That Wednesday night was about to embark. While riding my bicycle, I took a look on my 100.Rs, wrist watch,. It was 6:30. P.m. I was coming from T.T.C (Trichy Tutorial Collage) situated in Salem “Maravanery”. From there about 5km to my home. Everyday I used to go by cycle. It has been 3 months, I joined in the tutorial collage for the 12th Accountancy Tuition. After the class as usual I crossed the four roads, took a left turn, and going through the “Thammannan chetty” road on my bicycle. In front me, I seen a fellow, riding an Atlas cycle, painted in Blue color. He was so enthusiastic, he was riding the cycle with keen interest, I was thinking, it might be a gear cycle. I got interested to take a look on that fellow and his cycle. I was trying to overtake, I tried a lot, but I couldn’t reach him. He went far away.
After some distance there was a crowd with clutter. I thought, it might be an accident, immediately I went in to the crowd to inquire. It was a minor accident, done by that Blue color cycle fellow. I looked at him. First time I seen a thick spectacles on his face. He was wearing a shirt, a white small checked one, he in-shirted, a green color pants, and pale color paragon slippers, and he carried a yellow color jewelry bag, which got torn it now in the accident. It was Ashok. He battered one fellow on the calf, his pant was splintered like a big carrot shape. He was threatening Ashok,and trying to hit him. Ashok stood in aghast. Some of us compromised that fellow, and assured that, he will get a new pant cloth from Ashok. I inquired Ashok. He was pursuing 12th std. all subjects in TTC, and he is my class student fellow. He never talk to anyone in the class, he was always alone, I thought it, and I felt, I should help him at least till this accident issue got clear.
Me and the victim went with Ashok. First time I was entering into that street, it was little away from my home.We reached Ashok’s home in “Malli Chetty street”. On the broad street road, it was a middle class chettiyar home, a small gate with flower design, painted in ivory color, we entered inside the gate,where Ashok father’s TVS champ and cycle were parked. We spoke to Ashok’s father from the stairs. He did not invite us inside. In my hometown, the other caste people easily identify the Out – caste boys, by examining the dress code, and language, this could be a reason for not inviting us inside,I thought.
After listening all the stories from us, Ashok’s father went inside, and brought a new pant cloth. While touching the cloth, Ashok’s father said,”this cloth we brought for Ashok, to stitch and wear it on the occasion of diwali, new one, good one, please don’t ask anything else” please take it and depart from here as soon as possible”. The victim got the cloth and went with a smile. Thereafter, Ashok introduced me to his family, wasn’t a warm welcome. We both got friendship, and started to go collage together. There was no one ready to talk to him. Later I realized that, he kept asking illogical questions to people, and he is innocent too. A “Amul baby” face, stumpy body structure. So I do not like to leave him alone, though he was not interested in making friendship with others. I felt sullen about him, and I was try to understand him, I spend my time for him, I took him to my school friends homes, and other areas of my friends, to make a friendship circle for him.
My friends and my area people are started to mocking at him like, ‘half brain, loose, MR (mentally retarded)’. Ashok got afraid of them, so he won’t look at anyone. Because of this reason , whenever Ashok entering in my area, he will down his face, and directly he will come to my home.
One particular event about him, will help you to understand, really who is Ashok. Ashok’s father having TVS Champ bike. One day Ashok took the bike and went to the general store, it is far away from his home. When he was coming back towards home,he was pulling the bike, he might crossed 2 k.m like the same. People asked him, he said, he couldn’t able to start the bike. Some others also tried, even me too. At one point I was thinking, he might not turn on the key !. But I did not check immediately, I believed that even fools won’t start bike without turn on the key, I started to push the bike from 4 roads, after crossed the road we both had tea. Then I checked it once , the key was not turned on. Then I started the bike, he was happy and went to his home.
Later, I realized that if any good or bad news Ashok hears, he will be gone out of control. In more extent, Ashok will go to my home, and my friends home, even friends were not in present at home. Some time when he get angry, he goes to the corner of the wall, and act like boxer. Likewise he started to disturb all friends and their family. When parents interestingly watching serials, he simply won’t allow them to watch the program.
