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The Common Man - RK Lakshman

By Sayonee Ghosh Roy
I’m not in the habit of speaking much, but today I shall speak about myself because you need to know and so does everyone else. Pick a face in the crowd, I am that. I am anyone, everyone and also no one. I’m the façade behind which the populace hides. I’m paraded as their crusader. I come in different variants but for the sake of R.K. Laxman, I am a slight, old man, always humbly dressed in a dhoti and a kurta. And I also wear glasses. Why? The better to see you with my dear! For observing, is what I do. I’m not short-sighted but I’m short-changed.


I appeared in your daily papers around 40 years ago, but I’ve been around longer than that. Where there’s a concept of power, there is me. I’ve seen the kings of yore come and go, right before my eyes. But what do I care about their wars, their lofty ideals, their might, their opulence…..that kind of life is not for me. But it could be, if you were to believe these rags-to-riches stories. Such people must have started somewhere and that baseline is me. I’m level one in the game of Fates. So you see, I have so much power to transform! Yet I’m so powerless.


Times have changed but my predicament hasn’t. I still go to work, stand in queues, provide for my family, worry about their future, fret over taxes, make both ends meet etc. I watch as the so-called custodians of our country play out their daily drama. It amuses me, frustrates me, disappoints me, saddens me, angers me and sometimes even alleviates me. I thought they would use the tape at hand to mend our nation which is in tatters, but they paint it red and entangle me in it instead.

Every year, on National Holidays, when I’m supposed to be a proud citizen, I grumble profusely while waiting in a mile-long traffic held up, to make way for a personality I had directly or indirectly placed on the pedestal. Nice way to treat your kingmaker, I must say! I grovel, snivel and warm pockets at government offices because if I thunder, rage and tighten my fist, I may rest assured that I’ve given them a piece of my mind but it would also mean giving up my peace of mind for my work would never get done. Everyone commands respect these days. They say “Apni gali mein kutta bhi sher hota hai” and this trickles down even to a mere bearer at the door. But I’m not one-tracked. I don’t spend all my time looking up the ladder of power. Refreshment does come my way in the form of life’s mere frivolities and humorous ironies.


They call me the Common Man and I share my last name with Super, Spider and Bat, but I’m no hero. There’s nothing heroic in what I do because the person next door is probably going through the same things I am. And I don’t want my existence to be a war I wage daily. All I want to do is breathe easy everyday and take things in my stride, without adding further complications in my life. Like I said earlier, I’m just a name, to be glorified in electoral manifestos or given as an explanation for haplessness. I’ve been pretty much silent all this while, maybe edged in a word here and there, but I need to break out from the chrysalis and show my different sides. For though the Constitution clearly draws the Us vs. Them line, why do they always forget that we are all, ultimately of the same constitution.

 
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Sayonee Ghosh Roy

 

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Let The Good Times Roll Magazine is an online youth magazine
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