Thirty-five long years have passed I left this parish. After we were devastated and deserted from Pakistan during India-Pakistan partition, we came to India. For, who knows, pretty long, my family kept wandering places for finding a safe haven and then finally we settled here in this Parish. I spent my childhood here. I could never forget this parish. Often in my vacant mood, the memories of this parish come so alive that I feel that the parish must be the same like what it was then.
Whenever a sound of drumbeats or harmonium or snake-charmer flute was heard the kids used to start running madly and hysterically from the small lanes and streets leaving behind every thing to witness the amusement show of monkey juggler, dancing bears, and gymnast feats; slowly juggler used to get surrounded by crowd and irrespective of age and status the spectators would jumble the show. Invariably I got amused and could never resist abstaining from the juggler’s show, which used to capture my mind completely in its amusement so much so that often I used to forget the domestic assignments and the hallmark of debauchery at home was kept reserved for me and my sincerity used to be always at stake.
On one such occasion, the moment juggler’s show got over, I realized that ice block worth one Ana melted and reduced to one Paisa, the remaining would vanish and melt away on reaching home; now I was apprehending double peril, one that I was late and missed timely execution of home assignment and second my integrity was at stake since I honestly bought one Ana worth ice-block and remainder of one Paisa worth to prove my truthfulness. On my way home as my strides forwarded and thinking went ahead the ice-block melted further and further; I was about to enter my lane, my steps staggered and could not move further. In helplessness of the situation, I began weeping. A universal granny of the parish, Sita Nani, was passing by the lane and found me weeping profusely; she became grave and serious finding me in wet clothes. Nani thought that the child has wept so much that he got wet due to tears. She cuddled me with fondness; she kept doting me and cursing the neighborhood, expressing her anguish on them.
Holding me close to her bosom she said, “Oh! My child keep quiet — stop crying my son — tell me who bate you? – — Look a small kid is crying here in the lane and no one seems to take any note or bothered for him—- what kind of people stay in this lane—are they human or enemy of kids —- she cursed people.
I used to get scared of this old dark ugly looking Nani, but today in her embrace and fondling I am experiencing supernatural pleasure. Nani was a very peculiar old woman and her variegated dressing, her manners, her mentality all was very eccentric. A big wide bordered sari with straight hanging palloo and instead of blouse a male like shirt with male fashioned boots; this was her usual attire. Sometimes she sounded illiterate, but on occasions, she could recite couplets, verses and Sanskrit shlokas (verses) and even Urdu shayari (Couplets). It is said that she was very young when her husband, who was in army, got killed in the battle. She spent her entire life here in the parish, but did not return to her parents; she engulfed the entire community under her palloo with fondness like how I am in her embrace. She was caressing me and calming and soothing me. Suddenly her hand touched the ice-block and with lighting speed she understood and grasped the root-cause of the situation and the peril I was in.
Oh! Now I got it —- you got playing with the ice-block in hand – is it not? I narrated the entire episode as it happened without any argument.
Nani got me fresh ice-block of one Ana. I was very much relieved and consoled, but immediately I began reflecting on the solution of other problem; so I signed at Nani to bend down and whispered and poured the second problem in her ear, understanding the grievousness of the situation, Nani accompanied and escorted me home.
Here my mother, who was facing embarrassment before the guest, was burning like a fire-pit awaiting ice-block to serve a cold juice to guests. She straight stared at me with rage, but I instantly hid behind Sita Nani. Seeing Sita Nani, mother’s fury was left worth one Paisa reduced from one Ana. Realizing my pitiable feared state, Nani quickly gave the explanation on my behalf.
“Oh! How hot is weather today – ice got exhausted at ice-vendor and we both had to wait till he got his fresh stock of ice-slabs.”
Listing to Nani’s explanation for the delay, mother even lost her remaining one Paisa worth anger. I handed out that ice-block to my elder sister and felt totally relieved. The episode thus ended. My mother and Nani got engaged in entertaining the guests with their talks and gossips. When the cold drink was served to the guests, I too got cold-drink with all others. After a while I began thinking’ “How poor is Nani at fabricating stories, she is not smart and intelligent enough. Think! If my mother would have questioned her about her own ice-block, for which she waited an hour long there; then what? If this question were to be asked then my cat would have been out of the bag with Nani’s too.”
This was a simple logic, which I was reflecting upon, but the fact of the matter was, in those days elderly folks were never questioned; arguing with aged person was considered manner less and out of etiquettes. By not arguing, the elder’s respect remained intact and safe, while their love for younger people grew more. This was what my parish was and these were how my people were then.
After a while Nani remembered something and she suddenly got up saying, “Oh! I had come out of the house for some work and see where did I come? I have an important work, so I take your leave”; saying so she left. After she was gone, I began thinking that some special things do not happen with me alone; even it happens with these elderly people; they also come out of the house for some work and they too forget. With this notion I was at ease, but just after two or three days I repeated one such episode again.
After the play got over on the ground, I remembered that I had a utensil (bowl) with its lid to fetch curd, but where must it be now? I went and looked for it at sweet-maker’s (vendor) shop, but it was not there also. I could not dare ask the vendor, else he might interrogate me in return, otherwise also I was scared of this sweet-maker; many a time, I have seen this demon personality in the role of Ravan (villain in the epic Ramayana) in Ramlila (Enactment of Ramayana) and more so, whenever I passed by his sweet shop, I had always witnessed him twisting his big moustaches with air of arrogance; it seemed he had a very strange relationship with his own nose; his continuous play with his nose was no ordinary feat; he plagued nuisance to his own nose; now you might understand that his moustaches hardly enjoyed rest averting his eyes. Then I went inside and stood there in a lonely lane next to his shop; all the while I was thinking as to how to solve this big riddle. Slowly a play-write crept in and began his work in my mind.
I could never ever forget this lane of my parish. It was a crooked narrow lane; there was a dead end after around fifty steps. It is said that once in the midnight a watchman and few others were chasing a man, considering him a thief and they ran after him; to everyone’s surprise the man sneaked and entered this lane and then vanished; no one could trace him there. After this incident so many people saw the man. It is said that usually during night he is seen around this lane and then vanishes after entering the lane. I felt that the spirit of this mysterious man had occupied my mind as a play-write and now he was writing the script on my current problem; at that very moment my inner soul alerted and cautioned me.
My thinking caught extraordinary imagination, “Hey man! Before crying on the split milk, the first thing I should do is to reach home as fast as I can because gentleman you are already late; oh! Forget that bowl of curd. Go to some other sweet-maker’s (vendor) shop and buy curd, vendor would give it in earthen-pot and leaf-top to cover it; I mused — hey who would remember if I had gone with bowl to fetch curd; mother and other members of family must be waiting at the door-steps for my return with the curd. Gentleman, sneak quietly into kitchen and slip the curd from the earthen-pot into another bowl and the story would end here. —– Yes man! If at all in the process, some one spots you and if you are questioned, “where is the bowl you took to fetch curd then under the circumstances it is compulsory to begin crying and wailing loudly; otherwise also under such situation if I do not weep my identity would be lost? —— Please remember two lines of dialogue, which you might have to deliver while weeping, so learn it, “I was walking by the side of the road, a fast cyclist dashed me” saying so began crying still louder just to gain sympathy.
Keep crying and then continue—- “good that I did not fall in the gutter—- only the bowl, which I took to fetch crud, fell in the gutter” —– and then sobbingly hand over the earthen-pot to some suitable and appropriate character and then with utter sense of remorse and guilt begin taking a wash and while washing ask in a very low tone full of innocence as to where can I find Iodex –rub? (Pain killer rub)”
Thinking all about the full proof scheme, I was damn happy since with this act of drama, I was to kill two birds in a stone; one that my skills of acting would be tested and secondly that I should be relived and freed from this intricate complex problem. As I approached the house and was near it, I bore pretence of grievousness on the face and began hobbling and limping.
The moment I entered the house, I was taken aback and l felt as if the earth had slipped from under my feet and my fall was inevitable, when I saw the same bowl, which I took for fetching curd, was kept covered with a leaf and it did not take me long to realize that there was curd in it. My feet halted and staggered in the veranda itself. I could hear low toned laughter and whispers from the next room; with the sound of my footsteps, there began a stir and movements in that room. I could hear the remarks —
—- “Look! Here comes a great actor and a Juggler king.”
—-“See — He is carrying an earthen bowl in his hand.”
—-Shu—-shi—u —u “Hey! Talk in low tone.”
I could sense that the matter had assumed a serious proportion and took an unexpected turn; I realized that the play-write, which was in upper of my mind, had utterly crashed down and failed. Notification of my arrival had been conveyed to the head-office and in split of second proclamation of my summons was heard from within the room.
The voice of proclamation given by mother sounded unusually stern; I felt as if my feet have turned into lump of iron. Peeping and glancing through window, I could hear a running commentary —–
—– “now he stopped after taking a step forward — the juggler is drenched in sweat, you may say that our actor king is sweating like pig — now gathering courage he again took one step forward – — Oh no! He has stopped again —- the situation is nearing the bursting zenith, any time you might get to hear a loud burst of weeping —- his face has lost the colour.”
Turning back at the commentator behind me, I expressed my displeasure at him and at once entered the room and stood before mother. I took a stance of utter calmness and alertness in front of the enquiry officer during the interrogation. I not only was maintaining an appropriate distance from my mother, but I was shielding myself with the earthen bowl to avoid chances of thrashing. In a minute all my siblings surrounded me.
Everybody was listening to each and every word of my argument and the statement of my defense in the court with extra caution, weighing the words very intensely and they were reacting awkwardly and mockingly. These people used to burst in laughter before I could utter; it sounded like an unwanted, redundant laughter-loop of TV comedy show. In the begging I kept on arguing and suddenly I changed my deportment and bearing and admitted my offence to their utmost surprise; I thought I might derive advantage of my pretence of righteousness and besides a bird in hand is worth two in the bushes.
Though I accepted my fault, but being an Indian I told a lie that I committed such a fault only once and that too it was quite natural anybody in my place would have committed such fault. You see the juggler’s feats were no ordinary acts; the drum beats, the acts of juggler were extra ordinary. I began narrating all the feats, which I saw and all of a sudden I realized that I am going astray from the main track; people around me were listening with great interest and were enjoying and making mocking gestures at one another; controlling my awkwardness, I turned to my elder brother and asked him in challenging voice, “Can you walk in the sky? so do not mock at those jugglers who were performing this feat.” I was interrupted and questioned, “Were you sent to witness the juggler’s show or you were asked to fetch curd?” Very innocently I replied, “Yes! To fetch curd —— but Ma…. the show of juggler was taking place then only —-“
The same question was asked again, but this time with extra sternness —“With what work you were sent?”
