Thursday, October 29, 2009

Heroes in the Crowd

The news of the blasts had just reached us. The television was switched on, and all of us watched it in silence trying to come in terms with the situation, trying to convince ourselves that our near and dear ones were safe. Approximate figures flashed on the screen

'More than a hundred dead, more than two hundred injured.'

The morgue like silence was broken by a phone ring, seconds later the room was filled with different kinds of rings. Families trying to find out if we were okay, if we were not hurt, if we were still alive.

The faces around the office spoke of the horror that played on the television screen. The faces around the office displayed the shock we at the railway maintenance department were hit with; I walked into my office and sat there for a few minutes, trying to think how safe the city is now. My colleague Mathre walked in, and sat on the chair across my desk. His face was filled with dejection and anger.

'All these bastards should be hanged to death, sir'

'We have to catch them first, Mathre' I said making eye contact with him.

'Our people have been ruthlessly killed, and we can do nothing about it. Could there be a bigger curse than that, sir' asked Mathre banging his fist on the desk.

I looked at Mathre his eyes were filled with tears. His emotions were valid, what could be a bigger curse. All we could do was watch the horror unfold on screen. How could we reply to them? We are just a face in the crowd. Pushed around by the politicians, hit at by religious extremists, killed by terrorists.

'I wish we could send them a strong reply, sir'

'What do your propose? We take guns to the border and shoot blindfolded.' I asked trying to control my own overflowing emotions.

He kept quite; both of us knew there was not single reply we could afford to give.

We sat in silence for a few more minutes, trying to settle down the raging waves of anger. Mathre got up and walked out saying he needed a glass of water. I walked out to have another look at the news channel. A pretty looking news lady spoke of the tragedy, appealed to the government on behalf of the injured and the families of dead. She ended her report saying

'The rail lines are closed for now. We think it will stay the same for the next two to three days.'

I called Mathre out and asked him to accompany me. I had small thought, a small plan.

We sat waiting for the Manthriji; he had given us five minutes time, which was all I wanted. I checked my watch it was seven in the evening already. He finally took leave from the media and walked towards his office. We walked into his office with him and sat on the chairs across his desk.

'Yes. Tell me' he asked straight

'Sir, I want permission to clear the damaged train from the tracks, so we can work on restoring the destroyed lines.' I requested

'I cannot issue the permission. It has to come from the people above me.'

'Sir, I request you to get the permission. We want to get the trains back on track with the first light in the morning.'

‘See, first let us sort out the chaos around us. Rescuing the injured and recovering the dead are our first priority. Let us finish that first. The trains can run a couple of days later, it will not make a difference.' he pushed aside our thought.

'Sir, if the trains come in tomorrow morning, it will give a strong reply to the cowards who committed this act. They have hit us where it hurts the most, sir. If we show them we are hurt, it will just signal a victory to them'

Mantriji sat back and thought over my words for a minute, he took a deep breathe and spoke

'I will try my best. I can't guarantee anything, but I will try.'

With that he got up to leave. Mathre and I decided to go the railway station where the bombs had exploded. It took us a couple of hours to reach the station, the roads where choking with vehicles. The phone networks were jammed. A strong rain lashed on us.

There were people everywhere, relatives holding photos and trying to search for a known face. Fire fighters running to cool down the flames. Lot of people from the streets had entered the station to help the police and the fire fighters. Neighbouring hostel students ran around with food packets to give away, water to give away, and their hands to aid the weak.

Humanity danced to the tunes of sympathy on the railway platform.

Our team of men arrived an hour later with an arsenal of tools to restore the lines. We still had not heard from the minister, but our hopes were high.

Almost one in the night, and we stood there looking at the damaged train, a few other workers had made it to the station from their home to lend their hands. The students visibly tired but still kept running back and forth from hostel to the station.

Two thirty and we had almost given up hope, when the minister called in.

'You have the permission to clear the tracks, but promise me you will have first train running on time tomorrow morning.'

'You have my word sir' I put back the phone into my pocket.

I called up all my men, and spoke

'We have been given permission to clear the tracks. We have exactly two and a half hours left to do the job. Time has come for us to reply to the cowards, time has come for us to tell our people not to let their spirits die. We do this not for us, but for all the time we asked ourselves, why am I doing this job? Why was I born here? Let us show the world, you can hit us, but you can't keep us down. Show the world we can get up from a deadly blow.'

There was a huge roar, as we ran to the damaged train. We got to work on the humongous task of clearing the debris.

