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a short story by Professor Paramjit Sharma email@example.com Dedicated to Shri P K Aggarwal IAS Formerly Director General of our Organisation
Victims of Violence
It all started when we were taking tea after tenth show of our street play' DRISHTIKON' I got a pat on my back and noticed a person in his late forties with dark glasses, extending his hand warmly towards me. The feel of his fingers and hand was very heavy and his manners conveyed personal warmth. He introduced himself as D.K. Khurana from Indian Administrative Services. Addressing me as ' Professor', he desired to have an urgent meeting. Due to involvement in the theatre, my availability timings were often quite odd. So, I promised to drop in at his office in couple of days. When I visited his office after a gap of few days, he got up from his chair, greeted me affectionately and escorted me to an aesthetically placed sofa set in his room. I was all too appreciative of his pleasing manners and personal grace. After we finished our tea, he gave instructions to his assistant for no further disturbance. I was a bit perplexed at his style, but once he started the topic his intentions became quite clear. He wanted our involvement in organizing a programme for the families who were victims of terrorism in Punjab as a part of operation ' Healing Touch'. He explained the need of my street play to be staged before an audience of 25-30 thousand people to be followed by folk dances performance by at least 5000 children who were victims of terrorism in the age group of 7 to 10years. The group would also include children who have lost their parents due to their parent’s association with the terrorist groups. I looked at Mr. Kurana's face as I had never heard of such type of composition and that too by a group which had never participated in any performing art. It appeared to me an unachievable idea but Mr. Khurana's commitment to the task forced me to say yes. A short story by Professor Paramjit Sharma 2
Mr. Khurana asked me to give final shape to this concept and we promised to meet again. I knew for Gidha and other folk dances there could not be a better choice than one of my old student at Batala, Brahamjot Kaur, who has been an exponent of this art., she has represented India and Punjab in many National and International cultural events. I heard that after her post graduation she has been teaching in a girl’s college. I mentioned that to Mr. Khurana and we decided to meet her at Batala the next day. When we reached her college, we were directed towards her house which was located within the campus. We were asked to sit in the living room as I sent her maid servant, with my visiting card, to convey the message of our visit . The maid servant returned after five minutes, with a message personally written by Brahamjot. Sir, Thanks for remembering me…I just started my class…would be with you shortly…Regards… Brahamjot . I was touched with her sweet message We observed with eagerness score of trophies, shields, souvenirs aesthetically placed in the living room and her photographs with eminent personalities of National and International repute. While glancing through, I felt quite proud of her accomplishments. I was lost in my thoughts when I noticed a tall girls entering into the room and greeting us. She bent down to touch my feet, but I stopped her in between to do that. For ages, that has been a common gesture of the artistes to convey their respects to their Gurus. My eyes got moist with tears when I introduced Brahamjot to Mr. Khurana with pride and our mission to Batala. 'Bete' (my child) Mr. Khurana addressed Brahamjot affectionately that he was delighted to meet her and explained in details the objectives of our mission. While briefing his concept Mr. Khurana repeatedly used the word ' victims of terrorist activities'. 'Sir, if you do not mind', Brahamjot interrupted.
Can we replace the word Victims of terrorist with the world ' Victims of Violence’? We both appreciated her suggestion and explained to her the rest of our plans. We thought to give her more time. But, when she informed us that after discussions she would be going to Mohali ( a town adjoining Chandigarh), Mr. Khurana immediately seized the opportunity and offered to discuss the preliminaries, in the car, on our way to Chandigarh. While in car we discussed various modalities for implementation of Mr. Khurana's idea. When I asked him as to why he has selected teachers and students for performing this task, when he could have easily used other media and resources for the implementation of his idea. After initial hesitation, Mr. Khurana said, “Professor you may understand it better than me as you being a student of political science.” He continued to say, “I have a feeling that during our freedom struggle and after independence there were people like Mahatama Gandhi, Pandit Nehru, Maulana Abdul Kalam Aazad, Dr. Radhakrishnan, Sardar Patel and score of other political leaders.” “They were teachers, barristers, doctors or from other respectable professions. But look at the state of leaders in India we have now”.Mr Khurana stopped for a minute … “They have criminalized the politics. That is why I have reasons to dream that people from the professions like teaching, should come forward and serve the country by contesting elections and participate in other development activities and help India to the path of development”. Mr. Khurana abruptly stopped and started looking outside the car when we crossed over the bridge over river Satluj. I also had a glance outside where the water was flowing violently and hitting the columns of the Bridge with a great force. There could be similar waves meandering inside Mr. Khurana’s mind, as we looked at each other. I admired his concern for the Nation and decided to support him to the best of our abilities. We dropped Brahamjot at her home and decided to meet at the office of Mr Khurana after a week. We met again at Khurana's office. We were joined by few departmental colleagues of Mr. Khurana, some friends of Brahamjot and a few artists of my group.
