Tuesday, July 28, 2009

HALT 7/13

I think I should justify the naming of the blog. It takes us back a year, almost to the day.
I’m travelling by the local train to Madhupur, to catch the train the Kolkata and subsequently the train to Bangalore. This is my first journey by this train for years. Usually the journey is done by car.The monsoon has set in and has been bountiful, greenery all around. The train is a shuttle that makes the trip from Giridih to Madhupur 6 times a day. The compartment is crowded, no its filled up to the brim. Cycles have been hung up on the windows, bales of hay are strewn around the floor, milk cans are clanging from wherever they’re hanging, and people are stuffed together, held from spilling onto the track by the all powerful indian adhesive ‘adjust kariye’. The train stops at all the small stations en route Madhupur, most of them small villages where the Giridih workforce comprising of milkmen, labourers, masons, house helps stay. I peek out of the window trying to catch the name of the station, so far I know we’ve crossed Maheshmunda and Jagdishpur, the notable names in the small list. I can’t believe what it says. I rub my eyes and look again. The damn thing stubbornly refuses to change. Written in black in 3 languages on a yellow board, the board says HALT.
This happened a year ago, when I was a stranger in my own land, unaware of what it was like to be a Jharkhandi. That year though, I saw HALT only once, always wanting to see it again. I mentioned it to my mother, who said it was probably the name the Railways had given to the village, and the vernacular was definitely different. During the course of this conversation, we started talking about the unique things that are Jharkhand and how nothing has ever been documented or preserved. The conversation gathered heat and momentum and when it eventually did finish, I forgot all about it.

A month and a half back I was talking about HALT. It was then that my father later told me, that HALT was what it was supposed to be, a command for the train to stop at that point. It wasn’t the name of the station or any such misconception I may have gathered and was hopeful of sustaining. It was not a major station, junction or terminal. It was a halt for this train, and this train only. This revelation never deterred me, because when I sat on the train again and peeped my head out to watch the stations I noticed that there was another halt, but it was called, and specifically so , K.B.Sahay Halt. My station, the station that virtually started my journey into Jharkhand was not the same. It was Halt. Halt 7/13. 20 minutes from Giridih, for a 10 second stop.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Statues, neighbours and heroic struggles - Episode 2

In my second update for this title, we have a revolutionary who’s attained godly status in merit of his exploits in the freedom struggle. Birsa Munda or Birsa Bhagwan is probably the sole recognized figure from the state given due recognition across the country for his part in the freedom struggle. Bizarrely enough this man was born in 1875, long after the embers of the 1857 revolt were cooling off, to give way to a feeling of resignation towards their subjugated fate.His revolution is similar to Siddho- Kano’s with a similar set of objectives and ideals. Educated at a missionary school, Birsa Munda had been aware of the inferior treatment that his people suffered from a young age. The Permanent settlement Act decreed that all forest land was now the property of the British Empire. This resulted in Birsa Munda’s family losing all their possesions and being driven to the point of poverty. By his 23rd birthday, Birsa Munda had managed to put together a small army of his followers and attack and terrorise British strongholds in the Chotanagpur region. Interestingly, Birsa Munda wasn’t just a freedom fighter who rose against the empire, he was also a preacher who rose against Christianity, and its tax paying laws. It was these situations that prompted his rise from a mere rebel to that of a god-man, a healer and eventually god himself. His birthday appropriately coincides with the date of the formation of the state. Even today, Birsa Munda’s achievement in gathering all the tribal factions and getting them to fight against a common enemy is no mean achievement. He was eventually captured and put to death in 1900. Although his revolution came after 1857 and was suppressed and finally came to an end by the turn of the century, it resulted in a shift in the East India Company’s handling of the Chotanagpur region. Today Birsa Munda is commemorated all across Jharkhand, to the pint where almost everything of note is named after him (airports, stadiums, universities and the like). Worshipped as a God, revered as a revolutionary, and sometimes even called a bandit who happened to be in the right place at the right time, Birsa Munda is an essential part of Jharkhand’s history in the freedom movement and its folklore. This homage to the man was at Charhi, a small town in the Hazaribagh district.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

