DR. YOGESH SHARMA
He was one of the part time and replacement taxi drivers that used to work and live near our society building. He came here to work in the month of January after the massacre of Hindus by jihadis in Punditwari, Anantnag. There were many drivers working as drivers there at all times. Some of them work in day and some at night. Some work only on holidays. They all stay in dingy little servant quarters near the parking area in different residential societies. Generally they do not keep their families with them due to financial constrains and problem of insufficient living space. Most of these drivers were Muslims and are illiterate and lazy difficult fellows who were, it seems happy to survive some how. Amidst the dirty and dusty bodies of cars their poverty and laziness was in tune. But in glaring contrast, they were very attentive and caring to the commands of local tough, bearded, skull capped maulvi.
GENOCIDE OF PUNDITS
Sigris were cold in pundit helmets,
People here were fuels to jihadi guns,
Wailing widows crying for slaughtered kins.
Terrified returning homeward their tired way,
As world a towering inferno to them.
The air was carrying a sad silent tone,
Weeping birds complain to moon and stars
Crying about the lost ones,
Who will never be seen again?
No memorials erected for those slaughtered,
As they were not mad vote machines.
In that method less madness,
Some might have slaughtered with a fire within,
Or arms that might have raised an empire,
Or hands that might have rocked the oceans,
Some great Vivekananda might be there,
Or some cherished Tendulkar,
Might have lost his blood.
All merit they had but sad fate,
Slaughtered for a status and crown
And their shivering bones remained,
Unprotected from insult and bloodbath.
Let not power mock their toll,
Sad destiny and remorseful smile,
And rude kotwals of secular trade dancing,
Multicultural dons will remain their,
To curse names and race for their trade
Bestowed with a treasure hidden.
On unclaimed pyre lie their corpses,
Unfortunate, cursed and unattended,
Nation mocking their poor faith,
Alas! Poor pundits of Death Valley.
So I was surprised when I first met Ram Sunder Razdan last winter when I was going back to Khurja, in his taxi, for the winter vacation. He was absolutely different from other drivers. He was of average height, strongly built, sharp and attractive features, shining and pointed black moustache with some aging hairs, hiding the upper lip. He did justify his name by his decent and graceful mannerism. He was a retired army man. His uniform was always ironed with clear crease and shoes always polished, true to his army background. He was so different from his dull and lazy fellow drivers, with ugly Kabuli looks, in mismatched uniform, soiled shoes, ill mannered behavior that he was actually a pleasure to see in true sense. He was simply a mismatch to that ghetto like environment.
A clay pot that contains milk will be ranked higher than a golden pot that has dirt in it. It is not the outer glamour but the inner wisdom that makes a person valuable.
When first time I met him in the tin shade counter, made by the taxi drivers for their rest and wait.There he was getting harsh up-brandings from Mr.Hassan Farooqui. Mr Farooqui resides in our society in a flat and is in his forties and recently returned from America after the bombing of 9/11. All the time he used to vent his frustration on every body on his run from that dream land due to the extra ordinary watch kept on Muslims in America after 9/11. Mr.Farooqui has mysterious business and in the society considered being rich. He is very arrogant of his possessions and he boasts it with gold chain in his neck and left wrist decks with expensive Rolex gold watch and the HTC Heur cell-phone in his long kurta pocket. He is dwarf sized, bulky and fast going bald. His face has loose skin and black patches due to excess intake of imported whisky. In himself he is a class ready to plunge anywhere for the sake of quick and easy money. People uses to whisper that of late, he supplies young and notorious boys for stone pelting on security forces to get heavy bucks from across the border.
Farooqui is a fat and modern consumer like any other neo-rich. He was a fast and quick buyer to live and enjoy, seeing a purpose for his life. He consumes to live and lives to consume. If some thing new and branded is not added to his catalogue of things he may wind up and die but he was faithful to the preaching of Holy Quran like a sarkari babu loyal to his work and files and constitution of India.
