Harish jumped out of his bed in a jiffy, ran towards the living room, and looked at the huge
wall clock anxiously. It was half-past six. He breathed a sigh of relief and strolled towards the
balcony, his gateway to amusement. For an eight-year-old, summer was all about fun and frolic, not the case, though, for the residents of the narrow lane facing his balcony.
With thirty minutes left for the action to unfold, Harish was keen to complete his morning
ablutions before settling down on his favourite chair, the smallest you would find in the house.
When his mother entered the balcony with his cup of coffee, Harish was busy counting the
empty plastic containers that queued up in front of an old water tank. Idle from the day it was installed, it remained a landmark to the trucks that supplied drinking water every alternate day.
When the clock struck seven, the buzz around the tank increased multifold, with men,
women, and children replacing their respective containers in the queue. The truck carrying water was due any time, and the residents who gathered near the tank were on their mark, not to run towards any finish line, but to ensure they get their share of water to run the show till the next supply.
The plight of the people was evident from the way they rushed towards the approaching
truck. A protocol that seemed in place till the truck arrived went for a toss instantly. The lady
who stood last in the queue was the first to get her container filled, and before she pulled herself out of the crowd, her container was empty again.
With at least twenty-five families battling it out for supremacy, many waited for an
opportunity to sneak in. In no time, the containers turned weapons. While the empty flew, the filled ones rolled for a while and then took off; the kicks doing the trick. That was the second time Harish was witnessing mayhem in the lane. For him, it was more like the cartoons he watched on television.
Unlike the previous episode where the driver of the truck had no scope to impress Harish, this time around, he was blessed with a chance he would never forget. Trying hard to regulate the supply, he pulled the tube fiercely, ending up slapping a lady’s face with it. In the process, he lost control of the tube and splashed water on many in the vicinity, earning their wrath. The furious crowd thrashed him with the empty containers and chased him out of the lane. The poor man ran for his life, leaving his dhoti behind. Harish was in ecstasy. He scampered to his mother and told her what he saw. That was the last time he visited the balcony in the whole of summer.
After two decades, Harish’s favourite balcony sported a new look, and the lane posed
narrower. It was the summer of 2018. With the old bungalows transformed into residential
complexes, the broad street where Harish’s house stood was more crowded than the narrow lane perpendicular to it. A space that once accommodated a single-family was now home to many.
They called it modernisation.
At twenty-eight, Harish had a schedule to stick to; the activities in the lane were no longer his interest. Surprisingly, he wasn’t also crazy about social networking, though there were quite a few platforms he accessed. He loved his space and never allowed intruders to ruin his privacy. He was well within his preferred circle and always refrained from registering his views to strangers.
It was the start of another weekend after a humdrum routine at the office. After indulging in a satisfying meal, Harish settled on his couch with his mobile phone. A message by his friend Ajay on one of the newly released movies caught his attention. The platform that presented the message had been a dumping ground for many inconsiderate minds. Before Harish could warn Ajay of the consequences, a stream of replies, for and against, flooded the platform. A verbal war had already begun.
Abuses were hurled at Ajay, who continued to stand by his statement. By the time he gave up, there were at least a thousand ungracious men spitting venom through words; unfortunately, there were many on his side too. The arguments were squicky, and the context was in no way related to the message that triggered the outburst.
Harish had logged out of the site a few minutes after the outbreak. It was 10 pm. Sound sleep was all that mattered to him then. Before retiring to bed, he spent a few minutes on his balcony, looking at the silent lane where Ajay resided. Things had changed for the good. His thoughts went back to the days when people in the lane fought for water, an essential commodity without which survival was a big question mark. Their approach wasn’t right, but their cause was. Ajay, a silent spectator then, was back in the reckoning, this time around, as a helpless young man.
After all these years, for a common man like Harish, the evolution of mankind seemed as
simple a process that replaced the raw men and women who created a commotion on the lane with hypocrites who burned the midnight oil in front of their mobile screens, spreading hatred.
Unlike the unethical minds on the platform that never saw the constructive side of technology, the people in the lane had a responsibility that called the shots. As an integral part of the movie crew, Ajay, too, had one.
With the changing trends, the good have to strive to remain undisturbed, and the bad have it easy with plenty of options to turn evil. With a personal message to Ajay that read, “To be
deemed smart in the digital world, all you have to do is remain silent for most of the time,”
Harish jumped into his bed. It was time for the good vibes to take over.