Friday, March 23, 2012

North East Chronicles -10: Ronga Aloo - The Hero!

(In my last article, we saw how Ronga Aloo had become a villain, but also became a teacher of some valuable insights in that thing called life. In this narrative, we will see how Ronga Aloo became a hero and a saviour for the same person!)

The power of context decides the impression of something in life.  The simple Ronga Aloo, which played Jekyll and Hyde with his mind, is one great example.

The second tryst with Ronga Aloo happened about 6 months later.   This time the situation both was different and the similar.   

It was a Thursday.   They were onto the usual inspection of the refinery in terms of how the fiber optic networking work was going on.  After couple of hours, he settled down in the server room to write the project report and plan for the next week - this was a routine exercise, discussed during the regular Friday morning review with his customer. 

The cold air from the conditioner did not expose in terms of what was going on outside the refinery.   When he came out of the room, he could see only empty halls - lights were switched off.  And the usual morning chaos was substituted by silence.

It was bemusing, but he still went inside to take the printouts for the next day's meeting.   When he came out of the building,  there were only few souls left around.   He set to the main building on foot, as he could not hitch a ride - no vehicle was around, either.  

As he neared the main building, few people were leaving.  And there was one guy who he had seen in the township.  He was not even an acquaintance. This guy, an administration officer (AO) at the refinery,  who was getting into the CISF jeep.  He offered a ride till the main gate.
The CISF jawans barricaded
the refinery gate with sandbags

When he got off the main gate, it was a different sight.  The CISF jawans were sand bagging the gate and mounting couple of LMG's.  One of the jawans waved at them and briefed them on the ongoing activity.

There seemed to be an escalation of violence in the vicinity - the Army, perhaps, had led a successful crack down against the militants.   The militants had responded by announcing a total bandh in the surrounding districts.  The security forces - the Army on the streets, and the CISF (Central Industrial Security Force) guarding vital installations, reciprocated with patrolling and ring-fencing respectively.

The CISF  allowed them to step out. The AO and he, had to reach the township.   The distance between township and the refinery was about 4 km.   In the burning sun, walking seemed to be a bad idea.

After half an hour, an army convoy was passing by.  He looked at the soldiers with little interest, but nevertheless waved at them.   One of the soldiers, said ' Oye, township jaana hai kya, chad jaa... drop kar denge!' (Hi, do you need to go the township, Get in, will drop you). 

The army truck carried
him to the safety of township
Heart and lips full of gratitude, the AO and he, got into the back of the truck.  The soldiers generally seemed to be in a relaxed and chirpy mood.   They belonged to the Assam Rifles, a premier regiment in the Indian Army.  They were heading towards Bokaghat junction.  Apparently, there was some commotion and firing on the police in that area.  

The army jawans (soldiers) asked what they were doing in the refinery.  The AO mumbled about doing some paper work.  He said that he was contributing in the making of the refinery, creating their network infrastructure. 

The loudest of the jawans said 'acha, aap log tho compooter kaa kaam karthe ho!  Ham log ko tho sirf bandook pehchaan hai'  (Good, you guys work on the computer.  We know only guns) and the entire group burst into laughter.

The jawan briefed that there was a 72 hour bandh called by the militants, and army platoons were stationed in areas expecting trouble and violence.   He advised both to stay at home till Saturday atleast.

After some 15 minutes, the convoy dropped them near the township approach road.  The weather seemed to improve, with the sun hiding behind the clouds.  The walk was comfortable and silent. Some time later, they said their byes, and reached their respective houses. 


As he opened the door of his house, a small white paper fell to the floor.  It had been deftly folded and inserted into the key hole.   He opened it and it read thus - ' Dada, I have just left for Bokaghat and going to Guwahati, as I have to go to Kolkata.   Understand that it is a 72 hour bandh.  Sorry and take care.'

This friend, a Bengali, had been really fidgety about staying for more than a week, and had requested him to go back to Kolkata.   He always sounded home sick - all through the day.

Laughing at the note, he nodded his head.   He changed clothes and stepped out for a nice walk towards the township canteen for lunch - the breeze was intense, but not so warm - reflecting the mood.   The sun had relented and was taking rest behind the few grey clouds.

The canteen was closed!!!  A board said - 'Closed.  Will open on Monday.'   Life just became difficult.   A screaming stomach - and again alone.   He walked towards the main road again - a long walk with a rumbling stomach.

The usually busy
booth was also shut
The result was a disappointment.   The shops were closed.   The usually busy telephone booth was shut.  Not a soul was to be seen.   His heart sank, and a hot, heavy sigh came out of his nostrils.   The stomach responded by screaming louder.  

Reluctant and confused, he walked back towards his house.   As he entered the house, in his friend's room - he could see ronga aloos.  His friend, before leaving abruptly, had bought these from the neighbouring farm.  This was his friend's staple food and turn to cook.

As he boiled rice, he reflected on his situation.   Now he was stuck for 3 full days in the same place.   Waves of panic washed up his mind-shore, but the screams of hungry stomach killed the din.

He opened the bag of ronga aloos.  Peeling the skin of three of them, he cut them into small pieces and fried them in a pan.   Some masala was added, and then some salt.

With boiled potato and fried-and-mashed ronga aloo going into his stomach, the scream became silence.   The anxious wait began.   He read old newspapers ( papers came two days late to the township), watched Doordarshan's monotonous broadcast and even tried to sleep.   He waited, killing time.  

After three full hours, nothing happened.  Things were normal.  


He made ronga aloo mash
-and ate!
His digestive system had accepted the Ronga Aloos without a protest.   The stomach was happy and he was relieved.   Now he could survive the 72 hours easily.   An alternate plan which crossed his mind more than few times - going to Guwahati somehow disappeared.

He would try mashing, frying, baking - the ronga aloos, like a kid - trying different things with a single toy.   The three days passed.   The mundane survival - reading old news papers, watching Doordarshan and sleeping continued but was acceptable, even enjoyable.
Ronga aloo - the hero

Never was the insipid so inspiring.  This was inexplicable.   His fears around the ronga aloos vanished. Most important of all, the ronga aloos had became his friend, saviour and his hero.


Monday morning, his friend rang the door bell.   He was looking at a smiling and triumphant face behind the opened door.

-The One

( Pics Courtesy Internet)


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