It was almost ten o'clock in the morning as his bus reached Konta,a small town in Chattisgarh.The bus has not stopped in the premises of bus stand but at the entry point of the town.It's not certain to call that place as a town.Fairly bigger than a moderate village.That's for sure.Bhadrachalam,a pilgrim place of Telengana is roughly sixty five kilo meters away from this town.Telugu population at Konta is considerably large.Mostly migrated in search of green pastures,be it in business,agriculture or employment.There was an air of exotic news whenever they come into the border places of the state.Dummugudem,Charla and Venkatapuram all these mandals of Bhadrachalam division have shortest routes to enter into the villages of Chattisgarh.
Srinu got off the bus.And start walking straightway.Deforestation is not at its peak around here,so there was a cool breeze from all directions as he resumes his way thoughtfully.Streets seem tidy, sans any excreta of humans or animals.Small things like these would display sober qualities of particular place.Red soil.And lush greenery all around.The concrete road has different shops both sides.Roof tile houses and other concrete houses were there.A few of two storied buildings too.This was the prima facie.Srinu has taken left turn now.There was the bus stand and a bus kept gushing to leave the premises.He eyed an four wheel vehicle which transformed as a mini portable hotel.Srinu wanted to have a tea.Inevitable after a tedious journey.
" Ek chai dedo bhayya" said Srinu.
The vendor served it in a glass.Almost to the brim.Tea was very strong.Srinu was having it with taking reasonable intervals.
" Are you from a Telugu family" Tea vendor asked Srinu in impeccable Telugu.He was shell-shocked for the unexpected query.
" My goodness....do you know Telugu" Srinu shot the counter question.
" We are also from Telugu land sir...we have come here for the sake of business.
Our ancestors belonged to Razole area of East Godavari district in Andhra pradesh.They moved to Bhadrachalam,the renowned pilgrim place during the period of bridge construction in fifties.Right now the place falls into Telengana after bifurcation.However, our family got here almost seven years back to earn some extra bucks like this" He said,reminiscing the older days.
"What the hell are you talking..? It's more than ten years we have come here" his wife added the missing link and rushed towards the borewell to bring the pitcher of water.
" Oh...yes..sir,she must be true...how wonderfully the time keeps pacing up these days.Unimaginable you know" he admitted his mistake.
"How is your business going on,sir" inquired Srinu.
"Especially Dosa,the pride of our region is in more demand,literally these people would die for it"
"That sounds great.Ah..by the way,do you know Rammohan who works as a teacher around here" Srinu asked him after making the payment for the tea.
" Aa..you mean Gurji..? I do not know where he exactly resides..but better search after going further distance straightway..hmm... take a turn and make inquiries,I guess there were some Gurjees at the location"
What does he mean by Gurji..!Oh...that's for Guruji..!Thank God...came to understand his pronunciation Influenced by his mother tongue.Srinu thought it for himself.At last,he found the house of Rammohan without much problem.Rammohan seemed to have a good taste,his residence was more than a comfortable nestle for his family.There was a mini shopping complex in front of the house.Alongside a garden with different plants.
They exchanged pleasantries after a nap in the room allotted for Srinu.He slept like a dead one for about two hours.His body sandwiched in the bus due to the condition of the road.It was about crossing twelve o' clock in the midday.
"My brother-in-law has already informed me about your arrival,Srinu sir.He also told me to take extra care of your further course of journey" Said Rammohan with a gentle smile.Srinu reciprocated with a courteous flush.Srinu got an urge to reveal the truth that Rammohan has been informed on his request only.But something stopped him.
Rammohan engaged his wife with preparing delicacies.He called his younger son to show him to Srinu,the guest.
" He is Vikram,my younger son.He is studying in class tenth,here only.Hindi medium.Helps us a lot in our business transactions" Said Rammohan.
"What Rammohan sir...You have been a teacher here,if I am not mistaken" Srinu astounded.
" Have you got it informed from my brother-in-law..? That's right.But here in Konta,teaching staff is underpaid and we have to adopt other source for a decent life.I take care of Cement business and my wife looks after Kirana shop,of course,all in our business complex situated in front of our house.
"Won't you get any problem being bunking the school duties..?"
" Do you know something surprising...the real problem starts if you attend the school.."
"It's really intriguing..."
" I have been working in an interior village of Konta block.There are many people in the village who do not want my presence there everyday.Hmm...influence of "inside" people is imminent in nutshell.My everyday presence hampers their activities and so on.If we mingle too much with locals,sleuths of police can be after us.Should we really need all these headaches since we are suffering from our own..? That's why I go to school now and then to pay a visit to the village head,That's it.."
"Oh..you got that problem..! Well...Where is your elder son, not to be seen.."
"He is pursuing engineering in Chennai"
"Have you not Engineering colleges around here...I mean like Jagdalpur..."
"Maybe out there, but children ought to know how the far off places fare with different things,you know.." Said Rammohan.That sounds too good to believe. Srinu never wanted to move further on the topic.
