Across the Bridge – Chapter 40
Continued from “Revelations”
After a learning pilot has acquired enough ability that he can be trusted to take off and land without the supervision of an instructor, he practices by taking off, going around the landing field and landing. Then the pilot takes off again without coming to a stop. He repeats the exercise many times to improve his taking off and landing skills. This maneuver is called ‘Touch and Go.’ After the pilot has improved these skills, he is allowed to go on long solo flights. Bhuvan’s visits to Kesari Nagar during his college days were just about Touch and Go sessions with summer breaks in between. During those Touch periods, he would get an update about the situations in Kesari Nagar.
During one of those brief visits, he did not notice Marva around; so he inquired, “Where is Marva?”
“Oh, he usually sits in the haunted ruins of that house close to his place and stares in space; he is on his way to insanity.”
“May be he has become concerned about the state of country again. He may be on his way to presidency;” Bhuvan joked.
“His days of aspiring for presidency are long gone Bhuvan, he is worried about the state of his household.”
“Well, at least he is the president of his household.”
“He is no president of his household either, his Marvun keeps yelling at him. In fact, she is following him on his way to insanity, yells in the streets at nobody in particular.”
“No food in the stomach can play havoc with a person.”
“That is mostly it but there is more.”
“What more is there?”
“Oh, you’ll find out.”
Bhuvan did decide to find out. He took a walk to the ‘haunted house.’ Sure enough, he found Marva sitting there staring in space.
“Brother Murali, what are you thinking about?” Bhuvan asked.
“You can call me Marva brother, everyone calls me.”
“Are you bothered by China having invaded our territory?” Bhuvan joked.
“I have my own China here brother, invading my territory.”
“Cheer up Murali, don’t be so depressed; take inspiration from your name, ‘Murali Manohar,’ the name of Lord Krishna.”
“Oh yes, that fellow; he ruled over the Golden Kingdom of Dwarika and gave me this haunted house, that too because it is abandoned by the owner who is waiting to sell it to anybody whoever would be willing to buy. That Murali Manohar could about hypnotize the gopis at the tune of his flute, I could not lure even a fly. He gave himself sixteen thousand and eight wives in addition to the countless gopis and left this whore for me to paddle on my bike to Kesari Nagar.”
“This is not very nice to say Murali, she is your wife.”
“And for what?” Marva continued, “Just to lose her to Karmu.”
“Karmu? What is it with Karmu?”
“Karmu is the one invading my territory brother, he got her; I must just feed her to give her enough strength to pump in with Karmu; and kids are on top of that.”
“You are just suspecting Murali. You are down financially, that is no reason to be depressed. There are labor jobs in Modi Nagar; being such a strong looking fellow, you can surely find one. So cheer up and get going.”
Marva just stared in space and Bhuvan left with a comment, “I should go say hello to others now but I’ll come when I get time.”
Bhuvan went straight to Karma Veer and asks him if he would like to go for a stroll towards the fields. Karmu being his old walking buddy was quite glad to walk and chat. Bhuvan asked him if there was something between him and Marvun.
“To tell you the truth brother, there is something alright.”
“That is not very nice of you Karmu, to seduce Marvun. Now that you are a trained tailor, you are going to get married soon and have a family; start acting like a family man.”
“I cannot hide anything from you Bhuvan, my old buddy; it was she who seduced me.”
“And you were glad to be seduced!”
They laughed together.
“She wanted something on the side besides Marva.”
Karmu narrated his side of the story. As it goes, Marva was away for a few days in Gurgao to find a job. A friend worked there in a factory who had assured Marva that there are labor jobs in the factory where he worked and that it would be easy to get one. During that time, Marva wanted Karmu to sleep at his house for the safety of his wife and children, “You see, she does not trust my brothers, she would feel safe with you.”
“What was he afraid of? There is nothing in his house for some would be burglar to find.” Bhuvan inquired.
