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Old Friend & New Intruder

“Vikas, come fast … Vikas”, Kisan shouted with a mix of frustration and excitement. This 11-year-old pair were going to a fair, arranged for the first time in their village, Alampur, situated on the peripheries of the mega-city, Belak. This tenderly aged duo, having one rupee each was excitedly hopping on the Kaccha road, finally leading to their final destination.

This sweet memory is not escaping the mind of now 32-year-old Kisan, a herder – an occupation he inherited on the occasion of his parent’s death on 14th May 2000. As he was reliving this anecdote, while lying on the bed, the knock on the door disrupted him, “Sarpanch ji … Sarpanch ji … open the door”. “Coming”. The male crowd wailed, “Thakur ji, we are throttled … the court has ruled against us …”. Kisan’s face went pale after listening to it and the rest of the cries went unheard as if he had gone deaf in shock.

The yellow pale faces of the villages almost contrasted with greenery throughout the village, standing at an incredible height of 60 km above sea level. The chill gushing wind, in this water bodies-cornered village, dried up the open wide eyes of the people. The goats, sheep, and cows’ bleating echoed throughout the valley as the folks stood silent.

Kisan assured villagers of a way out when he knew none. Situationally blinded him after impatiently taking rounds of his bedroom, settling himself and his unsettled mind on his bed. Before he could know, Kisan was asleep.

Kisan was rubbing his eye gently when Vikas startled him, “Brother, do not rub your eyes, instead splash water in them”. Kisan following Vikas washed his eye to relieve his pain by washing away the intruder, grit. As they stood in the middle of the fair, Vikas was startled by the lightened, colourful, moving superstructures and exclaimed, “When will our village be like this? When will it have huge buildings? I cannot wait to see it like this”. “Yes” plainly replied, Kisan. As they walked through the bazaar setup, they reached a shop. This shop, located near the magnificently huge ferry wheel, was put by Sudip and Lata, parents of Kisan. Out of love, they offered one ticket each to their son and his friend for letting them try their luck. The children jumped with joy.

The crook of the rooster echoed into Kisan’s ear to wake him up from his dreamy past into present reality. Half-awakened, Kisan left his house only to witness the cluster of trucks, carrying cement, iron bars, and other construction materials, barging into the village common ground. While his heart skipped a beat, the blood rushed through his numb body angrily.

Feeling helpless and without any courage from his fellow villagers, he hid in his brick-mud-made house. As he was bolting the door, he heard a stern voice, “Work fast … start unloading the trucks”. Ignoring this voice, heavy-heartedly, he walked to his bedroom and picked up his diary, Meri Dastan (My Story). He started turning and reading the incidents of his life.

Vikas, “Let's go and ride that huge ride … that huge ferry wheel”. “I am scared to sit in it”. “What are you scared of? Seeing your village from heights?” “No, I just don’t know”. On much persuasion, Kisan conceded, and both started walking towards that sky-tearing ride. The only difference was that Vikas was leaping and Kisan was trembling. A loud thud and scream followed Vikas’s words, “Uncle, give us two tickets to Vigyan ka Ajooba (The Wonder of Science)”.  Both startled by the chaos, turned their heads to see a signboard – Yes! Today is 14 May 2000, the last day, try your luck with Sudip and Lata – drenched with the blood of its owners crushed by the fallen ferry wheel. “Mom! Dad! … Mom! Dad!”.

Weeping Kisan’s tears moistened the pages of a haunting past and he yelled again, “I hate these so-called structures. It ate my parents in a wink of a second”. He rubbed his face with his checked shirt’s sleeve to wipe away his tears and decided to not pen any more in his diary.

Mixed with anger, sorrow, helplessness, fear, and any emotion a human can imagine, he stepped out of his house to examine the destruction ongoing in the village. As he approached the grazing ground – the site of the installation of windmills – which was located near Lake Neelam, he again started rubbing his eyes. “Wash away the intruding sand in your eye”, said Vikas. Startled, shocked, and excited Kisan turned back to see his ‘old friend’ standing and smiling in front of him. Before even Kisan could have reacted or responded to the problem of devastation ongoing in the village, a worker said – “Sir, should we draw the water from Neelam and also, uproot this whole grass on grazing ground?”. “Yes, there is nothing to ask before meddling with these impediments, they are hurdles – uproot and destroy them”, Vikas replied instantly and without hesitation.

“No, I don’t think this intruder can be washed away”, said Kisan who was tracing his step to the graves of his parents.

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