Its 10 in the morning , Changba is resting on the railings of the most prominent railings of the “ hawa ghar “( rest house) at the mall road , while he is looking around at the people sitting there and the passers- by. Changba is a mid- aged , short height person. His appearance on usual days can be described by his uneven stubbles, untidy clothes and a pair of old shoes torn and stitched at a few places. He is a driver by profession and his face reflects the typical tan and chubby features that his regular dose of rum has left him with. His eyes, however remain innocent and are witness to his honesty way towards life.
Changba doesn’t sit on any of the green benches there , as he is more used to railings since his childhood days. That was the very spot where he would hang out with his friends, rolling joints and listening to Bob Marley numbers , while rest of the people took for benches, simply pass by or take the breath taking view of the snow cladded peaks of Kanchendzonga. That was before he got married at the age of 22 , he met his Guruji ( teacher) who recruited him as a handy boy in his old land rover those days. It was the same vehicle where he learnt how to drive with his Guruji knocking his head time and again for any mistakes he made during the training sessions. Now he is 30 and drives a spacio himself, he doesn’t own a vehicle though. He wouldn’t visit the place since then, but now it had been days of Darjeeling shut down, and he had nowhere to go.
Changba dust off his cigarettes gently as he plunges deep into his own thoughts of his bygone days. The town remains shut for almost 3 months. His peak business days – the Dusheera Season may pass through the bandh , or even if it opens , it won’t warm his pockets enough. This season was very important for him as he was planning to buy a second hand vehicle all by himself with his meager earnings, which he had already been savings from last 3 years. Now he knows that he need to wiat for few more years for the same. But then , he is proud that at least he could contribute something towards his dream of his people and hence prove his love for his motherland. He is infact willing to go weeks without food if needed for his motherland.
Suddenly , Changba’s thoughts of patriotism and rights , gets interrupted by a loud husky voice that says, “ ammmammma , video hernu vayo Delhi ko? Yesto hunu parney neta haru vaneko”. Changba’s ears popped out by the spawning political gossip there something he was desperately craving for attraction of himself to the spot where th loud voice is standing, holding a mini court room. Changba has got a lot of wits and humour , but then he fails to understand the politics, so he depends upon other’s opinions to shape his knowledge. He placed his eyes instantly at the spot of the voice. There a young man with long hair and a red tika on his forehead addressing a neatly dressed old person about his newly formed group in Delhi, of which he was firm believer. Perhaps, he watched a video of one of their members on social media – facebook at the Jio- Daara nearby and that baajey ( old aged man) seems to have been the first person who would buy his outrage over the current Darjeeling leaders presently.
The young man shouted that “the leaders are useless” and they should come out of their hiding and sit for hunger strike “. The Nepali local newspaper – Himalaya Darpan that he had held under his arm was getting creased as he pressed it hard with his flowing tormented emotions. The old man could see an emerging activist there, who was pouring out all his knowledge, gained through the digital India – use of social media Facebook videos, 24 ghanta and newspaper headlines.
Changba too had one tried to find his ultimate faith in them, until he had overheard the conversation between Madan and his friend. Madan lived in the same village as Changba did and he had always been skeptic about that group. He was rather an advocate of the intellectual lot- the doctors and the professors of our community. As Madan was a teacher and highly respectable person in his neighbourhood, Changba didn’t dare to counter his thinking and took all his words as the ultimate truth.
Madan again had major differences with the Tarzaan (as Changba liked to think of one hiding in the jungle) and his party, in fact Madan preffered the term “ Mudey” for him and never missed a chance to crack jokes on him or his party. Changba’s favourite of all the punches was the one Madan had once shared on facebook . It reads “ Daaju haru ta jungle ma basera khasi ra sungur haru saknu aati sakyo, hammi chai baazar basera pani vokkai”.
He however knew that Tarzan and his people were safe and sound, possibly resting at some hotel or resort enjoying the luxuries. Once an ardent supporter of Tarzan, Madan was left hugely disappointed by the man leaders of Tarzan‘s party going underground instead of leading from the front. Changba would often hear him say “ Yesari video ra audio clip le pani andolan huncha ra?”.
It was already 2 pm now and the arguments of the young revolutionary activists wouldn’t stop. Changba started to get an urge to gulp down some mugs of kodo raksi( pure local / country liquor made of millet) and thus he parted off the intellectual talks without anyone’s notice. His next shop was the Badi ko doka in Raajbari , a few minutes away from his home the very place where he had his first experience of raksi. It was’nt even a shop , but it was Badi’s home itself where she would serve raksi ( drinks) with very few varieties of snacks the reason why the liquor business couldn’t get affected by strikes.
Changba slipped into the shop through the door that was only midway opened for him as he knocked. A group of people were already into drinking that welcomed him enthusiastically, and invited him to be a part of the discussion that was apparently going on.
“ Taaro ko dewta vanda ta chew ko bhoot thik cha , ki koso Changba bhai ?” asked one of them while badi served him a mug of raksi and a plate of paloras. Everyone in the room was in the support of the local leaders and they were accounting how It was Tarzan who made the agitation possible. It was all going well till one of the people introduced a topic of how Tarzan‘s party split up and his own confident went against him . Then the place suddenly became a spot of hot debates about who to support. In fact, two of them got into a serious argument. It was only Badi’s fear of throwing them out that they didn’t get into a brawl.
Meanwhile, Changba couldn’t understand a thing of what was going on. He was already tipsy as he finished his third round of drinks, and remained as a silent spectator to this debate. He then realized he was getting late for home. He got some pakoras packed up for his wife and two sons, and also go some local vegetables that Badi could secretly smuggle in from the lower busty (lower village) for sale. Down the road he let go of everything that he heard or tried to understand and started calculating the numbers of more days he could go with is remaining savings. He also recalled how the drinks healed the burning sensation on his legs that the blows which he had received during the lathi charge which occurred while he was in the peaceful march. He was thankful that he had narrowly escaped and arrest on that dark day when some of the youths lost their lives of the very same day.
Swaroop Sharma | Editor (Northeast) newscaptured.com