Ravi ki duniya

Ravi ki duniya

Monday, August 30, 2010

Sattu IV: KASTURI – The Only Sister

            Kasturi was a plain Jane sister of Sattu. She was elder to Sattu.  Poor Kasturi, though was an intelligent student but circumstances did not allow her to go beyond school education.  She was a product of All Girls School, Khirni Gate in Aligarh.  I remember having gone to her school twice: Once, with B. complex syrup on my hair, as my aunt mistook it for hair oil.  It was detected only when a swarm of flies kept perching on my head: Second, to see Dilip Kumar’s Daag being screened in the school hall as part of cultural fest. The wall served as the screen.  It is a sad film with scenes shot in dark.  The poor ventilation added to the misery of the viewers.  It was anything but an enjoyable experience.  Kasturi would work hard.  She had to do whole lot of household chores and yet attend school.  She was innovative and took interest in subjects requiring creativity, e.g. cookery classes, embroidery classes, etc.  I recall poor thing making Shahi-tukda just for me, strangely the dish was known as ‘Magistrate’.  I can’t figure out why it was so named.  She would do beautiful embroidery on casement cloth.

            She was required to do all sorts of menial jobs in the house of her eldest brother (More about eldest brother next time).  Eldest brother’s kids were Kasturi’s age.  I would watch her do rigorous household chores with cheerful patience and efficiency.  An orphan, she had accepted her lot.  Was content with her lot and did not expect her fortune to change, certainly not for better.  Another picture of Kasturi etched in my mind is she selling crackers on the eve of Diwali.  It seems she bought crackers for Diwali out of the money given to her by her brother for something more important.  She was after all a child with all the dreams.  She bought choicest crackers and other fireworks.  When her brother shouted at her, she sat on the stone platform in front of the house with her wares spread on a newspaper.  When her brother saw her do this, she was persuaded to put off the sale and close the ‘shop’.  I do not recall she could attract any buyer for those crackers but crowd, mainly of kids and street urchins, she did attract.  There was yet another pastime of ours those days – whatever photograph we had, to get them framed.  Major portion of our pocket money went to that shack where colorful photo frames were sold.  Once early in the morning, we went far off in the market to buy ‘Lucky draw chart’ strangely called ‘Number lucky’.  It was specially made for that rural clientele.  A sort of wall calendar with sealed numbers on it.  The goodies which could be had if lucky numbers drawn were skillfully and temptingly pinned on the calendar itself.  Where was the need for us to buy any such thing?  But no, we would not give it a thought.  The desire to buy entire calendar perhaps sprung from the fact that lucky number never drew in our favor.  So we wanted a calendar of our own.  Keep drawing yourself from your own calendar and be happy.

            I have so many fond memories of time spent in childhood with Kasturi.  Roaming together in the market aimlessly.  Playing together.  Once we had gone to see Manoj Kumar’s ‘Shahed’ walking all the way to and fro Tasveer Mahal – a theatre quite far off from our residence.  While returning we were so enamoured by the film, we were convinced that India got independence because of these martyr and nobody else.  Not even Gandhiji.

            When Kasturi came of age, the hunt for suitable groom was launched.  Her elder “officer” brother had kind of delegated the task to other brothers in Aligarh.  After all he was an Officer where is the time for such mundane pursuits.  Kasturi and me were part of our maiden voyage to Simla and got the taste of what it was to stay in a palatial bungalow.  I had eaten my first softy ice cream (cone) in Simla.  Also attended my first-Kavi-Sammelan, of course, as audience where I saw Kaka Hathrasi, light hearted humours poet at his best.  As I said in beginning,  Kasturi was not beautiful – she was a beautiful person,  but when it comes to her appearance it was not much to write back home.  So one can imagine what a difficult task it was to every time making a “show” of her to the prospective groom.  The party would depart with polite words “we would let you know”.  Needless to say nothing was heard of them again.  Each such ‘show’ left Kasturi more miserable and sad.  I feel her very name was so very unglamorous and unattractive.  The name Kasturi sounded more conservative and old fashioned than Sita,  Savitri.or Parvati.

            As the saying goes, there exists a groom for every bride and a bride for every groom.  One Civil  Engineer employed with CPWD had lost his wife and his folks were frantically looking for a suitable girl. This Engineer was at the brink of insanity, garlanding his dead wife’s portrait he would worship for hours.  Promptly, the marriage was solemnized.  This Engineer was hugely talkative.  People would hesitate striking a conversation with him and once bitten they’ll ensure not to come face to face with him again.  For, he was such a knowledgeable and talkative guy that if you utter 'television', he will start from J.L. Baird and trace the technology, history, civics and economics of television.  Similarly, if one talked about say ‘headache’, his discourse on headache will leave one with rich knowledge of different types of headache, its causes, cures and yes last but not the least, most severe headache.  

