Saturday, June 23, 2007

Embers of a revolution

On my way back to Calcutta after a gap of nearly 7 years, I boarded the Jagannath Express at Bhubaneshwar station. Packed to the point of spilling over, the last minute nature of my travel plans had condemned to the usual crush of a General compartment. Amidst all the hullabaloo, a white dhoti-kurta clad Jat farmer lay sprawled along the length of the upper berth. Entreaties and threats from his co-passengers fell to deaf ears as he refused to budge from his luxurious horizontal position.

A woman, maybe 50 odd years of age, shabbily clad, someone who wouldn't look out of place amongst labourers in a construction site, stood up. She went up to the sleeping fellow and uttered in pure Bengali "This is a General compartment meant for the common man. No one, absolutely no one will occupy more space than he REQUIRES!" Though I doubt that the farmer understood a single word of what she said, but the intent was quite clear, and the result immediate! He sat bolt upright and quietly shrank into the corner of the berth, hemmed in by the mocking smiles of his co-passengers.

Maybe this lady's belief in a doomed ideology hadn't brought her any benefit. She probably lives in the same squalor and poverty as she did when "privileged" people ran the government in her state 30 years ago. She still travels in the same completely uncomfortable coach as before, and faces a monumental struggle to get two square meals a day. But her faith in the dream was what was shining in her eyes that day.

The same horribly impractical dream that personal happiness rests in common happiness. That a man would not desire anything more than what his fellow men could afford. That equality would be the order of the day- rich and poor, powerful and weak, exploiters and exploited- all such words archaic forms in the dictionary.

And how appropriate it was that she was traveling to a city defiant in its deathbed, challenging the vultures of politics and sloth which encircle it ever so slowly, high in the sky. A city that feeds itself on lofty, philosophical hopes, and prides itself on keeping the sputtering flame of human thought alive amidst all its penury.

1 comment:

Suman said...

roy o roy..hadn't a clue about this side of urs..great stuff man...the embers...wish to read about embers of life..the old age charms..the simple..common...the hard to hear these days...cud we we keep them alive?