Wednesday, 1 October 2014

The human connection

A long rail bridge across Ganga separated me from rest of the world. After a tiring second class journey the train dropped me in this historical city of chaos and colours. Between life and death it stands, giving thousands of men and women a promise of solace. 

After a quick face wash I set off for an early morning stroll towards the river. Mist was still in the air and my watch was showing half past four. First light of the day was slowly appearing in the eastern horizon. Crossing narrow streets and dark corridors, I entered an open space; the sandy banks of river Ganga. The air was filled with an unfamiliar and unpleasant odour. Unknown people from unknown places were walking here and there. Three men were dipping a rat trap in the river, liberating the soul of an unfortunate rat fooled by the bait.

I walked directionless till something stopped me. Here in front of my eyes lies a human being without the vibrations of life, fully draped in plain white cloth without even an inch of the body visible to the outside world. On a pile of wood it lied, getting ready to be eaten by mighty flames. Abandoned flowers and glitter paper that adorned the body till a few minutes back were lying around. A few goats were eating those abandoned flowers. An old woman was collecting the cheap silk cloth that was used to decorate the dead. It is going to end up in one of the second sale shops in that city to give the final send off to another dead.

The flames from the burning wood started eating up that body like a hungry predator. Molten fat was flowing to the ground like a small stream. Two men came forward, carrying long wooden poles, as if they couldn’t wait anymore. They started beating that burning body to make it in to fine pieces so that it would burn fast. For the poor relatives of that dead body saving fuel wood means saving few bucks. Crows and other birds were flying high over the thick smoke. Soon that body became fine grey powder. There was no way to know whether it was a man or woman, or a young or old. For a moment I felt a connection to that unknown dead, a connection of having the common destiny. Few drops of tears fell on the sandy bank of Ganga. I had to keep walking. Another morning was slowly beginning for rest of the world.

Friday, 15 August 2014

"Bitch!!! she has a name"

Mufzina was just three years old when her father left home looking for a job. No one in the village ever heard about him after that. In this land of conflicts who is sure about something? Her young mother may have to live entire life waiting for her husband. How can she marry another person without knowing the whereabouts of her husband? The entire village will damn her if she does that. Without the death certificate of husband she cannot avail any government benefit. In between the game of life and death, she has become a half widow. That remote village seemed to be a prison for that young woman and her little daughter.

A narrow mud path through the middle of an apple orchard led me to a small wooden building. It was a small school. Children were busy with their studies. I was there to know about the children who were adopted by an orphanage. Children from far flung villages were being provided free food, accommodation and education by them.

I entered a small room of about thirty students. Little boys and girls were studying English alphabets in that first standard class room. While talking, I asked the teacher how many students from the orphanage were studying there. In the flash of a second she raised her hand and pointed her fingers towards a little girl and said “she is orphan”. That little girl suddenly rose from the floor without raising her head. She stood there as if she had done a grave mistake. I wished to yell at that young teacher “Bitch, she has a name, which is not orphan”. All the other children in the class were looking at that little girl. I didn’t want to talk to the teacher anymore. I walked out of the class room. That little girl was Mufzina.

(Name and background information changed, based on true events)

Saturday, 19 April 2014

A notice board and few other thoughts

I was searching my name on that old notice board. It seems to be a difficult task to find one’s own name on this notice board. A cool breeze passed me to flutter a piece of paper pinned to the board. This paper has lost all but only one pin to support its precarious existence on the board. What will happen to that paper when it is finally uprooted from that board? Who will know that this paper once stayed on this board? Unknown numbers of paper has come, stayed and vanished from this board. Does anyone know exactly how many papers did this board host till now? Oh! Finally I found my name on a paper on another corner of the board. This paper is holding strongly to the board now. But what if I am not able to find this paper here on another day?

This notice board is full of pins. Some of them are so rusted while some are about to fall off the board. Most of them have changed their colours. Yes! There are fresh pins also. But all the pins have made their own marks on this board. Some marks seem to be so deep while a few others seems to be healing. Some of these pins may never leave the board. One day this notice board was so clear without any marks. Today it has become so difficult to see the board without pins. Now, it is not the board which carries the pins but it is the pins that carry the board. I wish if I could go back in time to see the old notice board when it was fresh without any marks. I wish if I could remove few pins which made deep marks on the board and still reject the requests to leave the board.

While walking back to my nest-my comfort zone-I saw bulldozers uprooting the trees and leveling the ground. Our old wonderful notice board is accepting pins after pins on its body every moment. Most of these pins make very deep wounds and stay long hurting it forever. Now the board is no more visible without the rusting pins and the clinging paper pieces. I wonder whether I am capable of removing those pins. I just wish if I could make no more deep marks on the notice board.

It was getting late. So I walked hurriedly trying to forget the notice board and the other thoughts.

Friday, 4 April 2014

Corridors know him better than anyone else living here


“What these guys are learning in a university? They don’t even know how to use the toilets (Sorry...Washroom!)”, I used to exclaim every morning, seeing the ugly state of gents’ toilets here, in J- hostel, University of Hyderabad. But in the evening when I come back, they look so clean. So, here is a man, who has not studied in a university, yet he knows how to keep the toilets clean.

Sreenivas, 53, lives in Gopanpalli, just outside the campus. Having come from a distant village, he settled in this city many years back. His daily chores start with cleaning the J hostel, and then he goes to K- hostel and L- hostel. The job is not as easy as one might imagine. All hostels have four floors with each floor more than 100 meters long. In addition, each floor has two separate clusters of toilets cum bathrooms. I have seen him cleaning the urinals with a small brush, without even wearing any gloves.

Sreenivas talked very freely without any hesitation, smiling quite often. When asked whether he is provided with gloves or shoes, he replied in negative. But he said that contract agency gives him phenol or other cleaning liquids on some days. He is not a permanent employee of the university. Working here as a contract labourer earns him a monthly wage of Rs 5000/-.His wife is also working as daily wager in a nearby apartment complex. She is earning around Rs 4000/- per month. In a city like Hyderabad, monthly income of Rs 9000/- is not enough to have a comfortable life, yet he sends his two daughters to school. I could see a ray of hope on his face when he uttered the word school.

While we were talking, a student from the next room called him to clean his room. Without asking any questions sreenivas walked towards that room. He removed his old rubber chappals outside and started cleaning that room, even though it is not a part of his duty. I stood there for a moment before walking back to my room. I was just wondering, why can’t our students even keep their own rooms clean? What great Thoughts are they learning in this university, while they don’t even care to flush the toilets after use? And the final question; to whom does this hostel, this building and these corridors belong? Sreenivas or Students...?

Sunday, 30 March 2014

In search of unseen...inside and outside

I can't remember when did I start...I don't know where I am taken to...But life has been amazingly kindful to me...I was blessed to see the beauty..To feel love...To feel the rain drops...To get lost in mist..But sometimes I feel that there are things that we never notice,never care or never admire.This single chance to have been born here is the greatest thing that we forget most of the time.This single chance to survive with an imaginative mind is the most wonderful thing that we never admire .My journeys remind me that life is a very dynamic process where the next possible moment is an opportunity to explore the unseen world inside and outside.