Tuesday, 9 January 2018

ऐसा काम ही देखने को मिलता था / This was rarely seen

जीवन ठाकुर अक्सर ठाकुर जीवन भी कहे जाते थे। जात से ठाकुर थे, और गांव के ठाकुर भी। ऐसा काम ही देखने को मिलता था। 
वैसे अब तो नाम के ही ठाकुर थे। परिवार छोटा था। कुछ ज़मीन अपने लिए रख के बाकी गांव वालों में बाँट दी थी। ऐसा कम ही होता था। 
जीवन पढ़े लिखे नहीं थे। खेती बड़ी का भी ज्यादा उत्साह नहीं था। खाने पीने का बहुत शौक था। खाने का, और पकने का भी। कोई रोता हुआ बच्चा मिल जाए तो तुरंत गोद में उठा लेते थे। २ मिनट में बच्चा चुप। घर का खूब ध्यान रखते थे। मन भी लगता था। 
ठाकुर साहेब की घर वाली बीए पास थी। पंचायत के कॉलेज में मास्टरनी थी। सप्ताह में ३ दिन पढ़ाती थी और ३ दिन खेत देखती थी। देखती क्या, खुद ट्रेक्टर चला के खेत जोतती थी, टाउन जा के बीज़ और खाद खरीदती थी। घर का हिसाब क़िताब रखती थी। वैसे धीरे धीरे अब ठाकुर साहेब को भी सिखा रही थी हिसाब किताब। 

मंगलू पंडित का परिवार हमेशा से पूजा पाठ में रहा था। उनके बाबूजी गांव के पुरोहित होते थे। गांव का मंदिर भी मैनेज करते थे। मंगलू का मन कभी इसमें लगा नहीं। उनको टेक्निकल काम बढ़िया लगता था और चमड़े का गंध से आनंद आता था। बचपन में एक बार बाबूजी के साथ दुर्गा के मेला में गए थे। वहाँ मोची का काम देखा तो उसी में रम गए। क्या कलाकारी, कितना जरूरी काम। गांव में जूता बनाने लगे और टाउन में दुकान खोल दिए। अब तो गांव में कोई जानवर भी मर जाए तो खरीद लेते थे और खुद उठाने पहुँच जाते थे। ब्राह्मण जात के थे, लेकिन काम तो काम है। 

गांव के मंदिर का क्या? राधेश्याम डोम की बेटी अलीगढ मुस्लिम यूनिवर्सिटी से संस्कृत ऑनर्स की थी। पंचायत के कॉलेज में ठाकुर साहेब के वाइफ के साथ पढ़ाती थी और मंदिर का पूजा पाठ भी देखती थी। अब वो गांव की पुरोहित थी। उसका पति भी यहीं गांव में रहता था, ठकुराइन के खेत में काम करता था। 

आज जुताई का दिन था। ठकुराइन ट्रेक्टर ले के खेत पहुंची हुई थी। राधेश्याम का दामाद टाइम पे पहुंच गया था। आज लछमी और सगरू का भी काम था। दोनों का घर अगल बगल में था। आज लछमी का दुल्हा और सगरू की घरवाली बाल-बच्चा का ध्यान रखेंगे और साथ में खाना भी बना लेंगे। 

ठकुराइन लछमी और सगरू को आते हुए देखी। लछमी सगरू को कुछ कही। सगरू जोर से हंसा। 

महिला कॉलेज के गेट पे नीम के पेड़ के नीचे सोए रिक्शावाले की नींद टूट गई। सपना देख रहा था कोई। उसने अपनी आँखें हलकी सी खोली, करवट बदली, और वापस सो गया।

the village Durga Puja fair

______________________

Jeevan Thakur was also often called Thakur Jeevan. He was thakur by caste, and also thakur (landlord) of the village. This was rarely seen.
By the way, he was thakur only in name. His family was small. He kept some land for himself and rest distributed among the villagers. This rarely happened.
Jeevan was not educated. He wasn't very enthusiastic about farming either. He was very fond of food; of eating and even cooking. He was very found of children. He had magical powers of pacifying crying babies. He took great care of the house. He enjoyed this too.

Thakur Saheb's wife was BA pass. She was a teacher in the local college. She taught 3 days a week and watched the farm 3 days. In fact she drove the tractor, farmed the land, and bought seeds and manure from town. She also kept the family accounts. By the way, she was now slowly teaching Thakur Saheb.

The family of Mangalu Pandit had always been handled scriptures. His father was the village priest. He also managed the village temple. Manglu never got into it. He liked technical work and enjoyed the smell of leather. Once in his childhood, his father took him to the Durga Puja fair. There he saw a cobbler and got into the work. What artwork, and how important it was. He started making shoes in the village and opened the shop in town. Now if an animal died in the village then he bought it and even picked it up. He was Brahmins by caste, but work is work.

What about the village temple? Radheshyam Dome's daughter had Sanskrit Honours degree from Aligarh Muslim University. She taught in the local college, with Thakur Saheb's wife (Thakurain), and also conducted prayers in the temple. Now she was the village priest. Her husband also lived in the village, and worked in Thakurain's fields.

