Friday, February 22, 2008

The Mango Tree

Today...... or sometime very soon
Virar, Mumbai

"Nirmal. Jaldi bhaag." (Nirmal, Run soon) screamed Ganesh as they saw the Ramu kaka run with his stick shouting "Aam chor" (Mango Thieves). Of course their 11 year old legs were more agile and able than the 68 year old Ramu kaka, who seemed to be running even slower than the heroes running in slow motion in mindless movies. By the time Ramu kaka came near the fence, they had passed the grove and were beneath the Neem tree near their house.

Nirmal pulled out the small key chain pen knife which his Singapore uncle had gifted him on his previous birthday. He cut the mango into 2 halves while Ganesh opened the Mirchi which was neatly folded in the Indian Express newspaper. Ganesh sprinkled the mirchi generously on the top of the Mango as their mouth watered to finish it off that instant.

WOW!!! Mangoes taste so good….and in particular stolen Mangoes really do taste like Manna from heaven.

15 years later
Syed Alwi Road, Singapore

The list read 'Ring - 1 for Anand (6 years)'. Nirmal was not sure how he was supposed to ask for a ring for a 6 year old. What the hell was a 6 year old kid supposed to do with a golden ring? What….was he was like Frodo of Lord of the Rings?

Well…either way all he was supposed to do was not think, but just get it. Anand was his Aunt's relative’s son and Nirmal made it sure to impress her to remain in the good books of his uncle. While Mustafa remained crowded as ever, Nirmal found it difficult to find the right size with the right design which would fit in the right budget.

After comparing over a dozen rings and thinking of all possible permutations and combinations, Nirmal chose for a ring which had a nice "A" embossed with some glossy design. Now that should make his Aunt happy. He struggled to get past the weekend-or-not-but-we-are-always-crowded Mustafa to move to the Cashier counter. As the cashier processed the bill, Nirmal checked if he had managed to cover everything in the check list.

Nirmal and Ganesh seemed lost in the taste of the mangoes.

"Nalla irukku illa?" mused Ganesh in tamil. (It’s nice isn’t it?)

"Tu aur tera tamil. Hindi me baat kar re" (You and your tamil. Speak in Hindi)

Having lived in the same colony ever since they remembered, Ganesh and Nirmal often used to tease each other with generous dose of their respective mother tongues. Nirmal was an Uttar Pradeshi by birth and Ganesh was a tamilian or madrasi as they are called in this part of the world. But then childhood doesn’t know about any barriers of language, caste or creed that are set by the vicious adult world.

They had roamed around arms in arms, playing pranks, breaking window panes with cricket balls, watching Shahrukh's latest movie in the deluxe theatre front seat and so on. They kept 3 slices for their friends Manish, Ganpath and Rakesh. Rakesh in particular loved Mangoes. He was sure to go bonkers.

As they entered their colony, they witnessed something they would remember for the rest of their life….and possibly after life.

Making sure that everything was bought as per the check list, Nirmal carried the 4 heavy Mustafa bags which were laden with every possible thing he could lay his hands on. Stepping outside, he called for a cab and loaded the 4 bags and sat next to them puffing and panting in between. Thank god!!!The cabs in Singapore come fitted with Air Conditioner. It was such a relief to have some cool air breeze on face (so what if artificial) after spending hours in sweat. As the cab rushed into the condominium apartment in Bedok, he took out his purse and paid the cab driver.

After showering for 20 mins, Nirmal made few last minute packing with some items he had bought. The rest of the items would be carried by his Uncle and Aunt who would start a day later. Nirmal called a cab near his house and put his suitcase in the trunk while he retained the cabin luggage with him. He opened his travel bag which contained his passport. On any day he could have got a Permanent Resident pass, but he chose to retain his nationality. He read the words inscribed on the passport with the same hatred and his blood boiled in anger as it did when he read them for the first time years before.

It read "Passport" on the top and beneath was inscribed with the words "United States of India".

The only words that could have described the scenario are Chaos and mayhem. People were running helter shelter and there were cries and shrieks of "HELP" heard from every possible corner. Some houses were torched and the cries from those houses were at higher decibels. There were some men who had bands on their head and were shouting "Jai Maharashtra…jai Maratha". Some were carrying torches and seemed to be burning houses as per their whims and fancies.

Nirmal had read about some problems in nearby localities regarding disputes between local Maharashtrians and Biharis and Uttar pradeshis. There was a sudden outburst to drive all outsiders from the state. It was like a domino effect and seemed as if all the pieces were falling today. One mad guy ran near an old woman and shouted to her "Thuvaa Maratha?" (Are you a Maratha?)

She didn’t respond as she didn’t understand Marathi. The man took out a knife and stabbed her. Cold Blooded murder. Nirmal and Ganesh watched this horror happen just before their eyes. They ran for their lives before they too would be consumed. As they went near their house….they saw them torched down to ashes. The door was bolted from outside which meant that his parents were trapped inside and ....... Burnt to ashes.

