All sound and fury with no morning mist


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By Philip Mudartha, Doha
Bellevision Media Network

Mangalore, 05 Aug 2012: Last Saturday, 28 July 2012, a zealous petty goon in Mangalore led his rowdy groupies to manhandle a group of college students partying and reveling within the privacy of Morning Mist Home Stay situated at Padil, a sleepy suburb of Mangalore far from the hustle bustle of the town. The punitive acts were filmed by television crew and telecast by local channels for live public viewing. Personal phones captured the scenes too, and a few visuals went viral on the internet. The incident attracted wide but partisan condemnation at local and regional levels, a rebuke at the national level, and infamy at international level. In the era of fast food and instant communication, the outpourings of emotion were fast and furious.

 

 

The district and state administration, stung by public criticism from opposition and public at large as well as private pressure from its own factions, swung into action. At the time of writing, the city police have arrested twenty-two men, published their photographs and profiles and filed criminal cases under various sections of Indian Penal Code. The provisions of Karnataka State Goonda Act 1985 are likely to be invoked as well. Under the laws of the land, the state is duty-bound to prosecute the attackers and deliver justice to the victims. The accused have their right of defense in a court of law. It is prudent not to attempt a trial by the media. Therefore, I will delve into this incident and similar ones in the past in the context of the social and cultural environment in Mangalore and its surrounding regions, including villages within Belle Grama.

 

Living in our cocoons as silkworms

My childhood memories of growing up in Belle are primarily of a religious divide among us, Hindus and Catholics, despite living as friendly neighbors. We drew water from the same tank, rivulet and river;  we pooled our resources together in cultivating our contiguous lands; together we ploughed our fields, sowed, transplanted saplings, irrigated the crops, harvested, stocked the grains in straw-barns and annually replaced the straw of thatched-roof houses. Yet, when it came to meals, a gulf separated us: As ‘kirxandakulu’, we ate on banana leaves squatting in the court-yard of upper caste Hindus, and fed the leftovers to dogs or cats. Their cattle were plain holy even to feed on our ‘uxtem’.

 

Between us ‘Bamunn Kristanv’ and lower caste Hindus, the roles reversed; the ‘Korgo-Maar’ was entitled only to ‘uxtem’, if they reluctantly agreed to work in our farms. The Muslim “Saib” and a rare “Nayti” would sell us clandestine beef, home deliver sardines in bulk for composting purposes and trade in our buffalos. Never heard and seen a Muslim crossing the ‘umbor’ or allowed into the ‘chowki’.  We all had our place, Muslims, Christians, Brahmins, Konknno, Bunts, Achary, Maar-Korgo.  Like silkworms, we lived within our own cocoons, emerging only to interact within traditional parameters unwritten but known and adhered to, and living happily in ‘harmony’.

 

When I acquired education, I learnt that this tradition has a name: Vedic culture. I imagine such was the goings on in distant Mangalore of yore as well, even with its status as main bazaar, trading post and sarkari kachcheri in the region.

 

The town burned for three days

In June 1969, I enrolled at St. Aloysius College in Mangalore. In the same year, a communal riot broke out. Private city buses were set on fire, shops were vandalized, a law student of Government College was killed in police firing, students boycotted lectures, section 144 was imposed and the town burned for three days. Word of mouth and whispered gossip were primary sources of information and communication. I recollect having heard that trouble began in retaliation to eve-teasing and molesting of ‘homely’ girl of one community by ‘rowdy’ boys of another community. That was neither the first time the town burned nor the last time. Because girls are girls, boys are boys and boys want only ‘one’ thing since Genesis. On umpteen occasions the sectarian cauldron has been lit, passions aroused, the silkworms broiled and the surviving ones retreating into their cocoons to nurse their bruised souls in anticipation and silent preparation for the next fling.

