Guest post by SATYA SAGAR
Hello folks! I need your help and hence this appeal to all of you!
I have been a journalist for a long time but never managed to write a full book on my own all these days. One reputed publisher has now approached me to write a book about the Maoists and I am very excited about it. The publisher thinks that the Maoists are a very ‘sexy’ topic and I should write about them because as a veteran journalist I am qualified to write on anything under the sun.
Let me give you some background. Basically publishers have figured out there seems to be lots of money in printing anything penned by an Indian writer. Novels, plays, travelogues, diaries, memoirs, collections of old essays, homework notes from school, whatever- because the entire world is willing to read anything written by Indians. It seems people around the planet had assumed all these decadesthat Indians were completely illiterate and now that has been finally proven untrue they want to read EVERYTHING they write.
My problem though is that Maoism is a subject about which I know nothing at all besides one casual encounter in my childhood with a neighbor who was a great admirer of China. Nor do I understand the context in which the events that I am about to describe are happening, after all I have never been to the forest except on a picnic as a young boy. Above all I really don’t know if the people I am using as my sources represent the phenomenon I am trying to report on.
But don’t get me wrong. I am a very sincere person and while my disabilities are many I have never let them come in the way of my success. So I have accepted to write the book and called it “Mowgli meets the Maoists”.
I need you all to read it and send your comments quickly so that I can judge whether this book is going to be successful or not. Of course many of you who may love what I write are free to send off letters to libraries across the globe recommending they they place an order immediately! Thanks!
Given below is an excerpt from the introductory chapter of “Mowgli meets the Maoists”, to be published by ‘Wingless Wonders’, 2012.
The moment the phone rang I knew it was a call from the Maoist contact I had approached for information to write my new book. The ringtone, normally a balle balle Punjabi number, had mysteriously turned into a distinctly Andhra melody. In fact I could even smell hot mango pickles as I picked up the phone.
It was not the guy I thought it was but it was surely a Maoist. How did I know for certain? Simple, the fellow hadthis sing-song voice that reminded me of the late N.T.Rama Rao. As a young lad visiting Hyderabad many years ago, I had the privilege of seeing this great Telugu actor and politician passing by in a motorcade and that was my first insight into Andhra society, culture, economics and politics. The experience at a young age of spotting Rama Rao garu in traffic was very useful to me much later when I finally became a journalist.
“ You are a journalistbased in New Delhi, working for an English daily, have one wife, two kids and half a dog?”
I was startled by the question. How did they find out all that about me?
I asked him suspiciously “How do you know all this?”
“I just searched on Google” said the man in his thick Andhra accent.
Amazing! The Maoists are using Google and the internet these days! I had a very different impression about them, that deep in the jungles they communicated only in sign language or at best whispered into each other ears to convey messages over long distance. I immediately figured out they must be using email also now. How very interesting.
“What is your email address?” I asked breathlessly.
“email@example.com”, came the reply.
But wait a minute, how were they accessing the internet in the forest? Where was the power supply coming from?If solar, then was it the red or the yellow side of the sun they were harnessing? Even more importantly, what version of Windows were they loading onto their computers? Surely a pirated one? Even I, with all my ignorance, understood enough Maoism to know that paying cash forAmerican software would be deeply offensive to their ideology.
It was while thinking along these lines that I got the idea of asking my Maoist friends to meet me in Delhi’s Nehru Place. I guessed correctly that they must be familiar with the place, visiting the place often to pick up pirated software.
“My fellow will meet you in front of the paan shop outside the Samsung showroom” said theAndhra Maoist gentleman (all Andhra men are gentlemen, even if some of them are Maoists). I understood the significance of the location immediately. Paan was something produced by small farmers and so a metaphor for the agrarian revolution espoused by the Maoists. Samsung was an evil multinational and the paan shop guy by encouraging his customers to spit outside the Samsung showroom was provoking a revolutionary upsurge. The color of the spit was red too, how much more symbolic could it get?
Days passed by and I had forgotten about the proposed meeting with the Maoists. Finally one day as I lifted the wet clothes out of the washing machine, the doorbell rang. I dropped the clothes on the floor and ran to open the door. Standing there was this young man to deliver a message to me, “Meeting is fixed, sharp at 12 noon, Sunday, when Nehru Place is crowded and it will be difficult for the police to spot us”. And all this told, again with a heavy Andhra accent.
