Yesterday, I took down from my bookshelf a battered copy of 'One Hundred Years of Solitude' to read the chapter about the rains of Macondo. Needless to say, soon I was engrossed in the Buendia family history for the nth time. Flipping back pages, I re-read the chapter before the rains. For those of you who remember, this is the one where Jose Arcadio Segundo(one of the twins, the third generation if I remember correctly) becomes the sole witness to(and sole survivor of) the massacre at the railway station of the 3000 banana plantation workers. When Jose Arcadio Segundo gets back to Macondo after his escape, he is horrified to discover that all memory of the massacre has been wiped out - no one in the entire town remembers what happened, and no one believes Jose Arcadio. The town thinks that he is insane. And then the rains begin.
And I wonder if this kind of selective amnesia is where we, as a country, are moving towards. Or are we already there yet? As P. Sainath asks in this hard-hitting piece,"how much media coverage has been there of workers' problems"? As we cruise along our no-speed-limit autobahns, will we let a third of our country rot? Worse, will we not even remember that we watched them die and didn't do anything about it? Will we not remember that we dismissed concerns about unsafe working conditions claiming that the workers would have been worse off if they did not work in sweatshops? Will we not remember that we demolished homes of millions in order to transform our cities into Shanghai? Will we not remember at all?
Notes/Updates for those of you who wrote in already!
Note 1: No, I am not trying to draw any parallels between Marquez's work and/or the events of Gurgaon and Mumbai during the past week. The labor unrest and the rains were the two events that I read about a lot during the past week and it just happened to be a coincidence that I found both of these issues occuring one after the other in Macondo too.
Note 2: I'd highly recommend P. Sainath's article in 'The Hindu'. Link via Anand. I'd also recommend P. Sainath's book 'Everybody loves a good drought' - its has excellent examples of what community initiatives can do for all-round development.
Note 3: Having grown-up in God's own country, I am very much aware of what unchecked labor power can do. In my opinion, it isn't very different from what unchecked feudalism(by whatever manifestation) can do. So let me make it clear that here, I am talking about basic human rights and not power.