Thursday, October 12, 2006

The Wedding!

Sitaram was confused. Judge was looking at him; Sitaram could sense a surprise in his eyes. “Are you sure you don’t need a lawyer and wish to confess your crime!!” he asked him again. Sitaram did not speak again but he nodded his head in acceptance. “You will answer the court, speak!” the judge changed pitch of his sound; he seems to be busy completing many pending cases for the day. If he hears him say ‘yes’ this case is done and he can directly put Sitaram for a sentence. To his utter surprise, Accused choose to be silent and just kept on nodding his head in anticipation.

Sitaram’s forehead was full of droplets, the sweat now started flowing down his neck and he did not bother at all, he was all ears and eyes for the judgment as if it’s going to change his whole life! Not quite far, in last ten months in his new job he could manage to win creditability of his Seth, the owner of the saw mill compound as an assistant to the mill manager but with his vision and visibility of business and inventory the was able to turnaround some lean 7 mean business areas into breakeven stories.

His dedication and desire towards his duties were unquestionable; the honesty he exhibited made others rethink their positions and elevated Sitaram’s impression positively. “No this waste should not be burnt! this is saal wood and will fetch large amount of cash if it is shredded and washed for the paper business” the first turnaround of what the traditional business called scrap was minting money for Seth earning entire staff salary for the saw mill for the full year. He happily presented Sitaram with a bicycle to reach the mill from his village 20kms away.

The mill area was near the forest and there was a huge potential for the business if the forest officers allow them to manage just about every piece of wood the mill has gathered as dead wood from the tender floated by the forest department. Sitaram remembered each and every nook and corner of the forest as his forefathers did, being a ‘adivasis’ (tribal people) representative he even managed to convince local government for letting the dead wood collected by adivasis and sell them to the near by saw mills, this would bring back lot of earning opportunities for the clan as well reduce forest fires reducing the fuel availability by way of dead wood, on the other side the mills will enjoy quality wood at no cost of pre-acquisition and generates revenue without capital investment.

It was early summer and the folks of adivasis could bring in tones of dead wood near the mill gate every evening, Sitaram used his skills to identify the wood and categorized it by type making it easy for redoing into slabs or even the chipping..

Judge looked at Sitaram and thought of giving up on him, he simply looked at the state lawyer and said”I want you to reread the charges filed and clarify your stand before I could conclude, I wish to give a chance for the accused to hear the charges levied against him load and clear!”.

The court could sense the discomfort in his voice and the audience most of which were connected to other cases but this was eager to see the rapid progress. It was the third case since morning and court was about to be at lunchtime. “He must be hungry’ someone at the learning lawyer’s bench murmured into other black coat’s ear. “it is straight five years for the accused now!!”

Then there followed a formality of reading 20 pages of court language where Sitaram was able to hear few known words like forest act, fire prevention, act of self motivation, he could spell the English words in five minutes really putting hard time since school he studies ages ago, seems he knew what the verdict could mean but still wanted to confirm at once.

‘Knock knock!!’ by the time the reading was over judge kept looking at the clock, which complimented everyone with a lunch-break. Sitaram was feeling tired, the very sensation of food just disappeared and he engaged into the wedding ceremony nearing by next week, his only daughter was getting married with a great alliance and he had ensured all will be well. He looked at the audience where his only friend from his village was sitting and looking at him. His raises his hand a bit and moved five fingers to touch at fingertips, “five more minutes!” as if he conveyed to his buddy. His friend nodded in anticipation, the man in the red shirt sitting besides him with a black pouch studded between his shoulder and chest spoke something in the ears of Sitaram’s buddy and went out.

Thirty thousand was not a big figure compared to his daughter’s destiny, the only family member left at Sitaram’s house; he remembered his wife dying al the local government hospital in last famine in ‘malnutrition’ case. He even remembered his last words for her with the wedding he desired for his only daughter. Then came this good alliance with promising future for his daughter in the catchments area of neighboring taluk, with lot of water and few guntha land to plow.. the cost of wedding was agreed by and between two fathers..

