Wednesday, September 10, 2014

14 08 14 OTR Madhav Singh

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Sharmaji, Richard Burton and Gandhi

The bell rang.

I tried to get up, but Mr. Agarwal signaled me to keep sitting and slowly hobbled to open the door.

Sharmaji was visible with a large bouquet, leading to an awkward silence.

“Oh Sharmaji,…what a surprise….please come in…” I could sense a suspicious welcome

“Get well soon, Agarwal saab…and don’t be surprised…its my duty…” Sharmaji bowed and extended the bouquet. I was taken aback; not expecting him to be there so fast, literally following me.

“Oh, thank you..Please have a seat…” Mr. Agarwal hesitatingly took the bouquet and painfully wobbled to the settee. Sharmaji too made the scene surreal by his limping. Holding his beloved lathi, he looked around closely and thoughtfully sat down. For some mysterious reason my presence was completely ignored. The shinning, oiled lathi, extending over his head was held lovingly by both hands, as he keenly inspected Mr. Agarwal and his bandages.

“What happened to your nose?” I was aghast at the crude tone of an insulting inquiry.

“Oh, that bastard rubbed my face against wall...” The host painfully mumbled his shame.

“But good at least your nose is saved...aap ki naak kati to naheen na...” Sharmaji roared with his typical staccato burst of coarse laugh, like a country made gun painfully firing. I saw face of Mr. Agarwal flinching on unexpected crudity, but he kept his cool. He too perhaps dreaded the consequences of the guest sermonizing against his private life.

To me, Sharmaji looked liked a doughty Punjab village headman visiting his troubled subject. The differences were ample too; the dress, headgear and the paraphernalia of a British upper middle class home. His trademark ruffled mane and stubble gave him a menacing aura of an East European Mafioso.

“You must report to the police…don’t be afraid…” He got down to business fast.

“I can’t even move few steps…but thanks to my neighbor Juliana, who drove me to the medical centre..” Mr. Agarwal protested, fearing an immediate visit to the police station.

“Don’t worry, that stupid ape is coming here to record your statement…” Sharmaji started rolling the lathi between bony palms.

“What…who is coming here..?” A confused Mr. Agarwal gave an angular look painfully.

“That racist policeman…I call him an ape.. a langoor…Any problem?” Sharmaji explained and inquired in his deadpan voice.

“Well, what can I say…You know things better…around here…” A wide eyed Mr. Agarwal threw a deep inquiring look at me. But I carefully maintained my stony presence; keeping the suitable noncommittal, fence sitting neutrality of a thick skinned Indian politician during a crucial no confidence vote.

“Good, I called and gave that ape my piece of mind…must be here any moments…don’t be afraid at all, I am with you and so are all other Indians too…” Sharmaji looked at his watch, still ignoring me. I decided to become a piece of furniture to watch the old foes getting close. Sound of a car made Sharmaji get up and limp to the door, signaling Mr. Agarwal to lie down.

“You pretend to in great pain..”

“I don’t have to pretend any thing…the pain is unbearable…” The host protested angrily.

“Good, then try to feel double pain.. And don't worry...and take it easy…it’s his damn duty…the langoor is not doing us any favor…Okay?” The inappropriate use of ‘good’ was stupid and his dubious ignorance of my presence was agitating my mind along with crudities. Mr. Agarwal again looked at me curiously and did as ordered so decisively by his old foe. His mounting discomfiture was visible on being ordered around so coarsely.

“Hello inspector Bartan..” I felt myself craning my neck to fulfill desire to look at the apelike policeman.”

“Hi, it’s Burton...”

“Sounds great but makes no difference to me…” A mocking Sharmaji ridiculed the English objection.

My disappointment was evident; he was the same policeman whose dramatic arrival saved me from thugs. He shook hand with Mr. Agarwal, looked deeply at me and smiled. I got up, shook hand and introduced my self. Richard Burton sat down, swiftly opened his notebook with English efficiency and started questioning. Mr. Agarwal haltingly narrated the incident. I could see that he was following the instructions of Sharmaji who sat close to his apelike foe and let the story unfold.