We pulled, we cut, and we pushed. Put all the might we had, but it still looked to be going slow. Just then a couple of boys from the hostel walked up to us, and asked if they could help out. We happily welcomed them, and got back to work with more force.

Almost four and my phone rang. It was the manager from the train yard. I assured him the tracks would be ready and urged him to send the train on time.

The damaged train was put aside, and we attacked the lines. The students walked around the lines and cleared all the small debris. The lines were not as bad as we thought they would be.

I stood on the station with Mathre patting my shoulder. The media was in full strength, minister had made it to the station. People had thronged the station to show their support.

Slowly chugged in the train greeted to shouts of joy by the students and us workers. A sense of victory seemed to engulf the station. The tracks were back to fine condition, and the trains could run on schedule.

Some of the students hugged me, as I stood there trying to hold back tears ready to flow. I looked around to see faces in the crowd. But this very moment they were all heroes in the crowd. I didn't know if I would remember the students’ name, if they would remember me, but I knew they would remember this moment.

The moment when the faces in the crowd decided to reply back, when the faces decided to forget the petty differences. The students around me were heroes, the workers who came back from home to help were heroes, Mathre was a hero.

Forgotten by the world they may be in future, but applauded by the world in the present.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Care Not

care not for the world

for it never will understand u

like the rivers, the mountains, the trees

they could care less for the world

u walk alone

the path you choose

the world a mere spectator

careful do not let it

do not let inspiration die

for it will mean

u let the world get u

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

CM's coming

This post is a chapter from a book i hope and dream to finish. I have changed it a little to suit the blog readers. Please do let me know of your thoughts.

My village Bagamandala was already abuzz with the news of CM visiting the village to offer prayers at a temple in the village. It was a first for the small sleepy village in the far end of Coorg district. I always thought I was the only famous person to have visited the village, but now I had competition from the Chief Minister.
Being a guy from the capital city
Bangalore, I didn't understand the genuine festive spirit of the people around me looking forward to meet the CM. The whole evening was spent with people talking about the CM's visit and their own theories of what it meant to this small remote village.
The talks continued in every house, and my house was no different. At the dinner, grand dad, the President of temple committee and one of the head of the village couldn't control himself from smiling throughout. Luckily for him he had saved up a lot by not smiling for years. Grand mom and I, exchanged glances during dinner, both comparing the stern cold face of grand dad to now his child like smile with certain warmth to it.

I woke up to sounds of cooking in the kitchen, and I knew it was already eight in the morning. I couldn't hear the voices of the people on the road, but I could feel the excitement of their preparation flowing in the air. I got up from the bed, washed my face and walked towards the veranda. As I walked closer, I heard loud voices of grand dad and some other people who had gathered in the veranda. I peeped through a window to see my grand dad sitting with some of the important people of the village. They looked to be planning the grand gala for the CM's visit. I decided against walking out to the veranda, when I saw the stern expression back on my grand dad's face. He looked like a Major planning his attack on the enemy with his faithful few. I changed my direction to the kitchen to find out what grand mom had planned for breakfast and what it actually turned out to.

After eating a weird dish whose name was impossible to pronounce, I walked out with the confidence that now I could eat anything in this world.
I stepped out of the house to take a walk around the village, and with a hope that I digest the cement that I was treated to by my grand mom.
I always liked to walk around the village, everyone recognized me, and they spoke with respect around me. I was a hero to some of them, and a well versed scholar to most. Their innocent child like concentration, when I spoke of computers, or mobiles or even a simple toaster had locked up my sarcastic side.
I reached the centre of the village, stood there surprised to see efforts of putting up a stage in full swing.
I turned towards the only main road, actually the only road that ran through the village, I walked a little ahead to meet excited kids running shouting "Road roller". A little ahead I walked to see the road being tarred by the authorities who had come down from the district headquarters Madikeri.
Lot of people had gathered around the road roller, to most of them it was a brand new experience of being around the machine.

Prakasha the man Friday of my grand dad had his hands full trying to control the kids from running on the newly laid tar.
On spotting me, he left everything and immediately ran up to me. He greeted me with so much respect, that it was enough to keep my ego happy for the rest of my life.
I greeted back and asked looking at the newly laid tar
"When is the function?"
He replied, surprise in his voice, at my question
"Sir. Tomorrow morning
ten o'clock."
I nodded and stood there deciding to walk back to the house. The excitement around me was too much for me to comprehend.
I went back home, and parked myself in the room the whole day. The whole day was spent trying to write my book. Electricity as usual played the elusive villain, staying for a few minutes, and just when I think of recharging the laptop or I pod, go missing for few hours.

