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Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Cityblog Feature: Nayakgiri: Not so short Political satire story titled so contemporary as 'Bharat Bandh'

Bharat Bandh

I was in hurry to reach my office on that day in March .  I live in a good locality and have to travel a significant distance too my office. I have to cross a prime junction so avoided using my car on day when Bharat Bandh is called by opposition party in Center who is ruling in state. I had taken work from home option a day before and only key staff was to report to office that too in a minibus rented for the day at premium price.. Unexpectedly due to my past work resulting in sizable work increase and there was urgency for me to reach office. These efforts of mine could possibly earn significant revenue for my company. I had to be in office and would need to be before US west coast evening civil hours.  I immediately called the company for a transport vehicle, but that vehicle would take long time to reach reach. I started looking for public transport without any result. I started walking. I turned to see a jeep coming from behind. The jeep stopped near me. The driver   asked if he can drop him. I told the office address. He asked for 140 Rs/-. I didn’t care as I had to reach. I jumped on to vehicle and opened a laptop and started making few more notes on points I had to tell the team and the clients. I never noticed a cop sitting near the driver. As soon as I Got inside van , I took out my laptop to prepare and was oblivious to outside world. I did not know the driver’s name of for that matter any of the other co-passenger’s which the Jeep guy offered ride. But as events unfolded I knew each character and their stories later. Lets start explaining with Driver who name was Gopi.
Gopi had an old Mahindra jeep which he had bought from his brother in law who had Midas touch of turning anything that he touched into gold. His BIL was a tout, his business was to manage everything and still aloof of everything. He was was a Politician now as corporator Bharat Jawale . He commanded respect in the society for no apparent reason. He was called Bharat Dada by everyone. He could get someone new gas connection, could threaten someone, get someone out of lockup, manage any procession or riot or a crowd as per need. He was into real estate, he was into food with a small hotel, he owned fleet of veheciles, managed RTO or government work. He used to wear thick gold plate.
Gopi’s sister and Bharat were married 5 years back. It was a proper arranged marriage. Gopi’s sister was a pretty girl.. Bharat seemed to be a man of world with a lot of alleged alliances all over. But when it came to marriage his parents had selected Gopi’s sister Ratna. Gopi was always a loser trying to manage fathers poultry business which one day became nonviable. Bharat on Ratna’s insistence had called one day Gopi to Bharat’s office as a corporator and party functionary. That day corporator Bharat was at inauguration function of a bar. So ofcourse was in his ‘senses. There was a small tiff between an honest corporation officer and Bharat. So Gopi was welcomed with a usual banter and some unsophisticated rowdy bad words by Bharat.  That day Bharat had made an offer to Gopi to buy one of his old jeeps .  Gopi had expected a fair market price of 25K for that old vehicle. But he said he is obliging him by giving him the jeep for 45K. He should work hard to travel people from his locality to city center. He also assured that he will do the setting with RTO for not harassing him for bribes and allow him to make Rs 300 per day making it 9000 rs per month out of which he can pay Bharat 1k  per month for next 4 years so jeep will be all his own. He knew had been fleeced but cannot say a word against Bharat who was god in his house. That day onwards Gopi used to start his day at 6 am reaching many people and end by 10 pm at night. Sometimes he did night duty to earn extra. On his best day he could earn 200 Rs over all costs. On normal day it could be no more than 150 . Night duties used to earn him 100 Rs extra.. He used to fleece unsuspected passengers, tourists and earn more so he could repay back his loan. Last night he had heard that Bharat’s party which was a national party had organized Bharat Bandhh against some govt policies. So he had requested Bharat’s colleagues to not allow municipal buses to ply and thus he could earn more that day.He asked Bharat to help him with some inside help from system.

On that eventful day in March,  all roads were supposed to be blocked by activists, all shops were forced to close and so on. He went to Constable who was suppose to be in Van to allow smooth package. He had to share his jackpot that was worth. Constable entered jeep and sat next to driver Gopi. He had just picked up a man in white shirt with tie and told him a fare of 140 Rs to his destination  Guy did not care.. He was sure he could get five such more on sharing basis and he could do 3 such more trips. Windfall but with risk. But with Bharat to support he was not  worried.

