Dushehra at Baloda Bazaar: A page from the memoir of childhood days

October 17, 2010 6 comments

 

Baloda bazaar is a small town in state of Chhattisgarh formerly part of MP. The town was an exact replica of Malgudi. The natives were a mix of tribal crowd and a second generation graduated middle class families mainly employed in rice mills and kacheri (district court). It was a pre- liberalization era and people led a very simple life style. 10-5 job, shop for vegetables on the way back home, evening walk at the park and listen to radio or watch doordarshan (not all houses had TV that time).

The huge deposit of minerals attracted many companies to build cement factories and dad got transferred here for a project to build one. I was in standard II; my life was carefree and blissful probably one of the best times of my life.

The town was still untouched with the fancies of western culture .The tribal traditions, practised from ages were still deep rooted in the genes. Dushehra was one of the main festivals celebrated with great enthusiasm.

Little fair was organised every year by the group of gypsies who earned their living by showing their skills in the fair and that year giant-wheel was the biggest attraction. My brother and I were eagerly waiting for the Dushehra eve as dad had promised a visit to the fair.

We both secretly bicycled thrice to the Dushehra ground since morning to see the Ravan. We even went further to the other end of the town to get the soanpatra. (There was a tradition to bring soan-patra at home on the day of the Dushehra).  

As evening was approaching butterflies were flying inside me. I kept my eyes over the balcony awaiting dad’s return. We didn’t even go to play cricket that evening and were eagerly waiting for the sight of commando jeep on which my dad used to travel to office. The dusk approached and there was no sight of dad. I was saddened and cried to mom reminding about dad’s promise. Mom promised to take us to fair in case dad can’t make it on time.

I got dressed. I was wearing orange shirt with ‘Tom and Jerry’ photo on it, orange knickers and white school canvas shoes. As soon as I got dressed I heard the commando approaching and we both raced downstairs to greet dad who was smiling at both of us. I can never forget that moment.

It was already 6:30 and night was falling. The rare multi coloured light-bulbs were glowing in Shalin sharroff’s home (classmate and friend of my brother) just opposite to our house. The time for firecrackers was nearing and we were all set to go on dad’s scooter to see the fair.

Dad parked the scooter below Rao uncle’s home (colleague of my dad) who lived just opposite to the Dushehra ground. The view of Ravan was perfect from the balcony and the entire staff of my dad’s office had assembled to view the Ravan-dahan. Dad bought us flute and ‘kisme toffee bar’.

The Ravan’s effigy was huge with 10 heads each having big eyes and large moustaches. He was dressed in a very colourful outfit with sword in one hand and shield in another.

There was buzz in the ground, the colourful mela and the gaint wheels were brought to halt as a small chariot with 3 teenagers dressed as Ram-Laxman-Seeta approached the Ravan. People were throwing flowers on them and entire baloda bazaar was just waiting for the moment. Some announcement was made and the symbolic fire-lit arrow was shot by Ram on the effigies of Ravan and Kumbhkaran.

The fireworks soon started within the effigies and the entire ground was lit by their lights. The noise of busting fireworks were deafening to the ears. The fireworks went on for 10 minutes until the entire Ravan-Kumbhkaran combo turned into ashes.

All the kids at the balcony were jumping in joy, running all over the place and imitating the action of shooting with bow and arrows.

I went to my mom who was standing with other aunties and told to her “Mummy now I will play jan-gan-man as ravan is dead” and all of them busted into laughter. I was furious and embarresed,I threw my flute and ran to my brother crying.

I don’t remember what happened next, I was probably asleep and next morning my brother was teasing me on this incident.

I am 25 now but still my mom narrates this incident to her friends and our relatives. Talking about the incident, I get embarrassed even today but this was probably the best Dusheshra we ever had.

I lost my sleep; I am awakened a little more

September 15, 2009 5 comments

It’s already 2:00 am and I am not asleep. I have a very strange feeling tonight, nostalgic and restless about the events which occurred in recent past in my life. Unable to calm my senses I decide to go to the beach. It’s a bit unusual to go to beach now but I will go. With my ipod in my ears and mobile in hand I start in my characteristic 3/4ths and sweat shirt.

