Posted on | October 10, 2011 | 10 Comments
I thank the readers and visitors who sent over 30 mails urging me to write to all the thousand stories of people like Munnalal. Sorry, I can’t devote the time I wish I could, to compile a story book on friends like Munnalal. There are several millions of them. However, I must tell the story of Paresh Rajkhowa, a resident of Chapakhowa, north Asom. Non-Indian readers and visitors may pardon my using some Hindoosatni dialects for giving a touch of reality.
Permit me to add two personal anecdotes.
In the good year of the Lord 1992, I was posted as SA (special assistant) to the Union Home Minister, supposed to be a plum post for an IPS officer. One day I received a call from a doctor friend from Patna. His son had qualified for the IAS, but had not yet received the offer letter and his course had already started at Mussourie. Could I help? Who could help, if a mighty SA to HM could not? I walked into the room of the Joint Secretary Personnel in the ministry of DOPT (Dept of Personnel& Training). He immediately asked his PA to take me to XXX sitting in a 3rd floor room of the North Block. I was pompously announced in. The baboo seated on a chair, sipping tea and puffing a cigarette was not impressed. He looked up: anything I can do sir? Yes, Mr. Section Officer, please check this name in the IAS list; he has not yet the offer letter. He looked at his watch and said: it is lunch time sir. I’ll call you after lunch. I knew he was playing a game. I offered him lunch at a respected restaurant, bought him a packet of Dunhill. We returned to NB. The well fed baboo made me to sit, lighted a Dunhill and went near a pigeon hole on the wall. He brought a paper out and gravely replied: his police verification is not complete. Don’t worry, I replied. I’ll tell the Secretary Personnel. He ordered two cups of coffee at my cost and most reluctantly commented: okay sir. I’ll issue the order today. The lunch was excellent. My pleasure, I said. He was highly pleased and added: you may collect the letter by hand tomorrow after lunch. I got the hint, offered him another lunch and another packet of Dunhill. The offer letter was in my hand. The boy joined Mussourie after 7 days of beginning of the course. I confronted the JS. Why don’t you punish such officers? He was a cool wise guy. Said, you can smash a particle friend, you can’t push a baboo. He is infinitely finite.
The second lesson was learnt on January 1st, 2009. Around 7 am a mufti clad tall man knocked my door. I opened it and found the man with a bunch of paper in his hand. There is a court warrant against you, he said. Why, for what offence? Well…on such and such date your car violated traffic rule at ZZZ place and at YYY hours. But I did not get any challan. Well, we sent it. Now the court will decide. Who are you? I’m from traffic division of DP. I did not announce my police avatar identity. I tried to call the CP of DP. He prevented me: why take all the trouble? It’s we, who decide such matters. Court is nothing. Pay R 300 and there won’t be any trouble. On the New Year day I threw him out of my home and sent a mail followed by fax to CP DP. After a few days I received written apology. I could get away because of my one of the avavtars and my “connection.”
My neighbor in an east Delhi locality, adjacent to our apartment block, was not so lucky.
Paresh Rajkhowa from a nowhere State called Asom and a strange place called Chapakhowa in upper Asom had landed up in Delhi with the job of a programmer in an IT company in NOIDA. The cheapest place he could rent was in Patparganj urban village in east Delhi. We had no common meeting ground. Very few souls from Asom lived in our neighborhood. I happened to meet Paresh Rajkhowa from Chapakhowa in upper Asom at the morning congregation where we visited every morning to purchase milk pouches and bread. My long acquaintance with the northeast of the country made me curious about the peculiar Mongolian feature of Rajkhowa. Old memories of my Asom, Nagaland and Manipur attachment elbowed my mind to make some space for Rajkhowa. His ahomiya accented Hindi and English prompted some neighbors to ask: Is he from China? Is he a ULFA? Is he a Naga terrorist? Is he a Meiti terrorist? It would have been useless to argue with my neighbors and other dwellers of next-door Patparganj. But I welcomed Paresh Rajkhowa.