Constantly he will be questioning the people till they get rid of him. To avoid this I used to take him for a long walk, we roam all around the city and streets by walk. Everyday, we used to buy some snacks, one of our favorite snack was “Bajji”, made with potato and maida flour. After eating, we used to clean our hand in remaining newspaper, and while walking we will debate many issues. Mostly Ashok will open up several doubts on scientific issues. After we complete the tutorial collage, Ashok joined a private institute for B.B.A. After that i could not see him around like before. Three years later I met Ashok near by his home. He said,” I am going to get job in chennai, because successfully I gave the interview”. I was so happy to hear that from him. I told this to my friends, they laughed and said,” hereafter we do not have Ashok’s tortures. we escaped from him.
That week we both met almost everyday. Once he said, he want to deliver this good news to his grandmother, for that he have to go around 10 K.m. journey. He told me that, he will go by cycle. That evening because of some important work I went to chennai. The next day morning around 9.A.m. Some of my friends called me and said that, “Ashok got in to accident, and he is in serious condition”. I thought some major injuries might be. On the while I am coming back, I was thinking and planning to be with Ashok. The next day, early in the morning I reached my home. My mother said Ashok died on the spot itself, it came in the last evening newspaper also, she shown me the last evening newspaper. Immediately I went to the place where the accident occurred. I seen the blood of Ashok across the road. I was about to cry. I felt, I do not want to see his dead face. If I seen Ashok, I can’t bear the pain. I learned a lot from him. He was started to speak with everyone without any hesitation. But ignored by all his age friends and his family also.From there directly I went to the church, and I prayed for him till the church got closed.
One month I could not able to forget him, every seconds I feel he is standing in front of me, and illusions of asking scientific questions.. A year later I met my friends, even after Ashok’s death people remembered his funny answers and laughed together. One of his funniest answer that we still remember, he responded to the Accountancy professor. The Accountancy professor asked Ashok, “What will be there, beyond the sky, tell me genius”?. In front of everyone in the class Ashok said, “ Beyond the sky, there will be lot of girls waiting for me, after I cleared my 12th exam, I will go there and I won’t come back”. We suffered while laughing.
Even these days if I meet my friends, they used to tell me that,”Ashok might went to have fun with those girls beyond the sky, there also he will torture them by asking question. The reason to write this story right now is, many time Ashok’s father told in front of me, “ don’t mingle with that cheri boys (Dalit), you allowed to go only our area and our community. Those cheri boys will spoil your education and life, be carefull”. I often remember this, but after reading Rohith’s last letter “ the value of a men reduced to his immediate identity” , Indeed Ashok’s life ended with his own community circle because of his father’s immediate identity. Ashok Father’s impotent fear about neighbors, and his caste prejudices, and the prestige hyperbole does not allow him to mingle with others, and learn something relevant to the current society.
Throughout his friendship I understood that, he always want to explore other people, Beauty of nature, and the world etc… But his father’s parochial ideas, and everyday restrictions and advises, led him to search a job somewhere outside the hometown. So he thought that, he will liberate himself from the family barriers. In that juncture, after he got the job in Chennai he became so enthusiastic, as usual he forgot the world, and he became careless.
Even I inquired nearby shops, where that accident occurred, people said that,” the water tanker lorry was blowing the horn several times, but he did not respond”, nobody could save him”. He was so interestingly dreaming about Chennai journey and freedom from home, because that would be his first journey from the hometown to other town, many time I seen him, sitting alone in his door steps.. He never get a chance to express himself without fear to the outside community. After Ashok’s death, I met his father on the road, I thought of giving some hopeful words, but he did not gave attention to me. He might be still in the illusion of caste prejudices. These days if we meet, we both just simply nod our head and go away without any word. But memories of Ashok and his father’s caste prejudices undisputed, before I understood Rohith, the Special Guy.
PC: JAC -UOH.
Memory & Thought : KRISH.