Dream Come True Part 6
This story is basically about a boy who is very lazy and boring, but he has a unique hobby. It is to listen to the stories of other people. He is an arm-chair traveller, who roams from one place to another and comes to know about different people, cultures, beliefs, enchanting and not- so-enchanting places, superstitions, miracles and super-natural encounters as also about the inner thoughts that at times bother us as human beings - all through the stories of other people or casual conversation with interesting characters.
Table Of Contents
Visit to an Enchanting Place
Home Sweet Home
Siberian Winds in Hokkaido
Trek to Himalayas
Story in Revenge
Backlash at Payback Time
Story in revenge
Ten days simply wasted. Not able to concentrate. Should I begin rubbing stones to improve my concentration? Or go to the Himalayas? Can’t do that till I am done with Saito. It’s very strange, though true. You don’t get ideas when you need them the most. I need a story.
Day in and day out, my search for a story continued. The school re-opened and I forgot about it all. The old routine of rambling across the school campus to attend classes was back, till it was time for the winter break. Saito went to Japan and I, for a change, to India. Landing at Delhi was fabulous. The airport was gleaming with lights. After a brief stopover in Delhi, I headed straight to Bodh Gaya by train. Ride was not so good. Wish they had the Shin-kansen trains in India too. I knew it was going to take as many as eighteen hours; so I was armed with many books. You know, I always carry books to read, but never ever read even one. Though my mom always ends up paying for extra baggage because of my books, I remain optimistic. I am sure I might actually read them during the next vacation!
This time I seriously thought of reading one of my books on Indian history, but suddenly the story my great grandfather had heard from his Indian friend flashed before my eyes. My father had once told me about it. Took out my laptop and started keying in whatever I remembered. Or maybe whatever I thought I remembered. Such treasures can’t remain part of oral histories.
“ I was there again after sixty two years to celebrate my 82nd birthday,” my great grandfather’s Indian buddy had told him. I don’t remember his name. But doesn’t matter. Let me call him Rajan. So, Rajan continued, “The terrain, the landscape, the colour and the smell of the dust and the overall feel of the place were all too familiar. It looked liked nothing had changed. And yet everything had changed. My mind was roving in the wilderness of the dusky surroundings. My thoughts were interrupted, when I heard a bike racing ahead of a creaking bullock cart carrying a heavy load of sugar cane. The road was a single lane. Just fit for small vehicles. Even overtaking a bullock cart required dangerous manoeuvres by the biker. The road was seemingly metalled, but many of the stretches looked as if they had been dug out in archaeological excavations. And then I saw a few more bullock carts rattling past me with loads of sugar cane. Sure enough, there was some sugar factory in the neighbourhood. But how did the sugar factory operate? There was no electricity even to light up bulbs. Caught up in my thoughts, I felt like walking back to my cottage in the village. My legs were a bit shaky and aching. Like all villagers in the area, I was carrying an umbrella and a torch light. But that wasn’t enough. My eyes were looking for an old acquaintance or a passerby to escort me back. That was the time when friends and relatives were always around. The village used to be full of life and warmth. And here I was waiting for a single soul for company. And at that point, I felt really happy to see an old person with a long flowing beard walking slowly towards me. I could make out that he was coming from beyond the mango orchard. He came and sat beside me without uttering a word. I felt a bit uneasy. After a few minutes of silence, I mustered enough courage to say hello to him. I was surprised when he responded, addressing me by my first name. My curiosity increased. I did not recognise him, but it appeared odd for me to ask his name. And anyways, we struck a conversation. He seemed to have read my thoughts. ‘How nice to meet you, Rajan, after so many years, he started, ‘ Ever since you left India for your graduate studies in England, I have been watching the developments in and around our village. The sugar factory in the neighbouring village of Dinapore is the only major development. A prince from the city of Agra built and gifted the factory to a beautiful girl from Dinapore about 40 years ago. The girl went off with the prince after her marriage, but the factory continues to support the 10,000 villagers in this area. Almost everyone has since been cultivating sugar cane to sell it to the sugar factory. But how long this factory can support us? The factory, like the rest of the villages, gets electricity for no more than 2 hours a day. Irrigation facilities have decreased. Bullock carts still remain the main form of transport. Children still have to walk 5 km a day to reach their school. A visit to a doctor makes you walk for 10 km. The LRT we used to ride as children to go to the nearby town of Arrah is shut.’
“I could not resist but wonder about my country. We got independence from the British rule in 1947, a good two decades before Singapore became a country. What went wrong? We have the manpower. We have the natural resources. We have lots of arable land. No scarcity of fresh water either. And yet neither industry nor agriculture has progressed much. I didn’t even murmur these thoughts, but yet he responded. ‘You know, Rajan, our political system is based on ideals. Nehru and his friends believed in an ideal utopia where everything was perfect. Our constitution gave voting rights to one and all, even those who could not write their names in any language.’
“I clearly remembered the day I left my village for England on a Cambridge scholarship. How excited the entire village was? After all, one of their own was going to study in England. My uncle, who is no more alive, travelled with me on a 48 hour rail journey to Bombay. Ships only plied between London and Bombay in those days. The steamship service was run by a company called Cox and Kings. We got off the train at Victoria terminus on a Sunday morning; my ship was to leave late evening the next day. So we went to roam around the city to get a glimpse of the landmarks. Bombay was the biggest city in India, still a British colony. It was the gateway to England.
With our luggage in hand, we walked out of Victoria Terminus Railway station. No cabs at the time. We hired a horse carriage, known as Victoria in Bombay, to go to a bed and breakfast lodge near Apollo Bundar. My ship was to set sail from that port. We quickly alighted from the Victoria and paid off the carriage man. My uncle gave him a generous tip. A big heavy one rupee coin.