Prelude – I
I looked at my watch, it was 9 a.m. Again late on a perfect Monday, I could already imagine how I have to stand all my way on the metro, to reach my office. Tiresome! But what to do, it my fate, that’s how God wanted it to be for me. I walked down the busy road, didn’t even catch a glimpse of any auto rickshaws or any call center cabs to give me a ride to the station. “Alas! I need to walk, fate… fate… fate. I started walking and by the time it was 9.30 a.m., I was at the Bangalore Metro station with a ticket in my hand and waiting for the train to arrive.
The pink Baiyappanahalli (a station name) train arrived at 9.40 a.m. sharp. My memory suddenly flashed like a jigsaw puzzle to that day, the day that changed my life completely. It was October 2nd… the day our nation’s most respected person was born, Gandhi.
Prelude – II
Gandhi was waiting for this day, for a long time. It was his birthday and that too his 92nd that was celebrated by all Indians all over the world. He had not slept last night and was waiting for the sun to rise to hoist the Indian flag. He had also heard about the Metro train opening in Bangalore and had always wanted to try it out. Gandhi prayed to the Sun, it was 7 a.m. and Gandhi hoisted the flag and got ready to travel in the Metro-Bangalore for the first time.
Prelude – III
Vikas had dressed up in his best suit; he took his bag and called out for a taxi. Bangalore was never his destination. He always wanted it to be Mumbai or Delhi or some other metropolitan cities. Not Bangalore, never Bangalore. But he had to go. The taxi came in at the Justa – The Residence hotel where Vikas had come for a business trip. Vikas was the chosen one for this trip and he had felt unlucky about it as he always had the craze for Mumbai and Delhi and not Bangalore. But as he had been chosen by his higher officials, he had to accept the offer. He kept his bag in the back of the car, and asked the driver to take him to the Indiranagar Metro station.
I worked in a multinational company in MG road, and I have to take the Metro every day for my work. Monday mornings in Bangalore would buzz with people from all strata hustling and bustling their way to work. I was always late on Monday. A workaholic and a bachelor, I always would spend my Sunday playing cricket with my friends at my apartment or would spend my evenings boozing or roaming with my colleagues from office, which would always result in me waking up late on Monday mornings.
It was 2nd October, where people from all over India would be sleeping or some so called nationalists would be in the grounds/parks hoisting our Indian flag and distributing sweets. But since our company followed the client’s calendar, it was a full working day. Fate!
I got hurriedly dressed and came out of my house and signaled an auto rickshaw standing on the corner of the road. The auto came and I got in and asked him to take me to the Metro station.
I reached the station at 9.35 a.m. and hurried to get the ticket. There was a huge queue considering a national holiday, lot of other MNC’s have also made people work. I was happy, a wicked happiness. After 20 long sweating moments, I got my ticket and went to my platform.
The pink Baiyappanahalli train came at 9.40 a.m. sharp. I got in immediately and found one empty seat and jumped on to occupy it.
Five students of some business school hopped, there were some schools also open, ridiculous, I thought, but its India, anything can happen.
I took my IPod touch and plugged it in my ear bud and started listening to Avril Lavigne’s “Take me away”. I was taken away by the song when an old man wearing t-shirt, jeans and a white cap walked by me and started to stare at my eyes. I looked around, seats were almost empty but he was staring at me only. I plugged out my bud and asked him, “Sir, you want to sit here?”
“No Ajay. I just wanted to let you know that it would be better if you get down with me in Halasuru rather than going to MG Road.” I was shocked, he seems to know my name and moreover he was asking me to do the unthinkable. Who will want to get down at Ulsoor (Halasuru) and go all the way to MG Road? And why on earth he is asking me to go? Is he a terrorist or a kidnapper? My heart started beating faster. I looked at him
“Sir, how do you know me? Are you a friend of my father?”
