The Protest Singer

Fiction

THE PROTEST SINGER

It was a cold morning but Mitthoo was in high spirits . His friend Harinder was reading the newspaper while Satinder was tying his turban . “ The temperature will fall to 4 degrees Celsius tonight .They say this is the coldest winter in 70 years in Delhi, “ said Satinder . “ I know the cure for that . Let us have some tea and begin our singing. I wrote 10 songs for this very event in the past two months since the troubles began , “ said Mitthoo , and he was as good as his word .

He had been singing at the top of his voice to the rhythmic accompaniment of his old tambourine , with thousands around him listening :

“ We are here to win
We will return only when
Victory crowns our heads
Tell that to those
Who plan to resist us “

His listeners nodded , clapped and sang the chorus with him . Everyone was in high spirits .Mitthoo was one of the best motivational singers in the entire historic protest camp of nearly 200000 people . This tent was for people of his region and he sang in the regional language forming an instant bond with his listeners and lifting their mood as they sat on the freezing roads hundreds of miles from home . He reinforced their faith in the justness of their cause . As it noon struck , the call for the community lunch came , and the sitting broke up .

“ Come along , Mitthoo , let’s have some of this lovely hot cauliflower and potato curry , before it gets cold “ said his friend Harinder . Satinder came over as well and the three friends joined the queue at one of the food tents where free food for the protestors in their thousands was being served . As they ate their chapatis and vegetables with relish , they chatted about the children and womenfolk back at home and how they were managing the wheat crop without the men who were miles away at the protest site .

All afternoon and evening Mitthoo sang with his fellow singers or by himself raising the morale of the protestors . The leaders came back from high level meetings with hopeful news . Mitthoo and Harinder sang songs of victory , had dinner and found a warm spot with blankets to sleep in inside the Khalsa Aid Tent , though the ground cover of a simple durree could not shut out the cold from the Tarmac road below . Tired , the friends fell asleep immediately.

At 7 am the tea server Tanjeet came carrying a big aluminium pot of hot sweet tea and some glass tumblers asking the sleepers to wake up . Harinder got up , took a glass and held it up while Tanjeet poured tea into it . Satinder sat up as well . “ God is Great, Brother ! “ they said to one another .

But why was Mitthoo not getting up ? Satinder poked him with his elbow but there was no response . Tanjeet and Mitthoo called to him and shook him but he was stiff and cold , eyes shut and not breathing . Alarmed , they raised an alarm and the tent chief rushed for the camp doctor .

By 7.30 am it was confirmed : Mitthoo had died of a stroke in the cold . The Protest had claimed its first Martyr . The newspaper said the temperature had fallen to 2 degrees Celsius the previous night .

( ASA )

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