July 20, 2024

Chandigarh Headline

True-stories

A book that captures the anxieties of a ‘youth in protest’

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Chandigarh, August 7, 2023: A book titled ‘Pee For Protest’, authored by senior journalist Sanjay Versain, was released at the Chandigarh Press Club on Monday.  Vipin Pubby, former Indian Express resident editor and currently director of the mass communication department at Shoolini University, was the guest of honour on the occasion and the session was moderated by Content Writer and Media Consultant, Jaskiran Kapoor.

Describing the book, writer Sanjay Versain said Pee For Protest is set during the spring of 2011 amid the protest movement sweeping India and is reflection of the anxieties of the youth of that time, battling uncertainty and hopelessness. “It captures the turmoil brewing up in a generation that has forgotten how to rebel. The book brings out this internal conflict, and in the end leaves it for the reader to decide the fate of the protagonist or his own self as well,” he said. Narrated in a stream-of-consciousness style, the story is open-ended to allow different interpretations. Coming from a writer with roots in Himachal, the story uses the mountain topography and local issues like power projects, over-tourism, and drug abuse as a backdrop.

A by-product of the post-liberalized India, the main character in the novel – stuck in the routine of a hyper-competitive career – gets drawn into a wave of protests sweeping the country. “Caught in the uncertainty of mistrust and over-interpretations veiling the landscape at that time, we all were unwilling conspirator against the status quo. But something held us back. What could it be? Perhaps genetic mutation, which makes us Indians not capable of revolutions that cleanse the system. So most of us took solace in silent candle protests. But the protagonist here doubted himself in even that, and the story is about what happens with him thereafter,” the writer said.

In a bout of nothingness, protagonist Nachiket lands up at a very unlikely place while on his way to meet his girlfriend. He confesses his licentious act to his girlfriend but cannot escape its consequences. While Nachiket tries to make sense of his blunders, which he attributes to his inability to take decisions, more trouble follows as he is accused of raping the woman he spent few hours with at a hotel. Is it witch-hunt for having mocked a cop during a protest rally? He knows not.

Nachiket instead expresses his defiance by deciding to attend a rave party in a mountain hideout. The conspiratorial djinns of uncertainty follow him even as he gets stuck in more uncertainty and pathos. He even survives a near suicide, maybe because he claims to have “promised himself not to harm himself”. The rave itself seems as unreal as the forces trying to pull him astray and the people he meets – a free-flying paraglider peddling marijuana aerially, an old foreigner living alone in a cave, a woman shaman pursuing godly union – are equally uncanny.

Nachiket holds himself responsible for his misery and plots a repentance plan, making him take a rather bold leap into certainty; that of atonement for the crimes he did not commit. “That’s what he believes we as a nation need to do – admit our larger guilt,” the writer said. Fate again presents before him an opportunity to untangle the knots he himself tied around his neck. Sensing an opportunity to himself be a conspirator, the latent rebel in him comes alive and plots a little mutiny of his own, hoping to keep alive the revolution, if not change. The writer claimed that any effort for meaningful change in our society today can at best be seen as just a grand spectacle, entertaining but tragic as well.

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