The first hurdle for him was his zamindar-a Gujjar house owner who owned the building where Paresh had hired two rooms with a kitchen and a bath. Like me, Paresh was an avid fish lover. He required fish for both the meals. The Gujjar zamindar was adamant. No fish or meat cooking in his precincts. I was like an oasis for Paresh in his vicinity. I could not help him. The Gujjar was as tough as skins of the buffalos he owned. I advised Paresh to turn eggattarian at home and fishatarian out side. He was welcome to share my fish if he so desired. Only a fish lover can understand the pains of another fish lover. Praesh could not afford to leave the place as it was impossible to get a two room tenement in Delhi-even in an urban village for R. 5000.00.
His next brush was with the RRO (regional rationing officer), the mahamahim who was authorized to issue ration cards to people. Normally, facilitators like Mahavir had easy access to good lords like the thanedar, havaldar, beat constables, RRO and committee (MCD, Jal Board, PWD, electricity etc) snouts. Paresh did not know Mahavir. Even after production of his school certificate, residence proof, and a letter from his employer, the Baboo in RRO office was not convinced if a person called Rajkhowa could be from Earth or Mars. Was Chapakhowa in India or China? Paresh approached me. Have you paid the nazrana to the Baboo? What’s that? That is ghoos, bhet, Chai pani, charawa, upri etc. Why are you so uneducated? I mildly rebuked Rajkhowa. You live in India and want to get things done free? Paresh fumbled. How much to offer? I was confused over the rate of graft demanded by the Baboo. I remembered Bajrangbali Mahavir, who could get anything done like a wizard.
Mahavir, the wily Bihari thekedar > zamindar, turned up with his roly-poly rotund body. Any service for me sir? Yes Mahavir can you help Rajkhowa to get his ration card? Mahavir lowered his voice.
Sir, Yah aadmi to chini (Chinese) jaisan dekhat lage. Teroris to nahi hai na? Don’t worry Mahavir, I said, he is not a terrorist. He is not a Chinia; he is an Assamese. Kya bolot sir? Ek daagi Assami (convicted person) kaison hamara basti ma basan lage? Oh Mahavir! I frowned at thekedar Mahavir. He is not an asami. He is an ahomiya, a person from Asom. Have you heard the name of Gwahati? Jaha Gwa (betel nut) bikta hain? Oh no Mahavir, Gwahati is the capital of Asom like Patna is of Bihar. Rajkhowa has a problem, please help him.
I explained the problem with the Baboo in the RRO office. Yeh koi badi kaam na hoi saab. Kara denge. Par…Why hesitate? Tell me. Thora Chai pani ke waste dena parega. Kitna? Sir, pehle to naam darj karana hoga, uske baad berifikeson hoga. Card to uske pichai hot payaega. Baboo ko ek hazar dena parat. What about verification Mahavir?
Sir oi kaam to pulis karat ba. Hum thanedar sahib ko janat. Sasta ma karai dewat. So assured, I advised Rajkhowa that Mahavir was his passport to the Baboodom and police in Delhi. The wonder worked. The ration Baboo completed his formality and sent the paper to Patpargani police station and F&S (food and supply) inspector’s office for verification.
First an officer of the F&S department knocked the door. He head-counted the family, asked about monthly income and expenditure etc. Nupur w/o Rajkhowa entertained the officer with a cup of tea and some salted snacks. After the queries he demanded R. 200.00 for service fee. What service fee. Visiting Rajkhowa’s house by his scooter, wastage of time etc, etc. Paresh had started gathering some wisdom. He paid R. 200.00 to F&S officer.
Next a havaldar visited Paresh’s home for kerekter berefikeason. Havaldar Mitha Singh’s belly walked before his legs. The belt could not contain the bulge. He too was from the ancient entity of Magadha, somewhere near the capital city of Pataliputra (Patna). This meeting was very interesting.
Your name is Paresh Barua? No sir, I’m Paresh Rajkhowa. So, you are a convicted person, as you’re called Asami. Sir, I’m not Asami, I’m Ahomiya. Where is Ahomiya? Sir, people living in the State of Asom are called Ahomiya. Asom hain kahan? Sir, it is a northeastern State of India, look at the map.
