Saturday, September 11, 2010

India Shining

As narrated by a friend:

Sometimes, its all about grassroots. Amidst the bonhomie of frivolity, sometimes, a sojourn to the basics can be refreshing alike a spring gushing before a parched throat.

Deepika was your everyday copywriter, with an admirable command over the language and the vanity to match. Hailing from a flourishing, and traditional Rajput family, she was your archetype Indian youth, caught between two worlds - One of a plagiarized lifestyle of the West, and the other, of her own, most of which she couldn't make sense of.

All of that mattered little to her as she revved her hatchback to overdrive on a solitary Jaipur street, emptied as much due to the heat, as owing to the weekend that consigned everyone to their abodes. Content writing could be demanding, with the best of the efforts falling flat on the quirkies of the client. Deepika, a psychology major, remained unfazed by the demands of her job. She was one of those rare few, who enjoyed her assignments, for her creations allowed her the luxury of the illusion that her writings were, in a small way, a contribution to a nation that was, in itself caught in two worlds of its own.Today, was however different. A grimacing Deepika was still contemplating the points of refutal to counter Soumya, her friend's argument over the concept of India Shining. It wasn't going to be easy, as the latter had quoted facts and figures that painted a damning picture of the nation, much of which was actually true. Patriotic fervor can only stand so much against reasoned debating.

Drat, she thought, as the lights turned red, just as she approached the C scheme intersection. Glancing around, she could almost catch a glimpse of Vasundhara Raje's ministerial abode. Neither she, nor the world would know that the political scion would have to give up her official residence shortly, and kick up an avoidable storm over a simple kiss a few days down the line.

A knock on the window shook her from her reverie. Craning her neck, she observed, with studied indifference, the street urchin, peering curiously into the dashboard of her car while making a fervent plea for the alms she had no intention of doling out. Instead, her interests were more piqued by the Porsche that had just pulled up besides. Sleek, elegant, jet black, it housed an apt set of hands and legs munching gum behind the wheel. The dark glasses turned towards her, and a casual smile exchanged lips over the shock of hair of the urchin.

By this time, the urchin had realized that Deepika wasn't going to resemble the sweet old lady who had given him an ice-cream alongside a 10 rupee note a few hours back, and decided to try his luck with the Porsche driver.

Deepika was still marveling at the automobile, as the urchin made his way to its window, when the young lad behind wheels lent out and spat out the gum on the street. Seconds later, a disgusted Deepika encountered an even greater shock, as she distinctly heard the urchin remonstrate the guy in the Porsche,

"Sharam nahin aati...(have you got no shame?)"

The lights had turned green by now, and as she sped away, Deepika smiled for the first time since morning.

She had to tell this to Soumya, India was still shining...

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The Little Bird

...the little bird disappear over the horizon.


I jumped into the waiting super deluxe express from Tatanagar, the silent behemoth beckoning my journey that I'd prepared for all this while. As I made my way through the mass of appendages, my mind lay in the wonders of my destination - Calcutta.

It didn't seem then, that this journey would ever be plausible. Raised in Jamshedpur, I was expected to follow my father's heels in the steel making chambers of the Tatas'. Truth be told, they had changed our fortunes, alike a majority of the 1.8 million residents who eked out their living from the many enterprises that Tatanagar played host to. Fate, however had other plans. A chance encounter in a theatre with a friend forced me to take on a dancing role and my mentor was in the audience, taking a holiday from the hustle bustle of Job Charnock's city. He was scheduled to leave the next day, but before he left, he left his number and a note to call him. 2 years of mind numbing efforts later, I was finally headed to Calcutta to participate in the World Latin Ballroom dance contest. I smiled at the irony. An ordinary forger's son, grooving to beats he plausibly would have never heard of, but for the insistence of a perceived stubborn friend.

I stared down at my legs, hardened and tempered from the countless hours of practice, the muscles flexed at tendons, a work of art. The very legs, that would carry me across the dance stage to the victory podium, along with Shruthi, my dance partner, I reminisced as most juveniles do.

A shrill whistle from the train's engine cut across my reverie. It was gliding past the picturesque landscape of Jharkhand border. Soon, very soon, I'd be in West Bengal, I thought, and even sooner, with some of the best dancers one could ever hope to see. The countryside glided by, in a blur of green and turuqoise. The rustic portrait of the state spread itself to the extent my sight could behold, and the golden rays of the great orb lent a halo to that pristine sight. A dusty lane snaked itself across the meadows, carrying with it, a cyclist headed for his destination, with a bag of knick-knacks slung across his shoulders. A mother hurriedly gestured to her kids, splashing about in the nearby puddle, the little shrubs swaying to the wind with a grace I couldn't hope to emulate in my moves. Amidst all this, banners of "Long live Mao Tse Tung" and "Marxism is the cure" adorned either side of the verdant panorama.

And then I saw the little bird. Black plumage, with little white stripes across its wings, the golden beaked creature glided across the empty sky. It was the first time, I'd seen a bird of so diminutive a size, glide across. It didn't have the majesty of the eagle, but it soared with a sense of promise that made my insides come alive with ecstasy. The sight of that little bird across the sky, spread out and free, seemed to hark a vista of hope, of luck, of joy, of freedom, of victory.

And that's when it struck!

The thousand screams that chorused with the crunching of metal, couldn't have known moments before, that the fish plates were loosened, the rail lines removed and that weeks after the accident, the Maoists would go into a denial mode after being accused of derailing the express. It all seemed pointless now.

As I managed to raise my battered head amidst the mangled wreckage of the derailed express, and over the thousand promises of pain, my body made to me, the last sight I glimpsed before passing out was that of both my legs were blown off below the knees and between them, I saw the little bird disappear over the horizon.