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Continued from Journey to India’s far east – Silchar
It took us around two and a half hours to reach Shillong where we stopped for lunch. The rumors which we considered news was good, there are fair chances that the road will be motor able by the evening. We were elated. It was a bright day but by the time we crossed the Badapani on the way it was raining. Maybe it was monsoon, maybe it was Meghalaya, the abode clouds, maybe it was a pre-staged act so that the memories we take away is Meghalaya is wet.
We finished our truly mainland lunch to which only local addition was pickles made of bamboo shoot. By the time we returned to our vehicle, the driver refused to take us any further. He said he can’t go, he won’t go. He will arrange for another vehicle. Better if it is from Jaintia Hills, so that it can take us straight. To which he was bombarded with set of questions.
Is it how you treat visitors in your state?
Now I know why tourist fear coming to this part.
But he was calm and in an accent directly taken of rock songs he played so far he replied,
“I belong to a different hill tribe. The place you guys are going is different. We don’t run business in their area they don’t run in ours. Besides you don’t want to be in any danger because of our tribe rivalry.”
We had no more arguments to make and no time to waste.
Do it fast, whatever you want to do.
We don’t want to lose time because of it.
After fifteen minutes and a couple of phone calls made by driver from phone booth on opposite side of road, a vehicle came. Our luggage was shifted to it and again we started – for journey through hills of Meghalaya.
I have seen enough of natural greens. The mighty hills of Kanchanjungha Biosphere Reserve covered with dense forests. I grew up with hills like a dark green canvas laid for a painter and at times in solitude and profound pondering I used to think what should I paint on it. Sometime the same green would haunt me as monochrome. It was one of intimidating if it was not the snow covered peaks on the horizon.
The hills of Meghalaya appeared different. It was too bright of green, but was majestic. We saw farmers working in their terraced fields, kids running down the roads, hamlets with smoke coming out of individual houses and ground dripping wet with rain. It was a different world altogether… We stopped by a road side stall where a pretty lady was selling plums and bamboo shoots, cucumber…we bought plums.. They were good like the one my friends used to bring in school fresh from his orchard.
Unlike in the urban India and on highways in the mainland, the billboards were absent on the lone winding highway. The only signs were of Project Dantak of Border Roads Organization. As we progressed in the afternoon, the panorama of beautiful green hills fit for the landscaped golf course turned ugly. What we were seeing now was mutilation and exploitation of nature-of monstrous propensity. If it was not the Sardar uncle on the front seat of cab, an Indian Forest Services Officer, we would never know these mines were illegal…for these shallow mines they had cleared vegetation the hills are bare with patches of greens left. But, who will ruin such a beautiful adobe for a couple foot thick layer coal. It is madness, Crude madness…
It was touching in the sense that you felt sorry for the level of degradation human greed can take us. At the same time, we were thankful that such a thing is not there in Sikkim. Sikkim is still beautiful. Cutting trees is still considered as a last resort… Leave alone mass clearing of forests. The coal mines gave way to limestone quarries. And then, the cement plant in Jaintia Hills… Believe me that is one odd place I have ever seen a cement plant in life like a blemish on a beautiful face.
Amidst all these thoughts the driver hinted that we are nearing the landslide spot, may be another 10 kms. A couple more kilometers, we can see trucks parked on highway side, first sparingly, then in groups wherever they could find enough place and then it started as a chain of trucks… All loaded with goods, grains, vegetables, and domestic gas cylinders, woods and the things I didn’t know behind those dark tarpaulins… The driver said it’s been like that for more than 10 days now. The stench of rotting vegetables, fruits was unbearable as we passed such trucks. There were drivers cooking by the road side, a few were having their meal, bit late for lunch time. The driver stopped by what appeared to be a lone grocery store…he asked us if we are carrying rain coats.
We said no.
Buy a few meters of polyethylene sheets each, you will need it to keep you and your luggage dry. It has been raining so we went by his wise words. It was not a permanent grocery store but a temporary one erected to cater to the stranded people.
(Yet to reach Silchar … dont kill me, it was a long & arduous journey… more to come in next post)
Why computer science and information technology?
But … Sir I always wanted to be a software engineer?
Let’s see what is left for you?
Are you willing to go to Gurdaspur?
Gurdaspur, almost Pakistan?