Havaldar Mitha was satisfied with the geographical existence of Asom in India. Par, ek baat hai. Tera naam suna suna lagta hain. Tu koi teroris Rajkhowa ka bhai to nahi? Sir, Rajkhowa is a family title, like your title of Singh. Hum Thakur hote hain, Rajput. Sir, Rajkhowa’s are descendants of the Ahom kings of Asom. Kees cheez ka naam Ahom hain? Sir, cheez nahin, Ahoms were a group of people who once ruled Asom. Mitha was not really convinced.
Yeh Barua, Rajakhowa bagerah to ULFA ke neta hain. Kya subut hain tere pas ye sabit karne ke liye ki tum ULFA nahin hain? Sir, I’ve a clean record. I’ve never supported ULFA. My father was a police Havaldar too. Nahi bhai main to risk sisk nahi le sakat. Hum Chapakhowa thana me bhej denge. Woha se berifikeson aneke baad tera kuch kara denge. Chal, mere sath thane me. Chotababu tereko puch tacch karenge. Nupur, Paresh’s wife came running to my place. Sir, please save my husband. Police is taking him to thana.
Mahavir again came to rescue. Sir, aap ek purane pulis wale hain. Kaam lene ke liye thora bahut khana puri to karna hi parta hain. Kuch dila dijiye, sab thik ho jayega. Mahavir, yeh to thik nahi, ek mamuli verification ke liye bhi paisa? Kya kare saab, dastur aisan hi hoi gaila. Paisa dijiya to chakka chalta hain, nahi to pulis or komite wale kuch chalne nahi dewat. Mahavir graciously negotiated with his Bihar compatriot and rescued Paresh Rajkhowa at a nominal cost of R. 500. Within two weeks Paresh Rajkhowa became a proud owner of a ration card.
Our area PDS shop was located in a congested lane in Acharaya Niketan market. The PDS owner was Mahinder Tikait, a Jat from western UP. Paresh was listed as an APL (above poverty line) person. His daily income was over R. 32.00 per day. Mahinder told him: aap chamal nahi le payenge, gehu mil jayega 10 kilo; chini milega dui kilo, par chini out of stok hain. Kerasin milega 5 liter. Par we bhi out of stok hain. Kyon bhai, out of stock kyon hota hain? Kya kare sarkar, upar se aata nahi. Yeh upar kahan hain? Sarkari gudam se milta hain. Supply wale adha kha jate hain. Baki duniya mere upar tut parti hain. Mai kya karun? Jaisa aata hain oisa supply karte hain.
Paresh boastfully said: Hum to shikayat karenge. Mahinder sized up Paresh with a squint look. Where from this creature had descended on him? Is he a Martian? Does he not know the quida kannon, taur-tariqa of Hindustan? Bhai yeh Hindustan hain, aapka China nahin. Ehan shikayat karna mana hain. Jyada bologe to carad cansil ho jayega.
Paresh had become wiser. He approached Mahavir directly. Are asami baboo. Kya chota mota batan lagi latar patar karat? Mahinder dada chor hain. Sare saman belek kar deta hain. PDS to paisa daria me danle ki ek bahana hain. Sarkar chori karne me madad karte hain. Ek kaam karo. Mera naukar Bisu ko le jao. Kerasin ke liye panch rupiya jiyada lega, chini ke liye das rupiya aur chamal ke liya panch rupiya. Tumko sab mil jawat. Bhai mahavir, yeh to chori hain. Aap galat kahat bhaiya. Chori nahi. Yeh to thora bahut lena dena karna hi parat hai na. Nahi to Hindustan ka chakka jam hoi jawat. Paresh learnt his second lesson in a hard way and prepared himself to be a proud inhabitant of Delhi.
I did not have to undergo the hassle of visiting the PDS as I was listed as MAPL (much above poverty line). My housekeeper used to draw ration from the same PDS. One day he reported that living in my address (a 1400 sft) flat, he could not draw ration. I reconciled with the decision of the mahamahim RRO. But Paresh again ran into trouble. Kerosene supply from the PDS suddenly stopped. Mahavir made me wiser: Saab kya karat. Petrol, dizel mahangai hoi gaila. Pump wale kerasin milaike petrol dizel bikat lagan. Yeh buddhu asami baboo ko kahiye gas konekson le le. I advised Paresh accordingly.
