Dharna day 14: what is this hope, what is this music, dancing in the face of despair?

The world is full of suffering, it is also full of overcoming it. –Helen Keller

More than what I see in the physical presence of the dharna is what I try and understand about the feelings of the people who have been here at the dharna this year. I mostly wonder about their strength in dealing with suffering spanning 26 years. What is this hope that still has a spark of a child’s eye. What is in the music that pulls up the oldest of the lot to dance and to cheer up the youth. What is in a huddle where women talk and girls play. And what is in the hope that has lasted two and a half decades and still continues to sit in an unreserved train compartment and travel for almost a day to reach Delhi every year.

What is in Shanti bai’s words when she pulls you and makes you sit with her, just to talk and to discuss her numerous medicines (she usually complains of rashes and sore eyes) . The group where Sakina, 25yrs old, runs after her 4th child Arif, plays with her daughter Sana, 8 yrs old (who has the throat tumor), and meanwhile tracks us all on the phone, scolding you the days you disappear. What is in the inquisitive voice of Banno bee when she asks about the ongoing Kashmir dharna, which is happening at Jantar Mantar for the second evening in a row. To describe this in an overly short and naive manner, it is this spirit of togetherness that has lasted them the strength to overcome the daily sufferings.

waiting for lunch
Food is cooked at the dharna site and distributed at lunchtime

Today we shared Jantar Mantar with the Burmese community protesting the military junta in Burma and freedom of Aung San Suu Kyi. They have been a persistent presence in Jantar Mantar. The afternoons are getting hot and humid, leaves dont move and birds stop chirping. The roads are quiet except for the buses and the kaka who brings chai at regular intervals. Under the big yellow tarpaulin things move in a slow manner on such days. Arif also gives up digging the pavements and cuddles with his mother for a siesta. They are all leaving today for Bhopal, towards the evening people start packing up and the idea of train travel fills up the air. They start moving around and saying their goodbyes to everyone at the dharna. Its a big group which is going to travel back to Bhopal and we wished them a safe journey.

The world is full of suffering, it is also full of overcoming it . And we are together in this. There will be a new set of faces tomorrow morning and the Bhopal dharna 2010 continues.

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