It’s another mundane Monday and the usual club of labor class people is hastily walking towards Noida. Among them, Janardan is also following the footsteps and making his way towards his factory. Busy in managing his tiffin and gait, he is giving a small thought towards shifting his base to Kolkata.
“More development is happening there. Labor is in demand. And I will be near Purnia. And my mother. Bhola will do well too” – said his mind. The plan wasn’t bad. His ailing 5 years old son too will be at ease and his pillia (Jaundice) can get treated with Jhara (traditional treatment). Medicines were taking a toll on his pocket by now. The day started with a thought provoking opinion.
While walking back to his home through the epidemic stricken slum area in labor chawk, Janardan was trying to think how he will convince his wife. Crossing the narrow lanes would take turns and twists and demand one to cover his mouth due to the unmanaged drainage system making a mockery at the hygiene system.
Sharda, “How will we pay back our debt? Just can’t leave this at once.”
Janardan, “Who said we are leaving just now. I am planning to shift eventually. You, bhola and gudiya will shift first; meanwhile I will sought out the loan.”
Sharda, “But how? Bhola is sick. Vomiting every moment and is struggling to even sit. I do not understand your plan. How can we go in the middle of this turmoil?”
Janardan, “I will do some overtime and pay back.”
Sharda, “I do not know what to answer to your plan. Do what you think is right. Bhola should get well, all that I want.”
Wife on being partially convinced, the debate reached a point where Janardan decided to book tickets to Patna for four of them. Four days of leaves, within that he had to fix his work, wages and seek an economic Vaidh (doctor in remote areas) in the village.
Tickets were confirmed. Patna Express, time – 5:35 PM – New Delhi station: So many plans, little money, unadulterated exhilaration and a perennial fear, Janardan knew his plans were for good.
Meanwhile, he was voraciously working hard on paying back the loan of Rupees 50,000 which he borrowed from the factory. Overtime and some more overtime! He was doing it all. Bhola was getting worse on the other hand. Recently, they even came to know the 8 year child in the nearby dwelling couldn’t survive for long and passed away due to Jaundice.
Shocked and shaken, Sharda hastily asked, “Nearby kid Govind passed away due to Pilia, make your plans fast. Medicines have exhausted long ago.”
Janardan,” Do not worry, Good things will happen. Have faith.”
Sharda asked, “To hell with your faith. I do not know anything. We have cut their education long back and now, we are cutting on their medicine totally. What shall I decipher from this? Seems your mother and money are all that you want.”
Janardan screams,”Kar to rahe hain. Jo ho paa raha hai. Yahan aur rahenge to mehengai aur karz maar daalenge.” (I am doing as much as I can. If we stay here for long, rising inflation and debts will kill us.)
The night went in sobbing and contemplating the plan.
The next day, Janardan while at work, spoke to his owner on shifting.
Manoj, “Gaon waapis jana to achi hi baat hai. Mana kisne kiya hai.” (Going back to native is good. Who is stopping you?”)
Janardan, “Saab jaane se pehle jitna ho paayega waapis dunga. Anyway, I will be coming back after dropping my family so whatever amount will be left, I will repay.” (Before going I will return the money as much I can.)
Manoj, “Good! But remember, the factory work will be affected. Kaafi saara kaam kar ke jaana hai.” (Lot of work is required to be executed).
Mean minded Manoj had several plans to malign Janardan’s noble idea. The latter was asked to work till the particular project was over. This required him to work on the day he had his train.
The day arrived.
Bags were packed. Bhola was given an extra warm wear and juice Sharda got from the place she worked as a maid. Gudiya hung to the other side of the mother eyeing the baggage and luggage.
On the other hand, Janardan was hurriedly working at the factory so that he could catch the train on time. Manoj who knew that certain amount was still left and there were full chances of Janardan to cheat, he continued to send more work.
Janardan, “Saab ji, time ho gaya hai. Ab jaane do. Vishwas rakho. Aajtak kabhi bharosa toda hai kya? (“Sir, let me go. Trust me. Till date, have I ever broken your trust?”)
