After a long drive through lush green fields, we took a walk around Bodi town in the afternoon. The relentless onslaught of Tamil Nadu heat scorched the earth as tall lifeless shrubs withered to the ground. The town wore a forlorn look. Sprigs of wilting foliage adorned the parched landscape, as we walked towards the palace in hopes of meeting the royal descendants.
Yet again, we found ourselves explaining our situation to a complete stranger. He listened to us for a while and feigning disinterest in our story, he said, “Sahib has gone to attend a high school meeting. He will be back in sometime.” However, as expected, a few hours later, we were told that he wasn’t in town. We soon realised that these middle men would never let the meeting happen and we decided to head from there. A flock of birds fluttered over the palace. Their chirping echoed through its walls as sections of dilapidated jharokas swayed in the winds from the grim towers of silence.
We then went towards the market and stopped at a tiny juice stall. We thought it would be wise to have some fresh fruit juices since we had been walking in the heat for a while. There, we met a young man in his mid-twenties from Uttar Pradesh. And, he narrated his heartfelt tale to us:
“I am from Bhadwara village in Bahraich District. My home is quite far away. Sometimes, I hope to catch a glimpse of the courtyard I grew up in, just for a moment. Other times, I tell myself that it won’t be long before I go back. I was in Kerala for about five months in the summer selling juice in roadside stalls. Ever since the monsoons arrived, our business suffered.
My three brothers and I came to Theni a few weeks ago. Once the monsoons hit Tamil Nadu, we will head back home. I don’t mind staying here. As long as there is some way of earning a living, we can live anywhere. But, if there isn’t any money, then no matter where we go, we will always be unhappy. The uncertainty of not being able to have a meal tomorrow is quite daunting at times but we won’t give up.
There have been instances when the locals get drunk and bully us. We don’t speak their language well and to them perhaps we will always remain outsiders; a bunch of migrant folks who are unwelcome in their land. In Kerala, the owner of our house would get drunk almost every day. But, he never abused us and was always very kind to us. We could manage with Hindi there but Tamil Nadu has been quite a harsh experience so far. Here, some people look at us with resentment while others pretend we don’t exist at all.
I dropped out of school in eighth grade. I didn’t enjoy studying or attending classes. Most of the days, I would sit in class and idle away my time hoping that I could run away from boredom. And, today, I am left with nothing and have no one to talk to. I sit in the stall all day staring at people rushing to their destinations wondering if their lives are better than mine. I wish I hadn’t left school. I wish I could turn back time and change my life. My family wouldn’t be struggling the way they are if I had a decent education.
I am not sure what my dreams are. I never really could afford to dream and I have none for myself. I don’t really know what I want with life. I just want to earn enough to be able to eat today. I have no idea what the future has in store for me tomorrow. Dreams are a luxury for people like me. The constant fight for survival doesn’t allow us to even contemplate about a different life, perhaps a better one. One can only have personal ambitions once basic needs and security have been taken care of. Until then, it’s just a race against time. My only hope is to perish with honour and integrity. And, may be experience bliss and inner peace at least once before I die…”
His name was Wazir Ahmed. And, this was his story…
The rampant cases of racism and prejudice in the country against those we identify as one of our own is an alarming indication of our prolonged detachment with our humanity. Distinctions based on caste, creed, race, religion and even topography has led to a massive propagation of ‘hidden’ apartheid sentiments brewing in the soils of India. Although, elimination of racial discrimination has been of prime importance to the society, we still have a long way to go with respect to genuinely treating every wronged individual as a part of our extended human family.
Project ‘Rest of My family‘ is an attempt to connect back, re-discover our relationship with and understand our responsibility towards the larger family that we are a part of — the rest of our human family. Hence, it is titled Rest Of My Family.
Through #RestofMyFamily, we will focus on highlighting social issues and human interest stories, documenting the triumphs of the ordinary man despite all the hardships they face constantly, and help these stories reach a larger audience and wherever necessary extend support to the individuals and communities that we write about. We hope to make a direct impact to the lives of those people we meet and find suffering due to various social issues; to connect the ones who need help to the ones who can help….
Find more about the campaign here: http://igg.me/at/restofmyfamily/x/539502