Monday, January 9, 2012

The Dreamers

              The idea seemed so weird when he first proposed it to me. We were having a bad time with our crops, the fields were parched and the few pieces of land where we had cultivated didn't yield much. Children were hungry, we were hungry and we had no money to buy things from the nearest town. It seemed that we were going to die of hunger that winter. You may not believe that Nepal has such places where people constantly fear that  they may die of the agony that hunger creates within the belly. It's hard for most of us to believe!
               I had packed my bags and wanted to get out of that hellish place, my wife had agreed to accompany me. We had promised, if death happened to one of  us within that ordeal one was to be blamed. As I was about to cook the remnants of what I thought was the dust from some maize grains, she said that we had a visitor  outside. I rushed out to see who could have come to help me at this moment of lonesomeness and embarrassment in front of my wife whom I had just picked up from the  mela some months ago after a drunken brawl with her admirers.
               Who else but a nut had come to visit me in the time of my deepest miseries! As soon as I recognised that fool of a man, who had left his city home in Kathmandu, sorrow stricken by the death of his wife, I rushed in as soon as I had rushed out and harnessed my backpacks. "Where you upto?" He asked me as if he didn't know! " Aren't you leaving this wretched place?" I asked him bewildered because his question made me feel that he wasn't going to run away from this place like he had run away from Kathmandu about a decade ago.
 "Are you running away?" This man never spoke much but I was bewildered with his friendliness today.
"Aren't you? " I got a bit testy then.
"Why should I ? Help is on the way ! Maybe tomorrow!"
But still I wanted to run away from that place! "How do you know?"
"Just wait another day,"he spoke calmly as if he had managed that help he was talking about.
                 Then I was in a dilemma, to be or not to be, in that merciless birthplace." Are you sure?" I asked him hoping that somehow he might have managed some help from his links from the old days.
"Wait and see," that's what he said and walked away to my neighbour's house who was planning to move the next day.
' Well?' I looked at my wife and she seemed so feeble that if I made her walk that day then I would be feeling guilty throughout my life.
"Let's wait a day," she walked into the house. There was no harm in waiting, so I followed her.
                              Next day, at around six in the morning a helicopter which was on its way to deliver some food aid to the village,it was in more dire need for food than ours, crashed in the jungle below the mountains. We rushed there and found five dead bodies and sackfuls of rice, bread and other things. We organised a feast there, listening to the drone of search  helicopters or planes. It was only on the third day, we heard a helicopter flying over our village and since they were looking for the crashed helicopter they didn't notice them.
                  As if some conspirators, we crawled to the man's hideout in the cave and told him about the helicopters. He owned a Chinese radio, which he pulled out from his bag and tuned to the News. No, they hadn't found the helicopter and were pulling off the search because of bad weather. The food that we had looted from the helicopter could feed our village for three months,now that only five families were left in the village. Nobody wanted to leave the place. Who would? When you have food in your birthplace then why wander distant lands in search of food?? The pilots and others were as dead as a stone so we couldn't help them much. If we reported the concerned officials about the crash site then we would have to leave our village! This feeling wasn't expressed by anyone among the twenty people who were left behind in their own village...we understood this as if we were linked in some secret communion. If the food got finished then we had to think of leaving the place but now we were not in the mood for that.
                                Conscience doesn't let a man sleep sound. We were all desperate people, we had no means of income. If we ever moved to some different place, we would end up as some manual labours and our expectations were just the opposite! Most of us were above forty and leading a life, working like a dog being whipped by the lashes of our employer's tongue would be unbearable! That would not be a life at all.
                                 The months passed away and the crash site was never found because it was deep in the mountains and whatever could be seen from the sky, we had hidden with utmost care. The bodies had been given a decent funeral on the second day of the crash and we had hidden all the sacks in a cave.
                                 After three months when we went to bring each person's share from the cave, we noticed that not much of the aid was left there. It would hardly last for three more days, we were shocked!
                          'I have an idea,' the man from the city said calmly. All the heads turned towards the man, he was a man in his fifties, beaten up, wearing ragged clothes.....nothing from the city was left in him. We just thought of him as man who had gone a bit round the bend. He lived in a cave, never washed himself...neither did we by the way.