Manoj, “Mana to humne pehle bhi nahi kiya tha. Ye pura to karo.” (I have never refused. But first complete this work.”)
Janardan while loading the packets said, “Gaadi choot jaayegi. Badi mushkil se ticket book hui hai. Paise lage hain” (Train will be gone. I have struggled to get the tickets. Money has gone in it.)
The conversation followed pleading and praying and eventually ended to an unhealthy feud.
5.45 PM. City was crowded as usual. Chaos and horns buzzing all around. Buses, cars and two wheelers were racing against each other to reach home. Making a gloomy turn towards home in the evening of December, Janardan was lost. Lost in a myriad of confused thoughts, he did not know what to do. How will he answer his wife?
And finally, he took the turn towards his rented shelter. A very disturbing silence welcomed him. Clueless eyes of Gudiya and ailing Bhola looked up to him. Wife was in corner, all crumpled and teary. The night went in an unwanted commotion of arguments and an explanation on why he couldn’t make it.
Train was missed and a new story began.
The next day morning, Nandan, Janardan’s friend at work came running to his place.
“God is gracious.” Nandan repeated several times.
Janardan, “What all happened?” Sharda peeped from the door.
Nandan said, “The train you were going to board met with a fatal accident in the wee hours of the night. Four bogies burnt and many are dead. One of the bogies was yours. How can you not thank heavens?”
Janardan threw the bidi he just had lit and looked behind at his wife. In a whirl of seconds, an unknown communication happened between the four eyes.
The day went in thanking and praying to god for all the good reasons. For two days, Janardan couldn’t stop feeling lucky till he realized that Bhola wasn’t anywhere fine. This time, he required medication.
A hubbub of thoughts and opinions kept passing by till a breaking news came flashing in front of the poverty stricken family.
‘Rupees 1 lakh will be given as compensation to the families who lost their near and dear ones in the accident.’
Janardan was blank at this. He knew, he wanted money. Nandan and Sharda discussed if any how they could get the compensation considering their names appeared in the casualty list.
Nandan, “I will go to the daftar (office) and claim myself as your brother. I think that will do.”
Sharda nodded and seconded the thought. Janardan remained quiet and confused.
After pondering for moments, he said, “They might ask you for papers.”
Nandan, “What papers?”
Janardan, “Arey hote hain kagaaz. Jaise janam, ration card, address ityadi.” (There are papers such as birth certificate, ration card, address etc.)
Nandan, “Arey to isme kya hai? Banwa lenge.” (What is the big deal. We will get them done.)
Janardan, “Aise kaise banwa lenge. Janam ke samay hi ban jaata hai. Humare ma baap ne banwaye nahi, ye kaun sune.” (How will you make it? These are made when we are born. Our parents did not make it, who will listen?)
What followed was huge arguments and yet it did not reach any standpoint. The family and the friend stayed blank. How will they goof up to the government that they are dead and still wanted money. Meanwhile, the news of them ‘being alive and yet announced as deceased’ spread like wild fire. People congratulated them and kept inquiring about their plans. A comedy of errors followed, fraud papers were developed and some more money was borrowed from Manoj, the factory owner. Bhola kept worsening to a situation where he would just lie down on bed and look at his father doing something he did not understand.
The fierce streak of giving an adequate treatment to his ailing son kept him moving. In this mayhem, somewhere life had become a cluster of mental and physical exertion.
Messy offices – unending queues – Babus – so many queries – insolent bureaucrats – Nandan and Janardan kept running from one corner to another. They were argued, demeaned and thrashed once for all the unfortunate reasons. Janardan was still in the queue towards the government office when a news came whispering in his ears.
Bhola was no more.
An uncomfortable silence! Janardan remained stood with a blank façade. Suddenly, the world looked like too populated where there were too many people everywhere, so many emotions intermingling with numerous hearts and minds. Janardan still stood in the queue.