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A F Kirmani

Drama Tragedy


4  

A F Kirmani

Drama Tragedy


Chandu

Chandu

9 mins 66 9 mins 66

Ripples burst along the glistening serenity of the crimson river. Chandu threw back his head and closed his eyes in tired resignation.

"You keep lodging stones in the river and one day it will overflow and engulf you" said Raghu. Chandu opened his eyes and turned as his 18 year old face creased into a sardonic expression. "So let that be. What difference would that make?"

"Then why don't you do something that could make a difference"

"So what is the great deed that waits to be done by me and what's the difference that's not yet been made in my anticipation." Asked Chandu sarcastically.

"When God created us he made a plan for all of us. All of us have a preplanned destination. We only have to find it. There lies an un trodden path for us to be discovered and explored."

"No such path lies for one whose childhood has been spent roaming in the filthy streets along the open drains of human excrete, who hordes along the dogs and pigs, and whose blood and bone and flesh is owed to the leftovers of the thankless mouths"


"Man's biggest asset is his confidence in himself and his ability to keep alive hope"

"Why don't you put a halo behind your head you may sound more convincing" said Chandu

"You will certainly see a halo behind my head when I give you the news I have. Have you heard of Keshab Nath".

 "Keshab Nath" Chandu repeated and suffixed it with the choicest of expletives.

"No on no he may be a blessing in disguise. For the forthcoming elections he wants some young local people to help in his publicity and in promoting his agenda etc. "said Raghu.

"I cannot see any halo behind your head." Chandu cut him short

"You will just listen to me. Everyone knows how this Singh struggled his way out of the rags into the white starched cotton kurtas ----"

"How does this saga of success concern me?" Said Chandu irritated. 

"What concerns you is that he has some white starched kurtas to offer you if you prove your worth."

Chandu changed his posture looking interested.


 Raghu continued "he had a speech in Nehru Park last evening. Some of our folks who had been there told that he spoke of encouraging new talents from his constituency and being from amongst us he feels especially obliged. He has promised to offer full support, financial and advisoral to those young people whom he finds worthwhile. You know if you work hard and reach up to his expectation you might be roaming around in an air conditioned car and dining out at that place what is it called where Shaymlal's son in law works…. ""Taj" Chandu helped him "yes Taj and shaking hands with all those people we see in the paper by this time two years later. Now you better start seeing the halo behind my head."

"How do I get about doing it? Chandu asked thoughtfully running his tongue over his dry lips. 

"You have to start by registering yourself in the party office tomorrow as a party helper." Said Raghu

The next day two hours before this time Chandu was at the party office. The clerk barked at him like a superior dog and he followed instructions like an inferior one. Registered as a party helper he got an identity card and was asked to report eight days later. Chandu strolled out of the party office splitting inaudible expletives at the clerk determined to fire him when he gets the position. And that was followed by velvety daydreams of success and triumph and happiness and laurels.


What a novelty for a mind that hadn't ever ventured beyond the bare basic necessities of food and lodging. One from Ulysses' savage people was about to tread Ulysses' path. He had dismissed the clerk from his mind after deciding the right punishment for him when the time came and now there was a spring in his legs. He took the longer way home around the river through the old bridge. The sun was setting and his springful gait launched a stone or two into the river and once again the ripples burst along the glistening serenity of the crimson passion. 

For some unknown reason the coming nights and days stretched themselves in unbearable proportions. At nights Chandu would lay awake thinking of the bright future he was about to have and at day he would roam around the river with much the same thoughts. When the eighth day passed and the ninth came Chandu got up at 6 o'clock. It was one of the rare occasions on which he brushed his teeth, shaved, took a bath and shampooed his hair. He dressed himself up in the only pant and shirt he had and shone his worn out shoes with a borrowed set of polish and brush. Thereafter he surveyed himself in this tiny mirror and as a final touch applied coconut oil over his shampooed hair and parted it in a straight line. 


At 10 o clock he was at the party office and after three and a half desperate hours the leader finally appeared. For half an hour he droned about the party history and ideals and then dedicated the next hour to his own greatness. At last he came to the purpose for which all of them had been called and when he finished an hour later, Chandu's universe had changed.

"You dedicate yourself to the party and your lives will be changed. Who knows one of you may be the Prime Minister one day." The leader's words echoed in Chandu's mind. "It may be you, you or you" Chandu was convinced that his eyes had lingered longer on him. "All you have to do is to dedicate yourself fully to our cause." Chandu's recollections got interrupted as he saw Raghu coming towards him.

