Our mindscapes, much of this year, have remained occupied with protest rallies and hungry bellies. The rallies, held across the world, helped uproot rulers who had otherwise dug their heels in.
Closer home, the empty stomachs have growled, not so much in search of nourishment, but in announcing their displeasure that those in positions of power might be feeding themselves fat on resources that are expressly not theirs. Against corruption, that is, to use that much-bandied word.
Nonetheless, the sweltering summer, coupled with our fascination for micro-dimensions, have helped evolve the protest fast into its latest, petite single-day avatar.
It is just as well, since the forebearers of the tradition of long fasts have set standards that are difficult to live up to, or die for. Mahatma Gandhi, the doyen of fasting as a means of non-violent protest, often fasted for weeks; an exact 30 years ago, Bobby Sands ended up dead after fasting for 66 days while demanding political status for IRA prisoners.
On an unending fast since November 2000, Irom Sharmila is another indefatigable protestor.
Obviously, it is far more attractive to fast according to fixed rules and strict schedules: religions, from Hinduism’s karva chauth to the Judaic yom kippur, encourage such short abstentions, both as an act of self-discipline and as a means of spiritual connect with higher powers.
Our guess is that all these considerations had weighed on Anna Hazare’s mind while he had been mulling on methods to help detox the human body along with the body politic.
Unless, of course, he has been poring over Franz Kafka’s tale of A Hunger Artist who fasted in a cage to entertain others.