Friday, September 30, 2011

Heart Beats of India - Trains @ Indian Railways

Indian Railways, Department undertaking of GOI overseen by the Ministry of Railways, has 113,617 Kms tracks and 7083 stations spread across the Indian subcontinent. 30 million passengers use IR everyday and 1.36M employees work for it. It is the 4th largest railway network in the world. It was one among the few positives of the East India Company. Britons proposed railway network in 1832 and since then it has been serving the masses of India. IR trains have been the most convenient transportation medium for people in India.

Indian Railways' success should be attributed to its relationship with all categories of our society. Most of us travel with Indian Railways in different sorts of compartments. A train, part of IR, contains five sorts of compartments. General bogie, a mean to travel cheap economically, physically and mentally, is for poor people. People having meager pays choose general compartments to travel. Sleeper class is meant for middle-poor class. People of this class enjoy restricted luxury (A sound sleep in natural air instead of AC). 3rd Tier AC compartment is used by people who wish to pay additional money to travel in a hassle-free environment. These compartments are generally filled by middle class or salaried class families. Next class of compartments are the 2nd tier AC, which are filled with middle-rich family. Last but not the least, 1st tier AC compartments are filled with rich and elite people of India. Apart from all these compartments, trains run with one of the most important compartment i.e. the pantry which provides tasty food (We all love it, is not it?) for all the people traveling.

Every train journey is a unique experience. These experiences are sometimes sweet, neutral at times and bitter rest of the times, better to say most of the times. Overwhelming chaos, chattering, pollution, and huge crowd, across all the stations, trains and ticketing windows, make the travel inconvenient and painful.

I have traveled in 3 types of compartments i.e. 3rd AC, Sleeper and General and based on my past experiences I may not like to travel in general compartments (most inconvenient) any more but I feel these are the most lively compartments. I know it is childish but there are solid reasons supporting my childish statement. 

AC compartments are reserved by people who have some etiquette and reservations. Either People, traveling in these compartments, do not wish to talk or their discussions are way far from understanding of a common man. Things that interest them, i.e. economy, history, books, and jobs, do not flatter a common man. 

People, in AC compartments, do not like intruders who can be problematic to the comfort so they keep their mind clear of not sharing the seats with anyone else. Along with all these comforts if you are lucky, then you can find some girls sitting next to your seat without their parents. So all in all AC compartments provide hassle free travel with few boring people. If you want to spend 24 hours in boring travel then be it's guest and pray to god to not hitting a seat next to few uncles and aunts.

Sleeper class receives people who are stuck due to non-availability of either tickets or money. When these two ends(Less Ameer and Less garib) end up sharing the same compartment then it takes plenty of time to break the ice. In sleeper class discussions are not as boring as in AC. People in sleeper class talk about sports, movies, songs, religions and superstitions. Cricket is ever green and the most discussed topic over here. Religions and superstitions are the second most discussed topic there. People share stories about ghosts, bad dreams and temples where blood thirsty souls find peace. Discussion about films and songs are rear and limited to young people. People in these compartments do not discourage intruders much and share their own seats with these intruders. All in all sleeper class is neither much interesting nor much convenient.

Let’s talk about the most evergreen, lively, and interesting compartments of a train. General bogie reflects most of the India. It has people who belong to different social statuses, castes, religions, and regions. These people try to figure out a way to make their journey a little better for the people who are suffering most. People in these compartments have the appetite to accommodate passengers 2-3 times of its original capacity. There is a fight for everything. Sometimes to enter the compartment; Sometimes to save yourself from falling back; sometimes not able to balance the body on one toe; Sometime to settle  at gate; Sometimes to escape from sharing the bench with four additional passengers. Toilets in the general compartments are additional incentives on top of all other human problems.  

