By T S Sudhir
“Are you fasting?” she asked me. I sheepishly replied in the negative. The response wasn’t exactly one of approval. I hoped `not fasting’ wouldn’t mean I was corrupt !
Siri Malayala is a typical soldier of the Anna Hazare army. 21, an MBA student at a college in Hyderabad, who bunked college to be part of the relay hunger strike at dharna chowk near Indira Park in the city. “I am more interested in things of this kind. This is what matters in real life than just academics,” she said, even as those assembled shouted slogans hailing Anna Hazare. And `Bharat Mata ki Jai’.
“Someone has to start the fight against corruption. I believe the revolution has begun though it will take time to gather momentum,” says Siri as she rolls up her sleeves to show me what was inscribed on her two arms. `Mera neta corrupt hain’ on the right arm and `Janlokpal Bill’ on the left.
As a volunteer, Siri was distributing pamphlets explaining what Anna Hazare’s mission is and about the Janlokpal Bill to people, all through Friday. What was the response like, I asked.
“90 per cent of the people atleast took the pamphlets from us. I don’t know how many of them will actually read it. But 10 per cent of them just shooed us away when we tried to give them the pamphlets at traffic junctions.”
Siri tells me how when her aunt (mother’s sister) passed away in 2008, her family found it difficult to get her pension papers processed without paying the concerned clerks a bribe. “That thought has stayed with me that even when one was grieving the loss of a very near and dear one, people in positions of power asked money to get routine things done.”
Later in the evening, I am part of the procession of Hyderabadis walking from Indira Park to Ambedkar statue, candles in hand. Why is the youth angry with the politician, I ask Siri then. After all, it is impossible for the system to work without the neta, so how fair is abusing them and painting all of them with the same brush.
“How many politicians are actually clean,” asks Siri. “Only a handful. If the Lokjanpal Bill becomes a reality, every politician will fear to do anything wrong.” You can’t miss the idealism and the hope for utopia in her voice.
Siri though admits youth like her realise it is a long drawn out process. “My parents encourage me to participate in these kind of activities. We all know corruption works and gets the work done faster. As a result of which we have got habituated to it. It is high time, this changed.”
Just a while back, I texted Siri, congratulating her. The government had agreed to all demands of civil society activists and Anna Hazare will break his fast on Saturday.
The soldier has won the first battle.