Again back to the encounter between Farooqui and Ram Sunder Razdan. Ram sunder sitting on a broken, loosely tied cot and Farooqui in front of him, furiously shouting, and another man who looked wealthy like Farooqui, gold watch and chain, gesticulating abusively and shouting in the same manner. It seems both were very angry with Ram Sunder Razdan for some reason or the other. Normally I usually ignore Farooqui and his bad company because it was their routine shouting session on one or the other. Farooqui is the president of the housing society and he was proud of his president ship. Due to this position he was always in demand, some time by trouble shooter communal separatist leaders or some time by law enforcing bodies to get his help in restoring peace and order. He was a very cunning interlocutor.
But it was Ram Sunder Razdan—his bright confident face and high bearing with an inmate pride in himself, a sense of defiance to these owls and injured pride like a wounded tiger made me stop to look over the wrangling with an awe and shock. A totally astonishing thing happened. Ram Sunder Razdan said to Farooqui and company, “But sir it was not my mistake, I was just driving the car,” in clear and chaste manner but a little bit of rural accented English. It was a very interesting dramatic scene. Farooqui is stupefied and cannot believe his ears nor can his friend. They were looking side to avoid that insulting situation in my presence. Ram Sunder Razdan is also elated on this unexpected upper hand. Farooqui and his friend is now red faced and started barking out like a mad dog. These two gentlemen have their education in madarsas.
‘You talk to me in English! How dare you talk?’ Shouted Farooqui.
‘I just said that I was driving, and I am not a rustic. I do speak English’, Ram Sunder Razdan replied to Farooqui and company in Hindi.
‘I will boot you out.’
Ram Sunder Razdan kept quiet at this and some how controlled his anger.
I intervened and try to remain neutral ‘what is the matter, Farooqui sahib?’
With a sigh of relief he turned and looked at me. Normally he considers me as an insignificant fellow in the society and never pays any attention to me but that day he treated me with respect and glad to see me there as a person who can pull him out of that tight position. He treated me in a very friendly manner.
‘Ah Sharmaji, good you are here,’ he tried to speak in English but soon good sense prevailed and he switched over to Hindi which was worse than his English. ‘My friend Basher Mohammad (here the troubled man smiled and I responded back with smile), came to talk to this man to hire a driver and this rough idiot driver asked him about his identity.’
I come to this stand very frequently and every body knows me well here and I was never subjected to this type of enquiry. He wanted to bring a person who can vouch for me and when I refused, he very harshly refused me to give any driver or taxi to me.
I felt very uncomfortable in being involved with such type of stupid thing but still I spoke hesitantly, ‘he was right and more over due to terrorism and insurgency one has to see the anecdotes of a person before working for him and he doesn’t know you.’
To support his friend Farooqui shouted, ‘He insulted my friend,’ but there was not any conviction this time in his tone.
Due to terrorism and insurgency in the Kashmir valley only a Muslim name was enough to create a sense of discomfort in any body’s mind.
‘These rules have been made by the government agencies for our safety, and Mr.Razdan was following the rules what he has been told to follow and these are for our safety.’
Farooqui and Basher Mohammad glared at me and then Farooqui said angrily, “Sharmaji I am going to complain to the society welfare committee and your father about your attitude.” I simply smiled at his threat and ignored his comments. He quickly entered the lift and his friend followed him like a scooter’s extra tire (stepni).
Later on, my servant Krishna told me that his name was Ram Sunder Razdan and that he was a Brahman. I learnt from Krishna that the other driver did not like him, thought him to be arrogant due to his mannerism, education and army background. But they thought this was because Ram Sunder Razdan was of a ‘higher’ caste and all the other being Muslims, uneducated and ill-mannered. He was very reserved by nature and kept to himself. In his free times, he reads English and religious books in the drivers’ room. Children used to come to him to get their homework done in a very smooth and correct manner. All this according to my servant was bad behavior, but he agreed that he was the best driver working at that taxi stand and highly liked by ladies and children. He was very smart, efficient and did his job excellently and very competently. For his competency women and children used to give him good tips. This made male family members and other taxi drivers jealous of him. Even he used to help society ladies and children without any extra charge for their minor works, like dropping and picking their children from the school whenever they miss the bus. On this other taxi drivers started spreading all type of rumors about his character.
