Primal Scream

I was driving through Bangalore, past a few men riding the kind of expensive bikes favored by the weekend cyclist, but instead of streamlined Lumen helmets, Gandhi topis on their heads.

A few kilometers away, nearer Freedom Park, I negotiated the car past a crowd of about 50 protestors on motorbikes, a few trailing behind in cars.

In the past the protests that I had witnessed usually involved the beleaguered poor shouting against the atrocities of a government that didn’t care about them until election time. But this time is different: as so many newspaper reports have noted, this time, it’s the urban middle class who are on the streets.

The protests of the past had always been on foot, but this one is on wheels.

Whether or not these protests will help change India for the better, one thing is for certain: these protests are not really about corruption.

These protests are not about any one issue at all. The protests are an emotional outburst, the cry of an aggrieved segment of society, pent up anger, and energy – there is a celebratory self-congratulatory quality to the protests, as if the purpose of the protests is achieved simply by the protest itself.

Down with Corruption! is a battle cry, a collective scream fuelled by the frustration of many injustices; the frustrations of living a capitalistic life in a world governed by relics of the Nehruvian state, but also frustrations that must come from elsewhere, the simmering discontent, anger, dissatisfaction and stress of an emerging middle class that feels its ambitions thwarted in one way or the other.

This is not a protest, as much as a collective catharsis, a group therapy session, the membership of which is marked by wearing Gandhi caps, shouting slogans, anger coursing through the veins.

There is nothing as exhilarating as the power of righteous anger. This is our Woodstock without the music. Our primal scream.

August 21, 2011 | 9:25 am | By Dr Shyam Bhat
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