I was part of three marriage celebrations a couple of days back, even though I was not invited to any. It was one of the most auspicious days and Patna was chockfull of marriage processions escorting the bridegrooms to their nemesis. Anyone else who happened to stir out of his house, even for some quotidian purpose like visiting a friend or meeting a relative, was bound to run into one or the other.
I hit the first Barat somewhere near the R Block and was immediately co opted as an uninvited- invitee. Of course no direct invitation was extended; it was one of those modes of communication where gesture functions as language. The Barat straddled the entire width of the road and those who were following it were regaled-obliged to be regaled – to the spectacular fireworks on display. Nobody wanted to know whether I was related to the parties to the celebration, no one sought to know my caste, whether I was a Hindu or a Muslim was of no concern to them. But they wanted me to be part of the celebrations for as long as it suited them. After they had impressed me enough, they let my car pass and others similarly lucky and lined up behind me. A few hundred meters down the road, I ran into another one, just a little short of the new Patna Club. Portly ladies draped in heavily brocaded saris and ungainly men, crated in lounge suits and other formal wear were equally determined to have me as a part of their Barat even though nothing spectacular was going on. My misery was short lived but the worst was reserved for the last.
Just before taking a turn to my destined location, I hit another one. Its sociability was not only obtrusive; it was brazen. An orchestra was mounted on a truck and a singer was belting out popular numbers. In the general revelry, one particular dancer as if driven by some unconventional source of energy went on and on. Currency notes were pinned on him and from that distance I could not miss the outmoded notes as well. He seemed to be prospering by the minute just as my anxiety was rising with the time ticking away on my watch. So near and yet so far! I did reach disheveled and distraught an hour and forty minute late. And so I guess this was the common plight of all those who were similarly trapped.
Tomorrow or day after the dancer, the murderer of other people’s time, will also be standing in the queue for exchanging his outmoded currency notes before some bank or the other and his time spent in the queue would be a subject matter of national mourning. Top opposition leaders would thunder in the parliament at the poor suffering masses who will constitute our dancer as well. The rich harvest of sympathy would perhaps lighten his load of queuing up that much.
But what about us, poor humble senior citizens who plan every outing with great care, crowding as many engagements as possible in one; the unknown, unsung, undifferentiated, amorphous mass of people, neither poor nor rich, whose time is wasted almost on a daily basis? Bundhs, morchas, traffic jams, striking groups, marriage celebrations, mourning processions, religious ceremonies, protests against religious bigotry, roads being repaired, roads being dug, a broken vehicle on a narrow bridge, a demolition programme by the corporation, and of course Gandhi Setu, the eternal symbol of inexhaustibility of time and the patience of Biharis; we are culturally conditioned to rob people of their time.
I guess all the opposition political parties are planning to have a bundh throughout the country to protest inconvenience to poor people and waste of their time. And the only mode of protest they know is to murder more time of more people, by causing them more inconvenience, dislocations and disruptions. Sadly our politicians only know Homeopathic remedies.