He visited the Indane Gas outlet Panchali Gas at Pandav Nagar. The owner Kaloo Yadav also hailed from the Sitamarhi in northern Bihar. Kaloo said: faram lei jao babu, fillup karke makanwala aur nigam parshad ka drkhast lagakar jama kar do aur dui hazar rupiya deposit karwa diwat. Aapka bari aanese hum foon karat denge. Paresh collected the form, attached residence address proof, letter from his employer, copy of the ration card and approached his landlord. The Gujjar had willingly put his LTI. But to get a signature and stamp of the Nigam parshad (municipal councilor) was a tough job. The hallowed representative of the people gave darshan (audience) only between 8 and 10 a.m. Paresh went to his house only to face a massive crowd queued up with their grievances. After queuing for a week Paresh approached me and requested that I should write to the parshad in my letterhead. I explained to Paresh that I had become an extinct haired mammal. Only a serving police officer has fangs to scratch.The parshad won’t care for me. I asked him to approach sankat mochan Mahavir Bajrangbali.
Mahavir again turned up at my place. Sir, aaap mereko sarminda kar rahe hain. Boliye kya sewa kar sakat. I explained that Paresh required a signature and stamp of the parshad for getting a gas cylinder. Sir, har kaam ka tariqa haut. Paresh baboo ko kahiye panch sau rupiya dei dilat, mera Bisu kaam kara lega. Why Mahavir? Sir, baat aison hai ki MP ke pas jau to drkhast ke liye panch hazar lagat, MLA ko jaut to teen hazar. Parsad sahib ka ret kam hain. Itna to denahi parat. Hindustan ka taur-tarike jaisan hai aisan chalna parat.
This is high corruption Mahavir. Mahavir scratched his rotund belly: huzur korupson bolon koi cheez nahin. Ei to riwaz hain. Fuul chrawaat, mannat mangat. Tab hi to kaam puri hawat. I left the matter to Paresh and Mahavir. After about a month Nupur invited me to her home for a cup of tea. She proudly boiled the water in a gas stove. The lightly flavored Assam tea tested very well. I was happy to see strangers from upper Asom’s Chapakhowa were finally settled in our neighboring Patparganj urban village.
I would have been happy if the story ended here. Paresh had purchased a second hand scooter to move about with his family of three for R.5000 from an auto-garage owner at nearby Masjid galli (lane). He commuted to office by Metro Rail. Old is not always gold. The machine worked well but after about six months Nupur and her son knocked my door. Dada, we are in big trouble. What has happened Nupur? Paresh has been taken to the police station and our scooter has also been taken away. Why? Police said Paresh had stolen the scooter from Vikaspuri of Delhi. Vikaspuri in west Delhi was about 35 km away as the crow flies and 45 km if one travels by the snaky Ring Road. It was a puzzle. Why would Paresh go all the way to unknown Vikaspuri to steal a scooter? He did not even know the geography of Delhi.
Bajrangbali Mahavir was not home. I sent Nandu Thapa (a Nepali), a vegetable vendor across the street to go to the police station and find out the initial information. Nandu returned promptly. Gazab bhayo saab. Kya hua Nandu? Saab, thanedar Paresh lai hazat ma rakhe chan. Dui sipai danaddan mardaicha. My goodness. Paresh was put in the lockup and was being assaulted. I asked Nupur to sit in my car and we drove to the police station. The officer in charge did not even look up. He continued directing the sepoys to beat Paresh. He had a confession written in his hand and insisted Paresh to sign it.
Finally I produced my IPS printed visiting card and an ID issued by the MHA. The OC got back to senses, saluted profusely and allowed us to sit. I tried to argue that Paresh was an honest person. He had bought it from Suleman, the auto-garage owner. Nupur produced the papers. Thanedar Rathi took me to a corner: Sir, Yeh insan Chinia jaisa lagta hai. Hame check karna parega ki iske sath Arbind Rajkhowa aur Paresh Barua ki koi rista to nahi. Weh to ULFA leaders hain.
Look Rathi, there are thousands of Rajkhowas and Baruas in Asom. All of them are not terrorists. These are Ahomiya family titles. But sir, Yeh aadmi ke pas to churaya hua maal hai. He is a receiver. I had to put on my police face. Look Rathi, he was not the receiver. Suleman garagewala could be the receiver. Paresh had only purchased from him. Why don’t you pick up Suleman?