Seth was waiting in his air-conditioned car outside the court, the man with the red shirt rushed towards the car, Seth lowered the rear window glass just about the hear him, the man spoke humble to him, Seth kept listening, he took his cell phone out and called someone. ”Sirji, bas ho gaya! Judge maan gaya” ( sir, it’s almost done, judge has accepted!) As Seth was smiling, the man in red shirt moved away from the car safely keeping the black pouch in tightly held condition between his arms…

It was late afternoon, and Sitaram was being taken to the central jail for starting his fresh sentence. Judge was kind and granted only three years as there was mutual consent from Sitaram and seemed very cooperative. The state insurance board building had a man with red shirt to receive compensation Cheque favoring the mill, “it’s here in my hands sir” he called Seth and confirmed the amount ”Pure pandhrah lakh hai sir!, kaam barabar ho gaya” ( it’s full fifteen lacs, work is done properly), Seth kept the phone down and sat in front of his mandir, where a beautiful marble statue of lord Krishna was kept, he kept bowing in front of his lord and kept saying “Saab aap ki duva se bhagwan!!” ( by all your grace my lord!)…

Sitaram’s friend took three hours to reach the neighboring village with the black pouch given to him by the man in red shirt as soon as sentence is heard in the court! He reached the person and handed over the same as soon as he saw him, “ Malik! Siraramji ne paise phijwaye hai!” (lord, Sitaram has sent in the cash), the man peeped in the pouch and took the money out, he counted all the currency and nodded with a smile! Turning his head inside his house, father of Sitaram’s would be son-in-law shouted “Mithai laoo, sandesh pahunch gaya! ( bring some sweets, the message has reached!”…

The fire department lost three of their jawwans ( firemen) while bringing down the fire in the nearby Saw mill, which ruined almost everything in the mill, it seems the large collection of pricey wood gathered from the nearly forest under the state govt tender which was ready to be shipped out, was got fire from the Beedi ( Indian cigarette) lit by the employee carelessly. The local media covered the story and displayed the photo of the captured employee who intern was responsible for this fire…just a day before the fire large shipments of wood had left for the nearby port from the same mill under the forest officers vigilance, records for which were also burnt by the fire accidentally.

Sitaram who never lit a matchbox in his whole life, sitting in his barak ( cell) day dreaming his daughter’s marriage. He was utterly convinced that he got a good deal from his Seth, who came as savior to offer him this job and made his daughters future, after all it’s not easy to earn thirty thousand in three years with hard work…He hear all India radio news reader saying something in English where his Seth’s name was put in for a the national award for forest perseverance and innovative idea of dead wood collection being rolled out all over the state…it’s just 35 months to go!!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Promise

It was a sunny day and she drove her old age mini pickup in hurry towards the station late afternoon. As she passed the old level crossing few miles before the station she heard the train leaving the station. She was driving for hours sacrificing her food breaks since morning.
This is a great day, she said to herself. She even remembered now that how she forgot to leash the dogs and even kept the farm door open in a haste to reach. She always preferred once a while to have her wild cattle’s run into her own farm rather than outside where teen poachers who always kept strangling them for the fresh meat and leather. The risk seemed unworthy today. The day she had been waiting for was finally here. She remembered her childhood, sitting on the farm fence and looking at the trains passing by with her old father and talking about the travelers and the journeys …
The dusty road ran through the sunflower farms spread around, the gusty wind twirled up the dust painting the trees and shrubs with golden tinge. Here it came, the station. She saw couple of cars and pickup trucks moving around the cargo and few passengers. Then came the old farmer with his buggy ( horse cart) crossing her way, he waived at her and with one hand he managed to point towards the station with a smile on his face for her while the other hand engaged in tightening the leather leash binding the wild horses in a subtle discipline of the road.
She felt as if everyone now knows about her pricey possession awaiting her at the station. She pulled her pickup almost near to the cargo entrance and rushed into the section where she could see a big parcel of her ‘sunflower seed crusher’ wrapped in a tidy cloth packaging with her name and farm address printed with the red ink. She ran towards it, her hands were all-over the package just like cuddling her beloved dream. It took her several hours to complete the paperwork, pay off transportation charges, finding few men who helped her load the machine behind her pickup.
“Are you ok? Will you be able to unload it yourself at the destination: said the chap who was eager to help her organizing it to load?”; “its fine? I have few laborers down there who will take care, There you go!” she handed over few coins in his hands and slammed the door to return. She did not like him staring into her cleavage while she was closing the rear loading bay doors. He seems to be candid and kept on smiling at her...his golden hair indeed had some magic. “Life is tough!” She said to herself. She knew that she may had to wait till next four days that anyone will come to her farm to unload the stuff once she is back after a long return journey. But she preferred lying to this guy as she suspected him to be the part of the local goons and decided to avoid him altogether.
As she drove away from the station on her return, she kept on gazing in the rear view mirror. The guy kept looking towards her direction. His golden hair kept shining away in the setting sun.
This is not the first time that she has been bold to the strangers, as a practice she has managed the art of showing her self confidence and being aggressive as part of her biggest defense. Twelve years in the remote farm after her father’s death in her late thirties. She exhibited her first remarkable achievement to be the only one to own the seed crushing machine and to start her very own oil factory in the territory. No one has ever even dreamt of such desire. Shouldering the responsibilities of her large farm solely was not only difficult at the adolescent age but demanded lot by sacrificing all the fun in her demanding age and working towards fulfilling the promise she made on the deathbed of her beloved father…she was almost day dreaming by then!
KRIIIIIIIIISH! The vehicle came to a grinding halt as she tried managing a deep turn and the rear wheel seems to have divorced the well run business. Luckily she managed to control it with great skill and effort, and just halted it just before the abandoned check post. Just about twenty-two miles away from her farm and at least an hour long good walk to the next juncture to the nearby garage. She was helpless. The wheel base was piping hot and vaporizing, she realized that the wheel base was jammed with the broken brake sole and gave up.

