Mohammed Zahid's home. Extra Shots from How do you keep the faith?
The story of 7 Muslims of Malegaon who spent 5 unjust years in jail In Tehelka by Sai Manish.

This is where Mohammed Zahid's family lives. Zahid was one of the originally accused in the Malegaon Blast case and then let off. This is how his family lives. This is most of us live. When we open a tap there is no water. When we toggle a switch, nothing lights up.

In Malegaon, almost all homes have these recycled chemical barrels to store water. The rich have space to store it indoors, 99% of them have it crowing their door steps.

Also look at the storage space in the home. Recycled lockers.

We get along with things we stand in queues and collect. Lock up whatever we get hoping that it will be useful. We allow nothing to go waste.

Today, the queues are not as bad it was 20 or 25 years back, for some, but the majority have no option but to stand in queues. The politicians continue to come with new ideas to make us stand in queues with their meager handouts and a fat commission for the middlemen-hoarding-herders. They hope that we will also queue up and vote for them one day for giving people the privilege to stand in queues. They, led by Rahul Gandhi, talk of two Indias. But the two Indias are probably the ones who don't and they who get to stand in queues. If they can get us to stand in queues they can control us. If you refuse to stand in queues...

It's also funny to see how other politicians mock Rahul Gandhi. To make himself worthy of being a Prime Minister in their eyes, he should probably engineer a riot or two like his seasoned friends. Order a few killings that do not lead back to him. Find a nice province for himself where he can collect more money than regional leaders to fund elections. How will he lead a war against Pakistan or control our atomic bombs if he can't do these simple things that even petty politicians do every day?

Politicians can order killings and tie-up with the most wanted Indian who lives in Pakistan and build towers. But if you are an ordinary man, stand in that queue and thank generations of politicians who dole out subsidized FCI grain, don't make friends or talk to people who have SIMI or any suspect links like Zahid did. Even if you haven't killed anyone or thought of making a bomb that will kill someone, you could be in jail just because you spoke to someone suspicious. Zahid's dad (picture below) warned him to be careful of the friend he makes, but he never guessed that it would take away the prime years of his life.

The Life and Times of Michael K.

There's a 1983 book by the South African writer JM Coetzee called The Life and Times of Michael K. It's about a slow man with a cleft lip who grows up and lives in "war-time" South Africa. It's cleverly written. It doesn't mention the colour of anybody's skin or who is fighting whom. That also makes it easy to draw parallels with any conflict in the world, India, and the plight of an individual caught in it. Michael K is defined by a man on the opposite side of the conflict, in one of the pages, like this:

" With Michaels it always seemed me that someone had scuffled together a handful of dust, spat on it, and patted it into the shape of a rudimentary man, making one or two mistakes (the mouth and without a doubt the contents of the head), omitting one or two details (the sex), but coming up nevertheless in the end with a genuine little man of the earth..."

The book is the journey of the little man of the earth trying to escape the system. There are probably many Michael Ks in India. There are episodes in the book that will remind you of the innocents who are picked up and branded as enemies of the system. In Malegaon, Mumbai, the heart of India and the borderlands.


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