Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Ironically human

Being a human can be very difficult sometimes. It’s very tiring and a complex thing; being human. Emotions of such proportions, each greater, distinctively different and deeper than the other, are constantly making their presence felt to us. Each one is asking for a greater autonomy, a homeland, a separate and special status. But as a seasoned politician our mind is, along with his coalition partner ‘heart’, they both manage to pacify each and every demand of these ‘emotions’, each one is promised a better deal and a better outlet.

Watching a beggar, with twisted arms, no legs, and a face that is the synonym of grief, can rake up many a different emotions and feelings in our mind. Sometimes pity, sometimes grief along with compassion and sometimes hatred towards the society and the state comes up in our mind. Sometimes we praise the lord, sometime we curse him. Our hatred and our respect and love, thanks to our faith are directed at someone, something who only “god knows” is how many light years away from us, sitting in some place which people call the ‘heaven’. Still we believe that our messages will be received, and we hope that they are not treated as ‘spam’. Perhaps they are received, and replied back, along with the CC and BCC. If it isnt then I don’t find any other reason why so many people congregate at the Kumbhs, and why so many people want to go to Mecca and perform Haj.

Coming back to the human mind in general and human emotions in particular, a Human brain mind is the most complex of all the minds the god has ever created, and to encompass in that a thing as complex and mind boggling as “emotions and feelings” is not a small feat.

Of all the emotions, it’s ‘love’ and ‘hate’ that stands out. A person loves someone so much that he would readily give his life for that person and on the other extreme someone hates a person so much that he won’t even blink his eyes when given the chance to take his enemy’s life.

Emotions and feelings are omnipresent in our life and in our mind. Human owe its birth to a series of ‘emotional actions and events’, not going into the biological details, emotions are the starting point of which the end result is the reproduction of a progeny. Then as one gets older, more emotions based relationship like sibling hood, friendship etc starts taking shape. We express our emotions by way of making friends, expressing love, running a shelter home for the animals or giving alms at the Red-light.

Animals sadly are de-voided of the vast range of emotions like human posses. That is why when we see an animal risking its own life for its offspring’s, or a dog showing love for its owner, or a dog and a cat cohabiting together peacefully, we are greatly bemused. A dog regularly visits the spot he was born, and a pigeon lives all his life at the same place where he first opened its eyes. These are purest form of emotions, devoid of any artificial taught feelings.

People in news or who made news are those who have, had either excess or very less of emotions.Then there are the Gandhi's, who have emotions for everyone, except for their own self and then there are the Saddam Hussein’s and the Dubyas who in a polite and civilized term can be called as “individualistic, barbaric and non-humane”. It’s the emotions that drive people to do what we call ‘crazy things’.

Camu, Marx, Shakespeare, Alexander all felt a surge of emotions at a point of time in their life and then they let out their emotions by way of doing what they did. Same was the case with Mandela and Gandhi. Emotions moved them, they “moved”, and with them the whole world moved.

When we read, study poems and verses, or watch a movie, we subconsciously are getting affected by what ever we are sensing by way of reading and watching. Our mind silently is capturing and grasping the emotional quotient that we are deducing. Similarly our mind, a canvass captures all the emotions like colors and we have ‘A Beautiful Mind”.

Sometimes we are so helpless and hopeless against our emotions (mostly when we have encountered the ‘Love Emotion’), that we decide, rightly so, that "today emotion would be my king and I his follower”.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

The Corridors of Jawahar

I cannot sing the old songs
I sang long years ago,
For heart and voice would fail me,
And foolish tears would flow.

Part 1

Jawahar and I are of the same age, its first bricks were laid in 1983, the same year I was born. But we met each other after thirteen years. In 1996, I first stepped into Jawahar, the large, polite gates along with the Ashoka trees, so large still so unassuming were there to welcome me.

My first encounter with B.N Trishal was an unforgetful event. In that sense every encounter is still afresh in my memory, rumor say that he was a retired army colonel, who was a part of the 1971 war, a synonym of terror.

As soon as I entered his room he looked at me and said “Why are your hairs so long?” Now how often have you met a person who meets you for the first time and says something obnoxious like this? Since he wasn’t expecting any answer from me, I didn’t disappoint him. (Sir, my barber was busy cutting your hair, that’s why he couldn’t cut mine). After asking the general pre-admission questions, he asked me to come out with a poem. A poem!! Man!!!(Goose pimples, all over my body). Frankly speaking, I was never a Student of English literature, as a matter of fact I never considered myself as a Student. Asking me to recite a poem, that too without having a poetry book in my hand, was as same as asking a man who is not also blind, but deaf, and one who has lost his sense of direction to cross the Pune-Mumbai Express highway.

