2 guys, one of the age that I am, and another, six years older, set out on an epoch journey, that
is destined to change the face of the South American continent, the true results of which we are
seeing today atleast in Bolivia, Venezuela and Cuba.
Yes, my friends, I am talking about Ernesto Guevara and Alberto Granado who, with their trusted bike 'La Poderosa' (The Powerful) set out to cover the South American continent.This journey is beautifully captured in the movie 'The Motorcycle Diaries'. As the narrators say, "THIS IS NOT THE TALE OF IMPRESSIVE DEEDS BUT IS A PIECE OF TWO LIVES TAKEN IN A MOMENT WHEN THEY WERE CRUISING TOGETHER ALONG A GIVEN PATHWITH THE SAME IDENTITY OF ASPIRATIONS AND DREAMS".
How? you may ask..How can a mere bike journey for pleasure (atleast thats what 2 college going kids about to graduate would have envisioned) turn out into the sculpting of one of the greatest
revolutionaries that history has ever known? Wanna know? Join me in my humble quest to analyse the movie.....
The beginning is as pleasant as one can expect. No inkling of the herculean challenges the two
are going to face. They even take a diversion to meet Ernesto's girlfriend who herself is torn
between waiting for Ernesto till he returns and getting along with her life.
A diary entry by Ernesto, stands out at the onset of their journey. "Dear mom...Buenos Aires is
behind us behind is as also the miserable life the faculty, the exams and the dissertations that
make you sleepy. Before us lies all of Latin America From now on we will only trust in 'La
Poderosa'. I wish you could see us. We look like adventurers and inspire admiration and envy
everywhere"..You sure did Che!! Even 54 years later, you have inspired the same admiration and envy which you must have seen in the eyes of the people. Leave alone latin America, I have been to a miniscule number of places in India, and going by the current lack of spark to do anything, caused by this fucked up pressure to keep slogging away at my computer for myself and my guide, i don't think i'll add to my tally in the near future....
They have a couple more adventures and then venture into Chile. Ernesto makes another diary entry which needs to be mentioned, "Dear mom...what is it that's lost when you cross a border.Each moment seems to be split in two. Melancholy for what was left behind and on the other hand all the enthusiasm at entering new lands."
Their adventures in Chile are mostly based upon their knowledge that the Chilean girls are the
most daring in the South American continent. Indeed, Ernesto attempts to befriend the wife of a mechanic and ends up being chased out of the town of Temuco. They then reach the town of Los Angeles (not the one in choothland..USA) wherein they immediately befriend (i have to learn such techniques) the two daughters of the fire chief. The real awakening for Che begins at this place when a fire tender requests him to attend to his ailing mother. Che knows that he cannot save her, but he leaves hope, kindness, love and of course, a doctor's best advice..medicines!!!!His diary entry summarises this:
"Dear mom...I knew i wouldn't be able to help that poor woman
That up to a month ago she had been servingtables, panting like me
Trying to live with dignity
In those dying eyes, there was a humble request for excuses
And a desperate plea of consolationthat gets lost in the emptiness
Just as her body will get lost very soonin the magnitude of the mystery that surrounds us"
The real education begins in the Atacama Desert of Chile wherein they meet a miner and his wife who narrate their tale of land usurption by some landlords. The dialogue goes like this:
"We didn't have much, just a dry and difficult land
It belonged to his grandparents
It was ours, until a landlord arrived and kicked us out
And that is what they call progress.We had to leave our son with the family and travel to find
Trying to escape from the police that wanted to catch us- Why?
Because we are communists
We are going to the mine. If we are lucky I’ll find a job."
Diverting a little bit, the situation in India is not much different specially in the suicidal
killing fields of the Telengana and Vidharba region which were referred to as 'nuked-out regions' in a blog that I read today. Somehow, Indira Gandhi's scheme to abolish zamindari has got lost in the wilderness of red-tapism, corruption, neglect and pessimism. When I was small, my grandmother used to tell me how her father suffered a major blow when his lands were taken away for re-allotment among the 'Charmakkal' (as the labourer harijans in Kerala are called). Those days, when I was not exposed to alternate schools of thought, I used to accept what she said as gospel. No, I am not blaming her in any way. She was schooled from childhood to think in terms of caste, hierarchy which are not easy to brush off. As an aside, let me say that among all my family members, she is the most broadminded (if proper consideration is given to prevailing conditions of her period). And of course, the coolest..HE HE HE..Let me just say that if she had stuck to those views, she would not have borne the burden of having her husband leave for his PhD a year into their marriage, and nor would she have borne the shock of having to face a totally different culture in Sholapur/Anantpur/Tirupati and finally Bangalore. Lastly, she would never ever have faced the tragedy of losing 2 kids to smallpox if she had stuck to those class and creed mentality and not taken help of others..All this in another blog..........