Sir, ek problem hain. Suleman ek bada Congressi neta ka ristedar hai. Aap to jante honge, hamare elaka me hi rehte hai. So, a relation of the Congress leader is a saint? Baat aisa nahi hai sir. Aap kahte hai to mai Paresh ko chod deta hu, par scooter to jabd karna parega. Yeh to churaya hua maal hai.
It was a pragmatic suggestion. We agreed that Paresh would be released and no FIR would be registered.
Aap kaise investigataion aage badaenge? I asked Rathi. Wo aap hamare upar chhor dijiya sir. Maal jab mil gaya, chor bhi mil jayega. Dui char ddagi ko thus kar denge andar. Mereko to mamla khatm karna parega.
We brought Paresh home and Nupur nursed him for a few days. He suffered a loss of R. 5000, police beating and humiliation. The beat constable knocked his doors at regular intervals. Fortunately Paresh was not declared Das numbari, but he had learnt the trick of shutting the mouth of law by pushing 5/10 rupee bills. That bought him peace from the sin he committed being a son of Chapakhowa and having a suspicious name like Rajkhowa and a sinister Mongolian appearance.
I decided to follow the matter. One evening I knocked the door of the Congress leader and spokesperson. Arre Dhar sahib, kaise aana hua garibkhane me? Formaiye kya khidmat karun. KKK sahib ek baat kehna tha, manjoor hai to kahe. Bilkul, bilkul koi fikr mat kariye. Hum to janta ka sewak hain. Sun na mera kam hai.
I narrated the story of Suleman, who bandied around the name of the leader and dealt in stolen cars and scooters. Mai kya kar sakta hu? Mai to Masjid me namaj ada karne jata hu. Ohi mil mulaqat ho jata hai. Kabhi kabar Eid ke mauke par mil lete hai. Mazhab ka mamla hai. Mera koi ristedari nahi hai.
To ek kaam kariye. Thnedar Rathi ko kahiye Suleman se puch tach kare. Wo kaise kar sakta hun? Dhar saab mereko aapne mazhab me aapne biradari me rehna hain. Sare mulloh ne mera khal khinch lega, Musalman mera bad dua karega. Akhir me chunao to larna parta hain Dhar sahib. Aap to sab jante hai, sarkar chalaya aapne.
I declined to be fooled by KKK. Agar aap aisa hi chate hain to main TV channel ko bolake ek bayan de doo? Aap to jante hain mai bich bich me TV programme me hissa leta hu. Aur eh bhi keh deta hu ki Suleman aapko hissa deta hain. Aisa mat kariya Dhar saab. Mera khilli ur jayega. Madam bhi gussa krenge. Mataji bigar janese mera kya hoga! Mera ek position hai party me. Sare mamla ujagar mat kariye. Kuch to parda rakhiye. Aapto pension me gujara kar lete hai, par mere ko chunavi paisa ikattha karna parta hai. Khuda ke waste thora madad kariye.
To sir, meherbani karke Rathi ko ek phone lagaiye. Kya kare, aap humko dhamki de rahe hain. KKK reluctantly called the PS and told Rathi that Suleman was not related to him and was misusing his name. I thanked KKK and returned to my apartment.
Rathi acted quickly. Suleman was picked up, interrogated in police-science way and tons of information was vomited by him about a car thief gang in Delhi.
Paresh Rajkhowa visited my home with his wife and child, shared my fish dinner and said painfully.
“Sir is it a sin to be an Ahomiya and having Mongolian look?”
“No Paresh. Unfortunately for you and all of us you come from Outer Indian state called Asom. I can assure you 85% Indians are not aware of the Outer Indian states like Asom, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Manipur, Mizoram and Arunachal. We are yet to be one India.”
“How long such things would continue?”
“Can’t say. We appear to be drifting apart more. Our ethnicity is again dividing us and corruption demon is devouring us. The system does not work anymore. Anyways, as long as I’m here you have no fear. I served and lived in the northeast for a long time. I understand your pains.”
“Can Anna Hazare do something?”
“I don’t think Paresh. Indian corruption is beyond Jan Lokpal and Lokayukt. Nearly 85% of us appear to be infected by the jinn of corruption. Our system has collapsed.”
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