[Since my posts rarely generate any flames, or follow-ups I must be doing something wrong! May be I should say that Naxalites are really blue thereby answering the KT’s subject line Naxalites and their true colors … that has been haunting the net for ages. May be I should ask the mother’s maiden names like those folks who ask for the caste. May be I should flame one of the popular heroes of AP whom some members of net consider a minor deity in the Indian pantheon. May be I should … ]
Consider for a moment. It is six in the evening. The sun is setting in the distant hills. The scorching heat is slowly receding. The stillness of the air is punctuated with a cool breeze. The breeze is filled to the brim with thick tropical scents, jasmine, sannajaaji.
You are sitting in front of the house, under the neem tree. It is the very same neem tree that you remember climbing as a child. Now of course, you can reach the twigs from the ground itself. That provides for your daily tooth brush, naturally.
The people are slowly stirring out of the houses. This is the time to sprinkle water in front of the houses. Without fans, it would be impossible to sleep in the houses tonight. Inevitably, the outside has to be prepared for sleeping.
Water, in general, is scarce. Fortunately this summer, the tank still has water. You remember that some years ago water had to be carried from half a mile from the canal.
Men are gathering under the tree. This is an unwritten rule that only men are allowed to get together there. Not that the women care, anyway. They have their own meeting places like under the coconut tree in somebody’s yard.
One of the men brings a radio to the gathering. The local news is heard and dissected, with searing cynicism. These folks really don’t believe in the beneficial role of the government. Why should they? Even after the independence, they did not have electricity, or a school. Surprisingly there is no bitterness in their criticisms. They have accepted the status quo as the way world works.
They comment on the people walking by. They see a person with long hair wearing pants walk by. One of them recognizes him as the son of veeriah studying in Guntur. They think that he forgot his roots. There is nothing more than that they hate. They make fun of his attire and attitude. One of them tells a story, how he was in Guntur and that college student didn’t recognize him in the market. The story culminates with the sarcastic dialogue hurled at the hapless boy: You must have seen me in the megapolitan city Sowpadu!!
Despite such simple pleasures, they are not a mean lot. Their sorrows are simple. Their joys are a bit complicated. They do not suppress their jealousy. With all these conflicts, they are like a bunch of travelers on the space ship, Sowpadu. Whatever it may, they know that they have to stick together.
The only sport they like more than making fun of the passers by is playing cards. Being very careful about money, they do not bet on the cards. Of course, passions flare and pedigrees insulted, but no financial harm done.
Then occasionally there are announcements of events. The village announcer, carries a _dappu_ and goes around shouting in all the streets. It could be for a meeting on the new canal, or a drama being staged somewhere in the village.
If is really a big drama, like the ones written by M.A. Bhasha, there would be even bigger announcement. They probably would come on a bullock-cart fitted with loud speakers, informing about the event in the standard phrases. But then, there can be at most two such dramas a year! They cost money!!
If there is no such event, the meeting slowly dissolves. They all sleep early, you must remember. You are the last one under the tree. You carry the _nulaka mancam_ into the veranda, and prepare to sleep.
* * *
Miles and years away, you get up from your office and go to your car. You pop a cassette of dinner at homesick restaurant into the stereo player. While you drive out of the parking lot, a sentence fleetingly passes through your mind.
O people, my humble people,
what have I done for thee.
[Aug 11, ’94]