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Opinion: A snip of a trip

Midway between Muzaffarnagar and Roorkee along the Grand Trunk Road lies the sleepy town of Purkazi. It boasts of a couple of primary schools, a single-window post office and a bus stop where suburban buses stop for a while.

india Updated: Mar 31, 2006 04:33 IST
G.K. Gupta

Midway between Muzaffarnagar and Roorkee along the Grand Trunk Road lies the sleepy town of Purkazi. It boasts of a couple of primary schools, a single-window post office and a bus stop where suburban buses stop for a while. People on their way to Hardwar, Dehradun or Mussoorie have to pass through this town. This is where motorists take a short break for tea and snacks at the wayside shops dotting either side of the road. Years ago, I would, once in a while, pass through Purkazi  with a colleague on our way to the Bhel factory near Hardwar.

We’d stop at a particular shop which had earned a reputation for its chaat, tea and hot samosas that it served throughout the day. It did not take long for the shopkeeper to recognise his old customers and he was happy to see us.

Once our halt was much longer due to a heavy downpour. We enjoyed this forced stay among a motley company and found ourselves talking to a well-built middle-aged man. He was introduced to us as Chaudhry Ram Singh from a neighbouring village Kheri. Though in simple dress, his bearing and the glint in his eyes betrayed that he was an affluent and influential person.

He invited us to his village, some three kilometres away from the main road, to taste fresh gur that he declared was more delicious than any ‘celebrated chocolates’. Not so much for gur that could rival chocolates but for the opportunity to be in a village as guests of an influential person, the idea was appealing. We agreed to make a visit on our way back.

After the rains, the weather had become pleasant. But unfortunately the rains had also washed off the address our driver had noted down on a piece of paper. But he was confident of locating the place.

Just before Purkazi, he turned into a dirt road passing through fields. We were sure the villagers would guide us to Chaudhry Ram Singh. There were not many people around but we got the feeling that they were avoiding us and quickly getting out of our way. We stopped a few persons, but they turned their faces away or took to their heels. They were certainly simple villagers but their attitude towards us bordered on some sort of unmistakable hostility. We stopped at a cluster of dwellings. Hopefully, I tapped at a half-open door. To my utter bewilderment, it was immediately shut on my face and bolted from inside.

Flabbergasted, we abandoned the fruitless search and on our way back stopped at the shop where we had met Ram Singh. The shopkeeper heard us out about the queer behaviour of the villagers. To our great surprise, he burst into uncontrollable laughter. When he regained his composure, he commented that we were lucky that we had not been manhandled. Undoubtedly, the villagers had presumed that we were officers from the government’s family planning wing and had come to carry out vasectomy operations, as stories of such forced operations on unwilling males were rampant in the area those days.