 

‘Mad boy, come here, and take your ‘tindi’

In July 1969, I was felicitated for being a meritorious student by ABVP, the student body of Sangh Parivaar. Its stalwarts, from the podium inside Canara High School Urva, extolled our traditional cultural values emphasizing on student discipline, hard work, respect and obedience, and above all moral rectitude and uprightness. At 16, I found them to be my personal values too. I spoke approvingly of those values in my address. I do not recall having heard any speaker referring to Hindu, Hindutva, RSS, Jan Sangh or any variant thereof.  Was I hoodwinked in my teen naivety?

 

I moved to Udupi after I joined MGM College. The student attitudes towards each other struck me as strange at first. Suddenly, I was a Christian again. Among my classmates were layers of Brahmins, Bunts, Billavas and Mogaveeras. I rented an annexed room in a Brahmin Nivasa Compound to live as a neighbor to the smiling urbane gentleman doctor politician V. S. Acharya.

 

I became an untouchable while in the compound. The old landlady spent her time terrorizing her husband, grown up sons and their demure wives, muttering curses at me as she passed by my room and reminding to herself that for twenty rupees a month she would not risk the fires of eternal hell. Yet at month beginning, she yelled at me to come by and drop the cash on her outstretched palms striking the pose of ‘kazara mantvantlo mudi xivonk ravlolo novro’. We knew the rules: Keep two feet distance from the entrance door of her holy abode, and wait for her to return with ‘Ye, huchchu huduga, yee sose kaiallina tindi tindu na sayuthene, neenu sattu hogu!’ and drop in my outstretched palms pieces of holige as the official rental receipt. Then she will rush to take her bath to cleanse her ashud’dh state from a deal with the scum of the earth, me the impure infidel.  I often wondered why she underwent this ritual for two years and did not allow her jobless husband, her post-graduate sons or the equally qualified daughters-in-law to stand in for her. On my part, I was cured of admiration of those khaki clad old men who espoused the lofty cultural values at the ABVP meet.

 

Those were the simple days in our lives. Like the birth-death cycle of incarnation, the rebirth of our ancient nation as an infidel kid was not to be accepted but to be suffered as unavoidable; surely, our next birth will be pure, Brahmin and glorious.

 

Baab sangte aylo, sankko bandije..

At national political level, the Gandhi-Nehru faction within All India Congress emerged as the arbiter of our destiny, casting aside both the free market enterprise “Swatantrites” of Rajaji and ‘Janasanghis’ of SP Mookerjee. The communists and socialists remained a force to reckon with, aligned as they were with Nehruvian state planned economic model as well as the utopian apostate ideal of European Socialism.

 

Even as the laudable mission to promote unity in diversity through secularism as state policy was constitutionally adopted, practical methods to change hearts and minds of ordinary people and to reflect it in their daily lives, such as my old landlady, or the habits of people of my village in Belle, were neither legislated nor locally germinated. Secular multicultural India erected on the partitioned subcontinent simmered within muttering curses in private and its religious divide boiling over into riots, murder, mayhem and genocide now and then driven with suicidal fervor. Each bout was followed with police or army flag marches, peace meetings, and more homage to unity in diversity with matching fervor. Only we did not know or had the will to devise practical ways to build the bridges in our hearts. As Muddu Moodubelle would say, “baab sangte aylo sankko bandije...”

 

The aftermath of Land redistribution

At state political level, the Devraj Urs faction of Congress trounced and ousted the conservative factional leaders from Congress Party giving an aggressive socialistic direction to the administration. Karnataka Land Reforms enacted under Urs regime, gave tillers and tenants property ownership rights on agricultural wetlands and kumki dry-lands in what the historical owners of those lands see as daylight robbery by the king of the day. As a personal beneficiary of this law, I would not delve into the ethics or sanctity of employing state power to redistribute wealth or assets, which were once upon a time acquired by the owners through similar means and leased for exorbitant crop- shares as birth-rights from divinity.

 

Fact is the reality that mutts, temples, rich landlords especially Brahmins and Bunts lost huge annually recurring revenues and perennial source of easy livelihood. The beneficiaries are easy to spot, however, in the words of a Bhat acquaintance I meet annually in Mangalore:  “undu poora jameen enkalnaye. Kirxandakalek porbulek pondu. Akulna jokulu kalter, malla ayer, fidai uruk poyer, pira battijer, fukkat’k tikkina pondu fukkat’k, shetr-pujarilu-malyali byarinakulu ulai padyer”.

