We were just too young to think the good or bad of that. Yes, we naturally felt elated when, after spending an hour or two in school, we would get the opportunity to head back home, day after day, for many days, that year.
Some of the super-seniors in the school, whom everyone saw as bad characters and so needed to maintain a distance from, would come directly in the class, would throw some religious slogans, would ask the teacher to leave the class and would ask us to go home.
Though, we were aware that all this was happening to build the Ram Temple in Ayodhya in place of the Babri Mosque, the only point that concerned us then was the fact that we were getting an early leave from the school, an added bonus.
Initially, for some days, it all looked so pleasing to us. We had plenty of time to hang-around, to play, to read comic strips, the in-thing those days. As classes were not running, there was no pressure of home work. Cricket, candies and comic strips – the 3Cs – they flowed so smoothly.
But it didn’t last long.
One day, we were told by the parents that schools had been closed till the next information as tension was growing with increasing rallies and protests of temple-supporters. Soon after this, we were informed that curfew was clamped not just in Varanasi but in many other cities as riots had broken out.
We are aware of words ‘curfew’ and ‘riots’, but not what they meant in real terms. These were just newspapers words newly added to our vocabulary after the family elders told us about. Elders told us they meant bad, ominous developments. But for us, it was more about its dictionary meaning. Rather, for us, it was an opening into the period of more relaxed days with more time at our disposal.
But, soon, the feeling of joy was replaced by a lingering innuendo of boredom. Though our house was in a sub-lane, away from the main road where regular police patrolling was being done, we were not allowed to venture out of the house. TV had no satellite channels then. The only mode of communication was the landline phone of BSNL that we children were not allowed to use on our own.
So even if some of us were so not into the games of daily routine, like going out, playing cricket, table-tennis or hide and seek in that part of the year because winter was approaching and early arrival of darkness would give us a chance to play the game within the time set by the parents to reach back the house, we started feeling yearning for outings.
With no outdoor games, controlled TV timings, no communication with friends, of school or neighbourhood, and no school classes (yes school and daily trip to it were looking better options now), we soon started feeling isolated, as if we were incarcerated on an island and there was no set timeline for our freedom.
But there was more to come. The menu of meals at home was getting increasingly same, day after day, and so tasteless. No milk was non-issue but tea or coffee, that was first on a reduced availability, and soon became sporadically available, and that too, if anyone could go out during the relaxed curfew hours and if was lucky enough to get some milk.
Also, as parents and elders, too, were restricted to the house, it resulted in the development we needed the least, in fact we detested. Since they, too, did not have much to do, their attention was drawn directly to our free time, that how much of time we were wasting, that we could utilize the time to cover the syllabus to get ahead of others. And soon, we had more than willing teachers monitoring us all the time.
24/7 teachers, a dull menu day after day, no outdoor games, no talking to friends, no enjoying the daily trip to the school and back home, no new comic strips, (no milk was ok but) no milk or coffee – we were having a troubling time and we had no idea how long our ordeal was going to continue. Even the long hours of the school-time were (we were increasingly realising) much better than this (though, a realisation that didn’t last long, once, the school was routine, again). But then, in the circumstances of ‘pushed’ study hours and reduced free time, we were missing the school and the freedom associated with it like anything.
With every passing day, we were getting disappointed, we were getting frustrated and we were getting angry. And on our target were those who took our freedom, who took out rallies, got our school closed, and spread riots. We would curse them in whatever words we could. We even planned to punish them if they came across us. For us, the only culprits were those who orchestrated the rallies, the curfew and the riots and they deserved the severest punishment our thinking could think of.
Our ordeal did make us experience the negatives of words like ‘curfew’ or ‘riots’ but we were still not able to understand why these words were so bad in effect.
We also thought, before punishing them, if they came across us, that we would first ask them the ‘why’ of this ‘badness’ behind ‘curfew’ and ‘riots’ and so of our ‘ordeal’ and the ‘why’ of why they spread it if it was so bad.
The plans still echo, even after so many years, whenever riots kill the humanity. Yes, age brings to you the understanding of ‘why’ of words like curfew and riots but still, the ‘why’ remains.
Why a person kills a person in the name of God when He is the creator of us all, when He is in each of us?
©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey – http://santoshchaubey.wordpress.com/