Monthly Archives: July 2014

Of the place that is away from India

The morning always starts with a cursory glance at the newspaper. With the cup of tea poised between the thumb and index finger of one hand, the other hand is ready to flip the page.Not much time to go into details then, the clock keeps ticking towards ‘office time’, an unsurmountable deadline.
Infact the news is also pretty much predictable now a days. More pro-capitalist stands, more environmental violations, more price-rise. Everything leaves a momentary bad taste in our mouth but that hardly lasts long. We wash it down with the hastly prepared breakfast.The maid, if we managed to afford one, is hardly in a mood for edible cooking in the morning.But no luxury to carp over burnt toast or watery dal, ‘office time’ gets omniously close.And by the time we get the ‘dabba’, check the ID card and manage to hit the road for office, other thoughts are pushed out of mind by plans for the day, to-do lists and so on.The huge inflation makes managing a pay-rise imperative. The EMIs have to be paid on time, the credit card bills cleared and also a bit of savings for cloudy days.We are hard-pressed, aren’t we?
So a bet can be safely wagered that when we saw, reading takes a time annd alertness we do not spare, the news of another north-east guy being beaten to death in Delhi, the outrage and sadness that welled inside us had subsided perhaps before the cripsiness of morning paper mellowed, just like it happened six months ago.Six months?Yes, it has just been six months that Nido Tania had been murdered in Delhi.What for? because he was from north-east.
Is that a crime to belong from a certain part of a country, one’s own country?
Is is a crime to look different?
Is is a crime to venture into the mainland just because we happen to dangle at the end of a chicken neck?

Nido Tania and Akha Salauni were killed by some uneducated and ill educated people, an argument is hurled by our mainland counterparts, over tea and coffee, luncheons n dinners.They tch-tch the incidents.Not that they bad people, faking their sympathies.It is just that people who arent from north-east cannot understand it, because they donot understand what north-east is. For them, NE is exotic somewhere which adds a certain X-factor to the image of India;an essential but not-so-welcome appendage..perhaps like our  maid..her presence is essential for the timely tea and food, but she is hardly allowed to use the dinner table.

Coming to the point of ill-educated and uneducated which I popped in the first line of the last para,how can one justify the statement made by the top notch manager of an MNC, “everything beyond west-bengal is simply bengal for us”? How can one justify the statement made by a retd. Colonel that all villages in and around Bishwanath Chariali is occupied by Bangladeshis who weld guns?They donot lack in education. Just that they do not care to know.A prejudiced idea, based not on facts, is all they have.And no one is ever ashamed of not knowing about us because we do not matter to them.Do we ever know about the place where our Dudhwala or Dhobiwala?Do we ever care how we mock their inability to come during days of flood or when there is an eviction going on?Our utility lies in Assam tea and oil-fields, in Tawang and Scotland of East, in open coal-mining, rabid destruction of forest cover. We are remembered for Kaziranga and silk, we are remembered for momos.We are remembered when Mainland China requires waiters with mongoloid features.
Beyond these, our lives and identities are immaterial.

When China decides to show Arunachal as their territory, the shop keepers of Munirka do not get agitated because they do not have the time.Their lives revolve around the price of rice and dal.Even those youths with fancy cars with yo yo honey singh blazing from the sound box do not get agitated because they do not bother to know. It is people like us who can angry on China’s foreign policy, on Land Border Agreement with Bangladesh and so on.It is those people who try to support AFSPA applicable in Manipur and Mizoram without even bothering to know what it means.It is these people who cannot even point out the different states in the map.Ask them about Sharmila, they shall reply ‘Tagore’. Ask them about Manoroma, they shall reply ‘six feet under’. They hail Anna Hazare and donot know about Irom Sharmila Chanu who is tried for attempt to commit suicide because she is on an indefinite fast to repeal AFSA.They donot know about Manorama who was raped and then was pumped with bullets by Indian Army.They donot know about those brave ladies who paraded naked in the streets of Imphal and asked Army to rape them as a protest to Manorama killing.They donot feel ashamed to hail this very Indian Army!Ask them about severing NE from India, they shall take up arms!Love?No. It is pure greed covered up with the garb of nationalistic spirit.And this spirit goes into an in definite hibernation when people from Manipur,Mizoram,Nagaland(these are the very NE states we are talking about.The names are unfamiliar, aren’t they?Not much used,I admit) get taunted and lynched.This spirit doesnt wake up when girls from Assam, Meghalaya and Arunachal are termed as easy and cheap because we are not you.