conversing in the car again

“Babu idhar sab gaon bahut rangbaaj hai! Hum log ka Mangrodih ab sudhar gaya hai!”
Driving to Rajrappa today. I have a different companion this time though. Sanjay Bhaiya comes from the village of Mangrodih, very close to where I live. I’m better informed now, having devoured a book on the state titled Inside Jharkhand. I can willingly and knowledgably enter into such discussions.
“Haan Sanjay Bhaiya! Aap ko pata hai idhar rehne vala sab bhumiar jaat ka hai. Un log naturally thoda ladaku hai.”
“Ek baat bataiye, Vaibhav Babu, Yeh Bhumiar log kahan se aaya. Saala in log jaat mein kahin fit nahin hota hai!”
Perplexed caught in a corner, with my tail between my legs I look left to see my dad smiling at me casually.
“Bataiye! I know you know the answer.” I grin at him.
“Jab Buddha ka dharam idhar Bihar , us samay toh Jharkhand Bihar sab ek tha… toh jab who idhar aaya na, toh bahut log dharam badalne lage.”
He stops, rolls down the window and continues.
“yehi, bahut din chala. Phir Shankaracharya aaye, aur Buddha ko idhar se bhagaya gaya. Iske baad jo bhi log convert kiye, they were asked to convert back.”
“Now when the reverse process was on, the Shudras went back to being the Shudras, similiarly the kshatriyas and the vaishyas fit into the ladder. Rahi baat Brahmin ki. Toh, yeh toh vaapas fit nahi ho sakta tha. They had quit Hinduism once, being brahmins so they couldn’t be allowed back into the fold like they were. Toh ek naya jaat banaya gaya. Who tha Bhumiar, fitting between the brahmins and the kshatriyas.”
“Toh yeh Bhumiar log aur Maithil Brahmin matlab ek hi hua?”
“haan! Yeh kaise pata chalta hai maloom?”
“Maithil ka brahmin ke liye jo bola jaata hai, wahi cheez idhar Bhumiar ke liye bola jaata hain.”
“what’s that?” I prod my father.
“Bolte hain… Agar raat ko ek Bhumiar aur ek saap mil jaye toh pehle Bhumiar se nipat lo. Saap toh dekha jaega.”
(If you ever encounter a snake and a Bhumiar at night, you should always deal and do away with the Bhumiar. The snake can wait for later.)
This is followed by laughter.
“Lekin Babu, aaj kal bhi gaon mein jaat ut bahut dekhta hai. Hamara shaadi hi le lijiye. Sab gothra (family tree) milaya jaat hai dekhta hai ki koi jaat ke bahar shaadi kiya ya nahin. Isliye toh humara shaadi itne door par hua hai.”
His wife’s village is about 90-95 kms from Mangrodih in a Naxal infested belt. I’m supposed to lunch there tomorrow.
“par Sanjay Bhaiya! Yeh sab jaat ka log toh jab kaam karne jaata hoga toh kuch toh niyam todna padta hoga.”
“haan babu! Jab sab city bombay, calcutta jaata hai toh ghar ka safai ka kaam, bartan dhona, kapda dhona. Bhumiar ho ya harijan sab karta hain.”
“Ab log padne lagey hain toh yeh samajik rukavat sab khatam ho raha hai. Acha hoga!”