Nirmal got his passport stamped as he arrived at Mumbai Airport. He would have to get it stamped in Telangana (formerly Andhra Pradesh) tomorrow when he would have to rejoin his Uncle and Aunt. This was the same country where you could go around without being asked. Without being questioned. Without fear. Without any barriers. And now you had to get it stamped whenever you cross any boundaries.

Now all that remained were pieces. He still remembered the interview of the politician who had started the "Maratha Aandolan".

Q: There were so many casualties because your party men were involved in massacre. What are your comments on this?

A. In any movement there are casualties. Such things do happen…but they are for greater good.

Casualties. Hundreds died. Thousands were orphaned. Lakhs lost their job, home and life. More than the loss of their kith and kin, they had lost their identities. And that son-of-a-bitch termed them all as casualties. And when he got arrested for all this, he smiled and waved as if he was Lord Christ taken out for crucifixion. Every politician took cue from his victory and they reduced INDIA to UNITED STATES OF INDIA. The only thing that united the whole country was Misery. Corruption. Anarchy. Oh can be added to the list.

Nirmal ran to the door and knocked it down and saw his parents who were reduced to charred bodies. He could not even touch them as it was still hot….but lifeless. Nirmal cried. He cried as loud as he could. But his wails got lost amongst the hundreds of cry for help and anguish. Everything was reduced literally and figuratively to ashes. 2 days later Nirmal's uncle came to take him to Singapore as he had no one left to take care in this world. Ganesh left to his relative’s house in Tamilnadu. But what about the hundreds of others who had no one to look after?????

As Nirmal boarded the train from Virar station to leave to Mumbai Airport, he saw the Mango grove.

There was no Ramu kaka, no vigil near the Mango trees.

But the Mangoes failed to entice him.

On the next day morning, Nirmal caught a train to Virar and went to his colony. Oh…what was his colony. There was some shopping complex built in that area with everything written in Marathi. The same place where his parents were reduced to ashes without their own approval. There was no Rahim chacha’s Biriyaani shop, no Grace aunty’s tailoring machine sound, no Ganesh, no Rakesh, no amma-appa……nothing.

Everything seemed to have been wiped clean just as a wave washes away writings on beach sand. Unable to bear the sight he walked past the grove. The Mango trees remained. Maybe because they were mangoes and they didn’t have any caste, creed or religion. Lucky Mangoes.

"What Sir? Seems like you have lost your way? Shall I help you?" asked an out-of-work teenager.

Nirmal wanted to say least something. All he managed to say was

"I think I can find my way." He hoped someday his country would find one as well.

P.S: Inspired from the horrendous Nashik Incident.


Aparna said...

Very well-written as usual!

Dreamzz said...

nice story.. even if a bit sad :)

Priya Iyer said...

:( when will things change? do we really have to be like this?

Brindha said...

tht was really good..too good... ipdi ellam story ezhudi enna bayapada vekkadha.... naane mumbai'la bayandhundu iruken... [:(]

Aravind said...

hmm interesting da ..
mindless movies a.k.a hindi movies ;-)

Anu said...

wow!! totally blew me away! the depth, the idea, the concept was really well executed ...

i don have words to praise this particular write-up... this one story shd be fwded to every indian who is still bound by religion, language and state boundaries...

beautiful analogy when u said "I think I can find my way."

Totally loved it dude!

Karthik B.S. said...

edhu maanga marama? :P

Anonymous said...

After a long time, somehow I thought YOU are back. This is typically the kind of thing that affects you and brings out a great post.

more than that, I agree to your crux,we cannot let a great nation like this fall prey to such politicians and thier evil machinations just to make more money and killing thousands in the process.

But I see hope, like I always have. India is a great nation. She has remained so for so many years and she will continue to remain so. THe grit in her has withstood so many such things and she still manages to be bold strong and emerging.

Great post.Kindling !

Harish said...

Thanks yaar :-)

Yes....but then truth sometimes is sad :(

We dont want to...but who listens???

Sorry yaar....perhaps Mr. Raj should be the person to think more deeply about this....

Harish said...

yes boss :-)

It came really deep from the heart. Every time I read some news as such, a deep-rooted emotion of anger takes me over. So badly wish I was omni potent :(

Ade daan..

"She has remained so for so many years and she will continue to remain so."
I so badly wish I could share the same optimism. But things are going from good to worse because of people who would do ANYTHING for votes and power. Sometimes feels as if Justice is dead :(

rampantheart said...

I guess every Indian can relate to this story. This revelation is not something to be proud of, I know, but what really worries me is the way people are being brainwashed. The Politicos are adept in using their "divide and rule" policy. What adds to my chagrin is the way people blindly support the Politicians without reasoning. It won't take long before India becomes "United states of India". What can Ranjani and Nirmal do about it? nothing! As long as people fall into the lethal entity called Power and fall into its deadly clutches, India will remain the same.