After taking care of his snacks Ganesh decided to visit the Mahadev temple that was in one corner of the ground where the weekly bazaar was held. The Mahadev temple, though old was quite spacious. All around the temple there was a vast open area that had flower and fruit bearing trees. There was also a huge neem tree. In summer this neem tree came very handy because of its shade. And today being the market day with the blazing heat of summer; people had crowded under the tree. Some people, tired and exhausted, had stretched themselves out. Right opposite the entrance was a public well. Several people from the village used to draw water from it. While going into the temple Ganesh saw a paanwala, a vendor of betel-leaves. He paused at the stall and ordered him to prepare a Benarasi paan, betel-leaf made in Benarasi style. There was quite a crowd before the paanwala. Some had ordered beedis and others cigarettes. Some needed small packets of tobacco. After taking care of these customers, the vendor took up to make Ganesh’s Benarasi paan. Till then Ganesh waited there before him. Wondering what next to do, he looked around. Near the vendor of betel-leaves and beside the temple’s stone wall, a game of marbles played by children was in full swing. Ganesh walked towards them. While going he instructed the paanwala to call him when his Benarasi paan was ready.
There were four to five children who were plying marbles. One among them, carrying around 15 to 20 marbles, went to a stone-slab that was about 10 to 11 feet away. He stood near the slab and gently threw the marbles on the ground to roll towards the temple-wall. Near the wall a hollow pit that was a little larger than a marble was dug in the ground. As the marbles rolled towards the pit, the children playing the game watched with abated breath. Because, had even one marble rolled into the pit, the boy would have won the entire lot of marbles. Several marbles went past the pit but not a single one rolled inside. Then another boy pointed to the boy who had thrown the marbles one specific marble which he had to hit with his marble.
The boy took a marble in his hand and partly closing one eye aimed it at the marble he was asked to hit. He threw the marble he held at it and at once everyone cried out ‘Ballu … Ballu ..” The marble he had thrown had not hit the target, it had hit some other marble making the boy disappointed, as he has to pay the penalty.
Disappointed the boy plunged his hand in the pocket of his shorts and took out a whole lot of marbles. He counted three marbles and added them into the game. The next boy was now ready to continue the game.
Ganesh watched and enjoyed all this. He remembered his childhood days. When, as a child, he too used to similarly play marbles with neighbouring boys. Ganesh’s reverie was suddenly broken by a voice calling him. “Your paan is ready, Sir,” the vendor of betel-leaves had called out.
He took the paan from him, paid for it and stuffing the betel-leaf into his mouth he asked the vendor to give him a cigarette. Lighting the cigarette and chewing the betel-leaf and with a filled belly, Ganesh slowly walked into the temple. The temple had only two doors. After entering through the main door one came across a large hall. From the hall if one went towards the sanctum, there was nandi, the sacred bull, made in stone. The naughty village children climbed the bull’s back this way and that, and played to their hearts’ content. As there were only two doors to the temple there was enough privacy in the hall. In the privacy of the hall’s corner a game of cards was always on. On the weekly market days the players played the game enjoying the taste of hot chilly-bhujia made by Bandu Hotelwala. The game of cards was played in the temple hall every day. Ganesh was never much interested in playing cards. But when he had nothing else to do, he used to come to the temple from his office, stand aside and watch the game with interest. At times Ganesh was surprised to notice village boys playing the complex game of rummy with great ease. It indicated that even the village boys had intelligence like others but maybe they used it often for a wrong or a useless cause.
Ganesh was engrossed in watching the game of card when some one came running and said, “Hey come on. There is a calamity in the bazaar.”
The game of cards was given up half way. Everyone took back the money they had put on the game. One of them stuffed the playing cards in his pocket.
“What’s the matter?” someone asked in concern.
“Come quickly and see for yourself. Why do you waste your breath here? And who has the time..” He said and like a wind he had come and like a wind he went out of the temple.
All began to run after him. Ganesh also became curious.
What could have had happened?
He too went after them, not exactly running, but as fast as he could.
At one place in the bazaar a large crowd had gathered. Those playing cards in the temple had all reached it. Ganesh also pushed himself into the crowd and standing on his toes tried to see what the matter was. What Ganesh saw taking place in the centre of the crowd took his courage out. His legs began to give way and his face turned ashen. There, Madhurani was beating a villager with her Kolhapuri slipper. The man was trying to save himself from her blows by shielding with both hands.At the same time he also tried to hide the shame that he was being put to. The one who was receiving the beating seemed a friend of one of those who were playing cards in the temple. Because he stepped in and enquired, “What happened?”
Madhurani was in full fury and was agitated. In that excitement she also hit with her slipper the person who had tried to intervene.
“They say that no one should intervene in a quarrel between a husband-wife and a quarrel taking place on the street … It is so true,” an elderly onlooker said to the person standing by him.
“Madhubai..” he tried to say something.
“Madhubai… why don’t you tell us what happened exactly?” the person who had intervened and received beatings asked with concern.
“May his corpse rot … What does he think of himself … while going through the crowd he pinched me… let the beast go home and pinch his sisters and mother …”
The person who had intervened did not know what to say, he muttered, “Where did he pinch you, Madhubai?”
“Now, shall I open up myself and show you … And what is this Madhubai..Madhubai.. Am I looking like a dancer in a tamasha?”
“No..its not like that ..Madhu..Tai..” he muttered.
“The word Tai seemed to have forcefully come out of him.
Ganesh had never before seen such a demonic version of Madhurani. Whatever dreams he had weaved about Madhurani got completely shattered at this violent sight. He looked as if he had lost his nerves.
(to be contd.)
Original Novel by Sunil Doiphode
English Version by Anil Ekbote