A novelette by Bharat Dogra
Introduction–How different will be the world 50 years from now? If the tendencies of domination and exploitation which are a major cause of distress even today get aggravated greatly in the future conditions of escalating climate change and other serious threats, how will life shape up then, and where will humanity then search for hope?
Chapter- 5 : Dream
It was around 11 p.m, that Anita managed to find a bed to sleep in the shelter. She was now tired beyond her physical ability but again the wave of emotions swelling inside her was so strong that she could not sleep immediately and kept thinking for a fairly long time.
So much has happened within this single day, she thought, that this is almost beyond belief. First they could hold their first big meeting, then an agreement to adopt the path of struggle could be reached, then a charter of demands could be agreed upon, then wonder of wonders, it got accepted at the highest TT level on the same day. This was the first big success of any revolt in any CC area of earth, and was bound to have much wider impacts.
As though all this was not enough, then together they could contribute to saving so many human lives.
So much happening in a single day. This is almost unbelievable. I must scratch myself to confirm all this is for real, Anita told herself and then laughed quietly.
In the morning I was so full of apprehensions and now I am so full of achievements and work well done, Anita thought. She quickly said a prayer, giving thanks. Again she did not know to whom she addressed her prayer and whom she thanked, but she quickly said her prayer and thanks anyway.
Then suddenly some doubts started clouding her happiness. What if the more oppressive elements of TT 17 try to subvert this agreement? What if Cyrul colludes with them to try to get back his post? But then Anita brushed aside these thoughts. At least a very good beginning has been made today for sure, she told herself.
But of course this is only a beginning. The task ahead of challenging the basic inequity and injustice of the TT-CC divide is a much bigger one of course but we will see. The ultimate aim of course will be to first forge equality based ties and then use this to protect environment and bring peace. Hmm, we shall see. So much to be done. Ah, but this rest today is very well-deserved.
As Anita’s eyes began to close she suddenly found herself lying with her head placed loosely in the lap of her mother. This is what she did as a child when she got too tired.
But how did mother suddenly come here ? This must surely be a dream. But hey, look here, Papa is also coming in. He comes and sits by their side.
Everything appears so real that Anita almost turns in her sleep to touch his feet.
Papa looks so happy. Beaming , he says—Dearest daughter, today you have fulfilled my dreams. May God bless you and bring all happiness and success in future.
He places his hand gently on her head. Anita can almost feel it. It seems so real she smiles in her sleep. Papa saying I have fulfilled his dreams. What more do I want in life, Anita asks herself.
Her mind travels back. She is a child. Her father tells her mother— What a lovely daughter we are blessed with. You wait and see, when she grows up she will fulfill all our dreams.
This was a sentence which he often spoke. Very simple words of a father, but these words left a lasting impact on Anita.
And today father came here just now and said you HAVE fulfilled my dreams today.
Anita could not have been happier. Nothing could have made her happier.
Anita is sleeping. She is wandering between dream and reality. What is dream? What is reality?
This much is real that Janet had actually prepared a document for spreading their movement in all the CC Areas. She had been arguing for a long time that we will never be to end the basically discriminative and inherently unjust TT-CC divide by confining our struggle to just CC 17. We have to spread the ideas and movement to all the CC areas to establish a broad unity and commonality on the basis of which we all will be able to march towards success. She had been telling Anita to send her document on such unity to friends and contacts in all CC areas.
This much was the reality but this extended to something much bigger and advanced in the world of dreams. A big conference of representatives of all the 53 CC Areas is being organized in CC 17. Janet is presiding over this conference. She gets up with a lot of grace to deliver her presidential address.
–Brothers and Sisters, many thanks for coming from long distances to participate in this first conference of scholars and activists from all the 53 CC Areas of the world. I know this has been difficult for you. We have hardly any resources and you have to arrange for travel on your own. Here also we have not been able to extend any special hospitality and you are all staying in austere conditions. But still you are participating with so much enthusiasm because we all realize how important it is for all of us to meet and unite.
—Friends, the world is passing through a critical flash-point as the basic life-nurturing conditions of our planet have been very badly disrupted and if we do not act adequately and speedily these may even be destroyed and damaged beyond redemption in the very near future. But instead of protecting the life-nurturing conditions for all people and all life-forms, the most powerful elites of the world have ganged up to just somehow protect themselves and their luxurious, highly wasteful life-styles while condemning everyone to a life of even higher deprivation and exploitation than before.