“No Ajay am a fringe of your imagination!! Don’t you recognize me?” He removed his cap, he was very familiar, oh my God, he was…was Gandhi.
My heart nearly stopped. I have gone mad. Really mad, I am imagining things, and that too of all people, why Gandhi? I closed my eyes, rubbed them, but when I opened, he was there, standing and staring at me. I have lost it.
There was a small boy next to me, I asked him, “Maga, what do you see here? (Pointing to Gandhi)” The boy looked up, he was playing with a Game Boy. He looked at Gandhi, looked at me and said, “Nothing” Now I knew, seriously, I had lost it.
Gandhi spoke, “Ajay, don’t have to be afraid, am not a ghost, am just your imagination trying to tell you something that would make your life good. ”
I closed my eyes. I didn’t open till the train came to a halt at Indira Nagar station. When I again opened, Gandhi was gone, or my imagination was gone. A guy in his thirties, dressed in a suit entered. He was carrying a black suitcase and another Reebok bag. He did not look like a sportsperson but was well built. I immediately looked at my tummy which always gave me an impression that, I looked like Eddie Murphy in “Nutty Professor” I was not so fat, but yes fat.
The guy came and occupied my nearby seat. He looked at me, smiled, obviously because am fat, and took his phone (probably a Samsung Note) and started dialing some number. Soon he was drawn in to his own world. When the train started, I just looked out to see if there are more people coming, when suddenly Gandhi appeared from nowhere and said “Ajay, it is better we get down in the next station or latest by Trinity Circle”
I again tried to close my eyes, when I saw the suit clad guy had slept off, his phone almost about to fall. I caught it and woke him up. He thanked me so much, also offered some money which I denied. He introduced himself. The train stopped which was rather unusual. Probably due to some signal problems.
The guy in the suit spoke, “I am Vikas, am a business man dealing with import and export of mobile phones in the market. I am here on a business mission.” “How about you and what do you do?” Gandhi was next to me still, hearing. I gave my pathetic introduction and also told him how I wanted to finish my MBA and settle in India.
Immediately, Vikas asked, “Why do you want to settle in India, dude? What is there here? Just Garbage, smoke, pollution and corruption exists. I just reached India from New York. You guys always want to settle abroad right? Why suddenly you want to be India now?”
I spoke, “India can be a lot of things that you described but what do people normally do? They go abroad, make a lot of money but come and settle in India because this is where we belong. I don’t like going abroad and earning money. I want to make money in India. We have a lot of Indian companies like Wipro or Infosys wherein the best minds in the IT industry exist, not that MNC’s are bad, just that Indian companies are what attracts me”
Vikas was in awe, but he immediately called one student from the opposite seat, a business school student for sure. He asked him, “What do you want to become once you finish your studies?”
He said, “Am 19 now, but the time I finish my MBA, I would be 20, I will join some small scale company in India, get experience from them and settle abroad” He asked all the other students too, same answer. Then he looked at two elderly couple, and asked, “Sir and Madam, given a chance if I offer you two 25 lakhs each, would you stay here in India or take a flight abroad?” The old man looked up.
“My wife has Blood Cancer, and we have tried all possible medical treatments in India, including Homeopathy, but there was nothing that we could do. Doctors advised me to take her to USA, but I do not have money for that and hence if you offer me those 25 lakhs, I would definitely go to USA and settle there with my wife for the rest of my short span in life.”
Vikas was moved, so was I. Vikas immediately took his Reebok bag and took a cheque and wrote 25 lakhs and gave them and told, “Am on a mission trip here and wanted to help someone in need before I leave, where do you get down sir?”
The couple couldn’t believe their eyes, so was all others. He was really rich and good at heart but doesn’t like India.
The couple thanked him so much, the old man told him, he is getting down in Trinity and gave his phone number to Vikas. When Vikas came back to his seat, all applauded. I did not join. Don’t know why.
Vikas turned to me, “Look around you kid, all want to settle abroad, except you. Why don’t you change your view point now?”