Mr.Hassan Farooqui did complain to my father but he did not pay any attention to him nor did he say thing to me. But after that incident, Farooqui, with his wounded pride, started misinformation campaign against Ram Sunder Razdan. He criticized Ram Sunder for every thing and any thing. He called him inefficient and said rash while driving. He even claimed he had caught him driving under the influence of wine. He was bent on getting him booted out, come what way. But the problem was that no one was sympathetic to these two fools and other residents, especially women and children were opposed to this tirade, so Ram Sunder stayed there.
Hassan Farooqui couldn’t digest this reality that a poor miserable little Kashmiri Pundit driver had answered back a Muslim here in Kashmir in this manner and that too in English. He was sure; it was just to insult him in front of his friend and worse, in front of me. He was very upset about the insult in ‘English’.
In his blind arrogance he never even realized that he could ever have been wrong. He had always been wealthy and the rich and wealthy are always right; and he had no doubt about his conviction. On the other hand, Ram Sunder Razdan, on his part remained the same in his behavior towards Hassan Farooqui and his friend and did nothing that was counter productive except he stopped offering ‘Salaam’ to Farooqui and his friends, while he could offer ‘Salaam’ to other persons and this made Farooqui furious with no end.
After that incident, I came to know more about Ram Sunder from talking with him every now and then for five-ten minutes when I had free time. He felt highly obliged to me for my timely intervention on that ‘fateful’ day for which he profusely thanked me. The other drivers also realized his worth by that time. Ram Sunder would read to them, news and stories from English newspaper and magazines, around the world as English newspapers and magazines were much more informative than the poor local Kashmiri newspapers. They had unofficially elected him as their president and I thought that he possesses all the leadership qualities, as he came from a race that was once leaders and most intelligent thinkers of that state. His fore fathers must have waged wars against the British and Muslim rulers amidst the beautiful natural heavenly beauty. But now due to the communal politics of the state governments and central governments in the name of secularism these Pundits are forced to lead the life of refuses in their own country and were toiling hard for daily meal.
Ram Sunder Razdan was an educated person. He was intermediate pass from the Commerce and ArtsGovernmentCollege; Anantnag, the very same college, his father used to teach Sanskrit there, but was killed by Islamic terrorists. Ram Sunder Razdan has to leave his studies and his village and had to join army that he liked. Razdans did not have much land and property and some of it had to be sold for his sister’s wedding and brother’s studies. He himself had married when he was only twenty and now his one son and daughters were living in a refugee camp in Delhi. Unlike other Muslim drivers who had big families, he has small but sad family. The income from the farm was nothing as he had to leave the farming due to the terrorists’ threat and local people usurped his land and gave nothing in its return. His younger brother had to discontinue his studies due to the terror threat.
After the retirement from the army he got a job as a teacher in a school near Shrinagar, but after a year without pay and with no hope of the situation ever improving, he quit the job and left the place and came to Shrinagar. Drifting from one job to other, sometimes working as a helper in a grocery shop, sometimes even as a laborer. In Kashmir, it was very difficult for Hindus to get a good job. Hindus are considered as children of lesser God. Fed up with all these, he finally started this driving job. He would tell me all his past things without any hesitation to reduce his pain. I could feel his pain beneath his silence. He hadn’t met his wife and children since a year and this made him more sad and gloomy.
God send me on the earth, an innocent being,
Untouched by the black and white doing,
But the world branded me as a Brahmin,
And a curse fallen on this urchin,
A child of lesser God,
The entire honor was forbidden to this pod.
Education, help, livelihood;
All was snatched by Robin Hood,
Some branded it as social equality,
But it was state cruelty,
Other’s called it secular passion,
But it was ugly repression,
All the isms kill human rights,
They are the Janus face of racial might.
He was very well informed and well read which was very amazing for a man of this humble background. Reading was a passion to him and very often he used to discuss the things that he had read in the newspapers and books and what he felt about them. I realized that he had a very sharp and intelligent critical bent of mind, much sharper than me even though I was a student and teacher of literature. His perception about things was remarkably very acute. Perhaps ups and down of life had taught him so much about the world and its realities.
