Friday, May 21, 2010

China and the Cyberspace: Censorship in the Blogosphere

The history of an authoritarian regime seems to be a curiously ironical one. One would think that the more powerful it gets, the more secure it would feel. Funnily, all the great dictators have been the epitomes of paranoia. A parodied image of Hitler with his moustache twitching in suspicion, or a Stalin yelling in guttural Russian has become a part of popular culture. However, we joke about them because they are dead, to put it crudely. This paranoia is still at large in one of the remaining authoritarian regimes today: China.
The irony is not over yet. The harsher the crackdown gets, the wider the network of subversion. The State’s machinery of censorship is admittedly impressive. To counter this, the Internet has provided a much needed outlet for the numerous voices being stifled within the country. Much to its dubious credit, internet censorship in China is highly advanced. In spite of that citizen bloggers are eking out newer ways to bypass such restraints.
In this paper, I have looked at the issue of censorship in China and the latest challenge that it has been facing. Subversive blogging has started all over the country notwithstanding the daily shut-downs and blackouts that bloggers have to face. Some unlucky ones are detained or placed under house arrest. Such clemency, however, is not shown to the Tibetans. Their blogs are unceremoniously shut down while they disappear, often permanently into the depths of the Chinese prisons.
I have managed to interview two of the most famous subversive bloggers/citizen journalists who operate out of China, namely Richard Burger and Zuola. In order to view the situation from a wider angle I have also spoken to Julen Madariaga, an European blogger from Shanghai. However, all my efforts to contact any Tibetan have been futile. I endeavoured through various sources in vain. It is understandable, since any Tibetan indulging in so called “subversive” activities could receive a 15 year sentence if he or she is lucky. That includes answering questions for an innocuous college project in India.
Using the responses to the interviews, I have come up with some conclusions concerning the relative nature of the censorship that China employs among its citizens. Also, while working on the paper I have encountered censorship in turn. Thus my perspective on the matter has not been as detached. Internet censorship in China is like a chess game between two equal opponents. Neither can live while the other survives. This is what I have highlighted in my paper.

Fear has always been an integral part of any regime. What better tool than that to ensure absolute obedience? The funny part is that it is just not the people who are frightened of authority. Both the oppressor and the oppressed are equally fearful of each other. Though that sounds like an absurd proposition, consider it in light of all the measures that an authoritarian regime imposes upon its people. Why would you bother to gag someone whose opinion could never harm you?
A shining example, China stands tall to prove this point. With a country consisting of millions of people, officials never tire of trying to hunt out the slightest form of dissent. The Communist Party of China is ever fearful of citizens who are trying to come up with anything that goes against party propaganda. Yet some always manage to slip through the net. The whole scenario represents one of those cartoon images of an absurdly comical villain trying to nab the ever-enterprising hero. Think Tom and Jerry if you will. The image of a cat trying to trap the mouse is an accurate symbol of what Chinese Internet censorship is slowly becoming.
China has a staggering number of bloggers, more than those in the US and Japan combined. In a post-Mao society blogging emerged as one of the easiest ways to engage in private political discourse. For writers all over the world, blogging is mostly a means of private expression. In a country like China where self expression is limited, an outlet like blogging becomes more than a mere form of self expression. It turns into a means of survival of the individualistic element in a person. It is reminiscent of Winston in George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four. He does not know what to write, on facing a blank sheet of paper. When he does start, the words start tumbling out in “sheer panic”.
However, in spite of such a high number of bloggers, only a select few dare to criticise the government and its actions in their “subversive” blogs.
Herein lies another problem. Very few people would actually label their blogs as “deliberately” subversive. This attracts a lot of unwanted attention from the censors who are constantly looking to label for an excuse to enforce their authority. Julen Madariaga says that the intention of the bloggers is not to create an anti-establishment space against the regime. They are just looking to make it more open to opinion. This is one very important aspect about the blogosphere in China. They are not looking to create an alternative space, but widen whatever exists within the country at this time. They are generally critiquing the actions of the government in language which is deliberately misleading. Those who chose to take a more open path face the wrath of the government. Take Zuola for example. He has been detained on one occasion following the Guizhou riots.
A 16 year old girl had been raped and murdered by some local boys. The media releases following the case dismissed it as suicide. There were violent riots as a consequence. This was one of the first instances where citizen journalism and blogging actually led to the dismissal of CCP (Chinese Communist Party) officials on charges of abusing power and corruption. Not surprisingly, Zuola was detained soon after this and his computer was taken away from him. He was soon released but kept under house arrest. The moment he was arrested, he started sending out tweets from his phone. The news spread like wildfire over the online networks.
It is interesting to observe the way social networking websites are being used to validate one's human rights in a scenario which does not permit it. For many people, Facebook is a means to play flash games and keep in touch with old classmates. On the other hand, the same medium is being used for survival, in a manner of speaking.

