Saturday, October 16, 2010
ALL DOWN TO THE SOUTH
Even in my daring dream, it never occurred to me that I was someone destined to go far away south. My mother was all dumb when I told her, “I have to go South”. I could see a mixture of emotions; happiness and sadness running through her entire face. She was happy because I was going out for higher education which she, despite her earnest striving in the past had failed to give to my three brothers. It was a dream- come-true for her though she didn’t know where on earth the south was. On the other hand she was very sad as she would never let me go off her sight. Being away for three years was something she couldn’t think of. It was, indeed, hard for me. Seeing her tears hidden behind her eye lids, trying hard to hold, I abruptly declared that I would come every vacation to meet her and share whatever I see and study abroad. This was such an assuring statement that I offered which instantly wiped out all the sentimental connections of my mother towards me. She became rationale. “You are going for your higher education and if I deny sending you, just because I feel lonely and neglected, I may not be a loving mother who aims for the welfare of her son but a wretched witch who blocks the way of Dharma. Go, my son, go! Do your studies well. Be reminded of your duties; both present and future. Never forget that you belong to a single-winged bird. Come to meet me every vacation”, she heartily revealed as she packed my things with her half-numbed hands. It was at that moment that I experienced the deepest sense of sadness. Never had I experienced then. It was genuine. It was painful.
With a thousand beckoning thoughts, I bid farewell to my only mother, dreading my way out of my village. Being born and brought up in a place of almost neglected and marginalized, a fear crept into my mind even as I was walking down the paths to the Indian borders as to how will I travel all the way down to the south. I’d never travelled independently even in my home town and a day had come whereby I was to go to an alien land, on my own, heading all the responsibilities. Luckily I had two girls who accompanied me but it was as good as not having them for they could have uttered not a word if I was in trouble.
A half-red half-white bus carried us. The next day we had reached Kolkota. A busy life with much traffic jams and stinking places gave me headache. I saw new faces of people, quite darker than our own race with a mustache or a beard. Most of them, I encountered, had a big belly and those who hadn’t were so thin and frail. I was supposed to journey in the 8pm train and had little time to go around the city. Moreover, I was afraid that anything may happen to me at any time. So I confined myself to a room.
The evening was extravagantly lit with street lights all glittering. When my cab driver took me over the Howda Bridge, I was all in tears, in the seat, behind. I had never dreamt that I would come across, one day, in my life, what I had read in the books. It was long back, when I was in class eight that my history teacher told me about the extravaganza of the bridge. Since then I had almost forgotten. I was unprepared to see those wonderful places but they came to me as a foretold blessing. I saw the way ahead solemnly promising. I learnt the value of travelling. But I didn’t know how the train, in which we were supposed to journey, looked like. Our cab driver showed us and it was just like a snake; a red head, serpentine body and the tail extraordinarily equal in size with the head. We were placed somewhere in the abdomen. The three of us were given a single berth; to sit and to sleep which was so uneasy for us. The snake finally hissed a loud noise which pierced into our ears and started crawling. I felt the house running. I could hardly see the head and its clicking tongue.
The next day, a white man in the train placed me with an Indian guy in the same berth. I looked at him and he stared at me. I smiled at him and he frowned at me. I thought of talking to him and nearly had I asked him “where are you going?”, when I found him not knowing English. He was a huge guy with big eye balls. He too had a beard and a mustache which was trimmed short. He looked energetic. Perhaps he talked in Hindi but that was not a digestible food for me then. The whole night, I slept in fear of him. I kept myself confined to the extreme side of the berth, making it sure just to occupy the smallest possible part of it and give the rest to him, my lord. Morning came bringing me freedom with the chaiwala’s hot cup of sugary tea. I didn’t understand then, why we were given only one berth when other passengers had their own. Recently, looking at the ticket which was issued to us, I came to know that we were in waiting lists. I was innocent of all those; waiting list, sleeper class, RAC, AC three Tier etc.
The next thing we awaited was our destination. Our broker (though a typical business-minded person who had charged us double the cost of the ticket) seeing us innocent, had given one good information. He had told us to drop at Yeswanthpur Junction and only God knew where on earth this junction was. We waited for days and nights and only the third day could bring the station for a longing heart. We didn’t know what to do and where to proceed then. We stood outside the train like a stupa for a long time under the scorching sun with heavy luggages in the midst of pushes and pulls. I could, in no way vaporize and disappear but had to find the solution what to do next. Finally, I decided to make a call to the HR Director, the first person whom we were to meet. On my way to a booth, I fell prey to those autowalas and cab drivers. All of them jumped on me like a group of drooling dogs on a piece of meat. And indeed, I was a piece of meat that can be swallowed without even a proper chew. I was so innocent. I thought they will tear me off. The more of them surrounded, the more fear took birth in me. I became an absurd. I tried to escape them but they would pull me to come into their vehicle. Pushing the weakest man away, I made a way out and ran in search of a booth with the Director’s phone number in my hand. They chased me like a tiger behind the deer. They were laughing and deriving pleasure out of my fearfulness. The world seemed so unfriendly. I thought to return but it was another difficult chapter. The man at the PCO was appalled to see me nervous as my hand would not restrict to one number but shook all over. However, my solace was genuinely restored when an assuring voice at the other end, over the phone said, “Our driver is waiting for you at the entrance”. Thank God! Umpteen times!
A few minutes after, we were into the van sent by the college. Though a solace had taken over my mind, my heart beat hadn’t come to normal. I was thanking the almighty for bringing me finally to the final part of the episode when I suddenly remembered that I hadn’t paid the telephone bill. There, I laughed for the first time, ever since I left home. All the while I had been very serious and conscious about my travel.
Ah! Travelling is difficult. But if this is our reason for not travelling, we’ll reach nowhere which will consequently result in no learning. The more we travel, the more we learn. If I’m able to describe something today, it’s because I keep walking. I walk across life, culture and people.
My mother must be waiting in great eagerness to hear from her son who promised her to come every vacation to share whatever he sees and learns abroad. But I, here, have failed in every effort owing to the multifaceted problems that inevitably occur to me everyday in the making of the ends meet. This is my final year and I have talked to my mother only twice let alone be meeting face to face. Many a times, I dream her in tears, in a place devoid of light. Distance has thrown us apart, time has gone cruel and years are dragging at utmost slow speed. I’ve no time to hold my heart and I can no longer too. I’ll go, one day, with all the efforts to meet my only Goddess on the earth, at the cost of my life. My life, after all, is hers.