This time in my argument keeping in mind that an explanation was needed here for this complex situation, I began, “Could I have asked the juggler to hold his show till I return reaching the curd bowl home and let us presume that the juggler would have accepted to wait for my return, but could you have permitted me to witness the show at this hot hour of the noon?”
Listening to this argument, everybody became quiet and there was a silence for a while. Often under odd circumstances my cheeks and nose become red with intense emotions and I felt the same now as well. The greatness of my being righteous was thrown to the wolves, instead I was labeled strongly as restive, headstrong and outspoken and not only did the matter end here, I was held responsible for all ill-events and calamities those took place in the family before I was born, beside how inauspicious, sinister and malevolent person I was that a day before I was born the country faced the partition. I failed to understand why mother was so much agonized contrary to her anguish there are joyous celebration in the schools, colleges and else every where in the country on the occasion of 15th August every year. Well seeing mother in that distressed sorrowful mood, I shank my hirsute shaggy head on my shoulders like a hat hanging on hat-stand.
Oh! How much I love and relish skimming clotted cream: it could be judged from the manner I was doubted like suspicious infamous stealthy pilferer cats and monkey are looked upon. The thick clotted cream on the curd was seen from skidded cover of the earthen pot, but how unfortunate moment it was for me, though the clotted cream is six inches away from the spread cover of my hair, but here I was standing helpless with head down for all the shames of my untimely faulty birth.
My submissive stand gave a chance to all my loved ones to accuse me left, right and centre with whatever they could like Indian politicians. My elder brother, who is elder to me just by a year and half exhibited his seniority, who stealthily used to repair watches sitting in the corner of the upper floor in that bent posture like watch-maker and used to order me to bring the tools secretly from the tool-box and also replace them after his job was done; it was a part of his legislation; he also turned the table on me saying, “This juggler has spoiled all the watches except one is working, which got spared from his hands”; while the fact of the matter was my elder brother fiddled with the watches and spoiled them. Oh! God! There is no room left for me to argue since my birth itself was proved wrong and that I was inauspicious creepy man, still I was very well cared in the family. All whatever glass wares were brought; those were brought especially to fulfill my fancy of breaking them. The allegation was also labeled that I did not find peace till I break two three nibs of fountain pens. There was yet another allegation that I cut tear pictures from costly and valuable volumes of good books and that my brothers and sisters had seized them from me to paste them back in the books. There was one very old bicycle lying in the corner of the house for years; its parts were removed to replace and repair other bicycle. This was useless piece of art, which I played with as horse ridding, but the allegation was that every day I had a fall from it carrying bruises, scratching or else get the clothes torn and only I was responsible for its spoiled junk condition.
What all ill-events of what all calendar years all of them are stuck to my ill-fated birth, but one thing one must appreciate and even I too appreciated the immaculate flawless memory of my dear ones.
Gentleman facing and bearing all the odds and allegations my face shrunk with shame and remorse like shrunken stale tomato; meanwhile I was ordered to take a face wash; I felt at last I am relieved, but while I was taking wash, a proclamation of my summons before supreme court was heard.
I thought I would be fondled and patted there, but my speculations went wrong. Further disciplinary actions were being proclaimed.
“Looking at all your untoward, ill-intended, crafty and in disciplinary acts, where there are strong allegations of creating nuisance in general public of the community; besides day by day you are becoming irresponsible, careless and negligent person — When you were sent to fetch curd, you were lost in witnessing the juggler’s show so much so that you even forgot the bowl—— how much troublesome it was for sweet-maker Kiranpal uncle to reach the bowl of curd here.”
The verdict came forth, “You are hereby directed that you shall not go out of the house anywhere except for the school, besides you shall not be assigned any outside jobs.” My brain began throbbing with rage, since at the core of all this it was that bloody sweet-maker, whom I never liked and fancied; to me he was a butcher rather than sweet-maker —– Just because of him my plan failed and got foiled, besides I was scolded badly — with the rage I could see nothing but the face of that bloody sweet-maker dangling in front of my eyes. In that fit I crafted a plan of taking a revenge of this sweet-maker —– “When I grow young and strong, I shall take part in Ramlila and enact Ram’s role against this sweet-maker uncle, Ravan and before enacting the scene of killing him, I shall ask him in front of the audience, “That day you reached the curd-bowl home so that I should get scolding, is it not?” and then for this offence on his part in vengeance I shall shoot an arrow so hard that he would have to be taken to doctor —- then he would understand how painful and torturing is scolding and what price one has to pay for a small mistake. “
Many decades have gone passed this episode, but often when I re-reeled the past and the old parish flash upon my inward eyes, I realize, where we all have come from and where we are today. I feel every thing has slipped and missed and everything seems wrecked. Where is that kinship, affinity, love, respect and intimacy for one another? Where is that parish of harmony? I wish I could become that small boy again, and then go out to fetch curd and watch the juggler’s show forgetting that bowl and the bowl full of curd would reach home involuntarily and then the scolding for my becoming irresponsible and above all my ill-fated birth.
In those days there was utter simplicity in the living and also people were very straightforward, honest and simple. From a distance one could make out that the stranger must be gentle and well mannered. Well combed and crumpled hair with lot of hair-oil; eyes with black-soot (surma); cleaned washed dress –all in all from these petty things the character of man reflected. People observed and gave respect. Humility, humbleness and modesty were considered great virtues then.
Whenever any procession with band used to pass, the sound of band alerted all the shop-owners; they immediately sat in a graceful posture and quickly put on caps, thinking what impression people would carry if remained bare-headed, since in those days bare-head without a headgear was considered inauspicious.
Whatever might be the cast or religion, every newly-wed couple were blessed by all elderly people of all the walks of life of the parish. All people used to attain funeral and shoulder the coffin; no matter whatsoever important work one might have, but he joined funeral procession for a while and showed his mark of respect and love for the diseased and the bereaved family. They used to ask for pardon and forgiveness of the diseased for any mistake or misconduct on their part knowingly or unknowingly that might have heart him during the time he was alive; this was considered obligatory.
The young always regarded elders and respected them for their age and experience; a reverential distance and deference was observed between elders by young. The deference was so observed that the young never used to raise the eyes straight to look into the elder’s eyes and retorting elders in a loud voice was considered manner less. I too never had seen my elders straight in their eyes. My elder brother, elder to me by a year and half, always took advantage of this custom and etiquette of mine. The manner in which he gave commands and orders to me he used to surpass even my grand father and great-grand-father. If he were to find me anywhere outside the house, he would gaze and stare at me in rage and scolded me so badly that I used to burst like popcorn in fear.
In the month of May and June there used to be summer vacation for school and the temperature outside used to soar, so we were not allowed to go out to play in the scorch of noon time. Mother used to make sure that we all kids were in the house, either reading or sleeping in our rooms; making sure, she would go to her room and take a nap. Then slowly we used to plan our escape furtively and quietly one by one we used to leave. According to our preplanned activities, we used to play Gulli-danda, fly kites and we used to leave for eating fruits like rose-apple, mango, tamarind, corinda-fruits; we enjoyed it a lot. The orchards were very far from the house; orchards were very big and the rose apple trees were spread over miles across the road side. Sitting below these trees in the shadow was a great pleasure in that afternoon heat. We used to get lost so much playing seek-hide near these trees that we used to forget as to where we were and that what we were doing. Sometimes we took bath stark naked at the water hand pump and we played in the water for hours or we ran on the dry hot sand there.
How without the aid of telephone news and reports of our activities used to reach home with detailed narrations? The network of sense of belonging and concern was very strong in those days. There was a thick association from man to man and the sense of responsibility was prime concern for one another. Why a kid, may be of any body or from any family or even of enemy, should be spoiled like a vagabond. Sometimes we also used to be the prey of this righteous notion of our people.
In the evening before the court of father, either we used manage by telling lies or we used to quietly accept our offence. Under both the circumstances the punishment used to be same; either fill up water from the hand-pump for the house hold or make bed for all the members of the family and lastly study the lessons sincerely in the deem light of lantern. This was how there was a strong communication network and its manifestations. Sometimes this telecommunication even used to spread unto the school, where the arrangements of suitably taking measures to set right my mischievousness was conveyed to save me from further spoiling and then surprisingly the news was spread in the entire parish about the punishment I suffered at the school and that I was made a cock and crow (Punish a child by making him sit with arms round his knees holding his ears). After the school, it was more than a dying experience due to shame that I used to avert the eyes of people in the parish.
Gentleman have you understood how were the people of my parish then, so my elder brother, who was elder to me by a year and half and today even after fifty years he has remained only year and half old, still carries on with the same air of arrogance of his being senior.
Every Sunday a barber, Moghachacha, came to our house for hair-cutting, but more than hair-cut, he used to give me instructions and guidance. Once in rage, on hear say complaints against me, he cut my front hair to half –inch and remaining to two and half inch and on top of it he held me responsible for this mistake on his part for such hair-cut and finally in his wrath I was clean shaven.
I was very much annoyed with Moghachacha for this act, but whenever he passed by our house, he would come with an excuse to see my clean shaven head and get me chocolate-sweets from Suraj –Sweet maker, but this did not diminish my anger for Moghachacha till my hair grew thick on my head again. But this incident till today reminds me that one should not climb rose-apple tree during rainy season and should not swing on its branches because they are tender and there is a fear of a fall.
Think, a barber was more concerned about me and my limbs than hair-cut; this was what my parish was and those people of the yester years.
The distance between Baxi-Khana and Tadi-Khana was no less, since they were at opposite ends of the township, but the sound of beats of drums of crazy drummer, Jamal from Baxi-Khana not only reached Tadi-Khana, but it cleaned up the ears and brains of people. Not a single ear would be left out of hearing the announcement and proclamation of this crazy drummer. Here I present the illustration of his manner of proclamations and announcements. ——
—– Hear hey! Hear hey!
Till now you heard drum beats |
Now listen to uncle jamal’ feat ||
So namaste to all Hindu brethren |
and salaam to Muslim brethren |
Dham Dhama Dham Dhadam,
Dham Dhama Dham Dhadam |
Drummer’s Proclamation is ——–
that Kankarkheda is no less a place.
The streets of district are uneven;
there are lots of ups and downs
but it were crooked and stony before
This was geographical introduction |
Now listen to my apprehensions ||
—– Hear hey! Hear hey!
Gentlemen please listen carefully
Stranger visiting from outside thought
every citizen is a drunkard here else why every other person sways and
Lurch while walking
Kankarkheda is name of the settlement,
This is all what is the entanglement |
So people waiting in the street,
those sitting on platform and those
standing on shops weighing and talking
those tweeting from houses and
peeping through window slits
Ladies and gentlemen!!!!
