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Existence Through Debris

About ColNarinder Singh Malhan

Colonel Narinder Singh Malhan was commissioned from Indian Military Academy (IMA), Dehradun. On having served for almost four decades in Indian Army, he loves to share his experiences through his writings. In his opinion, every life has a lot to unfold. Each life is unique and is an historical document with its own identity. He strongly feels, real discovery is through introspection by looking back in own time. He believes, sharing own experiences are like revisiting life's milestones with more intensity. He thoroughly enjoyed his journey in uniform.

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It was different this time. Maybe I was paying special attention to fine points. I was more sharp-eyed and perceptive to changes around. Digging along the road was not novel to me. This time, it raised a straight question. Shall I see a day when there will be an end to this? Revisiting last ten years made me understand that it was an eternal exercise. Road widening, building overhead bridges and creation of underpasses in a crowded city like Gurgaon were public necessities. This, apparently, appeared to be a logical argument and reasonable explanation for this continuous and ongoing digging.

This jam-packed city proved wide of the mark this time, in my time and space calculations. Even after catering for safety cushion in overall time plan, for likely bottlenecks in route, did not help out. I chose non traffic hours to arrive at New Delhi railway station. I was travelling by car. Time of leaving Gurgaon at 1520 hours was well integrated into my well thought out time strategy. Reaching New Delhi railway station, much before time and further catching Kalka Shatabdi at 1715 hours, looked like a cake walk at forecast stage. I found myself grossly wrong in my calculations. Panic was genuine, when I was still travelling at 1700 hours, trapped in traffic. Somehow against all these odds, I was fortunate enough to board the train at the nick of the time.

My clock of observation persisted, even when the train started moving. My window seat in an air conditioned compartment helped me in the scrutiny of my surroundings. For miles together, I could see piles of polythene bags along the track. Temporary huts with polythene sheets on their roofs on encroached railway’s land presented a picture of gloom and despair. Still, children could be seen smiling and happily playing. It gave an impression as though they were closer to God. Those huts had their own logistic extensions. Cows and goats were comfortably resting at some distance. Some animals were tied very close to the railway tracks. Water hand pumps could be seen well dug to meet water needs. The worn-out bricks wall along the track looked antique and ancient. An indication that the land between those two walls belonged to Indian Railways. At places, its existence was just symbolic. It appeared, as if it had lost its relevance. No one was respecting it. Men were taking bath in the open. Children were comfortably playing in small play fields, created through their rustic innovation. Some men sitting all alone appeared to be in meditative moods, perhaps trying to figure out their destiny. Broken walls provided a golden opportunity to marketing people. Posters pasted on them were enough proof of the same.

I was face to face with the poor and his poverty. I was face to face with the punishment for a crime which these people did not commit. I was reminded of Albert Einstein, the theoretical physicist’s famous saying, “The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.”

I had seen this many times earlier. But this was different this time. I was trying to figure out those people who saw and never did. Remedy, I felt ran through those who did, but never thought. I felt, it was right time to raise my voice through this story. Probably, I had begun to realize, my life would begin to deteriorate the day I become quiet about things that matter. I was rather consciously realizing that reality is as wonderful as it is ugly. And talking about it should not be timed. I was face to face with God existence in debris of wasted opportunity. I also understood that living there alone would make me understand what it was like to be powerless.

It is, but a story of national oppression.

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