I spoke, “As I told you, everyone has a need and that need can be materialistic, can be personal, can be medicinal, can be monetary and India might not have the economy or richness that other countries have, but this is the country were we were born and I will definitely live and die in this country”
Vikas smirked at me “Movies have spoiled people in India. All you are giving me are dialogues by Rajinikanth or Mammooty or Amitabh or Rajkumar but in reality you can never change India”
I spoke,” I do not want to change India. India is good as it is. Just because India is not rich, it doesn’t mean, we need to change it and make it rich. There are lots of things in India which is not available in your USA” I got pumped up, “Your culture, for example. Why do you think people from USA come to India and get tanned up, they visit temples in Madurai or churches in Goa even though you have Rome, city of churches. Foreigners wear sari and do marriages in Indian style, because India is culturally rich, brother. Money does not decide anything brother, it’s the culture that matters. It’s the environment that we live in that change us. So all we need to do is change the environment that we live in.”
Vikas was puzzled. He spoke, “How do you propose to do that, intelligent fellow?”
I looked around, Gandhi was there smiling, ”I propose this boss, when we have children, we teach them English Alphabets, we put them in English Medium School, whereas India’s national language is Hindi. The government needs to make a mandate that Hindi should be the primary language and English can be the second language. We should not let our children go to Hindi tuition classes rather they should go to English tuitions. English is important on an international scale, but we need them only when we go to USA or other foreign countries right?
Why do we need to be westernized, we have Indian brands but the textile come from foreign countries? Every single thing in India is somehow associated with the western countries. Such is the fate India holds, and we cannot blame the Government alone or politicians for that. We only elected them, we ourselves are so corrupted. How will the Government which was selected by us can run properly. When India has a billion dollar loan from other countries, it is very difficult to change the government. But boss, it’s very easy to change yourself, your kids. If one person does something different in India, he becomes big, if someone sings different in YouTube, he is an overnight hero. So boss, am proposing this – change yourself, world will change”
All the people were engrossed, but suddenly burst into laughter, so was Vikas. Vikas spoke, “Nice dialogue, dude. But just that if you change your language in Schools how do you think, you can cut off the westernization that is blooming in India?”
I spoke, “Brother, what do you know about Six Sigma?” Vikas answered, “It is a quality principle. How do you it is relevant here?”
“You do Six Sigma to find the root cause of a problem and cease it then and there. For any problem, for that matter, RCA (Root Cause Analysis) is needed. From what I see in India, the root cause of our Westernization problem is Kids.”
People were like “What? How? He is gone nuts”
Now they also confirmed that I was nuts, but there was one soul who was applauding – Gandhi. The train started.
I spoke firmly, “If children learn to respect India the way it has to be respected, when he/she becomes an adult, he would work in Indian companies, work with Indians, build Infrastructure, repay the huge debt India has, he would work in Government companies, and he would join IAF, Indian Navy or Service. He would think like an Indian and would act like an Indian. If kids can learn how to change the environment of India, India’s vision would change rapidly”
“If all Indians pay their tax properly, Indian’s debt would have been over long back”, said one student.
“Yes you are right; people need to understand what is important. We have a Common Aptitude Test for business schools, we have Board Exams for Engineering Colleges, we have common exams for schools but we do not have common salaries for job positions. Why can’t all Software Engineering positions have same salary? Only when we find that Indians are given lesser salary compared to foreign countries we get a problem and desire to earn more. If we don’t compare, we don’t have a problem, this is what we need to cultivate, and in the small age.”
“Brother, I have a plan, however crazy you may think of me, I will put this in test and make India big, one day”
Vikas didn’t speak, he got a call and he picked to speak the same. I looked at the time. It was already late because of the delay. I looked around. Gandhi was signaling me to get down.
I got up as the train arrived at Trinity. I got down from the train, Gandhi following me. I looked at the old couple getting down as well.