–The TT-CC divide was created essentially as the basis of a new system of exploitation and plunder which may be even more destructive than the old colonial system because of the new technologies available now.
—This system of exploitation has always been cruel but in these times of climate change this cruelty has crossed all limits. I have seen CC workers working in extreme heat—some of them simply collapse and die as it is so unbearably hot. I have seen women workers finding some time to quickly go and feed their babies and then the mother finds that the baby has just died in the intense heat. I have seen children and elders suddenly drowning in their huts as massive flood water from TT 17 are suddenly diverted towards CC 17. One day we saw a road melting suddenly and the feet of people walking on it were caught in burning hot mud.
–Friends clearly these difficult weather conditions should have moved us towards equality and justice so that all people could be protected, but due to the extreme selfishness of very powerful elites exactly the opposite happened and now we have a system of increased exploitation and inequality.
–I have also lived in TT 17 for a fairly long time, I have been brought up there, I have had a chance to know the billionaires there from close quarters. Many of you, dear friends, have seen only CC life closely. So I find it my duty to tell you that life in TT is all hollowed out. It should never become a role model for our youth. Their selfish, aggressive, relentless search for more wealth and more sensual pleasure for themselves reduces them to a level of insensitivity which also enters into their closest relationships and destroys even these relationships. This hollows out their life but makes them even more dependent on never-ending pursuit of sensual pleasures abetted by stimulants and intoxicants and this in turn creates yet more problems and complications. Their tragedy is that they cannot even comprehend this self-destructive nature of their life and so remain condemned to it. On the other hand those among them who struggle to retain their sensitivity and sanity find themselves increasingly isolated and lonely in the middle of all the wealth.
–This understanding of TT life has convinced me that one day an increasing number of them will also like to leave this empty life and revolt against it. So if we only persist one day we will get support from unexpected quarters too.
–We are certainly fighting for the rights of our CC people and for ending the entrenched system of exploitation of CC people , but at a wider level we are fighting for the liberation of all people of world and success has to be on our side, sooner or later, and we only have to persist, to remain firm on our path, and keep faith in our mission and our ideals.
The meeting hall exploded with loud, extended applause as Janet concluded her presidential address.
Janet had always been saying such things, but it was the dream of Anita that she should be able to say this one day at an actual conference of all CC Areas. Today in her sleep Anita was seeing the realization of this dream. Even though this too was only in a dream but it seemed so real Anita could feel the joy and the pride even in her sleep!
Her thoughts get scattered. Who is this new figure, serene, calm and handsome as always, who has now appeared in her dream.
Of course this is Tathagat. Anita feels this unique thrill only when she sees Tathagat.
The only man whom she ever saw as her life partner.
So what if she could never even tell him quite clearly and openly, her heart knows that she only accepted Tahagat as her life companion.
And after accepting such a man as her own, she could never accept anyone else.
She was only 18 years of age at that time. Stepping into youth in the middle of poverty and hardships, she almost neglected her beauty, wearing the simplest clothes and no make-up, but her youthful beauty went ahead nevertheless and called out loudly .
She had many young men falling over each other to win her favors.
Several of them were good men.
Yet she could never really say yes to any of them.
But it was so different with Tathagat.
It was a different feeling altogether.
She had never experienced this earlier.
She never experienced this later.
First love and last love.
Those were the days when her mother was still alive but very unwell. Anita spent her life in small part-time jobs and in looking after her mother. But whenever she got a little time she went to Janet’s organization to help with some voluntary work. She liked Janet and her work and wanted to help.
It is here that she first met Tathagat. As Janet told her, Tathagat was the son of a billionaire of TT 17 but even from teenage days he could never reconcile with the ways of this family. As a young man he started spreading ideas which were completely opposed to the official views of TT authorities. Any other person spreading such views would have been arrested, but due to his highly placed family, he was exiled instead of being arrested. Searching for a new home, Tathagat found one in the voluntary organization run by Janet.
He was a very highly learned man, Janet had told her. Although she was ten years elder than him, she considered him to be her teacher. When Janet wrote papers for reputed journals, she wrote at the end—the author wishes to record her thanks and debt to the suggestions and ideas of Tathagat, teacher and mentor.