Even after so many problems, these compartments are the most entertaining compartments of the train. People are not sophisticated, knowledgeable and literate much but they are curious. They do not talk about businesses, sports, films, money and economics. They talk about dances (Some chammak challo dance in some movie), salvation, love, girls, families, ghosts, problems, travels and places. Most of the discussions primarily revolve around human characteristics which anyone and everyone can understand. Striking the chords with anyone is simple. Within 5-6 hours you will know all about a person's family, business, and reason of traveling, receiver at platform, return date and lot more.

I remember a small conversation between a sage and few fellow passengers. The sage was dragging shots from his chillam and he was releasing the smoke in the compartment. One guy got frustrated and started confronting the saint, whereas few others joined to wrestle with Shiv devotee saint.

Guy 1: Bharat mein sadhu banke bas ganja peena hi dharm ho gaya hai, sharm to ati nahi. (In India, Sage do not have anything to do other than dragging, shameless people.)
Sadhu: Yeh to sambhu ka Prasad hai beta, beta ek baar pi fir dekh tujhe khud bhole dikhenge. (It is Shankar bhagwan's prasadam, try it and you will find him.)
Guy 2: Han baba sahi bol rahe ho. Apka to koi dharm nahi hamara bhi bhrast kar rahe ho.(Yeah, yeah, you do not follow any religion, but do not spoil us)
Sage: Sambhu peete hain, yeh to Moksha ka darwaja hai beta. (It is way to salvation.)
Guy1: Baba, moksha ise peene se milta to sab tum jaise ho gaye hote. (That is why you are here waiting for salvation.)
Sage: Beta moksha aise hi milege. (Accept it, it is the only way to meet Shiva.)

The conversation which was started to persuade the sadhu but did not end and it kept changing paths from one to another character/god. The Sadhu and passengers started discussing moh, maya, ramayan, and mahabharat. It looked like entire wisdom of the world was resting next to my seat. All of a sudden people, who were behaving like retards (before settling down), started behaving professors of philosophy, mythology and history. Everyone started telling truths of the world. 

Now you know why general class is great and interesting. People facing so many problems get the time to laugh, share and advice. To watch the real face of India, travel in general compartment for once in life time. You will realize the beauty and beast of railways. If you are lucky these people will persuade you to join sanyaas as well ;)

Friday, September 23, 2011

An Enchanting Love Letter

I was studying in class 11th in Sarkari/bada school (Sarkari because it was funded by government and bada(Large/Big/Huge) because it was the largest school in my village). At the start of the session, tables and chairs were assigned to us. Within a month, or two, tables and chairs yah to langadi looli ho gayi yah fir allah miyan ko pyari ho gayi (were either handicapped or broken into pieces) and the remaining wooden pieces were thrown into junk yard. These wooden piece were used as fuel for warming hands and playing cards (favourite past time for teachers whereas at the same time intelligent children were busy creating more fuel to increase the time of these sessions) sessions in winters. 

Later few mats were assigned for sitting purposes. But there were not any respite for authorities. Our room was a wrestling room for street dogs so instead we enjoying it, dogs were more ecstatic. These dogs found warm place for resting after wrestling rounds. Along with rest, they use to demonstrate their frustration of losing on the mats. In frustration their sharpened teeth were used to perform skilled work of tearing and damaging the mats. Do not know how it helped them to win more competitions but their stupid actions provoked our teachers to leave our bumps exposed to cold floor as if we had torn the mats with our Dhoodh Ke Dant(Weak teeth). 
Winters had already started so we were compelled to sit either on cold floor which was cold enough to shiver us from bottom to top or on dusty ground, in the middle of school, which had few grass patches here and there. As each room was territory for different groups of dogs, So it was a general practice for each class to find its grass patch on the dust filled ground to accommodate all batch mates. In our batch we were approximately 30 people but we used to find a patch where 40 people could sit easily because 9 brahmin and astoundingly beautiful (given that we all were blind, hence prove all my girls batch mates were astoundingly beautiful) girls needed more place to maintain a considerable distance from untouchable bechara and ugly boys.

