A showpiece dagger . . !

15

IT’S a small showpiece dagger I hold in my hand, a present from the Mayor of Batangas in the Philippines, when I’d visited the country many years ago. He was a young mayor and I heard quite a gangster and war lord.

There was a reception at the mayor’s palace that evening and one had to see the place to believe the luxury the rich live in, but below everything was the undercurrent of violence which the dagger in my hand personifies.

And as the evening wore on, suddenly the night burst into song and dance. I have rarely heard voices so beautiful.

There were songs which had singers imitating the sound of birds in the background with one plaintive voice singing to his lover.

There were religious lyrics and classical numbers and I was spell bound with the harmony that came from the throats of these strange though beautiful people.

Strange because harmony and violence existed an inch away from each other. I remember walking along the shore of Manila Bay and hearing the voices of the people, some of whom came up and talked with me and were so friendly, and then near the palace of the former President Marcos, I saw a local who had been playing the gui tar, suddenly getting violent and before you could say Hortaleza Cortez, the police had twisted him onto the ground.

Harmony and violence, a strange mixture. And maybe therein lies the reason why a country with people who are basically good natured, simple and friendly but poor have this violence running alongside. They feel that their simplicity and goodness is being exploited and so they are on guard all the time.

To a great extent that’s what is happening in our country. We are by nature a peaceful people. We won our independence by gentle means.

We have drifted through seventy years and more of democracy like a sailing boat that obeys the wavees and does not fight it. But slowly and surely a violence seems to be becoming apparent.

A Lok Sabha meant for debate and argument is seeing physical violence. Leaders, journalists and others are scared their private lives are being snooped into for blackmail. The poor remain poor and watch chosen industrialists grow fat with plentiful.

The bullock cart with worn out wooden wheel rides down furrows while a few metres away foreign fancy limousines cruise.

Religions which teach love and tolerance now have violent followers. We are riding on a tidal wave of a rumbling anger that will soon roar into a crescendo of untold violence if not checked.

Yes, it’s a small dagger in my hand, but I can feel it squirming to turn into a sword. It’s time to stop this anger, bring peace back, and let the dagger be just a showpiece again..!

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