A Village Outing
Be real. Not virtual—24X7! Visit the village!
Resolution of 2017!
2018—about to end.
Resolution, unfulfilled. Whole year, lost!
New Year Resolution (NYR).
How fragile! You tend to toss them out first thing in the year that follows.
—Maximum shelf- life of an NYR is one week!
A shrink once claimed. He does not trust the species—like patients, the shrinks act weirdly. Might be wrong.
As Mukesh went through the diary- entries, he grew firm: Must honour the old NYR.
Three days left before 2019 gets ushered in. I must act.
Resolved to ring in the 2019 in the country with Subash.
In the December of 2017, Subash wanted him to visit his uncle’s house in the village K, some 95 km away from Mumbai.
—You will see real paradise.
The ad executive had promised. The copy writer within a hard-boiled Mukesh got hooked to the idea of spending a night in a place that boasted idyllic charm for an automaton, desperate to flee on weekends, a living hell, vertical, gasping and restive.
Run away from the deadening routine. The tight deadlines. The office pressures. Stale gossips. Rivalries.
The bottom lines. New and impossible revenue goals. Mindless chase for profits.
—Is it? Retreat for soul? Not commercial stuff?
—Genuine. Not touristy. Ideal place to rewind. The experience enough to detox for a year!
Subash said: Semi-urban, yes. The original lifestyle, intact. I often go there to get rejuvenated. Works for me.
—Sites worth visiting?
—The Titwala Ganesha Mandir.
—An old temple to Lord Shiva. Supposed to be made by the Pandavas during their exile. Historical.
—Some connection to the Mahabharata. Great.
—Yes. Would love it. The forest, rivers, tranquility. Balm to the soul.
—Sound like a tour operator!
—Selling the idea to a team mate. You can sell that to the boss for an ad-shoot. Nice natural location. Lot of greenery and stunning outdoor scenery.
They agreed to explore the area soon.
After few drinks, both decided to walk down to the nearby Parel railway station. As usual the road was packed with the automobiles. The sound deafened; the vehicle exhaust choked. Stray dogs barked. Hawkers occupied the pavements, with no room left for the pedestrians. The pair threaded their way in the controlled chaos.
10.30 pm. No let up in the manic speed of Mumbai, its mad honking; the acoustic violence and smoke drove asthmatic Mukesh crazy.
—What? Asked Subash.
—Slow poison. Cities are dead… nobody cares!
—Worst air quality. Winters are miserable. Delhi and Mumbai compete on that index.
—The smog. Cannot breathe! Disgusting! —Killer air.
They hurriedly crossed an intersection, dodging bikers. December felt like May. The fumes stung like angry bees.
Irate Mukesh decided then: We leave tomorrow!
—First thing in the morning.
That morning never came.
However, this time, they did.
Escape the megapolis.
Took the local train and the bus. Reached the desired destination. And stepped into another world.
A two-storied, red-bricked house, modest and self-contained: A Margo tree; basil plant; hand-pump in the corner of the open front yard; large airy rooms, minimal furniture; invigorating wind; yellow-white, preferred colours; cattle part of the collective existence.
A memorable event awaited the visitors. Farewell to a youth joining army. Emotional moment as the whole village had gathered for the departure. The young man beamed with happiness. He waved at the assembly and boarded the open jeep. His father smiled and said: Never show the back to the enemy, son. Do not be afraid to lay down your life for the country! You are our hero!
The village clapped as one. The recruit saluted. Band played the marital music. Folks danced. They showered petals.
Missing, such rousing nationalism in the metropolitan India. That afternoon got etched in his mind.
After delicious lunch, they strolled down to the temple of the Lord Shiva, built near the river. In the background, the forest loomed. Crossed a little stream to reach the modest structure steeped in faith. The old priest welcomed the visitors warmly—as if they were his kin. They prayed to the Lord and sat on the rude steps, feeling a strange presence.
There was solitude of a higher order.
With no madding crowds, traffic sounds, the enveloping silence and the cool breeze off the river refreshed them.
The birds sang occasionally. The trees whispered. The hills beckoned.
They went down to the clean river by crossing the fields and sat down on the boulders, the bare feet in the pure water, enjoying the scented air.
The priest joined the duo. Subash chatted up with him. The old man turned towards the newcomer and asked: Like the place?
Mukesh smiled: Indeed! You live here?
The priest showed a house yonder: There.
—Eldest in the army.
—Oh! Everybody seems to be in army here.
—Soldiers and farmers are from country side only.
—Yeah. Life is peaceful here.
The priest smiled. A hawk circled and swooped down on a fish down the river.
—It is tough! Urban India will not understand this.
— Many farmers are driven to commit suicide. The agrarian distress is wide- spread as a cancer.
—Families suffer. Last week, a farmer hanged himself. We did not eat that day. Mourned him.
Mukesh nodded. He could feel the pain.
—Climate change makes lives harder. Stoics, we are. There is a huge disconnect between the two Indias.
Mukesh was amazed.
—In a way. Life, best teacher.
—Uncle Rao is M.Sc in agriculture. Informed Subash.
—Family profession, priesthood.
They finally returned. Everybody invited them. One extended family—the village.
Mukesh felt transformed. Purged of competition, negativity and isolation in that hard-working community.
That evening, he made latest NYR: Return visit to the village.
Sunil Sharma is Mumbai-based senior academic, critic, literary editor and author with 19 published books: Six collections of poetry; two of short fiction; one novel; a critical study of the novel, and, eight joint anthologies on prose, poetry and criticism, and, one joint poetry collection. He is a recipient of the UK-based Destiny Poets’ inaugural Poet of the Year award—2012. His poems were published in the prestigious UN project: Happiness: The Delight-Tree: An Anthology of Contemporary International Poetry, in the year 2015.
Sunil edits the English section of the monthly bilingual journal Setu published from Pittsburgh, USA: http://www.setumag.com/p/setu-home.html
For more details, please visit the blog: http://www.drsunilsharma.blogspot.in/