Home Peppy “Other People”?

“Other People”?

22 min read

Winter was Rahul’s favorite season and he loved roaming around in the cold weather, hands tucked into his jeans pockets and trying to release smoke from his mouth ( he so much wanted to smoke but the fear of his parents did not let him even think about it ). “But when I grow old, I will definitely smoke once,” thought Rahul. He also loved winters because there were so many goodies in winters that could be savored – Gaajar Ka Halwa, Moong Ki Daal Ka Halwa, Peanuts with Jaggery, his favorite “Sarson Ka Saag” cooked by his grandmother in an earthen pot in an earthen oven (chulha). He loved to eat good food.

Not that he hated summers, but he had a particular fondness for winters. Winters could be enjoyed by putting additional sweaters or snuggling inside the quilt but summers were all about scorching heat &sweating. Winters were all about outdoors whereas summers were always about running for shade or staying indoors. Winters were about trying to look at the warm sun with naked eyes, whereas summers were about cursing the same Sun. He did not hate summers, but he loved winters.

Rahul lived in a joint family, not very modern but not very conservative as well. He was brought up in an environment wherein he got all the values from his grandparents and at the same also received modern outlook of the world from his parents – A balanced upbringing. By their living standards, his family belonged to a confused class – not too well to do to belong to the middle class, not too economically weak to be called as lower middle class.

So, they were in between the lower middle class and middle class! Living in a refugee colony duly authorized by the government after the 1947 partition, he was exposed to many of the horrors and atrocities that took place during partition. His grandmother told scary tales of how they escaped on foot, from a small village near Lahore and how they saved themselves from being chopped in the train and how they braved the floods.” Are those people so cruel?” thought Rahul but then cruelties were inflicted by our people as well.

And he had friends in school from the “other community” and they were just like him – fun loving and dreamy. “May be it is the situation which turns any man into a savage ”thought, Rahul. But he was happy that he was living in an independent country and he wanted more from life. He did not want to live caught in the lower middle and middle class. He wanted to move up the ladder and progress in life. And the only ticket to this progress was Education. This was very clearly & strongly sown in his mind by his mother.

His mother came from a well off family and was well educated as per standards of those times. “If you want to lead a good life, you will have to study hard. Don’t waste your time with people who do not have any goal in life” his mother used to tell him often. So, the study took priority over everything, he hated it but he understood the priority.

He loved winters, but this winter was going to be different.

He hated waking early in the winters. The quilt was so warm and so comforting and leaving it was the most hate hateful act in the world. “Why can’t I be allowed to sleep more in its warmth “protested Rahul? But then there were dreams to be fulfilled and ambitions to be achieved – his or his parents, he was too young to understand. He had a morning tuition to attend every day at 6 am, irrespective of summer, winter or rains. The only exception that was allowed was a Sunday or illness. Rest come hell or high; tuition had to be attended.

It was 6thDec1992, the evening he heard his parents talk about some Mosque being demolished and tension being spread across the country. Rahul did not take any interest in politics but he understood the sensitivities. The TV also reported incidents of clashes in some parts of the country but they lived in a colony of their “own people,” so they were safe. He had his early dinner and went to sleep – there was a tuition class to be attended next morning.

TrrrrrTrrrrr ….. The alarm bell screamed into his ears and he woke up with a start at 5 a.m. The quilt looked at him with all the affection in the world and the comfortable bed also smiled with all the warmth. Rahul so much wanted to be with them in their company but then there were purposes to be achieved, ambitions to be fulfilled & classes to be jumped from lower middle class to upper middle class. He got up and got ready to leave. “Is it safe to go “asked his mother. “ Hmm, nothing is going to happen to our city” replied his half asleep father.

Rahul got out of his house and peddled his bicycle fast for about 5 kms to the newer part of the city. Physics might be necessary but it was very boring to Rahul. After banging his head over various equations, he headed back to home at 8 AM along with his 2 friends who lived midway. On the way back home, he could sense that something is not right – the roads were relatively empty and people could be seen standing in groups animatedly discussing something. As he reached closer to his colony, things became even weirder.