Friday, July 24, 2009

Bol Bum

The onset of the monsoon witnesses one of the biggest events of the Hindu calendar, one that is closely linked to Jharkhand. The Shravan Mela. Thousands of Shiva devotees called ‘Kanvariyaas’descend upon the state from all parts of the country. Before the outset of the project, I had always dreaded having to go for such an occasion. Crowds, Sweat, Pushing mobs, Dirt and uninhibited blind devotion are some of the things that would keep me away. My visit though was a minor surprise. Apart from the regular doses of religious fanaticism that one witnesses in such a space, there were some notable sighters.
The Sharavan Mela pilgrimage is like a marathon. Thousands, men women alike collect Ganga water at Sultanganj and walk the 105 kms to Deograh to offer it at the Baidyanath Dham at Deogarh. Bol Bum is the chant used by the pilgrims.Groups of pilgrims walk the distance barefoot. Some groups, most notably the Dak Bum and the Krishna Bum (a group from Nepal) do thejourney within 24 hours. The Dak Bum does the walk within 16 hours (average). The rumoured fastest this year was a Nepali girl who did the distance in 10 straight hours. Quite the marathon. Right outside the temple is a medical centre which tends to injured feet. Appropriately placed too. The myth behind the festival is an interesting one too. I don’t want to hurry it up here. It has Ravana in it!
The day I was at Deogarh, the estimated crowd was over 2 lakhs. This was Tuesday, one of the calmer days. Monday, had ended with a lathi charge and 70 Kanvariyas injured. The atmosphere around the area was tense. Atleast in the police camp, which is where I sat waiting for my escort and close childhood friend Raju bhaiya.
Raju Bhaiya appears smartly dressed in the uniform minus the boots. He takes one look at me, my orange shirt (co-incidental) and orders a change.
“You’ll never be able to get in wearing that!”
“Why? Isn’t this supposed to be the colour of the season?” I asked grinning widely.
“That’s all fine. But if you want to get inside the temple today, you’ll be better off in civilian clothing.” He grins back
“There was a lathi charge yesterday?”I ask him waving the hindi paper at him.
“Arey! Don’t ask yaar. These bloody bol bums. Some of these guys just don’t listen.”He mumbles away about a magistrate who got hit by a pilgrim who in turn got beaten by a constable. The constable was later beaten up by a mob (“Dhar liya”). In retaliation the police force is deputed at the area and a riot ensues. I drift off the conversation and soak in the crowd and the atmosphere. Thousands of pilgrims are taking a dip in the lake before going to take their place in the 15km long queue. I can see the two temples. One for Shiva and the other Parvati. The area around the temple is filled with people, all dressed in saffron. Raju Bhaiya suddenly pokes me.
“All this is the Panda’s fault.”
(Panda refers to the pandits in the temple)
“Huh! These people bathing!”
“Tsk! Arey, if those fellows didn’t accept bribes and shovel people in the temple breaking the queue none of this would happen.”
“Oh! But I’ll be breaking the queue too today.”
“Arey! Firstly you’re not here for darshan. Take that orange shirt off. And second you haven’t bribed me yet.”
“Is Deograh always like this?”
“Haha. Thankfully not.”
Come July and sleepy Deogarh is transformed into a sweating, fanatic horde, of human beings. Hinduism descends in full force and normal life is lost. Maybe it isn’t. As displayed by the sweet shops that make enormous profits everyday. Most of the shops are establishments that are open only this time of the year. Raju Bhaiya reckons they sit and count the cash they raked in for the next 11 months.

All around Deoghar during this time, Bum – another name for Shiva- is sprinkled liberally in the use of the vernacular. “Paani Bum!” “Khana Bum!” “Side dena Bum!” are phrases you’re not supposed to raise eyebrows at. Vrinadavan does something similar too. They add Radhe-Radhe to everything. But adding a ‘Bum’ is stepping over the line. Not to mention hilarious, especially when you ask someone the way to the temple and the reply swings between “Aage se right mein milega Bum !” to “Mujhe nahi maloom kahan hain Bum!” . As with most occasions related to the God of Destruction, this one too prohibits the sale and consumption of alcohol before the ‘darshan’. The pilgrims don’t consider this a disadvantage though. Ganja and Bhang come at reduced prices, and at any rate are considered ‘healthy’by most who partake in it.