                          "Tonight as you go to bed....all of you will imagine that we will get some help tomorrow. Imagine some people coming here to help us.Imagine them providing us food and clothes. Imagine as if it is real and please don't wish ................just imagine."
            There we were inside a cave, feeling lost in our lives, gazing at the remnants from our loot and listening to a psycho. But what else could we do ??
              "How will that help us ? " Someone asked with a bit of irritation mixed with disbelief in the voice.
"You will see for yourself," that was all he said.
               "What else can we do than imagine?" I found myself speaking out aloud even though my own voice sounded so strange to myself. I looked at the hopeless faces in front of me, looked at their clothes or rags, I looked at their wrinkles and read the stories they told........ struggling for a piece of bread throughout their lives.....the utter meaningless of our lives. They had families and love in their families but still all our endeavours seemed so so futile.......... were we born just to face this constant struggle? I wondered what the outcome of this life would be? Here we have no religion, we just live as humans....simple villagers with simple desire....we never had high expectations. The highest expectation must be our need for food. We eat and we die..just like the many creatures which die everyday........... turning into manure . We never thought about the values of life and ambitions because our environment never made us feel that. We never could strive for something glorious because our feet were always bound.....
                             That night, me and my wife imagined that something good would happen the next day, we imagined that our child would grow here among these mountains, he would hunt these forests and flirt among the mountains.........we imagined he would grow up...wild and free. Tomorrow something would happen and it would stop us from leaving this wonderful place where we had spent our youth singing among the mountains. I remembered how I had killed the first pheasant with a catapult and how the whole village had feasted on it. I remembered how I had accidentally killed a pregnant deer and a puja had been held to cleanse myself from the sin. We had performed a puja after we had looted the helicopter crash too.I remembered how I had scaled the nearby peak at the age of seventeen and how my neighbour's daughter had offered herself to me the next day.
                                 No.............I didn't want to leave this place. But would another helicopter crash tomorrow?
                On the last day of our stay at the village, after all of our heartrending imaginations had failed to yield any miracles and we had done away with the last piece of  grain, some soldiers appeared at the stone gate of the village. First they aimed our guns at us but when they were assured that they were out of harm , they lowered their guns and stared at us with disbelief in their eyes.
                  The next day a helicopter arrived and deported us to the district headquarter where all of us were interrogated separately. Their only question was how we had survived in that place , they thought we had to be dead. But we weren't ....and we had already made up an answer for such an occasion immediately after we had stored the grains in the cave.
                   They believed us. We were given new clothes and employment for each in the town. But our imagination session has not stopped, because we know we can change a lot of things by just dreaming. We always meet during the evenings and discuss on what our next imagination should be.
                   We imagine someone getting well when he/she gets sick and the next day he/she gets alright. We imagine the death of our enemies and after some days they die. We imagine possessing luxurious things like TV, car, houses, mobiles for every hand and the very next day or some days later we find them on the roadside. We are trying to establish an institution whose focus will be mainly on teaching people the art of imagination but this hasn't been quite successful . The predominant reason for this failure is the thinking the others have about us.....we feel they think we are nothing...that we don't exist...we are uneducated....we are some refugees from some other country and nobody even talks to us, not a word as if we were some outcasts. But if they only listened to us.............................. we would teach them how  to change this world!

                POSTSCRIPT:   Immediately after the crash, the army had led a search for the crash site but due to unfavorable weather conditions, the search had to be abandoned for three months. On February 13 the search was revived again and aerial support pin pointed the crash site which was hidden in the mountains. The search party led by the army found the wreckage and the bodies of 25 victims scattered all over the mountains. The strange thing was that there were only two crew members and three aid workers on the helicopter during its flight. The other corpses, as the search party guessed, belonged to the villagers from the nearby village. Their bodies looked emaciated....most of them must have suffered from malnutrition for a long time. The search party noticed that each of the villagers had stuffed themselves with the handfuls of grain.....alas they were too late.......all of them had perished because of the bitter cold......... they had no clothes on.

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