Thursday, 27 March 2014

Gandhi, freedom and a puff of cigarette

Lanky, gutsy and moody – these three words describe him the best. He was like a beanpole and I was a sort of Lilliput, standing next to him. He played snooker, roamed hostel premises with a cue stick and was a cigarette connoisseur. On the contrary, I pumped iron, scoured the library racks to glean books and was (and am) an avid reader. 

A common cord connected us – both of us were gregarious. In spite of having 15 Iranian friends, he liked to be in our company – the 10 something Nepalis. And it was because of the gatherings in our room – for a jam up, a puff of smoke and a peg of whiskey. 

Though all of his friends from Iran were teetotalers, he enjoyed sipping pegs of whiskey and puffing on cigarettes. During the drinking bouts, he used to twist his hips to the tunes of Bollywood songs and sway his arms listening Nepali folk songs. As the dusk would turn to dawn, drunk to the hilt, he uttered his favourite one-liner – “You guys are marvellous, f**k those hardliners!”

Though not a smoker, I liked his way of smoking and the round puffs of smoke hitting the ceiling. Not to mention, the congested room would turn into a luxurious lounge and the boys’ rants would seem to be an open concert.  

As we interacted, our bonds grew stronger and we started sharing the secrets – of family, friends and philosophy. One day he revealed his true identity. He was son of an Iranian minister. His father was liberal and never stopped him from taking on risky adventures.

As a result, he was caned when he first took a glass of beer (I forgot how many times he was caned). Later, he had to spend his time behind bars for taking a peg of whiskey. But his father never stopped him. Instead he said, “Son, go to India, the largest democracy in the world and you will see what a democracy is.”

Gandhi had been an inspiring figure for his father and he always insisted him (my friend) to go to the country inspired by Gandhi and see the kind of freedom people exercised there. So, one day he packed his bags and set off for the destined land.

When he landed in New Delhi, he got to see the freedom – the everyday freedom of speech (he could utter those f-words and likes anywhere with no restraint), the freedom of pace (the cows and vehicles competing for the patch of road) and of course, the freedom to act (he could now gulp endless glasses of beer and pegs of whiskey without any fear of being caned or put behind bars).

Then came the real moment, as he says, when the true colours of democracy unfolded before him. One day he was smoking nonchalantly at front of the hostel gate and was caught in the act by the hostel warden, a short and stuffy man with henna dyed hair and beard.

The warden thought he would throw the cigarette and run away. But it didn’t happen. My friend continued smoking. As if the warden was a mere visitor to the hostel, he didn’t give a damn.

The warden was miffed. He demanded, “Do you know who I am?”

My friend replied, “No, so what?”

“I am the warden and I can suspend you for smoking in hostel premises.”

“But there’s nowhere written that I can’t smoke here. I am smoking and will smoke. So what?”

“It’s not written but you should know and follow the rules. Drinking and smoking is strictly prohibited here.”

“So what? Do whatever you want to do.”

Soon after, the Vice Chancellor got wind of the incident. Might be it was the warden who took it to him. The VC, influential and strict, was a man of morals. The warden won and my friend lost. He was required to submit an explanation. 

So he drafted the reply. Starting with what his father had told him before he set off for India, his expectations and aspirations, what he found out in reality, he jotted down all. His last sentence quoted, “I was disallowed even basics of freedom and am fed food that is not even thrown at my dogs back in Iran.”

He copied the explanation to the Ambassador of Iran to India and even to the Prime Minister of India. Hilarious it was when we saw the Xerox copies of the explanation pasted around the hostel walls and college premises. In the meantime, as fellow friends, we sided with him. And thought – he was logical.

The same evening, a team from Embassy of Iran visited the hostel, to check on the facts mentioned by him in his copied letter to the ambassador. Unfortunately, the hostel food, which used to be good by local standards, was a mess. The chowmein served was not cooked properly, the chicken leg pieces still had blood clots and the plates were not clean, which never happened earlier. The team decided. My friend was right. The food served to the hostellers was indeed a dog food.

It was just the beginning of tussle between our college management and the embassy. My friend, a soft and kind person from inside though he looked snob from outside, intervened. He withdrew his admission and requested the parties not to get entangled in the unwanted debate. He had seen and felt much freedom in India than back in Iran.

I felt bad. For him and his career. He could have earned a Master’s degree and taken back with him the inspiration from India. He could have debated with his father back in Iran about Gandhi, the largest democracy called India and freedom. But it was all gone. Gone in a puff of cigarette.    