The pictures are up. Have your say.


I still haven't found a good way for commenting on the pictures.Any suggestions? Till I do so please post them up here.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Are you smarter than a grass grazer?


Take a guess.100 bucks and the commodity for the correct answer. Answers posted as comments will be accepted. Cheers.

A 'Hatia' is held every week in the towns, encouraging the rural population to come in and buy or sell commodities. Usually its packed with everything from spices to cows and buffaloes, vegetables and spades. This week's was a bit tame thanks to an incessant half a day of rain.
Once I managed to venture in, I was prompltly confronted and asked about the newspaper I worked for. All things said and done, I've managed to update a selection of the pictures.


Have a look

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Of barriers new and old

Across our country there is a lot of talk of barriers. Barriers of caste, religious barriers, economic barriers, cultural barriers, gender barriers, language barriers and the most recently high profile sexual barriers. Modern day Jharkhand’s vote bank consists majorly of the adivasis (the tribal population) and the Mahtos. The Mahtos are a caste which branch out into several different factions of their own. Disputes are aplenty and infighting is a must. Remids me of the corsicans in an Asterix story. It was the combination of this vote bank that led to the formation of Jharkhand. In the rural, untamed, wild jungles of Jharkhand barriers are of a different kind.
I encountered a barrier today. One of the physical kind. The kind that goes up to let your car pass and when down asks you to stay put. A harmless looking bamboo tied to a string is what disrupts the otherwise peaceful and extraordinarily scenic drive from Dhanbad to Giridih.

This barrier stands at Taratand, where a police convoy guides you till Mohanpur. Between Taratand and Mohanpur is a stretch of forest, extradorinarily great to breathe around in the morning, that is home to the Naxals. The area is notorious for robberies, hijacks, kidnappings and highway dacoitery. In the last few weeks, there have been several accounts of a marriage party having been looted, a minibus being blown up and most amusing is that of the Home Guard Office not too far from where I live being ransacked and its arsenal emptied.

The convoy has been made stronger. Earlier it consisted of a few policemen hitching rides with the waiting vehicles. An armoured car has been arranged. One guides the vehicles across both ways and another is constantly patrolling the area. The stretch itself is only about 10 kms. No cause for concern there.I’ve seen this since I was a kid. It’s routine. You always try and reach Taratand before dusk. If not you have to wait for the first convoy. At 9. We missed the 9 o’clock that day. Instead we sat there till 11 eating litti and chokha. More about that, when we talk of cuisine.