Feeling unwanted and bored, I decided to make some contribution by preparing tea and moved to the kitchen.

“Oye Gal shun yaar…that’s not right…how and where you met this langoor Bhanda Bartan?”

The familiar accusing baritones made me spin, seething with deep anger. The horrible braggart had been callously ignoring my presence, even forgetting my defining role in softening Mr. Agarwal’s dislike for him! Enough was enough, my revulsion mounted and exploded.

“You are impossibly crude and mad…and where I met this ape? Well, for your info, he just saved me from getting mugged up on the way here…Okay?” My retort was befittingly rebellious and vengeful.

“That’s good…was that a black gang?” Unfazed by my tone and anger, his eyes sparkled.

“What the hell you mean by that’s good…?” I nearly chewed the words to keep the angered voice down. It was close shave to be mugged badly and that is good for this horribly unconcerned idiot!

“That must be a black thug…right?” With out waiting for an answer, he thoughtfully decided the culprit.

“That was a black thug, who tried to rob..Okay? He repeated his assumption.

“What do you mean…and okay to what?” My anger was boiling over, just like the hot tea foaming violently in the pot before me.

“Don’t apply your fhaltu mind…let me handle it…you just act shocked and nod to what I tell him…Okay?” The Mafiosi whispered the order, turned and limped back to the living room. I felt myself under strange stupid feeling of colluding in his unknown sinister plan. I could guess he was up to some thing. When I went back, holding a tray, the questioning of Mr. Agarwal was over.

“Thank you very much…” Richard Burton picked up a cup and smiled. I immediately felt indebted to him and wondered what Sharmaji was up to.

“You folks not doing enough to control crime in this area…mostly by black thugs and junkies..?” Sharmaji picked up a cup. He never cared for any niceties; so expectedly, didn’t thank me, nor smiled and neither even bothered to look up. The receding anger boiled back with vengeance and I was about to pour hot tea on my tormentor.

“These thugs are all kind..Happen to be black… whites and Asians too…” Burton was evasive.

“I know your problem…you don’t like admitting few dirty facts…” Sharmaji leaned on the lathi to convey his anger.

Burton turned thoughtful and sipped tea, almost ignoring the open challenge thrown to him. Now from close I was happy to at last see some resemblance to apelike features. His jaw outline protruded a bit, and that must be the defining reason for Sharmaji to term him an ape.

“Well, it a difficult area…Sir, were boys troubling you?” Burton suddenly turned and addressed me. I felt too happy to be involved in the conversation at last.

“It was a black gang …you folks are doing nothing…” Sharmaji was quick to push me out.

“Well, both white and black..”I interjected but let it tapered off as steely eyes bore in to convey an order aligning with his anti black line.

“They were demanding money…but ran away seeing you approach….” Sharmaji looked at me closely and spoke as if, I had told him about the incident in finer details.

“He is still too shocked and afraid…just look at him…” I felt myself shriveling into suitably panicked posture. The performance must have been good, because it forced Richard Burton to put down his cup and swiftly jotting down detailed belched out by Sharmaji. He gave hazy description of a black boy threatening me with a knife. I wondered about his motivations to accuse blacks of rampant mugging but found myself still groping in dark.

“I find your walking stick very interesting…and intimidating as well!”

“Inspector Bartan, this very stick was used by Mahatma Gandhi!” Sharmaji looked at stick with due reverence and touched his head on it. Mr. Agarwal seemed flabbergasted and painfully turned his neck towards me. I was taken aback at the audacity and looked closely on the freshly emerged historical connection with mounting curiosity. Sharmaji had meanwhile leaned back, closed him eyes, leaving us all hanging and panting for me. But the ape was charged, he edged forward.

“Really, Mr. Sharmaji…but how could you get it....don't tell me you are related to Mr. Gandhi...are you?”

Burton’s eyes bulged and looked deeply fascinated at the object of great historical relevance.

“That is a long story inspector…some other time…and one more thing..” The deep baritone made the ape look up.