It was a case of entirely innocent love as initially Anita could not even understand her own feelings. She only knew that these feelings were very different. She realized much to her own surprise that she suddenly became very happy when Tathagat was around. If she went to the organization and by chance Tathagat was not there she suddenly became sad.
Then she found herself wanting to go again and again to the organization just to see Tathagat. And if he was sitting somewhere, she found some pretext to sit at the same place or at a place from where she could see him. If he was speaking to Janet or some visitors, she would join and always found wisdom and solace in what he said.
One day she said to Tahagat—If you can find the time to tell me some of your essential ideas I will prepare notes. You can edit these and Janet will arrange for publication.
This is a very good idea, Anita. Shall we have the first session now only?
Yes, of course.
Anita was delighted. This was invaluable work close to her heart. And she also had good reason now to sit close to Tathagat for a long time. It was a very pleasant day and they were sitting in the organization’s garden with a sprinkling of many flowers.
Anita opened her notebook and Tathagat started speaking—Truth is always simple. But as all the time efforts are made to cover truth or distort truth, more and more complications in life are created.
—Millions of life-forms live on earth but human beings alone have the capacity to plan for the protection of all life-forms. But this unique ability has been turned upside down and human strength is more seen in very high destructiveness towards other life-forms. It is very important to assume the neglected protective role and this is the basic rationale for the existence of such a very species with capacities much beyond other species.
—In human history the best reformers and spiritual leaders have always asked human beings to be protective towards each other, to be protective towards other life-forms and to be protective towards nature. But due to the weakness for sensual pleasures and greed most of the powerful human beings tend to neglect such teachings. They instead indulge in exploitation and plunder to satiate their greed and this has led to such great unjust systems in human history as the TT-CC divide.
–A root cause of all this is the tendency to be guided by relations of dominance . Such relations harm and destroy those who are dominated but in addition these also destroy those who try to dominate as in the process of dominating and exploiting they destroy that deeper human sensitivity that is essential for close and selfless relationships. Hence it is important to replace relationships of domination with relationships of cooperation and protection as the basis of human life. This is true not just of relationships among human beings but this is also true of relationships between human beings and nature, between human beings and other forms of life, and between the present generation and the generations to come.
–It is important to oppose systems of injustice such as the TT-CC divide. But at the same time it is important to replace these with protective systems based on relationships of protection and cooperation at all levels. Mere opposition is not an adequate response. This was always important but this has become crucial in present times as the basic life-nurturing conditions of Mother Earth are threatened. Saving these life-nurturing conditions is without doubt our basic task and this must be achieved within a framework of justice, peace and democracy. To make this possible it is extremely important to move from relationships of dominance to relationships of protection and cooperation—in terms of relationships among human beings at all levels, as also in terms of relationships with nature and other forms of life.
Anita was fascinated by this inter-action.
Each one of these ideas I will like to discuss and note in more detail, she said immediately.
Tathagat had smiled—Surely we will do this in the next few sessions Anita.
Anita had really looked forward to this.
But as her mother’s health deteriorated, she could not go to the organization for some days. One day she was preparing a milk based sweet dish for her mother when the door bell rang.
When Anita opened the door, she found Tathagat standing there , smiling. He said—I heard your mother is unwell. So I came to ask about her well-being.
Anita was so happy yet so confused she could not welcome him properly. She somehow managed to say a few words and after introducing him to her mother, she hurried to her room where she lay for some time to calm down her surging emotions. Then she arranged her dress, looked up herself in the mirror and went to the kitchen.
When she came to serve the sweet dish, she realized that her mother had been all the time speaking on her favorite subject—about how good Anita has been as a daughter, as a student, as a social worker, in fact in all possible roles. Feeling very embarrassed , she was very keen to change the conversation but found to her great amusement that Tathagat was really most interested in listening to what her mother was saying. In fact he asked for more details and this encouraged Anita’s mother so much that she went into even greater details. She had got hold of a sincerely interested listener after a long time and wasn’t willing to let go easily.
When Tathagat rose to leave Anita accompanied him till the door. Before taking leave he hesitated, then simply
said—Anita you are so good that I feel very happy when I am with you.
It was a very simple statement but Anita’s cheeks turned red immediately.
When your mother is better please start coming again.
Anita could only nod.
Again he hesitated. Then he said—I did not come just to inquire about your mother’s health. I wanted to meet YOU .
After this he left hastily, as though he had at last said what he wanted to say.
