India of Stories

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The rain was pouring down. I and my uncle decided to stop at a shanty Dhaba along the roadside which served nothing more than just black tea, few pan masalas and bidis. Seeing us the person who was running this poor establishment cleaned a small bench, and asked us to sit. I saw his face bright, glowing with happiness. We were sitting there as he approached us again with two cups of black tea saying “Bhaiya chai pii lijiye abhi baarish nahi rukne wala”. I said to him that we didn’t ask for tea or anything, to which he replied that “bhaiya ee mausam me chai acha lagta hai”, smiled and went behind the shack busying himself again with his chorus. We sipped our tea and waited for the rain to stop. After a few minutes, the heavy rain gave way to drizzle, and we prepared to leave. We still had to cover 40 km for home. My uncle extended his arms to give him the money. He stepped back and replied, “Are bhaiya aap thodi bole the chai k liye, hum toh khud se diye na.” Even after us insisting, he simply refused with a beaming smile. As we are about to leave he came again with a plastic bag in his hand, and while lending it to me he said “Phone ko rakh lijiye bach jayega.”

We were on road now and my mind was continuously thinking over the whole incident of empathy. It was me, road, rain and this beautiful incident in my mind. Suddenly, heavy rain took over the sky. We again needed to stop. This time it was a small household with a tree outside. I saw beneath it two people were already taking shed from rain. Darkness was all over the place with only lights of cars, trucks passing down the National highway. Let me tell you one thing about trees – they are good at hiding sunlight but when it comes to rain even they surrender. After a few moments, a middle-aged man came out of the house and asked us to sit in his veranda – though calling that place a veranda is an overstatement. It was a middle size room which opens with the front door of the house. All four of us went inside, made ourselves comfortable on chairs and a charpai. Soon more travelers joined us. The middle-aged man gave each of them space under his roof, soon the number grew to 14 in that room. That man sat on the floor himself while letting each of us sit on the chairs and charpais. There was no electricity due to rain, he went inside his home, brought an emergency light back after which the inner courtyard of his home became dark. It appeared to me that there’s only one emergency light in his home and he that brought that here for us. I asked his name through which I got to know that he was from Scheduled Caste. Among the fellow passerby, there were Muslims, Brahmins, and OBCs under the roof of a Scheduled Caste. Yet everyone was chatting about common grounds that how this year litchi and mango is not up to the mark, how roads were back in the days, the effect of rain in nearby towns, how drainage system will again choke. Everyone was different and yet same at that moment. Nothing was volatile and I saw at that time how the world has stopped and identities of differentiations are breaking and taking a new shape, forming one single identity of being human. We were there for 2 hours and no difference arose in any of us. People were talking, chatting like they know each other from always. The rain stopped and we all went in our directions. I thanked the owner. He folded his hands so did I.

Picture credit: Farhan Siddique

Hailing from a third-tier town with extended joint family I grew up hearing stories of how people were helpful back in old days, how there were no distinctions between one and the other, how the society use to run as a family and how people help those in problems like it’s their own. The communitarian feeling was there. Though I didn’t face any hardships personally as I always had people who stand with me through thick and thin. But stories were there about people and their problems. I saw some, I read some and all of them were equally horrifying. With me, hate also grew and stories too and I never got to experience that community feeling out of the blue until this day.

I was there sitting at a Dhaba and then inside that home with 13 different people, listening to their talks, watching their acts and none made me see any differentiation. This whole incident made me fall for this country again. It made me understand the stories which my old relatives use to tell the tales all the time. I left the place believing that the Ganga-Jumuni thing still exists here until I turned on my Television.

 

 

Farhan Siddique, a person who tries to live life.

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