Around two days ago, I heard news [I was listening to a radio program], that the Indian Airline pilots have called off their strike after some 58 days of a long battle. It is said that it’s an out of court settlement. All of the guys, who left or got fired because of this, are keen to come back from this week. What was the strike for, what the demands were, and if these demands were met or not; is of no consequence to the people who suffered on the airports. They grumbled at first, then sighed heavily and found other alternative solutions. That’s just life.
Strikes in India are always colorful. Sometimes under Red, Orange, Blue, Black; very rarely they are under the national flag. Especially, in Kolkata region and Maharashtra, they can just happen and end at a moment’s notice. I experienced such drama once , during one of the numerous rickshaw strikes that happen in Mumbai. I was still a first year STUDENT, doing data collection from various mobile stores. My area was thane, Kalyan and Dombivali. When I realized that there was no means to go back to the station which was really far away and public transport was not to be trusted [according to local sources there was only one bus coming for each hour], I kind of panicked. After running around frantically; literally begging to the rickshaw guys to take me to station, I realized that the situation was hopeless and sat on a roadside just like other people.
My face must have looked extremely pitiful, cause some of the local ladies took pity on me and invited me to hop in on the their tempo. Of course sitting in front with the guys was out of question, so I climbed the back side. The ladies were quite agile for their age, because it took me an effort to climb it. I will never forget, sitting with all the vegetables, listening to their loud chat, occasionally taking part in it, and laughing loudly as if I was one of them and nothing else in the world mattered. Some of them started commenting on the ongoing strikes. Believe me, these comments were full of black humor and compared to us educated people, they were quite thorough. “Beta,” one of the aunties told me, “when you spend your life carrying vegetables on your head, you become smarter eventually.”
Not everybody was enjoying it the way I did. I clearly remember that strike lasted for about three days. Being a season for board exams, many students suffered. The BEST, TMT, KDMT [these are the public transportation services in Mumbai and around] issued extra busses just for that period, but for such a huge population they weren’t enough. This is just one example. The question arises is this, are these theatrics really useful? The common masses suffer pointlessly, while a group of people fight for their rights. No, I am not saying that doing this is wrong. But the methods of such actions of justice are too much. I took a walk once through KEM hospital area, that day happened to be the second day of the strike of resident doctors. While the reason for the strike was right, but the pain of all the patients who were waiting for the treatment, was it right?
The answer is vague. Both sides have their issues. The party on strike also comprises of people, with families to feed. The rickshaw drivers have to balance the petrol cost. The resident doctors want some protection against the violent relatives of patients. The BMC staff wants their 6th commission pay. Just think, did they get it? The people of the past generation can tell you the stories of Dutta Samant’s fight against all the mill owners in Mumbai. Do you want to know further? The strike is still going on, even after assassination of Dutta Samant, the mill compound being turned into malls, the whole generation of mill workers lost in dark. All they demanded was some share as well as living quarters, which still haven’t been granted to them.
Its just that overuse of the weapon has lost its impact. We are a forgetful bunch of people. The first time Anna Hajare fasted, the whole nation was on uproar. The second, the third, nobody cared much, not even the media. Once the opposite group sees the attack, they devise some strategy against it. Even in our legal system, there are such openings. For example, read the labor law. It takes a long time for a person to ask for rightful justice. And in between, time just flies. And we keep forgetting about such incidents, and find other alternatives to continue with our lives; shifting from a dramatic intervention to the normal monotonous life.
Let’s just hope that the next time a strike happens around us, we’ll spare a minute to understand the both parties before cursing them ruining the momentum of our daily lives. It maybe naïve on my part but I wish that everybody will have an enjoyable time like I did. The color fades fast when there are so many minds to be painted. I’m sure that the people will devise some new ways to show their distress. I just hope that they would not end into tragedies, as some of the dramas tend to do.
Aditi A. Khawle