Saturday, September 15, 2012

Che's T-Shirt

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 day he came to work here. He knew about the picture and the history behind it, how the celebrity photographer Alberto Korda clicked the picture on the streets of Havana the day Fidel Castro’s 26th of July Movement replaced the regime of Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista, finally, on January 1, 1959. That was the day the revolution had won. The pictures was part of a series of photographs of Fidel and Che and Korda did not even bothered to print this particular picture till years later, before it would become the symbol of revolution, of idealism itself, before capitalism started to cash on it, and before pop culture reclaimed it as the very icon of dissidence.

Now, for Binoy, things had changed so much that he did not have the courage to even look at Che’s impassive visage. He couldn’t stand those piercing eyes anymore. There was a time when those very eyes had given 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? Those who were betrayed? Those who lost? Binoy doubted it. Those people who came to shop here, the citizens of this state, the future of this land, which once he loved so passionately – Binoy observed them from a distance. They did not look like the people Binoy once knew. Frankly, Binoy couldn’t relate to them. He found it hard to believe that it was the same Guwahati, the same city where once, he was the brightest spot. Guwahati had changed.

There were times Binoy wondered if he should tell his colleagues at the shopping mall about his previous life. He wasn’t sure. He wasn’t 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 grown over the years, was a mystery. Those days, when he was in the Liberation Front, economic independence of the state was a major issue. The state had resources, but not a viable economic machinery to exploit these resources on its own. Now, all of a sudden, the city was flooded with money. Where did the money come from? There was a time when the crowded by-lanes of 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.

[Excerpt from a short story I'm working on tentatively titled 'che guevara isn't just a t-shirt'.]

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