The ground slipped beneath my feet, i felt. The wall i leaned to collapsed, i felt. The roof flew away, i felt. It was the day when we were shifting our house in Manipal.
Since my birth we were living in the quarters given to us by Manipal Institute of Technology, where my dad worked. When my dad retired we had to vacate the quarters. The bags were packed, the shoe lace was tied. I did not dare to look behind at the house as the vehicle moved towards our newly constructed house.
The newly constructed house did not seem like “our” house to me. The house for which we were paying rent, till then, was more like “our” house. It was so because i had grown up in that house and there was memory attached to every single brick of that house.
I felt uprooted. The vehicle was moving. I took out the cel phone and texted Girish (Kasaravalli) Sir saying, “Today i understand the state of mind of Duggajja while he is carried out of his land to an alien land.”
Duggajja is a character from the national award winning film by Girish Sir titled ‘Dweepa’ to mean island. A dam is to be constructed which will cause in the submergence of the village where Duggajja lives. All the villagers vacate the place taking compensation except for Duggajja. He refuses and the answer for his refusal comes in his own words as, “We always seen this forest, this land as our own. May be it is not so in the government records. But we have treated this soil and this forest as our own.” This intense relationship with land, water. forest and sky is the ground for Duggajja’s refusal to move from his village. But he is forcefully taken to a neighboring village by the police.
I felt i too was being forcefully uprooted from my memory filled house where i had grown up. I knew i could not stay back, but i was not willing to move either. I thought i had understood Duggajja better that day.
But today sitting thousands of miles away from my hometown, i recollect that day and ask myself if i really got close to the state of mind of Duggajja or was i still far away? No, with all the pain i felt that day, i was still far from where Duggajja stood. No i haven’t understood Duggajja in its intensity. I say so because i have closely felt, now, what it means to be uprooted.
Duggajja was still an image, still a metaphor. But today i know a Duggajja in flesh and blood. So i am of the feeling that what i felt while leaving the quarters was not even remotely close to what Duggajja felt.
Duggajja in flesh and blood? Yes, Greagory Patrao!
Yesterday as i was walking towards the library canteen my phone vibrated and i was surprised to see the name that was blinking. Why would Vidya call me this early? i asked myself as i took the call. “Thashildar and police have come to Greagory’s house and asking him to vacate immediately,” said Vidya and asked me to make a few phone calls here and there.
The land belonging to Mr. Patro was notified for the first phase of Mangalore Special Economic Zone. But he refused to give the land and went to the court. I knew that the High Court had dismissed the case of Mr. Patrao. But i am not speaking of the legal angles of the story here. The court dismisses and that is it. Any voice against it is “contempt of court.” Fine. I knew that the court had dismissed his case and one day he will have to leave the land which once belonged to him.
But it appears like no issue was noticed before the arrival of police, the Thashildar and yeah the goons. A friend of mine said that as per law the officials need not have waited till the case was dismissed. I dont know the details of the act and law so i do not comment on that. No notice was issued and Mr. Patrao had not received the court order as yet.
Within no time the belongings of Mr. Patro was brought out of the house moved into a tempo and the house, cattle shed and the standing areca-nut plantation were bulldozed. The hysteric cry of Mr. Patrao and his family went unheard by the officials, the police and the goons.
By the time i attended class and came out all this had happened. I was standing miles and miles away from Mr. Patro. I wondered what must he be going through. It was then that i realized that what i felt while shifting our house was nothing when compared to Mr. Patrao.
What does it mean to be told that the land on which you stand and have stood all your life is not yours? What does on go through when his/her ancestral house is brought down within no time? What does one go through when the plantation for which he/she has sweated and toiled is smashed without being let to have its fruits? Will the compensation also compensate for the emotional bonding that one has with his land and house? Will an alternate memory attached to the ‘rehabilitation colony’ be given as a compensation? Will ever Mr. Patro be allowed to come into MSEZ area, when it is constructed, for which he gave away his land?- this and many more questions with and without answer popped up in my heart, mind and soul, as i deeply felt that how much ever i try to understand the pain of Mr. Patrao and his family i would fail to understand because it is beyond understanding, as i see.
In the evening i got a call from someone ‘inside’. The person spoke with tearful pauses and said, “Greagory was evicted today. I could not do anything. Where is he? How is he?” I did not have an answer nor was i in a state of mind to answer. After exchanging a few words i cut the call.
How is he?- I know silence alone can explain how he and his family were, though unable to catch the entire trauma within it. Where is he?- I was told that he and his family had moved to a relatives house in Permude, a village near by. But it was this morning when my friend Sudipto called me that i got to know that Mary, the 84 year old mother of Mr. Patro had spent the entire night on the ruins of the demolished house, refusing to move from there. Later i heard that her health collapsed and that she has been admitted in the hospital.
Obviously in a hospital one cannot feel at home. But will Mary or anyone from her family feel at home in the land that MSEZ has promised to give them? Mary, so, is homeless for a lifetime now. White walls, white bed-sheet, white bed, white bed-pan, white fan surrounds Mary today. Probably from here she wants to go back to the land which once belonged to her. She probably wants to go back to the ruins of her house. Where else can she go? Amongst the ruins stands a sense of belonging, stands memory, which will not be found in any other place. What lies under the rubble of that house is the life of Mary.
29 April 2010