Friday, July 17, 2009

A marriage that took 4 years

Let me tell you a little bit about Siraj. Born in a very large impoverished muslim family, he came to an aunt’s house as a little kid. His mother was a house help and little Siraj was a good companion for all the boys of the house. I remember going there in the evenings and playing football every evening. Sometimes in the summers he used to take my aunt’s son and me to a mango orchard nearby. We never really ate too many mangoes but it was an enjoyable experience anyway. We always believed he knew the place’s owner. Obviously not. One summer we were caught sitting there and my aunt was duly informed. All I remember of the episode is a lot of shouting and screaming, most directed at Siraj and some towards her son.
Then I came back from boarding school one summer and Siraj was gone. I never paid too much attention to it. Theirs was a huge joint family and the servants were often attached to a small part of it. He probably moved when they left for Patna. My aunt's son and I busied ourselves playing football videogames now and gradually forgot about him. I have to admit, I never asked for him, although a month later I overheard my mother talking about how he was about to be married. That put rest to any doubts I’d had about him running away.
The next time I met Siraj, he’d sprouted a beard. He insisted it was deliberate, but I was of the opinion that it was there due to nature’s insistence. We nodded at each other and shook hands. After the regular greetings asking of each other’s health, I ventured to ask him where he’d been. He grinned widely.
“I’d gone to get married, Vaibhav!”
“4 years you were getting married?”
“A lot of things happened in between…. I was…..”
I never got to hear about what happened “beech”mein. He was called inside the house for some errand and turbulent teenager that I was, I quickly forgot about it and never mentioned it again.
That was 8 years ago. Jharkhand was one year old. I was 14, and Siraj in his early 20s. We’ve had a lot of polite encounters since, nothing more than a few words. The ducks changed all that. Now that I’d provided him with a reason to laugh at me, I could freely converse with him again.
We were sitting in the verandah again. Darkness has descended and he’s got some free time which he spends noisily sipping tea.
(The following conversation has been translated into English)
“Siraj!You’ve left for a long time to get married.”
“Haha! To get married. I was gone for 4 years Vaibhav. I did a lot of things.”
“What things?”
“I went to jail for one….”
“Jail! Hahaha… caught for thievery?”
Sera looks at me quizzically.
“Vaibhav! You really don’t know too much do you? You should sit and watch these ducks man. Maybe they’ll do it again.”
Sera got up and started to leave. At the door he stopped.
“I had joined the AJSU. Got caught in Gumla for provoking a riot. Two years I was in jail. Babu got me released when Jharkhand was formed.
AJSU. The All Jharkhand Students Union. Founded in 1986, the organization was responsible for changing the way agitations were held for the demand of a separate state. Disillusioned by the infighting and turmoil in previous Jharkhand political parties the AJSU were responsible for more militant agitations in Jharkhand in lieu of the demand for a separate state. By the 90s though aligned with the Jharkhand Mukti Morcha the AJSU were contesting elections under JMM banner.
A few days later Siraj was the one who got my cup of tea. Better armed, more knowledgable and in the mood for a conversation, I picked up from where we’d left off. Although cagey about talking to me after our previous debacle, Siraj told me that he’d joined the Jharkhand Qaumi Tahrik as a party worker on the insistence of some of his friends. The JQT was a one of the first organizations to voice the demand for a separate state. Riding on the popularity of the AJSU, they blended into the same during the time of the protests. It was during one of these protests at Gumla during a lathi charge that Siraj had been arrested and put in jail labelled a ‘terrorist’.

I asked him how he hadn’t been released sooner. Most captured during the riot were released on bail or on dropped charges.
Slowly Siraj got up. He picked up my empty cup and looked at me.
“A thousand people must have been put in jail that day. The people who got released were all, big shots in the party. We were just workers. Truthfully, we had been told to react to violence with violence. So, we suffered. You could say I got what I deserved. Anyway, all that is done now. Jharkhand will soon be 9 years old. A lot has happened since, but not much has changed. Our lives are pretty much the same.”
He walked off. I looked out into the evening, trying to think about all the things that had happened. I tried to piece together our conversation, wondering what I had missed. It was only when the azaan started that I realized what Siraj had meant.

Thursday, July 16, 2009


In retrospect Siddho- Kanno’s revoltion does not seem as much a revolt against the system as it seems like a push to regain a society’s identity. The revolution was a failure, the British forces massacaring the Santhal troops into submission. Life goes back to normal till a certain soldier in Barrackpore decides to not chew on a cartridge. Jharkhand’s revolution is brushed aside as an aberration and a century later modern India is ushered into a world of light and freedom stroked by midnight and her gentle hour.

Come the dawn of a new millennium and Jharkhand is formed amidst great confusion. State formed. check. Government installed. Check. Formation day declared as holiday. Check. School syllabuses revamped. Check. Statues installed. Check. Identity formed.
Identity formed

“Tell me Vaibhav ! Where are u from?”
Ranchi. Actually its a small town called...
“Hmmm...... Ranchi. Thats in Chattisgarh right!”