Sumit woke up that day; he was walking on a long road hurrying to reach his school. His father who was working in a bank had promised him a new bicycle if he tops his class next year. Last year he was second to Rajesh who had scored 2 marks more than him. His father and mother never said anything; in fact they had bought him CD set of new movies as prize. But he cannot forget the disappointment in their eyes moment he told that Rajesh was first in class again. Next moment they asked him where he lost 2 marks. One was a silly mistake and other was something he had forgotten to revise. He had heard a lecture for 5 mins as to how he can avoid such mistakes.  His father had admitted him to a school in city where all merit list holders hail from. He has to walk almost a Km to reach the bus stop where he used to get a bus to city. Sumit used to stay in suburb where his parents could afford 2 BHK flat in decent colony. Sumit was a very obedient boy from childhood. He was very content and was not one of those brat kids you find these days. He had a good control over his emotions and was always on right side of things, except he had one ambition, to be able to beat bunty in running race. He envied bunty for all things he lacked in him. Banti was a sports champion. He could climb trees, he could carry ganapati, he could draw very good pictures. Bunty could crack jokes, he could point out teachers mistakes and still did not get punished. Bunty was always on wrong side of things. His marks were below average, he was not in anybody’s scheme of things.
On other hand he used to feel unthreatened by Rajesh. Rajesh was always beating him narrowly in class. Obviously this competition was glorified by teachers, parents etc. Rajesh was someone who had everything in life. And moreover Rajesh was always in prize list. He had a big house in city. He also was obedient. Sumit always felt that it was but natural for Rajesh to succeed in everything he attempted. He attributed to his background while admitting that his parents never faltered in providing what mattered. He attributed to his elder sibling who made him knew to all teachers etc, but actually that does not matter in exams.  He felt confused as to how Rajesh manages but finally ended up accepting his superiority and blamed his own destiny. But on the day of Bharat Bandh he had to reach school. 

Bunty saw sumit on the road, Bunty had eaten his good breakfast. Bunty was staying away from his parent and was staying with his grand parents. Bunty’s father was in US, Bunty’s mom had returned from US with Bunty. she now has a job in Bangalore. Buntys grandparents had a great cook who used to make special parathas with lots of ghee. Bunty loved them. Buntys grandpa was retired government officer of repute. He had a very strict regime. It was a task for Bunty to be able to catch a word from his grandpa as  his grandfather was very aloof in everything. He was in his own world. Buntys grandma was a hypochondriac.   . Bunty ‘s stay with them was neither appreciated not resented by his grandfather as he had calculated that it would not affect him anyways. His mom had arranged for a domestic help to take care of Bunty since he was in third standard. Bunty had joined this school in third standard. He remembered his first day in school with Sumit , Sumit and Rajesh were two toppers. He never liked Rajesh as he was too artificial whereas he empathized with Sumit as he was more human but very susceptible to influence. Bunty loved to influence others as he himself was so inconsequential at home, continents away from father, thousands of kms away from mother, grandparents too engrossed in themselves. He remembered day when he had coaxed sumit to bunk class, write bad words on school bench and so on. He understood that sumit used to be more confused after doing misdeeds but he felt need to influence. But at bottom of heart he had deep empathy for Sumit . he felt sorry for Sumit’s life constantly under influence of someone.  He saw sumit hurrying to the stop. He waved at him and bounced on a mid aged lady and lady Bandh how could ‘the guy with tie’ (he was referring to me)  publically display his work albeit on a laptop. It was folly but he knew about types of the man in the tie. They are so ostentatious he thought. He was to report to duty. And as usual it was Gopi who was to drop him at station. Gopi used to be the one who was beneficiary of him driving away all other private jeeps outside state transport bus station. So Gopi can get passengers without competition. He had a fixed rate for doing that. And today was Bharat Bandh, so all the more reason for him to ask for better cut esp when buses were not plying. His idea was to be with Gopi to dissuade any offbeat party worker who might throw any stone on plying jeep. This probability was very less as Gopi knew most of the party men. Gopi could not resist harish volunteering his support. That would cost him unknown amount, But he had no option. Suddenly he saw Imli stopping jeep and asking a ride. He smelled  trouble as imli was a well known miscreant with possible organized crime gang connection everyone suspected but could not prove.

