A note on this post. I put it up quite some time ago, in my private blog, because I didn't think I was ready to have people read this about my father and have stuff to say about it. I re-read it yesterday and decided that he deserves that his story be read. I have removed the details because I still am personally not ready to see them in print, but this story deserves to be told. It's not his alone. Many people are writing about those days, and the days that went before, and it's my generation who will have to ensure that the lessons don't die out.
Maybe I'm posting this at last because I hadn't realised before how many misguided people there are out there who might actually forget that movies like Rang De Basanti are only movies, and not solutions to their daily problems. Greatbong's latest post probably nerved me to put this one up today.
Read on. If you have something to add, do so. Don't tell me how it made you feel. And I might not respond to comments on this one. It hits too close to home for me.
The Lost Generation
Reading this got me writing this post.
We don't talk about it much, and our generation was protected as far as possible by our parents who refused to speak of their lost youth. Since I grew up outside Bengal I was even spared the horrors my friends heard as they outgrew their childhood.
But somebody must speak. I can't, because I don't know the story. But I did sit at the dining-table four months ago and hear my father speak in a stranger's voice about things which still give me nightmares if I think too long about them. I don't know all of what they did to him. He was not a Naxalite, but many of his friends were. He was picked up by the police, and tortured, and attempts were made to get 'information' out of him. That he was got out and then hustled out of the state was largely due to his father's influence (my grandfather was a well-established barrister) and my father's own excellent academic record.
But the trauma doesn't go away, does it? I sat by and heard my father sit there reciting a long string of names -- all of them first names or people refered to as such-and-such's brother, so-so's daughter -- the way I would chat amongst my friends when telling them about the children I had grown up amongst. Baba grew up among these people too, but he lived to outgrew his childhood. They 'disappeared'.
That was one story I heard. Later that night, I was chatting with V (since this was before the marriage we were still in separate cities) and he told me about a great-uncle of his, who had been in the police force during the Naxal era. He, as a young child, had heard some of the stories from this uncle, who believed that the stories should be told, if only in the hope that somebody learnt from their mistakes. So he told a young child about man-hunts and lynchings and brutal orders from authorities to annhilate the brightest of the youth.
My father's generation refers to themselves as the lost generation. And so they are. They lost the idealism that ignited their parents, they lost their friends and many of them lost themselves. My father's story upset me because I hated to hear such things. But it upset me personally because it explained many of the contradictions that we see in him, the violence I still have bad moments remembering. That evil can twist a person's mind beyond their own control is an abstract concept few will disagree with. Try living with that in action. Try watching your eight-year-old brother get thrashed within an inch of his life just because your father grew up on violence. Watch that same father enthuse over the death of a man whose only known crime was that his father had helped eliminate hundreds of Bengal's children.
The Naxalite movement, in all its wisdom, did much to damage my brother's childhood, something only my mother and I ever acknowledge.