Saturday, 21 August 2010

Sermon on the Mount

Even the reserved bogies were crowded. As the train chugged into Kozhikode station, there was a family of five, including a breast-feeding baby and a child of three or four years, with no reserved space in the cubicle meant for eight others who were already there with reserved berths.

There was hush-hush talk among the reserved passengers how the Raiways could like this permit unreserverved passengers into reserved bogeys. If it were to be like this, why should there be a system at all for booking berths?

Around 8 p.m., after having an early supper opening a packet he had brought in his bag, the pastor climbed up the side-upper berth saying since the train would reach Kottayam just after 1 a.m., he should try to catch some sleep.

Six other reserved passengers too put their berths into position and folded up for the night, leaving the remaining one reserved passenger to allow the unreserved family to sit on the lower-side berth that was his.

What the heck, he was thinking. Staying awake one night would not shatter you. He went to the side where the latrines were and inspected the narrow space by the wash basin. The floor was fairly neat. Even if he were to become too tired standing, there was this option.

The ticket officer made his appearance for a second time around 9 p.m. and was speaking to the unreserved family about his helplessness. He said all he could do was to give his sleeping spot for the children and their mother. "Tell me what else I can do. When you travel with a sick child to the RCC, don't you know you should reserve? You would have even got priority in booking."

It transpired that they were taking the elder of the two children to the Regional Cancer Centre for treatment. Those lying in their berths were immediately alert. Three of them, including the pastor, were soon on their feet persuading the young mother of the two children, her father and brother to take their berths.

The pastor and the three other reserved passengers sat packed on the side lower berth. They did not talk about the sick child now sleeping on the side-upper berth with his uncle. As the train rocked and swung on its wheels, the pastor kept those seated by his side awake speaking about Jesus and the Sermon on the Mount. The moon shone on the rushing night landscape outside.



Balachandran V said...

The scene you have described is a rare one. Yet, millions of such incidents happen, keeping one's faith in humanity alive.

Arun Meethale Chirakkal said...

I feel so happy, these gestures, as Balan Sir mentioned, are rarer, but it keeps one’s hopes alive.

P. Venugopal said...

Balan, Arun, it was actually a simple thing to do. The pastor got down at Kottayam; he was not the typical Christian priest we know of, not the type that bores you preaching. His interpretation of the Sermon on the Mount was very intelligent and he easily quoted from the Gita to draw parallel between what Christ said and what Krishna said. After Kollam the other three of us got berths to lie down. It was just a matter of keeping awake till around 4 a.m. We were spontaneously creative. The young mother told me during the journey her child's was a curable kind of blood cancer. The treatment has been going on for about one year and it would have to continue for one-and-a-half years more, she says. She knows everything there is to know about the disease although she hasn't completed school.The doctors, she says, are happy with the progress of the treatment; they are confident. The child's name is Zaina, the mother's Sumaiyya. The child's father Kunhabdulla is in Muscat (on some small job, I could make out) and he phoned when they were in the train and I heard the child speaking to him. The mother showed me his picture too on the mobile phone screen. A handsome young chap.

Balachandran V said...

It is not the Sermon on the Mount or the parallel with Bhagavad Gita that impresses me. If you don't mind me saying so frankly, the title is inappropriate. Why do we have to reaffirm our thoughts or deeds on the basis of religious texts or quotation from some one else? Let us take the gesture for what it is. The spontaneous, natural and voluntary reaction to a situation that reminds us that some qualities are still left in us, that give us the right to live on earth. I am sure it is not the Sermon that prompted the priest to this, but the innate humaneness in him. We may be an accumulation of our heritage, but let us look at everything afresh, without the baggage of past.

P. Venugopal said...

Dear Balan, thanks.