Coming back to Mr. Che, he says after meeting the miner,
"Those eyes had a dark and tragic expression
They told us about some friends that had disappeared under mysterious circumstances
And that apparently ended up in somepart on the bottom of the ocean
That was one of the coldest nights of my life
But meeting them made me feel closer to human kind.Strange, so strange to me".
He then makes the journey into Peru along the Andes and observes this:
"When we left the mine, we felt reality was changing
...or were we the ones changing
Going deeper and deeper into the mountain rangewe found more natives
that don't even have a roof in what used to be their own land".
They then enter the ancient capital of the Incas, Cuzco, where they are told that it was
demolished by the Spaniards to make way for a new capital Lima. Here, he meets a farmer who tells him that he was thrown out of his land by a landlord (again, same shit different place!!!)....Che observes:
"The Incas had a high knowledge of astronomy, medicine,math, among others
But the Spanish invaders had powder
How would America be today if things had been different?"
A lot, i would say..specially in the composition of the football teams which would have been
composed of 100% native people.....
The seeds of the armed revolution taking place in Che's mind are sumamrised in these dialogues:
Granado:Fuser, look what i think. I should marry with an Inca descendantand found an indigenous party.We encourage everyone to vote.Reactivate Tupac Amaru's revolution,the indoamerican revolution, Fuser What do you think?
Ernesto:A revolution without gunshots?You are crazy Mial
The next diary entry coupled with the excellent camera work takes us to Lima, the capital of
"How is it possible that i feel nostalgia for a world i never knew
How do you explain that a civilization capable of building this
is wiped out to build...
They then meet the chief doctor incharge of the leprosy eradication programme in Peru who gives them an outline of his work, the revolutionary potential of the Latin Americans and gives them a lot of reading material on the same. He puts them aboard a boat hich goes to a place called San Pablo, on the Amazon which is a centre for treatment of the seriously affected leprosy patients. On that journey, we come to know that Ernesto has given away all his money including the one his girlfriend had given him to purchase a pair of pants to the miner's wife of the Atacama desert.
The stay in the leprosy colony is the real awakening for the 'to be doctor specialising in
leprosy treatment', Ernesto. He soon gains the love of all the members and in a farewell cum
birthday party he makes this statement, which reveals his intentions:
"Although our meager personalities prevent us from being spokesmen of your cause
We believe, even more after this journey, that the separation of America in false and uncertain
nationalities is completely fictitious
We are a single mixed race, from Mexico to the Strait of Magellan
So, trying to free myself from any nationality load I raise a toast for Peru and for America united".
They then go by raft to Columbia and then move onwards to caracas, Venezuela where Alberto has an internship offer. The rest of the story is about what happened later on, culminating in the execution of Che by the Bolivian regulation Army with the help of the CIA.
What should be observed from Che's experience is this:
1. India too is at the threshold of another revolution. We are as good as a continent. Already
the bloody maoists have established control over a vast area of central and east India. Having
another Che is fine, but not at the cost of civil war.
2. The urban youth of India WILL NOT be the spark for any social reform. They are just content with getting a good degree and a handsome job, writing fucked up blogs (like I am doing), wearing Che t shirts (see the irony) and making empty speeches...The real spark will come from rural india. To put in Tom Clancy's words, 'Red Storm Rising' is what we will see if we do not give equal development to all.
3. This movie should be shown in all medical and engineering colleges and rural service should be made compulsory.
4. Attitudes towards socialising must become more liberal so that people who are travelling must have a similar pleasurable adventure.
5. Save our heritage!!!! If any of you still has doubts about the bad condition of our heritage
buildings, please visit the great DILLI.......
The soundtrack of the movie composed and performed by Gustavo Santaolalla is beautiful. I would specially recommend the number 'Apertura'
Also a must read is the op-ed articles published by P.Sainath in The Hindu. He is the rural
affairs editor of the Hindu and covers the drought,farmer suicides which other flashy bastards
like TOI, HT ignore.
How has the movie affected me? Well, I have had this desire to do social service for a long time,
but somehow haven't been able to summon the required guts to let go of mundane affairs and plunge headlong into it. I now see a window of opportunity with my job at PwC. And the person who opened this window for me is Sharath Rao, who said "Maybe...you could think of being the Sam Pitroda in the power sector and achieve the goal of power for all rather than going for a PhD."..Thanks Sharath, this advice I'll treasure forever and hopefully I should have something to show at the end of my life.Now, will the end be natural or an execution? Only time will tell......