The outcome in this kind of scenario can only be two. Either you stay at your end of the road, or you decide to cross the road and replace the existing phrase ‘Why did the Chicken crossed the road’ with a more appropriate ‘Why did that idiot crossed the road’? The gut instinct inside me said that its better to cross the road now, or be ready to face God knows what. So with all the mixing and churning of various English words that I could do, I managed to come out with a poem, not a long one, perhaps of 2-3 lines.

Though Bunty found the poem to be nothing short of rubbish but still, God knows why, he gave me the admission. I was now a part of JLNS. The famous JLNS run by the even more famous B.N Trishal.

My early years in JLNS were spent in loneliness. Its not that the School was to be blamed, it’s just that when it’s not your time, it’s not your time. It was just as if my life was waiting for the chosen time to arrive. The 8th, the 9th and the 10th, passed like they should have; monotonously.

Except the day when my results were to be announced then the whole situation would change. At those times I would go into a ‘Cocoon of fear’, but somehow or the other, I lived, and transform into a full grown Moth. Another notable feature of these Three years was that I was falling in love with the same girl again and again and again without any failure.

Part 2.

Then came the mother of all exams, the 10th board and in a matter of days, from an Atheist I was transformed into a Chandraswami look alike. I was aware that there was a very remote possibility that I would pass, in medicals terms I was critical, on ventilator. But as an ardent follower of Humanism, who feeds on even the tiniest of hope, I clung on tightly to the last of the hope I had, and gave my exams. Math’s was my biggest tormentor, and it still is. ( Recently I had applied for a Business correspondent in one of the newspapers, and it was math’s again which robbed me of my job and I seriously think that math’s is behind the ever increasing school drop out rate in children, and something needs to be done.)

When I saw the math’s paper, a heavenly calmness covered me, I was dead, and I suddenly realized that my eyesight was fading, for I wasn’t able to see anything in the paper, only blurred images. The ‘Satanic Maths’ was all over me; here it was, again tormenting a follower of god. I knew I was going to be buried alive among the Sin, Cos and the Tans.

Anyways like after every dark night, like after every tunnel, I saw light, and I passed, or more appropriately just passed. But not before I promised myself that I would never try to even cross the path of maths. After the results were announced, I was personally called by Bunty to his room, and he gave me a pat on my back, because according to him, I was one of the students who could have destroyed the 10th result for the whole school.

Life is full of problems, you get rid of one, and the next one is standing at your gates. As soon as my relatives, of far and of near came to know that I had cleared my exams; they started showering suggestions that I should opt for the math’s stream. I was terrified to say the least, and I knew that if I opted for maths, I would be signing my own death certificate.

My Mom Oh Mom, managed to cajole me God knows how, to join math stream, and here I was, sitting in 11thB, surrounded by the maths and science geeks, with large specs. I was feeling (rightly so) that I was the odd one out, and the mathematical terms were sounding like racial abuse, which were exclusively aimed towards me.

That was my first and the last days in 11B, after that I fell ill, and wasn’t able to attend school for a whole week, and the day I recovered and went to JLNS, instead of going to 11B, I headed straight for my Vice-principals office, with a letter in my hand which read like this:

Dear Madame,

I would kindly request you to transfer my son, Abhinandan Mishra to Commerce section. I cannot discuss the reason but I can just say that it is more viable for us in the long run, if he is transferred to commerce section. Any inconvenience is regretted.

Truly Yours

Part 3.

I was transferred, and as you must have guessed, the letter was not written by my mom, but by me. So here I was, sitting with the future entrepreneurs, and more importantly I was with my ladylove. (My Mom still thinks that I opted for commerce because of silly emotions, and now I think that she was so right).

I soon started ‘blossoming’, the debit and credit, the Micros and the Minis (economics, not skirts), soon found a suitable residence in my brain, and they duly purchased a right ear facing corner flat in my mind. Another thing to my liking was that being a commerce student we were not expected to study and a peculiar ‘ISI’ mark was always with us, which stated that we were the worst of all the lots. In a way we enjoyed this special status, because it gave us freedom and reduced the burden of studying day and night from our weak shoulders.

Another important common feature with all of us was that we all were stung by the ‘love bug’ and were running high temperature. But what was more soothing was that love interest (not a common girl, but different sets of would be Romeo, and different sets of would not be Juliet) of all of us were with us in the same class. That meant that we attended every lecture and would seldom miss school.

