I am Che Anand,sophisticated as it seems,it was a very unorthodox name back in 1970,when I was born in Chemmanur,a small town in Kerala. I was named after the great communist leader Che guevara. Born in a communist family, I was surrounded by the ideologies like ‘equality for all’ and ‘workers’ government’ . In my teenage days when my friends read fairy tales, I used to read Karl Marx’s ‘COMMUNIST MANIFESTO’. At the age of 15, I had already witnessed the death of my father in a fake police encounter. I knew my life would have been no different if I had stayed there.
I soon realized that ideologies can’t fill the stomach. After much persuasion from my mother, i decided to come to Mumbai for a job. It was 1992. I landed up getting a job in ‘TIMES OF INDIA’. I stayed in a small room with five other people in Ghatkopar. The office was in V.T(now C.S.T), so I used to go by local train.
During my daily journeys I noticed one guy. He used to always come and stand near the bridge,on time for the 8:30 local. He used to wear a ‘topi’ and white ‘kurta’ and had a golden chain around his neck. When I come down the steps, I constantly saw him face up. He used to look at everybody who comes down.There was a ray of hope in his eyes.The wait was evident in his glance. But I never cared enough to stand back and survey as to what he is waiting for so eagerly.
The days passed by and the Babri masjid demolition occurred.The city was lit on fire by communal sentiments.There was tension in the air. But yet people went to work. As usual, I was in the station for 8:30 local. But this time I didn’t see that guy. Again the next day he was not there. I became worried. What happened to him. Did he lose hope?Did he put an end to his wait?
It was 4th January 1993. The riots were still spreading like a flame. I was coming back from work in a local train. I was standing near the door. Beside me was a tall person with a ‘tikka’ on his forehead. At Kurla station,the same guy who I used to see near the bridge board the train .He was acting in a weird manner. He was saying something to himself and was pulling his ears. Every passenger started to stare at him.
The guy who stood beside me said,”You see him, he is a Muslim. He is acting like an abnormal person so that Hindus don’t attack him. See that golden chain. He must be rich. Only a Muslim can fake to have a disease just for gaining sympathy”.
I stood there without uttering a single word. He continued,”now I am going to steal that chain and then he will come back to his senses”. After saying this,he stood there silently as if he was waiting for my reply. I didn’t speak.
He went ahead and snatched the necklace around his neck. He ran away past me, I didn’t try to stop him, nor did I run behind him. I don’t know why I didn’t protest. For a moment, I believed in the fake story of a thief.The ‘equality for all’ speeches that I had been giving became meaningless. Probably it was because of my inferiority complex that I couldn’t make enough money to buy such a chain or because deep within I let these religious divides affect my thought process. I felt guilty about myself.
The Muslim guy was shouting and crying. A lady tried hard to console him. I had never noticed that lady,but she was always there with him. I gathered courage and went up to her and talked to her.
At first she was reluctant to speak, but I kept insisting to divulge the information about that person. Finally,she agreed.
She said,”This is my son,Ali.He is suffering from autism. We are poor people and we live in huts near the Ghatkopar station. He cant read or write,but he can sing. He always listens to music. Sudhir Swamy,a Carnatic singer,came to know about my son. He came to our house and was very impressed by his talent. He decided to train him in his classes in Kurla. I can’t stay away for long time from my house. So he decided to pick him up from ghatkopar station every day at 8:30.This golden chain was gifted to him by Sudhir Saab”.
I kind of got a sense of what the rest of the story would be. I just hoped that my thoughts were wrong. She continued,”Since the riots broke out,we never saw Sudhir Saab.We waited near the bridge everyday,but he didn’t come. Ali became extremely nervous. He started shouting .So I decided to take him to Kurla and enquire about the whereabouts of Sudhir Saab. But he has been missing since the riots broke out.they don’t know whether he is alive or not.
The story of Sudhir made me look deep into my soul. It urged me for an introspection in my beliefs. I felt like a Sudhir took birth in my purified soul. I went up to Ali and said,”Sudhir Saab is alive”.
The next day,again I set out for work. Ali was waiting near the bridge. He was looking upwards.I walked down the stairs. He saw me and his face lightened up. He was smiling. I was seeing that look for the first time since the time I saw him. That moment had become the most memorable moment of my life. I took him to V.T station. I managed an admission for him in a musical college near my work place.
Ali is forty years old today. He still calls me Sudhir Saab. His life revolves around music .He is unaware about the so called “human tendencies”. In the aftermath of any riot what remains is bloodshed,suffering and the pain of our own brothers and sisters and it is with the united effort of the whole nation that we stand back again on our feet.