Imli:  Imli was called by Abasaheb for some work. He was called imli as he used to sell tamarind as a kid. He used to steal them from a public park while duping a sleeping guard. Once he had been so badly thrashed by the watchmen that he had fainted owing to blood loss and was hospitalized by an unknown Samaritan who had found him. He still was very thankful for kindness shown by that Samaritan who had admitted him to government hospital in spite of fear of criminal procedures and normal middle class averse of such involvement. That guy had been troubled by constable harish and his seniors suspecting his involvement in thrashing imli. But Imli had insisted that he had been beaten by watchman. Police then called watchman and let the watchman off with small warning and Rs 500/- as bribe. The Samaritan who was known as bhau, was a yoga teacher in the park. Bhau used to visit him in hospital and give him biscuits. After hospitalization imli, harish had introduced imli to a local industrialist Swami who had a hotel. He was taken as a cleaning boy with salary of Rs 500 + food+ stay. He had to give 200 to harish for referral per month. Thus Harish has a strong army of atleast 30 kids , a good source of income.  Imli then got pally with Abasaheb a local criminal turned politician who cliamed to be Bharat’s guru. Aba was impressed by Imli’s smartness, sense of humor and it was an accident that imli helped Aba. Aba was attacked by rival gang. He was hiding inside a barrel. Imli had seen Aba at hotel, the attackers tried to find aba, but could not. One of them suspected him hiding in barrel. But Imli did a smart thing by walking nonchalantly with kitchen garbage and dumped it inside. And attempted  moving the barrel and must have moved few inches toward wall. Meanhwile he had covered the barrel with his duster cloth and started doing his cleaning of utensil. The attacker had seen him throwing dirty water thus assumed it was trash can. They moved away and Imli kept on cleaning till very late. When things were clear he signaled aba and took him by a by lane to his hotel owner’s house. From that day aba still jokes how he had thrown a dirt on him.. Aba started giving him odd jobs, and a day came when aba offered him place in his gang.  From that day he walked away from Harish’s arrangement and thus Harish had a grudge…
On that day , he was waiting to reach Abasaheb, He saw Gopi driving his Jeep. He saw Harish near gopi who frowned. Imli offered him cigarrete. But bang there came a young, dusky lady  forcefully entering the jeep.

Neha: Neha barged into the jeep which was the only plying vehicle. Neha was going to local college in arts. Her ambition was to be a star. There was audition  planned in neighbouring city for which she had to reach the venue to register. She was third in the list of her 5 siblings. Oldest was a brother who was doing salesman job in local shop. He was the only one married. Next was her sister, who was on marriage line. But her horoscope had a problem. Then she had another sister who was in school and a brother who was 6.  Her father  was a worker in a state transport and mother was a teacher in municipal school. Neha had one ambition, to be on TV in a solo frame. She did not have greater ambition. This ambition had arrived in old DD days when her father had bought second hand TV. She was fascinated by television. Used to watch almost everything on channel they had. But her oldest brother’s friend had taught her to pirate signal from local cable and see some hazy transmission. She was not so good in studies. She was not so good looking as well. But she could dance very well. She used so see her mom’s friend conducting classes. She had picked up very well. Then can ad by a dance reality show . there had already auditions held in her city. So she had only chance to go to nearby city to participate. She knew about Bandh. But thought she could hitch hike. Then she saw the jeep. And started running. And there she bumped with that tall lad.

Neha was very angry with imli who she had bumped. But she knew it was her fault. But how can she apologize to a young guy. She simply ignored him and asked the jeep driver to take her to city center. Imli was watching her. He was angry that she did not say a sorry word but he knew girls don’t say sorry. He was bit enchanted by her. You normally are at his age. He had never interacted with girl of his age as he never had been to school. Gopi asked for 140 rs for ride till city center. She fought with him and finally negotiated to Rs 100/-. It was very urgent for her to reach the auditions.  Just as then Radha approached Gopi and asked him to drop, he charged 100 Rs, and let her in. Imli was watching Neha. Sumit and Bunty had no choice but to wait as they did not have any money. Jeep was waiting for more passengers to come and join. I, insisted gopi to start the vehicle as he was in hurry. Even radha and neha joined him. Imli was glaring at neha. Neha by that time knew that and gave him a glance telling him that she knew that he was looking at her. Imli gave her a smile smile with a smirk that he did not care.
Just as I, Gopi, Harish the cop, imli , radha and neha were waiting for more passengers, Bharat and his group of men came from nowhere shouting slogans of Bharat Bandh. The crowd was around 10-15 goons urging shops to close.  Bharat saw gopi’s jeep and approached it leaving the crowd. He entered the Jeep and asked all to get outside the jeep and said jeep wont run. Gopi was really annoyed for letting go his money. He took bharat aside asked for help to let his jeep go. Bharat said he was only caring about himself and not about his brother in law , his image, his party and country. It was just because of such people India is what it is.  He said better he ask all passengers to leave. Gopi had no choice he returned all money and asked everyone to get outside the jeep. Everyone including myself protested, but we had seen bharat and his goons.