By the time 11th ended, I was a part of seven boys group, all fast friend, a friendship which continues even today, with same vigour,same purity. The seven of us were namely, Nandu (that’s me) Doga (Yogendra), Tidda (Rohit), Baniya-I (Ankit), Boddi (Saurabh), Suresh (Suyash) and Baniya-II (Kapil) and each of us had a Mrs.Doga, or a Mrs.Rohit to take care of , so in short we were a happy family.

In 11th we all had attendance in the region of 98%, and we by our deeds and misdeeds had become the darling of many a teachers. We all went to the same evening coaching classes. The time we spent in coaching were unforgetful, still can’t believe that had such a great time. We would bunk, and sit near the Upper Lake, having boiled egg, discussing our ‘matrimonial’ problems, which were always in plenty.

One day I along with Ankit decided to bunk my commerce coaching and went to the upper lake, have Bhuttas , tea and came back. But before leaving for the “Bhuttas”, evil entered my mind. We decided to call up Appan sir, our coaching teacher and threaten him, all in fun. So we went to a public booth, dialed his number, and as we had seen in the movies, with the help of handkerchief acting as our voice modulator, warned him that he was soon to be abducted.

Later when I went home, I was greeted by one tight slap. It didn’t take me much time to figure out what had happened. Apparently Appan sir had recognized my voice, and called up my home, and told them about my ‘Adventurism’, the rest they say is history. But as a true gentleman he was, he soon forgave me. Another personal achievement of some short came to me when I secured the 17th position in the class of 46.

Part 4.

Then came the golden period of my life, the one which Bryan Adams must have gone through which inspired him to write ‘Summer of 69’. I ‘achieved’ in every front, be it studies, cricket, school hooliganism or friendship.

I got 70% marks in the 12th boards, I represented my house in the Inter House cricket tournament and amidst flying kisses, hit a six of the last ball to win the match and also played the role of a waiter in a play, which bought me special praise from my English mame,Anita Chaturvedi. I always had very modest expectations, and all these achievements, though trifle, were very precious.

Till 11th, I was a very shy guy, with little friends, a person whose absence was rarely felt. All that changed in 12th, perhaps because it was the last year, and it bought out the best in all of us.

Four of the seven people from my group, except Kapil and Suyash ,were, what we can call ‘The Bhais’, the notorious one, people who knew the right people at the right places. So in their company, I acquired a new character, and started going through a transformation, like the one which Parker goes through in Spider man. These Bhai’s loved me, respected me, because in their eyes I was a helpless, Love sick innocent guy, with no or little vice. They would always try to instigate my classmates, by hook and mostly by crook, to associate my name with my lady love, so as to make her understand that someone was their who found her beautiful, and loved her. It’s a different thing that there were many others who regarded and saw her in the same way as I did.

Once I went out of the class to have water, and as I was late in coming back, I found the class door closed. Since it was an English period, taught by Anita Chaturvedi Madam, who regarded me as one of the Shakespeare in making, I decided to go inside. As soon as I stepped in, I was greeted by no one but ‘Her’. Apparently she was going to bring chalk or duster what ever it was, and by a sheer coincidence we found ourselves 45 cms away from each other. I kept staring at those lovely eyes, and at that time I realized why I was so madly in love with her, it was those eyes. She stated blushing, and a roar went inside the class.

During the final days of our school, I use to bring a syringe, devoid of the needle part, to school, and with that I used to spray water on anyone whom I could lay my hands to. This time Doga was caught in the line of fire, and I knew that even if I wanted I won’t be able to miss that Ox, but god knows how, that mountain moved at the last split of the second, and instead of Doga, “She” got drenched. The customary Roar again went up, much louder this time and now it was my time to blush. Many such pleasant encounters took place throughout the 12th class, all which kept "Jack" (Titanic fame) inside me alive.

Once to celebrate the Teachers day we had a Jam session where everyone from the burly ‘Gandharv to the Chutku ‘Pradeep, from the beautiful Aditi to the loquacious Aruna all danced, that too in the class, with vengaboys to do the necessary honors. Thumbs-up and Cokes were our version of the champagne, and they didn’t fail us. We seven also ‘tried’ to dance, but we were kind a tribal dancer, and soon we realized that it would be better if we don’t shake.