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The first mass movement in Asia

30th June 1855
The boy sticks his head out of the bush and looks ahead, careful not to make any noise. The British troops are standing at the bottom of the hill showing no sign or eagerness to move up into the dense forests. Well, why would they? Having suffered numerous losses in the unknown interior the cowards now want to stick back and wait for us to attack first. Slowly creeping backwards he rushes back to the rebel army’s gathering point.

There is a stillness in the air, Chand notices watching the warriors around him sharpening their arrows, tightening bow strings, the nervous ones twitching their heads at the slightest sound.”He watches as the last messenger boy runs in to tell them that the Goras were waiting at the foothills. Chand watches as his brother’s face erupts with delight. The gentle, caring face transformed into a mask for passion, and vengeance. Lifting his bow, the massive frame rises and bellows their war chant with enough power to cause the birds on the trees to take flight. His army of santhal warriors responds with equal vigour.

“Kanho!Chand! Bhairon!Mimai!”

The three brothers shouted back in unison. Chand looked around trying to find Mimai Manjhi’s face in the crowd. He could have sworn they had started off from the village together.

The British officer in charge of the war station at the foot of the hill barely looked up as he heard the war cry. Carefully placing his tea cup back on the table, He rose dusting himself before he got out of the tent. The commander and the captains of the forces had made themselves available to him at the entrance.
“I want no soldier to load bullets for the first rounds of fire. Fire blanks at them .Wait for the rebels to come to the foothill. Once they’re within our sights, it should be easy picking. Use the cannons, the elephants, all that we can. No quarter to be given to any survivors.”

They descend down the slope, raining arrows on the company’s soldiers. Known for their accuracy and power the arrows rip through bodies leaving them mutilated, scarred or dead. In retaliation the troops fire their cannons and their guns, weapons the Santhals have never encountered before. They suffer no injuries. Its as if a shield is thrown between them and their oppressors. Siddho stops in his tracks, stunned by this development. He waits and watches the troops aim and fire again. Nothing. Not one rebel falls.
“Thakur is watching over us today. Nothing will stop us from driving these dogs back to their kennels.”

Chand watches in disbelief at the British troops falling at their arrows. He never blindly believed in God’s will and his mission, but watching this miracle he couldn’t conceal his admiration for the almighty. With a loud yell he raced down towards the enemy soldiers.

Siddho raced down shooting all the while, but kept his eyes wide open for any suspicious movement from the British. They were cunning, he had admitted to himself a while ago. He watched as they went through the routine again. Dropping their guns, pulling a lever on the side, lift it up and fire. Wait a minute. They had done something different this time. They hadn’t been firing bullets all this while. Suddenly Siddho realised what had transpired. It was too late now. They were going to be butchered, massacred. Every last one of them.

Chand was one of the first to reach the bottom of the hill. Pumped by the adrenaline that war generates in soldiers he had failed to notice the warriors falling all around him. And then the first bullet struck him. He had never experienced such a sensation. It was as if the wind had been knocked out of his body and yet somehow managed to pass through him. He was close enough to a British soldier to use his spear now, a few more paces. He felt the bullet go through him again and again. Three times before he fell to the ground.

Two days later after the soldiers had pillaged, burnt and destroyed all the villages in the area, they gave up their search for Siddho. A scout was sent with a message for the Governor in Calcutta telling him of their triumph. The Governor’s secretary filed the letters away, dispatching orders for the capture and execution of the leader.


Siddho and Kanno managed to escape the battle commonly known as the Santhal Hul. Chand and Bhairon were killed. Betrayed by Mimai Manjhi Siddho was finally captured and publicly hanged in Panchkathia on the 7th of December 1855. Kanho managed to avoid capture and was influential in spreading the revolt towards Bihar and Bengal. Eventually though he was located and executed in February of 1856.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Siddho-Kano (the promised episode)

