Gayal

Gayal. In Apatani, we call them “Subu”. And to the Apatani people, it means wealth. It is considered as wealth because it plays important role in economical, social and cultural life of Apatani community of North-East India.

My father used to own a fair numbers when he was still alive, when he was still strong.

Long before he was misdiagnosed with tuberculosis; long before he endured grueling treatment of tuberculosis medicines – he actually had a lung cancer and died from lung cancer – the numbers of gayal dwindled terribly. I was away at boarding school in Delhi. And he couldn’t tend to them like he did it before. Eventually we lost all our bovines to Swpya, or so they say. I don’t know what Swpya really look like. I’ve never seen one in my life – alive or dead. Some call it a wolf. I guess it might be. Anyway, at least they served their purpose of being in the food chain. And served it well.

To make a long story short, Gayals are very fond of salt. The one with tongue out that we’re seeing in a picture was stalking me. Unfortunately, I didn’t carry any salt in my backpack. So I shove my empty hand out at her – hoping without hope to lick it – she licked anyway. The touch of her warm tongue on my palm was healing and divine experience. It reminds me of old times – herding the gayals in the forest with my father.

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Crossposted [at] rotochobinphotography.wordpress.com

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Ziro and the people

Ziro.

No, it’s not zero.

Ziro is my hometown, my birth place.

A small town, going on to a big town. Headquarters of Lower Subansiri in Arunachal Pradesh. Northeast India.

As I don’t want to reiterate what I said earlier, so I would like to quote a few lines from a piece I wrote for Arunachal Diary.

” The landscape of Ziro is full of wonder and always amazes me. No matter wherever place or spot you are, you’ll be surrounded by hills and it feels like you are being trapped amid hills. The perpetual green in profusion and the valley lush with paddy fields in summer, the unpredictable rain and the occasional rainbow, and the low-slung mist that resembles lake and deceives onlookers, not only enthrals but also nourishes soul.

Over the years, things have changed. The atmosphere of purity has waned a little. The rain no longer drizzles but pounds. The forest is being cleared and the paddy fields are receding rapidly to accommodate the growing population or to convert it into cash. With the forest diminishing at breakneck pace, the flora and fauna too had seemingly vanished”.

The sight of Ziro during rainy season still blows me away. Green – all over the place.

Ziro, definitely, is a place to see for tourists, especially for a cultural tourist. They will still see a lot of people with tattooed face in Ziro. Then, there is a typical village settlement and festivals of Apatani community. I’m sure the visitors will love it, but to be a denizen of Ziro – is another story.

In the past I would always look forward to my home-coming. Now I dread it. The moment I would enter the periphery of Ziro, I would feel as if I am not me. I have always felt as if someone else is leading my life.  I have always felt as if straps have been wound around me. I have always felt as if my wing had been clipped.

There is so much negative energy circling round  the Ziro atmosphere – fear of land-shark, land encroachment, Insatiable greed, dispute arising from property, not taking part in marriage or festival practices and their repercussion, High expectations and dependency, Division of community into Christian and non-Christian, Communal tension (inter and intra), insensible egoistic individuals and groups, Groupism, Corruption, irregularity in water supply and telecommunication,  apathetic bureaucrats, corrupt politicians, sycophancy, lack of civic sense, inflation, rash driving, prostitution, drugs, increasing suicidal rate and what not. It encompassed us all.

No matter how hard you may try, you get sucked into the whirlwind. I wish to know if our society really knows the meaning “living a life in peace, harmony and dignity” and letting others.

A sense of insecurity in one has pervaded the region. Their sense of insecurity had invaded others peaceful existence. Give up on me! For I have become psychotic.

Despite modern education and information technology boom, despite theological knowledge imparted by the Christian church, Views and Judgement of most people have not transformed. It is neither primitive nor modern. Status quo!

All I see in Ziro is – decline of ethic.

Whatever the fact may be, I am not justifying that I am a hallowed and wise, and the rest are evil and unwise. On contrary, I am such an idiot to believe that good things happen to good people. At least, I do not pinch someone else land and property. At least I do not hurt others intentionally. At least I do not take advantage of someone’s weakness. I obey traffic rules. I try to help people wherever I can.