Having conveyed this information to me the youth fled the spot as if worried about someone following him. Much later I discovered that the boy was in fact not from Andhra but from Haryana. As a Maoist he had assiduously acquired an Andhra accent, which was essential for climbing up the Party hierarchy. Learning Telugu was even more important inside the Maoist Party, especially because in the battlefield most of the commands were given only in that language. So if you did not know the Telugu word for ‘Duck!’ you would end becoming a sitting one for the police. The logic made perfect sense to me.
Finally the day arrived when I met the man who would give me all the secrets of the Maoists and I mean everything, including the color of the socks worn by their top leaders and how much tamarind they used in their sambar. Once again I was in for a surprise, the person sent by the Maoist Party to meet me spoke with a Malayali accent. A Malayali Maoist? Wow! Was that possible? I had always believed that all people from Kerala were either CPM or Congress but obviously some of them used more chilli powder in their diet. (Later on I learnt that Maoists can also have Bengali and Oriya accents, though I can vouch for the fact none of them have a Haryanvi accent for some strange reason.)
“Did you know Manmohan Singh is a Maoist sympathiser?”
“Really? Since when and how?” I asked.
“Well, by selling national interests to foreign corporations, making policies that suit only the very rich and squeezing the rural poor he is helping to expand the Maoist movement” said Arun (Lets call him Arun).
“Surely, if that were the case he would not have called Maoism ‘the biggest internal security threat’? ”, I countered.
“Well, people misunderstood what he was trying to say. By ‘internal’ he meant himself and not the nation. He is the internal security threat because deep inside him he knows he is helping the Maoists grow” said Arun, with that cold, glass eyed look that only hardcore revolutionaries can have. (Much later I learnt Arun in fact had a glass eye, to replace one lost in a battle with the CRPF).
I also noticed while talking to Arun that his hands kept fiddling with something in his pocket. Obviously,I thought, a loaded gun. (Much later I learnt it was a new touch screen mobile phone Arun had got from an old classmate in Delhi, who was now a university professor).
“Robert Vadra, of ‘Mango People’ fame, is a long-time supporter of our movement”, said Arun. I gasped, was that really true?
“Yes, where do you think all the brass we use in our custom made pistols comes from. Top brass quality too”, he said, trying to mask his Malayali accent a bit to gain more credibility with me as a Maoist.
“Also, Rahul Gandhi has been desperately trying to join our underground movement, to escape from his mother constantly pushing him to lead the Congress Party” said Arun casually.
I nearly fell out of my chair, here was the scoop of the decade! Rahul a closet Maoist! Fantastic! My book is now going to be a bestseller!
Of course, I did not reveal my excitement at all and with the calmest countenance asked, “I am an experienced journalist. You can’t fool me. Where is the proof?”
“The proof is also underground, like most things Maoist. If you want details like that I am sorry but you can’t get them all in one sitting in Nehru Place” said Arun.
That made perfect sense once again. In an instant I had a brilliant idea.
“Take me to your leader,to your forest hideouts or wherever. I want to know all your secrets” I said boldly. I knew there was a chance of Arun getting up and leaving, abandoning me to the chai and paan wallahs of Nehru Place forever. After all, he could have simply got upset and said, “Lets call it off”.
However he surprised me once again, “Let me know when, I will book your tickets on www.makemytrip.com”. The Maoists also knew where to book cheap flights, hmmm. (Does the Aviation Ministry know about this?)
And that, dear readers, believe me was the beginning of the most dangerous journey I have ever made in my life. A journey full of suspense, life threatening situations, brutal characters, depression and the constant feeling that everything could be lost any moment. Oh! I was saying all that about the Indian Airlines flight I finally took to a state capital in central India (I can’t tell you which one, as I promised my contacts not to tell anyone).
As for the actual journey into the Maoist infested forests and hills, the tribal people with their colorful costumes, the forest officialsperpetually drunk on mahuaand the drying skeletons of policemen all around you will have to read the rest of the book!
Satya Sagar is the well-known author of no book so far but is on the cusp of becoming a celebrity writer. And if he does not become one, ‘It is all YOUR FAULT!