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.


grace said...

Harsha, I got goose bumps while reading this story.I appreciate you for your out of the box thinking. Truly there can be no strong answer to violence other than the will and spirit to not to be let down by it.
Blood for blood can never bring peace and fulfillment.
Only better feelings and intentions that can help the world rise above the pettiness of violence and greed.

grace said...

Wonderfully expressed as well!

Nethra said...

"Wow"! It was an awesome concept and the story kept me hooked to it, until I reached the end. Now, I know everyone can be heroes if we want and start working for it.
Write more like this. :)

Mahesh Kalaal said...


the post is contemporary and has got pragmatic relevance which appeals for the radical change in the mindset to respond to the unexpected events and maligned forces....

Good post and apt presentation

Guria said...

Award for you! Go check!
And you should know there what I think of you and your writing! :)

Harsha Chittar said...

@Grace: Thank you for reading it, it not out of box, its right in front of our eyes, we just fail to see it.
@Netra: Thank you for reading it, i will keep writing if you keep reading :)
@Mahesh: Welcome to the blog my friend. Thank you for taking time out and reading the post. You have summed up my post very well with that comment. Hope you keep visiting. :)
@Guria: Thank you very much, i am deeply honored by this gesture. My first award has me excited.

Rajiv said...

Gr8 one da..... Do write ones like these more......

pulkits said...

"But this very moment they were all heroes in the crowd."
Brilliantly put!

Swapna Raghu Sanand said...

What a truly touching post! I felt so moved when reading it, especially the part where the decision is made to help clear those lines as a befitting reply.

Yes, news readers are constantly reading out these acts of violence. I wish we the people come forward as active listeners and do things that make a positive difference to the lives that are around us and for our own country's sake. This post is absolutely brilliant, loved it.

Swapna Raghu Sanand said...

Please visit my blog and accept an award that I've given you, thanks!

naina said...

A very nice thought Harsha...

naina said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Vee... said...

wow! that's a wonderful idea and brilliantly written. as some one else said in the comments, it is totally relevant to what we were/are going through, and how a strong response can be sent back by joining the hands together.

likemymusings said...

very bold and correct stance, narrated perfectly.

Zephyr said...

That was a wonderful post, a tribute to the spirit of the Bombayite. The local trains of Mumbai are not just modes of transport but the blood that courses through its very veins. Yes, the answer to bullets is not bullets, but a resounding slap in the form of collective spirit. Great story.

Hemal Shah said...

Awesome.. literally had goosebumps reading the story, felt as if i am right there at the end of the platform waiting for the trains to run.. certainly this post deserve the attention it needs.. wonderful writeup, brilliant choice of words.. just one word does it.. "brilliant"