27 September, 2020

Jungle, Bihar, Night, Apparition... Read On

The badland backdrop lingered. Until both sides got to know the face behind the image.

illustration by Sorit
Jungle, Bihar, Night, Apparition... Read On
outlookindia.com
-0001-11-30T00:00:00+05:53
Twenty-three years ago, I was on my way to Barheta, a small village in northern Bihar. Kashyapji, the grassroots activist heading Bharati Vikas Manch, the Madhubani group with whom I was to work, had offered to pick me up from Patna station and accompany me. It was a long, convoluted journey, with several bus changes. Bihar, then as now, was notorious for its corruption, chaos, and violence. I scoffed; I had been travelling all my life.

Reeling and nauseous from the crowded, rattling eight-hour bus journey; the incessant shrill horn vying with a blaring video version of one of Sridevi’s raunchier roles, I rehearsed Kashyapji’s instructions: "When you reach Darbhanga, take the bus to Laheria Sarai. Then walk to the jail corner and get a cycle rickshaw to Barheta. It’s a 40-minute journey...."

Here was Laheria Sarai, here was the jail, and here were the rickshaws. However, an officious fellow-traveller barred my way. "Where are you going? Barheta? You can’t go by rickshaw. It’s very far and already evening. You are a woman and...

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