“What’s that Mr. Sharmaji..” We all waited coiled in mounting suspense. The shinning lathi kept rolling between the bony palms, as we found ourselves inching to the edge. Sharmaji suddenly opened his eyes and looked at his rival with deep pity.

“Gandhi was never intimidating, inspector..”

The policeman turned serious and stared at his tormentor with admiration.

A bored Mr. Agarwal shifted uncomfortably, looking enquiringly at my shriveled frame. Like a trapped unwilling accomplish some how I was still awaiting for a signal to unlock myself. The ape leaned and tried to touch the lathi with care and a somber face, Sharmaji swung it away.

“I am sorry, you have to wash your hands first..” The apelike face fell a little but nodded understandingly.

“We will have good opportunity to talk about Gandhi a lot, tomorrow...let me tell you more about these black thugs…”

Sharmaji was still focused on issues of black gangs creating a big every day nuisance. He let out a vivid trail of unreported violent incidents; unsavory scum’s roaming freely on streets and mugging people. In no time Richard Burton started to agree with the formidable evidences and valuable first hand information about the mounting menace. Sharmaji would often ask Burton to stop, close his eyes, as if thinking hard and after some time start sharing more. I could see the ape too had same deep traces of racial biases; the British have been accused of quite often. They talked animatedly on the subject like old friends and suddenly Burton got angry.

“I get so fed up and I want to shoot these scum dead right there...but could not...you know the shit laws…”

Sharmaji fell silent judging him closely.

‘Are you sure, you want to do that?”

A charged up Burton repeated his desire loudly.

“Are you serious...better you folks learn it from Punjab police?”

“Yes, you may be right..but sorry Punjab police is too violent…we have a different system…but you know I am really fed up..and one of these days...”His voice trailed off, perhaps belatedly realizing the foolish indiscretion. He got up and shook hands.

“We have invited the press and others to discuss the crimes in area...it will be good if you are there. Sharmaji got up and walked with Burton to the door.

“Okay...well will see and talk to superiors about it.” The ape turned distant again.

“Oh, I though, you are the boss around here?”

The policeman skillfully avoided the mocking question, smiled, shook hands and went out.

“Was this lathi really used by Mahatma Gandhi?” Mr. Agarwal could no longer suppress his mounting curiosity.

“My grand father never told a lie in his whole life….but I do, when ever needed.”Sharmaji gave a broad smile to a confused Mr. Agarwal.

“Get well soon Agarwal saab…come on lets go.” Sharmaji suddenly addressed me, turned and walked out. I found his abrupt escape uncivil and felt bad leaving a troubled Mr. Agarwal alone but was curious about many unexplained things. I let Sharmaji wait for some time and talked to Mr. Agarwal, who was sure about the false claim of the lathi used by Gandhi. I agreed readily with him and took leave with a promise of a visit along with grocery in the evening.

Sharmaji was contentedly humming the theme song from “Mukkadar Ka Sikandar”. I wondered about his change of mood but asked nothing. He screeched to a halt after bypassing my place. It was a curious behavior for him, and I was sure he was on to do some thing important.

“I better ran…you see….got many things to do…and don’t forget to attend the community meeting…you know the place…right….be there on time to see destruction of my enemies and their criminal supporters.”

The community hall was teeming with English, Black, Hispanic Indian, Pakistanis and varied specimens of the greatly mixed neighborhood. The Indian entourage looked formidable in its strength and the sheer variety; the turbaned Sikhs, Punjabi, Gujarati, South Indians, Bengali and others, less distinguishable. The media was in attendance with their paraphernalia. A fat, black spokesman was skillfully harping on the blatant discriminatory attitude of British police, punctuated by cheerful boos and clapping. Richard Burton listened pensively along with two others who were trying hard to look important. One was a thin Pakistani doctor with dark glasses, who had been very short and diplomatic while sharing his experience with police and problems in the area. Obviously Burton was happy and smiled at him repeatedly. Other, an Englishmen, who spoke first, had talked philosophically on great British values of welcoming and respecting the vibrant multi-cultural ethos.

