Saturday, May 19, 2012

Che Guevara On A T-Shirt

Binoy would have laughed if he could. He appreciated the irony of the situation. But, his facial muscles did not listen to him anymore. After one month in the Army camp and two more months in a hospital in Mumbai, his body was no longer a real thing, but a patchwork of sorts, a steel screw here, a stitch there. He stood there and let the young girl have her way. She was looking for a t-shirt for her boyfriend. She was not sure what to pick up till she saw the scarlet number, with a huge face of Che Guevara printed on it. She pulled the t-shirt from the hanger and held it at arm’s length. She was still not sure. It was then she walked up to Binoy and asked him, “Do you like it?” Binoy nodded: “It’s quite trendy.” The girl removed the t-shirt from the hanger and placed it on Binoy’s chest, as if he was actually wearing it, with the face of the popular Argentine revolutionary encroaching upon his tiny frame. The girl made up her mind. She’d take it. Binoy folded the chosen one and showed the girl the billing counter.

The floor was empty after the girl left. Binoy arranged the garments the girl had ransacked in their place and chuckled. There was a time when the legendary evolutionary was his role model. He did not need to wear a t-shirt, his heart was filled with Che’s wisdom, and he was convinced that one day he’d be able to translate these ideals for Asam as well. At last, that’s what Kalitada told him.

They had stepped out to liberate this land.

The land changed, but not the way Binoy and his friends wanted it. It changed as a result of a series of devastating miscalculation and in the process, changed them as well. Kalitada was lucky; his exit came much before the wind of change blew, and after several disastrous years, he, Che’s devoted follower, was a salesman at a swanky mall, a monolith of the capitalism itself.

Binoy would burst out in rage if he could. But, he wasn’t sufficiently alive, even to be angry. The future had side-stepped him, a long time ago.

He had seen those t-shirts with Che Guevara’s famous photographs printed on them the first he came to work here. He knew the picture. But, he did not have the courage to look at Che’s face closely. He could stand those piercing eyes anymore. There was a time when those very eyes gave him hope, the will to go on. Now the war was over and time had forgotten him.

Binoy thought about the girl and her boyfriend, who’d proudly wear the t-shirt. Did they remember the misguided revolution? Did they remember those who died? Did they remember those who betrayed? Binoy doubted it. Those people who came to shop here, the citizens of this state, the future of his land, Binoy observed them from a distance. They did not look like the people Binoy once knew. Binoy did not know them. It was the same Guwahati. But, Guwahati had changed.

There were times Binoy wondered if he should tell his colleagues about his previous life. He was not sure. He was not sure anyone would believe him.

Guwahati had changed. Even for an expert in economics like Binoy the way the retail market in the city had developed over the years was a mystery. Those days when he was in the Liberation Front, economic independence of the state was a major issue. Now, all of a sudden, the city was flooded with money. Where did this money come from? There was a time when Fancy Bazaar was the place if you wanted to buy clothes. Now, you visit Vishal Megamart. Binoy couldn’t complain though. The very shop was his employer as well.

(Part of a short story I am working on.)

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