It has been quite some days since I have been contemplating telling this to you. There are two parts to it. One is the disturbing side; and the other, the pleasant one. Let me warn you, the kissa is long. J
I was travelling with my friends one day from Kothaguda to Gachibowli in a share auto. (To give you some trivia, Kothaguda is the place near my yesteryears office Google Omega, and Gachibowli, of course, is the place where Hyderabad Central University stands in glory today. Also, share auto is a phenomenon that is very prevalent in this part of the city and one that I was uninitiated about earlier, considering I lived 2 years of my initial Hyderabad life in the so called ‘hep’ Begumpet.)
Sigh. Coming back from the details of the route and the share auto, the auto driver was an illiterate Telugu man who earned his and the family’s (probably) living and did it with pride and respect. How I got to know the respect aspect, I will tell you in a bit.
He was jet flashing through the straight and flawless road with his new ‘Piaggio’ (I guess). He suddenly stopped with great effort, just an inch behind a biker who also had stopped his vehicle just then, almost in the flash of a second. The most natural reaction of a motorist followed then from our auto driver. He put his right hand (and head) out and asked in a raised voice “What the hell is wrong with you?” (in Hindi of course).
Our Dhoom hero, the man on the bike, then put up a spectacular show of frustration, depression (to himself) and disgust (to all of us). He started screaming at the top of his voice. He talked about how glorious Dilli is and what damage he can do to the poor auto driver if he does the same thing in Dilli. He asked in rage if the driver was blind and could not see that the signal was red. Then, *thadaaa* thapad. A lot of other gaalis followed which my better-with-Hindi friends told me are filthy enough not to be worthy of explanation. It involved revered terms like mother, sister, and the like, used in a very inappropriate context. Here is the funniest thing he said – “You stupid Rajnikanth fans” generalising all South Indians; followed with another thapad and challenging “Dikha tu kya kar sakta hai, saale Hyderabadi.”
The poor man at the receiving end obviously wasn’t as well-built and he was clearly intimidated by the biker’s educated look. The way he looked helplessly just saying, “Sir, give respect and take respect,” made me realize how lack of education made him feel inferior most completely. Also, how lack of education wasn’t reason enough not to possess some basic manners.
The feud went on for about ten minutes more in the middle of the road as the Dilliwala desperately wanted to fight harder involving some Khiladi stunts and kept probing the autowala for reaction. Thankfully, our driver was more civilised.
At the end of it, I just uttered “Arre bekaar mein kyon ladna hai yaar” more helplessly than the driver himself. I doubt if that biker even heard that. He was in no mood to listen to anything below a certain level of energy.
The driver carried on humiliated with a weird silence in the air that we all felt. That let me think about it. It wasn’t really as funny as I thought it was – not the Rajnikanth remark, not anything. How the *hell* could he talk like that? Behave like that? The issues that bothered me were:
# He was educated – He flaunted his identity card of God-knows-which MNC. He carried a laptop backpack. All were clear symbols of his formal education. What purpose did his education serve if he hasn’t learned the basic etiquette to follow even while talking with anger? Forget it. What about a hint of compassion? Normalcy?
# He was young – Damn, he was a member of the modern generation that is supposed to take India ahead in its race for the 2020 goal. He, like you and me, has huge responsibility towards this country which has given him education and employment. The most primary aspect of it is to make this place better for living – for rich and poor alike.
#He was frustrated – This is understandable. After probably a long day’s work where his boss squeezed his talent out in the form of coding, it is really understandable. But is there any justification for taking it out in the public, that too, on a poor man who rides to earn a living unlike him who might be doing it to make a style statement?
#He was a victim of partition – The final and the most disturbing aspect - he bore a heavy burden of the South-North divide which is more like an incurable disease than a social phenomenon. He generalised South Indians (sorry for the redundancy, but needs to be mentioned again) as Rajnikanth fans and said that all South Indians could only watch stupid movies and clap unlike the North Indians who have a much more enlightened sense for art and culture. Balls!
I hate to emphasize which part of India I come from because I love being an Indian rather than a Punjabi, Malayali, Mumbaikar, Bengali etc (dejavu of Chak De?). But let me say it this time without guilt. He doesn’t know about Kerala, my homeland, where cinema is made and experienced in its highest sensibility. It stands proud along with Bengali cinema in the realm of meaningful cinema which probably he is not even aware about. And For His Information, Kerala happens to be in ‘South India.’ Nor is West Bengal a part of ‘North India.’
When the citizens of India still see themselves as South Indians or North Indians or neither, what is the point in saying there is something called ‘India’ or that we have independence? It hurts to know that another Indian as I see him looks at me or another Indian from Hyderabad as a South Indian. Not an Indian.
The only point he had to be upset that was valid - there was a sudden red signal that caused him halt his machine in that fashion – almost evaporated in the scorching heat of the mess he created. His fury was of a very unreasonable degree and it balanced out the only error our driver had made – not observing enough.
And I sympathise with myself more than the biker or the driver - for not having reacted. I cannot forgive myself to this day for not having asked on the driver’s behalf, one single question – ‘Dilli se itne khush ho to jake Dilli mein hi kyon nahi rehte?’
May be, that would have been wrong. What is the difference between him and me then? But I should have reacted for sure. Let me confess that I also know that anything short of a comment that I just told you would not have been of any good or effect to a monster like him.
Whatever. It left a deep scar on my positivist feel about my nation and its generations to come. The good thing is, it was healed that weekend.
This might really sound silly to most of you. The emotional person that I am, it had a soothing effect on me, however.
I went for the movie ‘Rock On’ with a friend to Talkie Town in Miyapur, very near Kothaguda again. We reached quite early for the movie and waited for a while before we entered the podium. And when we did, what a sight it was! My focus was mostly on the screen, and up there was an unfamiliar visual that seemed like an album. Theatres generally show ads just before the movie and I was a bit confused. And then, I heard my friend uttering, ‘Gosh, what the hell is happening?’ I shifted my focus and saw the entire audience getting up in groups and clusters realising what was happening on the screen. By then, the DTS Sound system filled my ears with the eternal music – Jana Gana Mana.
I closed my eyes and opened again, now to see the screen that bore various shots of Indian soldiers in chilling areas clad in unbelievably uncomfortable clothing looking at the Indian flag with reverence. I also saw simultaneously a number of members of my generation standing with the very same reverence in the theatre.
I grabbed my friend’s hand who was still fidgeting in disbelief that something of this kind could happen in our times. And then, it was ‘Attention.’ When the one and a half minute album rendering ended, I couldn’t see anything at all. My eyes had welled up and I was still smiling.
I really do not know if I have been able to convey to you what I felt. I really have not experienced something so positive about my nation in recent times. Considering this was soon after the horrible experience with the biker, I was exhilarated.
Enough said. The only point I was trying to bring home is – it is not so bad after all. I mean there are hiccups; rather, there are great diseases. But they aren’t incurable altogether. The examples I told you about are on the lowest level when we think about the real problems and the real hope. Nevertheless, it tells us a lot about the balance on which our country strives.
I am happy that India does have a streak of shine all the time even if we are not *shining* as BJP thought. J