I Bought An Umbrella & Headed Out…

…To The #NotInMyName Protest.

I had planned to write something earlier today, but I took my sweet time waking up. I was tired and was up till late last night, as usual. But I also went out last evening, like I said I would in my last blog post. I pulled up my favourite pair of pants (a dirty olive green corduroy bought on sale), wore my favourite shirt (a slightly oversized, gray wrinkle-free which I’ve been using since the day I left home for college), tied my hair in a ponytail, bought an umbrella (I’m a man of my word) and took the train amidst a merciless downpour. I got the seat next to the window and was smiling over my good fortune. See, I’m like a funny dog who likes to stick his head out of the window. I just wanted to catch the rain and the breeze whizzing by my face. But the man who was sitting across shot me a dirty look and I had to pull down the glass screen. I figured he did not like the breeze, or the fact that he was getting wet. Anyway, my destination was Bandra. I planned to go to a protest gathering at the Carter Road promenade. A protest against the flavour of day these days: lynchings. Every protest since the Arab Spring has been hashtagged and this one was no different. #NotInMyName. What’s in a name anyway? There were many who were questioning the perceived selective identity of the protest and its name or whatever. Which is absurd because it’s just absurd to say “hey, you not protest then, why you protest now?” or “hey, protest this killing too before you protest that killing”. A killing is a killing, man. I don’t know about #NotInMyName, or whether the people across the country were selectively outraging, but outrage is fucking necessary. And if anyone thinks that a particular set of victims of such mob violence are being left out, please do join in and represent. That’s what I feel.

Anyway, I almost missed my station as I was reading something on my phone. I squeezed out onto the platform just in time and headed out to find an autorickshaw. You have to stand in a long queue to get a rick outside Bandra station. The downpour had turned into a drizzle by then. I reached to the protest (which began at 5) about half an hour late. Classic. The turn that leads to Carter Road was completely water-logged, but atleast the drizzle had died down, thankfully. At least a couple hundred people were present at the spot of the protest, with banners in their hands and slogans on their tongues. There could be more as I’m really bad at looking at a crowd and guessing how many people are in it. A couple of OB vans were parked on the roadside and an army of social media journalists were running around in raincoats with their little mics and selfie sticks and camera phones, doing Facebook lives and asking random questions to random people. “Why are you here?” they were asking. “I’m here to punch you in the face,” someone should’ve answered. The place of protest was right next to the sea, a really good spot actually. The breeze was fucking beautiful. And everyone was prepared, umbrellas and raincoats in tow, in case the rain came calling. At least a dozen Bollywood people were also there. I could recognise Kalki Koechlin, Ranvir Shorey, Rajat Kapoor, Vishal Dadlani and a few others. Then there were a few whose faces were familiar but I didn’t know their names. Aditi Mittal, the stand-up comic, was there too. I think I have a crush on her. Anyway, the funny thing was that there were some who were running around trying to get selfies with these famous people. Things one must do at a protest, eh? Another thing that just felt kinda off and funny to me was that the protest smelled of perfume. Weird, right? A protest shouldn’t smell like perfume. It should smell like sweat and anger. But I kid you not, the moment I joined the teeming crowd of people, it felt like I’d entered a Chanel store. Don’t get me wrong, the protest was alright. A lot of common folk had gathered to genuinely call out the mob violence that is fast becoming a norm these days and even the famous people had turned up with their hearts and minds in the right place. But a perfumed protest is weird. Somethings just tick me off. Something always ticks me off. I’m that guy, yeah.

A lot of college students were there as well. A young girl armed with a notepad and a pen walked up to me and asked if she could talk to me about the protest. She was a journalism student and she was covering the protest as an assignment. Internally, I was saying, “Girl, I’ve been there”. The crowd, meanwhile, had broken into a song. Someone at the centre of the circle was beating a drum. I hung around the edges, like I always do. There was storm brewing up over the sea. The overcast skies quickly bruised over and then the rain came lashing down on the protesters with the anger of thousand cow vigilantes. By the time I could scramble open my umbrella, I was already drenched. The protest carried on undeterred, though; songs and slogans matched the storm in defiance and decibel. The police-permission to occupy the space was from 5 to 7. By quarter to 7, the organisers spread out into the crowd and instructed us to disperse peacefully and informed that the next protest would take place in Dadar on July 3. After a final flurry of songs about resistance, people started going their own ways. I had an excellent shwarma nearby, smoked a cigarette and cursed myself for doing so and then reminded myself that I must damage my liver for a successful conclusion to the day. My favourite dive bar, which was nearby, has been under renovation for quite some time now, so I decided to head to my second favourite dive bar. Second, because it’s close to my home and has an old-fashioned feminine name. Have you guys noticed though that most dinghy bars in India have old-fashioned feminine names. Shilpa, Deepa, Madhu, Krishna, Kaveri, Dimple, Geeta, Priya. And the irony is that these hellholes are filled with piss-drunk middle-aged men. You’ll be hard pressed to find a woman pursuing libations at these godless places. Anyway, so I took the train again. Only this time I had to fight for it, because it was evening and I had to head North on the Western line. If you know Bombay, you know what I’m talking about. So after what felt like ‘John Wick 3’, I finally managed to board a train, and got down on my home station. Was in no mood to get stuck in traffic so I chucked the rick and took a hike. It was drizzling but I was already drenched and had somehow not yet lost my new umbrella. My second favourite dive bar is about mid-way from the station to my place. But, mother of anticlimax, it was closed! Motherfuck! The security guard (I say security guard, but it could just be a guy who hangs around there because that’s what he does in life) said that my second favourite dive bar has apparently run into some bank trouble and has been shut for a week now. He had no idea when they’re going to reopen, which sucks because I don’t have a third favourite dive bar. So I just walked back home, dejected that my liver remained as healthy as it was when the day had started. I was one sad guy walking alone in the rain. I was a fucking cliché by the end of the day and felt like protesting this unfair ending. I was tempted to pick up a bottle of red from Bunty’s, but by then I was out of it. The film had already ended. I didn’t write the script, I don’t get to change the ending, I guess. Or maybe I was just tired of all the walking. So I came back home, threw my clothes to dry, towelled myself up and watched Chile beat Portugal’s ass in penalty shootouts in the Confederations Cup semi-finals. Dumbass Ronaldo didn’t even get to his turn to take the spot kick. Who would’ve bet on Claudio Bravo to be the hero of the day after being the zero of the year?

Anyway, where was I? Oh, yeah, I took my sweet time waking up today. Yesterday’s adventure had tired me out. But today hasn’t gone to waste, that’s for sure. Just for you people (and a little bit for myself as well) I ran through the entire Bong Joon Ho filmography and rewatched all his films (except “Snowpiercer”, I’ve already seen it thrice) in preparation to watch “Okja”, which just came out on Netflix. And then I Netflixed “Okja” as well, just before writing this overlong and boring blog post. I won’t say much about the film now, except that I really liked it. I’ll be discussing “Okja” and Bong Joon Ho’s excellent body of work in my next blog post, which I should be done with by sometime tomorrow.

It’s already a bit late, but I think I’ll now rewatch “Snowpiercer” too, because why the fuck not? I mean, Captain America’s in it!

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