Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Trust is such a relative word!

It was almost dark when the rickety bus dropped me at Dede-Ranga bus stop in Rajmahal district ( Jharkhand state in eastern India). Despite being rickety, however, the Jharkhand state transport bus had an enormous belly which was filled with men, women of all ages, along with children, chicken, and if my ears were not fooling me, some goats too. And after an hour of bumpy ride, I was carrying a bit of everyone's smell on me.

The problem was not , however, of smelling like a hundred people or even animals. The problem was of finding my way to my destination--a Santhal village called Ranga. Since the DVC (Damodor Valley Corporation - the power giver to dozens of districts of the eastern India) power grid station was just a few miles away, I had expected to see Ranga as a kind of urban village. But now I came to know that not only the village did not have any electricity, but also had no motorable roads.

It was getting dark fast. Standing in that looming darkness, in the middle of nowhere, wondering where was the road to Ranga, I met Sajan.

A student of St Xaviers' college in Patna city , Sajan was coming home on vacation. His home, to my confused delight, turned out to be Ranga village. What more, Sajan also turned out to be a relative of Mrs James-an old lady I was going to visit. She was the distant relative of a girl with whom I went to college once. We had never met, and now I was on a sudden, impulsive trip to visit her and see her village.

Introduction over, Sajan offered to be my guide to Ms James'. And soon I found out the reason: in a few minutes we were walking along the narrow dirt track between paddy fields. In the pitch darkness, it was impossible for me to see where was I going . The darkness increased manifold when it started to pour. Now here here I was-in a remote village with no paved roads, no electricity, and not a single home where people kept awake after dark .

As I walked on, I held Sajan's hand, maybe a little too tight, because he made jokes about it. But I decided to accept Sajan as my guide, quiet literally, at least for the night.

After about an hours' walk we reached Mrs James' hut, only to find it locked--form outside. Now, on top of everything, I had another new problem: there was no place for me to sleep. And I was wet, shivering, cold and hungry.

Surprisingly, Sajan seemed quite cool and said that the lady must have gone to her daughter's village and suggested that we go there too.

His coolness made me a little afraid. I was not sure if he was trying to help me or take advantage of my misery.

But I had made him my guide. And I decided to let him lead me on. I decided to trust this young stranger whom I had met in this rainy night. We had already spent 2 hours together.

So we began again. Once again, we were walking along the dirt tracks, along the paddy fields, now filled with rain water. Once again, I was blind in the darkness, walking holding his hands.

After what seemed an agonizing forever, we reached a hut which Sajan said, would be Mrs James' daughter's house. By then I was so tired, all I wanted was be dry and drop dead, preferably in a bed.

I got it of course. And even more. I was offered home made drink, made of Mahua flowers, followed by black tea, rice, curried chicken . And at the end of all these there was a bed--mercifully with nobody to share with.

Of course I slept like a log. Of course when the morning came, everything seemed quite surreal --my meeting with Sajan, how he guided me from misery to safety and comfort, how he never wanted to know what the hell I was doing in that unknown village or what business did I have in visiting Mrs James--someone whom I had never, ever met before.

 Even when I told him on my own that I was just a crazy traveler who loved doing stupid things like visiting far away villages and being guests of unknown people  and that I had just barely heard of Mrs James, Sajan didn't raise an eyebrow. He just seemed to accept me with all my craziness with amazing readiness.

And yet, even after exchanging our numbers, Sajan never ever called me. He never answered my calls either. A few months after we had met, I heard, he had left college abruptly and had eloped with a village girl.

A few more months later, he had joined the Maoists. The girl, who he had eloped with, returned to the village, saying Sajan had abandoned her.

I don't know if he is still alive.

What I know is that Sajan - now a dreaded Maoist guerrilla, or a misled young man whom everyone would love to mistrust and hate, was my savior, my guide and my trusted friend for one night when I was alone, helpless and had nowhere to go.


dwainalexander8585619870 said...
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Prateek said...

I hope Sajan is good and will remain good in whichever way he choose to live.
Isn’t it strange that, people who save strangers, sometimes also kill strangers. The world is full of mysteries.
Trust is not a relative word. Trust is about you, just about you. Trust is absolute. However, in the decision making process, the availability of all the facts is an absolute impossibility.
“Faith is such a blind word”

Prateek said...

One more comment... I kept on thinking about this whole night....

"It is far from clear whether "good intentions plus stupidity" or "evil intentions plus intelligence" have wrought more harm in the world...The conviction that our intentions are unquestionably good may sanctify the most questionable means." -- Dietrich Dörner, The Logic of Failure