Today, the sky lay glaring, angry, ferocious since the morning as the angry gusts of burning wind did not spare the morning hours even. Water-laden caravan of dark clouds that put up their brown and black canopy screening the sun, and sing the most uplifting malhars on their sarod seemed too far away. Suddenly, without any notice, the sky turned grey in the noon, clouds rolled up threatening the sun, and showers and cool breeze worked up a real magic. And . . . what a welcome relief! relief from months of unending heat.
I am once again in Delhi. And this time it is not spring but summer and that too at its peak – 47 degrees of temperature, unbearable heat from which even nights fail to give any respite and scorching gusts of ‘luu’. It is the month of ‘Jyeshtha’ – the last month of summer in Indian calendar. Monsoon predictions have become front-page news. The patience of even the hardy trees seems exhausted. I found the leaves of a grand bargad tree wilting in the morning today for want of water. Each day of my stay reminded me that It was actually the real time for summer vacation, homely pleasures, for indoor delights.
Wash the floor, take a long shower, then wear the most faded worn out cotton that you have, have light vegetarian meal in the early hours of the morning, and . . . ? Yes! read, write, paint, listen to music, watch movies, or pick up craft, embroidery or sewing in the long hours of the noon – this is the ideal time for all indoor pursuits. But sadly enough, the ‘New’ Delhi has long forgotten the dream of such vacations. Go anywhere in Delhi and you will find on the hottest of days streets and roads and shabby workplaces and workshops teeming with people who are never on vacation. They are village men, the breadwinners of their hard-pressed families. They have moved to big cities to sell the only commodity they have – their labor. Their purchasers hire these human ‘machines’ for a day or a period of time and abandon the worn-out thing without any scruples late in the evening after sucking out all that it is capable of giving. . . Beloved sons of hard-working mothers who work hard digging and reaping and sowing year after year on the land to feed their loved ones–– look at these unfortunate sons as they sit in the labor markets in the morning, thousands of kilometers away from their homes, like fishes in a fish market, waiting to be sold so that they win two square meals at the end of the day for their starving family or may be for sending something back home to their old mother for treatment.
Vacation? Summer vacation? Come on! Vacations are only for the ‘special’ privileged few who have all the rights to be served – their clothes, utensils, food, bills, house maintenance, security, conveyance, children – everything has to be duly taken care of. And it is the duty of all the sons of hardworking mothers to serve them. Whenever I see a man (I mean, the ‘piece of work’ Shakespeare called ‘Man’) selling himself, selling the most beautiful and dignified thing on earth – his ‘labor’ – to the ‘superior race’ that scorns it, abuses it, insults it by its very existence, I cannot explain how ashamed and outraged I feel.
I recall Faiz – one man who understood the pain:
‘And whenever the flesh of man is sold in the market . . .
. . . Don’t ask about the fire that rages inside me
The rain came as a welcome relief for the people of Delhi. Due to the mighty storm and rain I also remained voluntarily confined the whole day with a few books in my quiet backside balcony that overlooks a thick row of huge old trees. i watched the heavily curtained houses with air conditioners on that side and felt pity for those who are deaf to the call of the rain. As i watched the rain pour down, i felt a deep prayer rise inside me like a song – my poor parched land was saying that it is waiting for the showers that will replenish the empty bowls and feed the starving mothers and then . . . life will begin anew. . .