Monday, December 25, 2006

An Ode to Majhi

Circa 1977. Majhi came out of the voting booth, peered at the noon sky with contempt, strapped his turban tightly and trodded along the field. Life had been harsh and the Emergency didn't help matters. For a moment, he mulled over how his vote could unimaginably create a change in his life. But a true Gandhian never questions the power of democracy. His optimistic part of the brain still believed that his voting choice would ultimately benefit small landless poor farmers like him in this impoverished part of rural Bengal. After all, wasn't he being lauded in the slogan Jai Jawan Jai Kisan.

As his feet felt the dry hard soil, his optimism grew dim - ultimately pitch dark. It had been a bad year. Miserable weather. Unfriendly to him and the crops. As he passed the small Shivling beneath the centuries old banyan tree, he prayed. With tears in his eyes, he headed back home wondering just how and what he could feed his kids today. Hunger was just an everyday nemesis he had to grapple with. Maybe I should beg again today - just like yesterday.

Two months later. An army of Red Communists marched through the village shouting victory slogans. Majhi had returned back from his 1 acre dusty field and was about to leave for the daily begging ritual near the highway bus stop. His suffering was palpable - thin and frail. All he could do was raise his puny fist in support of the party he had voted for. And he just hoped that their pre-election promises are acted upon.

One year later. Majhi and his family are well fed. With more land, more powers and a better panchayati system, life has never been better. All thanks to the new Left government.

Ten years later. A white Fiat car parks outside Maji's dilapidated mud house. Two teenaged kids run into the house and wake up their baba. Majhi puts on his best and the only shirt he owns. A few steps later, he finds a visitor he has known since his time began. In a crisp white shirt and jeans, Rehman called out "Kemon Accho, Majhi?" and runs to hug the only childhood friend he had ever known. Majhi, a bit uncomfortable, manages a smile and somehow returns the hug. A conversation ensues after the initial complimentaries:

My dearest Majhi, I have come to take you and your family to the city. There is no money here. Come to Calcutta.

No Rehman, am happy here. This is my land, my world. If each one of us farmers leave the countryside for the lucre of the city, who would provide food to the country?

Don't be so idealistic, Majhi. There will always be farmers - farmers who will always remain poor. Sell off this land and join me. I need trusted friends like you to help me in my business.

No dear. I can't leave this place. My ancestors have lived here, died here and so will I. Plus, I am optimistic that the government will someday realise the true worth of us, farmers.

Soon, Rehman left. Majhi, like every other night, slept hungry.

Circa 2006. A government car stops in front of an old mud house in Singur, West Bengal. Now old and barely able to see things, Majhi still manages to offer them water. The government servant gives him a paper and explains him a proposal to build a car factory at the field where his land stood. He would be compensated with 13 lakhs and his two sons would be assured a job at the plant. With tears in his eyes, Majhi says

Am sorry son. I can't leave this place. If each one of us farmers leave the countryside, who would provide food to the country?

In the midst of India Shining, industrialisation and unprecedented growth, let us not forget the millions of Majhis whom the govt has neglected and because of whom, we get to eat that daily morsel of rice or wheat.


Sunday, December 17, 2006

The Overbridge Story

A daily ritual to head back home requires me to walk for a kilometer, take a railway overbridge to cross over to the other side and ease into an autorickshaw once I stagger over to the other side. Generally this is the time (around 10ish) when I catch up with my buddies on my Nokia.

Overbridge Night 1: I took that final step and moved past the hawkers. And not surprisingly, I was smiling (as always) the reason being a funny incident narrated by a pal through the airwaves. In a flash, I saw her. The first thing that struck me were her beautiful eyes. She was wearing a maroon-yellow salwar - more importantly, it was so elegantly worn that it made her look like a fairy. I forgot the anecdote narrated from the other side and I just ogled at her as she passed me in a flicker of a second. Of course, she gave me a flicker-of-a second look. Soon, I came out my reverie, cursed myself and steered along. Back to the smile and the silly jokes.