Thiruvanmaiyur beach is hardly 200m away from my new home and its’ serenity attracts me and many others for different reasons of their own. As I get the first view of it from the byroads, the sea greets me with a fresh swing of breeze. The roads are deserted and the lonely lamp posts are flickering emanating lights as if they are waiting for someone to come and acknowledge their presence and efforts which they assume every night without slightest of complain. The lone lighthouse stands tall and contended as he knows his purpose and importance. Everyone appreciates his worth as it provides light and warmth to all; children, sports enthusiast, walkers and especially vendors for whom he is their support and companion. The worthiest of its purpose is reflected in the sailor’s eye. For him it is his destination, lifeline and morale. Ships or boats, no matter what their size is, lighthouse treats everyone equally giving equal light to them, guiding them safely to home where their family awaits them.

The waves are shimmering as lighting through thunders and the clear full moon sky is star studded. The tranquility of sea has already healed my heart and filled it with serenity. I am feeling light and my mood has changed for better. As I move on I find an old police jeep parked on a side lane and constables sleeping on the benches in their fairy world far away from the beautiful one which is embracing them currently. A notice board is hanging next to benches giving information on the agenda and timings of next jogger’s meet. Factoids about dolphins and sea creatures are also landmarked for children and enthusiast. A dog starts following me; probably finding a lone companion in me. I pass across the big bungalows with even bigger walls to protect them, dogs barking at me as I pass them and waking up the night guards of their owner’s abode. A paintball ground and an Italian restaurant come next. The road comes to an end and a small passage is sloping down to fishermen’s dwellings.

I might have just walked a few paces when I hear an old fisherman calling me. He looks around 70 yrs, little stooped with age. I look at him, he smiles back. He points to the lit cigarette in my hand and takes out his own. I offer him lighter. In the yellow light, I notice that his face has wrinkled but he has dimples on the spotted cheeks, resembling the ones like chicken pox, bright and clear eyes, giving testimony to his life as a fisherman. It is 3:30 am, the sky is pitch dark but in these dwellings the day has already begun.

Lights from small asbestos roofed houses are glowing. Fishermen are getting ready for their voyage. They assemble near their boats, and check their nets before they venture out into the sea. The women in house are brewing coffee, I can smell it. It will be another long day for them. They have to race against time, tide and fellow competitors. I have never seen how the boats are pushed into the sea. I stand along two of the fishermen, who are trying to push their boats. Experience has taught them to wait for the highest wave and when they see it approaching they start to push the boats arduously, especially when the wave is retreating as they know the sand below them will be dispersing quickly with the retreating wave. They wait again for the highest wave. The little crab which is in line with the boat swiftly moves away, his little eyes twinkling. A long trail results from dragging of the boat is proof of their efforts. Two of them have finally made it to the sea and they have jumped into the boats. Another big wave comes and it washes away the trail left by the boat, leveling the sand as if nothing happened, erasing all the evidence of their footmarks, toil and efforts.

Ah!! Such is life. So small are we and so insignificant is our existence. With the passage of time, the great monuments will wither down, the artificial boundaries which we have drawn not just on the world map but also in our hearts based on religion, ethnicity are so very insignificant for time and mother nature. In this long universal clock the whole human existence is just for a tick of a second’s needle. Why don’t we realize that all humanity will come to an end someday all work we do in this world will be waived away with tide of time, nothing in this world is stagnant. Not even change. Why don’t we embrace universal brotherhood and nature’s superiority? The gist of life is to evolve symbiotically not parasitically.

The boat has gone deep in the sea fishermen are waving at me and I wave them back. Far away in the sky the crimson red ball of fire is resurfacing, bringing back life in this part of the world. Joggers have started trickling onto the beach. The crab near me is looking for a hiding; the dog has found another companion. The lights of the watch tower have done their duty and have gone into deep slumber. The jogger’s meet has started, the police van is gone. I feel light hearted. I greet everyone I pass by. This night was more insightful and brighter than the day.