Relative censorship in China

Censorship laws in China are relative in nature. Their stringency depends on certain factors like the language and nature of content. For example, Zuola is subject to harsher treatment because he is writing in Chinese. Richard Burger, on the other hand has admitted that Westerners are treated in a more liberal fashion. It depends on the language one is writing in. The paramount concern of the CCP is to make sure that the people in the country are not moved by any incendiary thought. A person writing in Chinese will have more access to the people than anyone else. Richard Burger, owner of the Peking Duck blog was allowed to criticise the government for years because he wrote in English. Though learning English has become the newest obsession in China, the number of English speakers is still a minority as compared to the India, for example.
Compare this to the way Tibetan writers are being treated within the country. The treatment is far more brutal. Tibetan citizen journalists are routinely arrested and given long prison sentences. Jamyang Kyi is a writer, musician and well known blogger in Tibet. Or at least she was, until her arrest in 2008. She was detained for over a month and had to undergo a gruelling interrogation. Her family had no idea where she was for those days. Currently she is awaiting trial. Tsering Woeser is one of the most influential writers in Tibet. Her blogs were shut down after she posted pro-Dalai Lama messages in 2006. She has been under house arrest. Her employment and her housing have been seized. Her blog was hacked into and filled with Chinese propagandist images. Language plays a very complex role in this situation. Many Tibetans including Woeser write in Chinese. Being a product of the Cultural Revolution, her education has been in Han Chinese.
Kunga Tsangyang was one of the most famous bloggers in Tibet until his arrest on the 17th of March in 2009. He was arrested for writing political essays on a website called “Jottings” or Zin-dis (Tibetan). In his essay, “Who Are The Real Separatists?” he talks about the way the CCP is constantly trying to create a chasm between the Tibetans and the Chinese, while accusing the former of “splittism”. He is yet to be released from prison, despite numerous protests.
From these incidents, it is clear that the government is not interested in what is being written, but whom it reaches. A fiery speech can go unknown if it does not reach the right people. The restriction seems to be focusing on the dissemination of information than the actual expression of it, in my opinion.

Compromised cyberspace

Tibetan websites like are routinely shut down and become inaccessible at times. Some of the other websites which have been “unavailable” are:
• .
• ,,
When one tries to open these sites, a “page unavailable” display pops up or various other error messages. Some are even reported by Google as “suspicious sites”. It is believed that malware is deliberately inserted in these websites to trigger off such virus alerts.
The GFW or the Great Firewall of China has become a byword for internet censorship today. Originally started in 1998 to counter the Democratic Party, it has now become an all encompassing element in Chinese cyberspace. There are filters which are constantly in motion, circulating the web for any reference to topics which might be considered “detrimental in the name of national security.” It is funny how the language of authoritarianism is the same everywhere. Any content found with “forbidden words” is promptly censored. “Dalai Lama” is an absolute filter favourite, so to speak. So is any word or reference to the innumerable human rights “incidents” that China is so famous for. Before the 20th anniversary of the Tienanmen massacre, social networking sites were shut down in a simultaneous crackdown. Significantly, blogging portals were blacked out too.
Richard Burger's blog was shut down just after the anniversary of Tienanmen.
While strict censorship laws are generally in place constantly, the anti-dissident surge gathers momentum just before any international event taking place in the country. Under the eye of the world, all blemishes are hurriedly concealed by the authorities. Examples of this can be seen on three recent occasions: the Beijing Olympics (2008), the Tienanmen Square anniversary (2009) and the upcoming Shanghai Expo in (2010). these events are generally attended by world leaders and other public figures.
However, in the battle of man versus machine, the former is endowed with a natural scheming mind which comes in handy. Many have managed to defeat the mighty government computers by inventing sly code words which can slip past the government censors.
The figure of the “grass mud horse” is innocent enough. When written, it has a clean meaning. However the spoken word is a double entendre and is loaded with dirty connotation. Who would have thought that this innocuous figure would take on the might Communist Party of China and leave it red faced? In 2008, a very controversial petition called Charter 08 was released online by Chinese intellectuals. It questioned the power of the government and soon enough, all references to it were blacked out online. By January 2009, the figure of the grass horse started appearing in music videos. Featuring a fight between the peaceful horses and the river crabs, it ultimately became a symbol of subversion. There is another layer to the joke. The Chinese word for river crab sounds like the word “harmony”. And any Chinese netizen would know what “harmony” symbolises in the government policy. Any dissident opinion is “harmonised” by the government to maintain peace. That is how Hu Jintao puts it in his speeches. The “grass mud horse” became a symbol of defiance online.
In his blog, Madariaga comes up with the idea to rename the Charter 08 as “wang”. In case the Chinese censors started filtering the grass mud horse, the computers would surely breakdown if all “wangs” had to be erased off the Chinese cyberspace. It happens to be a very common surname which, even Communist might would be unable to deal with. There is always a way to evade authority, but in China the forces in power are so encompassing that few Chinese dare step out of line.
This brings us to the very important question about heroism and protest. Is it better to stand up against power with the knowledge that one can perish in the attempt? Or is it more practical to quietly spread the seeds of dissent? In the play The Life of Galileo, Galileo himself recants his teachings and is allowed to lead a peaceful life as a consequence. During the last years of his life which were spent in house arrest, he writes the Discorsi right under the nose of the Church. He gives up martyrdom for being allowed to live and hence continue his work instead of dying a hero.

