Tuesday, August 23, 2011

12 Sept 1997

It was a regular train running between Gaya and Patna. A daily passenger train. Taking a 4 hour time for what should take about two hours. But, it did not matter. Everyone is used to it. Halt of a train for an hour or so at one of the midway stations does not affect anyone anymore. This abnormality has been weaved seamlessly into the normal lives of people who take this train regularly. Train going from Patna to Gaya on the morning of 12th Sept 1997 halted at Nadma, a small station, more nearer  to Patna than Gaya. Sitting in one of the dusted, unkempt seats was Dr Arvind Agarwal, a practicing physician from Gaya. As the train halted, few people got off and few more went aboard. After a few minutes halt, the train started.

When the train gathered speed, the scene inside one of the bogies changed suddenly. Few young people(I do not know, whether they had their faces covered), took their pistols out and asked everyone to take out their belongings. Money, jewelry, watches, anything valuable was to be presented to them. Delay in response from the passengers resulted in harassment and beating. As people started to take out their hard earned money, their small ear rings, nose rings, necklaces etc, one of the young boys with a pistol noticed a lady sitting in the corner. She was newly wed, he told himself. She was pretty, he thought. He needed more than just her jewelry. He needed her. He needed her body. He started molesting her. Her meek husband, seating beside her, was kept shut by a slap and a pointed gun.

"Paise to aap logon ne le hi liya hai, kam se kam uski izzat to rehne dijiye", said Dr Arvind, unable to keep silent with the scene unfolding in front of him. He said politely, hoping that the inner goodness in men will win over the pointed gun. He was wrong. No more words were said. Neither by the young man nor by the Doctor. The pistol spoke. Twice. Two shots in his stomach. He fell down from his seat. He clutched his stomach, trying to prevent the flow of blood. Being a doctor himself, he knew that loss of blood will kill him, more than the wound caused within by the two bullets. As he fell down, panic crept inside the passengers. The young man who had shot froze for few seconds. But the guys with him pulled the man away from the scene. The other co-passengers all started running away from the bogie. As the train slowed down to stop at the next station, Nadaul, the bogie was empty. As the train stopped, the whole train was empty. He was still alive. Bleeding to his death.

I came home from school. As I entered, I saw Papa at home. Isn't he supposed to be at his office, I asked myself. 'Doctor Uncle nahi rahe, beta', Papa said answering the question in my mind. He had just returned from Shamshan Ghaat. And then he told me how it happened, as per the reports and a few eye witnesses. He was sad. The Doctor's wife, herself a doctor repeatedly said,'bas, agar mujhe samay par khabar ho jaati, to main unhe bacha leti'. Papa had lost a dear friend. He had been good to our family. Coming in god-forsaken hours to see us, if any of us were not doing well.  We had lost a kind soul.

He was not a hero. He did not want to die. He knew that if he had been silent, he would have come home to see his wife and children. It would have been another day in his office from tomorrow. But, May be not. Once, you see a crime being done in front of you, you are not the same human being. Speaking your mind, standing up to something takes a lot of courage. Doubly so, when a pistol is pointed at you. And he stood up and spoke. Because, something more than money was at stake.  

If I had been in that position, I do not know how I would have handled or behaved. May be, it is easy to say while sitting safely at home that I would have flung my arms and would have kicked their ass. It would have taken just one kick at their hands to remove their pistols and then I would have overpowered them with the help of the other people. Reality is different. Unless, you are facing the situation, you do not know how your mind would work. Whether I would have been able to overcome my fear to say something, do something, I do not know. Probably yes. We do not know what we are capable of. We do not know our own limitations. Under stress and adverse circumstances, sometimes, power and courage comes from within, which we do not know before that it even existed.  We sometimes do things, which are beyond our capacity under normal cases. But, faced with a task, a problem, when we know, there is no other way out but to fight with dignity, to use all your mind, power and wit, sometimes, who knows..we may emerge victorious. As Premchand defined Courage(Sahas) as – ‘Bhay ki parakashtha ko hi sahas kehte hain’ (Courage is nothing but a fear beyond a border line).


  1. One cannot really predict how one would react in similar situations. I have done it ( on a lesser danger scale) a few times and came out unscathed, but the they were all a touch-and-go thing. The situation could have worsened for me in the next moment.

    Dr Aggarwal could not have acted differently, could he? Being the person he was, he had to interfere, or he would not be what he is, for ever, to himself.

