To do that ... I happen to write!

Thursday, 24 June 2010

In the house of Marwas

Out he ran, jumping over the stooping crowd gathered in the basement, up the stairs and towards the front gate, between the legs of the stick wielding villagers leaving them frozen in their spots, their mouths wide open, amidst the laughter of children who had lined up on the balconies of houses that overlooked Marwas house. Radha fainted...again.

Earlier, in the morning...

For Radha, everything so far in the day had been routine. She got up in time to see the setting moon which looked like a careless white blot on a blue painting, took a bath, put somber smelling rose powder over her neck and dragged her children out of their bed, acting stone cold to their cajoling cries. Soon she packed their breakfast and saw Vikram and Shyama cycle their way to school.

Soon after seeing her children off to school, Radha started preparing lunch for the men in the family. Vikram’s father and his 2 brothers ate their early lunch consisting of 6-8 ghee (Indian butter) laden Chapatis each, along with green beans and yellow pulse boiled in desi ghee and stirred in a curry of spices, finishing their meal with 2-3 desi ghee ladoo’s. After their meal, each of them headed off to raise the shutters of their respective shops. With all that ghee, it was not a wonder that Radha’s household was one of the most affluent in the village.

Soon the wives of her brothers-in-law too left for their session of morning gossip at the temple, leaving Radha alone with her mother-in-law in their enormous house which could comfortably fit 50 people, if need be. What followed afterwards was also routine: just as every other day, Radha’s mother-in-law nagged her on trivial matters: a single dirty spot on floor or a utensil which did not shine like a mirror. Today Radha’s mother in law’s third eye was fixated over the fact that the stairs leading from ground floor to first floor were covered in dust. With a cement factory barely 3 miles from the village - there was neverending dust in the air and house required to be dusted daily! But then the maid had just dusted those stairs a few hours ago! In early days of marriage, Radha would frequently be reduced to hysterical sobs on facing such tantrums; but over the course of 10 years – she had become accustomed to it.

Radha screamed back at her mother-in-law saying that dust was in her mind and not on the stairs, but nevertheless picked up the broom. After having swept off the dust, she mopped her brow, adjusted her saree, and started to climb back up when she noticed that the door to the basement was open.

This is new’, she thought. From what Radha had heard from her husband: basement of the house acted as a storehouse for gold and cash. Lots of gold and cash. And before she knew, her feet took her through the door and down the stairs … to the basement.

The entire basement, including the stairs was covered in a fine sheet of dust, with plentiful of spider webs hanging at all corners. Even in the piping hot weather, the basement was cold, damp and mostly black. The only rays of light that came were through the door on the top of the stairs.

Initially groping, then squinting, and finally becoming accustomed to the darkness of the basement: she saw 2 rooms standing side by side, a little away from the stairs. One room appeared to be secure with a huge padlock on its gate while the door of the other room was slightly ajar.

As she cautiously approached the open room, she heard a faint noise – almost like the sound of someone breathing. Her heart started beating faster. She stopped, intently trying to listen. But she heard the noise no more, infact, her entire head was filled with the noise of her own wild heart beat. Her good sense told her to leave but an overwhelming feeling came over her to just have a look into the open room. She shrugged her fears, and telling herself to be brave she took another few steps. Then, only half-an-arms length away from the door she again heard a noise, and this time there was no mistaking it. There was a clear sound of breathing in short gasps. A terror seized her body, her large black eyes grew to frightening proportions as all color was drained from her small and beautiful face. She stood frozen, expecting a sharp knife to appear anytime from the dark, slitting her throat.

Suddenly something metallic, perhaps an empty tin can fell and made a lot of noise. Almost on an impulse, Radha lunged forward, bolted the door and dashed towards the stairs. As she ran over the stairs, she stepped over her own saree, tripped and fell with a soft thud on the stairs. But without a moment’s delay she got up and ran out of the basement: blood oozing from her forehead, near her right eyebrow; shouting chor chor (thief - thief), puffing large amounts of dust – she still ran, out of her house in the streets: still crying chor chor...

Then, in the afternoon...

It was exasperatingly hot, but nevertheless almost the entire nearby village had gathered in, or near the house of Marwas by 12:30 PM, only half an hour after Radha went off crying chor chor and collapsed in the street. At the start, her neighbors thought it was a result of some interesting (and big, and bloody) fight between Radha and her mother-in-law, but when they heard that there was a thief, bolted in the basement of the house of Marwas: they became even more excited.

The news spread even faster than the usual: with eager kids running in the streets, shouting ‘Marwa ka ghar pe chor karma mein band – Radha ne chor pakdiyo’ (Radha locks a thief in the house of Marwas) and so on. And soon, around 50 men, bearing thick and strong bamboo sticks lined up in the house of Marwas: those who were near in relation to Marwas were allowed in the basement while other waited up on the large veranda on the ground floor. Some men were tensed as if the entire thing could result in their premature death, while some were excited hoping that it would be some rewarded thief they would catch, while some were clearly enjoying the get together talking to others, exchanging the news of the village, and sipping tea. Women and children lined up in the balconies of the three storied house of Marwas, or on the houses overlooking the house of Marwas. In all there were nearly 100 men, women and children gathered to catch the cornered thief.

