When I first heard it, I thought she was joking. But when I saw how she hasn’t blinked or moved at all even as I laughed it off and rolled my eyes, I realised she was serious.
‘How is that even possible?’ I asked ‘Why would they do that? That doesn’t make sense at all.’
‘My mother said that a week ago a mob marched near her native home singing anti-government songs. So they banned it,’ Tanny said.
‘Oh my god! How did you mother come to know about it, anyway?’
‘My aunt lives there. She send her a letter as soon as she found out.’
I couldn’t believe what was happening. And this was the first time I’m realising the gravity of the situation. Our government has banned a couple of things since the beginning of this century. My mother told me, in her days there used to be a device called cell phones and there was a range of things that could be done with it; starting from calling and messaging and also playing games, and even financial things like banking and money transfer. At first I didn’t believe her, but when my father also confirmed it, I thought maybe it was true. She also said how, when she was little, there were a very few bans, anyway not like the kind of bans we see now.
But now banning happens on an almost daily basis. It’s like death. We are sad that people die, but there’s nothing we can do about it. Similarly, there’s not much we can do about it, ordinary people like you and me can’t anyway. I mean, that’s what I believe in.
‘How are we going to live dude? I can’t live without music,’ she said with a kind of numbness in her voice I’ve never heard in her before.
‘I don’t know,’ I replied.
I honestly have no idea. Music is my life. Every day I wake up and sleep with music. I spend hours singing songs with my guitar. I write a new song every week. Music is like my better half. Banning music is like the death of a part of me. What would I now do for hours at home? Study? It’s like making a cow eat flesh instead of grass. We all know how that goes. But now I understand. I understand what my mom felt when speech was banned. Two months ago, government banned any sort of public speaking.
In classes, teaching was monitored by government officials to make sure that no teaching of political significance was taught or even mentioned. Offices had them too. Every school had a group of government officials permanently recruited solely for this purpose. My mother was shattered. She was an excellent speaker. She used to give talks on various programmes. She was a political analyst. After this government came to power, her career had been going down the graph. And after the ban, it’s completely over. And now, it’s over for me too. The only thing I’m good at is music. What am I without it?
I also kinda felt guilty for not at all paying attention to what was happening around. Whenever mom talks about it, I used to plug my headphones to my ears and shut her out. But after the speech ban I know things were getting serious and now… I definitely do.
‘We have to do something about this. We can’t just sit here while the only thing that we love is being taken away from us,’ I said.
‘I know but what do we do?’ she said.
‘We can probably have like a strike’.
‘But strikes are banned,’ she replied.
She rolled her eyes, ‘A month ago. I told you this.’
‘I don’t remember,’ I replied.
‘Then let’s have like a march with slogans.’
‘Marches are banned and so are slogans.’
‘Are you serious?!’
‘Then… Let’s distribute notices.’
She just gave me a you know what look.
‘It’s banned too? Unbelievable. So there’s nothing we can do?’
Suddenly school speaker started to buzz. Then came the principal mam’s voice.
‘Listen children, schools won’t be functioning from tomorrow onwards. You will all sit at home and study and your parents will appoint tutors for you. This is done in the greater interests of our country to make sure that none of you form unnecessary groups or organisations. You can collect your TC from the office. May all of you have a bright future.’
We both just stared at each other speechless. Did the government just ban schools?!
I needed something to drink. So I took out my bottle of juice. Suddenly someone tapped me on my shoulder. It was our senior.
‘Hey Megs, you can’t do that.’
‘I’m drinking juice.’
‘That’s banned dumbo. Keep it in your bag and throw it away when you reach home.’
‘Wait..did you just use that word?’
‘You said that again,’ she looked at me with a troubled face ‘you did two things that are banned. I’m gonna have to turn you in or I’m gonna get in trouble.’
She started grabbing my hand.
‘What are you doing?’
‘This is the third time you’re using the ‘w’ word. I’m gonna definitely have to turn you in.’
‘The 'W' word is banned too.’
‘NOOOOO…..’ she kept on grabbing me and soon a group of students started helping her.
Tanny just stayed there thunderstruck.
‘GET UP...AND STOP YELLING’ someone shouted at me.
Suddenly I felt water on my face. AM I CRYING?
I forced myself to open my eyes.
‘Finally!’ My mom said ‘Get up now. Just cause it's holiday for you doesn’t mean I have no work. You promised to help me out with household chores. I have to leave at 9.’
I suddenly gained sense of what was happening and where I was.
It was a dream. THANK GOD!!
I looked at my guitar kept on my shelf. I looked at my phone plugged with headphones still playing ‘written in the scars’ by the script. I had clicked the loop button. I had to sing this song for our annual day concert.
‘If you don’t get up this second and trust me when I say I will do this, I’m gonna get a bucket of water and pour it all over you.’
I got up. I didn’t want to take a risk.
I went after her to the kitchen and started helping arrange the plates.
‘Mom, what’s happened today?’ I asked.
‘What do you mean?’
‘Today’s news. What’s happening in our country and in the world?’
‘Are you serious? Am I actually hearing these words come out of your mouth?
‘You wanna know about current affairs? Are you sure, you’re okay?’
‘Tell me, Mom!’ I said irritated.
‘Okay.. well… the book ‘Melancholy of the damned’ is banned.’
‘Cause it involves anti-government views and unfortunately our government just can’t take criticism I guess.’ she said hiding her frustration.
‘But you love that book.’ I said.
‘Yes, and I’m glad I read it before it was banned. But there’s not much we can do is there?’ She said.
‘Yes, there is, Mom. Strikes aren’t yet banned nor marches and slogans and notices. And most importantly, we can confidently ask ‘WHAT?’ cause we have the right to question everything, Mom.’
Mom just looked at me, stunned.