Monday, July 30, 2012

Let The Stranger Alone II


The house has been in existence for some time, the oldest among the villagers remember it from their childhood. Its edifice is strong they say, though parts of it crumble and then mysteriously rebuild in time. How old is Madan Bhai? They can only speculate; the fellow did not belong to Badolgaon. He was brought in by the owner they say. Who lived in that house, you ask. They say, ‘Oh! It’s been lying unoccupied for a long time.’ There is a small hut not too far from the mystery house where Madan Bhai lives. Madan Bhai appears old but in that weak frame he has an agile body. The beady eyes shine in anger if you ask anything about the house.  Not even booze makes him talk about the house; seems like the ban on the subject has seeped deep in his subconscious. Besides Madan Bhai keeps himself busy in that house, seldom comes out for social interaction. Nothing changed in its appearance as well, so the villagers say. There are trees around the house but none tall enough to obstruct its maleficent fa├žade. Even though the house looks in prime condition, the space around it remains untended. This contrast only adds to its overall deathly aura.

The legend of the house spread across the country. Curious visitors would come and pass by without venturing to trespass its foreboding portal. There is a story of an adventurous visitor forcing himself into the house. People waited for him to come out, somebody came out, it wasn’t him the say and the fellow was demented. Well, you can take that story with a pinch of salt. The villagers here are prone to tell stories out of their fancy imagination. The aura of the house kept growing with the passage of time. It’s secret if at all there was one, rested in the mind of laconic and pugnacious Madan Bhai.  Several stories abound, the primary being it was built by some reclusive Angrej Sahib. The Englishman, a rifle slung over his shoulder, would stomp the jungle, hunt the wild animals that abounded there. The villagers were terrified of him although he did not interact with them. The man married a local woman as it turned out that the woman was a Bakki….. 

to be contd.....

Let The Stranger Alone


The new under constructions road cuts through the village, dividing it into temple side and the slope side. Temple side has the Panchayat Ghar, another house and the erstwhile ‘Daand House’ and barren agricultural fields once toiled but now abandoned, the other side constitutes bulk of the village on the Chandakhal slope. It is a picturesque setting for an outsider but inert piece of land for the villagers. Nothing happens around here for months …..

Even though the road is still under construction, it is not too far off from completion.  A curious structure, an equivalent of a ‘Haveli’ in plains, exists where the road winds around the ‘Daand House’ hill and then disappears behind it. The house is not neglected but in prime condition yet nobody lives in that house. It is remote, sits on a vantage point on the landscape yet detached from the activity of village although there isn’t much of it anyway. Villagers avoid looking directly at the house as if it were a living thing, a malevolent apparition. After nightfall the house remains dark save a window on first floor at end of left wing. The light is not too bright but its radiance dances on the window pane as if it is lit by a large candle. The house almost merges into the dark background of rising slope Chandakhal, become one with it. The overall impact is frightening. Even if it is not haunted, it still evokes a sense horror. Nobody lives there is the refrain of Madan Bhai, a limping geriatric, who is responsible for its upkeep. Why he does it, he refuses to tell, if he is paid for his services, he refuses to tell that as well. But he is quite emphatic, nobody lives in that house.

To be contd........

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Anna Hazare ,The Media and You!


When to Stop?

As a little boy I struggled for words. If someone asked me to write a couple of hundred words I would be completely lost; a cow has four legs, two horns, a tale and gives us milk blah-blah and that’s the end of a write up on a cow. Sometimes we would be made to sit on the ground on some fancy occasion like Independence Day when a hotshot government official would come and harangue us nonstop. Sitting under the hot sun waiting for the packet of ‘laddus,’ courtesy government of India, after this hotshot ends his discourse on morality and patriotism, I would marvel at the fellows ability to think up words and curse the same fellow for not knowing when to stop. Anna Hazare and his cohorts don’t know when to stop. All or nothing is zero sum game that nobody wins. All the goodwill dissipates when we feel exasperated at the snootiness of fellows unwilling to compromise. It was with the Baba Ramdev the first time over; three central ministers went to the airport to greet him, clearly the government was growling at his feet, he could have extracted some positive measures from the government for his cause but the stubborn stance ended in a resounding fiasco. Baba Ramdev ended up as another rabble rouser with considerable loss of credibility. If he had compromised, his influence and aura would have remained intact for future use. It is the same with the Anna Hazare, people empathize with his cause but are also impatient with their snootiness; my bill, my terms, my method no less. Even Mahatma Gandhi a thousand fold bigger persona than Anna Hazare disappointed the people for calling off agitation after Chaura Chauri incidence. So the trick is to know when to stop. The other guy will only concede to a point never all the way.