I looked around but Sharmaji was not visible and the seat on dais with his name was vacant. He had asked me to be present on time to witness the exposure and destruction all the horrible plotters and their vile supporters. The old foe and challenger of Sharmaji, Thakkar and his glamorous wife sat in first row. I could feel some silent communication going on with the policeman, or may be my biases were making me see things. The long acrimonious battle between an aggressive Punjabi Sharmaji and astutely calm and scheming Gujarati Thakkar was representative of their distinctive communities. As the speaker concluded with loud clapping, a murmuring commotion broke out. I was sitting some where in the middle and followed every one's amazed look at the back entrance.

I blinked many times to make myself realize, if it was reality or a dream.

A figure resembling Mahatma Gandhi with two girls on sides, stood at the entrance. The trio moved ahead swiftly in the isle towards the stage under continuous glare of flashlights.

It was Sharmaji dressed as Gandhi.

He might have looked different to those who were familiar with diminutive, thin figure of real Mahatma Gandhi. But Sharmaji dressed to perfection in dhoti, his stubble and head shaved, matching spectacles and the trademark Lathi, looked like a healthy and taller version of the real. His audacity to play a limping naked fakir in the biting British cold was admirable.

While everyone was still trying to decipher the drama to react, Sharmaji had reached the podium.

“Good morning, ladies and gentlemen, I am Tilak Raj Sharma, the disciple of Mahatma Gandhi.”

The flashlights blazed again accompanied with clapping, cat calls and whistles by his boisterous supporters. A fascinated Richard Burton got up and clapped. Others on the dais followed too, the black spokesman; perhaps a South African was overwhelmed. He promptly decided to bow before the healthy avatar of Gandhi. The reaction of Pakistani doctor was visibly muted but the English philosopher was greatly amused by the unfolding drama of vibrant multi cultural colors. A stunned Thakkar was shaking his head in disbelief but his egalitarian wife seemed lost in the unfolding drama.

“This is my grand father’s walking stick and was used by Mahatma for one whole day during historic dandi salt march. When faced with suppression and discrimination, Mahatma always reacted by peaceful means to make his point and guide the toiling masses of India”

The shinning Lathi was held high for benefit of cameras. After ample exposure, he lowered the historic connection to the revered figure and continued in more somber tone. Every one listened; the nuggets of history and Gandhians wisdom narrated skillfully by Sharmaji.

“Ladies and gentlemen, like my ideal Mahatma Gandhi, I too humbly try to fight the discrimination and suppression through peaceful means by telling only the truth. And now let us all hear the truth about what is happening in our beloved neighborhood. I must make it clear; that I feel no enmity for any one and my actions are solely guided by the concept of common good.”
Sharmaji took the shoulder bag from one girl and silently produced a cassette player and switched it on.

Angry voice of Richard Burton boomed, expressing his deep frustration against the stupid law bound inability to kill the black miscreants. The black speaker turned to look menacingly at the dazed policeman. A dark cloud descended on the face of the English philosopher; feeling devastated as his dream was turning in to a disastrous mess. The Pakistani was trying hard to stay neutral and unaffected by the Gandhi inspired turn of events. But the media was greatly pleased by unexpected windfall of sleaze and high drama.

The cassette player continued to belch the uncomfortable truth with Gandhian detachment.

“That shameful thug Thakkar has laid his wife as bait before that racist policeman Richard Burton to harass and pin the devoted social worker Sharmaji.” An unknown English voice told more explicit truth about the dubious alliance with sinister objectives.

An agitated Thakkar got up made wild gestures angrily and tried hard to stop Sharmaji. His wife covered her face and raced out, frantically followed by salivating cameras and microphones.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Sleeping with Enemies






         “Good night, Frau Schroder”.

