(For ArtoonsInn Writers Room)
(prompt: Bapu’s visit to India on 15th August 2022, India’s 75th Independence day)
I stood under the sanguine sky the gentle gust patting my frail body, as I stared at my beloved Sabarmati. Riverfront, they now call it. Probably that’s what development stands for. The crack of dawn was mesmerizing. I had time-traveled accidentally from another realm. The time machine waited, as Dr. Sinha worked on the glitch.
I decided to take a tour of my cherished motherland. After all, today was the 75th Independence day… The freedom for which my ilk laid down precious lives and I am told that many of our frontline warriors have given up theirs for this breath of free air. My chest swelled in pride as I saw the tricolor fluttering atop buildings and even little homes.
I stomped along the graveled path towards a roadside stall, to relish a cup of tea, but trouble brewed instead. The owner adorning a forehead tilak, screamed profanities at his woman just because she borrowed sugar from their neighbor who happened to be a woman wearing a burka. I shook my head and moved on.
I reached a locality that was a marked contrast from where I began.
“This is a lesser reported area Bapu…” Dr. Sinha joined me.
“How can people stay in such unhygienic conditions, Sinha?” My heart fell at the mephitic air clogging my crumbling lungs. I looked at a dilapidated board.
‘Bapu Basti’ My picture, tiny and worn-out flanked it on one side.
I was heartbroken. Poverty still prevailed…
I saw a few people gathered on a nearby ground but instead of the tri-colour they held banners.
“They are here for a protest rally, Bapu… seeking reservation for their caste”
What? Caste-based reservations even after 75 years…
Vanishing into the black hole would surely be less agonizing.
“Sinha, when did you say we could get back?”