Chakka Jam and Humane Value

It was October 1994, Durga Puja time. People had come back to celebrate Dussehera at their homes. My family was not singled out from this ritual of homecoming during the Puja vacations. Our house was well packed too. But, no one in our family was happy. Reason being, my mother was not keeping well. She had a severe asthmatic attack some time in the morning of 13th October, 1994. Fortunately, most of our family members were at home when that tragic incident occurred.

Immediately, my eldest brother arranged a taxi to take her to the nearest hospital. It was around 10 am and a bit cloudy outside. The nearest hospital was hardly 1.5 km from our home. It is a fairly well equipped hospital with a strength of some 15+ doctors serving round the clock. But, we were not that fortunate to avail this facility. It was Durga Puja time. Hospital was almost empty, except for the patients (though it was open), not a single doctor was there. Even the duty doctor had gone to visit Puja Pandals.

What to do?

There was no chance to consult a doctor there. At any cost we had to save our mother from any worst eventualities. Nearest hospital (happens to be the district hospital) was 15 kms away. Can we wait for another 30 minutes, as it takes 30 minutes to reach the other hospital? That was a big question, a question of life and death for us. We had to, there was no other way for us.

Without wasting any more time, we asked the taxi driver to start, and he took the shortest route to the other hospital. Every minute was precious for us. Praying to God was the only option that was left in our hands. That taxi took some 20 minutes to reach one end of the district head-quarter where the hospital was located almost at the other end. Thanks to the driver, he could manage to drive at a short notice and at a short span of time through the stony/bumpy road. We had finally a flickering light of hope to reach the hospital before things got out of hand any further.

But, alas… that did not happen.

There was a Chakka Jam (Road Blockage) in the city — protest by some miscreants and a group of unemployed youth. The reason…. some thing silly had happened some 2000 miles away from that place, which did not have anything to do with the people of that place. They were shouting slogans occasionally, had piled rocks, wooden logs and burning tyres on the road. They had blocked the main road which connects the city to the outer world. Many Buses, Cars, Taxis, Trucks were waiting in the queue, hoping that the agitators will leave. My brother asked the driver to wait some 200 mts away from the spot.

Initially, we did not have any option other than to request them to allow us to go. I along with the taxi driver had to wait there with my mother. Both my elder brothers and two cousins (who also accompanied us sensing there was trouble) went to the spot to find out a way to reach the hospital. When they (my brothers and cousins) reached the spot, they could see the people involved in the chakka jam, people with blood and flesh but blood-shot eyes, some common men like us. There were some police constables helplessly sitting some 50 mts away from the spot. It was not clear, what made them sit there? To protect the miscreants? or to keep law-and-order?, nothing seemed to be clear.

We were getting restless as her condition was deteriorating. We were apprehensive and afraid of the people since there was a chance of their turning violent at any point of time. But, we didn’t have any option. My brothers requested the people involved in chakka jam to allow us to go at least in humane grounds, but that did not happen. They did not allow, “marne do” was their answer to our requests. We even requested the police constables to help us, but in vain. They were afraid to interfere. Nothing happened.

Time was running out of our hands. Could not find out any solution and were becoming nervous and agitated. Every single minute weighed like many hours on us. Finally my brothers decided, “we will go at any cost and will cross the hurdle”, was the call. My eldest brother picked up a cycle chain and asked others to keep lathis in their hands and asked us to be prepared for the worst. We stood ready with the lathis to charge at any go. He asked the driver to get ready and asked him to drive fast, without any fear and not to stop at any cost. He asked me to hold my mother firmly.

Finally, our taxi started.

Our driver just put the speedometer at the maximum of 120km/h and drove towards the spot. Before the miscreants could realize that some one is crossing their lakshman rekha, we had already crossed that. Seeing the speeding car rush towards them at such a speed and all of us ready with our chains and lathi, the miscreants just flew away from the spot with disbelief and fear — fear for their life. Seeing this spectacle, others started their vehicles, and the chakka jam just vanished in no time. The crowd of vehicles just followed us. Even some people started beating the miscreants (those left) at the spot at that time and trying to block the road again.

Our action was like crossing the threshold, the barrier, and others just followed. We were driven to cross that threshold for the sake of someone’s life. We reached the hospital in no time and could save our mother.

This is not just a story, an incident from the real life — happened with me but could have happened to you or someone else. But, the point that I wanted to highlight here, is some one or the other has to start — may not be the leaders, may be the aamjunta. We should not stand as mere spectators witnessing all inhuman, pathetic and wrong deeds. To be humane is our first and foremost responsibility. Strikes, chakka jam do happen almost daily. People suffer, pregnant ladies give birth to their children on their way, senior citizens are left helpless and afraid, serious patients die, students miss their exams and the country suffers.

We are provoked and we get provoked and ruin our as well as others’ lives.

Then, for whom are these chaka jams meant? Is it humane? A big question, needs serious thoughts.

Aamjunta do think about it.

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