Mr. Khemka got up and winked at me to carry on.  Our Frankfurt based friend Jagtar reluctantly dismounted the tall stool; he didn’t seem ready to leave the bar after only two drinks. But a health conscious Mr. Khemka prevailed and diabetic Jagtar had to bid a reluctant good bye. I knew they were exhausted and immediately left for their room. Mr. Khemka was not eager to listen to my mundane talk with Hilda; the vivacious bar tender aged about thirty five, a former communist party spy. Sardar Jagtar Singh didn’t seem to mind and was curious to know more about Hilda Schroder. The day has seen grueling long drives, a dreary visit to a ghosted large automobile plant, concluding in a business meeting extending late in the evening.

A smiling Hilda handed me another drink looking amusingly at my departing friends. She loved to practice conversing in English and was seriously taking language lessons like so many former East Germans. She had a son from her failed second marriage, and was worried about him as any single mother would be. Our stay in the modest hotel had been about two weeks long and I somehow managed to develop an admiration for her and wanted to know more about her life during communist rule in East Germany.

A worried Sardar Jagtar warned me not to ask political questions; otherwise I was destined to get a suitable thrashing from hurt and angry former East Germans ex-communists. Mr. Khemka and Jagtar were greatly amused at my interests in politics, arts and culture. For these hardcore businessmen, these were just a waste of time and energy. But both admired my budding friendship and common political, cultural interests with Franz, the senior German executive. The ideals and concept of soft cultural power was neither known nor understood in those times.

I found myself alone facing Hilda at the bar. Most of the guests had preferred to watch and participate in a fashion show behind next door.

“Do you find my English better than before?” She asked less haltingly.

“Yes, you have improved a lot in last few days.” I said admiringly.

 “Are you sure?”

“I am damn sure, Hilda.” I assured her, as she looked suitably disposed to tell me about her past. A very tricky venture, as she was also prone to relapse in her own thoughts and ignore my attempts to seek her story.   To me, her sad eyes betray a hard life led under repressive communist rule. Or I thought that was my own biased presumption, as she might have been very happy leading a team of welders in a now closed big automobile factory near East Berlin.

“You have been to Frankfurt many times; do you think I will find some work there?”

It was an innocent question but difficult to answer for me,   being a foreigner and totally clueless about the employment scenario there. But I knew a positive reply would certainly edge me nearer to my own selfish motive.

“I am sure, you would, Hilda.”

“What work do you think I could find?” Hilda seemed eager to know my answer, displaying a childlike curiosity.

“To start with, a bar tenders job, as you are now.”

“I don’t like it; I want to do something else.”

“As a welder perhaps, that was your job in the Berlin factory. Wasn’t it?” I reminded her.

“No. Not that. They are putting up robots to do, kind of welding work, I used to do. What else can I do there?”

I was again speechless as the repertoire of her skills and employment, job scenario was not familiar to me.

“I wish Heidi was there to help me.” She suddenly had moist eyes and voice was laced with strain of suppressed emotions. That signaled her relapsing to gloomy mood, something, I instinctively tried to contain by diverting her attention from past.

“What most of your former coworkers are doing there, these days? May be that can provide some hint.”

“Most of girls work as prostitutes, and I don’t want to be one.”

I decided to keep my silence, as she turned and wiped away her tears.

“Heidi was a talented gymnast. Everyone thought she will win a gold medal for us at the Olympics. She was  three years older and I used to feel very secure when she was around. Now I feel so lost and insecure with no one to guide me.”

Hilda turned away from me. I asked without thinking,

‘What happened to her?”

She turned back with visible effort and replied haltingly.

“She…. died….last year.”

Hilda remained silent for some time with her elbows resting on counter, face held by her slender hands.

“Do you want to know why and how she died?”

I couldn’t say yes but wanted to let Hilda unburden herself. She looked at me to judge my interest in story of her diseased sister, and must have read my morbid interest oozing out shamefully.

“Ok. I will be relieved in few minutes, than we can go the bar nearby and talk.”

I paid my bill and moved to a table and waited for her to join me. On eve of two holidays, I could afford to retire late on a Friday, without phone calls and an angry rebuke by my friends. She came attired in blue jeans and charcoal overcoat.