Sunday, 2 March 2014

सार्वजनिक यातायात चढ्दाको सकस

(c) Flickr/Zionorbi
“बरु आप्पा शेर्पालाई सगरमाथाको चुचुरोबाट झर्न सजिलो होला, नेपाल यातायातको लास्ट सीटबाट ओर्लन चाहि सकिन्न,” अन्तिम सीटमा बसेका एक यात्रीले यति के भनेका थिए , बसमा हाँसोको बम पड्कियो ।

अर्कोले थपिहाले, “आप्पालाई लास्ट सीटमा राख्ने हो भने स्योर लास्ट हुन्छन् । ”

थप हाँसो गुञ्जियो कोचाकोच बसमा । तपाई आफै अनुमान लगाउन सक्नुहुन्छ, सार्वजनिक यातायातको भीड ।

यो त भयो राजधानीको कथा । एक पटक तराईतिर झरेर हेरौ ।

म सप्तरीको रुपनीबाट राजबिराज जान म्याजिक कुर्दै थिए । म्याजिक भन्नासाथ जादू चाहि नसम्झिनुहोला , यो टाटा कम्पनीले ढुवानी सरल बनाउन लञ्च गरेको सानो गाडी हो ।

भीडको कुरा त्यो पनि तराईमा, व्यर्थको गन्थन मात्र हुन्छ । तराईका बाटा जति सम्म र सिधा हुन्छन्, गाडी त्यति नै विरल । अनि किन नहोस् त भीड ।

म केवल कुरिरहे म्याजिकहरु आउँदै गए, जाँदै गए । तर सीटको त के कुरा, ढोका, पछाडि, छत, कतै झुण्डिन समेत पाइएन । हार खाएर एक भद्र पुरुषसँग लिफ्ट मागे, काठमाडौंबाट विस्थापित आरएक्स बाइकमा ।

नारायणगढबाट आरुङ्गखोला चल्ने महिन्द्रा र शेर्पा जीपका कथा पनि उस्तै छन् । गाडी भरिसकेको हुन्छ तैपनि खलासी चिच्याइरहेको हुन्छ ।

“सीट छ ?” भनेर कसैले सोधिहाल्यो भने “सीट छ तर खालि छैन,” रेडिमेड जवाफ हुन्छ खलासीको मुखमा ।
त्यस लगत्तै जीपमा सवार यात्रुबीच हाँसोको बिस्फोट । हामी कतिसम्म उदार छौ भने अरुले आफूलाई ठग्दैगरेको जान्दाजान्दै पनि ऊसँगै हाँस्छौ आफू जस्तै अरुलाई ठग्न खोज्दा ।

त्यस्तै नेपालगञ्जबाट सुर्खेत जाने बसमा चढ्नुभो भने चिसापानीको बर्दिया राष्ट्रिय निकुञ्ज सुरक्षार्थ राखिएको ब्यारेकनेर पुग्नासाथ कण्डक्टर कुर्लन्छ, “कोलियाको सबजना झर्ने ।”

कोलिया भनेको चाहि दूवैतिरका सीटको बीचमा हिड्नका लागि खालि छोडिएको ठाउँ रहेछ । सैनिक जवानले गाडी जाँच गरुञ्जेल यात्रुहरुले जाँच सीमाना पार गर्नुपर्ने हुन्छ, त्यो पनि पैदल । बस फेरि हर्रे पुगेपछि त्यहि प्रक्रिया दोहोरिन्छ । बसवालाको बढी भन्दा बढी पैसा कमाउने लोभले गर्दा बित्थामा यात्रुले सास्ती झेल्नुपर्छ ।   

सार्वजनिक यातायातमा महिलाको पीडाको त कुरै नगरौ । महिला लेखिएको सीटमा निर्धक्कसाथ बसेका हुन्छन् पुरुष । कोहि महिला आइन् भने सीट छोड्ने त परै जाओस्, निर्लज्जतापूर्वक नियाली नियाली घुर्छन् ।

कति त कतिसम्म गर्छन भने जहाँ जहाँ महिला उभिएका हुन्छन् त्यहीनिर टाँसिन जान्छन् । एउटा मित्रले साह्रै नमिठो तर हाँसो उठ्ने अनुभव सुनाए ।