    There are such instances too, when one has been afraid, when one has been untrue to oneself. That haunts one forever.

    Premchand's definition is so true. Courage is the next step, a step of recklessness, just beyond the limits of caution. A few will dare to cross that line, come what may.

    An unforgettable post.

  2. yeap there are such instances when one have to be untrue to him/herself.

    Nice sharing...

  3. i loved the last bit, true, its very easy to sit back and give arm chair comments but difficult to garner courage to stand against wrong-doings. Its definitely a message for many people out there including me.. loved the post.. keep writing. its amazing to read what you have to offer ..

  4. I don't know what to say. He surely was a man of substance and may rest in peace.

    Premchand's quote in the end is beyond admiration, I haven't read him but now I feel I should.

    Thank you for sharing this, following your blog now...

  5. Engrossing read. Situations do make heroes and villains alike.

  6. dono what to say? it happens . it was only one inch distance to press the pistol which took his life n scattered his loved once. how cruel were they..but the people who left doctor alone were more cruel then those rioters

  7. I am ashamed to say that I was one of those who thought it was better to walk away. until i read the kite runner by Khaled Hosseini and realised that if you have to live your life with guilt like that, its better to die a sudden noble death. i hope i now have the courage to stand up and speak up.

  8. Really sad

    Do let me know more about Paris and Amsterdam, will be there for a day each

  9. Hmmm, Great to see people who stand up for others. It is next to impossible to gather the courage to speak in-front of a man carrying a gun in hand and lust in eyes.

    Nice write up ;)

  10. Very poignant...left me thinking. We discover out true selves only during trying circumstances - most succumb, a few rise to the occasion.

    God bless the Doctor's soul.

  11. A very thoughtful post. We all most of the time consider ourselves heroes in the situation where we would not have dared uttering a word, cause the reality is way more different and horrifying than the thoughts and imaginations.

    It must have taken all his stones to stop that guy from harassing the newly wed girl. It must have. And such people, though they lose the most important part, and that is their life, they are always remembered and yet they are considered intimidating and mothers stop their sons to be the heroes of situations. He'd be granted peace in the life hare after, i pray.

  12. All I can say is I wish no one in their lives has to ever go through such a test. A very difficult situation for a man where 2 words can cost him his life, and more than that...lives of his dear ones!

    I don't know what would I have done. In my heart of hearts...I don't want to know either!

  13. Balan suggested me to read you. You have been visiting my space for sometime now I know.

    This post - set me thinking. Yeah; anyone would say its easy to go about your business. But the doctor did what he was supposed to do. If he had not acted then that way; he would have sure lived with guilt for the rest of his life.

    Thats what set him apart. Unforgettable; will watch out for more of your posts. Thank you.

  14. Bala:

    Thank you very much for reading it. It was a tough time for us and which also set me thinking about how I would deal and react in a situation like this. I have not found the answer yet.


    Yeah..circumstances make us what we are..


    Thank you. Hey..please write a happy story next time..ok?


    Welcome and Thank you. Appreciate your insight.


    We are sometimes..slave of the situations..


    We have a habit of running when it is time to act and do something. I have never been in a situation like this before, But I know, that I am not the one to run away..


    There is nothing to be ashamed. Practically, it is a difficult decision to stand up in the face of a barrel. But then,
    probably, thats what courage is.

    Pesto Sauce

    What you are planning to see...One day is too less ;)




    Thank you.

    Its not for everyone, I know..but, sometimes occasion demands to shun our fear and act.


    Thank you. He left a lesson for us all.


    Danke Schon :)


    I do not want to know either. But may be...deep inside, we already know the answer.


    Appreciate your coming here..I agree with the guilt part. It is something which no one wants to live with.

  15. http://sameoldnewstuff.blogspot.com/2011/08/woh-lamha.html
    im sure you would want to read this :)

  16. Very brave of him. One, perhaps, doesn't know or realize until he faces such a situation. However, I do believe that more and more people could and should be trained and nurtured in a way, right from the childhood, that doesn't keep themselves locked down in such situations.

    As for me, I can frankly say that, from the childhood, I have been taught to keep myself away from trouble. But, then, there were instances, where I could see someone standup and face these real life challenges. I guess, that also teaches us a lot.

  17. Psycho:

    Its true that our upbringing determines to some extent, how are we going to react to different situations. And I agree that a basic physical training in the army or police would help everyone and it will at least free us of that fear..