  We walked silently to a nearby bar. She ordered drinks and led me to a table in  secluded corner.

 “That man in turban wants to sleep with me, doesn’t he?”

  I was taken aback by her straight question and remained speechless. But being silent for long was to confirm her assumption; and a denial I presumed, might lead to many more questions, away from my dormant quest.

   “Who wouldn’t?” My question cum answer made her laugh heartily and then saw her felt silent.  I drank slowly awaiting for her answer.

“I don’t do it any more…” Her voice was calm. I tried hard to decipher her words but failed to arrive at any logical conclusion.

“I don’t understand what you mean…?

“I stopped…being a whore… before joining this job…” She eagerly tried to explain her answer explicitly.  I was not surprised but could not dare to probe further.

“The hotel would not hire any girl who sleeps around for money… some girls do it discreetly…but the management keep their eyes and years open…they fire any one on mere suspicion…it’s their policy…” Hilda expanded further and looked satisfied on her successful attempt.

“How is my English..?”

“Excellent.” I assured her with a smile.

“Thank you. I really hated being a  whore but could not find any other work for long…after my second husband went away with a younger women…she my closest friend …there were no jobs…and I had to pay bills… support my son…so…” She weakly trailed off with a deep tinge of remorse.

I could only nod and looked away. She drank, smiled faintly and continued with enthusiasm,

“You know…when I take my English exams in few months and qualify…I will become an independent tourist guide…and the money will be far better…”

“I am sure you will be a very successful tourist guide…but I would expect a hefty discount on my next visit here…” I tried to cheer her further, feeling happy at the welcome change of subject.

“I bet you would…and hold a second… I will do it free for you…okay?” Her laughter was childlike.

 “Oh really… Thanks a lot.” I tried hard to sound cheerful and felt guilty about my dormant desire to get Hilda back to her sister’s death. She emptied her glass, signaled the waitress and looked at me mockingly,

 “Why are you are drinking very slowly?”

“I have already had two before…” I tried to justify my measured drinking and probed her softly,

“How was your job as a welder?

“Oh, but I thought you wanted to know about Heidi?” She looked at me with surprise.

           “Yeah, I do, but you can tell me that later…” I evaded the probing stare, presuming her life as a welder wouldn’t be harder than the sad tale of her sister’s untimely death.

          “It was good in beginning but later I found it quite boring…but met my first husband Henry there …we used to work in the same team…he was my first love…I was so happy when we got married…it was so blissful for three years…but then one day he was gone…” Hilda turned misty.

          I sat still, unable to sooth her.

“My boss Rudolf, the old leech couldn’t tolerate him…he wanted me for him alone…I resisted and foolishly reported my problem to the party…but he was very powerful…the chief party spy of the factory … he threatened me many times… I said a big no and suffered in a big way…he charged Henry for spying for the west and sent him to jail…”

“Oh, but how that happened…? I immediately felt foolish asking such a stupid question, which might make her angry.

“You don’t know anything about Stasi…the secret police…?” She was surprised.

“I know a little…” I replied evasively.

“Hmmm that means you know nothing…Stasi was the hated ghost that ruled our lives completely…even documented how many times I pissed in a day. My brother was shot dead trying to scale the Berlin wall.” Hilda was getting agitated. An old couple sitting at the table nearby looked at her with concern and nodded in agreement. She whispered,

“You know …I become a whore to save Henry from death…slept with Rudolf and danced naked for his senile friends to make life easy for Henry  in prison…to send him little money…but could never know what really happened to him…he vanished…as so many others in those horrible times…I hold myself responsible for tortures he went through and the death …must have listened to reason and moved with Rudolf to save my love…but I was young, in love and na├»ve… didn’t know my damn beauty was noticed by powerful party men…I envied  plain flat skinny women…most of them were spared the dreadful attentions from the bosses…who seemed to own all the women working for them…  they were less likely to be asked to stay late hours and endure quickies… it was so difficult being a beautiful woman in those horrible times…it was a curse…I cut my long hairs short and  wore baggy clothes to turn unattractive… …but that didn’t make any difference…rather my plight become worst… I had to attend more night parties in skimpy revealing dresses, endure severe fondling and sleep with higher party leaders and state guests…some of them were dirty kinky animals…they scared my body and soul forever…on the way… become hardened… learned the power game and got close to a top party leader…made him very happy…and at last took my long cherished revenge on that old leech Rudolf…he too vanished one cold night like Henry…and I become the chief party spy at the factory…” Hilda laughed aloud with tears in her large eyes and signaled the waitress for a refill. I felt bad for probing her past but outwardly joined her clear laughter.