Lucky are you people whose identity is well established.Lucky you are because you donot get caught in cross-fire.Lucky you are because you donot have the fear of being killed if you raise your voice.Lucky indeed you are because you are an integral part of India.

Nido Tania and Akha Salauni(how many of you remembered the name till you reached this line?) were brave enough to speak out loud against the slurs most of us choose to ignore to remain safe.They too could have kept silent, and crossed pretending that nothing happened, those were just druken blabberings, like we mostly do.And then pat ourselves with the line, ‘Discretion is preferred to valour’. They didnot.Because they were fools.Fools indeed they were to think that their lone voice shall be heard, fools to think that the death of two unwanted north-eastern guys would scratch the collective conscience of people!What did they think themselves to be!One-horned rhinos or hollock gibbons! they were two of too many homo-sapiens whose deaths ring no bell.

We have learnt to live with your distaste, our fellow-mainlanders.We have learnt to ignore your pinches about our eyes, our straight hairs, our glowing skins.That is what makes us so attractive to your menfolk, isnt it?So you call us cheap too,we remain silent.We have also learnt to laugh,hiding out sadness, at the ignorance you display regarding a part of the country you profess to love.We have also decided to be patient when you doubt our citizenship and tell that what we speak is not the proper language.
We have decided to bear everything and go along with you,because we do not have the courage, because we do not want to die.


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Bye Bye Baroda-1

The worst part of being an amateur writer is the constant nagging fear that in a wish to share the beauty of what we see, we might destroy the beauty itself.Because a seasoned writer has a complete mastery of language, they know how to weave words to create the ambience they want. Bibhutibhusan can convert the red soiled roughness of Chotta Nagpur into soul-full classical music.When, in a cloudy afternoon, we sat poring over a thick volume of Aaranyak, did we not feel the oppressive heat of NaRa Baihar? did we not flow along with the tale to lands where an old man plant trees to enrich the forest?
And is beauty just greenery and forests?Is it just a full moon peeping from tree? No, cannot be so and it is indeed not so.These charmers showed us artistry everywhere.Banpalashir Padabali isn’t about nature.Subodh Ghosh did not dabble with moonlight and mountains as much as Bibhutibhushan did,but it did not lessen the charm of his work. The simple ‘familiar matters’ transcended their simpleton nature.When we stay alone in a far off land, wouldn’t we have given anything to experience even the family issues of Madhav’s house? In dark and sad days of life, Subodh Ghosh’s writings act as palliatives.In a cliché expression it can be said that we see every pain we feel has been felt before, each sadness of life has affected somebody somewhere as it affects us and we realize that we are not alone.
There is a friend of mine, who can perhaps express every emotion by quoting the old gentleman with Santa-Claus like beard. Sometimes, it feels as though he was a prophet, crystallizing every emotion of human life, expressing all that we say or we can ever want to say into his lines, providing us with words when we grope for them.
So with these people lacing our consciousness, it indeed becomes very difficult to dare and express what we feel and not to give in to the ever-increasing temptation of using their words.
Why these winding lines?
It is because yesternight, we were out, partying and while we were coming back, it was raining. I have always been told that i am slightly obsessed with rain.I do plead guilty to the charge.
But yesterday was a bit different.
Born and brought up in a remote corner of north-eastern India, mossy green and torrential downpours were routine things. There used to floods almost annually. Murky waters of the entire town used to get logged in our locality.every spell of rain used to be frowned up, the local radio news were carefully scanned to know the water level of the Barak River which otherwise struggled to move under the pressure of dirt n debris of typical congested provincial town of ours.
Almost a week before the floods actually happened, we would see lined faces of elders.Stocking provisions for days to come, shifting furnitures upstairs, making arrangements for bamboo rafts and so on.
The wooden top floor of our modest two-storey dwelling would be crammed with things from the lower floor.In those houses where the luxury of top floor, the beds would be elevated well above the water level by stacking bricks under the legs of the bed.Years of flood water had already weakened them and coupled with bricks, it resulted into a wobbly structure. Perched on it, with rolls of bedding and pots and pans, life turned to a clumsy picnic for them.
For us, we would look from our balcony as baba and kaku used to wade through knee-deep water to get fried snacks and other things from the drier parts of town.Flood used a be a bit generous to us, providing us with a tiny vacation when all we could do was to sit and chat, occasionally disturbed by the tedious task of clearing the sludgy remains when water recedes.But these not-so-comfortable thoughts could never touch the gaiety of a kid who enjoyed the town getting converted to a somewhat ramshackle resemblance of Venice.
From such a life, where water really constituted two-thirds of our life,I had to relocate to the westernmost extreme of India.Any one who has been here, have seen how dried and parched the land it.Trees lining the streets remain coated with gritty dust, their green wilted to almost to a shade of yellow.Rain is sparse, so sparse that by the time it arrives, the regal plumage of peacocks turn threadbare as they sit waiting for those water drops.
And when rain comes, it turns to a celebration.