For Siddho Murmu, revolt and violence was the last form of resistance. Born to a Santhal family in the earlier half of the nineteenth century, he was the first child of the family. Three more were to follow him. In a time when the zaminadari act was working like a well oiled machine, the four brothers Siddho, Kanno, Chand and Bhairon were born of lineage that were the sufferers of the system.
Santhals naturally attached to their land, were inhabitants of the area of Northern Jharkhand which falls outside of the infertile land of the Chotanagpur plateau. Christened the Santhal Pargana, northern Jharkhand has been the agricultural haven of the region for centuries. During the British rule, due to the introduction of the zamindari act and permanent settlement in the area the indigenous population were driven from being autonomous owners and farmers to mere labourers, heavily in debt most of the time.
The archives present us with enough material to believe that the revolt didn’t start off abruptly, but was in fact caused by the indifference shown by the colonials towards the Santhal protests. Petitions and letters to several members of the bureaucracy passed back and forth with no result.
Such was the background Siddho and Kano found themselves growing up in. Religion has always been a old method of uniting people towards a revolt in our country and Siddho – Kanno were no different. The extermination of the British from India was preached as a mission of god. Leads us to wonder how different god’s missions are nowadays. The big fellow has lost his way in today’s mesmerising and complex world.

Picture of The Jharkhand Telegraph 12 May 2009

Briefly Jharkand

Most of you probably don’t know what Jharkhand looks like let alone the places in it so let me get on with the history- geography a bit. Situated below Bihar and West of Bengal (funny eh!), Jharkhand includes the region commonly known as the Chotanagpur plateau, famous for its mineral wealth, majorly in the form of coal and iron ore deposits. Common sense tells us that agriculture is difficult to practice in the area. Northern Jharkhand though has no such worries. The area referred to as the Santhal Pargana is the food belt of the state. Pre-independence Jharkhand existed as Chotanagpur and Palamu, both independent in territory required to pay tribute to the Mughal Emperor. They held their own courts, maintained an independent army and administered their own form of justice. When the ‘Diwani’ of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa was handed to the East India Company, they comfortably assumed Chotanagpur and Palamu were liable to pay revenue to the company. A society lost its identity and a state was completely obliterated off the map. It’s all been downhill since.

Monday, July 13, 2009

....king ducks

It was a hot, humid afternoon typical of most places in Jharkhand and I’ve been sitting in the veranda for a while now coaxing a cup of tea down my throat. Extremely still and lazy, the afternoon lull has hit everything around. The place I sit overlooks an open area that is home to cows, ducks, chickens and dogs, most of them using the afternoon lull as an excuse for their lethargy. As I sat watching, a pair of ducks start racing around in front of me, one chasing the other. The chaser is the bigger of the two, and eventually succeeds in catching the other and pins it to the floor with its beak. It hoists itself on top, raises one leg and then it happens, its penis appears, a bright, wet pink thing as long as a thumbnail. The chap flaps his tail feathers for a while and then tumbles off, a baffled look on its face. I had had no idea ducks had penises and vaginas.
I happen to look up and see Siraj standing in the doorway watching me. He starts laughing.
“Tum toh film jaise dekh rahe ho yaar vaibhav. Pehle kabhi nahin dekha hai kya.”
“No!” I shake my head.
The laughter grew louder and I try shrugging my embarrassment and join in. He takes my cup and leaves still laughing his head off.
When I’m leaving every worker in the house has a smirk on their face as they cross me.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