            Post-marriage, Kasturi was promptly rechristened Ranjna.  Now onwards, he would hate and pick up fight with anyone who dared call her Kasturi.  So our Kasturi became Ranjna.  Ranjna had suffered and undergone such miseries that she was so happy and caring in her ‘new home’.  Kasturi proved to be very lucky to him.  Although, I hate the very concept of an individual or newly born being labeled as lucky.  By the same logic somebody will be unlucky too, which I find utterly absurd.  Kasturi, alias, Ranjna proved lucky to her husband.  He got a better job with higher pay and status in Oil Company.  He was posted in North Eastern Region of India.  We lost touch with Ranjna.  Off and on we would come to know Ranjna’s exploits, she did this... Ranjna did that...  She was rolling in wealth.  Once with a newly acquired car, she drove all the way to a relative in another city to see and be seen.  This wealthy relative had once off-loaded Kasturi from his car after she had sat with child like glee, she was asked insultingly to get down.  Kasturi had neither forgotten the humiliation nor forgiven him.  They built a bungalow in Delhi.. Kids were sent to foreign Universities.  Money has a tendency to attract and keep strange companions.  When her husband was away to North Eastern region, Ranjna would splurge her money on things trivial and superfluous.  She was eagerly giving loans to people especially to those who knew her as a poor and helpless orphan.  She was liberally hosting kitty parties... drinking... gambling...speculating.
            Last heard, Ranjna became miserable and helpless.  Kids married on their own and simply informed her.  Husband got graft cases against him with gratuity, etc., confiscated.  She was swindled of her last penny and blackmailed by those ‘money double’ racketeers.  Her debtors refused to pay back.

            Quite a journey for a small town orphan girl; from Kasturi to Ranjna and Kasturi again.  Poor Kasturi!         

Friday, August 27, 2010


            Ravi’ - embossed on a pair of slippers, in the change room of an up-market mumbai gym had me in smiles.  It set me  back by fifty years, say 1960s, like the flashback so often you see in bollywood movies.  A group of young entrepreneurs in agra joined together and formed,  what came to be called  ‘Charm kala Kendra’.  An export  oriented medium-sized Company.  Those were the days of ‘license raj’ so they needed someone resourceful yet trustworthy to ‘push’ their case in delhi’s corridors of power.  That is where, He with his proximity to Powers that be, came to play a crucial role.  Through STC (state trading corporation) he succeeded in getting the attractive export order of leather shoes and belles to Russia and other communist countries.  The orders started pouring in, in bulk for different sizes, shapes and colors.  

Agra is the biggest activity center of leather goods.  agra has been a city of rich heritage inhabited by poor people.  At least, so it was in 1960s, however, the availability of labor for tanning, processing, manufacturing leather goods was handy and in plenty.  Soon he chucked up cushy routine govt. job of limited means to chase his dream of making it big.  He established his own export unit, becoming a share holder, under the aegis of Charm kala Kendra.  He named his factory Ravi Shoe Factory after his eldest son.  The Ravi shoe factory started in a rented first floor of a building in Naubasta, Agra.

  There were too many partners to share.  Each thought he is doing ‘more’ and is entitled to reap ‘more’.  He would regularly visit Delhi where his family continued to reside.  Thanks to new money and the market/ business pressures he took to drinking and drinking heavily.  As the years passed, he was getting into the big league of respectable industrialists, exporters at that.  As I mentioned, there were far too many partners.  One of them was his own younger brother, who not having done anything worthwhile with his life (despite armed with BA., LL.B degrees) was thrust upon by his father to pile on, on his elder brother.  This younger brother, though was a teetotaler, but possessed limited intelligence and unlimited ambition – a lethal cocktail indeed.  He would watch with disdain and hatred his elder brother flounder thereby wastes money in things which could not be called ‘in the interest of company’, rather, at times, detrimental to the reputation of the company. 

This younger brother did nurture villainous feelings towards his elder brother.  He would bitterly complain to his father giving exaggerated version how elder brother was not paying desired attention due for success of an upcoming Factory.  He’d also spice up stories and go around with his malicious narration in the market.  Worst case of sibling rivalry.

            Ravi too visited the factory a couple of times.  Being son of the major partner, he would be treated a VIP.  Be it as small a gesture as liberal helping of Lassi, visits to Taj, etc.,  Once Ravi had ordered two cold drink bottles in a day, one after another, in quick succession.  The system was    a-paper-slip was sent to the shopkeeper for accountal purposes who will add up and present the bill at the end of the month.  That particular month Ravi’s father had little less liquid money ‘cash in hand’ left after settling score of other bills. Ravi got a firing he cannot forget till this day for wasting money on two cold drinks in a day.  Agra is a city of extreme climates.  In winter, it is biting cold, while summers are simply intolerable. The temperature soars every year to break/set a new record.  Ravi did think for a while.  What kind of business or factory is this..  What kind of an exporter or businessman his father was if he is not allowed to indulge in the luxury of having two cold drinks on a hot summer afternoon. 

