Keshpur happens to be one of the most politically sensitive areas in West Bengal. "They caught the man with his hair and chopped his head off. One hand held the head, the rest of the body fell down in a heap. There was blood all over."
He had lost one eye in a freak driving accident. So one of his eyeballs was white. He had a thick mane of black hair on his head. 48 year old, Mr. Deep Chowdhury, had one of the most expressive smiles i have ever seen. Small wrinkes formed over the side of his eyes when he laughed. The matter of fact manner
he said everything and the way he ended every sentence with that smile left me speechless in many of the cases.
Keshpur, a village 140 km from Kolkata has become a place synonymous with political vendetta and bloodshed.
"I wanted to study, i liked studying you know. When I was in class 7, my dad told me come to the field for the harvest. He needed a helping hand for the harvest. I said i have to go to school for an exam. He hit me on my back with the plough. And I ran away from my house."
"I ended up in a circus in Orissa. I was a helper with the elephant master. Used to help out in this and that. I never could do anything special. So I left that place also. I came back home. Those scenes that you see in movies like father crying and hugging a son as came back, never happens in real life. Life is hard. So as i came back, touched the feet of my father, he just said, you have come back son? Good. Let's go the field, i'll need some extra help."
"How are you doing, son?", down came uncle from number 24, the next side upper berth. He was a manager in a small hotel near bangalore.
"Let's have tea", before anyone can say anything, he had already paid for three teas."I have earned a lot, and also spend a lot. U are small children let me pay." Actually, there was a lot that had followed from uncle's side. There were mango juices, then sweet curd, and many things more. "I have a salary of 5000 Rs per month. And food and lodging is free. So I save a lot. My son is also well settled. Earns around 7-8000 permonth. I am happy." He later added.
Uncle, had a waiting list ticket. He had got on the train anyways. He found an empty upper berth and perched on the same. He was well above 60, a super senior citizen or a very senior person (VSP) one can say. The ticket checker approached. He reached out his hand towards the upper berth. Uncle extended his ticket. At that moment he was an epitome of innocence. The checker did not have the nerve to harass the VSP in front of a coup full of brooding passengers. He marked the seat in his sheet as occupied and moved on. Uncle rarely came down from his upper perch. When he came it was always treat time for us.
Deep Babu continued, "In front of my eyes, you know, right in front of my eyes. They shot 7 people. They had lined them up against a wall. And they shot them. Why? They had the audacity of voting for green. It is very difficult for the red party to loose you know. Because they know if they loose, they would suffer the same fate, bullets or chopped by the axe. When you see these your blood starts boiling. But you have family, parents, u know. So if u protest maybe you can protect yourself, but your family would die. They hear you talking, next day morning you would find a red flag on your field. That means your field has been confiscated. No more farming for you. You can either die in the village of starvation, or come to the city and work as a labourer."
"I had driven trucks all over the Andhra, Maharahtra, MP, Orissa, Karnataka. I can speak Kannad, Tamil, Telegu, Punjabi, Uriya." I got proof of the same in some of the stations where our train halted, which was incidentally quite a few. "I have enjoyed a lot during this time. But I stopped everything after I got
married. I returned home, opened a small garage, settled there. Then I lost one eye. Next I developed heart problems." He lifted his shirt and showed me the cut. It streched from around the upper chest to lower part of his stomach. " There was a total blockage of some viens, so they had to take some from my leg, and use them here. His leg had a similar foot long cut. "All my savings, garage, are now gone. I am left with 5 bighas of land. I love farming you know. Now that I am regaining my strength, I'll start farming again."
"Where were you?". Deep babu's son in law, who had accompanied him for his treatment in Bangalore, had appeared. "I made a friend in AC compartment and was sitting wih him. This place is a bloody furnace." True, it was around 45 degree plus, and we were passing through the arid Andhra region. We were on the 1st day and had another of travel before us.
Uncle suggested, "You know you can easily start a business. There are so many people who go from your place to Bangalore for medical treatment. You know the language, you have had your treatment there so you know the system there. You know a hotel there. My hotel. You take 1000 Rs. and relieve them of the hassle.
You accompany them to Bangalore, stay with them, arrange all contacts, etc. Bring them to my hotel and I will pay you commission. Later you can arrange with doctors also for commission from them."
"I cannot take money like that,"said Deep Babu.
Uncle debabted,"You know you are taking money to provide convinience to people. What is wrong in that? People actually make money of inconvinience to people."
"I can never do any such thing," later Deep babu whispered to me. "I am a simple farmer, you think I can be a businessman like that?"
There was a commotion that was developing towards the end of the compartment. It was sometime before I understood the reason. I was in S10, it was the last sleeper compartment and the next compartment was AC 3 tier. The AC guys has closed the shutter in between and as a result the ticket checker, pantry guys were all trapped in this side. And was battering the door and shouting to let them in and carry on with thier duties.
"Bloody buggers," said Deep Babu. "What we are not humans and they think if we touch their AC air then we will pollute them?", uncle jestaculated. He gave his smile again...
There he was sitting a feet away from me..on the opposite side of the berth. But he seemed to be very far away. Almost like he lived in a world apart. Murder, extortion, poverty, they are something that is so far away from the protected life that we lead. Our life with jeans, pubs, malls, electronic gadgets have somehow insulated us from all those realities of life. I cannot do anything, but stare at him, at that man from the other side of the world.