“Being a spy…that must have been an interesting job?”

“Initially I hated it, but many might have suffered if someone else was the chief spy. I helped people by shooting down crazy stories of minor spies under me, who tried hard to blackmail innocent women and men … they feared my contacts and couldn’t do anything to harm me…they did try a lot but failed…Rudolf used to send about three people every month to prison and so many others were given lesser punishments...so I must have saved hundreds during five years before the fall of the Berlin wall. We are so happy that the monstrous wall has vanished.” She was now cheerful and I firmly decided against probing her sister’s death.

“That’s great…why didn’t you join politics?”

“I am still a simple girl with no ambitions…totally unsuitable for politics…and doing that would place me close to some of those dirty animals who mauled and brutalized me…that would prompt me to go for more revenge…I want peace and not war…I do get angry reading about and seeing some rascals on TV…I shifted to this small town…to avoid bumping in to the demons of my past…”

“Any names to share..?” I blurted and immediately felt bad.

“Sorry…won’t share any dirty names.” She smiled faintly and continued after a pregnant pause,

“One day I will find out what happened to Henry… where he spent his last days…and how he died…for that I have to earn good money…I wake up at nights and miss him…his broad smile…blue  eyes…I crave for him…his touch…feel so alive with his memory…his dreams…” She closed her moist eyes.

“I am sorry for making you remember bad times…”

“Don’t be sorry…it’s my past…bad and ugly…only hope I will be happy in future…”

“I am sure you will be…”

“Do you think so? “ She asked innocently.

“Yeah…why not…” I couldn’t say more.

“But now I feel free and that makes me happy…I am not afraid of dressing up…no one can force me to sleep with…I can sleep with any one I fancy…that’s a huge change.”

“Oh it’s already ten…got to go…” Hilda opened her purse and called the waitress.

“It is on me…”  I decided to intervene.

“But I invited you…” Hilda looked at me.

“Still, let me pay…”

“Okay..” Her smile broadened.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Stripped




They come from all over, from distance towns, villages and spilled over around the vast army area.

All the rattling buses to city had to bear large burden of ticket-less hopefuls occupying the roof top and no one could dare to object. The fate of trains was no different with large youthful crowd singing and sitting on the curved dangerous roofs. The moment these trains entered the city limits they took bombarded stones on the houses near railway tracks. The glass panes got shattered, earthen pots vanished with bangs and few child, aged and women got hurt. The crowds in our Mera Bharat Mahan have mind of their own and reaction pattern feared by all.  Larger the crowd, all the heinous crimes would go unpunished forever. Anonymity of crowd has become safe cover and unhindered opportunities for many to let out the boiling prejudices and suppressed anger. Bigger the crowd, bigger is the collective power to damage and destroy,  attack, thrash, kill, maim, insult  and rape any one. Whatever one could not have guts and opportunities to indulge in, alone.

The large crowds confer the coveted anonymity which propels some to indulge in unimagined violence and gore. It is very disturbing that how simple and otherwise docile people get attracted to such violence, most of it reserved for young girls and women.

They ransacked the railway station with impunity and looted whatever comes their way. The vehicles got turned; people got beaten by the ever swelling rampaging mob.

The new recruitment for men was scheduled the next day. The army area was surrounded by the eager, starry eyed young men looking for a career in Indian army, the most coveted occupation for many of the sturdy youths. There had been stampede and deaths resulting from the huge unmanageable crowd. But the lesson had been not been learned and the area of the city was slowly filled by large number of youth. They come with one Rexene bag, a leaking plastic water bottle, and papers. For more compelling were lots of dreams and hope to make it and change their uneventful life forever.