Part 5

There were the famous kabaddi matches, in which we seven would try our strength against the guys from the math’s section. Once ‘Kabaddi in the times of the Monsoon’ was being played at full swing. We were so engrossed in our play that none of us realized when our white shirt changed color and became brown, and our trousers originally grey turned into a color which was everything but grey. We would have continued to enjoy the mud bath had not Mariamma Mame arrived and shooed us away, and soon we were running towards our classroom, 12C, where more glory awaited us. The mud dried, and it become so much a part of our body that it was useless to even try to remove or wash it. So we decided that since it was the last period, we would sit in the class, like a herd of buffaloes who just had their mud shower, with mud dripping all over.

Then there was the shirtless kabaddi, which was quite a craze among us. Once a player entered our side of line, it was just a matter of time, before he was overpowered by the burly Dogas and the Boddis. After they had played their part in pinning down the poor challenger, I would come into picture. I would sneak in between the heaps of bodies , and with the stealth of mouse would tear out the pocket or sometimes the whole shirt, and it was done so quietly that the victims was not even aware of the mishap, until his other team members would make him aware of his ‘Salman Khan’ status.

The basket ball game was a more serene affair. It was played in the most tranquil manner. The reason being that it was a Boys versus Girls’ game. The opposite team had many a players of repute like Rohini, Khusboo, Aditi and Smita. We also had players, but we had quantity, but no quality, and we always lost, and it was a loss which was thoroughly enjoyed. Still we enjoyed the game, for it gave us the much needed opportunity to make some impression on the girls; which we never did.

I have already told you about the “Roar’ syndrome that we use to suffer from. Whenever we wanted a free class, it just required one voice, and the whole class would join in the same accord. The poor teacher, who in most cases was our very own respected Dear Appan sir, was left with no choice but to succumb to the demand. Similarly we had what we use to call the “CBZphobia”. Whenever we would start feeling the heat of the lecture, or whenever we thought that we had our quota of studies, we silently would drop a steel pencil box and a water filled bottle on the ground from a height, which would make a cracker bursting like sound. This would bring a chaos in the whole class, when the teacher (which in most cases would be Appan sir, again) would ask what had happened, we would just say ‘CBZZZZZ”. The whole notion behind CBZ was that some guys came, busted crackers and fled on CBZ bikes.

One day Chandan came out with an idea that we should stage a play on the occasion of the Annual day. For that he took special permission from Bunty himself. This gave the dramatist one hour for practicing the play everyday, and that one hour was allotted in the last period and was called the “zero period’. In the beginning, no one was much keen to be a part of the play, but then the truth dawn to us that if we become a part of the play we would also be entitled to the luxuries of the zero periods. And soon we made a beelike rush for Chandan, our very honey comb. Soon each and everyone were a Nasserudin Shah and a Tom Alter in himself and herself. Due to the sheer number of the star caste, each one of us was given a theatre presence of less than 2 minutes, the 2 mins. of fame. For the sake of that couple of minutes we practiced and utilized the zero periods for more than two months.

Part 6.

The last year witnessed everything that one could ever imagine. Due to me our class was involved in a free for all fight with students of the dreaded MACT, who had the reputation of beating the day light crap even out of a policeman. The whole of the “attack” lasted a little more than 30 minutes, and it was six of us against [ me,Rohit,Saurabh,Sumit,Ankur Shukla( his is a different story, he was 2 years my junior still he was there with me) and Mohd.Ali ] the whole world, literally. When we decided to take on the ‘Goondas’ we were more than 150, counting my other classmates, the 11th and the 10th guys, and when we were walking the corridors of Jawahar, on our way to the battle ground, I turned back and saw that I was being followed by 150 of “faithful fighters”, but as soon as the 144 of them saw what was in store, they vanished.

Later after the mayhem they did come back and offered us words of sympathy and condolence, and according to then they had not fled, some had gone to call the police, some one had gone call to call the bigger ‘goondas’, and one of them Gandharv, was standing with the girl in question , so as to provide protection to her. (Protecting her!!! From whom? I think it was us who required the protection, and not her. (What a thing, human being!)

Those hooligans were more than 150 in numbers, and still we decided that we should stand our grounds, and we stood, till the ground was taken from us, and then we were rolling. They beat us like anything, which led the traffic on the Habibganj-Anna Nagar road to come at a standstill. Later I was told that the commuters were under the impression that an action sequence of a movie was being shot. Bollywood sure hit us hard that day.

The fight ended when the gang leader (God bless him) decided that it was enough, we had learnt our lessons. We were slaughtered because one of the boys of the math’s section had passed lewd remarks against one of our class classmate who was a girl, and this led to we taking some strict action against him, and to avenge this the math’s guy bought his brother (the gang leader) along with 150 of his pals, to teach us a lesson.