 

The Mangalorean tiles disappear and sea view takes over

In May 1974, I went and met our ex-MP Lobo Prabhu in his Light House residence. Aristocratic in outlook, he foresaw what lay ahead: Mangalore will be urbanized with high rises and apartment complexes. The traditional tiled houses, villas with meadows and bungalows with manicured lawns will disappear. And future will belong to concrete, steel, aluminum and glass.

 

38 years into that prediction, his daughter and inheritor Giselle Mehta is a prospering real estate developer and builder in Mangalore, among the top ten fastest growing metropolises in India. Hers is only one among dozens of elite address offerings to global investors, at prices the local hoi-polloi can never dream of affording. In fact, even tenements in the mushrooming small time operators among the builders and contractors are beyond their reach. The glitzy malls, sports clubs, pubs and massage parlors, Wine Shops, Bars & Restaurants  exclusive fee paying social clubs, and health resorts & Spas glitter nightly in their neon glory, while the brahmanara upahara griha and sasyahari vilasas fade in the shadowy background. The inheritor and current owner of the landmark Mohini Vilasa who refuses to change his traditional business ways and was my senior at St. Aloysius College concedes: It is losing game. (In January this year, I ate at a traditional breakfast, with him hovering over his loyal customers.)

 

The activist initiation and anointment of hooliganism into holy war

Holy war is not unique to Mangalore and our districts. These lands did not spawn them. Assigning holy intent to human conflicts is as old as prehistoric times, with both mythological gods and historical gods or their namesake waging wars on one another. Survival and propagation of a competitive and rising civilization requires subjugation and destruction of rivals in their decaying or weakening phase or unsuspecting ones.  History is replete with such examples with rise and fall of civilizations, empires, and religious sects.  Crusades, Jihad, Dharma Yudda have dominated our historical discourses as part of modern education.

 

At a micro level, in recent times, the fear of being foreigners on ones’ own soil has spawned political forces like Shiv Sena in Mumbai, Kannada Chaluvaligararu in Bangalore and Assom Gano Parishad in Assam.  Mangalore will not be an exception. The cinders are for picking by ideologues and underground mafia. Who among them will seize the opportunity but those who genuinely are confused, angry, and unwilling to see a second coming of the threat? First, they took by law our farmlands and with it our livelihood; now, they take our culture and women. Who among the mafia but small time extortionists, musclemen and street rowdy will seize the opportunity to make it big without hinder by law enforcing agencies? The heady cocktail of ideologues and petty criminals is to incorporate strong arm tactics through instituting and anointing of hooligans into the cause of holy war.

 

Your holy war is my terror and vice versa

Researching into contemporary Indian politics, I have spent hours listening to various acrimonious and cantankerous speeches of all shades in our Union Flag: green, white, saffron and those not in the flag: red.  I conclude: my holy war is your terror and vice versa. It is free for all for the non-state actors working in close association with factions within the state. It is the state with a suicidal tendency going at its own throat. It is a recipe for an outside power to meddle in our affairs as history has demonstrated and we love to quote: India in its history has never invaded its neighbors, but has always been invaded, looted and marauded time and again. When will we have the time and resources to invade others, busy that we are fighting among ourselves?

 

In the  context of sectarian strife and social tensions in our districts manifested as attacks on Christian Places of Worship in 2008 onwards, the much hyped  Amnesia Pub Attack by Rama Sene in 2009, assorted cow-jacking episodes on highways and rural roads, enticing and kidnapping as well as disappearing stories of young girls especially of low social and economic status among Hindus, threatening and thrashing of Muslim boys found in the company of girls not of their own, and the dramatic enactment of Morning Mist Homestay soap of Ramsey horror kind, let me quote extracts:

 

Sri Vishweshateertha Swamiji of Pejawar Math:

"We strongly condemn the attack by the activists who took law into their own hands and assaulted young women.