Three voices in the country

Three bloggers who live in China, and their take on things. These are the interviews of Richard Burger (, Julen Madariaga ( ) and Zuola ( ). Both Zuola and Burger have faced censorship problems in China. In spite of my efforts I have been unable top contact any Tibetan blogger from within the country. (I have reproduced these responses verbatim, making minimal grammatical changes)

Richard Burger

1. The world generally has very polemical opinions concerning the issue of Tibet. The Chinese are either pure evil or angels in disguise. As a citizen living within the country, what would be your perspective of the situation?
Tibet is a very complex issue, and anyone arguing that either side is good or evil clearly doesn’t understand the history of Tibet. The Chinese sincerely believe they have made incredible efforts to improve everyday life in Tibet, and to a large extent this is true. Their motivation is in no way evil, but it does fail to overlook the fact that no matter how much money they spend modernizing and improving Tibet, they are still seen as occupiers who threaten the local culture. Nothing they do will improve the situation until they show greater respect for Tibetan autonomy (as opposed to independence) and give the Tibetans a clear signal that they have a fair say in what goes on there.

2. China is reputed to have a ruthlessly efficient system of censorship. Again, according to you how efficient is it really? How has it affected you?
My own blog was censored in the summer of 2009 shortly after the 20th anniversary of the Tienanmen Square crackdown. Censorship is something you learn to deal with when you choose to live in China. It is proof of the government’s fundamental insecurity and anxiety, since they are terrified of allowing their people to think for themselves.

3. Subversive blogging is one of the most important forms of self-expression in China. How would you trace its development in the country?
It started the minute blogs began to pop up in China, around 2003. These blogs have become increasingly clever and creative, adopting elaborate codes to convey their messages without triggering the censors. They are also getting much bolder, with Han Han criticizing the government outright. We’ll see how far the government allows this to go. Right now they seem confused and helpless.

4. Does blogging and citizen journalism help in bypassing the information blockages imposed by an authoritarian regime?
Yes. Blogs have helped spread the word about corruption and criminality within the Communist party, forcing the government to crack down on the perpetrators lest it be faced with widespread public rage.

5. How have the above helped in the Tibetan issue?

Not at all. All Chinese bloggers are of the same mind when it comes to Tibet, namely that China has been an angel and the Dalai Lama is a “jackal.” I’ve never heard of Chinese bloggers taking issue with the government’s stance on Tibet.

6. As a Westerner, do you think that the laws of censorship apply more liberally to you as compared to a Chinese or worse, a Tibetan?
Slightly more liberal –as long as you are communicating in English, the government doesn’t usually try to silence you. It’s only when you can mobilize the masses that they care, and that can only be done in Chinese. I was allowed to criticize the government in English for years.

7. Do you believe that a harsh regime encourages further methods of subversion? How developed is the underground network in China?
I don’t think there is any underground network to speak of. The government here is generally popular, and it appears harsh only to a small minority. Most Chinese don’t care about this, as long as they can make money.