The Swan song. (7)

It was the second last day in school. Everyone was expecting something to happen, and the mantle to make that ‘expected’ happen was on us. But what? We weren’t able to come out with a novel idea, crakers bursting were a routine affair, and we already had the Jam session. Each of us wanted to do something that would make us ‘immortal’, and something which had been never attempted before

Soon I came out with an idea. Our morning assembly would be our stage. The morning assembly was a very peaceful affair. Prefects would be patrolling the assembly grounds and sniff out trouble makers, and then there was the ever present terror of Bunty itself, but we had decided, and nothing could stop us. Even not the pleading of Appan sir and Beena Mame.

The assembly started, the daily news was read, and then there was the usual singing of prayers. Then came the turn of Vice principal to say her thought of the day, and as soon as she climbed on the dais, I started coughing, behind me Rohit started coughing, behind him Chandan , and soon the whole of the boys of 12 C were coughing in union. It was like a sudden onset of ‘Whooping cough’. For a whole two minutes there was nothing but coughing, the whole population of JLNS, nearly 800 of the students and the 100 odd teachers, all were staring at us in disbelief. That was the time when ‘I became the we and we the us’.

Later we were punished, but not too fatally. Considering what we had done, we shouldn’t have been allowed to sit for our 12th exams, (How happy that would have made us, to repeat the whole 12th class again!!) but due to the efforts of Appan Sir and Beena Mame, we were safe and ‘sound’. Those were some of the moments which instill a sense of pride in me for being a part of the commerce 2001 batch.

The Graffiti campaign was a colorful affair, in which our school shirt bore the maximum brunt. This was the time when people spoke their heart out, and wrote what they would have never said by mouth. All of us still have that shirt, one of the very prized possessions that we have, and whenever I am visited by Jawahar, it’s the shirt and the slam book that are there to share my sorrow.

Soon the last day arrived and Appan sir was at his generous best, and he was ‘generously sad’. He gave us a treat of Rosagullas and Gulabjamuns, and with moist eyes he gave us a speech on how he regarded us as the favorite of all the batches that he had ever taught. And soon we all were crying, the gals, the boys, everyone. We felt like we had lost everything in matters of hours, and we cried again. Bunty too had moist eyes, can’t imagine he too becoming emotional for anyone.

It took many a days to digest the fact that we would never be sitting again in the last benches, as we used to, for the past 2 years. Or that we would never see Bunty again, or that we will never hear the peculiar ‘Dear’rrr’ from Appan Sir, or there would be no Beena Mame to advice her.

The Green Bajaj scooter of Saurabh, which was always there to take us to school, the many a ‘Bhatwalas’ who with their ‘Bhatsuars’ (the bigger version of Auto) made it sure that we were never short of attendance, the scooter stand guy, there are so many people, so many things which made Jawahar a once in a life time experience. And the memories of Jawahar regularly visit me, and take me to the place where I was once a part. I may be a Maudlin and a Mawkish, but the human emotions are the best thing the humans have, and I am glad that I have these in abundance.

It has been nearly 6 years since I was officially separated from Jawahar. Whenever I got to Bhopal, I go to JLNS. I still hear the roars of 12 C; watch the Dogas, the Mishras and the other people of my batch walking towards the water tap, playing football or the the more common ‘Round disk” with Snehal, Preeti and Yogita. There I see Bunty walking down the corridors, ‘Ghoda’ shouting, ‘Anni’ joining in and there is Appan Sir, with a register in hand entering the class to be welcomed by forty-six people shouting in one voice “Sir freeeeee………………..

“Hotho pe Dosti Ke Fasane nahi aatey
Sahil pe samadar ke khajane nahi aatey;
Udne do Parindo ko shokh hawaon main,
Laut ke fir Jawahar ke zamane nahi aatey”

Thursday, January 25, 2007

An Individual's world

I finally got what I deserved; the hard work had finally paid off. I was crowned “Time‘s Person of the year.” Infact, not only me, but all of us were named as Person of the Year. This recognition has given me a sense of pride. It’s human nature to crave for recognition. There is nothing wrong in giving so much value to Recognition, after all an Altruist is an Altruist because other people see him Altruist and it’s the other individuals who decide “Altruism”.

Millions of people have been responsible for shaping the world. Its Political features, its Economic condition and its Social structure. One cannot point out a single person and say that “This was the human being who decided the dynamics of the world.” Politician, Entrepreneurs, Writers, Sportsperson are what they because of the numerous unnamed people who played small though a very vital role in deciding what they will become.