I lost my sleep; I am awakened a little more….

Categories: Uncategorized

A page from the diary of Hiroshima

August 11, 2009 Leave a comment

Hiroshima, August 5, 1945 8:00 PM: 

The day was calmer than expected. There was just one regular Air raid alert in morning. 

Regular troop movement was there from our 2nd Army Head quarters. I had just 30 new patients today from war injuries, mainly minor injuries except for a troop of 3rd battalion: 5 amputees and 3 half deaf soldiers all of them injured during the latest confrontation with allied forces.

Situation is lament in the hospital but the repeated narration of success of Pearl Harbor by Captain Daniel Yakuma along with his own personal input of the event keeps the others motivated. Captain Yakuma is man of mettle. His aircraft was hit by the anti aircraft missile on his return but he managed to come back to the post, lack of medical attention worsened his already fractured leg into Gangrene, before he can be finally brought to our base hospital. His leg now is amputated but he still has vigor in him to fight again.

The bloody war needs to come to an end. Whole of Hiroshima has been transformed to a military bunk over four years. The happy fishing people of ours have been moved out of the city or rehabilitated to the center of the city containing a number of reinforced concrete buildings instead of the ever beautiful wood houses along the shores of the canal.

How many lives we need to sacrifice. America, Europe or Asia everyone is bleeding but where will the damn quest of power lead us all?

The ships are hooting again from the bay of the Ota River. Probably more than a thousand times since the beginning of the war the citizens have seen off troops with cries of ‘Banzai’.

God bless us all.

Hiroshima, August6, 1945 11:30 PM:

Ah! It is paining even as I hold the pen. The pieces of the window glass have really pierced deep into me.

It was a black day for us and the humanity. There were rumors that the enemy had something special in mind for this city, but no one dreamed that the end would come in such a fashion.

The day began in a bright, clear, summer morning. About seven o’clock, there was an air raid alarm which we had heard almost every day and a few planes appeared over the city. No one paid any attention and at about eight o’clock, the all-clear was sounded.

 I have reached the base hospital and going through the history of the patients  monitoring their progress overnight. I am very cheerful today as compared to days in last few months. Captain Yakuma greeted me with a warm smile .He is happy; he is going to be released in just 2 more days.

From my window, I have a wonderful view down the valley to the edge of the city. Suddenly–the time is approximately 8:14–the whole valley is filled by a garish light which resembles the magnesium light used in photography, and I am conscious of a wave of heat. I jump to the window to find out the cause of this remarkable phenomenon, but I see nothing more than that brilliant yellow light. As I make for the door, it doesn’t occur to me that the light might have something to do with enemy planes. On the way from the window, I hear a moderately loud explosion which seems to come from a distance and, at the same time, the windows are broken in with a loud crash. There has been an interval of perhaps ten seconds since the flash of light. I am sprayed by fragments of glass. The entire window frame has been forced into the room. I realize now that a bomb has burst and I am under the impression that it exploded directly over our hospital or in the immediate vicinity. FUBAR!!

I am bleeding from cuts about the hands and head. The alarm has been raised. I attempt to get out of the door. It has been forced outwards by the air pressure and has become jammed. I force an opening in the door by means of repeated blows with my hands and feet and come to a broad hallway from which open the various rooms. Everything is in a state of confusion. All windows are broken and all the doors are forced inwards.  I do not note a second explosion and the fliers seem to have gone on. Most of my colleagues have been injured by fragments of glass. A few are bleeding but none has been seriously injured. All of us have been fortunate since it is now apparent that the wall of my room opposite the window has been lacerated by long fragments of glass.

We proceed to the front of the hospital to see where the bomb has landed. There is no evidence, however, of a bomb crater; but the southeast section of the hospital is very severely damaged. Neither a door nor a window remains. The blast of air had penetrated the entire hospital from the southeast, but it still stands

Down in the valley, perhaps one kilometer toward the city from us, several peasant homes are on fire and the woods on the opposite side of the valley are aflame. A few of us go over to help control the flames. While we are attempting to put things in order, a storm comes up and it begins to rain. Over the city, clouds of smoke are rising and I hear a few slight explosions.