Father’s drinking binge and hence, neglecting rose.  In inverse proportion the turnover dipped.  The market largely works on one’s credibility, in other words, one’s goodwill to procure material on credit and secure soft loans at a short notice.   The drinking... neglecting  mixed with other partners’ mainly ‘own brother’s’ exaggerated and malicious propaganda soon led to a deadlock.  Market began to shut doors at Ravi Shoe Factory.  One can enter any damn business... the ultimate bottom line is your delivery system.  After all, of what use is a business, any business if it lacks market.

            He would travel to and fro Delhi in Taj Express or overnight trains.  Ravi fondly recounts till this day, Father’s visit was such a day of great pampering.  Child like complaints and counter-complaints, variety of sweets ... other goodies.  Kids won’t give second glance to the breakfast prepared by their mother who was a single parent rearing five kids, long before the term ‘single parent’ came to gain currency as it does today.

            One such evening when he had had enough drinks and was to set for his usual Delhi trip, his younger brother (partner) came rushing with the cheque-book requesting to issue few cheques of minor amount so that a bill or two could be settled.  He had been eying and nurturing a hidden desire to play a major role rather usurp the entire factory. Ravi’s father was in a hurry lest he misses the train thereby meeting his family next morning.  He signed a cheque, neither crossed it nor wrote the amount.  An error of judgment.  A betrayal... A mistake so fatal...enough to  ruin him.  Next morning when he reached delhi... he realized what he had done.  His heart, kind of warned him, all was not well.  He returned to Agra same day .... rushed to the Bank.  And yes the Bank confirmed what he feared.  His partner brother, his own younger brother had withdrawn entire money except for mandatory hundred rupees required to keep the account live.  In all, he had withdrawn Rs.37,000/-, the entire working capital.  A real big sum in 1960s.  He cried and cried before his father (Ravi’s grandfather) begged to prevent his younger brother from ruining him.  Father and son duo were partners in this crime.  They in unison said “the way you were conducting yourself it was bound to happen sooner than later.  Before market nabs/nails us we want to neutralize them and absolve ourselves”. 

            With empty hands, a heavy heart and tears in eyes he returned to his family in delhi.  Younger brother, triumphantly went to Charm Kala Kendra to inform the directors “ I have got rid of drunken senior partner and now am raring with clean team for bigger orders and ambitious expansion plans”.  Mangat Ram, the Managing Director gave him a cold glance and said “How do you expect me to trust you, when you have back stabbed your own elder brother.  get lost and never show me your face again”.

 PS:     My chachaji with two constant companions, misery and tragedy, is leading a haunted sub-human life in Aligarh, more dead than alive.  (Ravi)

Thursday, August 12, 2010

कोहिनूर की वापसी

मेरे भारत महान में यकायक नागरिकों की देश भक्ति जाग उठी. न केवल जाग उठी बल्कि फड़क रही है. सब ओर से पुकार मच उठी है. हे अंग्रेजों ! हमारा कोहिनूर वापस लौटा दो. कोहिनूर हमारे देश की धरोहर है. इसे हमें वापस करो. हमारी धरोहर हमें दे दो बाबा. गरीबों की सुनो वो तुम्हारी सुनेगा. तुम एक कोहिनूर दोगे वो दस लाख देगा. कोहिनूर के बिना हम गौरवहीन हैं. हमारा गौरव हमें  दे दे ठाकुर.. बख्शीश प्लीज. सोचने वाली बात ये है कि अगर कहीं खुदा न ख्वासता अंग्रेजों को हम पर तरस आ गया और उन्होने दयावश कोहिनूर वापस कर दिया तो ? तो .. तो क्या होगा ? सबसे पहले तो नेताओं और अधिकारियों में इसी बात को लेकर मार-काट मच जायेगी कि इसे लेने कौन जाएगा. विदेश मंत्री या प्रधान मंत्री .. रक्षा मंत्री या खान मंत्री. फिर अधिकारी अपनी अपनी सीनियारिटी का रोना लेकर कूद पड़ेंगे. मुख्य सचिव.. सचिव.. या फिर संयुक्त सचिव और कितने कितने जायेंगे. महिलाएँ जाएँगी या फिर उन्हें आरक्षण बिल पास होने का इंतज़ार करना पड़ेगा.कहने को तो डायमंड इज वुमन का बेस्ट फ्रेंड .  साथ में पुलिस जाएगी या मिलिटरी . इतना आसान नहीं है कि टहलते हुए गए और कोहिनूर उठा लाये या फिर कूरियर से होम शॉपिंग की तरह माँगा लिया.