Today was the plowing day. Thakurain drove the tractor to the farm. Radhey Shyam's son-in-law was there on time. Lachmi and Saguru were also needed at the farm. Their houses were next to each other. Today, Lachmi's husband and Saguru's wife will take care of the children and make dinner together.

Thakurain saw Lachmi and Saguru coming. Lachmi said something to Sagru. Saguru laughed loudly.

The rickshawala sleeping under the Neem tree on the gate of women's college woke up. He was dreaming. He opened his eyes, turned and went back to sleep.

Sunday, 7 January 2018

Don't you have mother or sisters at home? / घर पर माँ बहन नहीं हैं क्या?

Summers in North India are always harsh. But this year is particularly hot. In the middle of the afternoon there is barely a soul on Bishanpur Road. On a rickshaw under the Neem tree a rickshawala dozed on his passenger seat. The women's college was closed for the summer but she still visited the college to run some experiments.

She got out of the college gates and turned left towards Kaliasthan Chowk. Thats where she will find some transportation. Waking up the sleeping rickshawala is probably not the best idea.

She walked, wiping the summer sweat off her face, lost in her thoughts. She missed Rati (Parvati), her college best friend who has away at her grandparent's place. Suddenly, a sharp whistle brought her back to. She looked around. Kaliasthan was still far.

Another whistle. And a Atlas cycle appeared next to him. A boy wearing the friend cap from the Bollywood film Maine Pyar Kiya winked at her.

She shouted at him, "Don't you have mother or sisters at home?"

This irritated him. He shot back,"What's it to you?"

She smiled a half smile, walked to steps to him and whispered in his ears,"I am not interested in you", then paused and smiled again, "I am interested in them".

The boy lost his balance and fell of his cycle. Her smile turned into a laugh that mildly pierced the silent afternoon. The rickshawala under the Neem tree opened his eyes, turned and went back to sleep.

She walked on with a smile fixed on her face. This is the first time she told anyone. She felt light. Free.

The Maine Pyar Kiya 'Friend' cap
(https://www.thenational.ae/arts-culture/film/ten-reasons-maine-pyar-kiya-is-an-evergreen-tale-of-young-love-1.113218#6)
____________________

उत्तर भारत में गर्मी के मौसम हमेशा कठोर होते हैं। लेकिन ये साल कुछ ख़ास गर्म है। दोपहर में बिशनपुर रोड पर एक भी आदमी का नामोनिशान नहीं है। नीम के पेड़ के नीचे एक रिक्शावाला अपने यात्री सीट पर ऊंघ रहा है। गर्मी की छुट्टी के लिए महिला कॉलेज बंद था लेकिन वह कुछ प्रैक्टिकल करने के लिए अभी भी कॉलेज आती थी।

वह कॉलेज के फाटक से बाहर हो गई और कालीस्थान चौक की तरफ मुड़ गई। चौक पर कोई और रिक्शा मिल जाएगा। सोते हुए रिक्शावाले को जगाना अच्छा आईडिया नहीं है।

वो आगे बढ़ी, चेहरे से पसीना पोंछते हुए, अपने विचारों में खोई हुई। वो अपनी कॉलेज की सबसे करीबी सहेली रती (पार्वती) को मिस कर रही थी। रती अपने दादा-दादी के घर गई हुई हैं। अचानक, एक तेज सीटी उसे वापस ले आई। उसने चारों ओर देखा, कालीस्थान अभी दूर था।

एक और सीटी और एक एटलस साइकिल उसके पास प्रकट हो गई। बॉलीवुड की फिल्म मैने प्यार किया वाली फ्रेंड टोपी पहनने एक लड़के ने उसे आँख मारी।

वो उसकी तरफ देख के बोली, "घर पर माँ बहन नहीं हैं क्या?"

लड़का झल्ला गया। उसकी तरफ चिल्लाया, "इससे तुम्हें क्या मतलब?"

उसके होटों पर आधी मुस्कान आई, वो लड़के की तरफ़ बढ़ी, और उसके कानों में फुसफुसाई, "मुझे तुममें कोई दिलचस्पी नहीं है", रुकी, और फिर मुस्कुराई, "मुझे उनमें दिलचस्पी है"।

लड़का अपना संतुलन खो गया और हड़बड़ा के साइकिल से गिर गया। उसकी मुस्कुराहट हंसी में बदल गई, जिसने दोपहर के सन्नाटे को हल्के से चीर दिया। नीम के पेड़ के नीचे रिक्शेवाले अपनी आँखें हलकी सी खोली, करवट बदली, और वापस सो गया।

अपने चेहरे की मुस्कान लिए वो आगे बढ़ गई। पहली बार उसने किसी को बताया है। वो हल्का महसूस कर रही है, आज़ाद।

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Its a wonderful life

25.12.2016, Ljubljana



There is an announcement. I hear Ljubljana. I ask the young couple in front of me. They confirm. Many people get up. I pack my stuff. Off the train.

Its freezing and the train station is wrapped in darkness and silence. The station is very concretey and non fancy. Reminds me of Delhi. There is a massive car park outside. Very quiet. A few people are receiving their loved ones. I follow the people. I check the GPS on my phone. The blue dot is going away from my hostel. I turn back.

