Thursday, February 10, 2011

A Malayali in Tahrir Square

Jayalal P. Soman was one, among a handful of Malayalis, who was present when the Egyptian revolution broke out

By Shevlin Sebastian

Jayalal P. Soman, a software consultant, is just back from Cairo. He was able to witness first-hand all the events that unfolded in Tahrir Square for the past several days because he lived nearby. So far, 300 people have died, and most of them were teenagers.

But Jayalal is sure the killings were not done by the police. “They were only firing teargas shells and it fell at the far ends of the square where there were no crowds,” he says. “I saw many shells falling into the Nile river.”

The other weapon that was used was a machine gun which was mounted on a jeep. “But, again, the police were firing rubber bullets,” he says. “I collected some of the empty shells and bullets.” The suspicion was that supporters of President Hosni Mubarak caused the deaths.

Jayalal works for a Kozhikode-based firm which had been assigned to update the software of the National Bank of Egypt. In Cairo, he spoke to many demonstrators. “They told me that Egyptians no longer want Mubarak because he rigs elections all the time,” says Jayalal. “They want to choose their own leader. They want leaders to follow public opinion in terms of policies. They want a society where they can discuss their likes and dislikes in the open, without the fear of being arrested.”

The educated people feel ashamed that they are living in a dictatorship. “They feel this keenly when they interact with Westerners, who live in free societies,” says Jayalal. They say that the only way their children can have a bright future is if the regime is changed. “The widespread opinion is that Mubarak is incapable of creating educational facilities and job opportunities for the youth,” he says.

What worries people is the lack of industries. “Egypt imports everything, including food,” says Jayalal. He remembers a friend, Ahmed, telling him that he tried to start a farm, but the taxes were so high that it became unprofitable. “Unbelievably, there is a tax on the use of land for agriculture,” says Jayalal. “Ahmed gave up and took a job.”

Jayalal says that the most wonderful thing about Egypt is not the monuments or the history, but the people. “They are warm, kind, friendly and hospitable,” he says. “If you ask for help they will go out of the way to fulfill your needs.”

He remembers an office staffer who when he saw that Jayalal's adapter did not fit into the electric socket immediately went out and bought another one with his money and gave it to the Indian. “I experienced this large-heartedness everywhere,” he says. “I hope Egypt will get the democracy it deserves.”

(The New Indian Express, Kerala)

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