8. What possible justification is there for China's oppressive crackdown on dissenting voices? How far do you think that those arguments are justified, personally speaking?
It’s all about holding onto power. The gravest threat to a one-party system is the activist who can rally the public to turn them against the government. So censorship and crackdowns on dissent are the norm, and everyone accepts it. The arguments in favour of this are not justified in my eyes, but most Chinese people are happy with the system as it is, and it is their country.

9. Do you believe that censorship of any form whatsoever is justified?
Well, there’s always the legitimate argument that you can’t yell Fire in a crowded theatre. And you can’t spread child pornography or slander someone. So of course you can never have total freedom of speech. However, political censorship is never justified.


1.The world generally has very strange opinions concerning the issue of Tibet. The Chinese are either very bad or the good guys. As a citizen living within the country, what is your opinion?
The collective consciousness conflicts with the Tibetan culture. The Communist Party's collective consciousness is incompatible with the original religion in Tibet and the Communist Party is not open to these culture and beliefs.

2. China is reputed to have an excellent system of censorship. Again, according to you how good is it really? How has it affected you?
The result of Chinese censorship is that all the media is controlled, the more important the social topic is, the more it will be avoided. The important social issues are not discussed openly and
no attempt has been made to solve them .

3.Blogging is one of the most important forms of self expression in China. What do you have to say to that?
I hope more and more people become independent bloggers

4.Does blogging and citizen journalism help in escaping the information
restrictions put by an authoritarian regime?

5.. How have the above helped in the Tibetan issue?
That didn't help the Tibet issue, people in China generally don't know Tibet well.

6. As a Chinese, do you think that the laws of censorship apply more liberally to you as compared to a Tibetan or a Westerner?
Censorship is more severe for the Chinese

7. Do you believe that a harsh regime encourages people to use ways of bypassing the restrictions? How developed is the underground network in China?
The severe censorship will make people try to find ways to bypass it.
For me, I think the establishment of civil society is better than underground network. The underground network is on the opposite side of society, but civil society will resolve the social conflicts gradually.

8. What possible justification is there for China's oppressive crackdown on people who speak out? How far do you think that those arguments are justified, personally speaking?
I can't translate this one, I don't understand this.(this is the translation:)

9. Do you believe that censorship of any form whatsoever, is justified?
It can be justified if the censorship standards are more open and the standards
can be discussed and revised.

10. How have you been affected by the restrictions?

My blog has been blocked by China, I don't know why, I didn't get any
notification or Subpoena, my rights has been violated and I don't know
how to file a complaint.

Julen Madariaga

1.The world generally has very polemical opinions concerning the issue of Tibet. The Chinese are either pure evil or angels in disguise. As a citizen living within the country, what would be your perspective of the situation?
The Dalai Lama has been very skilful in marketing a certain idealised image of Tibet that resonates in many Western minds. On the other hand, for the CCP the subject is very sensitive for obvious territorial reasons. The outcome of radicalised positions you mention was inevitable, IMO, given these premises.
My opinion: China is certainly not so evil as many like to imagine in the West, just compare how many Palestinians/ Chechenyas /Iraqis are killed every year, and how many Tibetans... One may agree or not with CCP policy in Tibet, but to qualify it as evil and attempt to boycott China for this is completely unreasonable. To be fair one should first attack the US, UK, Israel, Russia, etc. for far worse crimes than China's development of Tibet.

2.China is reputed to have a ruthlessly efficient system of censorship. Again, according to you how efficient is it really? How has it affected you?
The truth is Chinese censorship system may be ruthless, but it is NOT efficient. Any Chinese netizen can easily use a free web proxy and get through the Wall to uncensored content outside of China. This censorship system would never work in a country where the masses are tyrannized by their government. It only works in China because most people are just not so interested in getting access to dissident content, and they will not do the effort of finding a proxy to get there. In fact, most Chinese are quite happy with their government - sure, many would like to have more freedom of speech - but they believe this will eventually come, and few consider it a capital priority to fight for today.

3.Subversive blogging is one of the most important forms of self expression in China. How would you trace its development in the country?
I don't like to use the name "subversive" because it is dangerous for those bloggers, and because many of them don't really have the intention of "subverting" the regime, just of opening it more. In any case, sure, the internet has allowed many Chinese people to express their own opinions, and many have taken the chance to speak out on blogs, BBS, micro-blogs, etc. - which regularly get censored by the government. I think the movement developed quite naturally first when the government still didn't have the censorship operation in place, and there is a generation of netizens that experimented FOS in that way. Keep in mind however that proper dissident bloggers (as opposed to occasional anonymous ranters) are a very small minority of the Chinese netizens.

