Wednesday, October 03, 2007

The Naaka

He sits there in a corner ,on his haunches inches above the road.the crowd mills on.Its just morning.He is accompanied by scores of faces on the 'naka'.He puffs slowly on his 'bidi' without a care and yet the creases on his forehead are symbolic of a premature aging.There are more faces than my brain can register.I have no idea where they come from,who they are or what they do,but i see them there.everyday,every morning.

The morning sun starts burning from 9:30.The bank has just opened.Traffic is at its peak,yet these people stand there,unnoticed uncared.As if their existence itself is visible to a select few,the ones who seek and the ones who have found.The 'paan tapri' at the nukkad is doing brisk business.After all,these are his first customers of the day.The paans are not much asked for,they are above reach,instead the bidis and the sachets of gutkha flow out.

The boy brings in the tea-chandelier.I have often amazed at two things,one is the knowledge of travelers about an oncoming train without even looking at the indicator and the other is the dexterity of the eternal 'chotu' balancing ,more tea cuttings than his fingers.He hands over a cup to my 'unknown friend'.I watch as the boiling watery tea slowly decreases in volume.He waits patiently,after all patience is a virtue more associated with the poor than the rich.More out of default than choice.I know why he is waiting.

The truck arrives and the manager gets out of it.Soon the motley crowd is drawn to it.The voice of the 'manager' is heard shrilly above the rest.Clear,sharp and precise to the core.

It is a job at a construction site/50 rs for the day/No lunch provided/Those who are strong are the only ones who will be taken.

It is as simple as it can get.No complex interviews,no haggling over the wage,no cal-you-back-later.Just plain You-interested-Get in.He walks up to the manager,effortlessly grappling through the anxious crowd.He says something and gets picked immediately.An impression of his thumb on paper and he's off.The rest, a pack of young old men and old young men,wait for the next truck.

As the truck dissapears around the bend,I wonder why i am standing here.What was it that interested me,was it mere ennui or was it something more? I don't know.These are people that are fighting to exist.Each hou spent in idyll is more hours of hunger for a kid or a day more of labour for a wife.these people are not here out of choice,they are desperate to get job.What right do i have to use them for my creative pleasure?They feel to me like a lonely island of people who stand by each other in adversity,because they know if he doesn't work his kids will be just as hungry as mine.They wait patiently,puffing on their bidis mulling n their gutkhas,not cursing anyone a job acquired but waiting for a job,any job that comes for them.They are alone in this world of hungry,greedy and selfish sharks,like me,who'd use them to write a good article and not pay them a penny.Yes,they are alone.

As Rilke said

I am much too alone in this world, yet not alone
to truly consecrate the hour.
I am much too small in this world, yet not small
to be to you just object and thing,
dark and smart.
I want my free will and want it accompanying
the path which leads to action;
and want during times that beg questions,
where something is up,
to be among those in the know,
or else be alone.

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