Revolution, as Shirley knew deeply, began at home. She knew that the initial spark of rebellion is expressed against the very institution that first teaches your rights. She could not comprehend her parents behavior. They had always told her to follow her heart, do what she loved and when she opted for the political science at Presidency, they chided her, discouraged her and even threatened to disown her.  She cried and raged for days. Finally, they relented and with a broken heart sent her to college. In return, she promised to stay out of trouble.

Her parents knew the promise would be broken, for she had been a force even before she was born. In the heights of the Maoist protests in the state, years earlier, her father had been the firebrand student president of Presidency. At the instance of a second year girl student being thrown out of the hostel, he rushed to the Dean Office and made her stay with him. She proved to be sharper than him, helping him plan the protests, hold the fort while he was away. Gradually the lines blurred and the tables suddenly turned. The unplanned child led them to quit college and settle somewhere on the fringes of the city. To feed the two mouths, her father had to humiliatingly let go of his ideals and join a government clerk position. Shirley had effected a revolution in their lives from the womb.

She proved to be much more powerful than they ever could have been. With her strong words and adept reading of each situation, she stood apart in every discussion, she steamrolled every debate she entered. She was repulsed by the pseudo intellects who hid behind the shield of college unions. She took her stand but never jumped into the murky college politics until the end of 2014.

The new director of the college, a devout right wing idealist, had arrived in the college owing to the change in the ruling party at the Centre. To impress upon his philosophies, he laid down rules favoring his party’s youth wing.

With the director’s hidden blessings, the youth wing created havoc within the campus. They began disrupting college elections, forced their way into the cultural committees and trolled, insulted anyone who raised questions against them, including the faculty. The frustrations boiled over when, one night, they tried to disturb a senior female faculty physically for removing one of their members from the cultural committee.

The entire campus erupted in protests the next morning. Silent whispers had turned into sharp insults towards the director and his coterie. The usually reluctant students couldn’t bear the thought of intolerance in their institution , a university with a legacy for creating many great liberalists. The victimized faculty stood alone in front of the director’s office with a red flag demanding action. Gradually the student and faculty supporters trickled in, rallying behind her, blocking the director’s office completely.

The protests continued late into the afternoon and was ignored largely till the director had to leave. The guards pushed them back, injuring many. The director’s car went ahead and hit the faculty, throwing her off.

As the crowd began to lose hope, in the ensuing silence, Shirley rose from amidst the crowd. The guards, students remained immobile to the march of this lone girl, wondering what she could actually do. Shirley lifted her dazed faculty from the ground, picked up the fallen flag pole and walked ahead towards the director. Raising the pole, she smashed the windshield of his car, and let the red flag flutter on his car.

The dazed director gathered himself as the guards rush to hold her back.

What’s your name bitch? He thundered.

Comrade Shirley.


PS: inspired from a true story at FTII.


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