You are here by informed that there is going to be a wrestling competition between two wrestlers of the district. wrestler Mangiram accepted the challenge of wrestler Niranjan. Let this be known that wrestler Niranjan has proved his metal on the soil of Lahore and he holds a title, “Ustade-Jama-Ustad” After independence it would be his maiden wrestling on the land of Hindustan, hence it is requested to one and all and especially wrestling-lovers that they should be present to witness the big clash on Monday, 24th January at 4.00pm
The competition would be held at the gym of Ramjani of Kamle’s Takiya. As you know that these esteemed wrestlers are from this district and they are the pride of this district. Their arrival in the arena would be from the opposite ends of the district. —- Wrestler Niranjan shall enter the arena from railway Crossing, While wrestler Mangiram would enter from Cantonment station
Dham Dhama Dham Dhadam |
Dham Dhama Dham Dhadam |
Ladies and gentlemen!!!!
The honored and esteemed person, who
wrote this proclamation and organized it,
is no other than respected Munne Khan
Dang dhadam dang dang dang dhadam.
With this proclamation of the drummer announcer, there was a flood and row of hubbub in the district. Everywhere everyone was found gossiping about the wrestling competition with their own speculations and their expectations. It is always seen that the sports lovers have no barricades either for their imagination or length of their expert comments. Listing to these expert comments, I learnt many things about the wrestling and the wrestlers. This is native and an ancestral district place of stay of wrestler Mangiram; time unknown since his grandfather settled here and wrestler Niranjan came here as a refugee during India-Pakistan partition; his family kept wandering here and there finding refuge and finally got asylum here in this district. The family underwent lot of turmoil and faced hardships, but slowly as the time passed got safe haven here in this parish.
The physique of Mangiram was very impressive; he was in his youth, tall with broad shoulders and strong protruding chest with twisted muscular arms and strides through like a gay elephant gait. He had a distinctive radiance on his face; he was simple, innocent and basically shy person commanding illiteracy. After a lot of efforts found a suitable job for lively hood, finally he began doing a job of coolie at grain-warehouse. He was famous far and wide for his strength, stamina courage and above all his briskness. He used to empty single handedly a truckload of grain-sacks just in an hour’s time; the truck used be parked outside the parish three furlong away from the warehouse; oh! What a briskness; what an energy and stamina he had.
Whenever the truck used to arrive, there was a hubbub in the public. They used to crowd near the truck to watch Mangiram’s swiftness and speed with which he used to empty it covering that distance of three furlong up and down. So many people bate and gamble on the time durations and thousands of rupees used to be on stake. People admired and adored his swiftness, energy and strength and so he was esteemed high and respected. He was known not alone in this parish, but in near by districts and the vicinity. He bore child likes innocence though he was very strong physically; he was a man of few words with feeble voice and whenever he spoke it used to be sparingly audible.
Contrary to Mangiram, wrestler Niranjan was totally the opposite extreme. His wife was fair complexioned but Niranjan was very very dark like coal tar with a skinny, lean stretcher but in a breath starting from Lahore and passing through Bannu Kolahat, Peshawar he used reach Rawalpindi. He used to praise the living style, people, and the natural beauty of his native left behind in Pakistan so much that the listeners used to feel that they were in the world of dream. Almonds, pistachios, walnuts and cashew-nuts and other dry-fruits used to pour from all round in his talks. In the maiden meeting, the stranger was made to feel that he must be sitting amidst heaps of all the dry-fruits all around him. Tirelessly he kept on telling stories of lovely people, their cordial behavior, their harmonious living with love and respect for one another glorifying his past of native Pakistan; his eyes, in emotion, used to glitter with tear and in the present he was living with great agony of devastation of exile.
His fervor and passion of youthfulness was still alive, but the wrestler as what he always describes of himself seems far too difficult imagining.
Often he was seen on the corners of some or the other street or on the shop at Bazaar, telling and self-eulogizing the stories of his glorious past and hence he was known to kids and elders alike. He was always surrounded by the listeners; sometimes I also used to be a party to it. Once I heard from the horses’ mouth that when he was in Pakistan, he used to take, pound full of sweet thick walnuts paste, half pound Almonds, half pound pure ghee, half bucketful milk and two dozen raw eggs as his break-fast on his return from workups every day. He was telling that casually he used to eat fistful of almonds, pistachios, walnuts and cashew-nuts many times during day and then he demonstrated his open fist, which really was strong and big. Fishing the compliments for his magnificence, grandeur and sumptuousness in his life at Pakistan used to give him an eternal pleasure.
His face used to shrink like a stale shrunken tomato, the moment the mention of name Hindustan if emerge during the conversation; he used to tell all about bundles of difficulties, calamities and poverty engulfed him after he came to India; so much so that the Indian climatic conditions are responsible to turn his red cheek and fair complexion to this coal like darkness. He used to curse his destiny that how badly the culminating time threw him from heaven to this hell; then he wiped the tears from his eyes with his shirt-end as if he seemed to be collecting and gathering the pearls of his nostalgic memories. Sometimes while narrating usual stories, he used to turn so agonized —- as if he was been served a punishment of god knows what crime, else he would have remained as white complexioned as British; his technique of narration with utmost care with measured and calculated speech used to reveal the prelude, interlude and finale absolutely clear like crystal.
Once a British office, John D’costa came to jungle for a big game; as he faced the tiger the rifle fell down on the ground. Wrestler Niranjan was on his usual morning walk through the jungle; hearing a loud SOS feared call from the British man, he turned to him; as he was to step towards him, Niranjan saw the tiger and both exchanged askance look; during this exchange Mr. John D’costa ceased an opportunity saving his life, climbed the near by tree. As the tiger was preparing to attack, Niranjan changed his stance and gave a feint to the tiger so hard that it tossed its head fiercely on the tree, laying flat on the ground. Then what? The tiger realized that its opponent is no less than a big-tiger. There was a furious and violent fight between the Tiger and Niranjan; somehow Niranjan got hold of the fallen rifle but there was no sufficient time to pull the trigger, so Niranjan inserted the barrel of gun in the roaring open mouth of attacking tiger, which compelled the tiger to give up the fight and had to face the death since surprisingly the trigger got pulled and the tiger died. The British office took snaps from the tree; it is heard that the British office got the award from the British Government for the velour and courage he exhibited in taking the snaps under such fearful deadly situation.
While narrating this story, Niranjan used to pull up his shirt with both the hands to exhibit scar marks of the great fight with the tiger and sometimes he used to pullout his shirt to show these marks as if the tiger signed an autograph on his chest just before collapsing to confirm that those were the marks of the fight and not any others.
Suddenly he used to change his stance and become very grave and serious and continue his conversation in earnest —–
—–I used to fear three things then; one my youthfulness, second my wrestling and third my courage and valor. Listing to this story of my valor and bravery, lady Jennet, wife of British office, John D’costa just could not believe, but when Mr. John D’costa showed her my photographs with the tiger, she believed it, but then she insisted to see me; day in and day out she would not leave her sulk, for which she sacrificed her meals, but insisted, “I wanted to see this brave man.”
Jennet and John had a love marriage and john had an apprehension if Jennet were to meet Niranjan, she might fall for him, then what would happen of him. But after a lot of Jennet’s insistence, John had to give up and finally he had to arrange my meeting with Jennet. The moment Jennet saw me, she fell for me. One day she got an opportunity to express her love; that day when we two were alone she rested her head on my chest exactly where the tiger left his marks of the claw and said, “Wrestler Niranjan, I wanted brave man like you —— I love you —– now living a single moment without you around has become impossible and difficult for me; I shall take you to England with me.”
But what to do I was faithful and true to my chastity; for this vow I had to sacrifice my English love. She kept on insisting and even promised me that she would marry me, but for this vow of pure chastity, which always held me back. —— he used to take a long sigh of regret and with deep breath he would turn to sky for some time; then when he used to descend his gaze from the sky back to earth, his eyes used to fathom the influence of the story in the eyes and faces of listeners. There used to be lot of logical and natural question marks floating in the eyes and minds of listeners as why did he marry at all when he was that touchy and staunch about his celibacy, but giving respect to the emotions of others was considered moral decency. In those days people believed any thing and every thing without doubting its merit, they thought it better to maintain peace and harmony in the society; it was healthier to accept rather than creating unnecessary bad scene and taste by doubting ingenuity.
Listening to the story from Niranjan of his wrestling with tiger gave a birth to a strong desire of witnessing his wrestling with Mangiram. My mind got engaged in finding a perfect reason to get permission from home to witness this wrestling between Mangiram and Niranjan. Those days there used to be very strict discipline and lots of restrictions were observed in the household. So I started reflecting on ideas to get the permission. After a long churning of thoughts and ideas, one idea hit in the bull’s eye, but its execution was far more difficult task,”I might have to be very very goody and might have to bear a pretence of well disciplined and straightforward person so that the goody ness of becoming a well behaved person till tomorrow could be enchased in obtaining the permission to witness the wrestling.”
In the spree of being goody, I lined up all the shoes on the rack, but then I thought that this seems an ordinary job, so to impress all the members of the family, I took out all the old unused historical shoes and sandals from their hideouts from the deck, some shoes had no pair, I rubbed them all vigorously consuming three shoe-polish small cans to give such a shine that dark faced Dulichand uncle, who was darker than the coal tar, could even see reflection of his face on the shoes surface.
I arranged and decorated all the shining shoes, sandals, slippers in the open place so that it would be visible to all passersby, so that I might get appreciation for this good job. My bad luck, an unknown stranger saw this exhibition through the open door and entered the house; began bargaining, thinking that it was a scrap-dealers’ shop. In annoyed tone due to his behavior, I questioned him, “Does it look like a shop to you?” he retorted, “If it is not a shop then why put up a display like shop?” He looked around in the interior of the house and he could make out that it could not be a house of scrap-dealer, yet inquisitively he began asking, “So many shoes ——?” I took courage and said, “Uncle thanks a lot for showing keen interest in these shoes. You need not intervene and interrupt. Please leave immediately before someone sees you here, else you might face a problem. Oh! Thank lord, seeing my face, the poor stranger left. At that hour of the day all members were there in their rooms, no one was out else all these shoes would have showered on me. Well! I realized my mistake and change the place of shoe exhibition.
There was lot of good work left and thinking that people usually create hindrance in good work, I began doing things fast. It was good that there was no body around here so without disturbance I cleaned my book shelf and cupboard and arranged the books and note-books properly and even did the same with elder brother’s cupboard.
Now that I was a good boy, just a while ago some guest had come; I cordially with respect escorted them to the drawing room and intimated mother about their arrival. Quickly changed clean dress and without waiting for mothers’ instruction, served water in clean glasses to the guest. Mother looked at me with a smile of appreciation; I thought, come on my account of appreciation was credited with the first admiration and approval. Slowly my other jobs should be seen and it also should be appreciated and it was quite possible that I might achieve a place of respect in the family due to my virtues as obedient, wise, useful worker and striving for common good of all; once I achieved the position then all the members of family would loose their right of asking, “Where are you going? —- Why are you going??? —– and where you had been so long????” and then I should be bestowed privilege that I could go any where any time and for any length of time without asking permission now and then. While I was lost in this dream world, I realized I must continue good work, so in the presence of the guests, I began watering plants. One lady amongst the guests asked my mother, “He is Amar —is he not? —- We have seen his play, where he was awarded a prize of Best Actor of the state —– it is also heard that he is good at studies and secures first rank in the class —– your son is very promising.”
I always used to listen to my praises from all quarters, but today I was more disturbed listing to the lady’s praises for me. Yesterday someone was telling some boy was affected with evil eyes and the boy fell ill. It is heard that person doing good deeds and good boys usually get influenced by evil eyes and if this would happen to me then how would I witness the wrestling. I immediately went to kitchen and applied a black spot on my forehead with soot deposited underneath the pan and tried not to be seen by the guests in the attempt of avoiding evil eyes.
Meanwhile I stumbled across a broom and then the cleaning and broom spree began, I cleaned all the rooms, open veranda, platforms outside house and even began cleaning the lane outside. I was so engrossed in the cleaning work that I did not realize that I was a piece of exhibition for the on-looking neighbors; those pitied me for this act.
“Oh! It seems that he is punished for some mischief.” Said some lady
“—- A very innocent boy— may probably someone else must have played mischief and he must have been wrongly woven in the charges —- should I go and tell his father not to punish him with the punishment of cleaning the lane.”
“—–Wait I bring him home here and when his father would cool down, I shall escort him to his house — his father would understand that the neighbors have taken up his cudgel. —– His father is a noble man — he respects every body — no visitor can leave without being entertained from his house and return empty handed.”
Slowly more people started gathering as if some big serious event took place. Seeing a crowd around me, I could immediately make out as to what they were thinking that I had received punishment. Quietly I reveled secrete in the ears of one of the aunties, “I am not punished, but for proving that I am a good boy, I am working.” I did not disclose the motive for being good-boy. People were pretty smart they questioned me, “What is that great emergency fell on you that you have to prove yourself a good boy of this superlative degree?” I told them, “You would come to know tomorrow.” All dispersed laughing – “Oh! It’s not a matter of punishment; this seems to be some secreting matter and we might have to wait till tomorrow to see what it is.” Now you know how intricate it was to obtain a permission just to witness the wrestling. Just to be good boy was also not that easy; it put me on my mettle.
Then I took a wash and sat down for studies. While my head was glued on the pages of the book, but my mind were busy churning thoughts as to what all good things could be done to show that I was a good boy. I contemplated that though it was a difficult task, yet I continued my attempts; without arguing I gulped bottle-gourd vegetable and small-grained pulse curry and prayed god that no one should be ever cursed like this.
My relationship with my elder sister was very strange; just to tease me she usually cooked bitter-gaud, bottle-gourd, pumpkin and pulses I did not relish. She used to force me to drink milk in one go. Tell me! Could there be any bigger punishment than to eat vegetables and curry of your dislike. When the zenith of lifting up heels against me reached a point challenging my endurance, I revolted by crying so aloud that the neighbors used to know what vegetable and pulse curry were cooked in our kitchen. Often under the circumstances there used to be a compromising attitude on the part of my family people and they would try to pacify me by offering, jaggery, ghee, jam, and thick-cream. It used to depend then on my mood to accept the conspiracy of my people or reject all their offers and requests and declare a threat of hunger-strike. Sometimes the situation used to turn of combing my head, but before it could happen my neighbors listening to my cry, used to rush with different vegetables and curry preparations; some one used to bring some sweets etc. My loud wailing used to become a national bugling like sound of conch-shell indicating the declaration of war; in that feat of mine Hindus, Muslims, Sikh and Christians all participated in that national event. I was fully aware of my strength, but the situation today was very unusually delicate and I had to take each step very cautiously.
I was feeling that everybody seems to be happy with my today’s behavior and that I might get permission to see wrestling tomorrow. While this pleasant thought was budding in my mind, my elder brother entered the room; his eyes fell on his cupboard and realized that there was some unprecedented change in his cupboard arrangement. Before his mental turmoil would take disastrous turn, I told him that I had cleaned and rearranged his cupboard myself. In a doubtful askance he looked at me from head to foot and thought that all his secret weaponry of radio and watch repairing tools, some marbles, kites, and pair of scissors might have been exposed and reported to head-office by me and it was quite possible that I, the juggler, might have stolen some of his secret material. Before the head office would take some action and the matter might take some ugly turn, my brother cooked a plan and he went to cupboard and started throwing the books here and there on the ground and started shouting, “What was a need for this juggler to touch my books and note-books —- he tore some pages from the book.”
I was completely shattered seeing my brother’s wining move with a trump-card, but suddenly I took control of my anxiety and went and hid behind the door. I was feeling that all my efforts were going to go to dogs if mother did not investigate the issue considering the minute details and if she were happen to believe my brother’s story; under the circumstances my thrashing was certain and that I might have to forget all about getting the permission to witness tomorrow’s wrestling feat. Though I was shaken up, yet a newly born play-write in me studied and analyzed the psychology of my brother and I signed at him from behind the door to keep shut and slowly called him behind the door; assuming a very grave face I uttered in his ears, “ Brother you need not worry, your contraband material was very safe and I had kept it in such a way that nobody could notice it and while I was doing this noble job of cleaning and rearrangement, mother was not here, she had gone out to neighbors.”
My brother took a sigh of relief. I also felt relived after I succeeded in putting an end to his conspiracy. In his happy relived tone he gave me a small warning, “Listen! In future take permission before you touch my belongings and clean my cupboard.”
Taking advantage of the situation, I fired in air and said, “Brother how could I had come to take your permission since you were playing outside in the scorch heat and you know now a day I have no permission to go out in the sun.”
Brother understood that still I have a slur against him in reserve so he calmly said Ok! — Ok! It is all right and he went kitchen ward without further arguments, thus perplexity got over and there was happy ending.
The next day morning I got up early and finishing obituaries I took bath and then paid respect to my parents by touching their feet. I was all the while gathering the courage to ask their permission to witness the wrestling, but in my prudent mind a thought crossed and I immediately held me back, since I thought it would look too obvious at this juncture and all the purpose of my effort for being goody boy would be exposed. I could save my skin and then continued my goody goodliness; I went to a temple room in the house and sat worshiping there like students sits to worship in earnest during examination time. My mind was entangled in weighing the logical solutions; if I were to ask for the permission and they refuse, then what? The purpose would be defeated and still if I go, it would amount to disobeying the order. Sitting in front of god with a bowed down head, pros and con were being tossed in my mind. One thing seemed very clear after concentrating the mind by god’s grace that if the permission is sought, I shall be ridiculed and scolded besides the permission would be denied and then if I go to witness the wrestling it would amount to treachery, consequences of which would be horrible. There was prudence in not seeking the permission, instead sneak out secretly without anybody’s knowledge. The god was witnessing thievery in my mind, but I thought I should ask god’s pardon. I began praying god to bless me with a wise trick and thus ended my worship.
It is said birds of a feather flock together and that bird was Madan Singh; we both were of the same kidney. He was elder to me, but failing in examination twice or thrice now he was in my class. Whenever he used to be more loving, he used to say, “I wanted to be with you so I kept failing in examinations.” After a long deliberation with him during the classes, an idea was discovered, but unless the school could get over the idea could not be executed.
After the school we both reached our respective homes and as per our preplanned strategy, truth-lover righteous Madan Singh though the virtues of Madan are ironically described; he came to my house. He wished my mother and with self-confidence spoke, “Aunty, there is a drama rehearsal in the school and the teacher had asked me to summon Amar immediately.” In last two years, I could secure a prestigious position as an actor in the area and in the state, thus with this virtuous feat of mine I made my family proud. I was fully confident that there could not be restrictions to the pretext of drama and thus I got the permission to go out.
The last sentence has to be written in the golden latter in my biography, since with the sentence helped me in keeping my personal liberty intact. With that I could enjoy freedom and experienced life of a vagabond; anyway by virtue of that sentence I was present here on the wrestling ground.
With loud drumbeats both the parties of the wresters amongst thunderous applaud of clapping had reached the wrestling arena. The wrestlers were welcomed by the audience with showering rose petals and garlands. Fully laden with the garlands both the wrestlers were twisting their mustaches with air of arrogance. Besides the parish, people from near by town and cities had thronged the wrestling arena to witness the feat amongst them some wrestler-clans had also come to fulfill the rituals of wrestling.
Everybody was anxiously awaiting the arrival of the chairman and the invited guest of honor. Here as I was trying to sneak through the crowd, I saw my elder brother approaching, I turned my back and started running through the crowd turning my tail in desperation. Some how I managed to come out of the web of that crowd. This was a terrible experience my ears became red as usual. That time I noticed Madan was sitting on a tree branch and he was inviting me up there, but I had a difficulty in accepting Madan’s invitation since I could be easily spotted and seen by my elder brother and his friends. I threw up the sponge and made up my mind not to witness the wrestling. At that time a gentleman saw me there, gauging my mind he came forward through the crowd held my hand and said, “How come you are standing here —- come with and sit besides me there.”
Here I was sitting with the elite section of the society and the color of my face turned completely pale. Sitting persons here were clearly seen by everybody. Now it was certain that my falsehood cat would be out the bag in front of my family. As I was looking for an opportunity to runaway from here, the chairman arrived. He saw me and smilingly said, “So you too have come.” Now my mental condition became still worse thinking that my elder brother would not only slander and slur but would tell it to mother with double force of a proof, “Oh! You may ask chairman uncle if Amar was there or not.” There was a fierce wrestling bout of thoughts going on in my mind.
Here the wrestlers were getting ready. For warming up they began their usual warm-up exercises; the drummers began beating the drums so violently that the ear drums began to shake and the entire atmosphere became very hot with the excitement. When the final call was announced, Mangiram was seen shaking hands with his well-wishers and was approaching the arena at that time Niranjan signaled the drummers to stop playing. As the drums quieted there was an utter silence in the audience.
Wrestler Niranjan raised his hand in vigor with enthusiasm and began addressing the audience, “My friends and brothers — this is my maiden wrestling in free India —- so —- I want to say something”
People turned their ears to listen to Niranjan; his nerves were stretched and in his strong voice he continued, “The partition of nations took place and we became homeless; we were banished; after loosing out everything there we came to India as refugee. After leaving our mother land Pakistan, our land, our property, our earth and sky we found shelter here — please believe —- we were left penniless and impoverished, but passion, ardor and obsession for wrestling has remained intact till date. Today I shall wrestle here but with one bate.”
There was a wave in the audience and people began whispering and voices were heard, “What is bating? How is the bate? Niranjan went stood on a raised ground.
“The bate is — if I loose, I shall with pleasure give my house, which I built with twenty years of my sheer toil and hard work, to Mangiram, but if I win Mangiram should give me his house.”
Listening to this challenging bate, people were taken aback. Mangiram’s eyes reflected fury over this unprecedented terms and conditions of the wrestling. People began chatting and discussing over this issue.
Mangiram’s radiant face was red with fury. He was four times stronger than Niranjan. It was easy to predict that Niranjan’s difficulty in facing Mangiram but the terms of bate created a turmoil in Mangiram’s mind and thus he apparently looked weaken. This sudden change from wrestling arena to house hold matters plunged him in big confusion. Chain of thoughts were up surging his mind; he was very much attached to his house; it was his ancestral heritage; he was deeply related to this house; his mother stepped in this house as a bride; in this house he played as a child and grew here; he did not perceive this house as mere a house of piles of mortar and bricks, but for him the house was his home filled with emotions of thick and thins. He always used feel that his house was like a heart of this parish. The lanes, the bazaar lanes, streets passing over it looked as if they all were the veins and the arteries joining this heart; he could perceive the entire skeleton of the parish. People were watching him to know his reaction, but these thoughts had numbed him to dead silence.
Some people were seen pacifying Niranjan to withdraw his illogical and unreasonable term. Others were pursuing Mangiram to be prepared to bate his house and that he should not withdraw, since he was going to win.
Niranjan was determined and he was sticking on to his terms. Now he had made further announcement that if Mangiram did not accept the terms of bate, he should surrender and accept his defeat. Valorous spur in the camp of Niranjan and the drummer began beating drums with extra enthusiasm with this drummers of Mangiram’s camp also began drumming and followed the suit. Due to the loud competition amongst the drummers of both the side confusion got created in the atmosphere that Mangiram had accepted the challenge of Niranjan.
People were thronging the place from the town. Here any thing and any happening spread like electric current or so to say like wild fire. The term of bate of Niranjan got circulated almost immediately in the entire parish.
Niranjan was standing with red brief and his skinny body was radiating exceptional strength. His eyes Poured rays of confidence and his face were shinning like a person born in purple. Elite were seen busy discussing the issue; there was a tremendous amount of anxiety and confusion amongst masses as to what was happening. People here had witnessed big wrestling, but this was the first time that any wrestler was bent upon bating.
Amongst the crowd from the town which was approaching here, some women folks were also seen; it was contrary to the usual practice that the women folk normally were not permitted at the wrestling arena, so some people got up and were seen making their way through the crowd to stop them. Amongst the women folks were women from the families of both the wrestlers and accompanying them was Sita Nani.
The gentlemen were condemned by Sita Nani, “Hey! You Babulal, —you Munne khan – here you have come well dressed with white caps on head as a spectators and you would enjoy the show at the cost of happiness of this parish by letting them bate their houses for your enjoyment and thrill and gamble their family lives here; keeping your bungalows and houses intact, but if they loose out there houses, where would their families go. I have come here to warn you all guys that I shall not let this happen and I shall not allow to put the houses on bate”. Women folks are seen protesting here.
Niranjan’s wife in anguish shouted, “How dare these folks bate their houses without asking us; who permitted them?”
Other woman said, “How can they think of such a nasty thing? —–“
Another woman reacted, “How could they dare enjoy at the cost of loosing the houses?”
Nani in rage roared, “Oh! These two wrestlers are blockheaded but is it that the people of this parish have lost wisdom…… we shall see how you all people make the children and women folks homeless — — you all call yourself manly. —–“
No one had ever seen Mangiram’s wife ever uttering a word, but that day she also got courage and in rage she spoke, “None of the forefathers have ever thought of bating the ancestral heritage, but this wrestler turn out to be a shame on the family.”
Niranjan’s wife became very emotional, “We came down here like a popper leaving our wealth and everything behind at Pakistan —- what all days we had seen and suffered — here the government officials were demanding our property papers of Pakistan — from where to produce the proof, we came here with only the clothes we had on our persons; empty handed we were running and hiding to save our lives, we have reached here somehow in that dire state. We had no penny – we did not get single penny compensation — we had spent so many years in the slum near cantonment railway station. — The water used to log knee-high during rainy season. Here we had lived each day in misery —– give this realization to Mr. Wrestler and remind him of those days.”
—–She took a pause with deep sigh, “This is a incident of nineteen fifty-two, I am not telling lies, my husband was so desperate, frustrated and disappointed, he lost his heart and all hopes and in that desperation told me, “Laxmi —let us give poison to our kids and we too shall consume it to end this misery.” I told him, “If we were destined to die we will die here, but we shall not accept cowardly death.” We had passed through these difficult times with our patience on stake and the god has blessed us with this house as a reward of our hardship and toil. Person who had many servants at home had to suffer doing menial work of maid in other’s houses here. My husband used to work in the factory during day and in the night he used to do a job of watchman — for our kids we swallowed bitter pills — this was what our fate was then.”
In rage she continued, “It was a mammoth effort we moved heaven and earth by making a little makes a mickle and built this house and this man is bating it on his false prestige and flouting my nest. Brothers! Please give him a piece of mind to relinquish his doggedness while he is wool gathering…….”
Babulal and Munne khan were listening to all this with their head shank down in shame. Sita Nani consoled both the women and assured that nothing of this sort would let happen, else I should hold each of them by ears in front of this gathering. Babulal and Munne khan took out shoe and told Sita Nani, “Take this shoe and beat us, but we are telling you the truth that no terms of wrestling were fixed and accepted; the talks of bate began in the nick of wrestling. You are our sisters; believe us at any cost we shall not let it happen. Have a faith.” The chairman and elite folks are present there. Babulal and Munne khan announces, “Nothing of irresponsible and illogical things would let happen here, so folks go home. Forgive us Nani and take these wrestlers home; we are alive to obey your orders –Nani.”
With reassured mind the women folk left homewards. There was a deliberation going on amongst the chairman and other high profile folks to end this riddle, since it was a matter of prestige of the parish in front of people of the parish and outside people, who all had come to witness the event, so finally it was decided that a sum equivalent to the value of the houses be collected; for which the rich folks consented almost immediately.
Niranjan was bent on his doggedness and he was not prepared to listen to any argument and suggestion, but kept on repeating his terms madly for the game. Finally under compulsive circumstances the event was called off and cancelled.
The wrestling never took place and my two days of efforts of goody goodness went to dogs. Reaching home today the task began with my elder brother. When he realized that during interrogation for late home coming there would be scolding and might that rod be used, he immediately pulled me in his guilt and made me party to it. When it was my tern to clear my breast, I spontaneously said that I had gone to call the brother home. There was an atmosphere of confusion for a while; I thought my skin is saved, but my eldest sister being a party to the juries in this enquiry commission probed a question, “who told you to call your elder brother?” I was expecting this question, which was likely to be raised, so with preparedness I took a stance of composed gestures and in low voice, I uttered, “It is alright! No one sent me, but I went on my own; let me remind you that instance when I was asked to fetch sugar from the kitchen for that aunty, I was scolded in front of everybody for not bringing teaspoon along with sugar and was advised that I must use my commonsense. Today being the first instance where I made an attempt to use my commonsense and see how I am —–tre-e-e-ated —-“. There was a silence for a while and then I only broke it saying, “I too was interested in witnessing the wrestling, thinking in future, if I were to play the role of wrestler in the drama or I might have to direct such scene so observing everything is essential part for my hobby — and for that matter I believe elder brother also had gone there to observe if he might have to write an article on wrestling.”
Listening to my story everyone there was laughing under their sleeves and after a while father turned towards my elder brother and said, “Look how he is taking your cudgel, trying to cover you and you, on the contrary are bearing his slanders. You should be ashamed and then turning to me he said,”You young man, for heaven’s sake, use you’re commonsense only at proper and appropriate occasions and please do not babble unnecessarily; you talk too much. Go pump the water for your brother to let him take wash.”
In your own eyes your own face looks like a stranger, but could we ever think to deny and refuse that it is not you yourselves. Though more than thirty years are gone by leaving that parish, but still I could not dare visualize that it is fallen behind. I do not know and I am unaware that all those acquainted faces are still there or they too might have migrated else where like I did some years back. Those of my playmates, my schoolmates and my buddies of childhood now must have been fathers and grandfathers and must have settled in their lives in their own rights and in their busy routine of life, they might have lost the relevance and significance of the nostalgia. Would it be possible to recognize one another if meet face to face? The time might have transformed all those things by now; it appears as if someone sitting deep in mind is dusting off all those memories when they come alive, but the childhood still seems playful and naughty in your mind.
The childhood memories only have brought me here in this parish and now I am researching my own self here. Every thing here is changed; I feel that I am a stranger loitering in a strange palace here. Where all those things have gone, which I stored and which was kept so well intact deeply engraved on my memories?
A wrinkled face like a web of spider on the face, total gray-haired, it appears as if the loose color has still faded away in several washes, an old haggard man exactly like old scrabbled book of grandparents or like an old epic book of Ramayana having withered soiled pages and some pages from the chapters of childhood are gone lost and the chapter now opened on Lanka-dahan, the ending chapters of Ramayana. This old weak and frail old man was pulling a cart selling groundnuts laying his weight on the cart was barely pushing it. I was perturbed not have been able to recognize this old man; he must have been as much old to this parish as much new I am here today.
In the bazaar as I was strolling trying to locate the childhood faces in the old folks, searching those young faces in them. I felt as if these old folks were a part of exhibition and I was searching the exhibits of my choice and hunt.
I was going through the exhibition of old faces on the street, a middle-aged man with his wife and two kids went pass me and after a while he returned and stopped in front of me and said, “Old habits die hard, Hey! This is no more a sweet-maker’s shop now it is a medical stores —— if not mistaken are you Amar ——? “
There were tears flowing through our eyes and we embraced each other so tightly in love and affection and forgot all about our age and surroundings. The son of the gentleman remarked, “We have not seen our father meeting and embracing anybody like this before.” From this remark, I could make out that these two must be his sons and accompanying lady must be his wife. Before he could introduce them to me, I spoke to them telling, “He is your father later, but he is my chum of childhood first, who helped me and participated in all my mischief of childhood like a cousins of thief Madan Lal; do you get me —– I am an old childhood friend of your father.” With tearful eyes he introduced me to his wife and children — Madanji said, “We all were going to some relations of ours but now I have changed my mind.” and we all receded homewards.
Whole of the night we were feasting and celebrating the occasion of our meeting after a long time; we kept on regurgitating all our memories of our childhood and we kept on talking and talking; it seemed that our gossips stored over the years were never ending though we were tired of sleepless night.