The place I know only ‘coz Vinod Khanna contested parliamentary elections from there and it was in media. Else, despite geography as my favorite in schools, I would have pondered over a political map of India with a hand lens searching Gurdaspur amidst fine prints. I was making my mind whether to say yes or no, before he said but there is a condition.
You will have to wait, there is still a guy with a better rank left, if he doesn’t opt for it, you will get it.
I turned back to look at my father sitting on a chair on the other side of hall meant for parents and guardians.
He wanted us siblings to study medicine but we choose to make a career in engineering instead. No, I am not taking it, only computer science and even if it is a private engineering College. We walked out, with my father trying to console me. Let’s explore other options. “Last year they said, someone got a good REC with your rank, do not worry let’s see.”
At that point little did I see, what I left in far north was calling me from far-east. Silchar, is not a famous town, and that to in Sikkim where people are more satiated and prosperous, leave alone moving out of the state, they do not even think of it.
Growing up in Sikkim in late 1990s and early 2000s had its own advantages. You began to think that anything faster than the slow motion love making scenes in Bollywood movies is hell of a hectic life, that man is born to wear branded clothes, drive car, and drink and if conscience allows pray and bask in sun. You grow accustomed to living with quotas; quotas in REC. while other state students competed in different entrance test to get into it, a boy from Sikkim will enter the engineering college with just 60% marks. Still it was a wonder why the number of students passing mathematics in 12th standard is less than the number of seats in quotas the state had in engineering colleges across India. We even had a separate quota for berths in different trains from New Jalpaiguri to different cities in India. It was one of those quotas that secured us a RAC seat. NJP to Guwahati, and we were joined by likes of us, aspiring engineering students from all over the state. Groups were formed on what part of country you belonged to, Bengalis coalesced; Sardars collided with Northies while the lonely Keralite felt left out, whereas Bihar and UP walas had reason to celebrate with a majority in this democratic country and with better ranks of their kids they had reasons to be boastful.
It was the rumors at railway station and stories in the newsprints that if not cancelled the trains will be late. Flood was playing havoc in parts of the Gangetic plains and Assam, but it was not the flood that concerned us, it was landslide, we already braved a couple till this point. But the talks were of massive slide and the war scale mobilization and rescue operation by Indian Army. We didn’t know anything for sure; only thing we hoped was of a safe journey to Silchar and back.
As expected the train was late and we reached Guwahati. With no rail journey possible due to flooding, we had no time to waste but to start for the day the journey to Silchar.
There is a stand beside railway station where buses and tourist cars ply to different of a virtually different country called the north east of India. Although it was exorbitant prices they were charging (hardly they knew that their passengers had paid prices in Sikkim, they do not bargain it is offensive and anything outside Sikkim is cheap and good deal for them), the deal was done, if the road is clear, they will drop us to Silchar, if not to the landmark landslide, it was also guaranteed that they will wait till it was verified that it is possible to cross, in case we needed a return passage at least to Shillong.
Twelve of us, stuffed ourselves in a two vehicle and started for Silchar.
(When I commented on Debajyoti’s blog post that I will elaborate my journey to Silchar in a separate post, I knew it is going to be long. But, somewhere in the previous posts I made a promise to restrict length of my posts between short and long. It is already a long post, so do wait for next…. We are yet to arrive at Silchar.)
I thought I will write a deceptive introduction to this post, if not readers it will at least draw visitors. So, is this a post that promises to teach you all how to be a successful writer? No. Is this the post that bares it all the secrets to successful blogging? No. Does it come from a successful writer? No.
This is my fourth post in this series on Blogging, Writing & Beyond. You can reach the individual post through link at the bottom of post. Do read if you find it interesting. These are notes, learning progress, observations and some sarcasm on the blogging, writing and somewhere beyond.
• There are good blogs and there are bad blogs (blogs which does teach you what not to be as a blogger, in that sense they are good)… and then there are blogs of your friends which is follow despite the nature, content, genre and writing style and even if it is full of bull crap. * Conditions Apply. Not meant to offend anyone.
• Writing is hard work… reading and understanding the author’s perspective and analyzing it independently without any bias is harder and commenting to fuel a coherent, useful and enriching discussion is hardest. As a commenter, I believe you can comment on what you have read, but if you can write so well that your commenter comments on not what he has read but what you have written, I would call that a feat worthy envy.
• Blogging is a cool thing to do, but you run at a real risk of savaging your image. Your words can bite you anytime in a way least expected. Moreover, if perception of others matter to you, it is going to be a tough day. It is more likely that people would associate you with your blog. For some you are what you blog, but there exists a crowd who can differentiate between the blog as a work and the blogger.
