It was after Diwali (Festival in India), I left my hometown for my work place Kolkata, India. It’s a 12 hour journey and it was a usual one for me as before this I had traveled almost 10-12 times in the same route. I was in my comfort zone, settled after dinner, listening to music and relaxing.
In between the songs, I heard people chatting that there might be a “Bandh” in Kolkata. Let me tell you what “Bandh” is all about in India, especially at this part of the country, Kolkata.
Bandh, originally a Hindi word meaning “closed”, is a form of protest used by political activists in South Asian countries such as India and Nepal. During a bandh, a political party or a community declares a general strike. A bharat bandh is a call for a bandh across the whole of India, and a bandh can also be called for an individual state or municipality.
Often, the community or political party declaring a bandh expects the general public to stay in at home and not report to work. Most affected are shopkeepers who are expected to keep their shops closed, as well as public transport operators of buses and cabs who are expected to stay off the road and not carry passengers. There have been instances when large metro cities have been brought to a standstill.
A bandh is a powerful means of civil disobedience. Because of the huge impact of a bandh on the local community, it is a much-feared tool of protest.
So I heard it right and after talking to my colleagues in Kolkata, It was confirmed. News came as a hammer in my head as I knew what “Bandh” means in Kolkata. Anyway I thought we will see what happens and slept in my cozy bed after ten IST. I woke up at around 6 am IST and found the AC coach of the train was relatively warm than usual. People seemed restless and worrisome, kids were crying and women cursing somebody.
It was a morning to remember and I still do after five years passed today. I came out of my bed and also from the coach and learnt that train has been stopped by the political activists for the next two days. I said to myself WTF 2 days?? Initially I didn’t believe how it can happen and that too with me. It was a nightmare come true, moreover I was left with just 300 to 400 INR which is nothing in this country (courtesy our ticket inspector who took most of my money for the seat as I didn’t had a confirmed reservation). I was young, probably smart, advised myself forget everything and cool down. Think of the options you have and try on it. Had a smoke with the likeminded ones and immediately I could saw a spark of friendship growing with 3 other guys and ideas of survival coming out. There is a great saying that “Cigarette makes good and quick friends besides its harmful for health”. I am good with people and this helped me as they were not only helping me emotionally but financially as well. It was a small village around 100 kms before Kolkata. I tried for a cab but nobody came from the city due to bandh. Believe me taking out your car in a band means suicide. People will throw stones at you and somewhere they can even burn it.
It was 8 hours already after the halt of that train. People were leaving for a nearby resort for a room. The resort guy was a good businessman and immediately doubled rates after seeing people pouring in; room rates went out of our reach. I was down and out of nowhere my college senior came in front of me. It was luck and it made my day as after that there was no shortage of cigarettes, food and humor. We started to like it as some kind of holiday for few hours but soon exhaustion came in. We took our bags and headed for that resort for beer and some rest as now it was under our reach, thanks to the teamwork. It was a half hour walk but may be after 25 minutes we heard people shouting of lifting Bandh for the night. Immediately we started running towards our train and boarded the same excited and in anticipation of reaching home soon now. After an hour the train started moving and people cheered with claps and loud chanting.
So finally we reached Kolkata in two more excruciating hours after being halted for more than 16 hours in a small village. Those 16 hours taught me lots of things, made me few more friends, gave me courage, filled up lot of happiness and above all gave me “adventure”.
I along with one of my train friend came out of train as we had to go to one direction. We started to look for a cab but couldn’t find one. Tried with lots of cabbies but no one was ready to go to our location as it was a sensitive place. After about fifteen minutes of walk we located a taxi and paid 3 times the regular amount for a ride near our location. Somehow after leaving that taxi and walking for an hour I reached my home.
My room-mates asked what happened you look tired. I didn’t had any answer and smiled, said yes dear I am tired, need my bed and went for hibernation for the next 2 days.
I still don’t understand why people call bandh? It serves no purpose except putting common man in to series of problems. These political parties for their own selfishness do all these bullshit things and harass people.
I would say this can happen only at India but I still love my country.