 

“However, people should also view the incident in another angle. As per media reports, the residents of Padil said that young boys and girls had been consuming alcohol and dancing obscenely in the homestay for the past several days. Media has reported that illegal activities have been going on in the home stay. Isn’t it essential to investigate this matter and find out the truth?

 

"Is it not the duty of citizens to protest against illegal and immoral activities? There is no doubt that the activists were wrong in taking law into their own hands, but how can immoral activities in home stays be curbed if there is police inaction?

 

"Instead of ’gundagiri’ hundreds of people must come together and stage a peaceful protest. People should create awareness on the issue. It is not enough that youngsters condemn the incident with strong words; they should also condemn immoral behavior in equal measure. Media and thinkers are also expected to put in their efforts in this regard."

 

I understand the holy seer’s conviction: Opposite sexes cannot mix in unsupervised private environs and keep their relationships puritanical. Especially in the presence of alcohol and fusion music, sexual orgies cannot but occur. Sex among consenting adults with intoxicated or otherwise and prostitution in private is not illegal, yes; immoral, yes for majority of us, non-celebs and middle class. Pertinent to note in the accusation of police inaction is his acknowledgement that we as a nation state are a failed one, something we gloat about our arch-enemy Pakistan.

 

The Jamaat-e-Islami Jammu and Kashmir Spokesman Zahid Ali:

“A guest is supposed to respect the sentiments of the host. Some tourists, mostly foreigners, are seen wandering in short mini-skirts and other objectionable dresses openly which is against local ethos and culture. This is not acceptable to civil society at all.

 

"It is the duty of the department officials to impress on tourists to honor local ethos failing which they can even force an angry reaction.

 

"We need no such guests who can become a cause of derailing society from the right track and spread immorality and immodesty in the name of tourism.”

 

The Haji implies that activists of ‘J-e-I’ will take ‘law into their own hands’, an excuse used to anoint non-state actors as state within the state with powers to legislate and enforce its laws as parallel government.  This statement implies that we have a reserve of extra-constitutional but committed militia to impose our vision in preservation of our cultural values. India, as a nation state will face challenges to its authority not only from green, white, saffron and red activism but also from hundreds of its ethnic and tribal groups in coming years, as the pace of change is accelerating but leaves a trail of disillusioned among regions, classes and masses.

 

Safiya Naeem, a job seeker at St. Aloysius College, Mangalore

“When I met Principal Father Swebert D’ Silva for the interview, he told me that I would have to remove my burqa if I get the job. I said I did not mind not wearing the burqa, but I would not remove the head scarf.

 

“If he can wear a cassock, what is wrong in I wearing a burqa? When the college authorities said the rule could not be changed, I rejected the job offer.

 
 
“They have no right to tell me what to wear or what to eat. It depends on my interest”.

 

I see that this conservative Muslim woman rebutting the view widely held by other religious groups that burqa and head scarf is retrograde symbols and keep women from progress.  They want to impinge on her personal liberty to make her own decisions.

 

When Bishop of Mangalore issued his pastoral whip to his women flock to come to church for liturgical services dressed ‘modestly’, I recall that most frequently commenting males wrote to the most popular e-portal approvingly of the pastoral letter. When a section of young girls retorted- why is clergy objecting when our parents do not?-they were greeted with derision and ‘disagree’ buttons.

 

For us, it is a male world there. Alas, even with all progress, it is women who get pregnant while male can sow the seed and walk away, if he so wanted. Like the Tom Cat around Monteiro’s Nest, not too far from Morning Mist homestay. For us men, religious or non-religious, of saffron, white or green or red hues, bridal virginity on nuptial night is a life and death priority. ‘Bastard’ is the foremost abuse that has the power to make a lion out of a wimp of a man among us.

