Muri is one of those easily-forgettable, falling-off-the-map kind of nondescript places. It was my first proper venture into Jharkhand and I looked forward to it with a gusto everyone around me found completely unwarranted and unsettling. The manner in which I managed to find projects in farflung areas baffled all. My family wrung their hands in despair as harried wellwishers rattled off tales of naxalite horrors. M, (my "expedition partner") and I shrugged nonchalantly. One's got to do what one's got to do. Period.
After a week of another set of utterly worthless exams, I looked forward to some Jharkhandi respite. The trip began. With an ill omen. Some days just don't go right. The India-Australia match got washed out. The auto guy tried to fleece us thinking we were not from Delhi (that's a new one). AND we missed our train. After a dhakkemaar journey in a snail-paced, fungus-infested train, we finally reached Muri.
As I got off the station, I was struck by the common-placedness of the rickety little town (yes i have this annoying habit of making up words when I can't find the right ones). Had I expected Jharkhand to be a new land? With different people peeing along the tracks? Different calamities facing them? Different trees and birds? Different houses lining the roads? Different potholes in those roads? Different smells? As the days passed by, it sunk in. No matter where you go, the essential being of a people is the same.
The trees will rustle in the wind. Dogs will stretch their paws, yawning the days away. Cows will eject humungous piles of dung. The mud will smile each time the rain tickles her. People will make small talk about the weather, no matter how many fields they have ploughed or how many daughters they have left to marry off. I will miss my mother and not be able to remember the last time I hugged her. The clouds will pout into unexpected shapes against the blue blue sky. And children will ride their bicycles through all the puddles.
I find myself on a train again, rattling away from this land of the obscure to a land where obscurity is one thing you strive too hard to get. –
Jhalmuri" (jhal = mirchi/chilli + muri = puffed rice)
a papercone full of firey chillis, pungent mustard oil and scruffy fingers