 years of age makes a great deal of difference. At the end, he had to seek consolation in the fact that he had had the pleasure of listening to his favourite artist live — an artist whose performance had earned a 10-miute standing ovation at the Kennedy Center, as he proudly pointed out to his wife as they stepped out of the hall.
The day hadn’t begun well either, courtesy of the coffee his wife had prepared, that wasn’t hot and strong enough. He had to walk out of the ensuing quarrel only to bump into one of those annoying joggers, who are always lost in their earphones. When he sat for breakfast he noticed their housemaid going about her work. It had been an unspoken rule that the housemaid would arrive only after he had finished. He hid his discomfort behind the excuse that her cleaning would cause dust particles to fly and settle on his plate. Making a mental note to take it up with his wife later, as he drove to the neighbourhood temple, pedestrians and cyclists slowed him down. He also had to sweat it out, literally, to find a parking space, cursing the city corporation that was stupid enough to ban the parking of vehicles on that street. Inside the temple, that familiar sense of angst returned as soon as his eyes beheld a group of jeans-clad women. It was clearly an invitation for trouble, if not a sign of their promiscuity. He preferred women in the traditional saree, irrespective of age.
His post-lunch siesta was interrupted by his younger brother’s call. At his request, he had to call up his brother’s 32-year old daughter, who was insisting that she would only marry the guy of her choice. He tried putting some sense into her head. He spoke highly of the culture she was supposed to uphold, not to mention of course the family’s name and honour. The mad girl had had the audacity to talk back and bluntly refused to listen to his wise counsel. After that failed attempt, he was left proudly reflecting back to the times when he had successfully blackmailed his own son into sacrificing his love for the ‘family’.
And as he sat sipping a cup of (again, bad) coffee, watching the evening news hour on TV, he felt outraged on seeing a clip of the queer parade taken out that day. Wondering how this great nation of his could make such a marked departure from its long-cherished traditions, he shut the TV down and sought solace in Facebook. However, his timeline was flooded with posts cheering the same news and that made him miserable. He gave vent to his frustrations, using the choicest expletives to comment on such posts. But the resultant calm was short-lived, as the trolls online, whose sole objective — it seemed to him — was to hurt others, annoyed him. He felt a longing for those civil conversations of the old times, when people could disagree without being vile. He was convinced that the colonisers would have done an exceptional job had they been in power now and that independence had simply been a suicidal move. We Indians simply couldn’t govern ourselves. Thankfully, just then, his wife rescued him from those depressing thoughts with a reminder that it was time for them to leave for the concert — something he had been looking forward to ever since he had obtained the passes.
As he now rests after a rather tiresome day, awaiting sleep to soothe his soul, he can only imagine a better tomorrow and hope that the new dawn infuses high spirits into his weary life. And thus he carries on dreaming.