Monthly Archives: August 2011

The Hill Community that saw a rebellion


 Update for week ended 18 August 2011

The verdant hills were being destroyed. The new settlers came with their ruminants, chicken, dogs and quickly set down to chopping the larger trees first. They used the timber for their huts. For the wall, the red earth was ideal building material, and the grassy meadows provided the grass for the roofs. The green hills swiftly and deftly turned to reddish brown settlements bustling with activity as the men, women and children jostled around pitching fences to the land they had acquired and acquiesced. There was also quite a lot of commotion as 2 women wrestled and jostled about which standing tree was within whose domain. It was a loud and an almost physical skirmish. Thanks to the men in the new village, this was resolved easily, as one of the men just attacked the other spouse with his machete. There was bloodshed and perhaps the first homicide in this small settlement. Uneasy calm settled in the village as day turned to night, and an older member of this hill community tried to bring in some semblance of civil society within this mayhem. As some rules and regulations were being put together for this community, the anxiety of the Mighty Men who had managed to use their might to acquire large swathes of land was understandable. These Mighty Men had used their physical strength and size to threaten the others into obeying them and “agreeing” to their rule of law. These were the minority but started becoming the ruling majority. No-one dared to question them, until the incident. The wise old man was the trigger to get people to rethink. They had followed these burly men and their directions and converted the green hill to a cluster of mud huts, and verdant meadows into farms. And now they were wondering if this was the right thing to do. Day 3, and disaster struck. The rains poured from the heavens and lashed down on this hill. In earlier days, the trees and their foliage would have arrested the rapidly falling drops of water and allowed for seepage into the ground and into the lakes nearby. But today, the grass roofs could not keep the heavens from pouring through into the huts. The mud walls crumbled, the torrents of rain turned into raging streams and gushed down the slopes. They took along with them mud from the walls, the ground and this “mud-balled” into an avalanche of red earth. The hillslopes were giving way and then the mudslide occurred. The village was destroyed as the people ran helter-skelter looking for shelter. A few that could find a tree or two stood under them shivering, looking sullenly at a loss of their belongings and their animals.

 

D Street was overtaken by street agitations that started from a Ramlila ground in Delhi. The murmurs of intolerance of the majority of people against the minority rulers in far off Delhi was resounding in this street too. So what initially started off as a post Independence Day silent agitation, started getting noisy. So D Boyz who thought that this would be the start of a good turn for the country – got the Boyz worked up on Tuesday, but as the day wore on and an arrest happened in Delhi, the Boyz shivered and got cold feet – sending the SENSEX down some 100 points…… but with a possible mediation happening after the previous day’s skirmish, the Boyz relaxed on Wednesday getting their SENSEX back from the depths…. But the heavy deluge on Thursday across the country got a lot of systems to go haywire – bus drivers went on strike in Mumbai, so did train motormen, causing traffic chaos in this island city, while rain ground much of North India to a halt as rivers brimmed over their banks flooding villages and towns. And D Boyz who either missed their buses or trains just took off their new Gandhi caps and slammed on their trading terminals resulting in mayhem on Thursday —— SENSEX was finally down 371 points – 2.2% to rest at 16469…..

Meanwhile someone from the skies looked down at his beloved Mumbai and he seemed to be wearing a red hat on his head and flicking a red silk scarf, with arched brows, tilted head and looking out for his lady love with fair cheeks and tousled hair …….. while the local radio station played a popular song from the fifties – “sar par topi lal haath mein resham ka rumaal”. Of course, someone also thought he saw a tall Pathan wearing a bush shirt and pants playing the shehnai and dancing like a “Govinda/Krishna” on the street looking for pots of milk and curd to break in anticipation of Janmashtami this weekend.

The red on the streets would soon be washed away as the revived monsoon would hopefully nurture nature to revive, and the exuberant Krishnas and their cowherds will spread cheer on the streets – did I hear someone callout – Roll Number 21?

Have a nice weekend…. Wishing you a very happy Parsi New Year and Gokulashtami/Janmashtami.

And Cheers….