इस पर कैबिनेट में गहन विचार-विमर्श हुआ और 53 सदस्यीय एक मिनी शिष्टमंडल के जाने की बात तय पायी गयी. क्यों कि आजकल इकॉनमी चल रही है इसलिये 153 को काट-पीट कर मात्र 53 करना पड़ा. राजनीतिक दलों के प्रतिनिधि , चैम्बर ऑफ कॉमर्स ,सहयोगी घटक दल , विपक्ष के नेता, महिलाएँ, पिछड़े, अगड़े शामिल किए गए. कुछ धावक और खिलाड़ी सूची में सम्मिलित होने से रह गए जो चारों ओर खामाख्वाह शोर मचाते घूम रहे हैं और अनाप-शनाप भाई-भतीजावाद का आरोप लगा रहे हैं. ये तय पाया गया है कि एक चार्टर्ड फ्लाइट से पूरा का पूरा लश्कर महीने भर को जाएगा. लगे हाथों वहाँ के तथा यूरोप के अन्य शहरों के  म्यूज़ियम की सुरक्षा व्यवस्था का जायजा भी लेगा ताकि यहाँ सरकार को रिपोर्ट सौंपी जा सके. रिपोर्ट लिखने के आवश्यक प्रशिक्षण हेतु एक नया दल जाने की तैयारी की शॉपिंग में व्यस्त है. इसमें वे सब माननीय सदस्य हैं जो पहली मूल सूची (153) से धकेल दिये गए थे.

कैबिनेट की अगली बैठक में लगभग सिर फुटौव्वल की ही नौबत आ गयी कि कौन से दिन कोहिनीर भारत की सरजमीं पर उतरे सत्ता पक्ष के पार्टी अध्यक्ष के जन्मदिवस पर या विपक्ष के नेता की बरसी पर. टी.वी. पर कई दिनों तक ज्योतिषियों, न्यूमरोलोजिस्ट  और टेरो कार्ड वाले  धमाल मचाते रहे साथ ही तर्क शास्त्री दुहाई देते रहे कि किसी भी दिन किसी भी घड़ी कोहिनूर उतारा जा सकता है. न भी आए तो वांदा नहीं. क्या फर्क पड़ता है.

कम्यूनिस्ट का कहना था कि कोहिनूर सामंतवादी और बुरजुआ सोच का प्रतीक है. इसे लाने कि सोचना ही मजदूर विरोधी विचार है. हम तो शुरू से कह ही रहे हैं कि यह सरकार मजदूर विरोधी है. यकीन नहीं तो नमूना देख लीजिये ये कॉमनवेल्थ गेम्स पर उल्टा-सीधा खर्चा  और बढ़ती हुई महँगाई. बहुजन समाज का यह कहना है कि ये सरकार मनुवादी है ये तो हम सबको पता था अब तो यह कोहिनूरवादी भी हो गयी है. कोहिनूर खान से किसने निकाला गरीब शोषित खानकर्मियों ने इसलिये इस पर उनकी पार्टी का पहला हक है. महाराष्ट्र में एक अलग तरह का विवाद उफान पर था. सारी उम्र शिवाजी महाराज मुग़लों से लोहा लेते रहे और कोहिनूर कोई परप्रांतीय ले जाए वे सहन नहीं करेंगे और कोहिनूर हमें नहीं मिला तो परप्रांतियों को दौड़ा-दौड़ा कर पीटेंगे.

एक अलग चर्चा ये चल पड़ी है कि कोहिनूर रखा कहाँ जाएगा. हरगिज़ हरगिज़ दिल्ली में नहीं. वहीं से तो गायब हुआ था. लुटेरों को फिर वहीं दे दो. नादिरशाह जैसे बाहर गाँव के तो बाद में आयेंगे उस से पहले अंदर के लोगों ने ही ले उड़ना है. फिर बैठाते रहना एक के बाद एक जाँच समिति .

हमारे यहाँ जल विवाद, बांध विवाद, सीमा विवाद, प्रदूषण खेल विवाद, इतने सारे विवादों के चलते सरकार यह गंभीरता से सोच रही है कोहिनूर जहाँ है वहीं अच्छा है. यहाँ लाकर क्यों बेकार में फजीहत कराई जाए. वैसे भी यहाँ फजीहतों या फजीहत करने वालों की कोई कमी है क्या ? हाँ चाहे तो विपक्ष इसे भारतीय संस्कृति और गौरवशाली इतिहास की दुहाई दे कर अगले चुनाव के लिए जुगाड़ कर सकती है.