In all we were 21 persons and it appeared to be an auspicious and good beginning. When Mr. Khurana asked me to chair the meeting his colleagues got surprised. I thanked Mr. Khurana for his kind gesture and requested him to explain his plans. Mr. Khurana disclosed to have kept a sum of Rs. 50 lakhs for this purpose and hoped to generate another Rs 20 to 25 lakhs through publication of souvenir and media coverage. Mr Khurana would further deploy his persons to get addresses of ‘Victims of Violence' and prepare a comprehensive list of children. My duty was to re-script the street play “Drishtikon" and arrange for its performance. Brahamjot was entrusted with the task of planning the theme for performance of 'Gidha' and other folk dances by at least 5000 Girls. She was also requested to select 50 girls’ trainers, who would in turn assist her in training the children. Mr. Khurana further proposed to have the first programme at ‘Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium' Delhi as all facilities to organize the programme at night existed there. Some more suggestions were offered which were noted for consideration. But, Brahamjot emphatically disagreed to organise the programme at Delhi because it is meant to provide healing touch to the people of Punjab and not for the entertainment to the public. Mr. Khurana felt sorry and we all agreed to have the programme at Amritsar. Brahamjot also stressed to have the need of a choreographer and some musicians to compose and record the background music for that event. She suggested the name of Ustad Gulam Rasool as a choreographer which we all accepted. She would be training the 50 trainers for 10 days and they in turn would help the children in their respective districts for one month for the performance. A team would be formed to supervise the preparation in each district. Ultimately all the district group will join together to rehearse at Amritsar before the final performance. We were pleased with her plan and gave her a go-ahead signal. Mr. Khurana, who was a perfect picture of humility, deputed five officials with Brahamjot to assist her.
Before the conclusion of the meeting Mr. Khurana suggested that he wished the programme should be inaugurated with the release of the while doves. The doves could be got released by the innocent looking children among the participants. The selection was left to Brahamjot. We all agreed to the proposal and dispersed after having the first show before monsoon, in the first week of July, on a full moon night. Out task was not voluntary agencies. smooth, despite having a full support of many
Although we could identify 4700 children within our target group, but convincing their parents and panchayats, making the stay arrangements, transportation, food, security etc. made our execution extremely difficult. Sometimes, we used to have the feelings as if we have been asked to scale the Mount Everest without oxygen masks and so many times our morale dived so low…… as if we are digging for gold in a coal mine. But never had we faced the problem of finance and other support from Mr. Khurana who worked tirelessly to keep our morale high. I literally became admirer of his capabilities to manage the activities with precision. I also knew about the hectic schedule of Brahamjot who worked like a true commander. She trained 50 of her friends at Batala, which included her daugher Payal. The audio and video cassettes about the dances and music were recorded and distributed to all the groups. Ustad Gulam Rasool composed an excellent composition for the dances. The trainers were sent to all the districts, where Khurana's people were ready with all the arrangements. Each district had around 600 children to participate. Brahamjot kept on visiting the various groups and she was quite happy with the preparations. Ultimately the scene shifted to Amritsar, the holiest of the holly place. Children were kept at different schools and colleges to make organisation and recognition possible. Besides the trainers, there were another group of 450 volunteers who were taking full care of the children.
