India’s Tahrir Square (Jantar Mantar) on a Sunday

A typical protest at Jantar Mantar[/caption] Stop the Swears: An abandoned shanty, with a lone poster that reads “ Stop swear words for sister/mother” A noble thought; but you wonder if setting up a tent on Jantar Mantar will have the government enact a law in parliament. Or will it change one of the favourite habits of Indian men, besides ogling and brushing past women, spitting betel juice or using walls as open air urinals. Protest against Jaypee Builder: A group of educated and affluent people in black tee shirts and jeans are holding a high decibel protest against prominent builder Jaypee Group. Like in numerous other builders operating in Delhi-NCR region, the group promised delivery of flats in 2-3 years to buyers and took 90-95% money. With per apartment cost anywhere between 25 Lakh to 2.5 crores, there was a massive investment by 35,000 buyers. And now after 5-7 years the projects in Wish Town (a massive independent sub-city with numerous apartment projects), the buyers are still waiting. They clap and raise high pitch slogan against the Jaypee group. A photographer takes their photos, which he offers for sale at Rs 50 per print after an hour. After impassioned speeches and slogans that the enterprising middle-class buyers record on their mobiles for sharing on WhatsApp and social networks, the crowds mellow down. The sight of a news reporter with a Handycam and a mike raises their spirit. Women, senior citizen, and young children step forward to speak to the eyes of the lens, hoping against hope that their voice will be heard and their grievances solved. The homebuyers are served with Samosa, bread, gulab jamuns and 100 ml mineral water bottles to recharge their batteries, before the protest starts again. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m2xhmswdDHA Kathputli Protest: By far the biggest crowd puller is a group of protesters that dressed up as Kathuputlis or puppets. They belong to a colony of puppeteers, snake charmers, magicians and other street performers who live in a forgotten slum colony of Delhi. Their speeches are interlaced with entertaining performances that delights the audience. They are demanding the one room flats promised to them by the government. They are not overtly bothered by the people already living in Rohini that have threatened to surrender their flats if the slum dwellers of the Kathuputil colony are given flats in the same complex as the current residents. OB Van and Media Coverage: The protesters also are eyeing the OB Van of a news channel. But it seems it is a permanent fixture here and any journalist or cameraman is yet to move out the mobile transmission unit to record the grievances of the India’s Tahrir street. Palika Bazar Flea Market: As the day winds up, protesters make their way to the flea market outside of Palika bazaar that is a major draw for tourists for being an undergournd market. The crowds are throning and liberally bargaining for items as diverse as jeans to mobile phone covers, pirated version of popular spececales to leather belts. India flag in Central Park: Another sight to behold is the giant tricolor, the flag of India waving in the central park. Perhaps the promise of the semi-functional democratic republic that was built on the ashes of the Britisher’s hasty departure from the sub-continent. In the words of the famous author Shashi Tharoor’s The Inglorious Empire. Reverse Vending Machine Free Coupon: Quite interestingly, the biggest draw for the crowd, a mere stone throw’s away from the India’s Tahrir Square is the reverse vending machine. There is a crowd of curious onlookers, who see the attendant of the machine insert an empty plastic aerated drink bottle taken from a middle aged man and take out a slip. “What is the slip for?” asks the crowd. “You can get a discount on lemonade and host of other things using this coupon,” the attendant informs the crowd. Only a few, it appears, have understood what he has told them. But are curious enough to linger on and see the next ‘transaction’ being done on the wonder-machine. [caption id="attachment_11912" align="aligncenter" width="506"] Tricolour at Jantar Mantar[/caption] India has seen everything; from Muslim invaders to dharma following Hindu rulers. Ashoka the great had ruled and taken it to glory, while British had ruled the entire subcontinent with an iron fist. Since independence, India has experienced both democracy,  and dictatorship (in the guise of emergency imposed by a prime minister to keep her hold on power). It has also seen ‘I am mum’ to ‘I am the best’ prime-ministers. But what sets India apart from other nations of the world including the colour revolution or Arab spring nations is that its Tahrir Square is filled with peaceful protesters, whose hopes may be dashed but whose inherent belief in the river of karma prevent them from marching to the seat of power and overthrowing it in a violent people’s coup. But that last strand of legendary tolerance of the Indian mind/psyche is also under strain as was seen during Nirbhaya protest or demonstration and the continuing upsurge in violence in campuses across Indian universities. Will India’s Tahrir Square continue to be a laid back Sunday protest venue, or will it change into something more dramatic and serve as the womb of a new revolution; only time can tell. Vickram E.Diwan is a published short story author, blogger, copy-editor and journalist. He regularly contributes to various news and writing websites. //

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