Pathik Parmar
Translation : Harish Mahuvakar

I should publically thank to that driver of the Government Hospital ambulance. It was good that he had taken liquor. Hadn’t he been drunk the accident might not have taken place. And in that case I might have been living- as an untouchable!

I don’t find any fault of the driver. The patient sleeping on the stretcher of the ambulance was in a pitiable condition. In a tussle to settle down some financial issue one of his relatives had stabbed him down. It was a severe attack and he bled heavily. There were bandages and he struggled against pain. The cut veins wetted the stretcher. It was a serious case. The driver wanted him to take him as early as possible so that he can survive. But I was not serious so he didn’t care for me.

In the effort to avoid a dead dog body on the midway, he lost steering control. Before I go aside I was struck. Like a gun- shot the ambulance crossed over my body. My chest and back hugged each other like two friends. The crushed jaw hung one side. My eyes remained opened. The blood fountain that sprang from mouth filled an upper class widow head. The woman tried to save herself dashed a bicycle rider. The flung rider easily struck to horns of a dreaming cow. All this happened in a flash. The place soon crowded. Some had disgusting feelings seeing me. Many began to move on the very ideas of police arrival, their process of inquiry, and finding witnesses.

‘I’ that came out from my crushed body found myself being pecked like that of vulture flocks by the very people to who I considered as mine- like that of a mute spectator! We have to buy tickets at cinema to see unreal, created, artificial scenes. Chain of everyday real incidents can be seen cost free before our wide open eyes every day. Such mishap death toll is like that of cricket matches score. It’s cared that a man dies or a woman, but a cow shouldn’t otherwise riots take place. I eagerly watched the things that were taking place around my dead body. I was a shocked thing among the crowd that came to see this free show. I had never found difference between a Dalit and a dead one.

The driver who was responsible for this accident didn’t care to stop the ambulance, rather hurriedly drew off. The crowed continued to grow and disperse. That rider and the widow too disappeared. There were some of my known faces in the crowd. Had my ribs and bones, body organs not battered enough, and had a little life left that can move my body they certainly have tried to save me, but I had been dead. As mine was not a serious case they were relieved. They were eager to send the news of my tragic death to my relatives and other people.

The police arrive on the scene, made an investigation, prepared papers, but didn’t find any eye witness. Some looked at my body and hated the scene, some turned their heads I the other direction and spat. It’s true that I wasn’t a personality but they shouldn’t behave like this. But had I been a bad man? I was a Dalit and it wasn’t in my control to be born in a Dalit family. Had he swallowed up this bad feelings or had stopped it for a while nothing bad would have happened to him.

After some legal procedure my dead body was caged in the Government Hospital post mortem room. Even though I died on very moment the ambulance ran over my body, according to the doctor report I was declared dead two hours later. ‘There’s no difference between me and a cut branch of a living tree.’ Means ‘it’s not any sort of illegal matter if my body that’s totally qualified to be burnt you burn it at a mud stove in the kitchen along with firewood, or at a crematorium’ – such type of a certificate got ready. My photographs were also taken. I had been thinking for photographs since long but couldn’t do it. Here I got many that too without paying- moreover from different angles! If a man dies one requires proofs. Without proofs the court doesn’t agree to consider a dead as a dead.

As the court came to my mind, i got trapped in various thoughts. The case that police prepared means papers related my death would be placed before the court. First they would present F.I.R and then the charge sheet. The people who signed on papers, eye witnesses would narrate the Lord Magistrate the story of my death either seriously or lightly. A certificate that I had died in an accident would be presented and yet it won’t be a surprise that driver may be declared innocent. Influenced people don’t face any punishment. From the very beginning of the procedure they keep many let outs. Bribe them, and anything can be done. There are plenty in the government and non-government sectors who welcome bribe. Corruption is everywhere.

‘I was wild, crazy, and senseless. My mind was a rotten watermelon. I myself had intentionally thrown for the suicide.’ With such kind of arguments you can free yourself from the greasily punishments of the courts. If you don’t want to o to jail on swearing of the Gita you should tell a lie and save yourself. In the Kaliyug –the modern times it’s a fashion to tell lies or withdraw yourself even though you were a witness. The truth-lovers have to bear bullets like Gandhi or have to crucify like Jesus.

