SKP

SKP

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

THE TIMES OF S.K. POTTEKATT – 5



This is about a bitter experience Pottekatt had to face from his countrymen and see how he handled it. Normally one would have blown one’s top but our man took it in his stride. Pottekatt wanted to visit Marchinson Falls and he had to charter a ship from Uganda. Unfortunately no ticket was available for at least six months. Taking the bus was the only option left. 

Thus Pottekatt took the bus to Maseenthi , 163 miles away from Kampala. From there he had to travel further 45 miles to reach at Buttyaba.

Pottekatt had carried an introductory letter to one Mr.Mehta of marine Department. Later on he found that there was no need of any such letter. Mehta received him with open arms.

The tickets are sold out for the next six months. Don’t worry, you can stay with me. Mehta said.

Marhinson Falls was 70 miles away from Buttyaba and there was no itinerary through land. Mr. Mehta decided to approach Mr.Singh, marine Dept head clerk .

Its better to meet Commander Stevension. Things are beyond my capacity. 

Preetam Singh himself took Pottekatt to the Commander. He was known as “Gandhi Stevension” among the Indian diaspora. Such a gentle soul. Stevension also expressed his helplessness. 

I shall undertake fast unto death, Pottekatt joked.

OK, I shall make a try. If the passengers are willing, you may join.

Pottekatt took the ticket costing Rs.50. It was a December morning in 1949.The group was from Maharashtra. In he went with his luggage. Mr.Mehta explained everything to the leader Mr.Kodi. He didn’t utter a word. He went in to consult with his fellow-passengers and emerged half an hour later.

We don’t like an outsider traveling in the ship chartered by us. You can collect your luggage and go.

It was an insult. Pottekatt was no outsider. He was a no less an Indian than the passengers from Maharashtra. Mr.Mehta got furious. He started arguing with them. Pottekatt stopped his friend , collected his luggage and quietly walked out. In spite of having the Commander’s permission and possessing a valid ticket. 

The regional feeling and the anti-South Indian bias were at work. Pottekkatt took it with equanimity. He might not have harbored any animosity towards them. For a traveler, this is the right frame of mind. Keeping one’s cool under all circumstances. No one can dismiss it as a meek retreat. In fact one needs tremendous self-control to do such an act.

At last, Pottekatt was happily accommodated by a group of Gujaratis who traveled in a chartered ship just like the Maharashtrians. The journey started at 9.30 in the morning. Pottekatt noticed with dismay that the blacks were shoved into a separate tug where they lived it up with music and dance.

At the next stop, Pottekatt set out to explore the land. He wanted to set foot in a village unexplored by Indians. The natives would rush towards him in wonder, he fancied. Nothing of that sort happened. A Gujarati Muslim came forward to greet him from one of the three shops run by Indians.
He roamed through the village where the Chief’s memorial caught his attention. It was built by the British as a thanksgiving gesture to their puppet. The Chief was a terror who fleeced his subjects for fulfilling the greed of his white masters. Luckily a youth came forward who waged a one-man war against the ruler. He beheaded the ruler and walked 200 miles to surrender to the police. 

You can give me any punishment, my people are saved. He declared.

The British hanged him. And they made a memorial to their puppet king. Pottekatt felt that it was a memorial to the revolutionary youth.

He knew which side he was on.

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