One such day, when sun was providing plenty of heat and wind was enough to shudder us; we were sitting under the tree shade on a grass bed and waiting for our late lateef adhyapak jee (Teacher who was never on time). But before our teacher could honour us with his presence, we saw few gundas(Bad people) rushing toward us. Before they could pollute Savitri(unpolluted) girls with their devilish presence, we moved toward them. Few of them, thinnest in group, were carrying hockey sticks and rest were holding bicycle chains. These folks were famous in entire village for their bike stunts in the crowded market place; for numerous girl friends and love sessions which were halted by girls' relative; and for fights. My dad had instructed me to keep a distance from such people, so I was last to reach the yudhbhumi. Two groups started confronting. I was searching for a known face among the intruders so that confrontation could be halted before producing unprecedented and unwanted results. I found one and due to my reputation, this fight was stopped. Girls were panicked and scared and were waiting for us. I rushed to disclose the breaking news; why miss a chance to talk to girls? :)

Till now I did not know the issue. This was the first incident where we were attacked by someone outside the class. It was shocking and disturbing. Our teacher came to the class and started abusing (with all sort of words) Chashmu, who was not even present in the class. I knew something is unusual but what?

After 15 minutes of Shlok Vachan(Slang session) we were deserted. I asked, could someone tell me what had happened?

Bandar told me that Chashmu gave a love letter to Chand. This letter was not a usual love letter. It was a special letter for which he spent 100 Rs, wow, 100rs was luxury in childhood, is not it? There was a Bangali tantric in our village that had few Sidhdhies and had controlled few witches. The tantric had spread some magic itra(rural scent) on the letter. Due to itra, this letter was an enchanting love letter. According to tantric baba, Chashmu should hand over the letter to the girl and the girl would follow all the orders (orders only - mind it) written in the letter.

A Letter Of Love

As per few speculations following were the content of the letter.

Priye Chand(Dear Chand),

Mein tumhe pyar karta hun, aur chahata hun ki tum bhi mujhe pyar karo. Shyam ko five baje ganne ke khet mein milo. ..... (I love you and I order you to love me as well. Meet me at sugarcane field at five in the evening and please do not worry I have arranged security as well.)


Somebody told me as soon as he gave the letter to her; there was a sound of powerful tamacha (slap on face.). Later Chand gave the letter to her brother and her brother was moved with the letter whereas the affects of the letter were damn opposite on the lover boy.  Chashmu was thrashed, beaten and dragged and after a session of one sided wrestling chashmu's condition was similar to a cloth washed at Dhobi-ghat.

Still you must be wondering who visited our school. I was also stunned to see these folks in school but sooner one more story unfolded. Chandu was Chand’s lover, and he came to teach the lesson to new age lover Chashmu. Arre yaar ham Mar gaye the kya. I did not know how to express myself?

Should I laugh on such stupid act or amuse on chashmu's courage? Before I could figure out my own stance, someone came running and shouting "Chandu has caught Chashmu and he and his friends are beating him". Instead of figuring out my stance, we all ran hard to save our friend.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Autobiography of an illiterate MCP

My name is Brij Kishor Chaturvedi, my fellow mates and officers call me Kaidi Number 603. 603 is a special number, do not you know it? No!!!! Okay let me elaborate. As we all know 420 is associated with evil so as 786 is with god. 603 is middle of these two numbers so this number implied my existing between evil and got i.e. a man, just a perfect man in the imperfect world. You must be wondering, either I am too crazy or philosopher. But believe me I am just a farmer, who has been counting his days to judgment day.

How did a farmer, an image of devotion, sacrifice, labour, purity and sincerity, end in prison? It is a long and tragic story; you will neither believe me nor appreciate my efforts to keep the pride of male community. I have not either copied or pasted my story but it looks dramatic and filmy.