 

The criminals are not born

The society offers them the options and opportunities, just as it offers choices and opportunities to be law abiding. When the society is polarized but is also confused and does not seem to take consistent stands, and is split down the middle into opposing viewpoints, and if there is not a minimum consensus on directing, managing and leading the changes that are inevitably taking place due to education, prosperity, exposure to external influences, parental and peer lifestyles, the social tensions and sectarian strife will continue to visit us. People will get hurt, regardless of being innocent or guilty of accusations and innuendos. That is the price citizens pay for allowing the leaders with narrow sectarian vision to flourish. When hurt, the citizen too has recourse to options of justice: legal or extra-legal. Only silence and inaction is not among the options.

 

 
Philip Mudartha

[..FIRST rank holder of St. Lawrence High School. He not only inscribed his name on the hearts and minds of every Bellean and the neighboring villages, but through out the State of Karnataka as TOPPER of SSLC Board Examinations in the year 1969..]

 

 

Comments on this Article
Philip Mudartha, Qatar Tue, August-7-2012, 11:49
Societies like organizations go through phases of storming, norming, forming, reforming, and re-norming in continually. Those who are incapable to manage these processes of evolution fall by the way side and die.
Philip Mudartha, Qatar Tue, August-7-2012, 11:46
(2/2) Burqa, Head Scarf: The non-muslim contention that Muslim women are forced to wear is not necessarily true. Majority of Muslim women are wearing it out of conviction. The majority may turn into minority as the community reforms. Our own clergy were once bound by cannon law to wear cassocks but not now hen they non-liturgical roles. Our women were once bound by cannon law to wear veil in church, now it is left to the sense of modesty of each individual. many of our women pull the sari pallu over their heads inside church. That swamis are wearing their own ang-vastras during non-religious events but call upon muslim women to uncover is in itself bigotry. The same allies to mullas if they cal upon Hindu women not to wear mangaasutra, bindi, or any such ornament suggestive of their religious identity.
Philip Mudartha, Qatar Tue, August-7-2012, 11:36
Simon, (1/2) Minorities are not safe because a particular brand of Islam is its state religion and thus state power is stacked against minorities. When the constitution of India is overturned to set up a Theocracy on whole or part territory of India, your fears will come true. As it happened to Kashmir Pandits in the valley. What holds true for Mulsim Kashmiir Valley can be true for Christian Northeast, Sikh Punjab, and Hindu Gujarat or Hindu Rashtra. On Changing Village: it changes on its own momentum, leading it and internalizing the changes within us is not cakewalk, but not impossible. Powerful people: They are powerful by the power of their arguments, doctrines and explanation of people s interests and appeal of the solutions they hold out. No one is powerful by divine right. Rules of Institutions: Yes, the managements are exclusively frame the rules and have the right. But, they also change rules according to a changing social mores. For example St. Aloysius switched from only boys in my time to co-ed. It allowed dhoti, mundu, and jubba for teachers in my time, and mundu for boys as long as they do not lift it up and tie up..
Francis J. Saldanha, Moodubelle / Bahrain Tue, August-7-2012, 1:49

With the support from baseless, politically oriented "Groups" will play havoc to get attention and to get some footage on T.V.to spoil all this. So my answer is "YES" we can! Change!!! BTW  a bit late in conveying my opinion on this particular and very informative article Dear Sir, just because it’s Olympics Cricket time as well...

