This post has been published by me as a part of the Blog-a-Ton 25; the Silver Edition of the online marathon of Bloggers; where we decide and we write. To be part of the next edition, visit and start following Blog-a-Ton. The topic for this month is 'When Journey Meant More Than Destination'.
“Kajaraa Re Kajaraa Re….” the mobile suddenly becomes live.
Roshan glances at it. It is from home. He curses himself.
Since the High Court bomb blast, his wife has started calling him after every couple of hours. She as if wants to ensure that he is not dead.
The traffic is moving slowly and the passenger is asking every couple of minutes ‘How much more time will it take? I should not miss my flight.”
Roshan gives the right kind of answers. He thinks that only if this man had not made him wait for half an hour, he would have been at the airport long time ago. Now this Dhaula Kuan traffic is creating stress.
“Kajaraa Re Kajaraa Re….” the handset shouts again. Roshan is wondering what the call is about. Generally if he does not pick up the phone twice, Malini, his wife understands that he is driving and waits for at least half an hour before making another call. But today she seems desperate - is there something wrong, Roshan wonders.
But first things first. Reach the airport, drop the passenger, go to the parking lot, report the vehicle to Meru desk, and then he would get time to call back home.
The mobile rings again. He picks up.
“Where are you?” that is how his conversation with his wife always begins.
“I just reached the airport. I was going to call you. Anyway, tell me, what is it?” Roshan asks with concern.
“Can you come home immediately?” Malini pleads.
Roshan’s heart sinks. “What happened?” he is breathing fast.
“You need to talk to Sudha. She is adamant about going to that place day after tomorrow..…” Malini is worried.
Roshan sighs. He can’t go like this. To the company he has to pay a thousand rupees every day. The taxi drinks petrol like a camel from the desert. He had had only one trip so far. How can he go back without doing work?
“I will come early today. Don’t worry. There are still 24 hours – isn’t it?” Roshan wants to assure his wife.
Sudha is Roshan’s daughter and Roshan is proud of her. She is mature; she understands the circumstances very well. She wants to study, wants to do some research she says. Roshan has taken lot of trouble to stand to people who wanted him to marry off Sudha a long back. But Roshan is convinced that education would change Sudha’s life forever. What else can he give to her? He has no estate, no land, no ornaments to offer her. Even the education, he is not fully supporting. Sudha has been awarded some scholarship. There is a group of people (they call themselves SAMATA or something like that) who help children of people like Roshan. Those people have influenced Sudha more than he would have liked – feels Roshan.
When Roshan reaches home at about 9.30 in the night, he is tired; but satisfied. He has earned enough money today – which always makes him happy at the end of the day.
He immediately feels the tension in the environment. Neetish, his son is watching some cricket match on TV, but his mind is not in the game is obvious. Malini is still in the kitchen and Sudha is in other room; ironing her clothes. Neetish smiles sheepishly and shows his fingers locked – indicating his mother and his sister are at war. What would be the topic of the conflict, Roshan wonders. Has Sudha decided to marry someone who is not from his own caste – he fears.
But the discussion would happen later. Malini has very wisely created this rule long back – during breakfast and dinner, no serious topics are discussed in their home. Roshan feels thankful to Malini about it. He has some time to think about what the issue could be.
Sudha comes out, she smiles but there is something sad in her smile. Malini serves. Neetish talks about the cricket match and how Sachin was out in 90s again. Malini talks about the neighbor. Roshan tells about the customer who forgot handset in his taxi. Everybody is trying to be normal, knowing that the ‘abnormal’ part is coming afterwards.
“So, what is it my dear child?” Roshan asks Sudha. Malini smirks.
Sudha says, “Baba, I had been to Jantar Mantar yesterday and today evening.”
“Jantar Mantar? What for?” Roshan is still clueless.
“That fast against corruption Baba”, Neetish adds.
Sudha smiles; Malini frowns at her son.
“What of that?” Roshan is still wondering.
“I joined the protest march from Jantar Mantar to India Gate today with my friends.” Sudha explains. She sounds nervous.
“Oh! You mean that old man’s fast? It is a good cause. Even I want to go once, let me see how I can make it. Sudha, what time does the protest march start tomorrow?” Roshan asks with enthusiasm.
“Now don’t you start!” Malini shouts. “Instead of scolding Sudha, now you are going to join the march?” Malini’s eyes are filled with tears.
Roshan does not understand what Malini is so sacred about, why she does not want Sudha to join.
“But Malini isn’t it a good cause Sudha is in? What is wrong in fighting against corruption? We should support this. There are well known people like Kiran Bedi in that movement. This Anna is an ex army man. The other guy – what is his name – he also has won some international award for his work. You know, how much I have to pay unnecessarily to the police? And you remember how we lost the opportunity to get Neetish in that school – because we could not ‘donate’ the money to school authorities? Remember how we had to bribe the hospital staff when your mother had cardiac attack? It is a good work and we should be proud that Sudha is joining the protest march instead of just sitting at home and watching TV.” Roshan tries to convince Malini.
