SAHAB, I WAS TRYING TO HAVE THIS BISCUIT FOR THE LAST FIVE YEARS

A colleague comes from a naxal-affected belt of Odisha. Midst the raging debate on Naxals between the pro- and anti- factions at the workplace after the recent Naxal attacks, in Chhattisgarh and on train in Bihar, he narrated a small but touching incident that came across him few years ago while he was visiting his native place.

One day, visiting a rural area, he took a tea-break at a roadside tea-stall in a tribal locality.

He ordered his tea and was loitering here and there when he found a youth who must be in early 20’s staring at him with eyes of anticipation.

Clad in a worn-out and oversized outfit on a lanky built, his eyes were bulging out and he was walking absent-minded across the tiny space in front of the tea-stall as if looking desperately for some lost possession.

The colleague asked the youth if he needed something. The brief conversation went on like this:

Colleague: Why are you looking at me like this? Do you need something?

Youth: Sahab (Sir), can you buy me a cup of tea? I do not have even a penny for many days.

My colleague was not suspicious of what the youth had just said. Extreme poverty was a known thing in that area and it was more severe in case of the tribal populations which were gradually being displaced from the lands and forests without being provided an alternative to earn the livelihood. They were simply being robbed of the only thing they had, the nature with its resources that had sustained them for generations.

Colleague: Sure, why not. (To the tea vendor) – Please add one more cup to my order.

It was not a smile but a glint of anticipation that ran thought the face of the youth on hearing it. Though he was restrained, his eyes were saying that he wanted to say something more. Reading this, my colleague asked him?

Colleague: Anything else?

Youth: Sahab, I am hungry. I have not eaten anything since last evening.

Colleague: But it is just a tea-stall. It offers just tea and biscuits.

Youth: Sahab, can you buy me a biscuit?

Colleague: But that won’t satisfy your hunger. Take this money from me and buy some food. Okay, but finish your tea and biscuits first.

My colleague, seeing his hunger, as was clear from the youth’s body language, ordered five biscuits.

As if something shocking happened, the youth got shocked on hearing it. He was standing there, mouth agape, as if he had heard something unbelievable. The tea-vendor had to shake him up to give him the biscuits.

Suddenly, the youth started weeping. My colleague, though aware of the extreme poverty of the area, was now shocked to see the response.

Tears were there in the youth’s eye but his face was now echoing an expression of joy that someone exudes on getting something very precious.

Youth (with tearful eyes but a beaming face): Sahab, for the last five years, I was thinking of having this biscuit but could not have money to buy it. So many times, I thought if I could earn something extra, I would buy this biscuit for me and my family. Can I eat one and take the rest for my family?

His question brought my colleague back but he was still in the state of shock. Now, tears were visible in his eyes. He could not answer the youth’s request. He simply bought a packet of the biscuit, handed it over to the youth with some money to buy food, left his tea unfinished and left the tea-stall absent-minded.

Millions of the tribals like the youth mentioned here cannot even think to buy a biscuit that costs a Rupee. They are also Indians. That is also an India.

How many of us know about these Indias?

Why are we killing our own people?

Why are we pushing our own countrymen to such extreme misery?

Why are pushing them to act in a way so that later on, we can brand them as Maoists or Naxals and order their ruthless eradication?

Why are creating circumstances to foster ideologies like Naxalism or Militant Maoism?

©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – https://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/

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