It was 6:00 AM, and Raju was already at the doorsteps. Suma in the kitchen, packing the tiffin, sprinted towards the door. She did not want Raju to get late. He made sure he saw her smiling as he left home. Being a cheerful and jovial woman, she did not disappoint him. Raju said goodbye to her, wore his Kolhapuri chappals and set his foot on the road. He had to walk almost a mile before he reached the bus stand.
The bus was scheduled at 7:00 AM, but was never on time. And if he missed the morning bus, the next bus was in the afternoon and the last in the evening. Today he did not want to take any chance; he knew he would have to stop on the way to greet the villagers and talk to them. Raju always carried positive energy and made sure he passed it on. He was one of the few in the village who had completed higher secondary. He could not afford further studies and had to get into farming to support his family. Anytime he had a chance to read and write, he wouldn’t miss it. He tried to keep himself abreast with the current affairs, and was active in the issues concerning the village. He worked hard to send his children, Bhadri and Shiva, to school. Suma had only completed primary, so Raju tried to spend time with his kids as much as he could. Suma used this opportunity to educate herself, too.
As he was passing through the small lanes, Shankar came running towards him. His daughter followed him with her backpack and tiffin in one hand. Radha was going to high school in the city and it was her first day. Shankar was taking her to the city but now that he had seen Raju walk towards the bus stand, he wanted Raju to drop his daughter to school. He came to Raju and requested to take Radha with him. Raju encouraged kids to go to school and he was happy to take Radha to the city. They both walked towards the bus stand.
They had covered a little distance, an elderly woman called his name. Gouramma was very old and had no family. Her two sons had joined army and they never returned. The entire village had adopted her and she always had wise words for the people. She had taken part in the Gandhi’s freedom struggle and it was her dream that her sons join the army and work for the country. Though her sons never came back, she did not regret. She believed that her sons were happy somewhere or had presented their life to the country.
Raju and Radha walked to her and took her blessings. She was very happy to learn that Radha was continuing her studies and was going to the city. Not many girls went to the school; some who did never continued further as they could not go to the city. Gouramma was curious to know where Raju was headed early morning. It did not appear that he was going to the field. Raju was excited to talk to Gouramma about his day ahead. He knew Gouramma would be very proud of him. Raju explained that he was going to the city to be part of ‘the’ movement. There was protest all over the country against corruption. Gouramma though curious quickly asked, “So they are throwing stones, and burning buses again? And you want to be part of it?” Raju responded, “No, this time it is different. There is no violence in the protests; it is a peaceful protest. The old Gandhian, Anna Hazare, is leading everybody and he is fasting in the capital of the country. The whole nation is with him and people are fasting in their own cities.”
Gouramma wanted to know how he was fighting against corruption and how will his fasting help stop corruption? Raju explained that Anna and some others had worked on some laws referred to as the Jan Lokpal bill. It is a powerful version of the old bills. It will punish everybody involved in the corruption including politicians and even the prime minister. The process is also fast as special powers will be given to the authorities. If the government servant does not complete the work within scheduled time, he/she will be punished. So it will help bring efficiency in the government offices.
Gouramma asked, “But why should he sit on fast for such a law? Why should there be a movement or protest to implement it? Shouldn’t the government just implement it?” Raju smiled and said, “I do not know amma. But I have heard that the bill existed for last 20-30 years and was not implemented.” He assured her that he would ask someone in the city about this. Gouramma was very happy to know that there was no violence; Gandhi’s ideologies were still alive and people believed in them. They chose his path for such an important cause. She was proud of Raju that he was going to be a part of it. She told him if age would have permitted, she would go to the city with him. She blessed him and wished him luck. She told Raju, she will be waiting right here for him to come back and share the experience.