But suppose instead of two years or four year jail, simple imprisonment or life time, he is to be hanged, and before his head is put into the noose, and he is asked, ‘What’s your death wish?’, he should bluntly say, ‘Yea, for a Dalit who never had been a citizen of this country, but a slave, and bore the misery of his existence, I have shown manly courage to give him freedom from the pains of untouchability, from the slavery. I did a good service that was to be done. In a splendid programme of Minister for the Social Welfare, he should give me a certificate of my courage. And also arrange that my photographs be printed in the newspapers and news be broadcast on various news channels.

And then the sun went down. My relatives and neighbouring people had already come to take away my body. My father who had grown very old because of life- long labour was almost in tears. The Mother who bore eight children had died early. Till the mill ran everything was well but as it stopped my father had unwillingly to join the centring work. Hard earned money received from the mill was spent in the marriages of brothers and sisters. I was the youngest and unmarried one. I did B. A. with Gujarati but in the growing crowd of the unemployed ones, I couldn’t get any job. Like my brothers, I had to join a plastic factory to work on yarn. Because of my accidental death my family members had been broken. Crying and consolations were going on. I became a mute spectator and watched everything. After legal procedures, my body was handed over to my family members. It was now twilight. In the growing dark on the ambulance stretcher my lifeless body reached to my house. My home didn’t remain my home now. It was a house in the Dalit Vas at the out skirts of the village. I slept very happily at the center as my relatives made a circle around me. My family members mostly finished dinner early in the evening and went to sleep. Only I till late night read books under a road side lamp post that was laid down by the Municipal Corporation but today this thing reversed. I had slept early forever and they had to wake up till late night.

Gathered relatives were in a hurry for my last samskara. Sad condition was thickening. I was observing how my relatives took my premature death. No one was ready to keep my body full night. Many worried for the next day wages. From their work place many had come dead tired and without meal. Poverty hung in their homes. And so everyone wanted to bury me at earliest. The crematorium lay very close. Sadness prevailed everywhere. I kept on listening some of the noises that struck to my house walls:

‘Was a jolly man, very amiable one.’ (In reality I never smiled or made fun. I lived very seriously. Loved loneliness. Hardly could I mix up with the community people who wasted their time.)

‘Was quite healthy. Nothing troubled him.’ (In reality I lived in tension. I felt my future financially insecure. And at heart there was always concern for society.)

‘Was a bright student. Did B.A.’ (In reality I never got first class. Had passed S.S.C. at the third trial.)

My body was decorated like a groom. With heart breaking cries I was lifted. I felt it much that till the crematorium I was to be a burden. Four bearers of my body began to move hurriedly like electric current. An open crematorium for the Dalit lay little far behind the crematorium of the upper class that possessed all facilities. The tradition of burial was maintained still. The rough road to crematorium was dark. In the dim moon light the bearers and the followers were speedily moving ahead with the utterance of Ramnam. Before hand, some young men were sent with hoe and spade. They kept ready for me a two feet deep rectangle pit. On a sudden wind blow as the steady lamp goes off, after resting me in the grave my relatives too cried loudly and then became silent. Over me was laid down a soil layer. I couldn’t stop laughing when I heard words of my relatives who came to make it sure that I was buried well. When they were convinced that I won’t be able to come out they grew quiet. The fragrance sticks continued to burn on my grave. All my relatives who came to the crematorium had left. They believed that I was engraved well. But no...

In reality was I rested in the grave? Before long I had come out of my body. I am completely free now. Free from social rigidity, superstitions, ill customs and traditions! Free from poverty, unemployment, dearness, family responsibility, social dealings and practices and tension of livelihood! Free from disease, sickness, pain, and untouchability! Free from class, caste, regional, linguistic, religious, educational differences! Free from insult, disrespect, neglect, and laws and acts. Nobody can engross me in the cases of thieving, loot, murder, violence, rape, smuggling, hoarding, or corruption! Now I don’t have any fear of communalism, riots, burning episodes, or curfew because-

Till today I was a citizen of free and democratic country. Now my citizenship license has been cancelled. Now I am not even the slave of the word citizenship. Now I am like a freely moving traveller or like a wanderer. I have got freedom from all sorts of problems and troubles. Now I can walk freely anywhere...

Harish Mahuvakar, ‘Ame’, 3 / A, 1929, Near Nandalay Haveli, Sardarnagar, Bhavnagar 364002, Gujarat, India. Cell: +91 9426 22 35 22 Email: