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An Agonizing Memory with a Spark of Hope in Mind

 

Yogesh Bhaiyya is my friend. More than a friend, he is a father-figure to me. Our relationship began since 1990. As the days progressed, we became more intimate and that intimacy is still rock-like strong.

Now he is aged sixty. Lean, tall and brownish, always clad in Kurta and Pyjama, Yogesh Bhaiyya remained pleasant with a smiling face till two weeks ago. Yogesh Bhaiyya used to wake me up from my deep slumber at sharp 6AM in the morning. From his little thatched hut like tea-shop, he daily brought my bed-time coffee to my room and used to knock at the door, two to three times. I would wake up from my sleep and rubbing my eyes rush to the door, unlock it and open it.

“Ram, Ram, Surendar Bhai”- while handing over the coffee cup, he would wish me with the everlasting smile.
“Ram, Ram, Yogesh Bhaiyya”- I would respond. After bidding farewell for the time being he would rush to his little tea-shop where his regular customers were starting to visit to have their daily cups of bed-coffee. Yogesh Bhaiyya is known to almost everybody in the locality, and he had contact with each and everyone who used to visit his shop, being blessed with a photographic memory, he called them by their names with his usual “Ram Ram”.

As the Sun rises in the east, locality begins to bath in sun-light, and also with streets begin to jump to life with vehicle speeding along, Yogesh Bhaiyya’s customers also begin to disperse to their abodes for the day and would start preparations to rush to their working places in the suburbs, by the local trains along with other commuters. Yogesh Bhaiyya reached his little shop in the wee hours, with an aluminium vessel filled with milk from faraway Goregaon. A hectic day begins in his life before the darkness disappears giving way for the Sun rise.

Yogesh Bhaiyya is from U.P and his residence is in Sultanpur. He has an illiterate wife, a daily labourer and four children- two boys and two girls, all studying in the nearby schools. Once in a year, Yogesh Bhaiyya goes to his native place and after two or three weeks of sojourn in his birthplace, after meeting relatives and friends, exchanging pleasantries with them, travelling through the maize, wheat and paddy fields enjoying the beauty of the landscape, he would make his return trip to Mumbai city, which till recently was his abode for the past fifteen to twenty years. While travelling back to the city and also after reaching the city, Yogesh Bhaiyya suffered from severe home-sickness, the tearful eyes of his wife and children haunted him for weeks and also his beloved friends and relatives and the landscape indelibly imprinted in the inner chamber of his mind. Even while going through such agonies, he didn’t forget to keep his beaming smile intact hiding all his sorrows inside.

 

While talking about U.P he always went talkative and with one thousand tongues, in rhetorical flourishes, spoke about the world-wonder Taj Mahal-a monument of eternal love sculpted in marble, innumerable tourists from afar, the tonga-wallahs, love-birds walking with hand in hand, pilgrimage centres like Mathura-Sreekrishna Janmabhumi, and long queues of pilgrims to have a darshan of Krishna and Radha, amidst drum beats and loud chanting of devotional songs, Varanasi- the spiritual centre with devotees praying Kasi Viswanatha and the sparkling river Ganga where people take Holy dip praying to the Gods from the bottom of their hearts for the eternal salvation of their ancestors, KumbhaMela at Allahabad with lakhs and lakhs of devotees and Sanyasins,

 even large number of naked-sanyasins with long beards in meditation, some taking bath in the holy river to erase the sins of yesteryears that is their belief, in short, a spiritual ambience. Yogesh Bhaiyya’s days of happiness and smile were slowly vanishing from his face. A look of panic and worry began to make appearance on his face. His melancholic look was somewhat a tormenting experience to me also, and I knew the reason behind his sudden change on his facial expressions.