Francis J. Saldanha, Moodubelle / Bahrain Tue, August-7-2012, 1:47
As always the article from our Mudartha Sir is one the best in its own imitable style and the real happenings (good or bad) now and then in our society are very interesting to read, digest and protest to find a permanent solution to it with a strong Law. So that never ever in our civilized society no one should be a victim of this. Yes! I tried to read and get to re-rewind some of the facts which he have been highlighted, are the real issues which cannot be changed overnight especially a vast and diverse country where everyone as a citizen has to do a bit in their own which will benefit and help to develop more and more to keep the this anti-social elements to be rooted out. It will not happen overnight especially whatever development has took place in our costal area is there for all of us to feel and enjoy. But as opined by the writer of this article, everything comes with a price, that price may not be in monies but in other forms. So we have to change with the times. Whatever the earlier generation has gone through from our humble beginning is an experience in itself. So I strongly believe education will bring this change but communal forces and anti social elements...
Simon D Souza, Thirlapalke, Moodubelle Mon, August-6-2012, 3:04
Very good article.Whatever written is true. But, i have some comments. As long as so many cast, creed, religion dominating India, we minorities are safe. Look at Pakistan. Minorities are not at all safe there. Regarding, changing world,very difficult, you, me and Mr. Benedict, with different opinions (we have) cannot even change our village. Powerful persons in India or elsewhere, still dictate their terms.Regarding, dress code of a college, Muslim lady teacher, being an employee, she should adhere the rules of employer. If not quit.Employer will get lot more employees. Working Priests are representatives of school authority(They are the Bosses) and Religious leaders like Muslim Mullas and Hindu Swamijis.
Philip Mudartha, Qatar Mon, August-6-2012, 1:29
I thank all my readers who took their valuable time to express themselves in this forum. My essay is not a fatalistic moan. It is a statement of facts as they are. It does not imply we have no hope of a change coming. Every change comes through pain, just as a mother gives birth to her child in pain including bleeding. In a viewers comments to another story, I promised a sequel on this theme. During the interlude, you are free to read my political perspective at www.udupitoday.com, whereas this was cultural perspective. The sequel will be economical perspective, hopefully delivered over the coming weekend to your favorite home portal.
Philip Mudartha, Qatar Mon, August-6-2012, 1:20
But can you change the world, asks Advocate Benedict Noronha. Yes, Sir. I can, you can and we can. In fact the world is changing every moment. It has never been still and static. It is dynamic like the waters in the river on whose bank your and my roots are. It is because we refuse to accept this natural truth and resist the changing world, the conflicts are inevitable. Every conflict produces victims at the hands of those who were victims of a previous conflict. When and if you will take time from your busy schedules and reflect on the central theme of this essay, you will realize that the change has to come from within: me, you and us. This is completely achievable, because none can stop you from changing except yourself. The essay was constructed to make the point that the communal mindset lives on and literacy has only accentuated the keen awareness of each community as separate, much more than in the past, as a defense against the fear of a changing social, cultural, political and economic environment in and around Mangalore. My penultimate sentence says it all: We are in for a long haul of legal and extra-legal battles, street gang wars and storms. That is not bad..
Naveen Pinto, Dubai Mon, August-6-2012, 8:30
Religion is to discipline the people to live with harmony in the society. When you love too much your religion then people of other religion looks like enemy. Same thing happening in our district. People using religion as excuse to do anti social things. And our politicians are provoking these anti social elements for their personal gains. Law protection people should take tougher steps and punish these such a way that others will not dare to do this type of things in future.
Victor Castelino, Boliye/Dubai Mon, August-6-2012, 8:05
The group looks like a bunch of Chambal Valley dakoos. What better things can you expect from them other than what they did? Your write up reminded me of my life in the village where "aaye - umbe", "aal - mol" and "aar - mer" were the key words to differentiate the castes, irrespective of the age of the person or the position he or she held! Of course, now the things have changed; but not the mind set.
Benedict Noronha, Udupi Sun, August-5-2012, 10:32
Very informative. No time to read in detail. But can you change the present world?
Alphonse Mendonsa, Pangla/Abu Dhabi Sun, August-5-2012, 11:27
Well researched article sir Phillip. Good memories of your village/college days and esp. room in Udupi unbelievable but very much true. Secondly your thoughts on how the system worked, the class, religions took advantages.. etc. sometimes it is very funny, but you have a point to make. Great writing. An apt for the current situation...
Abraham Vincent, Moodubelle/Hyderabad Sun, August-5-2012, 10:24
Fantastic write-up. Keep it up Philip Mudartha.
Ronald Sabi, Moodubelle Sun, August-5-2012, 8:10
Top class article. Analysis and deep thoughts of half a century's evolution! Keep it up Philip.
Praveen Alva, Managlore Sun, August-5-2012, 3:13
our so called leaders are misleading youths and using youth power for their personal gains. The government is under the control of these communal leaders. So it is the time to unite all people and defeat these anti social elements for peaceful living.
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