"So how was it" Raghu asked.

"I have decided"

"What"

"I will join politics"

"Great"

"Actually it is. I have to thank you for this."

"When are you starting work?"

"Tomorrow"

 

The next four months passed in a dizzy spell. Chandu slept for 5 hours and worked for 19. He distributed pamphlets and fastened banners to the electricity poles across the streets. When somebody marveled at the promises from 500 yards nobody knew how close Chandu had been to the lives electricity wires. The sun hammered mercilessly on the anvil of Chandu's frail body and sweat flowed in thick streams along his back as he knocked on strange doors to convey his master. He shouted slogans till his throat went sour, collected people for the rallies, checked the mikes, fixed the speakers and brought the chairs loaded on his head. 

 

As the final day approached another round of publicity commenced. Midway the area supervisor called his workers "There's a problem. There's been some misallocation of the funds for our area. It is difficult for you to understand the complexity of the procedure. But it's just that we will have two cut down on our expenses without cutting down on any activity. I have given a lot of thought to it and I suppose that if one of you knows to paint the banners we can stop paying the professional painters and of course you will be reimbursed once the account gets settled. It's just that with such a few days at hand we can't waste time on these issues." The supervisor's shrewd and cunning eyes roved from one to the other. Reimbursement was what others were considering though they half believed in it but for Chandu it was a golden chance to prove his dedication and loyalty. "I can, I will" Chandu volunteered. So for several nights to come the 5 hours reduced to an insignificant amount and Chandu painted like a manic. "These nights shall be recorded in my biography for generations to marvel and follow". Chandu said to himself as he vigorously applied paint on the promised words- "your vote will guarantee a drastic change in your lives. I promise that none shall die of hunger and cold in my state. They shall be no men lining the footpath at nights." He painted 20 of them in a night and during the day fastened them across the streets. 


The day of the election arrived and went away. A month later Keshab Nath took the oath. It was time for Chandu's reward. For days Chandu spent long hours outside the office. One day the clerk said "Why do you waste your time here. Sir is very busy. He won't be able to meet you" 

"I don't need much time. Just a few minutes. He promised me a reward if I work hard in the election campaigns." Said Chandu

"Have you not been getting your allowance?"

"Oh I have but he said that I'll be raised to a better position -- -- --."


"You should contact the subordinate staff for that" the clerk cut him short.

"Oh I have. They say my pursuits are useless. But they don't know what Sir said to me"

"What did he say to you?"

"He said that my hard work will change my life. He'll give a special reward to those workers whom he finds fully dedicated. My area supervisor will back me on that. Sir had looked upon me and said that one day I can even be the Prime Minister."

The clerk gave a heavy dismissing laughs and added "for now you go. When Sir announces a reward we will call you"

"But how will you call me. I do not have an address. I live on the footpath."

"We will call you from there."

"All right. It is the footpath on the new river bridge. My name is Chandu. Everyone there knows me."

 

 Several days after that were devoted primarily to two activities. He would visit the area supervisor to ask for the painting reimbursement who would call him again to call him yet again. Then he would come back, ask his neighbors if anybody had come asking for him and then continue his wait.

The wait continued but his dreams began to subside as the days began to get shorter and more practical needs started pressing. He needed a blanket at nights but there was no money. The previous months of vigorous labor had rendered him incapable of taking up any thing.

He surveyed the few items he had- a pajama and a vest, a small mirror, a single burner stove and a few utensils any of which cannot be bargained for a blanket or sweater. He had half a dozen banners but the supervisor can ask for them when he pays the money. Besides they won't fetch much in the market.


Every night he courageously started the battle with nature half hoping to emerge triumphant in the morning. Several nights and days passed and Chandu kept struggling and waiting. 

 One morning just as the mist was dissipating after performing its villainous role for the night someone spotted a rolled bundle lying on the footpath. "What's that" someone asked. "I don't know. Something is written on it" the other replied. "It's written on the inside actually" another onlooker volunteered. "Let's open it and see" said Raghu as he pulled one corner of it. "Your vote will guarantee a drastic change in your lives. I promise that none shall die of hunger and cold in my state. They shall be no man lining the footpath at nights". The entire text became clear as the banner opened fully and Chandu's cold, curled, and stiff body rolled out of it.


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