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Monday, 24 March 2014

61. AN UNFULFILLED DREAM (Published in ALIVE March 2014 Issue)

AN UNFULFILLED DREAM
Police greed deprived a young man of his ambition to join the Army.
  By Ranjana Bharij


ALIVE  March 2014 Page 106
He was sitting in front of me as I waited in the Court, for my turn to come. He had caught my attention for his particularly innocent looks and childlike expression, as soon as I went in. What is this young and decent-looking boy doing here in the court, I wondered, trying to concentrate on the newspaper which I was carrying with me to pass time. May be, he is accompanying someone, I thought. 
“Aunty ji?” My thoughts were disrupted, “Election ka result aa gaya kya?” (Are the election results out?)

“No. Not yet,” I responded willingly, happy at finding an opening to a conversation with him, that I was looking forward to secretly.
         “People are really fed up of the corruption in the country,” he continued.
I could not hold back any further and shot the question that I had been holding back for quite some time, “What brings you here? Some court case?”
He appeared to be just too eager to share his tale of woe and started narrating almost non-stop. 

ALIVE March 2014 Page 107
“Yes, I have been coming here for my court case. Police had booked me for the possession of a knife, four years ago,” he said nonchalantly, but my hackles were up. Such a young boy with innocence writ large on his face possessing an unauthorised weapon, phew!
He was going on, “I am from a village near Mathura. My father expired when I was not even 10 years old and my younger brother had not even learnt to speak. Ma brought both of us up with great difficulty and in stark poverty. My father was a soldier in Indian Army and had left behind a small piece of land, which became the means of our survival. I could not study much as there was only a high school in the village”.
“English theek se nahin bol paata hoon. Ye meri kamzori hai”, (I can’t speak English properly. This is my weakness.)  he added a little consciously. 
“Ma always told me that I must join the Army when I grow up -- like my father. ‘Mera Beta fauji banega’,” (My son will be an armyman) she used to say. But I could not fulfil her dream, thanks to the police in this country.” 
“Because of the police? What did they do?”  My tone was a little stiff now.

Yes, aunty ji, because of the police! Four years ago, I heard in my village that recruitment to the Army is taking place in Delhi. I immediately packed my bag and took the evening bus, which brought me here at midnight. I had to go to my uncle’s house in Govindpuri. Being new to Delhi, I was trying to find out how I could reach there, which bus would go that side.
“Suddenly, a constable came and started roughing me up. I tried to explain but he would not listen. Then he asked me to give him Rs. 500. I did not have even Rs. 100. Therefore, I kept telling him that I do not have it. He got irritated, took me to the police station and put me in the lock-up.
“Next day, with great difficulty, they allowed me to ring up my uncle, who immediately came to the police station. They started asking him also to bribe them and alleged that I was carrying a knife. Yes aunty ji, I did possess a knife but it was a small Swiss knife, which my mother had given me for some exigencies. Is it a crime to carry a small Swiss knife?”
I shook my head, agreeing with what he was saying.
Par pulis ko koi samjha sakta hai kya?” (But can anyone explain that to the police?)
“Then what happened,” my curiosity got the better of me.
“They kept me in the lock-up overnight. My uncle is a man of principles. He was fully convinced that I had not done any crime and refused to grease their palms. Their expected amount had now increased to Rs.2,000. He, however, managed to arrange a bail for me. Since then, this case has been going on and I have to come from Mathura again and again…..How I wish we had given the required bribe then.” He was sounding exasperated.
Suddenly, a fire alarm started blaring and all were instructed to leave the building immediately. We walked down the two flights of stairs together. While others resorted to pushing and jostling, he very politely walked by my side, as I was not able to move fast due to a sprained foot.
“And thus ended my aspirations for joining the Army.” He had a sad smile on his innocent face.
“So, what do you do now?” my curiosity raised its head again.
“Aunty ji, I was left with no option. Therefore, I went back to the village and started cultivating that piece of land. I have done reasonably well and have purchased the land adjacent to mine as my neighbour’s son had shifted to the city after his father’s death last year. The crop has been good. I have bought a tractor also, through a bank loan,” he shared enthusiastically as we reached the ground floor.
As it was time to part company, he gave me his mobile number and invited me to visit Mathura, promising to take me around to all the temples there. Having enjoyed the conversation for over an hour now, I asked him if I could drop him somewhere, on my way back home.
He shook his head and uttered, “No. There is no need. I have my car. It is parked there,” he pointed to a white Verna, parked a few metres away.
He was sad that he could not join the army to serve the nation. I thought, that by cultivating the land, too, he was serving the nation but did not say anything.
I felt sad for him, for he had not been able to fulfil his ambition in life but felt happy for his achievement in the field of agriculture. Either way, he was serving the nation though his unfulfilled dream was still haunting him.

*****
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