idle talk

I still haven’t been able to figure why Chandra Bhan Singh calls me ‘babu’. Towering over me at 6 and a half feet, with bulk to match, he is affectionately called Saral by everyone. Saral directly translates into nimble, and I can promise you he is anything but nimble. For no fault of his whatsoever. Saral bhaiya is complaining about a sudden loss in his appetite. He’s been eating 12 mangoes in one sitting but doesn’t feel hungry for ‘food’. Whatever that means.
We pass a black Mahindra classic. Everyone in the car turns to look at it till it disappears.
“Babu! Jharkhandi log ghoda bandook pata nahin kahe nahin rakte hai. Bihar mein aadmi ke paas paisa aane se bandook, ghoda dhain dhain aata hain. Jharkhand mein aisa nahin hai.”
I forgot to mention. Three guys at the back of the jeeps were carrying guns. One was definitely as ancient as a scottish blunderbuss.
“Saral! jharkhandi log shant swabhav ke hain. Kahan saala jharkhandi bandook kharidne jaaega, khana milna mushkil hain.”
“Shaant swabhav! Naxalwadi toh har jungle mein ghusa hua hai appa!”
“Oho! Naxals are a different people altogether.”
“Maloom hain babu? Burhi ke paas kuch saal pehle, force gaya tha gaon mein, nikaal ne. Tabri sarson ka kheti chal raha tha aur sab log fasal nikal rahe the.”
“sarson ka kheti! Jharkhand mein.”
“Haan! Burhi to lagbhag Bihar hi maan lijiye naa! Hajipur chapra se jada door nahi hai.”
“Toh inlog sab kya kiya ki sarson ka fasal utha liya aur force ke naak ke niche se hi nikal gaya. Sab bhaag giya.”
A roaring laughter follows the tale
“Haan! Us samay they didn’t trouble the villagers. Tab unlog sach mein people’s movement tha.”
“Hmmm... now ?”
“Now what? Now they’re terrorists.”

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Statues, Neighbours and heroic struggles.

There’s been a lot of talk about mishandling of government funds, corruption and some statues creating trouble in our neighbouring state’s public parks. Recent reports suggest that the SC has washed their hands off this citing that if the assembly had passed such orders there was no question of there being any interference from them. Need I point out that the statues are of Mayawati herself. In all this hullabaloo surrounding the statues people wonder why Kanshi Ram hasn’t been honoured with the same.
Jharkhand isn’t short of heroes to make statues of, I noticed today(contrary to ignorant opinion). Most of them are recognized for their contribution to the freedom struggle. Hazaribag pays tribute to two of the first ones to revolt against the British, Siddho and Kano. I remember Jug Suraiya writing for the Times of India in the Subverse section about how statues are more derogatory than respectful to the people they are erected in the memory of. Something on those lines anyway.
I’m sure Siddho-Kano will be happy to know they are still revered if not remembered today. More about them in the next episode.

Friday, July 10, 2009

conversations in the car


We’re driving down to Ranchi thorugh an alternate less used route. The road is full of potholes (a reason why no one uses it) and the climb is steep. A faint drizzle has started. There are fields on both sides. Beautiful green, lush fields, small hamlets (very british!) and small hills. I try sticking my head out of the window expecting a nice breeze to greet me and encounter thewindow glass on the way. Everyone in the car suddenly notices my presence. I massage my forehead embarrassed.
“Haan Appa!”
“Dekho! Jharkhand dekh rahe ho.”
“Tab se toh dekh rahe hain appa! Suddenly aap ko yaad aaya.”
“Arrey! Tab se toh tum aur jharkhand dono so rahey the.”
“Kahan Raghavan babu! Bangalore toh aurho sundar hain.”
My father and me smile wryly at each other.
Remind me why I’m doing this project again.


“Tell me. Why have I heard of Daltanganj.”
“Manne ki! What do you mean ‘why have I heard of it?’ You just saw a signboard.”
“Arrey! What is it famous for?”
A chorus of voices reply back
“Poverty, injustice, feudalism, tribal exploitation. Aur kya !”
The chorus is followed by laughter.
I am in a car with a couple of my dad’s friends driving back home after a nostalgic ‘bachelor’ dinner. It’s been an interesting evening, where the theme of discussion has been my sudden interest in Jharkhand, frequently punctuated by all things 70s.
“Feudalism! Matlab. Still existent?”
“Ummm..... not anymore I think.”
“Ek Mahuar jaat tha. They used to whip the indigineous tribes and treat them as slaves.