Subconsciously, unknowingly it’s we who are always deciding the future; what it will hold and what it won’t. What we decide is based on so many things; our expectations, our needs, our pride, our prejudice, our likes, our dislikes. It’s just like that we all are engaged in weaving a colorful blanket for the society, a blanket which instead of thread uses values like Faith, Religion, Democracy and Secularism. The blanket continues to take its shape, the old parts (the past) is destroyed and is worn out with the passage of time, that is what we call “History”. All these Characteristics like threads are like colors. For example let us presume that Blue color signifies Love and Red depicts Hate. So if we put more of the Blue color, we have more Love in the society. Although each one of us is working individually, still we are affected by the end result, because we all have to cover ourselves by the same blanket.
Michelangelo once said “Trifles make perfection, and perfection is no trifle.” It’s the minute things; the ones we tend to ignore that play important parts in shaping an individual, a society and a civilization.

There have so been so many unsung people, who did many a great work, but since they worked collectively, in groups, no one knows them. How about the firefighters who died in 9-11, what about those labors who worked day and night so as to make sure that by the next monsoon a road was built connecting a remote village of Bihar to the main town . Like so many people, there are so many instances.

In context of the ever changing world of today, we tend to forget, how vital role, we are playing for the world and for ourselves. The power of a single individual has often been subdued, save those who in spite of being an individual still managed to transform into an institution in them. Perhaps, Times, an institution has finally found out that it’s the “Us” that will decide the future.

For the love of kerwa

The one and perhaps the only thing which made me drive the 20 kms long drive from my home to my college was Kerwa. The picturous Kerwa.

National Law Institute University (NLIU),my Alma mater was situated in middle of a forest, away from the city and the urban jungle. We, its students, had the pleasure of being surrounded by three dams from three sides, and if some one wanted to meet a watery grave, our college was the place.

Whenever it rained, as in the sense of a ‘Bhopali Rain’ ( when it starts, it doesnt stops), each one of my classmates, me not excluded, had to confront the fear that today was our last day on the earth, and soon all the three dams would flow, overflow and then burst, drowning the whole of the Kerwa, the nearby Mindori village, the magnificent palatial bungalow of the local liquor king which was adjacent to the more magnificent, NLIU building. These were the times when my heart would long for a girlfriend, a ‘Rose’ ,for I didn’t truly like the idea of dying Jack’s death alone.

A landmass that has three large water bodies to quench its thirst, will naturally be a heaven for the trees, for the animals and not to mention the love-couples, who would come there to find some solace and weave their own romantic dream without anyone to disturb them. There were many other features of Kerwa, which would make our imagination run wild. The Rock cliff situated at a height of 250 meters was a place which the dopers, the jointers, the smokers and the boozers adored. The path to the cliff was treacherous, having its share of snakes and scorpions, but it had its reward. Once you would reach the top, you would be welcomed by the ever flowing breeze, due to which all the tiredness would vanish. The ever present faeces of wild animals would instill that fear of the unknown in your heart. The cliff was enchanting, inviting and the local ‘Mount Everest’. The feeling which you would have once you climed on the top was one which can only be felt, not described. The feeling of being at the top, with feet’s dangling in air was just unmatchable.

Then there was the dam, the Kerwa dam itself. It was not the kind of dam which had big sluice gates, rather it had five small iron gates, which were there just because they had to be there. The dam had an extended path, from where you could see the amount of water it stored, and that same path went right to the center of the dam itself, and that was one place which everyone turned to after he had just watched ‘Titanic’, and wanted to re-enact the scene of Jack standing in front of the ship and shouting ‘I am the king of the world’. As you further walked down towards the end of the dam, one would come across a temple, which not surprisingly was situated in a cave.

The best part of Kerwa was for those who were ready to go that extra mile, or those who were willing to take that extra risk. When you go to Kerwa, passing the ‘Kerwa kothi’, you need to turn right for the dam. Most of the people would do that, turn right, but people like us seldom take the ‘Right’ turn. We would go straight, passing the notice board of ‘Danger’. The road that I am referring to, would go straight and straight for about 4 kms, and after that there was nothing but forest, and a small river, no human , no sign of civilization, and more importantly no network for the mobile. The path was a ‘kacha road’, with many a curves and bends, curves which would make even JLo envious. On one side of the road were mountains of dense vegetation and big boulders, and on the other side was a valley, which fortunately never gave us the pleasure to experience how deep it ‘really’ was. As you would drive by, (walking was not a very good option. Cannot remember seeing anyone walking`, except on my farewell day, when I was roaming there on my foot, that too in the middle of night, which I regretfully would like to add was because I just had 4-5 bottles of beer ) you would encounter many a local residents, the peacock, the monkeys; the snakes which were always there without fail, and which even a blind man could never miss out. If you were fortunate or unfortunate, depending on your situation, you would have the pleasure of watching a wild-boar or in some very rare cases a leopard.

