The Dystopian Dance | A Short Story

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The stench hit me first. A putrid cocktail of chemicals clung to the back of my throat as we surveyed the Yamuna with our small group of determined youngsters. This wasn’t the life-giving river I remembered from childhood, teeming with fish, or a living symbol of what the Hindus held pure and worthy of worship, a source of sustenance for our community. Now, a sickly thick white froth dominated the surface of this ancient river, a victim and silent spectator to the Madani Industries factory spewing its toxic waste upstream. They had banned the general public from throwing in flowers, observing Chhath Baths, and immersion of idols in the river but this wasn’t the biggest cause of the pollution.

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 Madani, the city’s wealthiest industrialist, had turned this vital waterway into a dumping ground. Profits over people, that was his motto. Recycling and sustainable practices for waste management cost money and time both of which the industrialists did not wish to spare. Rage simmered in my gut. I couldn’t stand for it any longer. The heavy dumping was taking a toll on the nearby population, seeping into the grounds and causing all sorts of diseases when people were forced to consume that groundwater.The Yamuna, once the lifeline of the city was now itself choking.

Fueled by anger and a fierce love for our city, Me and my childhood friend Yatharth  started a movement. We called ourselves the Guardians of Yamuna. Our protests started from schools and colleges, the numbers started swelling, attracting students, people residing in the slum clusters nearby,local fishermen, and even some shopkeepers who saw their livelihoods threatened by the polluted river.

One afternoon, amidst the roar of slogans and determined faces, a strong voice cut through the noise. It was Vivek Singh, a young student leader and upcoming politician affiliate dto the opposition party known for his clean-cut image and progressive stances. He spoke passionately about environmental protection, his words echoing our demands.

Indian Politics and Indian General Elections 2024

Initially, I was wary. Politicians, in my experience, were all talk and no action. But Vivek Singh seemed different. He met with us later, listened intently to our concerns, and pledged his support. There was a passion in his eyes that attracted people.

Our meetings became more frequent. We’d discuss the complexities of environmental policy, strategies for upcoming protests, and shared a genuine connection that seemed to be more than activism. Vivek wasn’t just interested in the cause; he seemed genuinely interested in me.

Vivek Singh became a fixture at our protests, his presence lending weight and legitimacy to our movement. With his tall frame and youthful looks coupled with powerful oration ,Vivek Singh’s  presence was like a magnet pulling in crowds and he spoke vehemently about cleansing the Yamuna at rallies, his voice amplifying ours.We planned to take a march to the parliament led by Yatharth and me.

On the scheduled day we started marching towards the shrine of democracy, the crowds swelled behind us , we were joined by thousands including people supporting Vivek Singh’s party.But suddenly and out of nowhere, jostling , pushing and yelling started between two groups , which soon turned violent.Yatharth rushed in to pacify the protesters who were locking horns with each other. A sharp cry pierced through the atmosphere and all went silent for a while.

It was Yatharth, he lay bleeding on the ground, knife jutting out of his belly.

Cutting through the now silent crowd,Vivek too reached the spot and together we rushed Yatharth to the nearest hospital but he breathed his last even before we reached the hospital.

Yatharth’s death not only broke me but also weakened our movement.Vivek confided in me that he had information that the ruling party instigated by Madani had orchestrated this attack on Yatharth.Suddenly everyone was too afraid to raise their voice against the ruling party though inwards we were all seething in anger.

Shattered by Yatharth’s loss, I leaned more upon Vivek and this brought us closer than ever.Together we resolved to not let the movement die and started rebuilding our movement.Our late-night discussions morphed into stolen glances and lingering touches. Our mutual passion for a cause soon turned into a surging passion for each other too.Love, unexpected and exhilarating, blossomed between us.The movement became an excuse to spend more and more time together.

Meanwhile, Vivek’s growing popularity ensured that he won the local elections with a huge margin.We were all overjoyed at this huge victory.But unnoticed by me some cracks started creeping in our relationship.

There were signs that something was changing.Blinded by love and his unwavering support, I had missed the subtle clues. His speeches on the environment became less specific, his stance on Madani Industries grew ambiguous. He spoke of the need for “Talmel (finding a balance)” with industries because Vikas (economic development)” was indispensable.

Some of my friends voiced their concerns. “Vivek Singh is using you, Anika,” they’d say. But I brushed them aside. How could they not see his sincerity, his passion for the cause we both believed in?

One day, Vivek’s team member  Neel who was also an old college friend of me and Yatharth, came to me and whispered, “Anika, I think you should see this.”He then showed me a screenshot of a Whatsapp exchange between Vivek Singh and his political mentor  Guru ji.In that chat,they discussed me, not as a partner in their fight, but as a puppet in Vivek’s hands. Guru ji had enquired about Vivek’s entanglement with ‘that curvy young activist ‘and what was going on between them.Vivek had responded with – “Guruji ,that Anika is a teekhi mirchi (hot chilli pepper), the perfect tool for attracting young voters. Having pushed Yatharth out of the way now I  am hitting two birds with one stone 🙂 wink .”

My stomach lurched.I felt the ground beneath my feet slipping away. The love I felt, the trust I’d given,meant nothing to this man.This man had killed Yatharth to further his goals while making me believe that the ruling party was behind his murder.

Grief and fury warred within me. Had it not been for the text that Neel had shown me , I could not have believed Vivek using me like that to further his goals.Hurt, I confronted Vivek Singh, the evidence laid bare on my phone screen. For a split second, his well maintained facade crumbled. He feigned ignorance and stammered justifications, spoke of the “greater good,” winning the election to enact real change. But his words rang hollow.This was an about turn from the Vivek Singh of our initial days, who only believed in bringing a revolution to meet our ends. The man I loved, the man I believed in, had betrayed me and our cause, discarded my devotion like yesterday’s newspaper.

Indian Politics and Indian General Elections 2024

Heartbroken but not defeated, I decided to fight back. Having come so far, I could not let Vivek Singh’s betrayal weaken our movement.In a public statement, I exposed Vivek Singh’s duplicity, sharing the Whatsapp exchange for the world to see. The revelation exploded like a bomb. News channels buzzed, social media erupted. I, the unwitting pawn, became a symbol of political manipulation but also a voice that could hold its own even without Vivek Singh’s backing.Vivek and his mentors tried to discredit us, sealing our offices on flimsy grounds quoting illegal foreign funding and vested interests who did not want India to become a superpower.Very surreptitiously, Vivek Singh even had the audacity to send a message that if I publicly apologised and reverted my stance, he would still accept me in his fold.I of course could not allow this and did not respond to his overtures.Last heard there were hushed whispers that Madani had emerged as the largest contributor to Vivek Singh’s party fund for the upcoming elections.

The experience left an indelible mark on my heart. Love, a seemingly personal emotion, had become a pawn in a political game. The words “Everything … is Politics” echoed in my mind. But amidst the betrayal, a new resolve emerged.

I continued leading the Guardians of Yamuna, my voice stronger, my message clearer. We organized rallies, petitioned the government, and garnered public support. My story resonated with people, making them wary of empty political rhetoric. Vivek lost the general election but the fight against Madani Industries is far from over. Now, we fight not just for the Yamuna, but for a safer future for the coming generations where activism isn’t used as a political prop or suppressed for financial gains of the high and mighty.And while love may leave scars, it won’t break me. As the Yamuna flows on,it is a constant reminder of the fight for what’s right, a fight that continues, one powerful voice at a time.

“This post is a part of ‘Everything is Politics Blog Hop’ hosted by Manali Desai and Sukaina Majeed

Images – Designed on Canva  and Pexels 

2 responses

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