The ‘Son’s of the Soil Policy’ of yesteryears, which lay dormant for years, was again rearing its ugly face in the city. This time their ire was directed against those hailing from U.P and Bihar. The ‘Xenophobics’ were nursing a feeling that their job opportunities and resources were being grabbed by men from U.P and Bihar and they were planning to
force them flee from Mumbai to their native lands by harassing the men, women and their children who had come to the city years ago for a living through abusive language and deeds. The ‘Sons of Soil Policy’ believers joined hands and began to attack the taxi-wallahs from U.P and Bihar, burnt their vehicles, demanded them to write the names of their shops on the boards displayed in front in Marathi only, unleashing murderous assaults on flimsy grounds, thus creating a fear-psychosis among the U.P wallahs and Bihari people. Tension mounted day by day, many among the U.P wallahs and Biharis who had made the city their permanent abode feared for their life with tears in their eyes, started to return to their native lands with blank looks to the uncertain future. That which they could save would not be available anymore and those thoughts were nagging and unbearable.

One day a large number of educated unemployed youth from Bihar landed in the city commuting long distances to appear for a test for the Railway Recruitment Board Exam. An educated young man’s dream is a job to earn a living and unfortunately they were brutally assaulted by the ‘Sons of the Soil’ and prevented them from appearing for the exam. With tears in their eyes, and bleeding wounds, they went back disillusioned and disappointed. We were all aware of the developments through newspapers, radios, televisions and from those known to us in the city.

Yogesh Bhaiyya was the most worried among the lot and with panic in his face, he always looked around apprehending eruption of violence at any time directed against him also. “Surender Bhai, I am a very worried man today. I am at a loss to know to find a way out. If I am exiled from this city, what will be my future? My wife and children are eagerly waiting for the monthly money order from me to have their sustenance.” On hearing his worries anger welled up within me, but I am also helpless like him, an entity from another land. Even then, I would pat him on the back and console him. Meaningless, empty, hollow words, I knew. What else a common man can do? Life seemed to be quite absurd in the city.

Unexpectedly one morning I woke up from my sleep on hearing angry shouts, choice epithets and also the sounds of blows and beating with sticks, I jumped up from my bed and rushed to the door, unlocked and opened it in a hurry. To my horror, I could see an unruly mob with long sticks and cycle chains in their hands in front of the little tea-shop of Yogesh Bhaiyya, the shop grounded to the floor and in a mess the mob encircling Yogesh Bhaiyya, beating him, thundering blows on him, kicking him and trampling him like pachyderms with all their anger, shouting ‘Kutha jao Na there Muluk ko, Jaldi chalo Magar Marenge hum’ (‘Run away from here to your native land, you dirty dog.’)

I couldn’t bear the sight. I closed my eyes with my palms for a while, tears trickling down my cheeks, the man whom I saw like a father-figure. I ran to the spot just to embrace him, and console him and if possible rescue him from the hoodlums. Yogesh Bhaiyya was writhing in pain, bleeding from top to bottom, the city itself seemed to be bleeding. I ran towards him, hugged him and wept like a child. Contrary to my expectations, Yogesh Bhaiyya was calm and with his smiling face consoled me in an endearing tone. “Jane Do Beta, Jane Do, Sindagi Aisa he. Idhar se U.P Ko vapas jane Ke badh Bhi, Hum Milenge.” (“Never mind son, life is like that, even if I am leaving the city back to my native place, certainly we will meet again.”)- on hearing him calling me ‘Beta’ (son) , I was overwhelmed with joy and sorrow and was recalling my late father for a while. Again I felt like weeping to my heart’s content. Now, Yogesh Bhaiyya is away from me. Everyday I expect some message from him. So far, no reply….I know, one day, he will…

Contributed By   K.R. Surendran, hailing from a village called Pulluvazhy near Perumbavoor. Four books in Malayalam are there to my credit now, Pooviriyumkunninte - Santhathikal” (Stories), Gloriyayude Dinarathrangal”(Stories) and “Mumbai- Sketchukal”(Novelettes). A novel “Indiayude Bhoopadam” was published recently. krskartha@yahoo.com  


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