The Media

The media has whipped up a non-issue and put it up on the prime time discussion. It is like Picasso’s Guernica is on display and the panel of experts are discussing the frame of the painting. The issue is corruption and the empathy of the people with its eradication is well known yet the ‘Media’ is discussing the lack of substantial crowd gathering at Jantar Mantar. Our media apes the west and then moralizes; our culture, our values and our ethos are different. When Obama came to India, you would think heavier issues of real politics would be discussed thread bare but what you got was saturation coverage of items on the dinner menu. The whole thing was whipped in such a manner that it became a suspense thriller from Bollywood. There were scoops, reporters taking risk going into the sanctum sanctorum of the hotel and trying to eek out a response from the chef and chef predictably acting pricy about it. In the end of it all we were made to realize that the revelation that is was Hydrabadi Biryani and not Luckhnavi Chicken Tikka, was worth the wait.  This is our media

And You?

The entire act is for you. You are the central object of this exercise. Corruption matters to you and you are indeed incensed that no action has been taken for its eradication. You know that the people who will take action are themselves corrupt and will not move unless pushed to move. You like Anna Hazare for doing what he is doing and would like to contribute is some way. There is oblique inference in their effort that makes you guilty for not going out and supporting him. You are not to be blamed. You are doing what you are supposed to do. Average behavior is designed behavior therefore you are behaving in the manner you are designed to behave. It is OK to send SMS in support of Anna Hazare movement and also go out and peek at the gathering if you happen to pass through that place but to expect that you will take leave from your job and make effort to reach at the gathering in support of the movement is to say the least foolhardy. An individual runs cost benefit analysis in his head and decides accordingly. Sure send SMS in Anna’s in support, write comments in blogs etc. and generally help out if it is not too much bother. I say you are doing just fine so relax and cast off that guilt from your head. 

Friday, July 6, 2012

Bakki : Our own homegrown Oracle


Like other Asians, we too are a paradoxical lot; in part tribal, in part urbane perhaps a little more tribal than others. Think about the tradition of ‘parnaam’, the touching of feet of elders and the toll it takes on a child.  Marriage or other social gathering; a child is submerged in a crowd of old people mechanical touching feet of anybody who has wrinkles on his face. There is absolutely no sense of recognition nor respect, it is just a chore for him and the immediate urge is to get over with it. We have no compunction adopting western attire, eating habits, table manners blah blah but wouldn't let go our tribal mannerism. This tribalism manifest is several ways; existence and awe that a ‘Bakki’ evokes is one such instance.

Bakki is gender neutral i.e. it can be male or a female. Given the power they have on our psyche you would think they are a successful people like the doctors leading an economically successful life but you would be surprised. There is always a caveat in our system; good things come with a price. Bakki probably is corrupted derivative of ‘bak-bak’ or ‘bakwas’ having an Arabic-Persian root meaning idle gossip. Bakki as you can guess speaks, speaks rapidly, sometimes coherently sometimes incoherently which then is left to others to interpret. Bakki lets you into secrets of past and tells in advance future outcome of some tricky issue very important to you. If the outcome is not favorable then they also suggest means to amend the outcome suitably. In essence Bakki is a witch doctor providing remedy for sometimes unexplainable diseases or persistent issues that bother us  etc.   

There is a Bakki somewhere near Kotdwara, a Kala woman you can access her services through the courtesy of Manyawar Diwakar. Sir Prabhakar, Master Brajesh are regulars there. If you ask me, I am skeptical about this whole thing, I doesn’t quite gel with our rational thought.