The whole of Kerwa was a thrilling adventure, you could visit it everyday, and still your heart would crave for more. It was at its best in the monsoon. Whenever it rains, Kerwa comes to my mind, and also comes to my mind is the new academic session which would start on the onset of monsoon, and which like Kerwa, was so promising.

When it rained, we just couldn’t stop our feet, and all our human instinct would push us towards Kerwa. As and when this would happen, I would take my car, which I now think was also ‘Kerwa obsessive’, and with Sandeep, Sumit, Patel, Churu and Dharma would leave for our epic journey (Kerwa was only 4 kms away), but not before we had taken the necessary stuff to last our journey, which would generally consist of a flask of hot steaming tea, 2-3 pockets of kurkure and more importantly packets of Wills navy cut. With Bryan Adams, or Attaulah khan to give us company, we would march towards our surrogate home.

When we were sad, or had something to sort out, Kerwa was our refuge. We would go there, sit on one of the many rocks, with our feet in water, and guppies to give us a ticklish foot massage, and would think or talk, as was required. The trees and the rocks of Kerwa are the beholder of many a tales and secrets. Secrets which they have shared through generations, secrets which were shared by our seniors and by us.

The nights in Kerwa were special, and only few had the privilege to attend a ‘Kerwan night’. The soft wind would be our lullaby, the stars our protector, and the trees and the rocks our friends and companion. Sometimes we had special guest appearance in the form of a wild dog or a monitor lizard, who on their way to dinner would give us a courtesy visit so as to make us feel 'comfortable'.

Kerwa was our very own forest, and when it was ravaged by the forest fire, we would do everything to stop it. We would catch the illegal forest cutters. And would attend to the snakes that like us, were resident of Kerwa, but who were hit by bikes & cars and were unable to find their way back home.

When a new academic year would begin, Kerwa would be ready for the newcomers, with its own new trees, green leaves and fresh flowing streams. So green, so wet and so inviting. As our session would end, Kerwa would show its grief too. The winds would howl like a beloved crying for her lover who is about to leave her, perhaps never to return. After 2-3 months of grieving, it would again become the old Kerwa again, standing with open arms to welcome the new people who had joined NLIU. Somehow Kerwa taught us the essence of life. People cry for their beloved and dear ones, for the departed. Slowly the pain recedes and life always moves on.

It has been a long time, since I left my college, but the memories of Kerwa is still afresh is my memory, as if it was just yesterday that I drove into the forest. The pleasent moist smell of soil and leaves are still fresh in my memories; I can still feel and see how the tress would ‘swivel’ in happiness when they saw us coming. It was a ‘mutual’ love, one between us and Kerwa.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Environmental degradation- PILs the answer?

Recently a PIL was filed in the Jabalpur High court against the deteriorating state of atmosphere in the City of Bhopal.

The PIL so admitted by the Hon. Madhya Pradesh High Court at Jabalpur comprising of Hon’ble Justice Shri AK Patnaik and Justice RS Jha is sure to raise storms in the administrative corridors as not only the State Pollution Control Board, but the Department of Food and Civil Supply, Union ministry of Petroleum and Gas and Ministry of Environment have also been impleaded as respondents in the PIL.

The PIL states that the main culprit behind the increasing pollution in the city of lakes, as Bhopal is popularly known , are the hundreds of public transport vehicles like the minibuses, three wheelers and the four wheelers which use adulterated medium of fuel, mostly kerosene.

The case of Bhopal is not a unique one; in most of the metros one can see minibuses using kerosene as an alternative fuel and in the process churning out emissions of dangerous proportion. The reason behind this is that kerosene is much cheaper than petrol or diesel being supplied at highly subsidized rates for the poorer sections of society. Thus using kerosene helps is reducing the cost of running as well as maximizing profit.

The law under the Kerosene (restriction on use and fixation of celling price) order, 1993 says that kerosene can be marketed only through Public Distribution System or through Parallel Marketers and it cannot be used for any other purpose other than cooking or for illumination.

