Wednesday, March 01, 2006
City of dreams, here I come...
The train chugged fast along the railway track, raising smoke and in it`s own majestic style sped away through the village. Nandu stood along the tracks and waved with intense happiness and admiration. The train was going to the nearby city and Nandu yearned to board the train and go to the city, the city of dreams…
Nandu had decided. He must go to the city. He must see what that city of dreams was like, the city to which throngs of people from his village had gone, when the huge motor fans which pulled water to the paddy fields had stopped rolling, when the small electric bulbs had stopped glowing, when all the wells had dried up in the village.
He set out with determination towards his house. After having packed his small belongings like marbles, slate and the green pen with a gold plating on it, which ramu kaka had given him, he proceeded to leave.
He went and told his mother
“ Maa, I am leaving for the city. I have packed up everything. “
His mother smiled. Nandu was always upto something, she thought.
Nandu headed towards the old battered railway station, in the village and sat down on the bench, waiting eagerly for the train.
Across the bench, sat a small girl. She was crying piteously, so nandu reached out to her
and asked her the reason of her grief. She just kept crying saying “Bapu… Bapu…”
Presently, the kind old station master arrived. He told nandu that bitiya rani`s father had gone to the city and so she was crying. He asked him to take her to her house and so Nandu took the small girl to the house opposite the railway station.
Inside the house, the girl`s mother had been waiting for her. She admonished Bitiya rani and told Nandu about how foolish she was to want to go the city.
Nandu was confused.. “What is so foolish in that?” , he argued.
The lady sighed… “Where is the peace and happiness there..?” She remarked.
Nandu was still not satisfied and meanwhile the train had gone away. So he decided to go another day and trudged back towards home..
All the way muttering…” What is peace..? What is happiness? How do I get them ?”
Nandu reached home and suddenly his heart filled with joy. There was his Bapu, seated on the charpoy. His Bapu was working in a factory in the city and came to the village on weekends. He ran ahead and hugged him laughing with glee. His father held out his hands with love and caressed him. He, then asked his father
“Bapu, please take me to the city, show me your factory ?”
Nandu`s mother presently came out and told Nandu
“ Nandu, how will you be healthy, if you go to the city..? Let Bapu relax, go outside and play little boy…”
His parents looked at him going out to play, with faces of happiness, wonder, passion and yet there was some sadness in their eyes as they looked at each other.
Nandu, meanwhile was thinking to himself…
“ How can I be healthy in the city…?”
As nandu walked past the old banyan tree, he noticed that there was a small gathering of the people and in the center sat the village sarpanch. They were talking about something animatedly.
Nandu wasn`t interested and prepared to go to the temple tank to play marbles with his friends, but as he turned, he just heard a few words of their conversation and the sarpanch remarking in his gruff tone.
“Where is the freedom in the city? “
Nandu thought to himself “ Oh No!, Now where do I go for that”
He then ran along to the temple tank. He did not feel like playing marbles. Instead he sat near the pond and kept throwing stones into it. He was sad and unhappy, because though it was the city of dreams, it seemed like he did not have all the things needed to go to the city.
“Plong!...” He had dropped another stone.
As he sat beside the pond, there came and sat near him, the old sadhu baba of the village. He was old and depended on the villagers for his daily needs. He was not really wise or a proper saint, but he was old and the villagers did not mind. Moreover he was very old and having a saint in the village was considered a good omen.
The old sadhu then asked Nandu, why he was not playing with the other boys. Nandu liked the old sadhu baba, his gentle smile and long white beard and so he confided his problems.
He asked the baba “Baba, How can I get peace and happiness. “
The Sadhu was immediately surprised at having heard such a question from a simple boy in the village. He however assumed his all important self and replied with an air or piety
“ In prayers to God ! “
Nandu`s heart suddenly filled with hope. He again questioned the baba
“Baba, how do I get healthy..?”
The Baba replied. “ Silly boy, you don`t know this! Health comes from food”
Nandu was at the height of happiness. He screamed and hugged the baba and asked again
“Baba, What is freedom.?”
Now the baba was for a moment confused. But then he replied.
“Haven`t you seen the tiranga(flag) in school..? That is freedom. You can also get it from Gopal`s shop “
Nandu had nothing more to hear. He ran in glee towards his house spreading his hands as a motor gaadi.
“Turrrrrrrrrrr..Peee Peee “
Nandu woke up in the morning all fresh and excited. He brushed his teeth, put on his best clothes and readied his ruck sack. He had written all the prayers he uttered during puja in sheets of paper. He had also stocked some parathas and fruits and had a nice big flag, bought from Gopal`s store.
He then went and told his mother.
“Maa, I am leaving for the city. I have packed up everything. Shall come soon”
His mother smiled as usual. Nandu was always upto some antics or the other, she thought.
And thus Nandu, set out towards the city of his dreams. After all, what had he to fear ? He had everything in his small red rucksack.
As, he walked towards the horizon, his mother looked lovingly at him, a smile on her lips and a tear on her cheeks.
This story, I dedicate to all those thousands of villagers who travel towards the city of their dreams, leaving their beautiful villages behind.