I was in love. Please please, I do not want to hear a farmer, an image of blah blah. I also have a heart; which can fall for someone sweet, adorable and lovable and my heart fell for my own wife. Though she was a teacher and I was almost illiterate, but there were a lively attachment between us. Though my love was boundless but there were fights between husband and wife. We used to flights for individual's right. I am a male and In Indian society a wife is dust of his husband's feet and I wanted the same respect from her. But instead of appreciating my love for her, she tried to dictate and force her commandments on me. Our culture says husband is the religion and devotion for the wife. But my life/wife stopped hearing the advice from other villagers. All villagers were jahil and Ganwar for her. She argued about the changed world, does not she know the world cannot change till we/men change it? She escaped from Nari Dharma with the excuse of her tiredness and busy schedule. She did not allow me to sleep with her "because I was illiterate" and according to her my breath was bad. Neem ka Datun was not good enough to brush my teeth; she wanted me to brush my teeth with Angreji toothpaste. My father died without holding my son in his hands because my wife did not find any difference between daughter and son. She did not want someone to carry our name in this world/country/state/village. Her decisions kept deterioration our relationship every day. My daughters started calling me Unpad Budhdha. One such monstrous day in rage, unexpected and unprecedented event happened and I was awarded the capital punishment for killing my own daughters. I argued with judge and told him the necessity to take such steps to set an example which will help in preserving the honour of Male society. But idiot and literate judge said "Shut up, you illiterate and idiot MCP". Hmmm, MCP, some big term I suppose.

Here ends my story about love and sacrifices to maintain the decorum of the male society.
Jail's environment is not as it is shown in the Bollywood movies. Most of the people coming here do not have a killer instinct. Most of them do not have muscles, fame and money. Their bones are ready to jump out of skeleton cage. They are filled with darkness, humiliation, sorrow and bitterness of their conducts. They weep when they receive letters from their families. They cry when they meet to their lovely families. Though we get food thrice a day but still no one gains any weight. We work hard but our muscles do not improve. Lots of Sipahis, holding old and rusty guns, whistle and parade around us. An idiot Jailer keep shouting and frowning over us.

Here in jailhouse I have comrades who were involved in murders, thefts, robberies, rapes and many other heinous crimes but no one is innocent like me. Everyone has been penalized for his own crimes but I was punished for keeping the esteem of the society. A convict, who was self acclaimed Don, salutes me every day. As soon as I wake up, he walks in-front of my cell, salutes and shouts MC. MC is another big word I learned here. Other remaining prisoners are scared of me. They do not have the courage to stare or look at me or talk to me, but they frown due to jealousy. Though I feel alone but their fear fascinates and strengthens me more to keep them away forever.

My honey did not even visit once to meet me or to find out my conditions in the lock up. She denied hiring a reputed counselor to save my life or to appeal further. I heard people gossiping about my wife and me. I think she is going out with someone else and she will move to another village soon. I should bag one hour from police inspector at the name of male community and murder this bitch who is dishonoring the custom of our great society. I still love her but I cannot let her ruin our honor and pride.

I have seen people coming and leaving the cell. Everyone brings a new story to discuss. We all old in-mates gossip about the new talent and appreciate his courage if he has done something significant. One day one more guy entered the prison. He looked innocent but he was awarded capital punishment next Monday. Nobody knew his story, he was a quiet man. He did not even talk to his cell mates. He was finding solace in his own solitude. This was the first execution in the jail.

It was Sunday. I saw lot of changes in the environment. Police force was increased significantly. Media persons increased the chaos outside and tension inside the premise. Everyone was talking about the upcoming hanging. All other prisoners were trying to figure out the story behind our new companion and reason for such huge media coverage. Lots of people were not able to eat even a single piece of bread. We were not taken out to work. Activities around new prisoner’s cell were increased. Other two in-mates of the cell were adjusted in other cells. Everyone was tense, unhappy and panic-stricken.