I see a sign for my hostel. Its a quiet alley. Its foggy all around. Surrounded by concrete, fog and silence, I am slightly scared. I look at my little dot on the map. Left, right and then right. A group of young boys approaches. I quickly put my phone in my pocket. Right. There's the hostel from the website. Thank god!

I am buzzed in. The hostel is quiet too. Holiday time. I ask for an upgrade to a cell. It works out. I ask the receptionist about food. She says there is a Christmas festival in the town.  Everyone is there. Its 15 min from here. The area is quiet and cold. Do I want to go? I put together some courage and my day pack and head to town. After 5 min I see some people. And some more. As I reach the river, I see some more. And then, everyone. EVERYONE!

Christmas decorations in Ljubljana city centre
Giant Christmas tree in the city centre
Its the biggest party, ever! A massive tree, lots of food and drinks. Families, young, old, prams, musicians, lovers, couples, they are all walking by the river. Talking, laughing, hugging, kissing, eating, drinking, singing. The Christmas spirit I saw in Munich has followed me here.

I grab a burger and some mulled wine. I walk around. Its -3C. My fingers freeze. My burger becomes a piece of cold meat, a leathery substance that you can chew on. The wine is warm. There is a concert. Old men are playing in a band. The song is "Its a wonderful life". It is, isn't it? It feels like that in this atmosphere. No one has worries, no problems exist.

Its a big family here at the city centre. A big home, for everyone.

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Why do we travel by train?

Munich, 25.12.16

Ok, I couldn't reach the station 45m before my train (as previously planned). I am here 30m before. I have to buy food for the 6.5hr journey. I check the arrival/departure board. No train to Ljubljana or Zagreb (the final destination in Croatia). There is some other train for 12.17pm. It will probably come up in a moment. Meanwhile I'll just go buy some food. 

Munich train station
After a trip to various shops around the station I have chips, cookies, bananas, sandwich, pretzel. Its a long journey. I look at the board. My train is not there. I visit the enquiry counter. She says its platform 30. Or is it 13?! I go to 13. My train is not there. 30 is far away. I walk fast. 30. No train. What do I do? A ticket counter! I ask again. She says 14. Oh shit! Its 12.05pm already. I walk faster. 

Here I am, at 14. My train is not here. There is a train. I see a ticket checker. I ask him. This is the train. I am standing in front of my coach. I get in. Its very different from my earlier train. This one is full of people. Putting things on overhead racks. Finding seats. Settling down. The little chaos of the coach that reminds me of an Indian train. Now this is the real deal. 

I find my seat. There is an old woman on it. Here even older mother sits in front of her. I sit next to them. They don't speak much English. 1 or 2 words. They ask where my seat was. I say they are sitting on it. They ask where I was going. I say Ljubljana. 

"Former Yugoslav"! 
"We former Yugoslav"! 

I nod and smile. Reminds me of Madagascar. "Just smile and wave boys, smile and wave."

They are traveling to the next station. I tell them I was also going to Budapest, Bratislava and Prague. They are slightly impressed. That was my intention. More questions come my way.
"Are you coming from England?"
No, Holland
"Study?"
No travel
"Tourist?"
Yes

Next 10 min are quite. For us, not for the coach. There is a lot of chit chat, laughing. 

Their station is here. They ask for help with their bags. i help. They are very short. I wonder how they got their bags up there in the first place. They thank me. The old lady says bye. I say bye. The older lady says something in Slovak (?). I smile and say bye (like the Penguins). 

This is what train journeys are about. Random encounters!

Now I have my window seat. The whole space is free. I have my book, food and water on the table. I sit comfy. I can read, write. Look at the landscape, the green landscape in the shade of winter grey. 

A train full of people and luggage. Cloths hanging around. 

A 6 hour journey. No internet on the train. Plenty of time to relax, read, write, listen to music, contemplate. 




Friday, 13 January 2017

The waiting hostel

Munich, 25.12.16

Its Christmas day. In the hostel it doesn't feel very Christmasy. Business as usual. People coming and going, doors opening and closing, metal hitting metal, whispers, alarms, snoozing, alarms, snoozing, alarms, snoozing.

When I arrived 2 nights ago there seemed to be members of the same family on the beds around me. A mother, a daughter and a son. Are they long term residents of the hostel? Are they here to try and get jobs, asylum, help!? Like the people who stayed with me during the summer. Or the Pakistani guy I met in Uppsala. People are known to live in hostels for extended periods. Looking for jobs, housing, help.

The family is gone. I don't know where. Back home? Another country? No help here?

Hostels are places of transition. People coming and going. But are they also places of waiting? I am waiting for my train. There are others too. Luggages in the common area. People looking in their phones and laptops. The cleaner moving around with the vacuum cleaner. Buzzz. The family that I think waited for something. The family in my room. The family that left. There are others too. The Pakistani guy in Uppsala. You see on hostel forums people complaining about long term residents. Those who are waiting. For jobs, for homes, for help?

A hostel in Ljubljana