“Oh!! I didn’t see that puddle there!’ said Geetika as she started brushing her pants wet with mud. Vikram, Geetika and Siddarth had been walking for half an hour to get to Aam ka Taal village in rural Rajasthan. They were social workers who had heard that the villagers had organized this small function where people came and prayed and sang together at the end of the day. They had some food and danced and had fun. The trio wanted to join in and see how it was.
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They could finally hear the drum beat – crude but in the still of the night it seemed eerie and romantic at the same time. Faint fog was building and it was chilly.
Vikram was tired and as they walked up the little hillock, he slipped and hurt his leg. Blood oozed out a bit. “Man! Just wash it and cover it. You dont want it to get all the bacteria from this dirt” remarked Geetika. “I will be fine” Vikram said and got up.
As they neared the small cottage, they saw this lady sitting outside…. alone. She was moving to the beat, eyes closed and sort of in a trance. Her face had a strange look. As if she had so much pain in her that existence had lost meaning! Yet, she was one with the beat.
The trio went in. Shweta was already there. She had come sometime back with Thakurji – the local contact of the NGO. She was busy trying the chillum of the ladies and laughing amongst them. The music now seemed to have a new life now that it was closer. It was less eerie and more lively. Foot-tapping almost.
Proximity perhaps does that to things unknown. There is a fear of unknown in the aggregates and abstractions but as soon as we come closer and to specifics we become more human….. more engaging. Riots are always caused by mobs, never individuals. If a suicide bomber were to ever engage with every one of his victim as humans, he/she would have a different career. Abstractions and Aggregates inherently create distance. And distances brings out the worst in us. That is why, terrorism recruiters always speak of communities and symbols, never of people.
Food came – baati and daal. Ghee was being poured all around. Geetika was careful. She didn’t want to add more calories. NGO work was fine, but she had to return back to her Dad’s business and get married one day – perhaps to someone “good enough”.
“Don’t worry,” laughed Shweta, “this is the best of this stuff you can have!”.
“But who knows if it is even hygienic?”.
“Does that matter so much here”?
“Well, I don’t want to get sick”
“The entire village is fine” smiled Shweta.
Siddarth went to Geetika, picked her baati and had a bite, tapped on her head. “Our progress has taken us backwards, sweetheart”.
“What do you mean? How can you say that?” almost shouted Geetika.
“Progress should have taken fears away, made us happier… ”
“Yeah … yeah that philosophical crap of yours. The “progress” that you are lamenting has helped us fight so many diseases and made improved living standards… so don’t try this backward logic” Geetika argued with a voice of authority.
“Hahaha… sure. But are we SOLVING anything?? We are merely straightening the deck of Titanic!”
“My dear Geetu, our knowledge’s achievement is an act of fear and avoidance. We want to run from one point to another and call that achievement. We save lives.. improve ages.. and temporarily win the diseases.. but does it SOLVE the issue?”
“What issue do you want to solve?”
“Treating cancer is NOT the same as eliminating the cause of cancer. You can operate and chemo the heck out of cancer… but does that stop another person from having it?”
“How can you do that? Different people have different reasons”, said Geetika defiantly.
“No! From where I see, our diseases represent a level of disharmony with nature. Nature is a word… it is basically a combo of everything that we live in – we are not in harmony with ourselves. When we fight – I mean have conflict.. with where we are, we run the risk of hurting ourselves by creating this unnatural distance within our ownself.”
“That is the funniest thing I have heard… next time you fall sick, try getting harmony” and Geetika laughed loudly… a laugh where you don’t believe yourself but are happy at making a strong argument.
“There are many people who smoke and drink and live until 90s and some die in their 30s. Ever wondered why? Maybe that is their harmony! Geetika, it is this avoidance of what we are.. what is us.. that we have a way to acquire and celebrate our knowledge and expect premium for our work… work that is simply an expertise at avoidance! No wonder, medicine is such a lucrative profession.. and mankind is hurtling towards a time when health will be the biggest national disaster! Our health is a function of money now.”
Shweta blew a large ring of smoke from the chillum… Janaki was laughing at her performance. “Geetika, want to try this?”
“Naah.. .. no not for me. I don’t do all that crap.”
“Crap?! You haven’t tried my dear.”
Siddarth quipped “fear and avoidance”.
“Now, Sid that is too much! Are you advocating smoking?” Geetika remarked with hurt.
“No, but you are being judgmental. If it doesn’t work with you, that’s fine. Dont go for it.. but don’t give it adjectives!”
Moon was bright outside. No one was watching it.. it seemed as if the village was sleeping tucked in the white sheet of pure moonlight. She was still unconsciously moving to the beat and melody.
By the time, the food and music finished, it was really late. All four made their way out. Tired.. they walked down .. chatting.. debating. Vikram looked back at the hillock.. it was a unique experience. The silhouette of the lady was still visible. “Who is she, Shweta? She didn’t seemed to join in?”
“Oh Rano! She lost her son this morning.”
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