बस एकनासले गुड्दै थियो । एक अधबैंसे तर राम्री महिला सीट नपाएर उभिएकीरहिछन् । एक त पहाडी मार्ग त्यसमा पनि खुट्टै टेक्न नसकिने भीड । जसो तसो ती महिला नजिकैको सीटमा अडेस लगाएर उभिएकीरहिछन् । एउटा निर्लज्ज पुरुष चाहि मौकाको फाइदा उठाउँदै उनीसँगै उभिएको रहेछ, जति भीड बढ्दै गयो त्यो त्यति बेस्मारी टासिंदै गयो ती महिलासँग । 

आखिर आजित भई उनले कण्डक्टरलाई डाक्दै भनिन्, “हेर् न भाइ अघिदेखि यो मुन्छेले ठेल्याठेल्यै छ ।” अनि ती गाउँले दिदीले थपिन्, “यल्ले अघि देखिन आफ्नो ....ले  ठेल्याठेल्यै छ ।” 

उनको यस वाक्यले सम्पूर्ण बसमा स्तब्धता छायो, त्यो पुरुष चाहि लाजले रातोपिरो भयो । अनि लुरुक्क परेर अर्को स्टपमा ओर्लियो । धन्यवाद ती साहसी दिदीलाई । 

नाइट बसमा त झन पातकीहरुले गर्नु गर्छन । आफूसँग महिला परिन् भने त छामछुम गर्न भ्याइहाल्छन् ।

एक पटक नेपालगञ्ज जाँदा गजबको घटना घट्यो । मेरो सीट अघिल्तिर एक युगल जोडी बसेको थियो । तिनीहरु छिल्लिएको देख्दा या त नवविवाहता नत्र प्रेमी प्रेमिका हुनुपर्ने सम्पूर्ण यात्रुको अड्कल रहेको थियो । हुन पनि किन नहुनु , केटी केटाको काखमा मस्त निदाएकी थिइन भने केटोले ग्वार्लाम्मै अंगालो हालेको थियो ।

बिहान नेपालगञ्ज आइपुग्दा पो खाटी कुरो खुल्यो । केटो भन्दै थियो , “खुरुक्क मेरो मोबाइल देऊ ।”

केटीले तुरुन्त जवाफ फर्काइ, “अझ लाज छैन, रातभरि मस्ति गर्यो अनि मोबाइल पनि माग्छ ।” “के प्रमाण छ, तेरो मोबाइल भनेर ? यसमा मेरो सीम छ र मेरै हो । बढ्ता भइस् भने गोदाइ भेट्लास् ।”

केटो केहि नबोली लुत्रुक्क पर्यो । केटी झरिसकेपछि उसले गुनासो पोख्यो , “हेर्नुस् न, राति कतिखेर हो कुन्नि मोबाइल झिकेर सीम फ्यालिछ, मेरो भर्खर चालिस हजार तिरेर किनेको मोबाइल ।”

केटोलाई अञ्जान केटीसँगको रोमान्स महंगै परेछ । 

महिला पनि कहिले काहि अति गर्छन् । खास गरेर टेम्पो भरिएको देख्दादेख्दै पनि पछाडि झुण्डन्छन् । अनि कहिले काहि महिला सीटमा बसेका युवतीहरुमाथि नै खनिन्छन्, वृद्ध पुरुषका लागि सीट छाडिदिन । महिला सीट त महिलाहरुको अधिकार पो हो त, अशक्त र वृद्धका लागि त अलग्गै सीट आरक्षित हुन्छ ।

सार्वजनिक यातायातको अर्को सकस भनेको यात्रुलाई मानिस नठानी पैसासँग दाज्नु हो । एक पटक मैले सुनेको संवाद ः कण्डक्टर भन्दै थियो, “एक छिन गुरुजी १५ रुपैयाँ आउँदैछ ।”       

फेरि नेपाल यातायातकै प्रसंग ः कण्डक्टर भन्दै थियो, “दाइ अलिक सरौ न क्या, कति भन्ने, सुन्नुहुन्न ? ”

एउटा हाजिरजवाफी यात्रुले भन्न भ्याइहाले, “ए भाइ ह्याकसँ ल्याउन, पछाडिको भीत्ता खोस्रिउ । ”

बसमा फेरि हाँसोको फोहोरा छुट्यो ।

यो चाहि सुखद पक्ष हो सार्वजनिक यातायात चढ्दाको ।