“Faaltu main aaya main!” I said, scanning the roster. I shouldn’t have come.
The three guys who were supposed to be with me in the cab did not come fearing for their safety.I was in the cab alone with the driver. I wished I knew in advance that they weren’t coming. I would’ve stayed back too.
Sighing, I rolled down the window and looked outside. The normally bustling streets were deserted today. The empty streets somehow reminded me of Mani Ratnam’s Bombay. The scene where Tinnu Anand surveys a burning Bombay from inside a white ambassador car flashed before me eyes. Somehow, I felt I was him.
The numbers were ringing in my mind. As many as 202 State Transport Buses, 350 Taxis , 115 BEST buses, 3 trucks and 4 private vehicles were smashed or gutted down across Maharashtra in a frenzied display of hatred. All for a man spewing hate, mocking the constitution and indulging in regional terrorism. If he had even an iota of concern for the Marathi cause, they would have prospered. I was thinking about that young railways aspirant who lost his life for daring to seek employment by just means. And I knew Raj would get bail tomorrow. For murder. Again.
“Sir, ek baat bolun?” said that driver, breaking my chain of thoughts. Can I say something?
“Aap agar aaj nahin aate toh kuch nahin hota. Nahin toh bhi 60% employees nahin aaye hain.” He said. If you would not have come today, it wouldn’t have created much of a scene, as it is, 60% of the employees haven’t reported to work either.
He then went on to add that he would have left for home too. His parents were very worried.
He continued, “Saala gaadi bhi darke chalana padh raha hai..kahin se aa gaye toh apne toh vaande ho jaayenge.” I can’t even drive without fear lest they pop up from somewhere... we can very well forget about reaching office then.
“Yaar, tumko kyaa tension hai, tum toh Marathi ho..agar pakda, toh bol dena, ‘Mee Pan Marathi Manoos aahe!’, chhod denge turanth!” I said. I think it came out more sarcastically than I intended. Dude, why do you have to fear, you’re a Marathi guy, tell them .. I am Marathi too; they’ll spare you immediately.
“Kyaa sir, aisi baatein karte ho. Abhi gaadi kaa kaanch phodne ke baad mereko sorry bolke kyaa faaida? Voh log toh sabse pehle phatthar phenkte hain..” How can you say that sir? They throw stones at passing cars. And what’s the point in apologising after the windshield is smashed?”
I knew the company wouldn’t pay for that. Nor can they claim insurance in riot like situations. Besides, windshields cost a bomb when smashed.
“Abhi voh Nashik main maara voh Hindustan Lever kaa employee, voh toh Marathi thaa. Kyaa hua? Raj ne maafi maanga. Lekin kya sir, Murder ke liye bhi maafi maangke nikal jaaneka kya? Saala, kuch kimmat hi nahi hai apna?” He asked. Last time, they killed an employee of Hindustan Lever. He turned out to be a Marathi. What did Raj do? He apologised. Well, can you walk away with a murder by just tendering an apology? What’s the value of our lives?
Well, it was an employee of Hindustan Aeronautics Limited who lost his life at Nashik earlier this year. And it was true that Raj’s men literally walked away with murder then.
The driver asked, “Sir, abhi raatko kaise kyaa neend aata rahegaa usko? How does he manage to sleep at night?
There was no way I could reply to this.
I looked outside. I was wondering the same.