P. Venugopal said...

dear Balan. i have been thinking of your remarks. as you said, there is no need to attach big significance to the incident. i haven't attached that to it also. i have tried to narrate it as dispassionately as i can, exactly as it had happened, without emoting, if that is word i want. when you try to stick straight to the facts, it will often not fit in with our conceived ideas of what is good writing. i am trying to exorcise myself of the tendency to deviate for the sake of readable writing. readable writing is a business i have been in for the last more than 30 years, and, watching it, i have also realised the distortions it does to the fact as it is. this is an experiment, at my level, whether we can emote and convey the intense emotional content of a situation without using adjectives to emote, without resorting to sentiments at all, without falling into the mould of our conceived ideas of good writing. Hemingaway was a master of this art. tell it straight as it had happened. there might might be incongruities, positions that could have been artistically improved--but the term artistically improved itself is an introduced distortion. i would like you to contemplate on what i have written in this comment. i do really feel we have to shift from our imagined world to the real to know the beauty of life, in all its stark reality. there is the need in this world of choas to get out of all distractions and focus on the real, don't you think so? take this also as an academic discussion on the process of writing, in a free and detached spirit, without allowing our ego to come into the picture to influence our positions.

Balachandran V said...

There is a communication breakdown somewhere! :)

Pl read my comment once again. I was objecting ONLY to the reference to the Sermon and Bhagavad Gita, period.
I disagree when you say that there is no significance to this incident. That is why I said in my first comment that it is a rare one and as a story of human spirit, it is a memorable incident. Your narration too was excellent - the bare facts, leaving the reader lasting verbal images.

But - I believe I have the liberty to tell you this - Sermon and Bhagavad Gita left a bad taste in my mouth. Probably, the priest was inspired to act like that by Jesus Christ. I wish it weren't. I wish it was compassion of his own, not second-hand. For, one who seek support of religious texts for love and compassion will justify inhuman action using the same. Everyday, from every corner of the world we are witnesses to it. Strife, more than harmony, is what religions have given us.

Pl read my second comment again.

P. Venugopal said...

Always there is a transmission and distribution loss, isn't it? The entire power generated at the generating station does not reach the point where the consumer is. (I am covering power sector also for my paper. _:)
I wish the priest does not read this. There is something I did not write in my piece. The "hush-hush" talk of discomfort over the presence of unreserved passengers in the reserved bogey refers to something the priest told me during the early part of the journey. He was a fussy and rule-bound person to start with. But he changed instantly when he knew the child was sick. There is natural goodness in all of us. Only its embers lie hidden under the ash. Once we blow off the ash, the embers glow and leap into flames. This, I think, is the hour of creativity. The Sermon then bubbles over; so does the Bhagavad Gita.
When I wrote about the incident I did not know the incident had all these dimensions.
This is the beauty of the blog. We go up the crest of the wave and down the trough and up the crest again seeing more of it.
Good discussion, wasn't it, Balan, thanks to you.
Happy Onam!

Kalpana said...

Happy Onam Venuji...Even i thoroughly enjoyed reading the comments and of course the post :-)

P. Venugopal said...

Happy Onam, Kalpana, though I know you are a Divali girl! Happy be everyday!!!

Prabhakar said...

Happy Onam.! Good post and good discussion.

P. Venugopal said...

thank you, Prabhakar. you are on a roll nowadays, touch wood and let it continue as it is. i cannot keep up with the pace to even read all your pieces nowadays. i could snatch only a few minutes here and there to come to the blog, busy with a grandchild, driving wife and daughter to work, baby sitting, attending to my work, etc. etc...i find you are turning more and more confident with your style, learning the trick of capturing with words the full intensity of it all...happy writing!

Kalpana said...

Before I met all my blogger freinds, infact before I joined research and started visiting places across the country I was a Diwali girl. But now, Onam, Pongal, Id, Chhatth (Festival In Bihar), Ganpati, Jaganath yatra, I wish my friends for all these and many more festivals. I have friends from almost all parts of the country and I as you said, I really find reasons to be happy everyday :-)

P. Venugopal said...

Kalpana, my friend Suresh Elamon who met you in New Delhi described you as a "bubbling young lady, full of zest and laughter." Is it true? I too have a lot of friends, all over the country, though I have not travelled north of Bangalore. In Kerala I have travelled almost to all villages, even the remotest forest settlements, making friends. I have a group of friends who go trekking to the Himalayas every year, each time bringing exciting new stories. I had wanted to go with them these last many years, but things at home are such that I cannot be away for too many days. Spending some days in the Himalayas is big dream for me.