Devraj Singh Kalsi gives a unique perspective on the Farmer’s Protest in India
The nation knows them as truck-drivers, transporters, dhaba-owners (eatery-owners), soldiers, and farmers who made the nation green with revolution (and envy) half a century ago. They perform these jobs so well that nobody in India wants them to do anything else. It would be a waste of time and resources if they show interest in other pursuits. Alerts and friendly suggestions include forget creative gigs and focus on down-to-earth digs. Get back to the fields and grow some figs instead of falling in love with trance – to transplant figments of imagination. Talk about reap, forget repeal. Focus on harvest, forget unrest. Don’t care two hoots? Return to the roots.
If you know a Sardarji in the bulb with malice towards one and all, consider it an exception instead of the changing trend in their professional choices. The Sardarji in the bulb failed to inspire and light up the brains of his community that is perfectly okay with intellectual poverty so long as material prosperity comes their way. Sardar (Sikh) and Kirdaar (character) make an uncharacteristic pair. Pen in his grip looks weak while the sword is mightier even today.
Crack silly, vulgar Sardar jokes and stereotype them the way you like, but the fact remains that Bhangra, banter and bass show their swag. You enjoy full freedom of expression to hurt the sentiments of the Sikh community and get away with it. With a big heart they always love to give and forgive. Even if you find no art in their dance form, you raise the legs to lift the spirits and feel energised.
Instead of banking on education to seek greener pastures abroad, they are ready to grab the steering wheel, to steer their future in the direction of prosperity. If diligence is the seed of success, they are ready to toil in the farms as sons of the soil under extreme weather conditions – whether it is about growing sarson (mustard) here or strawberries there. The enthusiasm to feed humanity takes them to the fields, to grow food for all, or set up eateries along the highways to serve truckers and travellers with good food.
The farm protests, spearheaded by the Sikhs, made the entire nation suspect whether they have the brains to understand the farm laws or the misled battalion simply marched ahead with tractors and trolleys under the influence of opposition leaders and alcohol. This narrative was fairly convincing on TV screens as Sikhs have yet to showcase their logical quotient. With no Nobel Laureate to amplify their pedigree, pegging the idea of a Sardarji winning it for science, economics, literature or peace turns out to be a hilarious joke.
From fibre to fibre optics, they have made significant contribution but the world looks reluctant to recognise their talent in diverse fields. These warriors who break barriers are the carriers of chutzpah and they deliver the impossible. While the national average income struggles to reach a decent level, they have taken agriculture to a new level. So much so that they earn enough to buy jeans on account of hard work in their genes.
Starving farmers wearing torn clothes and banging empty utensils is the stereotyped image of protesters in India. This is perhaps the first time that the entire nation witnessed stereos playing full blast at the protest site, with a feast of delicacies served to all, with book launches and motivational songs to keep the spirits high. From pizza to pinni (sweet), from badam (almond) sherbet to gajar ka halwa (carrot halwa), from foot massagers to geysers, the visuals emerging from Delhi borders have awakened the collective imagination and consciousness of the people in their heated drawing rooms. The hordes of protesters including elderly citizens, women, and children looking cool, calm and resilient even in biting cold conditions reminds people of Chhardi Di Kala – the expression to convey their buoyant attitude and will power.
When farmers look healthy and well-fed, they weaken their bargaining position as the authorities tend to think they are already prosperous and the new farm laws are sure to double their income. No sympathy or empathy comes their way. Seek repealing of laws and they keep appealing to soften the stand. The deaths and suicides of fellow farmers in this chilling cold do not generate the fear of death. Call it determination, tenacity, or moronic display of obdurate behaviour, they stand united to treat with love and care but never ready to retreat.
Farmers eating stuffed parathas, paneer (cottage cheese), kheer (sweetened and thickened milk), fruits, dry fruits, and jalebis(sweet) make prime time news. The image of struggling, bare-bodied farmers ploughing the fields, surviving on porridge, mashed potato, and boiled rice disappears from the screens. With simmering anger inside and langar (community kitchen) outside, they sit and wage a crowded struggle for their rights, sleeping under tractors and trolleys, waiting for the withdrawal of draconian and now drag-on-ian farm laws.
A diet meal plan sanctioned for healthy living is likely to win more sympathy from the masses and the authorities. Do not jeopardize the mission to bring the farmers of the nation at par with the Punjabi brethren. This scheme is for them, to double their income, to reduce income equality between marginal farmers and march-in-al farmers first. Do not behave like a big brother and a bigger fool. Your doubling of income has to wait till the farmers of India achieve your level first. In the meanwhile, continue serving mankind and feel a surge of collective pride, serve the poor and those in distress, reduce the level of stress, go back, and buy new dress for the next music video. The festivals are all lined up, get ready for Baisakhi (Punjabi new year) and balle-balle, and say cheers to the good life.
Devraj Singh Kalsi works as a senior copywriter in Kolkata. His short stories and essays have been published in Deccan Herald, Tehelka, Kitaab, Earthen Lamp Journal, Assam Tribune, and The Statesman. Pal Motors is his first novel.
Originally published in Borderless Journal