Overbridge Night 2: I was pondering over a technical issue this time. And to my horror (or my delight), I saw yesterday's eyes again. This time, she was in a silky green apparel - straight out of some God forsaken Paradise. Of course, I ogled at her and she gave a I've seen this guy before look, which lasted for more than a second. It got over too soon as we ambled past each other. I spent a momentary second looking at my watch. The time.

Overbridge Night 3: A really hard day at work saw me hurrying up the steps of the overbridge - damn hungry you see. The first instinct was to peer over the bridge horizon to find a known stranger. Alas. Traversed the bridge and was just about to alight on the first step, when my revelation was seen boarding the first step. Oh my God! Time stood still. Our steps matched; me downstairs, she upstairs. Our eyes met; mine black, her's mascara laden brown for some really good amount of time. She couldn't hide her smile; a faint one appeared on mine. We crossed each other. This time, I looked back and so did she. Time started ticking again. Yeah. Oh my God!

Overbridge Night 4: A Friday when am generally in my best, cool, funky look. I was on the phone and I told my pal at the other end to hold on for a while. I was literally scanning the passer-bys and my watch. Slowly and cautiously, I passed the first set of hawkers and looked over again. Damn! Have to see her today. Lo and behold - my prayers always seemed to be answered - I see her from a distance in a beautiful ensembled tanktop and jeans. I had decided to really flash my smile today, expected the same, take my first baby steps in the world of girlfriends and eventually ask her out. In a flicker of a second, I see her smile at me and move her arms across the waist of someone I didn't know. He was tall, ragged (not rugged), scarred, wearing an ill-fitting shirt, torn jeans and a bandanna. As we crossed, I didn't look back again. Damn! Hope I never see her again

Most of the story is fiction, except for a few facts

Yeah. Nice guys finish last!

Of course, I'd prefer to remain nice.


Saturday, December 09, 2006

Birthday Kicks

Celebrated my birthday last Tuesday (5th) which made me feel older than usual. Yeah, hit 26 and could imagine myself more mature. However, let me remind you that am still a kid at heart.

Was splashed a tasty cake all over my ugly face, which made me look better. Smacking my lips carried a new meaning. And then arrived a few pizzas for my team, which I would have to sponsor ultimately. All I got in return were a few kicks left-n-right seduced by some good leather Woodland shoes worn by my faithful team guys, all in full view of my giggling team gals. Good icing on the cake, eh? I must thank these guys for making my birthday so memorable. That was very sweet of them.

And not to forget the many friends who called me from all over the world. A special thanks for remembering me and keeping the faith. My daily work status to my boss mentioned "Unfortunately, I could not work today. I will compensate for it".

Since I haven't been able to make you smile, here's Garfield saying "Hi"
Don't even hesitate to watch "The Prestige" - a beautifully spun web of magic, ambition and competition.


Sunday, December 03, 2006


I am a loner. In other words, an introvert. A lot many people would subscribe to that.

I am an extrovert. Always smiling and happy. A lot many people would subscribe to that.

To tell you the truth, am both. Had been a compulsive introvert for most of my life. The last three years changed me and once in a while, I move over to the other side. As of now, am gradually closing in to the centrist position.

Somehow, I don't I think I can ever be a complete people's guy - a hardcore extrovert. I wouldn't enjoy it too. I still sometimes prefer moments that I want for spend with myself. And I just can't befriend every random person. I need the initial greetings, the smiles and the idle chatter.

Crossing the border by itself is a big achievement for me.

Before you ponder over my disambiguated thoughts, here's what I did yesterday. Well, I was part of a trek group and I was alone. Trekked alone, chatted with a few people and enjoyed the beautiful landscape that greeted me. And sang along with the hardcore extroverts in the bus.

Enjoy this snap from my photographic armoury, which says a lot about my personality. The tree being my introvert side and the cactus riddled with thorns, the extrovert one. The tree has outlived its life and will not grow an inch more. The cactus is short, will grow and try to match the tree - with more thorns.

DUH! Better stop thinking and marvel at the splendor of Sudhagad Fort - a 4 hour drive from Mumbai. If you wish to savor more snaps of that trek, check my Flickr link.