Gandhi spoke, “Thanks for hearing me young man, you made me proud inside, more than me, you made India proud”
I spoke, “I do not know if am mad, but Gandhiji, you should not have got freedom to India”
Gandhi was startled, “Why Ajay?”
By getting freedom, what did we accomplish? At least then, we had a motive, we had motivation to do something right. We were slaves, yet we had self respect. We loved India and We wanted to be Indians. But now what do we love? There are KFCs, McDonalds even Starbucks everywhere, we do not have our own cultivated rice stall in every corner but Coffee days. Why Gandhi? Why did you get India, Freedom?
Gandhi laughed, “You did not ask me one thing Ajay.”
“What is it?” I asked.
“Why did we get down in Trinity?” Gandhi replied.
“I did not get down because you asked me to. It was late and hence I got down, so that I can go to office faster by taking an auto.”
“Exactly, that is what we did way back then, Ajay. We did not fight on and on so that it becomes late for us to get up. We were already down and battered. If we had not got down and negotiated and driven the British from India, we would have lost not only our country but all our pride and culture with them. We need to take shortcuts at some point in life and we did then.”
I smiled. “Is that the only reason you asked me get down at this station?” Gandhi smiled.
As we walked down the road, a loud sound emanated from somewhere nearby that shook the entire place. I was thrown off my feet and fell with a huge thud on the road. I slowly crawled and got up. Smoke was coming from everywhere, I started to run. When I got to a safe place, I looked around. People panicked, they were all looking up. I looked up. The train link which connected Trinity circle and MG road had blown to pieces and the trains’ debris were lying everywhere around.
I was speechless.
I was in the hospital, Gandhi next to me. He was reading the newspaper, “The Hindu”
The opening page had a big image of the rail debris, which read “A human bomb blows the Namma Metro” I was shocked.
I thought, “And I was talking about India so much. This is the most unsafe place to live in.”
Gandhi interrupted, “Ajay read the whole news”
“A Businessperson who was wearing a bomb suit, triggered the first ever human bomb in Bangalore killing only the bomber who was on board on a quiet and black, Gandhi Jayanthi”
It was Vikas. Thoughts raced. It was Gandhi all the way who had helped me. He made me speak about India, he made me get my raw thoughts, he set my heart racing, and he made the train delay so that I could get down. He made the old couple get down with money, but given by a bomber. Why? how? He was just a figment of my imagination.
How could he possible save me?
“I am again getting nuts, I have completely lost my senses” I fainted.
I got up at 10.00 p.m. I was still in the hospital. I switched on the television and put on the news channel.
I couldn’t believe it, the news channel flashed, “An old couple had come forward to the police station to give 25 Lakhs in cheque which they believed were given by the bomber for the wife’s blood cancer operation. Luckily when the couple checked in the hospital, the wife’s cancer had miraculously disappeared”
“The bomb was supposed to be triggered in the Trinity station and the target was Karnataka Chief Minister who had hoisted Indian flag in a ground near the station. But something made the bomber trigger it late. The bomber made all the passengers to get down and triggered it when he was alone. The suicide mission became a suicide. The old couple quoted that it was because of one young Indian IT company professional who had talked some sense to the bomber”
I closed my eyes, tears filling my face.
The pink Baiyappanahalli train arrived at 9.40 a.m. sharp. I boarded the train and looked around, found a place and sat. As I was about to listen to songs, I felt a touch on my shoulder… it was Gandhi
Gandhi spoke, “It is better we get down in the next station, Ajay”
“Why sir, is something bad going to happen again? Why don’t we call up media and tell them?”
Gandhi spoke, “No beta (son), I want to show you something”
The train stopped at Trinity station. We alighted from the train, Gandhi led the way to a park, where a lot of people were gathered and I stood there with the Legend himself and saw the Indian Flag hoisting, feeling proud of being an Indian.