A decade ago, I used to tell my friends that Ziro is like a morass and most people will rejoice seeing you sinking in it. My statement still stays.

Arunachal is a black hole.

Free-Wheel: Ode to Vehicle

Public transport is a Tata Sumo is a multi utility vehicle.

Tata Sumo! An accepted mode of public transportation in hilly region, which can carry ten passengers in each trip excluding the driver. Three in front, four in the middle and four more in the rear.

However, travelling in it is both extraordinary and a grueling one, especially when you are going via Hoji to Itanagar or Ziro.

Nearly three hours ride of rough road.

Did you ever notice that the onus is always on the passenger no. 3 who usually does the work of a doorman? If a passenger from rear seat need to shed some loads or for some other purpose, it’s no. 3 who has to get off first.

A scrawny passenger like me can be easily tossed about like a roll of dice in an empty vehicle or when it had too few passengers. So I always have had to grab whatever support I could find and hold onto it to stay put in my seat. But, when the vehicle is jam-packed with passengers and I find myself seated between two plump passengers, which may have never happened with you, can instantly reminds me of the thin slice of salami of SUBWAY’s sandwich.

In such lucky hot humid dusty summer day, when perspiration rise from hibernation and tickles every passengers’ foreheads (I guess plump people sweat more than the skinny one) and its odor amalgamate with strong perfume that your co-passenger is wearing to conceal their body odor, then suddenly someone rolled up the window to prevent the dancing dust to get inside the vehicle. I tell myself it’s not a carbon monoxide. This is not a time for your breathing exercise. Inhale it just this once and won’t feel the difference later on.

Then there’s the fare of Tata Sumo. Brand new fare for the passenger travelling to Ziro from Itanagar and vice versa at Rs. 300/-. I reminded the employees at ticket booking counter that it was Rs. 250/- sometimes ago. “Hike in petrol price, they reasoned.” But their faces seem to be saying, “You Moron”.

Increment of Rs. 3/-in petrol price is directly proportionate to Rs. 50/- from each passenger. I said, “You Moron” with my face. I immediately realized, while taking out the Rs. 50/- note from wallet, that I was actually the real moron – you know, he was the first person to use the word and besides I was paying him.

Imagine you are languishing in a hotel owing to Strike/Close/Bandh for three or four days while hotelier is happily lapping up your rapidly running out cash with their worthless but expensive breakfast, lunch and dinner. You spend a wakeful night in a hotel bed, counting the remaining coins and praying “bandh, bandh ho jaye”.

In another trip; in order to escape from money sucking leeches, nauseating Tata Sumo and to deprive the employee at the booking counter of an added argument, I decided to drive my third-hand motorbike to Itanagar. The ride on my motorbike was pretty perfect until my return trip to Ziro.

This time I choose to dodge the rugged road that test your spirit; that test your endurance.

En route, there were almost half a dozen cattle resting on the warmth of bitumen covered road. My eyes were on the road. I remember seeing an ox approaching the resting group. Suddenly two ox packed with full of testosterone and their horns locked against each other, moved swiftly towards me and bumped my motorbike.

The impact of smack was great. But I am amazed; the first thing that occurs to my mind was will I be able to reach home. What if my bike is broken down completely? So I got up to see the damages done to my motorbike. It looked okay. At that moment, I realized that the bone at the ball of the thumb is dislocated. I could clearly hear a sound which was a little familiar – F@%k! – When I was fixing my bone by myself.

Really I am not that very enthusiastic about motor vehicle as I am in to some other things. Bookcase crammed with novels? Yes please. iPod? Definitely yes. PS3? Why not. I can comprehend people’s fondness for their engines. And why the “have-nots” want to have it? I, at any given day, I would settle on hitchhiking rather than maneuvering it – talking to the person on steering and keeping him awake.

Last time when I was at my friend’s place I asked for a car as a present for my “not-in-the-sight-marriage”. I was, in fact, kidding. Have I succeeded to give you a fright, my friend? Don’t worry I would be more than well-contented with the Dslr you are planning to buy from online shop.

I wonder why Department of Transport won’t upgrade all those vintage “blue and sky blue colored buses” that have been plying on the road of Arunachal since time immemorial.