The next day morning Madanji pulled me out of the hotel room. He was then a teacher in a local school; he applied and took leave from the school for several days. I felt that his wife and children could place me, since their imagination met the description of me and my childhood activities narrated to them through frequent reference by Madanji. When we met after a lapse of such a long span of time, we recapped memories of each and every moment of our past and how happy we were, rejoicing to live again those golden moments. The kids had never ever seen their papa so happy, so jubilant and thrilled; we laughed and laughed a lot, we cried a lot remembering those lost dear ones.
This parish has a bigger expanse now. Those hills, hillocks, ponds –lagoons, gardens, wells –water wheels, oil extracting mills, windmills, those desolated ruined temples and those rippling wavy lush green fields, where all those things had disappeared, God knows where; there used to be tall date-tree standing alone in that marshy land, that was also not seen. Oh! Yes! There at the far end there near the jungle was a thatched shanty of an old ascetic (sadhu, holy man); there used to be a thatched shelter underneath which there used to be assembly of ascetics sitting and smoking chillums. All other ascetics had a regular chillum, but this old man’s chillum was special, it was longer in length filled with fresh tobacco, hashish, ganja and burning charcoal ball ; after lighting it this old ascetic used to draw the whole of the chillum in one single draw of long breath leaving only hot burnt ashes; god knows how long and how deep was his breath of this ninety years old thin and skinny old man, who used to throw the chillum on that thatched roof with that burning ashes, but never did the thatched caught fire. We often used to go out in the garden near this old ascetic shanty for studies during examination time and watch this feat of this old man. God knows where that shanty and that assembly of ascetics were gone now.
While I was taking a stroll in the bazaar of the parish with my friend, abruptly I felt I heard a voice of mad-woman Sabo — Yes! It was a semblance; only I could hear her voice —- Madanji was talking to me but I was lost in the memories of those calls of Sabo, her shrikes of madness and throwing of stones at people teasing her and the moment she used to see small kids, she used to raise her arms and head skywards asking god to bless the children. After the fall of evening when no more kids were seen around she used to go door to door and beg for the blessings for the kids in her loving sweet voice. Her voice used to reverberate in the entire parish during every evening. My eyes were searching mad-woman Sabo — where had she gone——-
In my memories Sita Nani is seen holding me tight to her bosoms in affection and I still could feel her loving palms caressing me and fondling my hair. With tearful eyes through the dizziness of the tears I still can visualize those lost faces distinctly.
I could perceive and identify Shamlal hidden under Gray haired head and a face masked with wrinkles; he is a blind by birth. As I touched his cane lying near him, he suddenly caught my hand tightly. When I wished him, he suddenly got up with astonishment while his mind was reeling in thoughts and he embraced me. Only with my utterance, “Good morning uncle”, how could he recognize Amar of thirty years past. I was taken aback by the quickness, alertness and developed faculty of acute mindedness of this blind man. He began talking, “We all could came to your mind — is it not?” – He continued, “One day accidentally I turned on radio and I was thrilled —– some lady was interviewing you —- my guess was right when she addressed you — you had just returned after successfully directing some foreign film —– we were very happy then —- have you heard the old song —- “A beautiful lass is going to her lover’s place” (Gori chali piya ke des) —- if you wish to listen it again I shall take your two kisses——“. We laughed louder but our eyes were sodden with tear. I was feeling that even if the man changes a lot but love and affection never dies; that nearness and warmth of relationship remains intact.
Well this parish was just an asylum for our family, I stayed in here for may be eight to ten years, but the innocent child like mind always accepted it as my own place. In the legal record this parish has remained as my hometown. Till date this parish seems belonging to me and this entire parish has still resided in my mind as it was then.
Three days had gone passed since I came here and I had a return journey reservation for this evening. My going away had plunged Madanji and family in melancholy; they all were very gloomy with the thought of parting. I too was feeling very sad. Madanji suggested me to come back here and settle; if you were to ask me the truth, this was in the upper of my mind that after a long spell of staying away from this parish, I should come back and settle here and bring with me all my world of art here. When I expressed my desire all were very happy.
Almost entire parish I had visited except the northern part; I thought there was time enough till evening so why leave that part unseen. I urged Madanji and we both set forth to explore; as we were going in the direction of the new settlement after passing through the small bazaar lane, I saw a loin-cloth hung right in the middle while we came on to the main road. I enquired of Madanji, “Hey! Friend what is this?” He reminded me of a very old episode and said, “Do you remember once we had gone to witness a wrestling at the wrestling ground at Kamle; do you still remember wrestler Niranjan or not?” I still hark back to that incident and those wrestlers; how could I forget the hardship I had to undergo just to witness the wrestling; “Oh! So this is souvenir of wrestler Niranjan, so that he lives alive in public memory,” —— “Not only this gentleman, wrestler Niranjan is still alive and his challenge persists still. This loin-cloth is mark of his challenge.”
“ what are you talking ——— even after thirty years —– “
“Wait! Some days back the walls of this town were filled with posters painted on them. ——- Look here is the poster just read it.”
“Wrestler Niranjan’s Challenge to Wrestler Mangi”
“The loin-cloth hung on the cross road is my used loin-cloth; consider this as a mark of my challenge and so it is hung in the middle of the road. I announce hereby that I ostentatiously and openly remain firm on my old terms of wrestling ——- remember either you be prepared to exhibit your strength by accepting my challenge of wrestling or the day you would pass underneath this hanged loin-cloth – it shall be considered that you have heeded to your defeat and accepted it. ———-“
Madanji in amusement said, “So! What do you gather —- Niranjan has created a big fuss and ruckus for poor Mangiram. Now a day he vends groundnuts on a cart near railway crossings and he used to pass by through this road only selling his wares, but ever since Niranjan hanged this loin-cloth, the poor fellow comes up near this spot and retreat back but he does not pass underneath that hung loin-cloth to avoid the embarrassment of loosing.”
Oh! Dear poor Mangiram, he vends groundnuts on cart? He had turned very old now; he has gray hair and his face is covered with wrinkles of old age… First day I had seen him but I failed to place him. ——
As Madanji and I were chatting about the compulsive oppression and tyranny created by the mind bankruptcy of Niranjan on poor Mangiram, we saw an old man resting his hand on his waist was descending the stairs slowly and came on the street, Madanji spontaneously uttered, “he has a long life to live —— recognize as to who the old man is?
——“Oh! This is Niranjan wrestler” I exclaimed.
I saw Niranjan walking a few strides ahead sat wearily on the platform of a shop to while away his tiredness then he got up and walked a few steps further and stood again resting his weight on a lamppost and after a while he began taking tottering strides towards the bazaar. He was repeating his routine of resting and walking; seeing this I felt the irony of his challenge, the poster and loin-cloth; it all sounded laughable and ridiculous.
Seeing the transformation of aging in Niranjan wrestler, my mind went on a very different track, slowly the notion of disrespect and disregard for Niranjan was weathering away and the logic seems coming to an end. As we reached near him from behind, we became quite. Suddenly I turned towards him and paid my respect by touching his feet. Just to test his memory I stood with folded hands in front of him in utter quietness. Seeing a stranger paying a heartfelt respect made him to lay his hand on my shoulder and then he began watching my face curiously; I interrupted and asked him, “Could you recognize me big uncle?” he kept curiously watching my face and replied, “Look my son, I never accepted my defeat any day, but helplessness and vulnerability of aging is a separate issue — you are a sweet child —– my heart has recognized you but my memory fails to name you —– there used to be a sweet child with big expressive eyes —- he was known as a great actor in the field of drama ——- Oh! If I am not mistaken are you Krishna —–? “
I lessened his anxiety and while repeating my name in his mind his eyes were wet with tears of joy.
He began talking, “Oh! What a length of time has elapsed. I have heard that now a day you write scripts for films and also direct films —-am I right? You people go outdoor for shooting – why do you not explore Kohmari in Pakistan —- please shoot that place definitely —- it is a very picturesque and scenic — Beautiful long ranges of hills —- audience will rejoice the eyes with the sight of that piece of heaven on this earth. —–All other places people explore for film shooting why do they not go there to shoot — see if you get an opportunity —–if you shoot a film there you must show it to me —oh! It is a wonderful place —. “
For a length he kept on praising the beauty of Pakistan. A thought struck my mind; it was an appropriate occasion to enquire of him all about the wrestling and his persisting challenge. I gathered courage and finally asked him, “Uncle it is an episode of my childhood— I still remember; it is so fresh in my memory because Madanji and I came to witness your wrestling without obtaining proper permission from parents. There was a very big commotion and hubbub that day. People had gathered there from far and near places, but you put forth such terms and conditions of wining at the eleventh hour of the wrestling that it had to be cancelled and all spectators were very much disappointed —– just some time back I read your poster on the walls that you are still insisting on the same terms and that till date your challenge stands. What is a reason for this fastidiousness on your part —- what is that deep cited pain in your heart that is hearting you so badly till this day?”
He remained composed for a long in an utter silence then his eyes were swollen red with a rage and with painful hearting spell he took support of my shoulders in distress and his eyes were numbed with remorse.
“— Today for the first time in my life someone has attempted to peep deep in my mind —– people accused me of being mad and cynic —– It is that day when the God closed his eyes and the people became blind with fury. —- It was a day of 1947; I had come back with my family and kids after attending marriage at Rawalpindi in my relation. The outside environment and the atmosphere were already very tense since long. —-We all were sleeping; suddenly in the middle of night there were sounds of commotion, noises, outcries, shrilling voices, mourning and grieving cries from all around began swinging in the air. When we saw the sight from the rooftop, we were taken aback with fear—houses were seen ablaze at some distances. Some people were running to save their lives and others were chasing them with swords, spears and daggers. In that commotion people were running, some getting slain and slaughtered, those shrills of agony and pain stricken shouts of helplessness; I could just not believe my own eyes the spiteful horrid sight.
Amongst these agonized shrills one woman’s wailing went tearing our hearts. To save her life she ran to the terrace and was urging and requesting earnestly shouting, “I beg of you people I request you bowing my head and with humble folded hands, please do not snatch my son, do not kill him —-forgive him please pardon my life, but those tyrants, tormenter and bullies with lustful eyes kept chasing her and finally surrounded her with the sharp weapons in their hands. She was embracing her year old child tightly to her bosom, when she felt she was helpless, she shouted, “Wait! I am coming…” She called her three years old son, who sat hiding himself on the terrace – the boy came out from the hidings – she took her son on her back and she ran near the parapet wall of the terrace; she stood on the ridge of the wall and she wailed in thunderous voice, “Look here! Neither I shall accept the change of my religion, nor shall I let you embezzle the purity of my chastity, nor shall I allow you to slain my kids”, saying so she jumped down from the terrace.