The Singing Woman


 Update for week ended 12 August 2011

Captain Jack Sparrow perhaps did not meet or encounter them, he was quite smart and streetwise, quite a swashbuckling character that had his wits about himself. But this prince was young, not very mature, and as part of his training into the royal duties, his father sent him on a voyage to seek new lands. Being young and with surging hormones, he was keen to find good company. And he found it in sea, in a voice that enamoured him. Her songs were sweet, though he could not understand her language, and the tunes were melodious, that his romantic side lost track of everything else as well as reason, causing him to give instructions to his crew to follow the voice. Although his ship’s captain protested, he could do little but obey his future King, and so he steered the ship towards its doom, as it struck the reefs around an island. The ship capsized, and almost all the crew perished in that accident, except the prince, who was washed ashore. Legend has it that perhaps the sweet singing voice that carried him onshore, but not being a human, could not be beside him, when he regained his consciousness. She was still in the lagoon somewhere overseeing her Prince being rescued by the natives on the island, and she would secretly watch him come by the beach for a swim or just a stroll while he waited for a rescue. And when he was rescued by a special mission, she followed the ship and remained silent, lest the prince repeat the mistake that caused misery to him and her. But she was sad, as she swam just below the surface till the ship went out of the safe waters to the dangerous deep, and she could not keep pace with the speeding ship and so resigned to her fate of keeping her prince’s memories with her, as she dived deeper into the sea where she lived.

The Boyz on the street were like the fabled prince…. While the SENSEX was like the secretive sweet singing voice that trailed them. All this week, the voice lured the Boyz towards it, but their immaturity caused a little mayhem, as they tumbled into the troubled waters of D Street on Monday. But as the Boyz tried floating up again to the surface, the sweet voice of the SENSEX tried to keep pace, but could not pierce the surface, and stayed in shallow waters, till some of the Boyz from across the shores were rescued and started their voyage outwards (aboard FII ships taking their money out of D Street), and the sweet voice (SENSEX) tried to skim close to the surface for a while, but after that it had to go back into the deep where it stayed……. With its heart full of memories of the prince that it loved…… (SENSEX was at its depth of 16840 at the end of the week).

The mermaid – whether it really lived and sang the way it did is still a legend. We don’t know for sure if it is real or not. The closest to the mermaid is the sea mammal – the manatee that lives in the Caribbean – with a voluptuous body and a tail like a fish … and when it rests on little reef rocks in the sea, it could pass off as a mermaid in the dark. These vegetarians also don’t dive very deep, and sometimes skim the surface, and to a rum soaked pirate, it could still be the attractive daughter of Atlantis…….

Have a safe and happy weekend….. and to my fellow Indians and Koreans – Happy Independence Day…….

Cheers……..

The Ghazipur Gang


Update for fortnight ended 5 August 2011

 

Ramgoolam was a regular at the local “Akhada”, an open air gymnasium for bodybuilders and wrestlers, and was determined to follow the tenets of the akhada group – of being a bachelor for life. He would exercise every evening, visit the local Hanuman shrine (dedicated to the monkey God), drink almost 4 lotas of milk (one lota is approximately a pint); ate largely vegetarian meals and during the day, worked quite hard at the local farm. The residents of this village near Ghazipur, on the banks of the Ganga, had just been introduced to the water guzzling grass that had a sweet stem, brought by the Company (East India Company) onto these fertile flood plains of the Ganges. Ramgoolam was quite adept in cultivation, and his muscular build was very useful in the harvest – which was done by a machete, introduced by the French further downstream at Chanderpore.  Ram would toil all day and yet have enough energy to go through the multiple push-ups and gadha lifts (rotating lifts done using a heavy wooden mace, gadha, swirled over the head and then brought down in multiple repetitions). On the first Monday of the “Shravan” month (Hindoo month corresponding to the Gregorian calendar July/August), he was summoned to the company office and told that he was to find at least 50 more field workers like him who would work in a field away from Ghazipur. Ram was excited at this additional responsibility and quickly used his contacts in the village and rounded up at least 30 odd men, just like him. Mr Sommers was not happy with the number, as he was under instruction from the Calcutta headquarters that they needed at least 50 from Ghazipur. Sommers’ anger could be seen in his red face. His eyes had squinted, as his brows narrowed. He barked orders at Ramgoolam, “You have half a day to get the remaining 20 people, else you could consider yourself relieved from regular duty at the Company Sugarcane Field.” Ram panicked and he huddled with his co-workers. They were perhaps the only males left in the village who could embark on a journey to a distant field and barring the aged and the children, the only others left in the village would be Nattoo (Natwarlal), the village bumpkin who was actually more of a burden, than worth his muscular strength, and the women. Now Ram could not dare to ask the women to join in this, though they did help sometimes in the field when some men fell ill, or when the company wanted more cane harvested from Ghazipur because the Dutch were moving up the Ganges and sinking the cane bearing barges from nearby Rudrapur or Majharia. He asked Kanhaiyalal to ask them. That was the only way they could all keep their jobs, and be able to feed their families. Kanhaiyalal was a hit with the ladies, as he was handsome and witty and he also played the flute quite well. He talked to Parbati, the feisty daughter of the local blacksmith. Parbati was hesitant, but somehow managed to see reason, when she saw the potential plight of her villagers if Sommers did not get his way; in fact she saw a worse future for herself and other women in the village….. she saw Sommers exploiting the women as the men would be buckled down, or sent to prison on some excuse for an offence or the other. She convinced the women and together with them, joined the band of men on their new job opportunity.