Would it be a sin if I plead to be carried in a clean public transport? Not in freight truck.

Till then, can I hitch a lift with you? We could save some fuel, money and bloodshed. More importantly, I can give you a treat to a plate of “butter chicken and Nan” at Punjabi dhaba in Banderdewa. All on me.

My Monsoon Diary

All of a sudden the rain starts thumping vigorously on the corrugated tin roof. Though there were dark clouds loomed large on the horizon, I didn’t expect it too soon. Within a second, it seemed as if the sky had poured all their savings. The force of the downpour was weighty.

“A wholesale trade of rainfall,” he said loudly, to make his comment heard.

The banter of thunder and rainfall had suddenly muffled our vocals. He quickly peered out of the window; in a distance, on the road, we can see people running helter-skelter to take refuge in available shade. He rose from his seat and went out on the front porch.

He stayed there for a few minutes; and looked at the floorboard of the porch completely drenched with rain.

“Khii!” he sighed a tired sigh while settling down on his chair. His face was turning pale.

“Are you all right?” I asked nervously. “Is something wrong?”

He looked at me and said morosely, “I wish I could split those dark clouds with an arrow…”

I eyed him curiously.

“…to have the sunshine back on the earth again,” he said, sensing my interest.

“Ha! Ha!”I could no longer stifle my laughter. Still laughing, I asked, “Why arrow, why not Gun?”

He said in a monotone, “Noise pollution, obviously.” He abruptly got up and went outside for a second time.

“Come here, my lord. You must see this!” he asked me gesturing with his hand. The drain seemed too narrow and shallow to quell the sudden uprising of overcharged rainwater. The rainwater had been spilled out onto the ground. Ankle-deep water. The pavement, which leads to the front porch, had vanished into that ankle-deep black dirty drainage water.

“Look!” he exclaimed. “Pepsi bottle. That’s Coca Cola. And there, see those orange colored poly bags. Here comes the blue and green one. All the colors of the Rainbow. How apt? ” he said sarcastically, pointing toward myriad of things carried into the home turf.

“I don’t want to build a dam. There’s enough controversy over building dams. “He said half-despairingly and half-in jest. “Moreover, I pleaded to be declared as a poverty-stricken lifeless gentleman. But it doesn’t mean that I want abundant rainfall. Or abundant wealth. Just basic items only. Basics for Basic people.” He added, grinning widely.

I couldn’t fathom how many snags he was struggling with inside his head. Yet his sense of humor was discernable. I know. I knew he was having his share of misfortune for quite so long but his funniness was still intact. “I was made compelled to marry misfortune. And I begat misfortune,” he once affirmed.

We walked back to sitting room in silence.

“With the water level so high, you may not be able to leave my place without the kisses and caresses of distilled water. Therefore, you have to bear with my lecture,” he warned me. I beamed at him and said “Fine with me,” as the rain played havoc with my plan to trim the hedges.

“I guess the drainage is not deep and broad enough to contain the rainwater,” I expressed my thoughts when we settled down again on our seat.

“I guess you are wrong, my lord” he said. “The drain is deep enough to accommodate ten dead bodies. It’s all those poly vinyl materials, which is blocking the flow of drain. Can we change the topic of our conversation?” he said losing his composure.

“K. What about Playboy bunny and penthouse doll?” I said to light up his mood.

“When people start losing brain power, they often think and indulge in Sexercise,” he snapped back hilariously, making me laugh with him.

“K. I give up,” I said, surrendering myself to him.

So we discussed about the de-learning process of human being for sake of orgasmic ecstasy of material achievements. Libya. Syria. Anna Hazare. Guns and Roses. Myopic pot-bellied politicians and bureaucrats. Mostly, we blamed people including ourselves for our harsh conditions.

In the meantime, the downpour had already stopped. The gloomy weather had already overtaken the stormy weather. “I must be off now,” I said while gathering my things.

He looked up at the sky and said, “They do not look satisfied yet. But don’t forget your parasol. Darn! This Mount Everest of polythene! ”

When I was leaving, I saw him assembling empty PET bottles, packages and poly bags into heaps.

“When two elephants are fighting, it’s always the ants that get crushed. These are not my words, honestly. Borrowed,” those were his parting words.