WE just stood near the jeep with anticipation that there will be some way to convince Gopi and Bharat. They one by one pleaded to Bharat to allow Gopi to leave. Each one of them told about their need. Even sumit joined in arguing to Bharat to allow them go. Bunty was just watching the fracas. Just as there was a ring on bharat;s cell. He was called immediately to party office. He told Gopi to drop him there. Sumit was virtually crying as he knew he will not make for the exams. Bunty felt bad. He had seen that only way he can help is to just dash on the jeep with Sumit and force Gopi to move. He could not think he could achieve this by collecting all the people and overpowering bharat, they were six and bharat was alone. Just as then bharat entered the jeep as he was forcing gopi to drop him. This was not foreseen by sumit. He meanwhile said to us all,
He is alone and we are six, why don’t we just jump and ask the driver to start and drop us to our destination”,  . In a spur of rare and bold collective decision in a split second, all entered jeep without knowing bharat was sitting next to cop on front seat.  They all asked Gopi to start without paying any heed to bharat.
Bharat could not say a word as he had seen six people entering jeep. He never thought they could be so desperate. He asked them to move out as he had to be dropped. No one agreed, they said they were first and it was duty of Gopi to drop them first and then leave him. Bharat shouted at Gopi, Gopi for all his life’s pent up anger started the jeep and rushed towards city center amidst protests from Bharat. Bharat had no choice. He then tried to threaten Gopi of Family Boycott. Gopi said he did not care. He then threatened Gopi to confiscate jeep which was on his loan. He said he anyways wanted to start afresh. He then threatened him to beat him through goons, he said he does not care now. Bharat was totally frustrated. He then called harish the policeman to take action. Harish was confused whether to go against power or help Gopi. He decided to remain neutral. He felt he cannot do much as its jeep and anyways Bharat Bandh was not legal. Bharat knew police very well and so he was totally helpless . He was planning what action he can take against Gopi once he is back. He asked Gopi to stop jeep and allow him to get down. Gopi by now realized what he had done and what were his odds to come out of this situation without losing his family life, livelihood, everything. Gopi wanted to delay Bharat joining his family and starting his vendetta. He wanted Bharat to be afraid, but how??? He was buying time. Bharat was in peculiar situation: Bharat had 5-6 people witness so could not abuse Gopi. Suddenly gopi, saw thought about Harish’s revolver. He thought it’s the only course to make Harish afraid of him. He stopped the jeep and pulled harish revolver and pointed to Bharat. He wanted him to sign sales of his jeep as first action. He then thought that next demand will be to ask him money so that he could run his Jeep in another town with. He would then ask his sister and parents to request amnesty. Having seen the seriousness of situation, Harish felt that now its time for him to intervene. But he knew why gopi was doing this, he asked Gopi to leave him out of this and his need to launch FIR etc. Gopi had no choice but to threaten Harish as well. He reminded him of money that he had paid him throughout years. By this time, imli was merely a spectator. Seeing harish in action, he told Gopi that he is with him and both of them forced harish and bharat inside the jeep. He had special grudge against harish. Meanwhile I, radha, neha, sumit and bunty urged gopi to let us reach our destinations. Gopi agreed. Imli said to Gopi, why cant we use this situation for other advantage: we have a policeman and polictian hostage. Imli was thinking on same lines of Gopi. …

