15

Gujjar riots 2: Revisited

Posted by Yashika Totlani Khanna on 11:31 PM in ,
5th October 2007
Friday
Jaipur

(Yeah, this happened a lot of days back but I’m penning it down today cause my writings had taken a beating due to what was going on in my personal sphere. Now after the wind has passed and the dust has settled in a fashion I highly favour… the pen was bound to come out soon).

The incident happened on a perfectly chirpy day when the air deceits you into believing that all would turn out to be fine. Here’s a glimpse into what happened:

10:00 am:
The news headlines are playing and I’m sitting lazily in my living room, brooding over what plagues our country over a cup of coffee. I’m home for vacations and the nitty-gritties of daily domestic life are playing themselves around me. Mom is in the kitchen fixing us a quick breakfast and dad is on the phone spelling out instructions to the engineer about how the new kitchen that we’re getting done should look like. I’m taking it all in with quiet satisfaction at the fact that some things never change… no matter how long you stay away from home. One quick glance at the clock and I realize I need to go pick Rahul, my younger brother, from school. His exams are going on while he’s also trying to recuperate from a sorry medical condition. In my quest not to be late, I quickly finish my coffee, grab the car keys and am on my way.

10:20 am:
Now going to the school was not a problem. Neither did it intimate me of the dangers that lay ahead on my way back. You see that’s the ‘beauty’ of living in a small town… you never assume that you’ll ever get stuck in anything even remotely close to a riot.

I made it on time and after some quick questions about how the exam was, Rahul and I were on our way back. Now anyone who is even sparingly aware of the roads and routes in Jaipur should be able to make more sense of what follows. We were coming back from M.I. Road, where St. Xaviers is located, and were going towards Hawa Mahal, the area around which I live. At the Ajmeri Gate Chauraha, I was waiting at the red light. The traffic in the city has evolved and one might be forced to wait for two, even three, red lights before he is finally allowed to pass through. In normal circumstances, I would object to such long waits and succumb to road rage. But today was different because of two reasons. Firstly because I was happy about the homecoming; and secondly because I was getting to drive daddy’s new car. Glasses up, a.c. and loud music on, I was oblivious to what was going on outside. Two red lights down, it was my turn to move ahead. Now this is where your ears should perk up… out of the blue, I see this huge mob approaching the road from our left. The trajectory was such that while the cars ahead of me could just manage to slip away before the mob arrived… I was amongst the unfortunate few who were left behind. As the mob blocked the way, I realized I had crossed the red light (so there was no turning back) and couldn’t even move ahead because the mob now surrounded my car. Lathis and banners in place, for a second I thought it’s all over. The next few seconds were spent in turning off the music and trying to come in terms with the fact that if nothing else, I’m at least losing my windshield today. Looking at the slogan-shouting, banner-flaunting crowd… I knew no mercy would be spared. My brother was sitting next to me, not fully aware of what was going on. The bemused expression in his eyes just gave way to his confusion, but not the slightest hint of fear. Adding fuel to fire was a media photographer rapidly clicking away pictures of the two of us trapped in the once-cozy confines of our car.

Hmmm… I noticed I was leading a blue car right behind me (the rest had stopped at the red light itself) and decide to take a left turn from there. Left… the direction from where the mob was coming. I still don’t know what prompted that decision but my only bet was to stick to my guns. The car behind me followed. So far so good… the lathis hadn’t hit the windshield yet. Behind me, the motorcyclists were being manhandled. Their bikes were history and their faces were a huge red web of terror.

I weaved my way through the mob… tried talking to a traffic cop who, unfortunately, was as baffled as me. Realizing he wasn’t going to do any good… I looked around for an exit and quickly spotted one at the far end of the road. The challenge: reaching there unhurt. Then the added responsibility of taking care of my brother was weighing down on me. Glasses still rolled up… I took a deep breath and started moving towards the elusive end. A distance of roughly 60 meters had to be covered but the pack of people weren’t making things any easier. I had covered a good 35 meters when, inevitably, fury found me. A group of protestors, seeing a car trying to get away, turned furiously towards us and were about to bombard our vehicle with their lathis when something transpired between us and them. The fury in those angry eyes toned down immediately when they saw a hapless girl behind the wheel and her little brother sitting with a quiet expression on his face.

Now, call it fate or luck or providence or whatever you mortals like to call it--- but the protestors actually made room for us to pass through and I, grabbing the opportunity before they changed their mind, quickly zapped my way to the exit. Looking at the rear-view mirror, I saw that the blue car behind us had also been allowed to pass because the occupants were a harried looking senior couple. Letting out a sigh of relief… we made our way home without even turning back once. Let bygones be bygones!

