Wednesday, April 6, 2011

A rustic story

It was one of those days when my mind was not functioning in sync with my senses. All my actions were driven by only one message. All I wanted to do was reach my village as early as possible without letting my ears listen to more on the message. It was during the late winter but I was fuming with the sun rays piercing into my helmet. I was riding my bike, not less than, perhaps the speed of an arrow shot in anger. I noticed it was almost thirty-minutes-past-three in the afternoon and the road was absolutely empty. Like a desert. Like a night without moon.

Although I had a very long distance to cover, the destination looked very near to me; as if I was there already. Thinking about how it was in those days and how past had influenced me to remember those frames in my mind without missing any single scene. It was as if a long history written in the book of my mind and I was going through each page of it; One after the other.

It was a very strange story of my granny, and how she carried the characters around her for such a long time. It is a very strange phenomenon to relate each person surrounding me to the same person I am so close with. As in, my granny used to carry all her friends, helpers, neighbors in the village who were so close with her everywhere; mentally.  And those characters used to interact with my granny all the time; both when in the village and when not in the village. I used to wonder in awe and think how lucky those people are; that they are remembered almost 24 hours in some way or the other; in some form or the other. Perhaps, the bonding between them was much stronger than what they even realized in their relationship. And those five or six people became very critical part of my granny’s life in all possible ways.  She used to come to Bangalore, to my house, and she used to call me by some other name (random pick out of those 5-6 people). She used to talk to me about something that she wanted to talk to the other person. And she used to repeat this wherever she goes and whoever she meets. And I was helpless but to watch this interesting phenomenon. Dumbstruck!

My granny’s world was those people who were with her all the time. Nothing else! She was in her late eighties and the only possible worst thing one would expect was the obvious. And when the message reached my ears, l could not do any good but to try reaching the village as soon as possible. The empty road, the noise of the engine, the constant fluttering of my bag’s strap, once-in-a-while the cars speeding towards the divine Puttaparthi, were all giving me the same feeling that I wanted to avoid. The entry to the village looked absolutely deserted with the rows of thorny shrubs either side of the road.  Raptors were making enough noise above my head to make sure that the message was heard. Village roads looked very unwelcomed to me for the first time. People never connected to my eyes for the first time. They did not ask me any question to my surprise for the first time. They did not look at my bag, they did not check if I am wearing my sunglasses or not. It was as if they hated me to go there that particular day. But they had no options but to ignore me.  I helplessly entered the village and moved towards my granny’s house.

The street was empty; there were no signs of any human presence. I entered the house and I saw my dad coming out of the room. His eyes were filled with tears. He was looking as if he had controlled his tears for a big event ahead. I got to know that my granny’s corpse had not arrived yet. She was at her daughter’s place two hours away from the village when she passed her last breath. People started walking in to the house and some gathered outside. I could see people waiting to pay their respects. All those characters who were part of my granny’s life were also present. Waiting. Crying.

Finally my granny’s corpse arrived. She was made to sleep on a wooden bench outside. People started crying. They started lighting the agarbattis and one by one started paying their respects. It took a bit longer than I expected for the crowd to get clear. And finally there were a few left out other than my relatives. And those were these soul mates of my granny. They were worried and crying for some reason. I was surprised to see no actions from their end. They were holding their breath to touch my granny and hug her and say good bye. But they were very reluctant to do that. I could not understand their problem. I tried asking them, they did not open their mouth to answer. They just stood staring at my granny. After sometime, one person made an attempt to touch my granny to which somebody objected. Then I got to know that they were not supposed to touch. It was the same old village untouchability problem. They were scared to touch even the body. I was shocked for a while and could not control my tears that I had controlled till then. It took too much of a courage for me to digest the fact before I made them touch her and pay their respects.

Those great souls that were part of my granny’s life were not even eligible to touch her? More than any of us, it was them who accompanied my granny throughout her life. More than anyone else they were remembered all the time. Yet, they were the ones who were untouchables.  All their lives they served a person with so much love and they would’ve missed out on even touching her in the end. I still have a tough time believing what happened on that day and still not able to come out of that.



SuZ said...

Fabulous article. When it started out I expected it to be something else and was expecting your foot injury story to start...but it never did!

This is one of the tragedies of India. Sense of touch is one of the basic things between humans. Its a form of communication. How can this be regulated just by the fact that one was born "wrong" house? I salute you for your effort which made your granny's soulmates touch your granny. Late is better than never.

Unknown said...


This is the problem in most of the rural area. Still people carrying the gap beween human and the humanity. This is the real threat in the rual India. The gap will reduce hopefully once people start moving to City's and Town's from the villages and from city to villages, unfortunately chances of second is very less.!!

We can hope for sure it will happen when people act like you by taking certain social and emotional risk in their families.


Raghu said...

Though I knew the story of your granny's death, I didn't know about this in-humane act of the so called human beings.

I am very much moved by your act. I really appreciate it. Hopefully in the days to come, our people understand this and come out of the shackles of untouchability.

Unknown said...

Srik- I'm proud of you that you stood-up for the moment and did the right thing.
As all have commented above, it's a tragedy of our country and it's our responsibility to object it at every opportunity we get. It's definitely not easy and you have done that. good one!

Vaishnavi said...

Somebody said this is the threat in rural India. I beg to differ. As disheartening as this story is, I think untouchability still exists in many households. How many modern Indian homes allow their domestic helps to sit on a chair or sofa? How many allow them to eat using the very plates and spoons you use? We may not think of this as untouchability, but it very much is.