This week, Gandhi fellow Kabir Arora relates his run in with a mentally unwell drunk man and the truth about the relationship between disappearing peacocks and pesticides.
Once during my village stay I went out for a walk in the lane next to my house. I was having conversation with a friend on phone while walking. Suddenly an old man asks me whether I'm Kuldeep or not. I said “No” and moved ahead.
Next day again I went out for a stroll, this time he stopped me and started yelling at me in Marwari. The words were beyond my understanding in the beginning. I kept on listening. He was furious and was telling that during 1965 war, few Pakistanis spies came to the village and joined the Indian Army later, when their conspiracy came out, they were arrested. So he questioned me about my identity and my affiliation with Pakistan. He added to his words that he would file an FIR and send me to jail. The reason for his agitation, which later came up, was beyond my understanding. I hadn't talked to him the previous evening and had sort of ignored him. He felt humiliated about it.
In village if one meets someone anywhere, one has to have conversation which can last from ten minutes to hours. The moment he left me, I was just shocked and tried to understand the fragile situation around me.
I was walking back to my home. He turned back and called me. My heart was beating very fast. He took me to his house. He offered me Bidi and peg, which I declined. He ordered the lady of the house to serve me tea. She informed him that there was no milk at home.
Angry! He went to get it. In the mean time another man came there. He asked me about my background and purpose of stay in the village. Questions were also around agricultural output of Punjab.
When the old man, who later informed me that he and My Headmaster both were cousin brothers, came back, I sat with my fingers crossed, waiting for another disaster to happen. He was drunk, mentally not well. I wanted to run away but there was no place to escape. Suddenly I saw Vikas (Bhagirath Ji's son) entering the house. I became confident now that at least there is someone who can take me out of this weird situation. I smiled while looking at his face. He smiled back. Through eyes he conveyed that he was going to take me. When tea party was over, he told the old man that my dinner was ready, so give us the permission to leave. With this, the episode didn't end.
When Bhagirath Ji came back home, the old man came and narrated the episode to him. He made the narration spicy by relating me to an incident which happened a day back in the village, where few men on bikes with cellphones in hand harassed the village girls. The old Hindustani saying “Rai Ka Pahar Banana” was the top emotion at that time. When he left, Bhagirath ji told me not leave house without him or his son. Lakshman Rekha was drawn, which I didn't crossed after that incident.
Late that night, me and Bhagirath ji were talking about something, suddenly he yelled at us to shut our mouths as people in village sleep early. In last week of my village stay, the same old man brought Kaakari for me as departing gift.
There was another dimension to whole episode. For the first after my arrival in the village I interacted with Vikas. Both of us were hesitant to start the first conversation. He informed me that he is waiting for B.ed. Entrance result will shift to Churu city soon. Those were again first and last words between us. Later the interaction was limited to yes/no.
Disappearance of Peacocks in Punjab
I was surprised to see so many birds in these villages. In Punjab most of the birds especially peacocks have left the fields. The old drunk man who was mentally not well informed me that the peacocks died because we spray pesticides. Even he understood the concept of food-chain.
Those minute old words of wisdom are still around tillers hear it!
For more of Kabir's experiences, see:If I were my own teacher: confidence, colour and voices