She went back to pickup the loose tyre where she spotted some thing broken besides the wheel nuts! She realized that it must be the crafty act of someone doing something to the wheels!! She failed to notice that it is the brake drum which broke. She continued her imagination, blame game!! The first face which came up on her mind was ‘Him’, the guy with golden hair…it must have been him, he must be on my chase, he looked stranger and must have done this…or he could have be sent by those poachers, local goons…god knows!!
Her mind was contemplating the distance, task in hand and the setting sun. The loneliness while was her pal for some years now had just turn away inculcating fear of being young and alone into her fast imaginative mind. The spare tyre was of no use as the vehicle needed a complete overhaul of the rear axle and the wheel assembly. Her heart started beating fast; she looked around to see no one for miles. Her farm seemed far far away to reach…and she had no answer for the current situation...
Deserted road was still playing with the wind and twirling the grass. She felt trapped in situation, the new machine after years of savings and craving was right there in front of her not letting her leave it unattended to reach out for help and on the other side setting Sun and the her farm which required her to be there for the evening activities safeguarding it. She was trying to keep her cool but anxiety was taking the toll. About few hours or so that she kept waiting for someone to pass by for help…but no one turned up! Clock kept ticking and her mind kept playing with all evil ideas and characters she would have been afraid of thinking, she was tortured with almost insecurity and deserted feelings…
Sun was almost setting, it was bit cold so she pulled old rag from beneath the front seat and wrapped herself, as she continues to wait, it had been at least five times that she got down and went on to reanalyzed the rear wheel, as if she would get some extraordinary innovative idea, but luck seem not favoring her intellect! She was broke, small tears ran down her face and she remembered her father holding her hand and helping her pass through small challenges in her childhood days, she remembered him and wept!
While she started she had kept some fruits and portion of bread for her journey but her overconfidence mumbled and she did not bother to carry it with her at all. She was tired and hungry. The fatigue started taking over… the cool wind slowly kept caressing her and for a moment her eyes took her back down memory lane!
Ku Ku! Ku Ku! She heard a small kuku clock chiming, her eyes opened slowly! Suddenly she remembered vehicle breakdown, New machine was still there in rear and there was no one to fix the wheel assembly, she was wide awake by now and found herself in a cozy bed with a small yet bright window opening besides her, the room was modern and simple and quite! The walls were nicely painted with cool pestal colors and smalls picture frames delicately placed on the walls with some facinating posters and kids running on the beach! she realized that it's been ages that she was looking pictures of sea and the sunset over the water.
It must be late morning as she could realize looking at the morning sun. The place was unknown even the surroundings, she swa her pickup just parked outside and was fixed. She slowly, cautiously took herself off the bed and moved near the door. It was locked! She got confused, and started knocking on the door; no one seems to have heard her plea. She gave up and looked around to see a glass of milk kept on the corner table near the other side of bed; as she was hungry; she rushed towards it and emptied the glass.
She kept thinking, again started knocking the door with more force but it did not work…she choose to wait not that long as she heard a dog barking outside with someone approaching, she was worried. The attire of the room was almost claming her down and just then someone opened the door! She was shocked!!
“Sunbeam Edibles” was the most profitable venture for the oil mill celebrating twenty fourth year of operation; the neighborhood was proud and well stabilized due to hundreds of jobs running the sunflower oil processing with hundreds of machines and acres of farms producing sunflower seeds. Second floor of the administrative office was reserved only for the directors, the spacious offices indulge into profit stories and soaring demand for the produce.
The board room had all the ultra modern equipments and large glass top table, you did also noticed a nice portrait of a women with a dog standing beside a golden haired person with a mischievous smile, yes they both ran this business in the valley for decades since they met each other accidentally with one single seed crusher and a broken pickup truck. That night seems to have changed their lives as he comes from the seashore far off the country and she was the one who traded her life for her father’s dream!!
Had you noticed that frame where they both stood outside a small church in nearby village, that must had been their wedding day, she was smiling and their hands were tied together for good!! Had you noticed it…