18 07 2007

This is not a story of a working class hero, neither is it a story of love, romance and all those luxuries, civilized humans can afford to have. It is the tale of those hundreds and thousands of lives who are marked by destiny, as the people who will survive against harrowing odds, against times when their very existence is a question of mere grace or cruelty and against the collective desire of their own folksmen to fuel the dying embers of a long lost revolution.

This is a story of a man, whose name I dont know. A man whom I have never seen, but met countless of times working in the fields of Assam (India), immersed in their own love stricken bihu songs, working relentlessly with dhekulis. It is the story of those young hot blooded men, who have grown to see the paradise around them, but cant enjoy its beauty. Its about those women, who have to walk about ten miles from their home to fetch a pail of clean water. Its a story of that generation, who have been used to see their fathers going out every day to work in fields and in far-off towns but unsure if they will see him another time. Its a story of my generation, of my father’s generation and the coming generation.My tale cant capture their lives in its entire glory, because I am flawed, but yes their story, sure is one of desperation,joy,melancholy,mirth,pain and love all rolled into one.

Assam, a state in North East India, is a land of rich cultural heritage, unparalleled scenic beauty and beautiful people with their lives dripped in endless river of love, romance,innocence, jest and benevolence. But that is history, and you know history never ebbs, it just flows away. And washed away in this history is also the life which each Assamese had the right to cherish.

That was long ago, and what happened never left Assam the same. Tucked deep away in this state is the town Duliajan. A township of simple, industrious people busily digging away the earth for oil, this town had everything until then.

It was the summer of 1978, the third day of June, the clock lazily ticking away, timed around 7.30. Assam Agitation had already spread like forest fire into the hearts and minds of Duliajan.It was dark and the night was silent, life could not have been more silent if it had not been for the “Aayi Akhom” calls from the agitated crowd of Duliajan, who flooded the roads of the town with undiluted light, they carried torches to lighten their paths, but it just felt to the angels above, that hatred has somehow erupted in the paradise, and the river of fire just flowed towards hell. The agitation which started as non-violent protest against Bangladeshi immigrants had suddenly taken a violent color. “Maar, kela, bongali-hotok”(Kill, the Bengalis), a man shouted. Bengalis, all and any, Indian or foreign, were fair game in the hunt of identity. The crowd proceeded towards the bungalow of Director of the oil company. A man who came from U.K during the peak of his professional career, hailed as one of the topmost oil exploration experts in the world at the call of Nehru to serve his motherland, was the target. He was an Indian, and sorry yes he was a Bengali too. Fair game. Men who never knew violence, never knew hatred congregated on roads just to see, what the ruckus all about, but its contagious you know. Its more contagious than disease. Hatred haves all. What transpired, is beyond the collective conscience of Assam till date. But yes, the Director’s own driver (an Assamese) pleaded to him ,not to go out to appease the crowd. His maid (again a native) begged him. But the Director was too naive to respond to the crowd, who believed that the crowd wanted assurance that the township is safe(two days back one Bengali was killed on the road). Within minutes, he was clobbered to death by stones. Many didn’t want it , many never thought it will happen. But one young man, his name I didn’t know, ran away, and kept on running away from his life, his conscience and his self-esteem. He just joined the rally for the sake of fun. He never saw in his entire life the town so bright. It seemed the fire torches just rolled with the air around and flowed like an entity with its own mind. He just joined because his friends told him that its important. He asked his friend who told him so, he replied in a very hushed tone, “Bondhu mur(my friend), everybody knows it…one of my friends told to me, he is going to lead the rally…its important, we are just going to ask the Director, that our town should be safe”. He was sure of two things. His friend’s friend cant lead the rally,he too got the news probably from some vineyard, and yes, the rally is going to only ask for safety nothing else…

But he didnt know what will transpire. And when saw, what transpired he was aghast. He was a young man of barely 20 something, loved all, hated none and was loved by all. His father a diligent, hardworking person already warned him against going out that night. He sneeked out, youthful adventurism you know. But that night he ran, he ran towards his home and he kept on running from his conscience which he left tattered, lynched and mobbed along with the Director’s mangled body. He went to take bath in the well and vomited while soaping his tired body. He scrubbed and scrubbed and scrubbed till his skin cracked and blood oozed. He cried that night for the first time since his mother died.