4. Does blogging and citizen journalism help in bypassing the information blockages imposed by an authoritarian regime?
Yes, it certainly helps. It informs the netizens of the way to bypass the GFW , it makes available articles that were erased from other outlets, and in general it provides free information that is lacking in the strictly controlled traditional media.

5. How have the above helped in the Tibetan issue?
I don't think they have helped much. The reason is that most Chinese people, including most liberal bloggers, do not support the Western position in this issue. Sure, there is some CCP brainwashing going on, but even without the CCP, no Chinese in his right mind would agree to some terms for Tibet that are potentially dangerous for China's territory, and which are perceived as coming from the West. It is a complete absurdity that the colonial West, just fresh back from destroying Iraq, now comes to give lessons to China in this field.

6. As an European, do you think that the laws of censorship apply more liberally to you as compared to a Chinese or worse, a Tibetan?
No, the "laws of censorship" have nothing to do with the nationality of the user, but with other factors like: the language you write, the influence and readers you have, the location where you are. A different thing is the "laws of repression". This is, supposing I actively promote a very sensitive topic in China, my content would get censored exactly the same as a Chinese person. But the risk for myself would be limited to getting kicked out of the country, whereas a Chinese citizen may face harsher consequences.

7. Do you believe that a harsh regime encourages further methods of subversion? How developed is the underground network in China?
Yes, a harsh regime encourages, but sincerely I don't think the CCP is harsh, or at least it is not perceived as such by most Chinese. I don't know of any underground network in China, if it exists it must be very small. In any case, the main reason there is no subversion now is that the majority of Chinese just don't want it. Most serious dissidence is based out of the country and is strongly supported by Western governments and/or radical religious organizations like the FLG.

8. What possible justification is there for China's oppressive crackdown on dissenting voices? How far do you think that those arguments are justified, personally speaking?
From my observation, the explanation of most CCP supporters is that dissenters are putting at risk the first objective of unity, stability and growth. First make a great country -they say- then get more individual rights. While this might be true, there is another reason that is rarely mentioned: the people in power like to keep their comfy seats. Whatever the real reasons, some of the actions that we have seen, like the arrest of Liu XiaoBo or Xu Zhi Yong, are completely unjustified.


Censorship is a self perpetuating vicious cycle in the country. The Great Firewall might be efficient, but not as much as the world thinks it is. It is for this reason that bloggers like Zuola are able to maintain their blogs through proxy servers in America. It is easy enough to bypass the barriers, but how many would actively do something to incur harsh action? The reason China is able to control dissidents is because there are so few of them in number. In isolation, the number of activists or protesters who are punished is large. Broadly speaking, however, in a country like China, that percentage out of the total population is negligible. When we see protesters holding banners and marching, we automatically tend to generalise and club them into one monolithic community. What we forget is that in a billion-strong country, punishment fails to have any significant impact.
The “ruthless force” which China is proud of, has not stood the test of a millions-strong movement. There are millions of Internet users all over China. If, even 50 % of them decided to use evasive means to access and release restricted information, how well could the government censors function? All three of the interviewees have said that there is no underground network in the country. The government rules by example. Dissidents are punished as a show of force. In all centralised regimes, such display is very important.
This is why online initiatives have died out. The infamous “Charter 08” faded away in a few months.
Another interesting point to note about the interviews is the fact that while language is the point of contention, one cannot deny the race angle. Laws will be applied differently to a Chinese, a Tibetan and a Westerner. Again, Burger and Zuola have testified to this fact. Although Julen says that it has to do with language and topic, in the end he does go on to say that “...the risk for myself would be limited to getting kicked out of the country, whereas a Chinese citizen may face harsher consequences.”
Whatever is censored by the government is meant to set an example. One essay by an intellectual will probably not influence millions of people. Yet, the intellectual in question must be imprisoned. Why? To display power and authority. Even the point of dissemination which I have mentioned, is secondary.
Many opine that that Chinese censorship is the least hypocritical when compared with countries like the U.S.A. At least in China, people know that limiting measures are in place. A lot of information is suppressed in other countries without the public even coming to know about it. That is the greatest irony. In spite of such strict censorship, the world always knows what is going on in China. Yet when the US or Great Britain suppresses facts on issues like defence and health, people come to know of it months and sometimes, even years later. Details of inhuman torture performed by the CIA on terror suspect Binyam Mohamed were blacked out to protect the identities of certain British intelligence officers who contributed questions during the interrogation by the US. This makes one wonder where the truly efficient censorship lies.
There is another important element in this self perpetuating cycle: Material values. This is inevitable in a (purportedly) Communist state. As is obvious from the interviews, most of the Chinese are satisfied with their government in general. Woeser has lost her employment and housing. Why one would someone risk that for playing a tiny role in a movement which is most likely to die out? Again, heroism for the sake of heroism is pointless.
On an occasion, a conversation with a Tibetan businessman from Lhasa (part of the TAR, or the Tibetan Autonomous Region) further proved my point. On being asked about the Tibetan situation in China, he said that he was completely satisfied with the way things were. Speaking through a translator he mentioned that “if you follow all their rules, they will never do anything to you. I am very happy and am earning lots of money.”
His prosperity was evident from his appearance. Compare this to the situation of a Tibetan political prisoner who was imprisoned for over thirty years. When she was out, her daughter, now an adult, was unable to recognise her. Tibet is still not free. It is natural to question: why would someone risk so much if he/she could quietly lead a reasonably happy life with family?
This is in no way meant to belittle the efforts of the freedom fighters in the Tibetan context. I am not talking about the few who still mean to fight for their rights, it is about the millions who don't and these are the numbers which really matter.
Ultimately censorship is more of an internal force than anything else. It is self imposed due to certain extraneous factors. There is always the choice of breaking the rules, and a few choose to do it.
The role of the government is not to censor, but to create appropriate conditions so that people may censor themselves in the end.