Raju and Radha wished her good health. Now Radha was curious. As they walked, Raju explained her about corruption and the movement. A little further, they passed Mallapa’s house. Mallapa was a farmer like Raju and a good friend of his. They studied together in primary but Mallapa dropped out as he had no interest in studies. Mallapa’s father was very old and sick. He frequently needed to visit the doctor. Dr. Kulkarni who visited the village once a week was tired of him. He had advised Mallapa to get his father admitted in the city’s civil hospital. Dr. Kulkarni could not diagnose, and he not did put any effort as Mallapa could not afford his fees every week. Mallapa did not know much about city hospitals. When he saw Raju heading to the city, he thought it would be good if Raju could take his father to the hospital. Raju did not say no, he asked Mallapa to come along with him so that he would know about hospitals. But Mallapa had to clean the weed in the field and hence he could not come. Raju knew how important it was to keep the fields clean and he told Mallapa not to worry. He asked it would be helpful if he could drop his father to the bus stand in the bullock cart. Mallapa was happy and he quickly tied the bulls. They all hopped on and rode to the bus stand.
Mallapa was not bothered about why Raju was headed to the city but his father was excited and wished him luck. Few minutes later they reached the stand. Mallapa and Raju helped the old man to get off the cart. They met several others on the stand waiting for the same bus, most of them were school and college students. Mallapa’s father sat on the rock with his blanket on the shoulders under the big banyan tree. The banyan tree was the bus shelter and few scattered rocks were the sitting place. The morning sun was sharp, and Raju smiled at the sun as he did every day and told himself, “It will be a good day.”
Raju used his time to talk to the students. Some students knew and talked about the movement, and the people involved and the fasts happening at various locations. Some students had different opinion; they did not agree with the movement. Raju enjoyed talking to them and also shared some of his opinions. There were also some students who did not bother and were hoping that the schools and colleges would close for a few days.
About 30 minutes later, the bus arrived. The morning bus covered two more villages before it reached Mavinakoppa. By the time the bus reached Mavinakoppa it was usually full. So the students and some younger people sat on roof of the bus. To make way for the elderly and the women, students from other two villages also climbed on the roof of the bus at this stop. Another reason to sit on the roof was that they do not have to buy tickets. Raju usually sat with the students on the top but today he had to take care of the old man and Radha. The conductor who had a reserved seat gave his seat to the old man. The old man asked Raju to close the window, covered himself with the blanket and waited for the city to arrive.
Raju had to buy three tickets and each ticket cost Rs.9 from Mavinakoppa to the city. He handed Rs.50 to the conductor and asked for the tickets. Radha wanted to buy her ticket but Raju told her to save the money to buy something for herself at the school. The conductor gave him two tickets, returned Rs. 20 and told him to take another ticket along with the 3 rupees at the city stand. Before Raju could say anything, he went ahead to give tickets to others. It was a crowded bus and Raju did not have space to move. He told Radha to remind him about the ticket in case he forgets.
After few more stops, and an hour of travelling, they were close to the city. The city was only 25 kms from the village but it took about an hour to reach there. Bus had to stop at one more village and even had to stop at a few places in the city before it reached the main bus stand. People got down at different stops and some made their own stops. People who knew the driver would just call his name and there was a stop. Some knew the driver, some knew the conductor and some just opened the door at their will. It was routine and other passengers did not complain as they did the same on some days, at some place. Raju never liked this and every time he spoke to the conductor about it, he responded, “What can we do? People do not listen, everybody is in a hurry”. Raju tried to explain but it fell on deaf ears all the time.
When Raju got some space to move around, Radha reminded him about the ticket. Conductor was at the front, near driver. They were talking, trying to impress the ladies. Every day, they worked hard on it by praising each other and telling ‘funny’ jokes. Though the ladies did not bother, they had to listen to them and some of their jokes were really funny.
Raju called the conductor. The conductor ignored him but Raju was persistent. The conductor made it to Raju right before the bus entered the bus stand. He asked Raju, what was the problem? Raju asked him for his ticket and 3 rupees. He had to explain to him why he was asking for them. The conductor knew what he had to do but acted innocent and tried to remember. He handed him 2 rupees, a ticket and went on with his work in hurry. He did not give Raju any chance to ask for another rupee. Raju took the ticket, did not bother to look at it, put the money and ticket in his pocket. He had to take care of the old man and Radha. He smirked and moved on.
