No revolutionary struggle could be greater than the effort of jostling through the crowd in a Kolkata bus to get off at his/her destination, thought Amit as he resigned himself to his daily ordeal for the umpteenth time. After the usual pushing, shoving and getting yelled at for trampling over someone’s foot, Amit was out. Patting his pockets to make sure his wallet and cellphone had not been picked, he made his way to the college.
Amit was a second year student of History who had recently been bitten by the political bug. Throughout his first year, he was aloof owing to his reserved nature and warning from parents not to dabble in “useless rajneeti”. However, long hours spent with friends and professors over global politics and the role of students in it had gradually influenced Amit into doing his bit to improve society and being a part of the revolution for change. He had taken his first hesitant steps into the college union room where the seniors had immediately taken him under their wing. 6 months later, he was a dedicated soldier of his chosen political faction.
This morning as he walked into the campus, the flags, hoardings and graffiti immediately caught his attention. What was going on? Strangely, Amit was not aware of any agenda for the day!
His class was scheduled to begin in 10 minutes, but Amit decided to head straight for the Union room.
“Hey Amit!, where were you man? We were calling you since last night but no response?” the irritated voice of Sudeshna di greeted him. Everyone seemed busy making preparations for a demonstration-getting placards and festoons ready.
Amit checked his phone-10 missed calls!
“Oh Shit”, I am so sorry Sudeshna di. I forgot to switch on the ringer yesterday. Phone was in silent mode”
“Be more responsible Amit! We needed you to set these flags and posters up last night. The first year kids would lose interest if we seniors show no accountability. Anyways, round your class up. As you know, our party chief would be speaking today on the failure of the government in controlling price rise. Prices of essential commodities are going beyond the reach of our poor and middle-class and it’s important we highlight our displeasure at this atrocity. We would be marching to the parade ground after ongoing classes are over. Get as many classmates as you can. Stop them from going home”
Amit rushed to the classroom but the professor hadn’t arrived yet. Some students, having heard of the upcoming procession, had left for home already. He managed to convince 12 of his classmates about the urgency of the agenda and why they should join the protest against this corrupt, thieving government.
“What’s happening Amit bhai? No classes today?” asked Madan da, the college gatekeeper as the procession made its way out of the gates. Amit, proudly at the forefront of the group along with senior union members, smiled at him. “Madan da, what’s the use of mugging up books when the government is bleeding us dry every day? We should join the protest to make our lives better. In fact, you should join us too” “Na bhai! I don’t understand such things. From my childhood this seems to be the norm. Governments change but nothing improves” Madan da said wistfully.
“But go ahead. My blessings are with you and I will be happy if you youngsters can really do something about it”
The gathering, speeches and dispersion took till late evening. A tired Amit got off the bus near Princep ghat to take the ferry to Howrah station. As he made his way over the circular railway track, something caught his attention.
In a clearing near the track, a small crowd had gathered. Two men stood at the head of a table which stationed a large vessel of hot, steaming “khichuri”. The people in the crowd held banana leaves on which the men were serving them.
Curious, Amit made his way to the crowd. One of the two men serving food looked familiar. On getting closer, Amit exclaimed,
“What are you doing here?”
Madan da smiled, “Arre Amit bhai! Well every Wednesday we organize a small feast for the poor, homeless people who live in and around here. I am a member of this local club. We contribute some money every month and cook whatever we can”
“It’s hardly enough. Just this small bowl of khichuri and that too, once a week. But we don’t have the means to do any more. You look tired after the hectic day bhai, want something to eat?”
Amit surveyed the queue of expectant, hungry faces. A quick glance also made him aware of the look of intense satisfaction and happiness in the eyes of those who had been served.
“Some other time Madan da. I gotta go now. See you tomorrow”, Amit mumbled and walked back to the jetty beside the river.
In his mind, Amit saw the faces of thousands of people who had turned up for the minister’s speech today. The bored, disinterested and irritated looks on their faces receded to oblivion when compared with the happiness of the 30-35 odd people whom his college gatekeeper had served.
As the ferry made its way across the Ganges, Amit, the budding revolutionary and a popular soldier of his college union, raised his right hand in salute to this unknown, obscure soldier who had already achieved what was still a dream for him.
Amit looked back at the receding Princep ghat jetty and smiled, “Teach me ‘revolution’ Madan da!”
About the author: Soumalya Chakraborty did his Masters in English Literature from University of Hyderabad and have been here since 2006. He currently works in a Gaming company as a Project Manager. Though professionally he is not into literature but reading and writing have always been an integral part of his life and will continue to be. Soumalya joined Bengalis in Hyderabad actively in 2011 and for him it's been a blast so far with all the friends. He has organised activities and has participated in. The networking he made in Bengalis in Hyderabad has benefited him till now.