Fear and Loathing in Wonder La
(This is an article I wrote about 2 years back. It was published in Bangalore.Digital)
I was on the highway trying to cure my Monday blues hangover, looking for amusement and fun. When I saw the board saying ‘Wonder La 2kms’, I got nostalgic and the wanderlust for Wonder La began to take its effect. So I swerved right as directed and prepared myself for the usual adrenalin shot. But this time, something was different. There was a metallic scent of fear and loathing in the air, and just as the scent began to fade, I saw a board saying “No Safety in Wonder La”.
Distracted though I was by the conspicuous warning, I decided to focus on the road and get to my destination. Just as I saw the gate to my childhood get-away-land, a hartal caught my attention. It was a group of about 35 workers, in uniform, waving red flags, flaunting portraits of Gandhi, Marx and Lenin. Something was cooking. Curiosity got the best of me and I pulled over. As I approached them, they chanted slogans saying “Down! Down! Management!” & “Bekey Beku, Nyaya Beku” (‘We want Justice!’). I filmed a part of this show on my phone and waited for them to finish. Then, one Mr. Rao handed over a few pamphlets describing in detail the alleged injustices the Mangaementt of Wonder La had committed. They claimed that 60 workers, technicians, maintenance workers and ride operators were either illegally transferred to other projects in Kochi & Hyderabad or fired from their jobs. To add salt to the wound, the workers were not allowed to unionize. Mr. Rao, a technician who had been working for Wonder La for over 10 years said, “They try to divide and rule us. They do not let us form a union. We have been on strike for 17 days with workers doing 12 hour shifts, 24 X 7. We received some attention from the local news, but the Bangalore based channels did not cover our story. We also have a Facebook page and a hashtag by the name of #WonderLaKarmikaSanga. We maintain the page ourselves and recently we uploaded a video of a land ride malfunctioning. The strike has forced V-Guard to employ security personnel and cleaners as ride operators, thus making the rides unsafe. There have been two accidents in the last week. One man suffered a wound to the head and another broke his arm. Wonder La is no longer safe.”
Impressive. I have witnessed several protests in my life and have even participated in a few, but never had I seen a protest this well organized, deliberate and moving. I instantly felt a long lost pang of empathy. This Orwellian problem needed a solution. Theirs was a voice that needed to be heard. “What do you expect from this strike?” I enquired.
“Justice.” Mr. Rao said resignedly. The protesters seemed tired, sun burnt in the mid day sun and desperate for a solution. “We have formed a union. We have an elected leader. Ours is the path of truth and justice and we will have it”, he assured me. Ironically, at this moment, the Managing Director of Wonder La drove past us in a BMW. All the workers stared at the car and stayed silent. If looks could kill!
One of the workers whose name escapes me now, claimed that the M.D. often drove past them waving and sarcastically demanding that they protest louder. This angered me. Severely. I refused to do nothing about this situation. This is why I am writing this. The workers have been fired, transferred, ill treated and their moral fibre has been destroyed. Still, all they care about is their work, justice, and above all the safety of the patrons. It saddened my heart to see merry families in cars drive by them ignoring their warnings. Wonder La is no longer safe. Agreed. But there is a bigger problem here. Wonder La is not just unsafe, it is unjust, cruel and what seems to be the farthest thing I can think of when someone says ‘fun and amusement’. This article is my howl to the rest of Bangalore, and probably the whole country. This is not just one instance of the wealth gap and its side effects. It is not a clash between ideologies and ‘–isms’. This is an allegory for the injustice that plagues modern society. It is up to us to scourge ourselves off and rid this filth once and for all. The common modern man’s fundamental right to assemble peaceably without arms and protest is at threat here. Please help me extinguish this threat. Please do not visit unsafe amusement parks. Please do not put your children’s and your own health and life at risk.