‘Bandh’ is taken from the Hindi word to mean ‘closed.’ It is a unique form of protest where shops and establishments are expected to down their shutters in support of a demand. I use the word ‘expected’ because the general public is usually coerced into following the diktat of bandh leaders or to face the consequences. The word bandh has now passed into Indian English.
The comments of the Chief Minister of Goa were laudable when he said that a bandh may be called by anyone, but they cannot force anyone to observe it.
It was with that reassurance that I headed to work last week. A strong posse of police at the Titan junction showed me that all was under control. When I reached my place of work at Nuvem, there was excited chatter among those who shared their exploits about how they got to work. It was interesting how some who had reached their destination dissuaded others from doing so. Grave misgivings were expressed about what could happen later in the day.
Not giving a fig about bandhs whether in Delhi, Hyderabad, Pune or Goa for that matter, I deliberately sallied forth to Margao at 11.30 a.m. when the ‘bandh’ would be at its peak. For the second time I called David and Company to inquire if they were open. ‘Is it ok to come in to Margao?’ I asked furtively. ‘It’s ok till now,’ was the sagacious reply. I admired their will to work inspite of the circumstances. ‘I don’t support bandhs,’ said Lawrence Coutinho when I reached David and Co. ‘There are enough holidays for religious festivals in India. And then they say India is not progressing.’ I needed some memorial cards printed urgently, so I was most relieved I could confirm my order on that day. I chatted with Lawrence about visiting their main store at Dhobitalao, Mumbai established about 60 years ago.
After I bought the traditional fruit cake from Morning Star bakery, Margao, I decided to nip into the Margao branch of Furtados, (established 1865) for some music. Every Wednesday I teach students who are interested to play the guitar. I was overjoyed to find the store open and spent a great time there with Sean D’Souza showing me around. The guitar chord circles I picked up were a great favourite with my students later that day. I told Sean that I had visited the Furtado stores in Delhi and the iconic one in town in Mumbai which I visited as a schoolboy.
I had an uneventful ride back to Vasco, giving a lift to two somewhat desperate colleagues. I gobbled my lunch and sped down to State Bank of India, Vasco to ascertain my balance. On the way out I activated my internet banking, swept up to the first floor to the home loan section, and nudged over to the PPF desk.
I got more work done – and parking space! -- on a bandh day than on any other. When’s the next bandh?
Published in Gomantak Times Weekender St. Inez, Goa on Sunday, 6 September 2015. Pix of Kadamba State Transport Corporation buses parked in Goa, courtesy goanews(dot)com dated 31 August 2015.