Wife of Rammohan beckoned to him to have the lunch.It was almost quarter past one.They are not aware of the passing time with their ramblings.
"Srinu sir...how about having a gulp of beer..?" Rammohan asked Srinu.
"I used to take it once in a while...why not..let's go for it.."
Both of them got into the special room situated in the complex.There were four chairs,a small table and an iron safe.It seems to be devoted for the activities like these.Well planned.We sat and relaxed.Rammohan poured beer in the two large goblets.They have taken one beer each.This time,for a change,Rammohan made cocktails of beer and Vodka.He had enough stock of Vodka bottles in the Iron safe.Srinu got aback for a second.
"Rammohan sir...My actual capacity is only one beer,now you got it cocktails with Vodka..getting me into trouble.." Srinu smiled coyly.
"What's the purpose of boozing..? to get off from all these mundane troubles and to have a good time,isn't it..? Do you know what the great Omar Khayam said once..? Boozing is not a sin,the real sin is being sober after once you got boozed.."
Srinu struck with the logical utterance of Rammohan.This is the day getting wisdom from this guy.Let it be.Srinu resigned and start sipping the cocktails along with Rammohan.
"Well..friend, tell me something about your journey towards here" a closeness felt in the tone of Rammohan.
"My father was suffering from a chronic kneel pain.Somebody told me that there was a particular guy in Dantewada of Chattisgarh with the expertise of Herbal medicine that comes from their ancestors.That's the reason.Your brother-in-law is my classmate and he asked me to meet you here during my journey.."
"Oh..that's nice.You can go there by bus..but the condition of roads is worse...Which will eat up all your time.Five to six hours journey.Do one thing, engage a private vehicle to save the time.."
"Nothing to worry...I will make it"
" That's the spirit.."
"Rammohan ji...how is your life in the alien state..?"
"Not a moment I felt so...!We had been come here in my childhood.My father served in this place as a private medical practitioner,in those days we never have heard any disturbance.Every where lush green ambiance with sprawling woods.For the last ten years,things got worse.A big chunk of population here is Telugu speaking lot.And next Marwaris, of course a few Bengali families too.All the business vested in these three sections.."
"Why things went haywire or disturbed.."
" Different people say different reasons.But a portion of Adivasis allege that our Telugus were the real cause for all this wreaking havoc in their lives.."
" is it true.."
"Had we read any news about Chattisgarh,It would have something regarding terrorism so on.."
"Many villages remain deserted due to the tussle between the two sides.For livelihood,these poor people enter the border villages of our Telugu states...an exile within country" said Rammohan.
"Yes...we used read the news about things like that,their struggle for common facilities like water,land,sanitation and human trafficking etc.These people are seen near bus stand of Bhadrachalam waiting for their buses apart from travelling for dailywage works to nearest mandals like Paloncha,Manuguru and so on.They always look silent and mind their own business.Never have seen socializing with other people..."
"These are Maria tribes and mostly attracted to extremism.There is another tribe called Muria and those are comparatively progressive in all respects.Salwa judum is created with these folks to retaliate Maria dominated extremism.Of course,the organisation is no more now,that's a different story.."
"Once I heard over a farmer based at Nellipaka village,the Maria tribes were skillful at the work of Chilli plucking.And they would never leave a piece of chilli in the field.They are not fussy about things like our local ones.By the ending of the season,they make money or chillies and leave the place..no extra word they utter without necessity"
"There is a link between so called civilization and communication skills.The more you want to appease others for your own ends,the more you need to brush up your communication skills.Else,what the need of extra talk..?Sometimes,it's difficult to distinguish which is genuine talk or pretending act..!Watch out on TV screens,whenever a cyclone hit some places,how greatly the residents articulate their woes and want benefits from the side of government..! Have you ever seen the same serious coverage with these people..?Because these people do not know how to showcase their problems with the intensity needed.."
"Can I tell you a shocking incident that I have seen in a nearest village...? One day,on a request of an NGO, I accompanied their team,they were of a medical team.Almost four people were killed in that village,in an action taken between the police and extremists.There was a small baby,aged about one year,also killed in that incident..."
"My God...how painful to know..! The parents must have been mourning like hell"
"No.Your guess went wrong.Mother of that baby was sitting with laying chin on her folded knees.No teardrops or no sobbing.Dead calm over there.She was also a mother like anybody in the world.She was also feeling anguish and sorrowful.But she doesn't know how to express her pain by crying out in order to get sympathy from others..." Rammohan keeps describing.The cocktail works so harder inside,piercing his heart to come out.
All of a sudden,mobile start buzzing.It was a call from the house to remind the lunch.Both of them moved."Journey to Dantewada is not possible today and I would start tomorrow whatsoever" Srinu thought so,but hesitated to reveal it.
"Why don't you set out tomorrow, take a nap after lunch" Rammohan said.Srinu exclaimed that whether he has anything like clairvoyance. (The End)
By MURTHY K V V S