A few men cautiously approached the door and tried to listen. There was absolutely no noise. They called the thief to come out. No answer. They told him that he was cornered and that there was no escape. No answer. They rechecked with Radha, but she was absolutely sure that there was a thief inside the room. Now that she had told everyone how she single handedly wrestled the knife-bearing thief and pushed the strong and hefty man inside the room, and had won accolades for it – there was no going back. And of course there was a thief inside.

The men banged the gates for one last time. Still - no answer. 30 minutes of inaction had made the whole scene soporific. Some men even dozed off while standing – taking rest on their sticks. Thus the gate was slowly unbolted. All the torches and lanterns blazed their light onto the gate. Murmurs arose among the crowd. And then the door was pushed open. The lights poured in – but there was nothing to be seen. Yet.

Just as the men were preparing to peep inside the room - Out he ran, jumping over the stooping crowd gathered in the basement, up the stairs and towards the front gate, between the legs of the stick wielding villagers leaving them frozen in their spots, their mouths wide open, amidst the laughter of children who had lined up on the balconies of houses that overlooked Marwas house.

When people inside the house of Marwas came to terms with what had happened, the grimness of the previous moment turned into an uncontrollable state of laugher, with 100 men, women and children laughing their lungs out – till their stomach started twisting and tears flew thick out of their eyes. They would stop for a moment, only to resume laughing again – taking hold of whatever was near to them: bed, wall, a person. Infact, most of the people sat down because they could not bear laughing so much while standing up.

Amidst all this Radha fainted.

Even today, 20 years after the actual incident – you can go to the Khajaria village, 30 km to the west of Sirohi in Rajasthan, India, and ask for the story of the so-called Thief that ran out of the house of Marwas, and expect a laughing delight shared over a cup of tea...

Ghana saal pehle, marwa ke ghar mein
Radha ne pakdiyo chor
ikhatta kiya aakha gaon ne
Ne Nikloyo ek akela kutto, navra kaam ko atro shor...

Years ago, in the house of Marwas
Radha caught hold of a thief
Shouted she, and along came the entire village
Only to see, running out, a hapless dog...

It was much ado about nothing...

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

The Evening Games

Images by Novacaine

Vijay stole a glance every now and then to look at the clock which hung on the wall to his right. The slow ticks of the clock were making him impatient. He tried reading his book which said something about king Harshavardhana but the pages just dissolved in front of his eyes. The words and sentences seemed to float and ere long his eyes got all watery. He again looked at the clock, only to quickly dive his head back into his book lest his father would notice him. He was sure that his father would not appreciate his longing to go out and play.

Eons later it was 5 PM. Vijay rubbed his eyes, stretched his limbs and tried to get away from his study table as nonchalantly as he could...

"It's too hot outside", said his father curtly.

Vijay knew that the best policy to deal with his father was to agree with whatever he said.

"Yes dad", he replied.

And he walked outside his room without an air of hurry. He then went to the kitchen and made some noise with the earthen pot, as if he was drinking water. Though without doubt he was the least thirsty person on the planet at that moment. His mind had a singular focus: to get out. After having made the sound - he waited with bated breath. No sounds came from the other room. Apparently either his father had dozed off or were contently reading the newspaper. Slowly, he moved towards the main door of the house. He opened it in the smallest possible angular steps, yet it creaked. He stood still for a few moments, listening intently, before continuing to open the door. His eyes widened with joy as the door opened; and then he tip toed out of the house. Infact, he was holding his breath untill he was 3 houses away...

Vijay couldn't stand still as he knocked on his friend's house. He stretched his legs, twisted his arms, exercised his neck by rotating it round and round and did some deep breathing. He knocked again, a little louder this time. A screechy voice came from inside which told him that Aayush was not at home. This made him a little worried. He nervously lingered at the doorway for a while, and then retreated with heavy steps. Vijay had talked to Aayush only a few hours ago, and Aayush had said that he would be coming to play. 'He must have gone to Tanmay', Vijay thought; and the proceeded to Tanmay's house.

Vijay would generally shout Tanmay's name to call him then ringing bell. For otherwise he felt awkward when Tanmay's parent would open up the door and then he would have to ask them to call Tanmay. But today he felt his throat chocking. He reached out for the bell and rang it for a trite. He stood still. Nothing happened. He again pressed the bell, a little longer this time; and yet no one opened the door. He looked around. Everything was quite except for the little bells on near the gate which chimed upon being touched by the cool wind. He slowly tried to pull the front door and just as he'd thought - it was locked.