He started borrowing books from me though I am not as well read in Hindi literature as I should have been because Hindi is my mother tongue. But the knowledge of Hindi is not going to fetch any dividend in this English controlled economy. Moreover if Hindi books are seen in any house it was considered as a sign of educational and social backwardness. In Kashmir Hindi can also jeopardize individual safety. Among the books were collections of Munshi Premchand, Shivani, Guleri, Yatri. He was such a voracious reader that he returned back the borrowed books the very next day.
During my evening and morning walk time we would sit in the park and talk about the books and stories, their characters and life in general and feared life in Kashmir in particular, until I went back to my flat. Now he stopped saluting me and begins greeting me with Ram Ram which made me very glad and comfortable as I was not his army officer or boss. He has tremendous love for his wife and he would wear a saffron colored sweater, symbol of patriotism and bravery, knitted by his wife over his white uniform.
In the first week of January he sent a little note to me, requesting to borrow five hundred rupees, which he will repay during the summer season when the tourism season is on its peak. At home his wife needed that money urgently to deposit the exam fee of his school going kids. He also wrote in the note that he is now penniless and he had no money left even to take his meals. He wrote that he had not eaten any morsel for two days and now having difficulty in driving. It was a short, formal and very decent letter as was his manners.
I had gone out so my wife came down with the money and gave to him. She also gave some food to Ram Sunder.
When Mr.Hassan Farooqui came to know about this help, he mocked me and my wife about this and named Ram Sunder a lazy impotent bull. He was under this wrong impression that probably Ram Sunder and other drivers consume wine at night because he had heard loud noises from some where and that is where all money is wasted. But I ignored him. This made him more jealous of me.
Hassan Farooqui was a highly religious man. He was very liberal in giving donations to mosques, madarsas and other Islamic institutions and bodies. He used to read prayers five times a day and regularly used to organize Quran reading at his flat. But shockingly enough has no respect for any other religion or any other human being of different faith. I wondered what kind of God he believed in. His God must be a small and narrow God.
On the occasion of Eid all were partying and marry making. All were greeting each other and a big party was organized in the open ground of our apartment building. Since I do not like such extravaganzas and think these are wastage of time and money and hence are social evils. I did not go down to attend the party and instead preferred to read Wounded Civilization, by V.S Naipaul but my wife joined the party and came back home after midnight. Hassan Farooqui’s organized a separate party in his apartment, stealthily. Some westernized, convent educated, youngsters were invited in that party. In that party liquor was served and consumed very liberally. Majority of the residents were unaware of such a party. But many friends of Hassan Farooqui failed to turn up on account of Eid. They did not like the idea of such a party on the holy occasion of Eid. Moreover in Islam consumption of liquor is considered an un-Islamic act.
Due to all these factors, the food was left untouched because more food than needed was ordered. Large quantity of meat, chicken, biryani, paneer, egg curry, malai kofta, rasgulla, and gulab jamun was left untouched with no one to consume. By that time ladies went in hiding and the remaining gentlemen were so much intoxicated that they were in no position even to stand forget about eating.
In the midst of this jam session, one of the gentlemen, drunk heavily, suggested to call all the taxi drivers, from the taxi stand, so that the food is not wasted. He requested Zafar, who was there watching this drama silently and having number of pegs of his own, ‘Zafar sahib, go downstairs and call all the taxi drivers from the stand to eat, as someone has to consume all these left over items.’
So Zafar went to the taxi stand and called all the taxi drivers present there to come upstairs. All the taxi drivers rushed except Ram Sunder Razdan. All the drivers gulped the food very fast and went back to the taxi stand. A number of them had disturbed stomach the next morning. As Ram Sunder picked a plate up started taking items for himself, Hassan Farooqui rushed to him and loudly, sarcastically said, ‘Oh Mr. Ram Sunder Razdan, I hope you must be hungry as always, you probably might not have seen or eaten such delicious food ever in your life, so eat carefully, keeping in mind your stomach, don’t over eat all these fabulous dishes.’ And then he laughed boisterously and patted Ram Sunder on the back very roughly. Ram Sunder felt very insulting and humiliating and that his heart and mind were sinking. He quietly put the plate on the table and walked out, aware of everybody’s eyes drilling on him. The other drivers ignored Ram Sunder’s humiliation and enjoyed and filled themselves up to brim.
