A page from my Diary
Why bother about polls when I can watch IPL in peace, and whoever wins nobody can take the place of Shahrukh.
||Wed, May 14 2014|
Illustration: Rajat Dey
An Enigmatic Beauty
My many Kolkata
It was a Thursday, the 15th of May, the day before India’s fate was to be decided.
The day had started with answering mails, doing revenue follow-ups at work, preparing the course map for the next English class at L’école, running up to the neighbourhood parlour, and of course packing for our Coorg trip. It would have ended like any other regular day if not for a brief but strong conversation with one of the women at the parlour.
While waiting to pay for the services at the counter, I was casually chatting with the receptionist. During the conversation, I told her that we are leaving for Coorg the next day, on the 16th.
She asked, “Ma’am 16th ko to elections ke bhi results aayenge na?”
I nodded in agreement while signing my bill.
She asked again (this time with more enthusiasm): “Aapko kaun lagta hai jeetega?”
I replied hurriedly (putting my card back into my wallet), “Exit polls to Modi bata rahe hai… Wahi jeetenge shayad.”
She asked with a bit of seriousness in her tone: “Kya aap unko support karte ho?”
“Nahi!” I replied with a smile. “But, kya farak padta hai?”
As I was turning to leave, she replied with a smile (and some aggression in her voice): “Farak padta hai Ma’am, sabko farak padta hai!”
I stepped out of the glass door of the parlour, but stepped into the world of a 12- year-old girl, the girl that I was 14 years back. Belonging to a middle class Bengali family, literature and politics were always treated as appetisers and desserts at the dining table. Even before I had attained my puberty, I knew what the ideals of the CPI(M) were. My father was a Leftist in his heart and mind.
I grew up in Jharkhand and Bihar, where there are so many people below the poverty line. Working hard was the main focus of my family and everybody I knew. I remember my Thamma (grandmother) saying this to me once, “We are refugees. Years have passed by, but we still are. We left our homes, our land, our people, and came here because we were not accepted there. When we came here, we had no place to stay, no work to do. We started from scratch. We worked hard, day and night, stayed at railways stations, ate only one meal a day, didn’t have proper medical aid, but we continued to do one thing, we continued to study, to learn, to work hard. Every bit we own today is earned by hard work and the knowledge we possess, and that’s why it’s very important for you to be the best and excel and earn your own share in this world.”
I wanted to break the ‘refugee’ tag. I wanted to break the ‘middle class’ tag. You can’t be holding on to your possessions throughout your life just because you’ve nothing else to hold on to. And who decides your share in this world?
Nobody else can, and nobody else should.
I wanted to write to the other survivors of the epidemic of partition - Bengalis, Sindhis, Punjabis, to know their views.
The following year, dad was posted at Goilkera, now a Maoist area in the Saranda forest range of Jharkhand. One morning, he took me to a place which he said was a school, but it surely didn't look like one. It had brick walls, with window and door panels but no doors and windows. It was not painted, had no blackboards, no flooring and no toilets. A group of 12-14 boys and girls flocked in and dad got busy teaching them Maths.
They were stinking of dry sweat. I couldn’t stand there. Later I got to know that these students were from a nearby village. They used to walk all the way to that village for an hour of free Maths lesson. Everyday!
Really? “Can this be true?” I thought to myself. Can so much poverty and lack of education be there in any part of our country?
I wanted to write again, this time to the government so that they could make more schools.
As I grew up, and finished my 12th grade, I decided to take up Journalism and give voice to the forgotten millions of our country.
I moved to Bangalore. I loved this city from day one. The culture, the food, the people, everything about Bangalore gradually made it my soul city. Forgotten were those narrow rail paths of Saranda forest, the river Subarnarekha that flowed behind our home in Jamshedpur.
I graduated and started working with The Hindu as a Reporter. I came face to face with reality once again. The flood survivors, the rape victims, the uneducated HIV positive village women, the wives and fathers of the murdered men - those ugly faces were staring at me again.
Parents thought a 20K salary and a 10am to midnight job wasn’t worth what I was dealing with. Why just parents, even I thought so. After all, I was a refugee who had worked hard enough and it was time for me to reap the benefits.
I quit. I moved on to a glossy magazine which paid me heaps but had no morality. Let me tell you, if you ever have had any morality in you, it’ll at least take a year or two to kill them. I killed them after a year and moved on to an advertising agency.
I started working smart, not hard.
I was so busy in ensuring that I was being the best and enjoying my share of this world that I didn’t realise when I turned 26.
I didn’t realise when not voting didn’t make any difference to me, when partying the night Nirbhaya died was perfectly cool, when abusing a labourer from Bihar before even analysing why did he eve-tease me, became a norm for me.
I have, you have, we all have chosen our comfort zones. It hurts us to step outside that zone.
Us parlour wali ladki ko farak parta hai to parne do. Mujhe nahi parta. And why should I care?
Unless a Civil War takes place, or unless a super-power raids us for possessing missiles like Rahul Gandhi. Let NaMo and Kejriwal fight it out among themselves, they can never be my hero.
Nobody can take the place of Shahrukh you see. Let the value of rupee go up or down, foreign trips are only twice a year.
Why should I bother?
As long as we can watch IPL 7 in peace, I don’t care!
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Kajari Guha (Friday, May 23 2014):
Really you have worked smart!!!And hard too!!!
Nirmalya Nag (Sunday, May 18 2014):
A good read. The punch at the end is as hard hitting as another in the middle : "I started working smart, not hard."
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