Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Awareness - The soul of a revolution

WHEN I BEGAN WATCHING THIS MOVIE there were only two things I knew – One, that this was about Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara and two, I knew nothing about him apart from the fact that he was a great T Shirt industry icon.

‘Diarios de motocicleta’ The Motorcycle Diaries (2004) documents the earliest milestones in the life of Che Guevara. I had heard so much about it through reviews and word of mouth that I just had to see what it was all about. I am the kind who will watch a movie without a break in between, if I can afford it, because I think the process of story telling needs a direction and a pace. These two are the essential components of any story regardless of what it is about or how good it seems when heard. I did the same here.

The movie is a two hour journey through South America’s infinite seeming beauty. From the cold snow capped mountains of Chile to the hilly silences of Peru. Having been here for almost a decade myself, I could not help but feel privileged to be connected to the story, in an atomic way. ‘They are heading to where I live,’ I kept telling myself whenever they mentioned Venezuela and Caracas. This being my last year here, I could not help but feel a little nostalgic about the whole experience.

Armed with a few supplies, his chubby chum Alberto Granado and a leaking piece of majestic metal called ‘La Poderosa’ The Powerful – A ’39 Norton 500 motorbike – Che begins his journey of South America. Ironic to its name, La Poderosa doesn’t survive a large chunk of the journey as it coughs, throws up, steers away, smashes into and tosses out of the road on several occasions. A teary adieu later, Alberto and Ernesto begin their remainder of the journey through hitchhiking among other methods. Their travel borders along humor and sensitivity all the way with Alberto chipping in most of the amusement to keep an asthmatic Ernesto cheered up. They see a lot of action right away which includes everything from being almost killed by natural and not-so-natural causes. Along the way they continue to meet people from the lowest level of the society. Workers, farmers, miners, and several sections of the lower middle class to the poor – who have been victims of atrocities levied upon them by money hogging fat cats who rule that place. The division that keeps the underprivileged part of the social fabric from the well-to-do masses starts becoming very clear to the young doctor duo as they head up north making various long lasting associations.

The biggest one comes to Ernesto in the form of a leprosy clinic in San Pablo, Peru where they arrive on 8th of June, 1952 after having traveled about 10223 kilometers. The three weeks they spend there shows them a very different, much disturbing, image of the conditions those lepers live in. Ernesto volunteers to work there for a little time, all the while getting connected to all the patients in that center. A strange transformation begins to happen in young Ernesto. The carefree adventurer in him who began this journey is no longer available, as the more concerned and passionate human in him is waking up. On his birthday, the asthmatic Ernesto risks his life and swims across the river (the one that divides the healthy and the sick) to spend time with the patients there. His first sign of leadership stems from their love - selfless and pure. The movie ends with the duo reaching Caracas, Venezuela. Alberto decides to take up occupation in the city while Ernesto chooses to moves on.

You will find a lot of material that says a zillion things about Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara. Being the kind of person I am, I choose to see what seems human to me. And this snapshot of his life was that revealing experience. The revolutionary is born not by birth or place, but by circumstance. A revolution finds its core in seeing the truth. The naked fact of what ails the human in all of us. What we do with it, which way we take it from there is something that hinges on the individual. Finding and acknowledging that core, I feel, is a much harder thing to do.


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