• No, you do not need to blog on each and every topic on earth. Even if you describe yourself as a writer who has an opinion on everything, focus and you will find there are particular things you are good at. Differentiate between what is important and what is not.
• When lost, follow the lighthouse. If you are not one of the progenitors of blogging platforms, at one point of time you must have a blogger or a writer in mind, the feat of whom you like to achieve, you like his writing, knowingly or unknowingly under his heavy influence you copy his writing styles, you copy the subjects you blog upon. It is perfectly alright to follow. Right only… do not plagiarize… identify the distinction between aping and plagiarizing… there exist a narrow lane in between.
• Be the rock star. No, it doesn’t mean write about music. Love what you write and live with it. Write it post it like you care for no one while writing, like the rock star performing infront of thousands of crowd. He doesn’t care what will one of his audience think about his music, he may think of it afterwards, he may take critics, but not when performing. When you write, when you blog, it is your performance, it is divine, that deserve dignity in form of pure devotion. Write as if you are the only person who matters, write for pleasure.
• Moreover, if you have difficulty in writing, or you start with a blog post and struck on searching for the perfect way to present it, do not worry, you are exactly on the right track. It is common, it is the writers who understands and feel difficulty in writing.
• Keep it simple. Although it takes a lot of hard work to produce a simple read, again it is worth the effort.
Here are my previous posts in the series:
I bought this book for the phrase whisky priest, expecting account of an alcoholic priest, but to my reading delight it turned out to be more than what I expected.
It is a story of a worldly priest on the run in a Mexican state where Catholicism has been outlawed and other priests have been either killed or forced to change their vocation, leaving him as the last messenger of God. The priest wanders through the state in an attempt to cross the borders amidst the fears getting killed and a longing for life. The misery of the priest has been compounded by this fondness of brandy, contemplation over his illicit relation with a woman at his last parish, his love for the illegitimate child.
In its description of state and its hunt Catholicism, the story discusses the futility of faith, of affluent parishes among starving classes, preaching and prayers for those who are struggling to make a living.
The novel depicts bare human instincts behind a mother carrying a dead child on her back, and then abandoning the same with no remorse. A priest fighting a crippled dog for a piece of bone for some meat attached to it, and eating the last chunk out of it when he thought he will spare some for the dog.
Graham green explores why the priest who is so worldly and so unlikely of habits to be a priest yet remains committed to the vocation. It makes you wonder why he needs to be the last surviving messenger of god in a state that is set to eliminate it. The compulsive fondness of the priest to brandy which endangers his life many times, the melancholic distrust and contradicting emotions that comes out in a crowded cell of a jail and the self righteous perusal of authority to serve its citizen food and not preaching. The dangers poor peasants put themselves in for the sake of their faith and their feeling of eternal damnation for not having performed rituals. All these keep you turning the pages wondering what lies next for him and keeps you gripped with your sympathies to the priest.
It is a about a character caught among faith, responsibility and his self. The interesting narrative of swings in human deeds and thoughts, and artful portrayal of minor characters makes the book worth reading. It is an elegant portrayal of a simple story by Graham Greene.
Level of Reading: Moderate
The Blue Bedspread by Raj Kamal Jha
Pages: 240 pages
The novel starts with an unnamed character receiving a call about the death of his sister. His sister has died leaving a child behind. The child is entrusted to him for a night before it is given away a family scheduled to adopt the child.
The man narrates a story to the child, about him and his sister. He reminisce the illegitimate intimacy he had with his sister on the blue bedspread, which also gets the title to the book. The story depicts the troubled childhood with an abusive father, a dead mother, a father who sexually abuses him and his sister.
There are points where the narration is overplayed and feels discrete to the main character (I confused the narrator). There are times when the setting seems surreal but it provides dreamlike drift to the moody yet lyrical narration.
Raj Kamal Jha does justice in artful depiction of not so usual subjects of incest and sexual abuse with a tone that could be termed disturbing. The descriptive narration also provides you with a window where you wonder whether to peep into reality or into fiction. The novel doesn’t starts or progresses on a timeline binding into a unified end but it swings back and forth in time, in unconnected parts giving you an indication of deliberate omission. The end is likely to leave you blank and unsated with a few questions still reappearing in your mind to be answered.
Level of Reading: Moderately Difficult
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