Epilogue:
On reaching home, we narrated what had happened to mom and dad who literally flipped out after hearing the whole description. Evening papers later in the day were full of stories about what was going on in the city. For the uninitiated, I wouldn’t mind giving a lowdown on what the riots were all about. These were the infamous Gujjar Riots. Gujjar is a community in Rajasthan that is demanding ST status to increase the ambit of reservations available to their class. The government, obviously not okay with the demands, is resisting the pressure that the Gujjar’s are now trying to create by initiating a spate of unprecedented riots in the state. In the fray are big Rajasthan MPs and MLAs including hotshots like Sachin Pilot and Nathu Singh Gujjar.

Just to bring it to focus, the Gujjar riots have had a bearing on my existence in the past as well. Read more about it here. One sincere request to the people and government alike is to show better cooperation and at least ensure that normal life isn’t affected due to trivial tiffs and disagreements. Its not pretty, its not convenient, and it almost definitely violates the rules of staying together in a harmonious society.

2

CATastrophic

Posted by Yashika Totlani Khanna on 12:12 PM
C.A.T. - the hype and hoopla that this three-lettered word generates would put George Bush (caught in another dopey act) to shame. Come November and the media enters a crazy frenzy - covering every single move that the candidates appearing for the exam make, making documentaries on what it takes to bell the CAT, presenting the already hassled students with institute profiles, vital stats, health tips, stress-management techniques, et al. As if appearing for one of the world's toughest exams wasn't enough, students are made to grapple with all the ballyhoo surrounding this newly christened 'do or die test' (read: CAT).

Its general knowledge that the Common Admission Test, or CAT, is an all-India test conducted by the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) as an entrance test for the management programmes of its seven business schools (located each in Ahmedabad, Bangalore, Calcutta, Indore, Lucknow, Kozhikode and now Shillong). We also know that the number of students taking the exam grows with each passing year. With over 2,00,000 students fighting for the coveted 1200 seats that the IIMs have to offer, the tussle to enter the hallowed portals only gets tougher with time. Even with a top 1% score, a candidate must also cross the equally stringent hurdles of a group discussion and a personal interview. All this taken collectively makes the procedure more selective than all the Ivy League Universities put together. Operating in circumstances like these, the last thing that an aspirant wants is media-attention and critical-performance-scrutinization at every step.

Names like Career Launcher, IMS, Time, PT Education, Roots Education, Alchemist, etc. are synonymous with MBA test preparation and are etched onto public memory. Cut throat competition, peer pressure and sometimes parental persuasion coupled with filling complicated application forms and handling challenging sections like Data Interpretation, Problem Solving, Verbal Ability and Reading Comprehension define what goes on in the life of an aspirant for months before the third Sunday of november arrives. Add to this taking innumerable mock CATs in simulated surroundings and the mental agitation that surfaces as an obvious aftermath of bad percentiles. All this describes the plight of an average test-taker, though not denying that things can be different for some sections of people (if after reading this line you've broken into a smile, congratulations, you're the 'section of people' I am talking about).

The good part, its not as horrendous as it sounds. The seven-figure salaries, the intellectual stimultion, the 'branded for life' feeling, the institute experience and the useful things that one learns in the process makes it all worthwhile in the end.

One bone of contention though. The 'media hype' surrounding this one particular exam results in a lot of undesirable things. For starters, it results in adding yet more importance to the already illustrious institutes at the expense of their lesser-known coevals. There are other deserving institutes in the fray which the media tends to overlook. With atleast 98-99 percentile as the cut-off for IIM calls, other institutes with even 97.5 percentile as their cut-off are grossly sidelined and their roles majorly underplayed. For the candidates who miss the A+ grade, premier b-schools by even a 0.1 percentile deficiency (and the numbers run into hundreds), its nothing less than spending the rest of their lives in an inferno. This reflects on the extent to which the media generated hype has affected the brand-equity of our b-schools. So much so that CAT is being used as an umbrella term to cover most of the other management entrance exams in the country as well. Acute depression, guilt-pangs, reduced self-esteem, lower feeling of self-worth and a humongous beating to the self-confidence creeps into the lives of those who end up taking the test too seriously and failing even slightly.

The solution to this problem lies in bestowing the other almost equally good b-schools with their due credit and making the junta realize that missing the school of their dream by a negligible margin doesn't make them unworthy in any way. Its all a matter of luck and chance that our contemporaries may get into places that we always thought we deserved to be in. Being too harsh on oneself is not an option and key to a happy life lies in scanning the other options and to continue giving it your best shot. Even getting into foreign institutes might prove to be less mind-numbing!

A parting shot for the media would be to focus their energies on talking-up other institutes rather than putting the spotlight on the already celebrated ones. Some attention to the candidates is good but going overboard with the coverage of everything related to CAT only makes them more anxious and far more jittery...

3

I'm famous!!!

Posted by Yashika Totlani Khanna on 12:03 PM

Guess who got published on CNN-IBN's online news portal http://www.ibnlive.com/ !!! Yes yes, you're right... yours truely got her own blog there! Thats like taking my passion for writing and expressing one step ahead. Ok I'm providing the link below... check and comment!

http://www.ibnlive.com/blogs/author/1276/yashikatotlani.html

And keep visiting!

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