He asked Radha to hold his tiffin bag while he took care of the old man. The old man was finding it difficult to walk, so he had to take Raju’s support. All three walked to the city bus stand which was across the road from the main bus stand. The main bus stand served buses between villages and cities only. The city bus stand served the local buses within the city. They reached the stand and found very few buses. Fortunately for Raju, Radha’s school was on the way to the civil hospital and they had to catch the same bus.
On the way, they saw lot of people in groups, some shouting slogans praising Anna Hazare, and against the government. Some stood on the road and distributed handouts to people walking by. There were some groups that wore white dhoti, kurta, with a white cap and protested in silence. They too were fasting like Anna Hazare. Raju wanted to spend a day with them. He wanted to talk to them and know more. He was getting all excited to be part of the movement, but first he had to take care of the old man and Radha.
When their stop arrived, which was close to Radha’s school, he asked old man to sit in the shade for few minutes. He and Radha sprinted to the school. At the gate, he wished her good luck and rushed back to the old man. They slowly walked towards the hospital. At the hospital, they looked for Dr. Kulkarni. Dr. Kulkarni arranged for a nurse who helped them with hospital procedure and got the old man admitted. Raju was relieved that he got the old man admitted; now he could be part of the movement.
Raju went to one of the fasting booths. He met the organizer, Ravi Munoli, a retired veterinarian and introduced himself. He enquired about movement, Anna’s health and what were their plans going forward. Ravi explained the need and importance of Jan Lokpal bill. Raju asked Ravi what Gouramma had asked him, if there was any violence during the protest. Ravi was not surprised by the question. He explained that this protest was inspired by Gandhiji’s non-violence and satyagraha. Anna Hazare believed in Gandhiji’s principles. “But, how do you grab the attention of media and of the government?”, asked Raju. Ravi explained, “Anna and his team have occupied Jantar Mantar in the nation’s capital and thousands of people have volunteered to spread awareness. Several people in the media have written articles on it. Since lot of people are aware of it and asking questions, government is forced to take interest in its people’s movement.” He continued, “Remember what Gandhiji had said, ‘First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win’. We are at the stage where they are fighting us, hopefully next we will win. As for us, we sit for satyagraha in places where we can grab attention, like this main road where a lot of people are curious to know what we are up to.” Raju was convinced that this movement will be successful. He had few more questions about the time it would take to implement and how can people be made aware of their rights and responsibilities. He got answers to most of his questions; for others he was told that they would try to find out. He was told that a well learned man, with previous government experience, was helping Anna in this quest.
He decided not to eat his lunch. Even though Suma would be unhappy, he knew he could convince her and she would understand. He offered the food to a nearby homeless person. In the afternoon, he tried to be of some help to the fasting people. He helped them with stabilizing the tent and with stocking up water from a nearby bore well. In the late afternoon, a government official visited the tent. He assured them that their demands will be considered and they should end the fast. Anna’s followers refused to end the fast that day. They wanted to keep going as much as they can. They wanted to keep the movement going until Anna wished to end it. The officer had to leave unable to convince them; may be tomorrow. Raju was very happy about their commitment to the movement.
Late evening, he made it back to the village. He was tired, but content with his day, just like he would feel after a hard work’s day in his field. He wasn’t surprised to see Gouramma notice him and ask him about his day. He briefed her and promised to provide more details in the morning. At home, kids were asleep but Suma was eagerly waiting. He was happy to see Suma, got fresh and headed to have dinner. During dinner, Raju explained all about his day, how happy he was to visit the city and be part of the movement. Suma, as always, listened intently and was happy to see her husband back home.
Few days later, Raju and Mallapa visited the city to pick up Mallapa’s dad. The city was back to its usual. In the hospital he enquired about Anna’s movement. He was told that Anna had to end the fast because his health was deteriorating and also that the government had made some promises. He asked about the learned man who was with Anna. Raju was disappointed to hear that he had turned into politician and formed his own political party. Anxiously, Raju asked, “Did the corruption end?”…