 

They left the next day on a small country boat, naav, with the bare minimum belongings – some thoughtful women took along a couple of goats for milk (goats are smaller than cattle, and can eat anything). they also carried their little cloth bags of sattu, seasoned roasted gram flour, which could be made into an instant meal. The river was in spate, given the good monsoons, the strong current, helped the country boat to reach Calcutta in just a little under 3 days. In Calcutta, they were joined by other boatloads of people from other towns like Majharia, Chhapra, Rudrapur, and almost all of them spoke the same language, dialects may have differed a little. They were all loaded onto a large steamer, the size of the village, felt Ram. The steamer had various decks, and the men were holed up in the lower bunks closer to the engine room – hot and humid; while the women were put up in the upper decks due to consideration for some who were in the family way, and would need to constantly need to regurgitate – over the railings. The Bay of Bengal was quite stormy with the monsoon activity in full swing, and they were lucky to avoid the cyclone that had swept into Rayalaseema a few days ago. But that did not stop the ship from rolling form side to side, bobbing like a giant wheel at times. Sickness, disease compounded by the violent seas and rainy skies caused some tragedies, as a few of the passengers died and their bodies had to be tossed over into the sea. There was no time nor place for a decent funeral. The morale on the ship was really low. And half of the journey through the monsoon affected seas was enough to decimate many on board. When the ship finally reached its destination a few thousand miles away on an island in the Indian Ocean, the Ghazipur Gang of 50 was now down to 30.

 

The Shravan month on D Street started as one of havoc, almost reliving a rainy Ghazipur of over a century and half ago. The hardworking Boyz did all they could to work hard to keep their SENSEX in place, but the demands of foreigners (news from foreign lands ranging from Italy to Spain to even the New Lands across the Atlantic) was too disturbing to help them think in sync. So some days they stumbled, dropping the SENSEX, while others they recovered, able to pick up the fallen SENSEX. But this week, the journey on D Street was turbulent – like the monsoon, as the waves lashed from all side, getting the Boyz to lose their balance and trip and fall ever so often. In fact on Friday, they fell overboard and the SENSEX sank for a while below 17000, but finally was retrieved as calmer weather emerged and it ended the tempest like fortnight 1400 points down to 17302.

 

Ram helped emaciated Parbati off the ship onto the pier. The harbor was small and calm. It was sunny and the sky had wisps of white fluffy clouds. Just ahead of the harbour was a mountain that rose almost touching the sky. Parbati felt better as she held onto Ram and walked on land after weeks of being sea-borne. The first thing she looked for in her luggage was a small lota, a short stout amphora like copper vessel. She found it, and asked Ram to untie the little bowl that was used to seal the mouth. She then asked Ram to tip a few drops of the water stored in it onto her thin pale lips. She then folded her hands in obeisance to the lota and asked Ram to re-seal it for her. She was not sure how long that water would last, but as long she had Gangajal with her, she was sure she would be protected and remain healthy.

 

Have a healthy and safe weekend…. Cheers……