Just three very simple sentences, which could be very routine for anyone else. Just these three sentences which he uttered at the door while leaving became the source of all the world’s happiness for Anita. No matter how hard she toiled all through the day and how many difficulties she faced, she just had to remember these three sentences and her face would light up.
In the nights when she lay down very tired, she just recalled the scene and the three sentences and she would find a deep sensuous pleasure entering all parts and pores of her body.
The next time Anita went to meet him, he had looked very longingly at her.
Anita wanted to know if they could have the next session on his ideas and thoughts. But it turned out he was going out for a meeting that day.
He had asked—But the notes which you took down that day– Did you find them useful?
This is my life’s most valuable treasure.
Oh you really think so Anita. Then please help in spreading these ideas.
Can I really do justice to this work?
Who in this world can understand me and my ideas better than you Anita?
Oh this one sentence of her dearest one. Anita has cherished this all her life. In all her work she sees a fulfillment of this trust and this has become her greatest strength.
Anita became deeply worried when Janet told her that like in TT Area where the authorities had opposed his ideas, here also in CC Area the authorities had started voicing strong disapproval of what Tathagat says in various meetings.
Then one day came the news that at one of these meetings a group of goons had attacked Tathagat and he had died on way to hospital.
For Anita this was like the end of world and the end of her own life. But she dragged life somehow as she had to care for mother.
Bur mother also was devastated by the sudden breaking down of her bold and courageous daughter. After a few weeks she died.
Then and there Anita decided to devote her life serving people, opposing injustice, ultimately contributing to creating a new society, a new world based on the ideas of Tathagat.
All this had actually happened in her life and what she saw in dreams seemed so close to reality. Most of the dream had been pleasant but when it came to the death of Tathagat Anita became afraid and a cloud of fear now hung over her innocent face . Only fearful thoughts came to her mind.
What is this. She is seeing Tathagat together with her father. How can this be? They never met. But this is a dream. Mother is present too. But who are those goons hiding in the corner with daggers. Suddenly one of them looks up . Oh this is Cyrul. Anita wants to warn her parents and Tathagat but the goons pounce upon them with daggers. Then suddenly three young men emerge from nowhere and fight back the attackers. Anita recognizes Peter, Mohammed and Ashfaq. There is a big fight.
Frightened Anita awakes suddenly from her sleep and wipes her perspiration.
No, it is only a dream, she tells herself and goes back to sleep. She is very tired.
Soon she is back in her childhood days. She is learning to ride a bicycle. Suddenly she falls down. She is bleeding. She starts crying. Her father rushes to help her. He says—Oh my daughter is never afraid of such falls. If she falls ten times she will get up eleven times because she has to do such great and important things in her life.
On hearing this Anita immediately stops crying. She gets up without any help.
This is repeated at various stages of her childhood. Whenever the child falters and falls, the father rushes to help and says—Anita can never be down. She has to always get up quickly. If she falls ten times she will get up eleven times because she has to do such great and important things in life.
Then in her sleep Anita actually starts saying—Papa I will always get up because I have to do such great and important things in life.
Now this stormy day of year 2071 is over.
It is past midnight.
Anita is sleeping.
Cyrul is still busy hatching a conspiracy with his close associates.
What will happen tomorrow?
We do not know.
This is the story of just one day in 2071 , and this day has ended.
The world has no doubt entered a very critical phase.
Very important decisions will have to be taken to ensure that the life-nurturing conditions of earth can still be saved within a framework of justice and peace.
Or else the world will be pushed further down the path of massive discontent and destruction.
Here all we can do before departing is to pray that Anita and her friends succeed in their brave efforts.
But she is sleeping after a very tired day and I do not wish to disturb her.
As the writer of a story of only one day I must depart now.
But if you happen to meet Anita tomorrow or the day after please do tell her that I prayed for her before leaving.
I do not know to whom I addressed the prayer, but please tell her I prayed nevertheless.
She will understand.
Bharat Dogra is a veteran journalist and author whose work has also been recognized in the form of several prestigious awards. He has written extensively on environmental and other increasing threats of future years in books like ‘Planet in Peril’ and ‘Protecting Earth for Children.’ His collection of Hindi short stories is titled Sachai Ki Kasam ( Under Oath for Truth) and collecton of Hindi poems is titled Kathin Daur Mein Ummeed ( Hope in Difficult Times).