“Oh, he was afraid that somebody might ‘vulgarize’ his wife,” Karmu said with a mischievous smile.
“So he had a burglar sleep beside her to make things easy for both.”
Karmu laughed and then added, “She said she was afraid; I told her that there was nothing to fear, I was there.”
“Your brother sleeps beside me. Without a feel of someone beside me, fear takes over me,” she said.
“And you were glad to oblige her?” Bhuvan interjected with a smirk, drawing a mischievous smile on Karmu’s face, “Surely you are joking Karmu.”
“No brother Bhuvan, cannot lie to you. She had plotted it all in advance and she goes after what she wants, aggressively.”
After the walk, Bhuvan left with the advice that he should terminate this activity. Karmu did say that she wanted their love to continue for life but Bhuvan left after commenting, “You are just a stopover for her along the way Karmu, she’ll find someone else. She might have others already.”
The Wrestler Boy had produced three sons in quick succession out of his wife. Then there were no more births for a few years. One day, the Wrestler Boy was not seen; neither were his children seen in the street playing with other kids. People knew that he was in the village. They wondered what was keeping him locked up in his house.
“His wife has been sick for a while. He must be there taking care of her.”
“But not seen out of the house for about twenty-four ours! And what about the children?”
Something was certainly suspicious. So, a few of them knocked on his door; no answer. When there was no answer after repeated knocks, couple of them decided to check and jumped over the wall. Sure enough, the Wrestler Boy was there together with all three of his sons beside his wife on her back on the ground.
“On the ground!” one murmured to another, “She must be dead.”
That is all one could think because it was customary to lay a body on the ground just before death or immediately after. It was confirmed that she had been dead for a day and the Wrestler Boy had instructed his children not to make a sound, “Because people will take her away.” People did comment on his ‘stupidity’ in sitting beside a decomposing corpse but someone also commented, “This is love!”
People prepared her arthi. Children did cry now but the Wrestler Boy sat there stone-faced. He did accompany the funeral procession to the crematorium but all the rituals were performed by others. The eldest son is supposed to perform the kapal kriya by cracking the skull with a bamboo stick but her eldest son was too young to be allowed to be at the crematorium. A nephew offered to perform the ritual but the Wrestler Boy stopped him; took the bamboo stick, cracked her skull, and walked away. The next day he took his sons to the kachehari in Meerut City and transferred all his property to them. He wanted to take no chance for he could die any time, even that day. Then his territory could be easily ‘invaded’ and seized upon leaving his orphans in about the same state than Grandpa and his brother. The Wrestler Boy entrusted the responsibility of his sons to his brother-in-law who had rushed to Kesari Nagar upon hearing of his sister’s death. Everyone has one’s own battles to fight and in one’s own way; the Wrestler Boy’s battle was in front of him and the battle plan was clear. He did participate in the discussions but at a significantly diminished rate and kept mostly to himself and his children.
At the national level, at the Bridge and the residence lawns, a topic had become quite common: ‘Who after Nehru?’ Not that he was expected to die soon, it was just that he was in his seventies and the question had become relevant; many all over the World had considered his shoes to be too big to fill easily. Some senior powerful leaders, particularly some of the ministers had become quite aggressive and bothersome for Nehru as they were jockeying for a better position to enter his shoes. The urine drinking Morarji Desai, who considered himself to be the natural rightful owner of the Prime Minister’s position after Nehru, was most assertive. Nehru for his part, requested all the ministers to start paying their own electricity bills. Lal Bahadur Shastri, known for his simplicity, integrity and honesty, together with some others obliged immediately. Morarji Desai, reputed to be arrogant and some others refused. Nehru brought in the Kamaraj plan under which all ministers and senior Congress leaders would leave their positions “to take up organisational work to dispel from the minds of Congressmen the lure for power, creating in its place a dedicated attachment to the objectives and policies of the organisation.” Several ministers lost their ministerial positions including Lal Bahadur Shastri and Morarji Desai. Lal Bahadur Shastri was later brought back into the cabinet as a Minister without portfolio. People considered this plan a clever way to get rid of the bothersome ministers and place responsibility on Kamaraj. Soon after that, Nehru died. When on his death bed, he gave one of his old jackets to Lal Bahadur Shastri. In the crucial meetings during the power struggle after Nehru, Lal Bahadur Shastri always wore that jacket, which became a metaphor for the Prime Minister ship. There was a joke on the residence lawns, “His argument is simple: ‘Nehru ji bequeathed his old jacket to me.’” Sure enough, he was elected the Prime Minister. Somewhat surprisingly, this leader very small in physical stature, not just starting filling the giant shoes of Nehru quite fast, even the memories of Nehru started fading. Honesty and simplicity of Shastri was winning the hearts of the people.