I bowed down my head before her courageous and high spirited feat and my morale, my spirit, which was smothered, lit up again. In short while we heard loud knocks on the rear door from the back of the house and all members of the house succumbed to anxiety, apprehensions and consternation if the same was to happen with us here ——. We saw hiding ourselves from the rooftop – one very old man, who was very much intimidated and in a low tone, was calling an elderly man of the house Ramlal. The old man was let him in the house and in a single breath he said it all, “Ramlal, for Allah’s sake —swear on god — do not think otherwise but – There is no time for contemplating- please gets ready to leave — the partition of nations is done; some time back the announcement was heard on radio— Insane fundamentalist passionate mad killer factions have began looting and killing people and they may reach here soon. I have to evacuate you all safely from here; my brother special trains are running for Amritsar, Delhi and Jalandhar.”
Ramlal sternly refuted and refused to leave saying, “I cannot leave my country, my motherland like coward and run away from my home like a thief, if I am destine to die I prefer my death here.”
Disheartened old Muslim disappointedly said,”Rammya! Do not be fastidious. There is wise ness in succeeding to escape the mortal peril. We have shared and eaten food from the same dish. Brother you are closer to me than my own self; even for a day if you used to go out somewhere I used to be uneasy and came here four times enquiring after you; and you also could not do anything without me. Just after two days my son’s wedding party would leave and Oh! —-This unfortunate day—–and do you think that by sending you away from here I should be happy —- my life would ruin and my every thing would be lost. —-Come on hurry up kids —-this is not the time to waste in thinking any thing. I have brought my two sons to reach you all safe to the station. I have arranged vehicles for you all. Your sister-in-law, your daughters are hiding there in dark and the car is waiting for you near the school in dark. Ramlal do not forget to carry property papers with you and also take whatever cash and jewelry you can take it with you. Please hurry up Ramlal – do not be late — when every thing would go quite and the situation becomes normal, conducive and favorable then you all return here — Ramlal why don’t you understand, while life is there, hopes are alive else what is the worth of this world; military will take time to reach here till then God bless and spare us all from the peril. Ramlal went into to trance and thinking for a while said, “Ashfaq the property papers perhaps might be in the wooden-box down there and then turning to me he said, “Wrestler you extend your helping hands.”
Ashfaq turned very pale and feeble and remorsefully bending in helplessness against the wall he uttered in deep pain, “My mother used to leave me here, while she used to go for work in the field. Ramlal and I played here whole day long, we were reared, fostered and grew here together and today the misfortune struck on me to persist on my brother Ramlal to leave his own motherland; Hey God! What an unfortunate day you have shown me today.”
We were about to remove the boxes down stairs and were in the process, just then, there was a loud call came shrilling through tearing the doors, “Ramlal!! —Ramlal!! If the door does not open, break it open!!! —– There were shouts and slogans —- “Allah hoo Akbar.”
There was no time even to take a breath here; it appeared that they were big in numbers —-Ashfaq beaten his forehead in desperation with hands and uttered, “Hey God give some wisdom to these naïve, gullible waylaid folks!”
In hurry burry we began running as we were without taking even a needle from the house, descending the hills in that pitch darkness with all our kids and women folks; we were stumbling in that darkness, somehow we reached the place where the car was parked in hidings. Arrifa Amma also reached there some how, she was shivering and panting heavily – whatever she could gather from her house, she gave us all those eatables—some biscuits, bread, chapattis and some dry food; seeing us empty handed she imagined that we had no time to pick up anything—–she hurriedly removed all her golden ornaments and jewelry and handed it to Ramlal saying, “the destiny had to part us like this—–please do not say no to this —- it would prove of help to you in the foreign alien land.” She also gave a wad of currency notes to Ramlal and she bid us good-bye in hurry with lots of good wishes and blessings—– Ashfaq closed his tearful eyes tightly and said, “I am telling you to go from here, but I dare can’t see you parting.”
Risking their lives, Ashfaq’s son reached us safely to the railway station, but a thought of leaving my father alone in my house perturbed me a lot. My wife repeated kept asking me, “What would happen of her father-in-law?” Ashfaq’s elder son realized the peril we were facing so he took the responsibility. – I left with him for Mari, my native, leaving my wife and kids with the rest and we decided to reunite at the refugee camp at Amritsar. It was a very dangerous and risky; there were human corpses and carcasses lying on the roadside half saline mutilated bodies all around; it was a dreadful pathetic disgusting hateful sight. Those tormenter and bullies blocked the roads by putting stones on the road and they were stopping the vehicles and searching their prey.
After facing lots of difficulties on our way facing life threatening situations, somehow I could make it back home. The house was locked from inside; we were giving loud calls by my father’s name, but the silence was the only response; at last we climbed the walls and came into the house to witness a horrified sight, my father’s dead body was lying in the pool of blood. The strength of wailing had withered away seeing so many dead on the streets; I became numbed with the shock and agony. Destiny betrayed us by sending us out here. My poor father must have come out looking for us and some tyrant must have attacked him. In fear he must have come inside the house and must have locked the door behind him. In the fight of his life and death, he wrote a note for me on the wall in his own blood with finger deepen in the blood, “Niranjan my son do not stay on here leave the place taking the kids and wife; they say this country now no more belongs to us. I have lost my wisdom and astuteness as to where we all go? Had I were alive —– hey God — I would have questioned these politicians—– May god bless you and protect you my son. Please pour some Ganges water in my mouth upon my death. I love you all —- just leave me and go away escape.”
—–How must have he written this note in that painful, writhe full agonized state; he remembered me and his own native motherland just before he breathed his last. I lifted his body, but I could not reason out as to where I should take him; normally upon some one’s death the body is brought to one’s own country and to the native land, but here the native land is lost; we had no native left, so I was thinking where should I take his body for cremation and perform last rights. In frustration I banged my head on the wall in that helpless situation; Yes! I could find Ganges-water, which I poured in his mouth; then I bowed in respect and thanked him for all his obligations and expressed my gratitude for all he did for me and I begged of him for my this helplessness. I poured kerosene oil on him and the house and set the house on fire. This was how the last rites of my father, my native, my future were performed. I could not stand the sight of my own house set ablaze and dead father in there. The tyrants and the mad killers did not like this act on my part. Why did I not have the right to cremate the dead body of my father and set ablaze my own house? They tried their best to throw me in that burning house to burn me alive; they attacked me and hurt me with sharp weapons, but some people from the parish and that locality, more so Ashfaq’s son saved me from them and reached me safely to the railway station by car. Yes the same place where I had gone some days back to receive my father.
There are thousands of stranded destitute having expelled from their own native country and are now native less, they all are anxiously awaiting the train’s arrival. Tens of thousands were trapped in their houses and on the roads, those of whom still could not make safely to the station. Though the army and the police were on duty now and the personnel were helping and securing the lives of these poor homeless, but still looting, killing, raping women folks had not diminished. Those who were reaching here their pain, agony, wailing for the lost loved ones, those who had been burnt alive, slain and raping of women folks, killing of their small kids had filled the air and the sounds are reverberating in the dreadful atmosphere. The widows were shaving off heads, mothers were beating their chest in the deepest agony of loosing their kids; they had seen their small kids tossed in the air and held on the sharp edges of spears, which tore those delicate lives apart. The agonized painful shrikes were still filled in their ears and the sight of their innocent kids breathing last was not withering away from their eyes.
I was completely shattered and broken and sat with shank head resting on my both the hands like all others around me and suppressing those agonies I became numbed at that very juncture Rahmat Ali held me and said, “Brother — there arrives the train; I stood up, “the train had arrived, but I did not know where to go —-“Hey my big brother – I am leaving from here empty handed but I am carrying lot of pains, memories of my native land and carrying a burden of you people’s obligations. ”
He embraced me with tears and we parted, while parting Rahmat Ali said, “There is never a sense of obligations amongst our own people. We shall always be remembering you and shall be anxious for your welfare. Please pardon us for this mess. I pray the almighty that wherever you go, you should get neighbors and friends like Ashfaq and his family, no matter what religion they might belong to—–. “
Then humiliations on every step, trips and stumbling became our destiny here in India. We got asylum here, but every stranger was questioning our identity; all eyes doubted our secret individuality as if we were born destitute and vulnerable and unaided. ——–
To me it appeared that while narrating ill-fated and his cruel destiny, he became numbed, so I supported him and made him sit on the platform. After regaining his own mental balance, he said, “Son you had asked me about the terms of wrestling —- and this is also true that till date I am firm on the said term.”
He continued, “I wanted to know then and also wanted to show to all that how difficult it is to put on bate of gamble, your own nurtured sweet home, your happiness, the souvenir of your ancestors and your identity. —– Thirty years back when I accepted the challenge of wrestling, where the strength of wrestler remained in me then. The ill-fate and helplessness changed my life completely. Mangiram was a real wrestler then full of vigor and strength. He himself knew that he could easily win bate by defeating me, but he was taken aback listening to the terms of bate and till date he could not dare accept it. When it is so difficult to take a decision for your own self of bating your home, so how a few people could decide the fate of tens of thousands of people’s homes? Without our consents, without informing us, our settled life, our nurtured homes, our culture residing in our minds and every breath of ours, naturally bestowed descending down from generations of our own land, why any body could take decision of evicting and expropriating us? We had not entrusted our rights to any body to ruin our future and happiness, then why such agonizing conditions were created and dictated to us.”
In rage he continued, “I can never ever forget those extremes of violence and the repressive measures adopted by that mass fury; tens of thousands were slaughtered; many were burnt alive. Young children were intentionally slain in front of their mothers. Innocent like budding flower infants were tossed and then held on spear heads tearing their delicate bodies; the helpless parents were forced to see their infants sufferings and succumbing to death; under the circumstances either the resisting parents were slaughtered or they killed themselves in that agony of loosing their kids in that helpless situations. The sisters were denuded in front of their helpless brothers and gang raped; helpless husbands suffered the rape of their wives; sons saw their mothers being molested. Whosoever resisted they received punishment at the hands of these waylaid tyrants.
Could some one tell me why we were forced and made to suffer this catastrophe, this devastation? Someone please tell us what was our fault? I felt very much insulted and humiliated for our helplessness and the compulsions we were thrown into. We all homeless suffered a lot and underwent hardships here. After years of toil I built my own house and for at least once I wanted to put it out on bate with my will and whim so that I can prove to people that home is not only a house built of brick walls and cement. Your motherland is not bound in the periphery of boundaries or its not only a piece of land; the home is not built of bricks, cement and mortar; the life does not meant for just living; till date I feel my life – — my home- – -my native land is still there and today also I am very much there as attached to it as I was ever before.”