• ""All Quiet on the Tibetan Blog Front."" Web log post. High Peaks Pure Earth. Ed. High Peaks Pure Earth. Blogger, 06 Mar. 2009. Web. 30 Apr. 2010. .
• Brecht, Bertolt. The Life of Galileo. Trans. Desmond I. Vesey. Ed. A. Stock. 25th ed. New Delhi: Oxford UP, 2009. Print.
• Burger, Richard. Web log post. The Peking Duck. Web. 26 Apr. 2010. .
• Kyi, Jamyang. ""Answers to Three Questions"" Web log post. High Peaks Pure Earth. Ed. High Peaks Pure Earth. Blogger, 22 June 2009. Web. 28 Apr. 2010. .
• Madariaga, Julen. Web log post. CHINAYOUREN. Web. 28 Apr. 2010. .
• Orwell, George. Nineteen Eighty-Four. Great Britain: Penguin, 1954. Print.
• Reporters San Frontieres. ""Living Dangerously on the Net"" Reporters San Frontieres. 12 May 2003. Web. 25 Apr. 2010. .
• Seth, Vikram. From Heaven Lake: Travels through Sinkiang and Tibet. New Delhi: Penguin, 1990. Print.
• ""Tibetan Bloggers and Citizen Journalists."" Web log post. High Peaks Pure Earth. Ed. High Peaks Pure Earth. Blogger, 10 Feb. 2009. Web. 27 Apr. 2010. .
• Tsangyang, Kunga. "Who Are The Real Separatists?" Web. 02 May 2010. .

I would like to thank Varun Shankar (University of Utah) for helping me get a Chinese translator for the interview of Zuola.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Suffering and the rain that follows.

There is suffering which one can blame others for. And then there is the waiting for rain. Every day I would travel to college in the abominable heat and look at the faces of the people around me. Everyone suffered, in frustration. No one could do anything about the elusive rain.
When we suffer, we find solace through blame. It is almost cathartic. One scapegoat and the crisis seems to be bearable.
Who do you blame for the lack of rain? God? The government? The UN? Mute suffering is hard to endure, in oneself or in others. Even children stopped crying in the hellish heat. Perhaps something in their gullible minds told them that this was one problem that neither Ma nor Baba could ever solve. Grim faces were struggling to cope with the crushing pressures of making ends meet. Faces lacked the freshness that one sees in the morning. There was no anticipation which comes with a new day, nor the hope. All I could see on the face of the man next to me, was a nameless dread.
Yet amidst all that suffering , a spark of hope still lurked. At the slightest breath of wind, faces turned to the sky. Every cloud brought a smile. For once, one longed for the cloud without the silver lining.
I remember the first rain of this season. The moment the first drops fell, I could hear a simultaneous cheer resonate across the streets. For once people were not as eager to seek the nearest shelter as they usually are.
And then, Nature graciously obliged.