What happened next was very sad and unfortunate; may be tragic but ‘tragic’ is reserved for certain other groups and categories, which does not definitely include the minor and insignificant character like Ram Sunder Razdan. Moreover he was a pundit and in the valley and elsewhere in India pundits are considered insignificant human beings. On that tragic night Ram Sunder did not go to work. After the party died naturally and all the people gone to sleep, Ram Sunder sat in a corner and brooded over his miserable life and what had happened. All the tragic and past events reconstructed in his mind. He was hopelessly sad and full of pain and hurt. He started thinking about his family. He thought about his beautiful, innocent wife, who still looked pretty in spite all the pains in her life. Locals had tried to kidnap her before they flee from the village; about his loyal but equally unfortunate brother and his beloved land and village but now thirsty for his blood. Although the land possession was very small but it was full of life and dreams but all wasted.
He remembered how on one fateful night he hear the shouts of Allah Ho Akbar and terrorist with green flags in their hand, appeared suddenly and started raining bullets. With great difficulty they could save their lives but the village and the small chunk of land was lost to him forever. He wept inconsolably that night in a temporary refugee camp, holding his wife tightly and their son sleeping calmly, unaware of the storm that has uprooted their lives and future. It was the beautiful face of his wife and innocent calm face of his son who made him leave his village for a new beginning. Otherwise chivalrous army man inside him was awakened to retaliate and teach a lesson to those butchers.
It was again his wife’s and son’s faces, that night, around two o’clock after midnight that rocked the balance of his mind. With his bare but strong hands he broke the wooden walls of the cabin. With his blows he broke the glass door, the wooden chairs and cot and telephone system. His hands were bleeding profusely, fingers fractured. Other drivers got a chance to settle their jealousy. Instead of stopping Ram Sunder they rushed to the near by police post. When they came back with four policemen and they all beat him up mercilessly. Ram Sunder became unconscious, but by that time that taxi office was totally converted into trash. One of the taxi drivers rushed to inform me, knowing his closeness with me. I woke up and went downstairs with my wife. Some other residents also followed me to see the humiliation of Ram Sunder.
Ram Sunder was in the taxi office. They had tied him up like a bull with the cord used to pull the defective cars. His entire body became blue due to merciless beating and was badly swollen and his hands were badly bleeding. His eyes were open but blank and expressionless like aliens. I untied his hands and legs but he lay there on the floor motionless. As was expected, no other male member came down to see Ram Sunder. But strangely enough their women folk were seen sobbing and children crying to the condition of there dear Ram Sunder. No body took him to the hospital. I tried to take him to the hospital but no one helped me there. I could not understand what to do. Even I failed to understand whether Ram Sunder was dead or alive.
nai’nam chindanti śastrāni nai’nam dahati pāvakah
na cai’nam kledayanty āpo na śosayati mārutah
acchedyo’yam adāhyo’yam akledyo’ śosya eva ca
nityah sarvagatah sthānur acalo’yam sanātanah
Weapons do not cut this spirit (Atma), fire does not burn it, water does not make it wet, and the wind does not make it dry. Atma cannot be cut, burned, wet, or dried. It is eternal, all-pervading, unchanging, immovable, and primeval.
(The Bhagavad Gita. Ch.2. Sl. 23-24)
In a far off place near the main city mosque, a tall leader, Maulana Mohammad Faheem wearing, long kurta, short salwar and round skull cap roaring that we will die for secularism and ultimately for Kashmiriyat and a Nazim, standing on a wall top, fingers in his ears, reciting Islamic prayer, “ Allah ho Akbar.” Some where in the fields a bull was yelling. A group of stone palter boys were hitting the poor bull to safeguard their secular traditions and Kashmiriyat.
FLAG OF JUSTICE
Mute nation, counting coffins,
Stands dazed by the pyre,
Waiting for the next victims,
To be put on pyre.
Country deaf and dumb,
Shrouded in fear, numb,
Wailing widows, children orphaned,
Flashed across the streets like lambs.
Up on a platform,
A wolf in whites, roaring,
Jai ho, jai ho, jai ho,
Nation salutes the resolute spirit.
Living race can’t wait five years,
Think and decide today.