The rehearsals used to be in the evenings. The Children were taken to Shri Harminder Saheb, Durgiana temple, Jalainwala Bagh and also to Bagha border during their off times. They were quite thrilled with their future role. As the big-day was approaching near, scores of people started getting involved in our organisational activities. Few people even came out with generous donations. We appreciated their concerns. But when certain politicians also started attending our meetings…. the air became stuffy. Mr. Khurana started feeling uncomfortable and at times getting irritated at the slightest provocation. In one of the meetings some influential politicians mooted the plan of getting the programme inaugurated by a Central Minster. Mr. Khurana objected to it as that was not a political programme. I too interfered to support Mr. Khurana. But it became a prestige issue. I watched Mr. Khurana walking out of the room when he found things going out of his hands. I too followed him as he was literally in tears; I just consoled him by saying that it was not the end of the road. We called out Brahamjot too and I asked her to quit. She on the contrary asked us to walk in as that was not the right time to leave. But, Mr. Khurana remained adamant and suggested me to continue. We walked in the interest of the programme as we saw helplessly Mr. Khurana walking out of the building as a dejected person. . He must have felt bad about all of us. I remained disturbed through out that day, but in his absence my responsibilities got enlarged by manifold. My mind became blank as if Mr. Khurana was the charging agent.
I continued making the final arrangements with Brahamjot and other friends till late night, before we returned to our respective hotels with the promise to meet at 2.00 pm on the big-day. The show was to start at 7PM under flood lights I heard a big knock at my door in the early hour of that big day. Initially, I thought, it was a dream. But when the knock continued vigorously, I got up and opened the door. I was shocked to see police accompanied by Mr. Khurana. Still trying to recover from my sleep, I could not understand the purpose, when Mr. Khurana held my hand tightly and informed me 'Professor, Brahamjot and her daughter have been killed in their hotel room. ‘My God, what has happened?’ in a trembling voice I screamed….. In a shocked state we both got in to the car and proceeded towards the hotel where Brahamjot stayed. It was horrifying and unbearable to see dead bodies of Brahamjot and her daughter Payal in a pool of blood. I had heard and seen these things happening in Punjab for more than a decade. But never experienced happening to so close and dear to me. The Girl, who would have given a new lease of life to the thousands of 'Victims of Violence', has herself fell victim of it. We have been working together for almost three months. She was ever so respectful, always smiling, working like a tigress with artistic feet of a peacock. She would often address me 'Papa', as she knew I was not blessed with a daughter. Her end would be so tragic, we could never visualize. There was commotion every where as the news started spreading around. We were escorted to the lobby of the Hotel. A senior police officer briefed us about the incident. We were informed that Brahamjot was killed between four to four thirty in the morning hours. Someone entered from the rear of the room by break opening the glasses.
Police suspected it to be the handiwork of terrorists trained at Pakistan having links with our choreographer Ustad Gulam Rasool, who has since been missing from his hotel. Police officer kept on assuring us that they were investigating and had already announced a red alert. They also informed us that they were confident to book the culprit soon. Ultimately we had to pack up all these things, with heavy head and heart. Nobody was in a mood to perform. The permission to perform was also denied. Mr. Khurana was transferred and asked to explain about this tragedy. All of us planned to carefully send back the children to their respective districts. It was pathetic to believe reaching an anticlimax….. before the actual climax. As we drove back from Amritsar to Chandigarh in a car, none of us spoke to each other for a considerable time. Mr. Khurana broke the silence the moment we reached near Mohali, “Professor, you teach political science, tell me frankly, do you believe the police theory of killing done by Ustad Gulam Rasool and his links”. I initially could not understand Mr. Khurana's remarks, but it took me few minutes to understand that Brahamjot’s killing must been the handiwork of those pseudo politicians, who never wanted peace to return in Punjab. Next day……in the headlines there was a photograph of Ustad Gulam Rassool…..gunned down by the police in encounter. Another Victim of atrocities and violence……… After attending the cremation of Brahamjot and Ustad Rassol we decided to seize the first available opportunity to enter politics before politicians enter our field of performing art and give back this nation a committed group of people who can strive hard for the development of the nation. We knew it would not be an easy task. There would be lot of hindrances and threats like the one we have just faced. We may loose so many committed artists like Brahamjot. But we have to start from some where. Some one has to take the initiative. Let our group have this initiative through staging our street play "DRISHTIKON" in all nook and corner of this country and also using children of Victims of Violence.
I sent a message to my group to meet at 6.30 am in my house and prepare a plan for rebuilding this Nation……even if we loose our life and don’t leave this task on the pseudo politicians….and again plan for the programme at Amritsar…in same manner and spirit…..to give our tributes to Brahamjot…Gulam Rasool and off course to our motivating force Mr Khurana
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