“Ok, you also go to Jail then…” Malini speaks.
“Jail? What are you talking about?” Roshan is confused again.
“Baba, Anna Hajare has called ‘Jail Bharo’ day after tomorrow. I am going to register my name; that is what I am asking your permission for.” Sudha is speaking calmly. Roshan suddenly feels that his daughter has grown up a lot in the last few months. He remembers her as a kid who was naughty and who always demanded his time. He remembers her studying in the night with concentration and he remembers her joy when she was awarded the scholarship. He remembers her as a child who was frightened of darkness, and now she is ready to go to jail for social cause. What a change and how time passes!! His heart is full of love for Sudha.
Roshan laughs. He says, “Malini don’t worry. So many people will come forward that police will not be able to put all of them in jail. And even if she is put in jail, there will be thousands of others as well.”
“I am not worried about others. What if they arrest Sudha? Is she not too young to join such agitations? I am scared for her future. One wrong move and everything will be spoiled for her. You know better than me how police generally are, what if they misbehave with her? I have not objected to her joining the march, I too understand our responsibility. But going to jail is a risk; I want her to be safe and secure.” Malini pours her heart out.
“But Ma, I won’t be alone. There would be thousands of people. And my friends from ‘Samata’ will be there too. Ma, don’t worry. Nothing is going to happen to me. And if you don’t give me permission, anyway I will go…” Sudha seems determined.
“The kids might not know, but how can you turn blind to what happened to you? How can you push your own kids again in the same dust?” Malini is shaking – whether with rage or sorrow or with both, Roshan can only guess.
The kids exchange looks. Neetish appeals mutely to his sister. Sudha thinks for a moment and then adds “But Ma, times have changed. The media is there, the world is watching, we are not small in number! I tell you; nothing wrong will happen to me. Just leave this fear behind…”
Roshan remembers his plight, that part of the past which he prefers to forget.
He was in his final year of graduation, studying in the district headquarter. In his native village, a company wanted to acquire land. The Gramsabha opposed the acquisition which was followed by brutal atrocities in the village. Farmers agitated, Roshan joined to save his own small land, his family and their livelihood. He was not alone, sure; but he was not spared.
The company used many tricks to divide people. Some were offered jobs, some were offered more money, some were forced to sell, some were made to run for life, and some were jailed. The media came and went. A sorrow of one village cannot have a news value for more than a day. Roshan’s elder brother was killed in police firing; his sister in law disappeared and her dead body was found in an old well; his old parents died of shock. Following arrest warrant, Roshan had to flee leaving his home forever. Later there was nothing to go back to home. He came to Delhi, learned to survive, learned to live, and was married to Malini. In the mean time a new government came and all the cases were withdrawn. So, Roshan was a free man in the eyes of law. He had once narrated the whole experience to Malini and they never discussed it again. They acted as if it was not part of Roshan’s life but some movie plot. Sudha and Neetish had learnt the story in bits and pieces. They never dared to ask Roshan the details.
Roshan thinks. He suffered, no doubt. History has put a burden on his shoulders and he has to live and die with it. But does it mean that his children should not participate in something which is relevant to their life? Does it mean that Roshan should not allow his kids to take risks, to interpret the world in their own way? What if they put Sudha in Jail? What is wrong to be in jail for a good cause?
“Ok, I understand. For the time being, let us stop this discussion. Let us all think and tomorrow evening we will decide about it.” Roshan declares like a judge. Sudha is hopeful at this announcement, Malini is worried and Neetish is confused.
Next morning, both Sudha and Neetish are out early to attend classes. Roshan sits calmly at the dining table and speaks to Malini. “I understand your concern Malini. I keep on thinking what would have happened had I not joined the protest march in my village. Maybe, the company could have offered me a job. Maybe, my parents, my brother, my sister-in-law were still alive. Maybe we would have been richer and safer. Maybe I could have a chauffeur driven car instead of this taxi. Maybe we could give a far better education to Sudha and Neetish.”
“But Malini, I am convinced that I was right then in participating in that protest march. I paid a high price of that act, but that does not mean that my action was wrong. I feel no guilt about what happened. I feel morally right when I stood against the company and had to fight my own way out of the mess. I failed but I am happy that I fought. We need to take a stand against wrong. We need to join this national cause. We need to encourage not only Sudha but Neetish too, to join.”
Malini argues. Roshan explains. Malini argues again. Roshan explains. The more time goes in, the more Roshan is convinced about joining.
“Ok, I will call that Deedee from SAMATA to ensure that Sudha would not be left alone,” Roshan moves to make a call. Then he has a flash. He smiles.
That evening crowd of thousands is walking from Jantar Mantar to India Gate, with happy faces, smiling, holding each other’s hand, singing ‘Vande Matarm’ , charged with patriotic emotions. They are melted in the national emotions, they feel proud. Their joy has no bounds.
That journey from Jantar Mantar to India Gate meant more than destination not only for Sudha, but for Neetish, for Roshan and for Malini as well.
And for hundreds and thousands of Indians.