Sunday, 14 July 2013

Last Bus to Tata

Dear Sanjeev,

I know you will not receive this letter, but I am writing it anyway.  This is just to assuage my feelings of grief, guilt, and profound sense of loss at your passing away yesterday.

I didn’t know that yesterday would be your last day with us. Usually Saturdays are meant to unwind and you thought you would nip down to pick up some sabji from Sancoale to cook a good meal. Surely this was the least you could treat yourself to after a week’s labour at the construction site near BITS, Goa campus?

You once more appear before my eyes. Only last afternoon, when we put our pickaxes down for a brief moment, you were saying we must go for the new movie in Vasco city.  But seeing a movie was rare -- what with vegetables itself costing the earth!

I wonder what ma and pa must be doing at this time? Did they even dream you would never come back home? You were only 25. You had a life before you. And there was Munnia who always waited for you, and your little son – all of 6 months. What do we tell them now?

You said you came to Goa to work, to make some money so you could live a better life by honest means. I know, the contractors in the building site were cruel, but what to do? Where are the jobs these days, for uneducated youth, when the educated lot are falling by the wayside? What is one to do when there are no opportunities in your home state?

You thought Goa would give you a better deal. You were taken in by the treacly images of the warmth and hospitality of the Goan people. The reality is a different story. When they looked at you with hate in their eyes, you had nowhere to run.

And yet. You were building their roads, their bridges, their homes – which they would sell for crores -- on land on which you shed your blood, sweat and tears. Could we be more ungrateful?

I remember when I visited your place near Tatanagar, close by the Suvarnarekha river. Truly the place, under the gaze of the Dalma hills, was in the lap of the Gods. Besides the titans of industry, Jamshedpur also has the famous Xavier Labour Relations Institute (XLRI). I hope they will document your tragic case of migration. I recall even now with fear my bus ride from Ranchi, your state capital, to Tatanagar in Jamshedpur at dead of night, because my flight from Delhi was delayed and we missed our connections. People later told me I was insane to risk my life in the ‘red corridor’ – crawling with Maoists outfits who sometimes ambush unwary travelers.  Nevertheless, I wrote my poem, ‘Last Bus to Tata.’

You were knocked down by a speeding car headed for Vasco and dragged for several lengths before life betrayed you. Your friend Ranjan Khalko (21) survives. He lives to tell your story.

June 16, 2013

Published in Gomantak Times Weekender ( St.Inez, Goa) on Sunday 7 July 2013. Pix source:

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