My husband was arrested tonight. What was his crime? He used a bicycle to travel from home to his office and back.
We live in Bhatti Mines, a wild side of Delhi where the jungle mingles with the spiritual. Bhatti Mines is a reserved forest, strictly speaking. But the forest has been encroached upon by people of all sorts. They say that we are encroachers too though we lived here long before the land was declared reserved forest. They tried to throw us out of here many, many years ago. We refused to go. So Sanjay Gandhi, Indira Gandhi’s infamous son, decided to leave this land to us. Our ancestors called it Sanjay Colony in his honour. Our ancestors were too illiterate to know what Sanjay Gandhi meant, let alone what his politics meant.
Today, long after Sanjay Gandhi and his sterilisations are dead, when the land has been declared reserved forest, there are all kinds of religious people who call themselves swamis and babas and gurus that build fences round lands like beggars falling upon whatever they can catch and the government chooses to keep its eyes shut. No, the government helps them to grab, as far as I know.
I’m an illiterate woman who knows only how to make earthen pots. The clay in the land becomes the food for my family. My husband goes cycling to work as a peon in some office beyond Fatehpur Beri, the last place I have ever seen in my whole blasted life. People tell me that the world does not even begin at Fatehpur Beri. That’s why I said we live at the end of the world.
My husband was arrested. Because he refused to carry his cycle on his shoulder for the sake of a Scorpio to pass by. He told me that for the past one year the road between Fatehpur Beri and Dera Mode was on repair. So the traffic remains one way and it crawls.
One Safari-suit-wala who thinks himself a VIP slapped my husband and said, “Give way, you rascal.” My husband didn’t understand what was happening. He turned back to see a Scorpio trying to push its way through the blocked traffic. Everybody in the Scorpio was wearing a Safari Suit in Delhi’s torrid heat. Stupid people, said my husband. They asked me to take my bicycle on my shoulder and stand out of the road so that they could drive another two feet ahead. This is Delhi, said my husband. Bastards, trying to get two feet of land from a cyclist.
My husband refused to take his bicycle on his shoulder. Does this road belong to you? He asked the Scorpio-suit-wala. The suit-wala slapped my husband.
My husband felt insulted. He thought that it must be a follower of one the gurus in the area who did this. Who else would possess such hubris? He cycled all the way to the particular guru who was holding his Satsang this evening. There was no Scorpio there.
But he was arrested. Why should a cyclist come to a religious gathering? He was asked. He explained why he went there.
Are you sure that the number is DL 3 CAS 4043? The security managing the parking lot of the guru asked him. He said, “I’m only a semi-literate man. I don’t have the literacy of the gurus and babas and other great people. May be, it is not CAS, may be it is CSA. But it is a Scorpio.”
My husband was fond of numbers. He could have been an economist if babas and Scorpios had not thrown us out of the main road all the time.
How to get him out of the vicious cycle of the police, the baba and the Scorpio? I will have to fall at the feet of the baba’s chela, I guess.
PS. Based on a real incident.