He could see a lot of Police and barricades and finally, he was stopped by a Policeman at the entrance of his colony. “Go back, you cannot go any further, “Said the policeman. “ But why sir, my house is in this colony and I had gone for tuitions“ replied Rahul. “ Can’t help, a curfew has been imposed. Some miscreants burnt down the post office today early morning and also torched a couple of cars. Go back to some safe place before things get worse” the policeman answered. Rahul was shell shocked – he could see the post office from a distance and it was completely in ashes. What to do now – he was both tensed and fearful and a bit excited to be there. He requested the Policeman to let him go, but he did not relent.

There were no cell phones and he could not inform his parents about his safety. He looked around and then it struck him – there could be a way around alongside the river that connected the colony on the right-hand side with his colony on the left. He turned right and reached a Gurudwara. Parking his bicycle inside the Gurudwara, he walked towards the banks of the river which flowed on the backside of the Gurudwara. Should he or should he not? After all, he was a small boy, albeit with BIG ambitions. Finally, he decided to walk alongside the bank. The sun was up and despite being December, Rahul was sweating. The bank was sandy with tall grass on both sides and Rahul was walking, avoiding the thick growth of grass.

After walking for about 40 minutes, he saw a lot of men on the other side of the river and they were looking at something on his side. Rahul froze in horror – suddenly it struck him that the other side of the river was dominated by “other people.” He quickly hid in the tall grass and waited for the “other people “to go away. After almost an hour, the “other people” went away and Rahul heaved a sigh of relief and came out of the hiding and again started walking towards his colony. Was he doing the right thing? He just wanted to reach home to his family – they must be worrying about him .with these thoughts in his mind he walked for another 30 minutes and suddenly a group of 15-20 men from the “other people” appeared from nowhere and stood in front of him. Rahul almost fell and the books tumbled out of his bag. Unfortunately, Physics would not be of any help in this situation. The books sadly turned its face away and now it was Rahul all alone.

He tried to recite Hanuman Chalisa but could not go beyond the first verse“what is your name?” one man in a chequered lungi asked. “ Ji, Rahul ” Rahul stuttered . “ what are you doing here? , don’t you know that riots have broken in the city ?” the man spoke. “No Uncle, Actually I had gone for my tuition early morning and when I came back, the police did not let me enter my colony. Hence I thought of taking this route ” Rahul tried to be as respectful as possible. “ He is from the “other people” one man whispered and Rahul broke into a heavy sweat. All incidents narrated by his grandmother started playing in his mind and he shivered at the mere thought of the same happening to him. He pleaded “Uncle, please let me go, my parents would be waiting for me.

I did not know anything about this. Please uncle, let me go”. One of the men took out something shiny from under his Baniyan and whispered something into the ears of the man, who looked to be the leader of the group. The leader looked back sternly at him and said something under his breath. “You know, your people have caused a lot of damage and have also killed some of our people?” said the leader.

“Uncle, I don’t know anything about that. All that my grandmother has taught is that all human beings are same in the eyes of God and in our school we all play together, study together and eat together without even giving a second thought about my people and other people. ”Rahul braved a little bit. The leader seemed to be a good & reasonable guy and somewhere deep inside Rahul felt that only this man’s decision could save him. He again started reciting Hanuman Chalisa in his mind. The leader signaled the man with the shiny butcher’s knife “take him” and Rahul’s heart sank.

He started crying “pls don’t kill me, I want to go to my home, pls pls …leave me” but the leader turned and walked away leaving Rahul & the butcher knife-man. The butcher man looked at Rahul with his fiery red eyes and held him by his arm and signaled him to walk. Rahul was confused & afraid “pls leave me; pls take me to my parents. Pls, help me. Pls, don’t punish me for the fault of my people” The butcher man said “I so much want to kill you but my leader is a stupid man, he thinks from his heart and not his head. He has asked me to escort you to the closest location near your colony.Come fast before I disobey him and change my mind” Rahul couldn’t believe his ears, he quickly got up leaving the Physics behind and started walking with the butcher. After a 15-minute silent walk, they reached a spot from where he could see his colony.

Before Rahul could think or say anything, the butcher turned back & quickly left to join his gang. Rahul ran towards his house – he had so many things to narrate to his grandmother but very different from the ones she had told him. This one was not about his people or “other people,” this was about humane people. He learned very early in life that there were no my people or “other people,” it was the situation which created that difference and despite such differences and savagery, there were still some people who behaved like humans and not like animals. It was because of such people that the world is still surviving. The curfew got lifted in a couple of days and Rahul was back to school having fun with his classmates- they were his friends, not my people or “other people.”

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