Perhaps a half-hour after the explosion, a procession of people begins to stream up the valley from the city. The crowd thickens continuously. A few come up the road to our hospital. We have in the meantime cleaned and cleared of wreckage, and put them to rest on the straw mats. Casualties will be heavy and beyond the capacity of the hospital. Soldiers which are able to move are also being ordered to arrange. Captain Yakuma is marshalling his fellow mates for all possible arrangements.

The first groups of casualties have arrived. A few display horrible wounds of the extremities. First aid will definitely not be enough .Operation theatres are ready and I take first patient severely burned with one of his hand missing and one side of face peeled off. Blood is oozing out from his body and my apron has already turned red before even I enter the operation theatre. I must be clam, I must be focused it’s not the time to panic. Oh thy Lord give me strength and composure.

Its 3:00 PM in evening I have operated upon 15 causalities till now. More and more of the injured are coming. The least injured dragging the more seriously wounded. There are wounded soldiers, and mothers carrying burned children in their arms.

Soon comes the news that the entire city has been destroyed by the explosion and that it is on fire.

Medical supplies are depleted. Iodine is applied to the wounds but they are left uncleansed. Neither ointments nor other therapeutic agents are available. Those that have been brought in are laid on the floor and no one can give them any further care. What could one do when all means are lacking? Under these circumstances, it is almost useless to bring them in. We need to shift patients to the grounds of our hospital.

The transportation of our own wounded is difficult. It is not possible to dress their wounds properly in the darkness, and they bleed again upon slight motion. As we carry them on the shaky litters in the dark over fallen trees of the park, they suffer unbearable pain as the result of the movement, and lose dangerously large quantities of blood. In the meantime, fires which had begun some distance away are raging even closer, so that it becomes obvious that everything would soon burn down.

We didn’t know when night fell. The night was just a shade darker than day. Its 9 pm now. More than 12 hours since the blast.

A rescue party had brought a large case of fresh rice cakes but there is no one to distribute them to the numerous wounded that lie all about. We distribute them to those that are nearby and also help ourselves. The wounded call for water and we come to the aid of a few. Cries for help are heard from a distance, but we cannot approach the ruins from which they come.

I am now shivering with cold like never before. My hands have become numb and my throat is choked with smoke. If the reports about the nuclear explosion are true then we are in grave danger. I am not worried about us anymore. We are doomed to die, every one of us either from our injuries or from the radiation. But in what we are gifting to our coming generations lies my sorrow.

The amount of radiation will kill at least 5 coming generation of ours. For about half of the century the infants will have genetic and physical disorders. We have killed our future. We have dug the grave for them even before they would open their eyes or would take the first breath in this tragic air.

Let the battle stop for good. We have seen enough. Let us forget the animosity and stop further degradation of humanity. I might not survive a day more. All I humbly pray to the future generations is to learn from our mistakes .Let humanity triumph over pride, possession and power.

Notes:

Captain Fujimoto was found dead the next morning. There was another nuclear bombing in nearby city of Nagasaki on August 9, 1945.The bombs killed as many as 140,000 people in Hiroshima and 80,000 in Nagasaki by the end of 1945, roughly half on the days of the bombings. Amongst these, 15–20% died from injuries or the combined effects of flash burns, trauma, and radiation burns, compounded by illness, malnutrition and radiation sickness. Since then, more have died from leukemia (231 observed) and solid cancers (334 observed) attributed to exposure to radiation released by the bombs. In both cities, the majority of the dead were civilians.

Six days after the detonation over Nagasaki, on August 15, Japan announced its surrender to the Allied Powers, signing the Instrument of Surrender on September 2, officially ending the Pacific War and therefore World War II. 

From me:  

This is my tribute and service to the brave Japanese and humanity, who have overcome their great grief and have raised themselves as one of the leading economy in the post world war era. 

PS: The character of captain Yakuma and Fujimoto are fictious and the diary too.

Notes describing the scenario have been taken from the diary of Father John A. Siemes, professor of modern philosphy at Tokyo’s Catholic University