Vijay's heart started to beat fast. He knew, he just knew, something was wrong. Two of the most regular players, who would not miss the evening games without telling him, were missing. Something was not right. Either they must have both gone to Aadi's house; but even so - before going to Aadi's house they should have surely come to him. This thought suddenly made Vijay angry. He started walking in short and fast steps towards Aadi's house where he heard some voices. As he came nearer the voices grew louder and then he heard his voice. He froze. He felt as if someone had clubbed him and drained the entire blood out of his body.

Only a few days ago he was ousted from the team: ostracized, unanimously; for he was not a nice person. He used to constantly abuse people. He would constantly lock horns with Vijay. He was a one man show. Vijay told this to the team; and everyone agreed. The next day Vijay told him to leave. Vijay smiled at recalling the incident, he felt like a real leader then...

He snapped back into reality as he saw everyone coming out of Aadi's house. Talking loudly, they walked straight towards the field, without even casting a single look towards Vijay. As if he had an invisibility cloak over him. Crestfallen, and speechless: Vijay followed everyone to the playground. The team was decided. Generally, it used to be Vijay who decided the team, but today when they chose the team they conveniently ignored him. He wanted to beat each of those who were present that day to death, but he somehow calmed his rising rage.

"I will be in Aayush's team", he announced, however, nobody took note of him.

The game started. Aadi passed the ball from the centre to Manas on his left who gave a long ball to Aayush on the left flag, who dribbled it past 2 defenders bringing the ball near the D. Vijay stood at a perfect cross: shouting for ball. It would have been a beautiful goal. Cross and goal. But instead Aayush took the ball to the right of the D from where, suddenly shrouded by defenders, he passed the ball back in the center to Manas who dribbled it in the D, again on the left. Vijay shot pass the defenders coming on the other side of the D: all alone - one neat pass to Vijay and it was goal. But Manas continued to dribble and took a clumsy shot; which was 2 times wide and 2 times high...

The whole team retreated back to the other side of the field. Everyone retreated but Vijay. He just stood there, looking at the goalpost: glistening with the rays of setting Sun. The game started again. Everyone started running towards the other end of the field as Vijay slowly started towards his home. His eyes red with indignity, swollen with tears: his mind filled with images of the setting Sun...

Friday, 4 June 2010

I Dare

Amazing account from one of the top cops of India. The book leaves you with a feeling of great determination, but also with a great deal of thought on how difficult is it to rock the cradle of such a hypocrite system...

The entire story is something of the sorts of a realistic Wonder Women, where she does amazing things, shows amazing will power and never ever gives up: but still unlike the superhero Wonder Women, here she is not the one who wins all the time. More often than not, evil has it's way...

From Delhi to Goa to Mizo to Tihar to Chandigarh to UN to being denied the post of Delhi Police Commissioner: I Dare is an intense account of what prestigious civil services really should be, and what has been made of it, the (political) pressure that one has to face, how hard is it to hold on to your values and that it can be done, how the support of one's family forms the backbone of doing great things in life and that what being zealous is all about.

There are a few thoughts, inspired from the book, which I find worth mentioning:

  1. Women become empowered when they become givers rather than receivers.

  2. One of the biggest problem in doing great work is that there are always envious people. People who are plagued by their sense of insecurity. And these are the people who put all their energy, not to raise standards of their own work, but to ensure the downfall of the great work which is being done, and the one who's doing it.

  3. People get attached to their status quo. We all are attached to our status quo. Aren't we? We all like the way things are. We don't want them to change (and change them for good!). Change brings uncertainty. And those who have comfortably settled in their nests find this discomforting - for change is all about that. But the bad part is that people don't want to accept that. They want to cling. No one wants to surf on the tide. Those who do - rule!

  4. The only way to achieve larger than life goals for community improvement is by making community a part of the work being done for them.

  5. If system becomes transparent, it automatically becomes accountable.

  6. Things get done through favors. This is true for several things, in almost all the countries. If you know the right person you can get your work done. True. However, the problem with India is that such things have to be done at even the most meager levels of living. That is to say 100% of the population has to do it. While in several developed places in the world: 99% of population can go living on their own: because all the basic infrastructure is smooth. There is corruption at higher level, let that be - for with greatest power comes greatest blackness in hearts, but let things be smooth for the common man.

  7. True leadership is about selflessness.

  8. Sustenance of an initiative is THE most difficult thing to achieve. By sustenance I mean that even when the champion for the issue is gone - the issue stays. That is to say even if Gandhi Ji were to die before we got our independence, we would have got it. Sustenance is difficult because people are moved by the champion for the issue (problem) not the issue itself. And the champion does a lot to conquer the problem but does little to grow leaders who can take over after him.

  9. Mind which is not purposefully engaged is the hub of devil.

  10. And finally in her own words: "Those who do not take charge of their time are lathicharged (caned) by time"
Kiran Bedi did dare.