Bhuvan was already out of the college. Although somewhat more progressive than the others in that rural community, Parasu Ram considered Bhuvan now ready to settle down. Bhuvan on the other hand, had learned that he had hardly scratched the surface of knowledge but this much exposure had awakened his thirst for it. If he wanted to quench this thirst, he had to pursue his education further and attempt to build an academic career to be a lifelong learner. Thus, the graduate school was his only option, which were available at more reputed universities. It was natural for them not to be very welcoming to the Agra University graduates. Delhi University was the closest among the reputed Universities with a respectable graduate program. Bhuvan decided to visit the university personally to win the trust of those who could help improve his chances of admission. After a few visits, he did manage to be admitted to its post-graduate program.
Yet another revelation and disillusionment was to follow: Library and other facilities at Delhi University were certainly far better than at his old Big College and the faculty was more qualified but it was quite deficient for a satisfactory graduate program. As is in the nature of things, colonizers develop their colonies only to the extent it benefits them and educating the people adequately they rule over does not benefit them, it also empowers the people endangering their power. It was no surprise then that at the time of independence, the academic system from the elementary level to the advanced was in a dismal state. It is true that some dedicated ones managed to achieve excellence, for example some associated with the Presidency College in Calcutta, which was established to train Indians for subordinate clerical positions but it was just so much more difficult.
Although it was not easy, the academic opportunities at the lower levels had been made available and improved substantially since independence but at higher level it was still severely lacking. Necessary laboratory equipment and even the books and journals were not locally available; they had to be acquired from the foreign sources and the country suffered from an acute shortage of the foreign hard currency. Exposure of the weakness of defense system during the war with China made it necessary to divert some of the resources towards it, which coupled with already struggling economy placed additional strain on the entire system, including the educational.
Given the history of oppression and exploitation by the business class, the Kings and Nawabs, and most of all by the colonizers, by ruthless capitalistic means, Indian masses had initially embraced the Nehruvian Socialistic Economy but it started showing its own flaws in time as correction of one evil often generates some others. Major problems were caused by thinly spread resources and inefficient public sector resulting in a poor state of economy and a sluggish bureaucracy. As a result, approval of an application to acquire the needed amount of foreign currency took months to acquire an equipment and other material could take more than six months easily.
Yet another unfolding scenario in a faraway place was putting strain on the Indian academic institutions. The baby-boomer phenomenon in North America resulting from the Second World War had put a severe demand on its academic institutions as a large young growing population demanded education and the universities were not designed to accommodate it. To meet this demand, the North American Universities had to expand rapidly. They started hiring academic professionals from the external sources. Some qualified faculty in India left initially as at some visiting position to be absorbed later permanently. This brain drain was having a noticeable impact on the Indian institutions. North American Universities also needed graduate students from the foreign sources since not enough were available locally, which were needed to maintain an adequate research level and to provide low cost teaching assistance that was necessary to train them for their future careers. This inspired some students, including Bhuvan, to consider moving out of a severely restrictive system to a more adequate one. They started exploring the possibilities in the North American Universities.
Continued to “The Boy Goes Solo”