Gopi told the rest of us that he will drop us from there on they will take harish and bharat outside city on highway. The kids were thrilled to be a part of cinematic action. It was the bright brains of Bunty that asked Gopi if they can use this ploy to force their school to cancel exams. Radha;s brain also started working. Can she force the management of company to force them to make her permanent? Neha also thought can she use this opportunity to force her entry into contest. I   started counting an opportunity to shoot the event and make some quick bucks or publicity by sending the video to some channel or can post it online . his mind started on that track.
I then called a PR/journo friend of mine asking him to send someone to cover this unique event where few common men took those in power (police and politicians).
He was interested. He wanted location. I told Gopi and others that we will get media coverage. Bharat protested just like his party workers did on roads. But he was helpless. Gopi told me to get journalists at a location after 30 mins. He took us there started the vehicle entrusting the Gun to me. It was some experience.
Bharat I felt had mellowed down or was he planning some stunt with media. But later we found that he is also a human. He starts feeling empathize with group and started helping Gopi and abductors by helping them around with system to avoid further roadblocks.
As we reached the point and waited for Journos / they arrived and did some scene staging work. They tried tto give us some bytes but we had already decided upon the script though we did not knew abot Gopi, Harish and Bharat who were still in the Jeep..  
As media reached, with a camera and mic. We suggested each of us speak . Journo agreed
Bunty was first: “ I took the things in hand for my friend who is under pressure to excel in school, I like to be in control as I was left alone here alone with my grandparents . I wish every child needs to be with his or her parents. I challenged Bharat Bandh to be in control of my life.”
Sumit: “ I am always pressurized to excel be it home or school. I request all to desist from fierce competition and request parents and school authorities to take more Bharat Bandhs to close down current system and plan new one without stress on students and even teachers and parents.”
Neha: “ I am not someone who can be treated seriously but my passion to perform on stages is serious. But in the field of art we have to either by at very top or else life teaches us very hard lessons and make us compromise on many things to meet ends. I think we artists should have some more avenues. Parties should allow us stages to perform and provide publicty just like what they do during Bharat Bandhs”Radha : “ Bharat Bandh or otherwise, we have to work hard. We have no compliance to labor laws as we are organized labour. In new environment we have to only slog or else get fired. If we get to streets Bharat will be really Bandh as we are the ones who run the country at ground level”
Imli: “Its up to Police to allow Bharat Bandh to be successful. I wish Police was more sympathetic to public. Majority of Public keeps quiet but few rebel and become anti social. So who is to blame”
Me: We the movers and shakers have effected trickle down effect in the economy and society. If we don’t work country’s economic story will be halted, But who cares about us the taxpayers . We should have say in Bharat Bandh etc,
Media: “ We empathize with emotions of people of street and their hardships during Bharat Bandh. In a rare case today, people have created media sensation by taking on police and political power. Though you accuse media for  being sensational but we sell what you people want.  Now lets talk to Jeep driver, Police and Politician who are still in the Jeep “

Gopi: “I cant take it anymore. I tried making few more rupees during Bharat Bandh which I am ashamed of for being greedy. But I always thought Police and Power are with me. This feeling corrupts mind, But when they dumped me I had to protest. And I chose to take things in my hand”

Harish: “Its very easy to blame police. We are overloaded , underpaid. I agree there is vast corruption thanks to our state. I also admit that power over other people is an addictive feeling. But we need to make system better for us. Imagine added pressure on us by administration and politicians during Bharat Bandhs”.
Bharat: “ Yes we are to blame for most of the wrong doings. We have abused power and made life difficult for people. We deserve punishment. But with stakes and costs so high to run an election campaign its natural for us to find returns on investment. Common Man cannot compete in Elections and we need vote banks. System has to change. I declare that Me and my supporters will not do any disruptive activity today. Lets have a voluntary Bharat Bandh to change political system”
He patted on Gopi and was trying to mend fences. Both of them along with Harish came to us and shook hands with us.
Did ‘nt we all represent concept of India, Yuppie the mover and shaker of India, Ground worker managing her life and serve her company, petty criminal , students the future of Indian, aspiring Indian, Police, Power, Media which can never put to halt.

As I was about to reenter Jeep to reach office, my bed alarm rang and I woke up I habitually reached for newspaper outside main door. I was amazed to read that Bharat Bandh was called off, Early morning dreams do come true……

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