Day passed in horror and hustle-bustle. Hanging was supposed to commence at six AM in-front of all the prisoners. At five o’clock he was taken out of his cell. He was trembling and chanting “Ram Ram Ram” interminably. He was not able to walk due to shaking in his legs, instead of walking he was hanging on the guards carrying him. His eyes were filled with tear, horror, fear and terror. Unlike yesterday, today he was shaved and was dressed well. According to his last wish, he heard the Bhagwat Geeta for one hour before leaving his cell. He must be trying to reduce his sins down at last moments of his life.

Media people were mocking the death scene and were telecasting the death as “Breaking news”. Instead of sympathizing with a human, their remarks were filled with hatred. There were glimpse of insanity and inhumanity in their eyes. Their eyes were dry and emotionless for 50 year old chap, who would not exist anymore with-in few minutes.

The ground was filled with people. Executioner had taken the podium and for the formalities purposes he was checking if everything was working perfectly fine. There were at-least 50+ soldiers who were around the podium. Cameras were setup around the podium to take the nearest possible shot of stretched neck. Jailer, doctor and jury members were in the front row. We all were standing behind them and we all were the spectator of something painful. There were few of us who had to face the same punishment within some time and our heart was sinking and pounding hard.

Soon, our latest in-mate was brought into the ground. He was still hanging over soldiers arms. He was uncontrollable, he was screaming, he was pleading, he was weeping and he was shaking. When we live then we pray for death and when death is so near then we always wish to live little longer. He was shouting that it was devil who acted at that moment but no one seems like listening to him. Judge was busy checking time in his wrist watch, hangman was busy in tie the rope, jailer was busy analysing the environment, and doctor was taking his equipments out of suitcase.

He was taken to podium and he peed there. Everyone gave him a disgusted look except me and few others who have the similar destiny. He was not concerned about the urination act, he was not concern about the disgusted look, he was just trembling and shouting in horror. Executioner tied his hands, put a black cloth on his head and tied the rope around his neck. His shaking increased which was even evident from the last row.  Clock in the ground clicked, judge’s arm went down, and trigger was pulled. Very next second a body was hanging in air, it was weltering like fish taken outside the water. It felt pain for little more time but after 2-3 minutes of pain, it was all over. The pain, the shaking, the fear, the terror, and the rest were over. The man and his sufferings were over. Doctor examined and after confirmation the group left the premise.

The hanging body was yet in front of my eye but it was not the person who died it was I who was hanging over the rope. Pictures, voice and talks of my sweet daughters flashed back to my mind. I was not sure about anything other than death.

Note: This story is complete work of fiction and is inspired by an article published by Hindu by George Orwell.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

भ्रमित हूँ

में व्यथित हूँ 
में दलित हूँ
में अपने कदमो की सरसराहट से भ्रमित हूँ ||

आफ़ताब हर सवेरे, इक मोती पिरोता है |
व्याकुल मन मेरा, इसे दिल में सजोता है |
राहों को अपनी, मोती के दम पर बनाता हूँ |
पत्थरों से टकरा कर भी, उसी राह में चलता ही जाता हूँ ||

निशा मेरे अंधकार में, दिया एक जलाती है |
मेरे सपनो में वो, जिंदगी का एहसास ले आती है |
एहसास से, अपने घावों पर मरहम लगाता हूँ |
हर नये घाव की रोज, नयी मरहम बनाता हूँ ||

जिंदगी में रोज, एक नया ठहराव रहता है |
पलक खोलते मूंदते, आफ़ताब निशा का इंतजार रहता है |
खुश होता हूँ रोज, जब नया संसार पाता हूँ |
पर हर नये संसार में, इतना इंतजार पाता हूँ ||

इसीलिए में कहता हूँ
में व्यथित हूँ 
में दलित हूँ
में अपने कदमो की सरसराहट से भ्रमित ही हूँ ||