I cancelled my train reservation for returning back to Mumbai. The mind and heart was too ponderous and tiresome. Again and again the interactions with Niranjan his personal tragedy kept on revolving in my mind. I felt he was very much a loner. More than half the century had elapsed and he was still carrying the burden of loneliness and alien ness. The hurting mental injuries of the partition were still alive afresh on his psyche. The memories of his native land, his own people were still kept intact in his mind. Till today he was tring to feel happy, remembering those accumulated memories of his past.
How strange is man’s inner world? Sometimes one feels that his emotional internal world is his own identity and existence. Sense of belongings and affinity is so delicate, deep-rooted and yet expansive. How intricate is the reciprocation of intimacy in itself and its realization.
Peeping deep in my mind, comprehending my whirlwind of thoughts Madanji broke the silence, “Today I realized how much different personality Niranjan possesses. How internally profound man he is. If I tell you the truth all the while till today the notion we all carry for Niranjan is that he is a mad, cynic and crazy fellow proved us wrong.”
We both remained quite for a long time with our minds reeling in inexplicit inexpressive thoughts; we were realizing that a feeble stream of intimacy is inexorably beginning to flow out. That time only I insisted Madanji, “come on let us go to Niranjan’s house and pay him a visit.” Madanji said that he too was thinking of the same.
I have seen Niranjan wrestler only in the childhood, but Madanji had been here in this town for years. After half the century had passed we could establish relations with him. How long it takes one to form a correct impression about a person, which pulls the man beyond the barriers of intimacy.
We both reached wrestler’s house. Our unexpected and unprecedented visit to his house threw him in astonishment. He embraced us and gave bundles of heart felt blessings. It appeared that there was a current of immense happiness ran through him. In that fit of joy he gave lots of calls for his wife, who was inside in some other room; it seemed that he wanted his wife to join him on that joyous moments. Poor lady came running out in that room. She used to come across Madanji very often on the streets of parish or see him some where in bazaar, but she was bewildered to see me after lapse of number of years and she expressed her joy, “Oh! How big you have grown my son —-Hey! Is he not Lord Krishna from stage? — Oh! God how many years have gone by —– he used to be so sweet small kid then —- So now I get it Mr. Wrestler must have met you both yesterday; since then frequently he is being mentioning you and talking all about you. —- First I could not place as to who the film- director, who has come to our parish — Had he had mentioned that the boy with big expressive eyes, who used to play role of Lord Krishna in dramas, I could have immediately recognized. We used to often see your frequent appearances on TV programme and Mr. Wrestler in that excitement used to call the neighbors to witness the TV and show them – This is our Amar. I am very happy my son that you have come here to visit us. —-This teacher sir also has come to our house for the first time.”
Niranjanji and his wife took a promise from us that we should have lunch with them. Niranjanji insisted that whenever I come to the parish, I must pay him a visit. This insistence he repeated many times. He said that he was so perturbed that he forgot to invite us, but he was very happy that we visited him on our own. We were all busy talking and there was a knock on the door. As the door opened we heard, “Oh! He forgot to invite you, but he never invited me.”
Niranjanji was very much taken aback and shocked seeing Mangiram at his door step.
“How come you visited me my brother?” Niranjanji asked him the reason of his visit on him.
Though Mangiram had grown old his face still bore child like innocence; the wrinkles on his faced mushroomed in a smile.
“Wrestler Niranjanji, I am very much happy, relieved and consoled to see you in your pink of health and vigor—thank God — I was very much worried. The fact of the matter is that as usual I was about to turn back after I reached the edge of my border created by your challenging loin-cloth, but when I found it missing today, I felt for a moment that I was at a wrong place, but when I calmly relocated and assess the place I realized that the place is correct, repeated I saw up in the sky, but missing loin-cloth threw me in deep anxiety; for years even in the storms and gusty gales the loin-cloth remain undeterred and undisturbed then, so what happened to loin-cloth today? For a long I stood thinking, then I could bear it no more, my patience gave away, I prayed the almighty asking him that let me have an opportunity to see my ardent rival here in his good health and spirit, so without bothering for your temperament that how you would treat uninvited guest, I came to see you. “
Wrestler Niranjan went up to Mangiram and embraced him with great love and compassion. Niranjan said, “Mangi I am short of words to describe how happy I am seeing you here in my house; for the first time you have visited my house.”
Mangiram never expected the reception he got at Niranjan’s house that without a hitch he would be embraced with all love and intimacy. Mangiram apprehensively but with natural ease presented a sack full of groundnuts to Niranjanji.
Mangi said, ”I was in double mind, should I or should I not dare to come up here, but when I decided to make it, a thought struck me that I am visiting you for the first time, I should not pay you visit empty-handed so I kept this sack of groundnuts; Oh! Wrestlers, let us make health eating these cashew nuts of modern times.”
Seeing these two rival wrestlers meeting in this cordial casual manner tears teased our eyes and they both too had wet eyes as a mark of beginning of a new relationship. Niranjan appeared more of a philosopher than a wrestler on this occasion.
“—–Mangi you have won and I lost bate — no one can bate his own house his native-land — I wanted to experience this and I wanted to know the feelings behind this.”
“Mangi took Niranjan’s hand and kept it on his own head and said, “My elder brother you have put me through most rigorous and difficult test—- how many year had to elapse before the ardent rival could establish this heart-felt cordial relation; —- Look neither this house belongs to you nor me and this parish is all yours as it is mine too, because the boundaries you have itched on this land and on the sky is wiped off from today so I am here.”
Seeing their meeting like this in the most friendly, amiable and convivial manner, I felt that I was experiencing miraculous happening taking place, those, who walked life long with the crutches laden with their revelry have today thrown the crutches and are standing balancing them so well that they could realized that they were no more weak, incomplete, deficient and unaccomplished. It gave me the insight into the hidden strength of the intimacy and cordialness.
Laxmi, Niranjan’s wife was watching all this with utmost happiness and she stood there hiding something under her Palloo, and finally she uttered, “Your Bharat-Milap (Such cordial meetings of two loving persons is termed as Bharat-Milap, a reference from epic Ramayana) is not ending only —–. “
Everybody laughed at her remark and especially the wrinkled face of Mangi blossomed like a small child.
“My dear Sis-in-law, please pardon me for saying that the wrestlers have dud brains.”
Laxmi removed the hidden thing out from her palloo and to mark this unexpected happy event she sweeten the mouth of both the wrestlers with jaggery and put a red vermillion smudge on their foreheads saying, “May god save this friendship from the evil eyes of people; ever since we have migrated here from Pakistan, today for the first time I have a feeling that every thing belongs to us we belong to this place, we have become so intimate here. Hey! God give hundred years more life to everybody to live in the happiness; Oh! Today’s day is a golden and auspicious day in our life; Mangi came on his own for the first time today and also this Amar and Madan.”
Mangi cast his look on me and was trying to struggle to recognize me. As he heard my name he was astonished.
“Amar? Oh! Ho! – That’s what I was feeling; the face seems so familiar – Ouch! That our actor Amar—-saying so he got up and embraced me with utter love. “I believe nearly twenty-five years must have easy eloped, Oh! God Bhaolenath how fortunate I am today, but had I have not come upstairs I would have missed this opportunity of meeting you. We all remember him always. —-Once what happen —- I began a business of selling savories on a wheel-cart near a pub — I tore a page from the magazine and I was about to pack the hot fried savories and I saw his picture on that page – I immediately removed the stuff and I kept that page safe and packed the stuff in other paper and gave it to the customer. On that page along with his picture lot of praises and complete history of Amar was printed on it. I made so many customers to read that paper and then I pasted it on card-board and hung it on my cart. It was there hung for many days, but then it disappeared one day. —— Yes! Today I am very happy —– This Madan teacher is seen very often — but Amar I am seeing him after I believe I saw him in his childhood. “
I was surprised that these people have sense of deep intimacy, since in my childhood I had just seen him but never ever communicated and interacted on any occasion. Afterwards we all were busy talking a lot of things, more so all about the golden remembrances of those bygone days. All do remember my roles which I played on drama stage during my childhood. I began feeling guilt within that though I had seen him and also recognized him on the first day but never felt like meeting him.
After a while old lady’s hospitality began, she placed before us so many varieties of sweet dishes and other cuisines—God knows from where that old mother derived the strength and spirit that she was doing every thing with extra enthusiasm and speed. In all this chain of events Mangiram forgot altogether that he had left his groundnut cart unattended on the street.
We were suddenly attracted by laughter of some people standing at Niranjan’s doorstep. – Niranjanji quietly and with calm composure got up and asked them, “Well gentlemen what’s the matter?”
One fellow came forward and said, “I have come to purchase some groundnuts from this wrestler’s cart and waited there for quite some time and then somebody told me that the groundnut vendor had gone up stairs and then I looked up and to my surprise the loin-cloth hung was missing; this became talk of the town and so many people gathered gossiping there. We all had come up to see if the wrestlers are wrestling up here, but to our surprise we have seen altogether a different unexpected scene that the ardent rivals are sitting here like good old pals enjoying sweets together in most cordial atmosphere. Niranjanji extended one plate full of sweets to the gentleman and offering him he said, “First you enjoy these sweets, the fact of the matter is that I lost to Mangiram today so I removed the challenging Loin-Cloth. —–“
There was an immediate exclamation of surprise, “Oh! You lost! But then how come you are celebrating and distributing sweets? What is the matter after all?”
Wrestler Mangi Got up and began giving explanation, “The matter is that wrestler Niranjanji own and I lost. In both the events, If I won or he lost or I lost and he won you all are profited – go — tell me how many people are waiting down stairs?
“Must be twenty to twenty-five —-?”
“Go distribute the entire stocks of groundnuts amongst you all people and tell that we both won the bate”
“Wait!” Said Niranjan; he went inside and brought five sher Jaggery cake and gave to the boy and said, “Distribute this on my behalf —– after empting the cart just park it properly on one side—-“holding that jaggery-cake in hand the boys were bewildered in the confusion and in that state uttered, “You two elderly folks are like our fathers and your command shall be obeyed and respected but people say for more than thirty years, I was told by elders that the loin-cloth as a mark of challenge is there hung for years even before I was born and since then people are anxiously waiting to see your wrestling; to them all what shall we tell? Rest assured we shall celebrate the occasion. It is astonishing and most wonder struck wrestling that both the rivals won and lost at the same time. Both the wrestlers are happy in their defeat and victory —–come on let us celebrate and enjoy.”
My mind is engaged and reeling in thoughts that this behavior does not only pertains to these two wrestlers, but this is the mental make up of the entire people of this parish. Now I wish to know your impressions —-How is my parish?
(The Hindi version of story has already been published in the issue of Navneet, Bhartiy Vidhya Bhavan, Mumbai and Mumba Shakti, New Mumbai.)