The day started with the bright sunlight and a romantic long drive to one of the hill stations. I always admire my beloved for taking care of my happiness and my comfort. I like it when both of us travel and talk about anything that comes to our mind. I like the way he thinks, just like a protagonist of any of my stories, with a direct approach to resolving any issue – always solution oriented. While that day he was telling me how a secretary of our colony’ should deal with the garbage issues in the society, the red light at the signal made him bring the car to a halt. As he started fixing the AUX setup of the MP3 player, I heard the knock on the left side window. A beggar, holding a small kid near her bosom with the help of one of her hands and asking for money with another, was standing outside.
‘Don’t give her a single Rupee, they are all frauds.That’s a racket; they steal other’s children and start this business. These people are richer than us. I don’t understand why the Government doesn’t ban all these nonsensical professions.’ He used strong words with the usual calmness and patience in his talk.
I ignored her.
She went on to chase another car which was standing beside ours and thus uncovered the view of the two big potholes on the road. I noticed them and remembered seeing them a month back at the same spot. One of them was big with irregular shape and another was a little smaller than the first one but exactly circular in shape. While only 15 seconds of waiting time were remaining, I saw something which made me forget everything else around me – one of the potholes was winking at me. Yes! You heard it right. The pothole which was irregular in shape had suddenly produced two big eyes, just like those of Tweety, and was winking at me. While the other one was smiling; showing two of his big teeth which resembled those of Tom, the cat from the famous Tom & Jerry show. I could not believe my eyes. 15 seconds later, the man behind the wheels set into action. I kept looking at the two of them in utmost surprise.
‘I want to have some tea. The restaurant there on the left side serves the best tea in the town. Please stop the car. I want to go there’, I said hurriedly.
‘But you already had coffee just half an hour before, are you sure you want to have tea?’, he mockingly said to me.
‘Yes, I can have Tea or Coffee. I just want to go to that restaurant. They serve quality beverages.’
‘Alright, let me a take a U-turn from the next junction. Your unusual demands puzzle me’, he said in a complaining tone. But I had to ignore his complaint, there was something more important waiting for me.
We went to the restaurant and I selected a table from where I could see those two, clearly, who made me delay my visit to the hill-station.
Both of them were smiling at me and with the next surprise, they started talking – not with me but with each other. I realized that I had some divine powers, that I could see and hear them talking. God, why Potholes, why can’t I hear the Sun, the Wind and the Trees talking? I thought to myself.
My mind dragged me out of this thought and focused on those two.
‘Do you know the people at the toll junction, which is almost two kilometers from here, are collecting toll for this road since the last five years when the cost to build the road is already covered three years back’, Tweety said to Tom. I was surprised to hear that. Shameless people, a thought about people collecting toll struck my mind.
Tweety continued – ‘The Minister who had promised to discontinue the toll in two years after the inauguration of the road has never shown his face after that. During the inauguration, he had mentioned that tolls would be collected only for heavy vehicles and gradually tolls were withdrawn from cars when cars are not heavy vehicles.’
Tom responded – ‘Oh that Minister! There was a newspaper lying over me two nights back, I read about him in that. He was a prime accused in some bribery case but he was relieved on bail in few minutes after he was arrested. ‘
Tweety said – ‘Yeah, that’s true.
Tom added – ‘I read in the same newspaper that not just the Government, but the education these days is in the hands of corrupt people.’
Tweety –‘Did not you not hear the woman on that nearby bus-stop when she was telling, while almost crying, her sad story to one of her friends? Her son did not get an admission to some college despite having good grades. The admission was given to those who paid a bribe, and they call it as Management Quota. ‘
Tom responded – ‘Yeah! I even heard that lady at the bus stop saying that in some institutes only those people are hired as teachers who pay a lump sum amount as bribery. Knowledge and skills are not required to get a teacher’s job these days, what is needed is only money. These people are so dishonest, disloyal and fraud. They betray their own people. ‘
Tweety answered – ‘But why should we bother? The Government is the reason we are living a long life.’
Tom added – ‘Yeah, I have invited one of my friends. Let’s make sure that he gets a place nearby. ‘
Tweety continued – ‘There is a place exactly below the signal pole that should be the best for him.You need not worry, even if someone removes us from here, it should not take us more than a month to take our places back. And if they use a good quality material to remove us forever from here, I ensure you, as your elder sister, that I will find a better place for us. There is enough growth opportunity for us here in India.’
Are they discussing facts? a thought struck my mind.
Tweety looked at me and answered – ‘Yes. You name the field and I shall share the story of corrupt people from that field. ‘
My eyes were wide open hearing all that. My tea had turned cold long back. My husband was talking over his phone since the time we had reached in the restaurant. I looked at him just to realize that he was giving me an angry look. I lifted the cup and gulped down the tea in a single sip. I gestured towards him to leave.
‘What were you staring at, all the time when we were in the restaurant? ‘
I could not forget the words of those two potholes. I thought to myself remembering all the news read in the newspaper and all the posts shared on social media – People are forced to pay so many taxes and what they get in return is NILL. When poor and middle-class people suffer, those who commit frauds close to thousands of crores, stay out of India. There are constructions done with the cheap material, be it of a road or of a building, which takes people’s lives. There is no scrutiny performed on the material used for construction. Road construction activities are dominated by construction mafias, consisting of cabals of corrupt public officials, material suppliers, politicians and construction contractors. Education is a business these days. Bribery is offered to secured positions; there is no place for knowledge and skills. There are ‘n’ numbers of scams, where Government officials were involved. It is going to be an everlasting question how ministers with the salary of thousands have properties worth thousands of crores.
Suddenly, I heard certain voices. Not just potholes but also broken electrical wires, toll stations, roads and buildings built with cheap material, dormant signals on the way, uncontrollable traffic, jammed drainage, fake medicines, bio-data of unemployed youth were talking to me and telling me that their deformity was a result of the non-awareness of the citizens.
I saw outside and I could see an emotion on the face of everyone and everything outside. Some were crying and some were mysteriously laughing. I concluded that those who were laughing were corrupt and those who were crying were the victims.
Politics, education, sports, and arts – you name the field and we can tell you the stories of corrupt people from that area. Those were the words of potholes. I could not take them out of my mind.
‘The youth has to do something for that. We all should be united. We should question every corrupt institution for each problem in the society. We can voice out corruption in every field. And you know what, you can also write something on this topic. This fight is difficult, you know. But trust me it can transform the country – not immediately but gradually. And most important thing is that we have to give correct lessons to our next generation. Even when they do not take part in wrongdoings, they should have the courage to oppose such acts.’ I heard him speaking. He had seen a poster of some corrupt minister and had already started telling me ways to fight corruption.
We were halfway through our journey, and those dents had taught me something I had never even bothered to think about.
I was engrossed in the thoughts of corruption and the ways to fight it. I was wondering why could I see faces of those potholes and could hear them talking. I didn’t realize but he was saying something. He shook my arm to seek my attention and asked –
‘Do you hear me?’
I was still in the state of shock. And I replied – ‘Do you hear them? ‘