For Ganesh Ram

Today I called Diwakar two months since I got a new Ranchi number and he said Ganesh Ram died. He had a fever and he died. He said he was not able to tell me because the last number I gave him, the SIM that I lost in November, did not work even after all the times he had tried.
Ganesh Ram wanted to write stories for the movies. We first met last June in the circuit house in Sundarbani in Jammu. He and Navin Ram had managed to slip out of the OMS eent bhatta when the jamadar Raju wasn’t looking. Ganesh Ram was the only one in the bhatta with a phone. The jamadaar was already wary of him and his attempts to become a “leader” but he had managed to leave for a few minutes to talk.
“I spoke to two film-makers but they say they are not interested because I cannot offer them money”. I doubted if i could include that in what I file.
“How did you get their numbers though?”
“They were on calendars hung on the wall of a restaurant, I noted them down.”

I noted down the details of their debt to various kiln-owners since their childhood, details of the number and debt in the four other families who worked with them, directions for the bhatta 10 kms from the circuit house so I could reach on my own the next day. Then I took photos of Ganesh Ram and Navin Kumar – who was much quieter – inside the circuit house balcony and outside (outdoor profile photos in case the bhatta owner did not like me using my camera at his kiln). We went to a shop nearby for a quick rajma chawal lunch. Then both of them left to get back to work.

I was not sure how much it had been a choice for me to come there. For weeks after he got my number from Diwakar whom I had met in Janjgir Champa when I had gone there to interview his nearby village people had returned from kilns and construction sites, Ganesh Ram had unfailing called every second day at an unearthly 7 am.
“Aap aa rahin hain hamein lene?”
“Woh aap ko aur kuch bole hai kya bhatte waala?”
“Raju dhamki deta hai ki maar kar nadi mein daal dega”
“Achcha theek. main shayad do hafte mein ya agle maheene aaati hoon”

Ganesh Ram and Navin Kumar did get back to Chattisgarh that month. They managed to leave with ‘release certificates’ after I met the Rajouri District Collector Sougat Biswas and he intervened. But back in his village in Chhattisgarh, Ganesh Ram got no assistance to realise the claims the ‘release certificate’. In December, Ganesh Ram caught a fever and died. No assistance had arrived by then.
Ganesh Ram Sundarbani June (640x480)


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