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Friday, 11 April 2014

Which caste?

Branch was situated on slope of a scenic hill in a small bazaar comprising of a dozen or so shops cum houses. The road passing through bazaar spiralled up towards Lansdowne and downwards it went to a link road & then towards Kotdwar. Two mini buses passed through in the morning & same returned in the afternoon. Branch was on ground floor & a room, a kitchenette & toilet on the first floor served as the Taj Palace of the manager. Banking here revolved around Pensioners' accounts. During first week branch had 30-40 visitors daily & by the end of the month none. 

On the left side of the branch beyond bazaar a group of smaller huts were visible at some distance. These were said to be of Dom's who were of lower caste & did hard labour jobs, scavenging of dead animals etc. One of the residents named Bhajani 55+ was occasionally hired for cleaning the branch & residence. Main village with a population of three thousand or so lay in the valley couple of hundreds of feet down. All government employees had pucca houses there & others had huts built with local stones & slates.

Branch staff comprised of a manager, an officer, a cashier & a peon cum guard. Sharma the only officer in the branch visited his family on weekends about a hundred km away. However during rainy season commuting became difficult in hilly areas & Sharma stayed & we had dinner together a couple of times.

One Friday it was cold & drizzling. Dark clouds threatened with heavy rain or even light snow. Sharma decided to stay with me for dinner. We were chatting & having rum while Sharma was preparing omelette. Somebody knocked at the door below on the ground floor. It was Bhajani soaked in rain with some eggs & grocery items. I asked him to come up & take payment also. I requested Sharma to give a large peg to Bhajani. Sharma looked at Bhajani & then me & I nodded yes. He poured a large one for Bhajani who by now had squatted on the floor just outside of door. I gave Bhajni my plate with a piece of omelette. Bhajani gulped down quickly & disappeared in to the rain & darkness. 

Sharma was not happy on sharing the drinks with Bhajani. He gave a long lecture on Bhajani being a Dom & how the likes of him were not to be treated at par with ourselves. After all there were rules & regulations in the society and in our religious books which must be followed otherwise society might collapse. He said 'You will go back to Delhi & we shall be left to deal with these people here everyday. We can not allow this'.

Thereafter Sharma left. That evening I washed plate & glass used by Bhajani. 
   
Hills & Valleys

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