Being a soldier in India army remains one of the best career options for many young Indians. The allurements are heady and dreamy aura about being a part of a glorious occupation, defending the nation, being able to wear a dashing uniform, postings in faraway exotic places and various lifelong benefits pull the strings.

The residents of the area were rudely shaken by crowd of rowdy boys occupying the space of both sides of the roads. The space to walk, park vehicles was gone with boys sleeping there and singing mournful ballads. Early morning joggers, many of them women hurried back home to escape the loud leering, whistles and cat calls.

Come, hot afternoons and the boys opened gates and perched under shed of drive ways and cool lawns. The lame objections of the residents were ignored with contempt such city bred indifference deserved. They banged doors and asked for cool refrigerated water again and again till such supplies were no more possible.

The girls and women of the house were imprisoned in back rooms, far away from being able to hear the bawdy rustic jokes and lusty songs they sung with clear purpose to make their intensions as naked as possible.

The air got fouled as the crowd eased themselves sitting on high walls of many empty plots. There were no solutions in the offing as the crowd grew large and every open space was filled by these harassed boys. The police was not foolish to try to restore any order in the huge unruly mob.

The vendors smelled business and converged to sell refreshments and sundry merchandize sought by the crowd.

Soon enough, few greedy vendors were given a befitting thrashing because of rampant exploitative pricing and rudeness shown to would be defenders of the borders.

The large administration teeming with highly educated snooty officers was blissfully unaware of the havoc being played in the capital. Newspapers reported that the long awaited recruitments were due next day but forgot to tell the whole story. They somehow had no idea of the inconveniences experienced by the residents of the area.

Most of the people were forced to stay indoors as the dangers were so large and it becomes impossible to walk or take vehicles out on roads. Every inch of space got filled with swarm of young hopefuls spilling in every hour.

          The interview time neared, the fences were pulled down, and barricades were run over.

The recruitment drive to Indian Army was now in the full patriotic glory.

Out of blue two young girls riding a scooter materialized from a side lane and stood still, undecided. They were shown the way to enter the crowd and assured of a safe get away.

They were too naive.

The hungry crowd of deprived youth pounced on them, female cries were lost in the shouts of young men eager to feel, grope and maul female bodies.

People watching from nearby house tops were too stunned to react. An  ex.  army officer noticed and took out his gun on the hoodlums and shouted them to leave the girls.

The cowards trying their luck to defend borders just ran away. They loathed leaving those two young girls crouching on tar road, every piece of cloths they wore were gone, stripped naked by the large demented crowd. They had blood oozing from nose and scratched flesh all over.

Only a few yards away a young woman driving a car was also incited to enter the crowd and she met the same gruesome fate. Her sari was pulled away making her turn in the car surprised with mortal fear. They pounced on her with naked depravity and she too turned it to mass of blood and bruises. A rifle aimed by another alert ex. army man from rooftop made the ruffians ran away.

These were too gory sights to forget but were never reported in newspapers, reasons are still unknown.

Fate of a school bus filled with deaf and dumb children was no different, only the occupants were helpless kids barely able to comprehend what was happening. The school management and parents perhaps misjudged the depravity of the crowd and made a big mistake their wards will not forget easily ever.

The bus was made to halt and hungry young men boarded the bus with clear objectives in mind.

They snatched away the tiny Tiffin boxes of wide eyed challenged kids with ferocity reserved for enemies of Mera Bhara Mahan.

They looted whatever was visible as the crew trembled in fears. The young female attendant was groped with intense severity.

All these people will never forget the scars of these beastly behaviors ever.

Do the army top brass care and aware of    severity of these repeated incidents across country and have the lessons have been learned?

Why can’t they plan the small recruitments aimed at cluster of villages and towns?

I do not know but do read such incidents repeatedly and go over those horrific moments.