Grand mom has got used to power cuts and has taken to singing folk songs that talk about a wife taking food to her husband working in the field, or songs that glorify the three hundred thousand Gods we pray to. Initially I hated them, but after spending a month I have grown immune to them.

The day arrived, when the higher mortals thought of paying a visit to the lesser ones, who entrusted them with unlimited power. Grand mom woke me up early in the morning urging me to get ready for the big event. She pulled my warm blanket, speaking aloud
"Wake up! Grand pa is already dressed. Get ready, the function will start in a couple of hours."
I sat up on my bed, rubbed my eyes and replied
"It’s not like Julia Roberts is coming to village."
Grand mom stopped at the door, turned around and asked me with a strong voice
"Julia who? Who is that Christian girl? Are you in love with her? Please don't tell me you are planning to marry a Christian girl?"
I thank God she stopped to take a breathe. There was an unspoken law in the house. I was supposed to only speak to Hindu girls and most preferably Brahmin girl. Thinking off or even mentioning a Christian girl's name would invoke the wrath of the three hundred thousand Gods. Not mention the temple priest and all of my distant relatives, whose existence I would know only when I meet them at my wedding.
"No. She is an actress I like. Now what special dish have you prepared for breakfast?" I asked with a giggle hoping she would change the topic.
She still had the expression patented by my grand dad. She relaxed only a bit as she spoke
"Don't laugh. I have made some special vegetable dosa for you."
Before I could reply, she continued
"You don't have to start liking cinema heroines; I will find you a nice girl within our family. You wait a few months."
I walked out of the room shouting
"I am not falling into a marriage talk with you."

I sat in the front row with Prakasha, who had reserved a seat for me. Grand dad sat on the dais with a few important people of the village. I was glad there was a lot of commotion around and nobody heard my stomach make scary noises, clearly in protest of the special vegetable dosa.
Everyone from the village was gathered under the pandal. Dressed in their best and neatly combed hair, everyone stood there with dream to talk to the Chief Minister.

Prakaska held a stick in his hand, with which he tried to control the kids running around. He like everyone had one of his eye fixed on the main road. The muddy road was now decorated enough to look like bride ready to get married. Everyone looked to get impatient with each passing minute.
Grand pa finished his speech and so did a few other people. Each one was greeted with forced claps and the same interest one has sitting in a college lecture.

Suddenly there was some kind of movement on the stage, a couple of new faces entered the stage and they looked to be having a word with the district collector. The district collector made his way to the mike. Seeing this people got enthusiastic sensing the arrival of the Chief Minister.
The collector stood in front of the mike, cleared his throat, which was followed by a routine i don't understand much "testing, mike testing."
He finally spoke
"With a lot of grief I say this. Due to heavy floods in the coastal regions of the state. The Chief Minister has cancelled his visit to the Bagamandala, and has decided to visit the coastal regions."
The sighs around me were loud enough to be heard in the entire district.
Some of them on the dais were almost in tears, one of the wooden pillar holding up the pandal suddenly collapsed, signifying the collapse of the hopes and dreams of the villagers.
Dejected people left the arena. The floods that hit the coastal region had also washed away the villagers two minutes of spotlight, their dream of rubbing shoulder with the elite.
I turned to Prakasha and couldn't control my smile when muttered
"Why can't a flood hit Bagamandala. At least then the CM would come."

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Within those walls

I stand there looking at it, I stand there thinking. What is within those walls of the building? Why are so many people running towards the building?

I stand there wondering, why do they all come here every single day? Most of their life they look to be spending trapped within those walls, yet they look wise, yet they seem to know it all.

The thick tall compound around the building, the clothes they choose to wear have not cut their wings, within those compound walls they jump around the ground with the flavour of freedom all around them. They leave me confused.

I see happy faces all around, and they remain the same throughout the year.

Many a times they look at me standing, most throw a smile at me, but some choose to laugh at me.

I don’t let myself feel sad, I don’t let anger monster take over me. I know they all laugh at my costume and not at me. The costume of poverty I wear.

I stood there holding onto the gate that day, asking myself, how do I get rid of this costume I wear?

I felt the answer lay within the walls of that building, I felt the power to get rid of the costume lay enclosed in the rooms of that building.

I felt a deep desire to step in, a deep desire to wear a smile, a deep desire to run around the ground and sample the flavour of freedom.

I was about to step in, when I got a hard whack on head. I turned around to see my uncle shouting at me

“Idiot! What are you doing near the School gate? Who is going to clean all those dirty plates?”