New York Poco
The Mutiny Anniversary
Robert JC Young 1/3
I had just got an email from Harish Trivedi, esteemed Prof. of Delhi University, telling me that he was shortly going to be in England for a conference on India at 60—adding that in the Indian media, as opposed to the British media of The Times, The Guardian and the BBC, ‘India 150 (i.e. the Mutiny anniversary) has been far bigger than India 60, and so has the centenary of the birth of Bhagat Singh’. Reflecting that as always, Partition gets ignored in such nationalist anniversaries, I was nevertheless encouraged to hear that Trivedi intends to put a cat among the pigeons on his arrival in a Britain preoccupied only with the day of independence that brought the end of the British Raj. Though it could be, I reflected, that the Brits are being culturally sensitive to many modern-day Indians in not making too much of the 1857 anniversary—after all, the mutineers wanted to restore Muslim rule to India.
While I was thinking these thoughts, my friend Arvind emailed me with an invitation to go to the Mutiny Anniversary. I was distinctly impressed. How much more radical New York was than staid old Britain! I was slightly surprised to hear that we would be gathering at ten, but in the city that never sleeps, there is no reason why any event should not be held at any time of day or night. We were, of course,late, so we piled into a cab which took us briskly to that indeterminate territory around the mid-twenties between 5th and 6th Avenues where no one lives and you only ever visit at night. A friend had already texted us to tell us that there was a ‘huge’ queue outside, at which I became ever more impressed. As we stood there in the queue I was a little surprised when we were all given a yellow wristband, and even more so when we walked in through a somewhat decayed looking door which bore only the words FREIGHT upon it. We lined up down another narrow passageway, finally paid for a ticket, and then suddenly descended into complete darkness and sound so loud it seared my eyebrows.