According to the study conducted by the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India (ACCII), more than one-thirds of the subsidized Kerosene is being diverted for black marketing or adulteration by the owners of the Public Distribution System (PDS)(1).

Under Sec. 17(1)(g) of the Air Pollution Act, the State Pollution Control Board has been entrusted with the functions of laying down in consultation with the Central Board standards for emission of air pollutants into the atmosphere from industrial plants and automobiles or for the discharge of any Air pollution into the atmosphere from any other source.

According to reports available with the Madhya Pradesh State Pollution Control Board, out of the 25 cases filed by SPCB against various violators in 2006 , six of them are against State bodies, including the Madhya Pradesh State Electricity Board, the local Municipal Corporation, and the State hospital.

The recent PIL has stated that it’s due to the connivance between the various State Bodies and the Private players that environmental rules and laws are being openly flouted in the state, and the state bodies are at their wits end to explain that why no actions has been taken against the people using kerosene.

Is pertinent hear to mention that the Petitioner Swapnil Verma is a IInd Year Student of National Law Institute University, Bhopal, one of the premier institutions imparting legal education in the country and that he is being represented by Advocate Siddharth Gupta , another product of the same college practicing in Supreme Court.

Its very encouraging sign to see law graduates from the law schools finally giving more important to the social cause, than individual ones. It’s not uncommon to see Law students preferring private law firms instead of going for practice in Bar. A lawyer practicing in the bar may not earn that fat sum of money, but the various noble thought that are inculcated in law schools regarding working for the society and poor can only be attained in the bars.

The government officials in this country suffer from the age old habit of going into deep slumber and it’s the tools like the RTIs and the PILs which can wake them up.

PIL, a tool given birth to by Justices P N Bhagwati and V R Krishna Iyer, sometimes has been accused of as a medium to make cheap publicity or for settling personal scores, but those who have used it for the benefit of society will tell you a different story, ask M C Mehta or the second year student, Swapnil Verma who is the brainchild behind the current PIL.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Will the meek ever inherit the earth?

Earlier in the 90's when India had just ushered in the new liberalization policy it use to be a fight between the state government and the opposition, but Nandigram and Singur have shown that finally the concerned section of the whole deal, the peasants and the landowner have got some due and recognition. The investor and the big companies have nothing to lose, simply because they don't come into picture until the land has been acquired and transferred to them.

In episodes like Nandigram and Singur, there are mostly four different parties, are involved. The State government, the Investor, the Opposition and finally the displaced, people who even after having everything at stake, are the last one who always manage to squeeze in, though 'just'.

It's a toss between economic development at the cost of displacement on one hand and status quo at the cost of economic development on the other. The only thing which tilts the balance in favor of such land acquisition is that there is no precedent which has given out a message against taking land, wherever this has been done, prosperity has followed, be it Bhopal, (not UCL; but BHEL) or be it Bhilai.

The above two episodes have also shown that love for one's own land is stronger than say, love for a political party. The leftist government in Bengal has been ruling the state for many years now, and it has been an unchallenged one. Still it faced resistance from the very people which voted it to power when it started the acquiring process. I now heard that the process has been shelved, and from Nandigram it has moved to Barasat-Sonarpur area, primarily because the government expects less resistance there.

Similarly when Sumit Sarkar, a staunch leftist vented his opposition against the acquisition, it showed that individual ideology is more loyal then the party ideology, and Mr.Sarkar deserves accolades for voicing his opinion, even though it was against the party mood.

Facts can be manipulated, hidden away, but still they can't be completely erased. The left government when confronted on the issue of forcible acquisition said that people were giving their land voluntarily and produced affidavits to further strengthen its argument, though it's a different story that most of the person shown to have filed the affidavit weren't having any land in the contentious area.

We saw a senior Congress leader who is also a Union minister driving pillion on a motorbike, which showed his urgency to meet and sympathize with the people of Singur who earlier had faced the police ire. Sadly that same feeling of being a people representative was missing in the case of Nithari, which was much closer than Singur, though later we saw some of the political heavyweights coming to Nithari, playing the usual and customary blame game and leaving with a word or two of condolence, but by then the damage was already done.

After every such incidents when the common man is at the receiving end, politicians are always their to make their presence felt. In Nandigram is was at the expense of people who were being displaced, it differs, sometimes its at the expense of people who have suffered due to riot, and sometimes its at the cost of a father who has lost his child. The reasons is never the same, it always differ. But the politicians do turn up, without failure.
In the end it always boils down to the stakes involved, not the human, emotional stakes but the political and materialistic one.

Abhinandan Mishra


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