LIFE - COLORES INFINITUM (34)
That was a family of many. They had no identity. What
their names were no one knew. No one called them by their names. And they never
complained. They would smile. They would laugh. But it was never felt by the
They were a small family of many. They had no other family
from their community in their near vicinity, a neighbourhood that was never
their. In fact, they never had a neighbourhood because they were not accepted
in the society they were part of.
That family of Musahars had more that ten family members.
It was almost impossible to tell their age by their appearance, be a kid or a
teen or an adult or an elderly. It would be more apt to say that the family
somehow bypassed the adulthood and entered the old age directly.
They had their small hut at the side of the abandoned
corner of the railway platform. It would not be more than 10 feet by 10 feet. Once,
their hut caught fire and was completely charred. He is not sure now whether it
caused any casualty, but within a week, they found some raw material to start
rebuilding their hut. After all, they had to put just four small walls of
straw. The roof came weeks later. Smeared with ashes and draped in smoke, it
compelled him to think how they could live in it?
He thought so while he watched them, day after day, from
his house nearby. Sometimes, he walked around to take a look of their place.
There he saw what he was told that Musahars were basically rat catchers and
they ate rats. He saw them catching, roasting and eating rats.
Though he didn’t feel like going to them and asking why
they were living there, dirty, unkempt, playing in the mud and dirt, sleeping
on the ground and over filthy pavements and side corners of the railway
platform, he didn’t feel comfortable watching them living like this.
He would often compare why so, why people looking like him
and his family, had to live like that. He did not have the answers. And he did
not bother to ask questions then.
One day, he left the place as his family moved to a
different city. For some days, at the new place, he would think about the Musahar
family as watching them had become a daily event.
Slowly, it faded out, that particular family. What
remained was the notion about the family and moreover, about the community that
it was a family that roasted and ate rats and lived in extreme unhygienic
conditions in a hut that was not even thatched properly and that Musahars were basically
a community of rat catchers.
Though he didn’t like Musahars for killing and eating rats
and living so soiled and unclean, years later on he realized how important rats
could be a resource to quell the desperate urge of hunger when they had nothing
else to eat. For the major part of the year, they did not have any work and no
income. Even if they got something on daily wages basis, they were paid much
less. On other days, they were either rat-catchers or rag-pickers. Years later
on, he realized why they had to live like this.
It was because, we, from the larger social fabric of a multilayered
society of opaque texture, made them live like that.
Wikipedia tells about them: In the rural areas, Musahar
are primarily bonded agricultural labourers, but often go without work for as
much as eight months in a year. Children work alongside their parents in the
fields or as rag pickers, earning as little as 25 to 30 rupees daily. The
Musahar literacy rate is 3 percent, but falls below 1 percent among women. By
some estimates, as many as 85 percent of some villages of Musahars suffer from
malnutrition and with access to health centres scant, diseases such as malaria
and kala-azar, the most severe form of leishmaniasis, are prevalent.
©/IPR: Santosh Chaubey - http://severallyalone.blogspot.com/