That was a long time ago, and today that man lives in a village, surrounded by paddy fields and green hills.

Kathi, toy gaon kiyo goi aaso, yaat thaki sakori kio nai kora”, his father asked him when he told he wants to go back to his village.

Deota, I cant work here. I like to be in village. I dont like this town life.”

” You are not going to decide whatever you think, if you are living in this house then you have to do as I say, if I say you work here, you work here…”

Nohoi Deota,I am not going to work here…I dont like Duliajan”

“Dont fly too much ,Kathi, you dont know how much tribulations I had to young bloods never realize thinks everything goes easy…everything comes easy…”

“No I am not going to work here, and thats my choice”

Kathi left his home, left the life in Duliajan, left his friends, left his father, left his sister and left his dreams of prosperity far away, believing that memories can be left behind. But memories haunt,you know. And it still haunts Kathi.

Kathi saw the man, who threw the first grey stone that night.He saw him talking with the village elder last summer. After thirty years of life, sprinkled with nightmares and fairy tales, his demon has come to hunt him down.

That man came in dhoti and gamosa wrapped around and talked to the villagers about Independence and revolution.And yes, Kathi noticed he smiled a lot, sometimes frowning when the villagers related their problems.He told them his organisation will help them, how this organisation is for the growth of the common sons of Assam, how this was a movement which is empowering common Assamese to fight for their own rights and safety, and why guns are needed to make the foreigners and government listen.

A young blood asked unabashed, whom they are fighting against.The answer came, “Everyone”.
That night he had nightmares. Sweats beads rolled on his face like pearls. He had seen enough. But told you hatred spreads and it engulfs all. He had to see more. Kathi witnessed over the next few months, something which he never thought he will have to face. Tens of young lads, leave the benign profession of agriculture and pick black AK-47s . They told they are going to fight for their Aayi Akhom, Mother Assam. Kathi saw all these and knew; knew the impending doom coming these innocent peoples way. But young men, you know, they dont listen. He too didnt listen.Over the months he saw, bodies of young boys who should fall in love with girls and marry away, face the 1 inch metal slug tear away their bodies and their dreams. Violence called for violence and he saw his paradise, his village bleeding.

And he sobbed in nights for all what happened. His country, his village, his town was going to be paradise. He saw paradise, for he believed in them, and he knew it when the Director made schools for kids in villages he never even saw, when free medical treatment was given to natives who came from far flung places. But what remains today is, broken roads colored red by the blood spilled long ago, of his own and unknown. His village doesn’t have electricity for the last 30 years and school is non-existent. In monsoons, his village is flooded,yet nothing happens. Nobody comes. Not the man who smiles a lot, nor the babus dressed in spotless indifference…he has seen women being maimed and killed by the revolutionaries and the Army alike. He has seen small kids being shot hollow by the guns, whose it didnt matter, it never mattered. Girls being used, and discarded like empty cardboard boxes. Fields turned crimson in springs with the blood of his own men. He has seen when he went to town once, how the insurgents killed one young boy, of barely 20, right in the middle of the road. He begged for mercy and begged for grace but all he did was he kept on begging.He called for help from the people over there. Bullets riddled his body and blood oozed away…That boy was from the other village.

Men kept on walking their own ways, and killed their conscience with the firing of the first bullet. He somehow hoped that the man, a local goon and a self proclaimed big shot of the insurgent outfit will leave that boy, but it never happened.

He saw everywhere and everywhere he saw, he made it sure that his pity, conscience and anything barely reminiscent of anything vaguely human is scraped away. He was coward he knew that, he was a coward that night when the man first lifted the first grey boulder(if only he could have stopped him). And he is coward even today.

But Kathi will be brave one day, he promises that every morning. But with his withering age, he wonders sometimes how will he collect back all the pieces of his broken conscience when the first grey stone thrown that night hit the Director’s body.

The Author has to edit this story a lot many times. So any suggestions,any comments,criticisms is more than welcome.[This is a work of fiction and loosely sets some original incidents in its background. The author has taken his liberty with the events and this is not an historical account]




One response

28 09 2007
Zeitgeist: The Spirit of the age « The Soul and The Witness

[…] what can I do ,this was one of the search terms. Read this piece and this comment to get a better idea of why did it land on my blog. Well, I think its Sid who came […]

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