Pragya Bhagat writes from Austin, Texas…
June 28, 2008
The first few hours aren’t hard. I just imagine that I skipped breakfast…and lunch. It’s after half the day has passed that the first gnawing pangs of hunger scrimmage through my stomach, searching for a morsel of food. I wash the desire away with a glassful of water, something that every faster should do ever so frequently. The water temporarily fills me up.
As the day continues, my mind is constantly battling itself. On one side of the battlefield, the scrunching of a newspaper is interpreted as food unwrapping and every smell becomes oh-so-tantalizing. On the other side, I keep telling myself – this is nothing. The Bhopalis are on their 19th day of fasting. If they can do this for more than two weeks, I can do it for a day.
It becomes easier when a few of us gather at the corner of 24th and Guadalupe to collect signatures for the fax campaign directed at Manmohan Singh. There are nine of us, ranging from eight year old Stefanie to 52 year old Jogendra. Spread out on the high people-traffic area known as The Drag, we approach hundreds of individuals over a two hour span. Most of the shoppers on this fine Texas afternoon quickly hustle by us, many read the “I am fasting for justice in Bhopal” speech bubbles taped to our shirts, and some even stop by to talk to us about how they can help.
We try many approaches to increase the number of interested passer-by. Some work better than others.
“Do you have a second to sign a petition?”
“Do you have a minute to talk about corporate responsibility?”
“Yes, I am fasting in support with the Bhopal survivors in India.”
Eye contact. If they slow down, they are more likely to listen. Look for desis.
Two hours fly by and we have run out of our three hundred fliers. The nine of us have collected more than one hundred and thirty signatures. Despite the constant presence of the unforgiving sun, we make it through. I break my twenty-four hour fast with a raisin, having gained a previously unrealized appreciation for those seven hundred plus individuals who are also participating in the Global Relay Fast. I can’t even fathom what nineteen days of fasting must be like, and what sort of self-discipline one must need in order to smile every morning instead of mentally complaining like I did for the beginning of the day.
What has this experience taught me? The fierce seven who are fasting indefinitely have put their lives on stake for the communities that were poisoned twenty-three years ago. These communities can not and should not struggle aloe; we must help in whatever capacity we can to ensure that corporate crime does not go unpunished. Food should not be taken for granted, and water has just become my new best friend. I encourage all of you to support the Bhopalis’ struggle for justice by participating in the Global Relay Hunger Fast. It is definitely an experience you will never forget.