‘THE GOOD ROAD’ and ‘DHANAK’
In the final years of my school, I used to attend a typewriting class early morning before school, along with my older sister who was then in second year of college. It was sort of mandatory for youngsters like us to learn shorthand and typewriting. It gave us an edge in the job market.
In a few months, my sister landed a job and her timings did not allow her to attend the class, so I used walk the half kilometre alone. One just walked everywhere – to school, to tuitions, market, friends’ houses, cinema, wherever. Thane had just got a local municipal bus which plied between ‘3 petrol pumps’ and the railway station with a few stops on the way. It was a novelty on the road, but we did not think it was for us. Autorickshaws had not yet entered our roads, lanes rather, and taxis and tongas were availed only on special occasions.
Winter mornings, when I walked to the class, it was still very dark and the road was deserted. In fact, Thane was ‘lovely, dark and deep’ and green everywhere in our childhood. Even in daytime, if we ever had to take the Ghantali temple road, we just ran through the red brick lane, with its canopy of trees which kept out all sunlight. We had all sorts of fearful stories about many roads, but somehow I did not much fear the road to my class, partly because it was a main road and partly, it had become a habit.
One morning, Appa suddenly asked me, “Are you not afraid to go out alone in the dark morning?” Maybe it was not really sudden. It might have been on his mind for long, but being a sensitive man, not wanting to instil any fears in his girl children, he had not voiced his concern. I answered with a quick, “No, afraid of what?” but as I walked that day, I kept thinking what I had to be afraid of. And that same day, I heard a hazy figure standing under a tree on the way, whistling softly as I passed on the opposite side of the road. Perhaps he was waiting for a factory staff bus. It struck me that I had been hearing this whistle everyday but did not connect. I just walked on, though not, as usual. I became a little afraid. I understood my father’s question. I do not remember if the whistling continued, but nothing happened and soon it was summer and the course was completed as well.
In later years, before the age of mobiles, it just happened that I travelled a lot alone and sometimes, unwittingly, gone through routes which are considered unsafe – more out of ignorance, delays or roadblocks. Later on, friends and relatives would issue warnings and ask me to be careful and cautious. Fortunately, nothing happened and I am thankful to God for my safety.
Some years ago, I saw this beautiful film, The Good Road. It did not have any known names. I wonder if it ever made it to the cinema halls. I watched it on Youtube. Perhaps it was a Gujarati film with English sub-titles. In two unrelated stories – two young, lost children, try to find their way home. They encounter all kinds of people, experiences. Danger lurks in every corner and sometimes, they have a close brush, but they are unsuspecting, innocent and trusting. They reach home quite unaware of the dangers that they have passed through.
Dhanak, a recent film by the ever reliable Nagesh Kukkunoor, tells the tale of an orphaned sister and blinded brother, who run away from their uncle’s house in a small village in Rajasthan. The sister is committed to getting the brother operated at a hospital in a faraway town, and having his vision restored. Here again, though their trust and innocence stand exposed to danger all through their long journey across the desert, the goodness in strangers and unexpected quarters saves them from evils and reaches them to their destination.
In journeys, literal or figurative, concern and caution are important, but it is worth trusting in the innate goodness of the human spirit. I believe in The Good Road.