And that is where the problem starts.

When you are in a busy road, trying to save yourself from speeding cars and swerving bikes,the first few drops of rain just go unnoticed.May be you wonder aloud,”Is it raining!” and your friend is quick to retort,”Yeah! you are the only one to get it”. You rub the part where the drop landed, trying to gauge  the moisture,if at all, with your hand.If you are like me, a bit short-tempered, you perhaps grunt angrily at the friend, otherwise, you manage to calm yourself with a frown.In this situation, mostly the frown goes unnoticed because, by that time, your friend has already spotted the misty drops of rain in the head-light of the approaching car.These appear like spray from the perfume, unnoticed until light falls, missed in the commotion.

Then starts the sudden rush of finding a shade because it doesn’t take much time to turn to big blobs of water bobby-printing your dress.And by the time you hop and skip through the traffic to get under that crowded shade, already filled with people, it turns to a curtain of rain.Tiny streams form in the road-sides.They reminds us of the word ‘brook’, don’t they?The cars running get splattered with mud from bottom and on its roof, the rain drops produce the ‘jhom-jhom-jhom’ sound.

So were we,stranded in rain.From the edge of the shade, fell a single,thick,steady strand of water, its uniformity splintered only when it hit the rough road, splattering into our dresses.We tried to hard to save our clothes from being hit with that dirty water,the long-accumulated dust on the cornice caused the water to look brownish, like water from some long abandoned pond.

We had an appointment to keep and both of us were glancing at our watches.The dampness of rain had mellowed the make-up.The lady who stood in front of us, had a bag full of vegetables.The green tips of spinach peeped out of her bag, clinging in a flimsy way to the stems, the force of rain was more than they could handle. The lady had a depressed look, the rain must have disrupted her usual time of going home and getting the dinner ready.

A sharp tug, and I was pulled out of my guessing game. My friend had managed to get an auto for us.We did not want to wet our chappals and tried jumping over the small ‘brook’ of water.It wasn’t clear anymore, wrappers of chloromint, chewed paan had started flowing in it.It has been raining for quite sometime.

” Do not step in that puddle”, she cautioned me as she managed to cross it in a neat jump. I gave her a “Huh! I am fine!” (short-tempered, remember?) and tried to take the leap and there I went! a perfect landing in the perfect centre!

I knew a scolding is on its way to me.With a perfectly amused face, I quickly said, in time, to stop the scolding mid-way: “it feels like school days, stepping into puddles and enjoying rain”.

She replied with an equally un amused look,”This is your last rain in Baroda.”


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Filed under Memoirs or Fiction?