Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Bellary Trip

It's too soon for me to talk about Prof. Trilochan Shastry without appearing star-struck. Prof is behind the Association for Democratic Reforms and National Election Watch. I had the privilege to travel with him to Bellary on one of his campaigns to snap people out of their cynicism. This trip had been born out of a request to the prof to do something about the craziness in Bellary. For the uninitiated, Bellary has recently become the epicenter of politics in Karnataka. The money from the mines, it is universally known, routinely makes a marketplace out of the votes.

Before we landed there, prof had managed to reach out to NGOs working in the district, irrespective of whether they worked on Electoral reforms or not. When we got there, there was a healthy gathering that had congregated in the Gandhi Bhavan. What followed next was a master class in how to influence people. While the meeting had begun in an atmosphere of dispassion, by the end of the session, there was an ad-hoc committee formed that couldn't wait to get on the ground to spread awareness about the dangers of selling votes.

We spent the rest of the afternoon in the sterilized cocoons of various civil servants; election observers, the superintendent of police et al. There came my lesson 2. Irrespective of whether the audience was patronizing, indifferent, non-committal or even uninterested; nothing but nothing seemed to bother prof S. It was fascinating to see such unblemished single mindedness. All that despite the knowledge that the results his labour won't show for another decade or so.

I must have learnt something every minute of this trip. I remembered what Santayana said about escaping "into the moral holiday of running some pure hazard, in order to sharpen the edge of life, to taste hardship, and to be compelled to work desperately for a moment at no matter what.". I realized that travel is about knowing my world a little better and in the process knowing a bit more about myself.

My tales of Bellary won't make people jealous. Bellary was never on any of my 'Things to do before I ...' lists. Bellary does not boast the manicured landscapes or the sanitized locales that we love to photograph against. Bellary won't figure in any formula-traveler's almanac. It's no surprise, though, that my trip to Bellary last Sunday is probably my favorite ever
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