(I keep my views about sensitive and controversial topics to myself. So these are not my opinions, nor a collection of my ideas put together in a fictional way. This is something which really happened which i would like to share. none of this is adapted or edited. Whatever i remebered perfectly, i have put it up. Dialogues which were hazy in memory i didn't refer to them at all.)
It was sometime in sem 4. Passport renewal. I had already gone through the irritatingly painful paperwork process. Once that is done, the centre sends a police constable to your place for address confirmation. And you have to accompany him back to the head office for a signature. Being a lawyer's son, I was not new to policemen and had a few typical images of them. One is potbellied with a huge black moustache(which is too black for his age) almost covering his upper lip, with remnants of red of paan reeking from the corner of his mouth, one who has a regular need to spit or clean his nose loudly(or both) every 4.5 minutes. Other image is of tall Herculean giants, eyes bloodshot because of either excess of night duties or excess of liquor or both. Their smiles are false and timid, the latter expression is uncomfortable for them to sustain. But they are scared of layers. They have always been so. I couldn't figure out why. So i was taken aback by the constable who appeared very different from the versions of cops which I had in mind. Tall, slender, formally dressed with a pair of intelligent, alert eyes. He didn't smile and that expression deviod of it was genuine. He spoke good English, though not fluent. He accompanied me to the office, got the work done and insisted on accompanying me home. We shared a cab and the cab driver immediately struck a conversation with him. i took the back seat and buried myself in a book.
Cab driver:: Kya jamana aa gaya hai...
Constable ::Haan? Kya hua?
Cab driver::Hisdustani hi Hindustani ke khilaf ho gaya hai...
Constable ::(an a typical way) Kya baat kar raha hai be??
Cab driver:: Aapne suna nahi? Raj Thakerey ke logon ne 2 bhaiyyon ko bahut peeta. Kyun? Kya guna kiya unhonien? Kya kaam karna paap hai? Paisa kamana paap hai?
Constable ::(voice rising) tu bol raha hai ke maine suna nahi? abey chutiye, mein udhar duty pe tha. Udhar bhaiyyon ko daraya dhamkaya, mara nahin. Kahani banane mein mashur hote ho tum log. tum logon se hone se hum marathi logon ko khana, paani nahi milta. naukri nahi milti. Aur ab tum log mumbai mein apne vote sabha bana rahe ho? yeh galat hai. tum log aayo, paisa kamao. lekin hum logon par raj mat karo.
Cab driver::(Realising that he is talking to a policeman...the quivering of his voice was evident)...par bhai sahab, hame Patna mein koi kaam nahi milta. Mera chota bhai engineer hai. 2500 mahine ka kamata hai. Yeh bhi koi kamai hai? Usse acha mein Bambai mein idhar taxi chala leta hoon. Kam se kam parivar ko roti toh milti hai. (The driver smiled. A false meek smile) Amrika jate hai na log apne. Unko woh log kahan kuch bolte hain?
I looked up. The conversation was much more interesitng than the book. I looked at the constable, half expecting him to be furious, half sympathetic. I failed to find any emotion.
Constable :: Hamare log Amrika jaakar apne hi dal ya sanghatan nahi banate. Udhar jaakar paisa kamate hain. Kabza nahi karte unpar jaise tum log kar rahe ho. Tum log toh mumbai aakar apne vote ke dal bana rahe ho. Sabha aur municipality mein apne hi logon ko khada kar rahe ho. Aur sunayun? Railway aur B.E.S.T. ke naukriyon ke sabhi applications Patna aur U.P. bheje ja rahe hain. Jab ki mumbai ke logon ko uske bare mein jaankari hi nahi hai. Matlab woh sabhi naukriyan khali tum logon ko hogi. Hum ko toh application ke forms bhi nahi diye gaye. Yeh Kya hai? idhar ke naukriyan aur sirf unke liye? Hum kya idhar tamasha dekhte rahein?
(The taxi surged forward. I was waiting for the driver's reaction. It came after a long time and it changed the course of the conversation.)
Cab driver:: Bhai sahab (cough cough...ahem ahem...clears throat loudly and spits) hum akhir hai kaun? Hindu hi hai na? Lekin yeh log to hinduon mein hi khagda laga rahe hain. Hindu ko Hindu se hi alag kar rahe hain.
(I stared fixedly at him and turned to look at the mirror. I didn't realise that my eyebrows were raised in surprise. The constable's face was a shade redder and the previous expression had undergone a complete makeover)
Constable :: (as if realisation struck him) Arre haan, barabar bola. Musalmaan logon ki 18 jaati hoti hai. Koi shaadi ke liye doosre jaat ko beti nahi deta. Lekin kisi ek musalman ko chua toh sab ek hokar aate hain.
Cab driver:: (Pleased with himself) Aur hindu kabhi ek nahi hote. Upar se marathi aur bhaiyye jhagadte hain. Agar yeh badta gaya ko musalmaan log toh hame kuchal ke rakh denge. for bhi mujhe lagta hai ki bhaikyyon se jyada asli target musalmaan hai...."
I watched and listened with horror and amusement at the same time at how the conversation changed and progressed. They talked as if they were comrades of a long lost war and had been reunited. Gone were the maratha-bhaiyya arguments, they discussed their ancestors fights and battles. I just sat there listening, a silent anger rising. I went home, slumped into a chair, thoughtful. Religious tolerance. Secularism. Sigh.