Guns, tractors and Uttar Pradesh (U.P.) are three things, which I never thought I would ever get associated in my entire life throughout the 22 years I spent in the comfortable confines of my ever so secure home. But things changed soon. They changed the moment I stepped out of the shadows of my loving parents. The moment I started working. The moment that actually provided me a path on which I would move for next few years. The moment, which would shape the contours of my life. The moment I joined a tractor company. What I am going to write is not at all a cohesive or a continuous story. It’s all about the things I saw and I wondered about while in job. These things happened in the most densely populated state of India. The state, which has given more number of Prime Ministers to our country than any other. The state that still snails along at its own lethargic pace. The state that will always remain an enigma to me because of too many contradictions it has to offer. Yes, I am talking about Uttar Pradesh, our own U.P. UP UP and AWAY was the line used by one of my favourite super heroes. He used it when he needed to fly away in the sky. It was so fascinating to watch him in action. But now the connotation of the very same line has changed for me that fascinates me equally but at the same time provides me with stark experiences of my life. U.P. is UP geographically and away from the INDIA I had seen before living in U.P. Here are few experiences that I went through while in U.P. These are seemingly very hilarious and border almost on insanity but are ironical as well.
Almost every 15 days I used to visit the dealership at Ambedkarnagar erstwhile Akbarpur. The name Ambedkarnagar was given because its the constituency of the ex CM of U.P. MAYAWATI. She had to cater to the needs of backward classes of her constituency. So she cut off Akbarpur block from Faizabad and made it a district and named it Ambedkarnagar, after the name of the father of our constitution B.R.Ambedkar. You people might be wondering what’s wrong with that. Nothing actually, if she had done something more than that. Instead she went on a spree constructing Ambedkar parks and maidans all over the state spending huge amounts of public money that could have been better utilized. A person like me who has a limited understanding of the needs of society also understood that the immediate requirement of Ambedkarnagar was Infrastructure-roads, bridges, hospitals, and hotels. All I could find there in name of development was more of official buildings teeming with all kinds of BABUS. Ha! Wish that lady in Lucknow could have done something more everlasting because as soon as new government came in power Ambedkarnagar lost its district status because of whims of some person called Mulayam Singh. The mundane issues like these plague the U.P. politics and politicians and voters are equally blind. I found it strange. Don’t you?
Once I was moving on a combing operation of an area to increase the enquiry base of one of my dealerships. I was with one of my dealers whom I used to refer as THAKUR JI. We happened to cross a police station or Thana Aehroli as Thakur ji mentioned it. It was written in bold letters in Hindi there “Yahan pair chhuna mana hai”. (Touching feet not allowed here). I wondered what are these words doing on a wall of a police station. I expressed my state of mind to Thakur ji and then the explanation he gave me was the weirdest thing I had heard in recent times. He told me that earlier police officer at the police station was a THAKUR so everybody who visited the police station and even the constables used to touch his feet as a mark of respect. Now a new officer has been posted here who is an AHIR (considered to be of lower caste) so nobody touches his feet. He considered it as his insult and so being proactive he put those instructions on the wall. Weird!!! Isn’t it? I laughed the matter off there and then as I was sitting with a Thakur himself who had a gun with him too. But on giving a deep thought one realizes how well entrenched this caste system is in U.P. The above incident was one of the harmless repercussions of the same. I can’t even describe the inhuman face of this system. Honour killings, cutting off private parts of people, rapes……………….
I was going late in night to Lucknow from a dealership at Haidergarh. On the way our taxi had a halt at a place called Ram Snehi Ghat. My colleague wanted to have a few cigarettes. So we went to a small shack to buy them. The shack owner was selling wallets also at Rs.100 each. I wondered why were they so costly, because they were made of some cheap material. On deep probing I found out that with each wallet there was a forged identity card of some government department or other like Food Corporation of India, Instruments and Measures department etc. Now these forged cards were not good enough to pass high security zones but good enough to pass through some local nakas, octroi posts, getting passes for movie shows and things like that so 100 bucks wasn’t that big an amount to shell out for so many facilities. Now one can find such luxuries in a state like U.P. only. What do you say folks?
Guns had always fascinated men, some say even more than women, and the testimony to that are people of U.P. A person with any kind of social standing and who had enough money to buy a gun would buy it before anything else they may require. These people can move without a car but a gun is a must. I think its better to have Scorpios and Taveras as status symbols. The people in eastern U.P. are perennially scared of something, a death that is not there, a threat, which is non-existent. One of the tractor dealers was having dinner with me when out of the blue he pulled out two guns from his pants. One manufactured by Indian Ordnance Factory that was cheaper one and not that cool and other one was a Japanese made. Sleeker than the other! Man! Was I impressed? Surely! Then he gave a demo on how to use it! “Sanjay Dutt-Vaastav”! What a feeling! Horrible! From then onwards I made it a point to be a little away from the gunman after dark.
Generally discussions of people used to veer around topics like Abu Salem from Aazamgarh and his underworld achievements, political links, university leaders and all those things which were least related to the common man who has so many other problems to think about and still nobody is interested. There are so many other incidents that I saw. One might say this kind of things happen in all states. Yes, they happen but are limited to certain areas of the state or a particular set of people but here in U.P. it was rampant and I hear Bihar is worse and guess what a major chunk of our population lives in these two states.
Many people would say illiteracy is the cause or poverty or high population for all these menaces but the conclusion I reached is that these causes exist in other states too. The real cause is CONNECTIVITY. There are people who haven’t visited cities in their entire lives. There is no exchange of ideas. No accessibility to bigger cities. No roads connecting villages to town. No communication in real sense. It seems that rural areas still exist in pre independence era. The solution I am giving here to all the problems is ROADS and more of ROADS. My solution may sound childish, cheeky and weird but I think the problems are equally weird too………..