Suddenly Ganesh realised that the murmur in the hall has inexplicably waned. He was talking to Guruji who was sitting beside him. He turned around to see why the hall had suddenly gone calm. He saw that everyone in the hall was looking at the door with his mouth open. He too looked at the door. His mouth also fell open. Madhurani was standing in the door. She had especially dressed for the occasion.
What would have made her come here? …
She was looking at him.
Has this woman come after him?
This thought made his stomach churn.
She stood in the door and looked around at the hall. When she caught Sarpanch’s eyes, she greeted him. .
Then, again she glanced around the hall and her gaze came and rested on Ganesh. She gave him an enchanting smile and began to slowly walk towards him. As she came nearer, Ganesh’s heart began to beat faster and faster. He also began to sweat.
“Come here Madhurani, in the centre,” Sarpanch gestured her to come and sit beside him.
“No.. It is more comfortable here in this corner,” she said.
Now Ganesh heaved a sigh of relief.
She had also come for the meeting.
I was thinking something quite different.
Of course she has the courage to do whatever she feels like.
Ganesh recollected the man who had pinched Madhurani and in return she had beaten him with her slipper. By now Madhurani had come near Ganesh. She sat down next to him with her thighs touching his.
Frankly, maybe because it was congested here, her thighs were touching his.
Of course she could have asked people to move a little away and make place for her. Her other thigh was touching the thigh of Guruji who sat on the other side.
But while her thigh was lightly brushing Guruji’s thigh, she was sitting with her thigh closely pressed against his.
Ganesh began to like the fleshy touch of her thigh. Ganesh did not move aside and try to give her space to sit comfortably. Slyly Ganesh looked around at the people sitting around.
To find out what sort of looks they were giving him.
But Madhurani, keeping her smile intact on her face, sat looking at people all around in such a manner that no one doubted Ganesh. He felt relieved. He noticed yet another thing. The people around were looking at her, some slyly and others openly.
Now the Sarpanch began to feel restive. So much time had elapsed, all people had come, but there was no sign of Patil. After inviting him, Patil had kept him waiting thus. Sarpanch began to feel offended.
“Hasn’t Patil come yet?” Sarpanch said hiding the expressions on his face and looking to his right and left.
“Patil is at his worship,” one of Patil’s coterie said.
“Worship ..for such a long time… wonder whose worship he is doing..” Sarpanch tried to make a joke out of it. Few around him chuckled.
“Go.. and tell him.. that all people have gathered and have been waiting since long… ask him to wind up soon, “ Sarpanch instructed the coterie.
The villager got up arranging his cap and hurriedly went out of the door.
Even after a long time the villager who had gone to call Patil did not return. Seeing the uneasiness of Sarpanch one more person went to call Patil. But he too disappeared and did not return. Now the murmur of the crowd abated. Some people went out of the hall and began to take a stroll. Some people lighted beedis and chillums. Some people began to prepare tobacco. With great unease the Sarpanch went to the gallery. Still several people continued to sit in the hall. Some people stretched themselves. But Ganesh was not prepared to get up from his coveted place. He was still hooked to Madhurani’s touch.
One by one .. everyone is going out..
Should I also go out .. otherwise unnecessarily people may begin to suspect.
Ganesh leaned forward to get up.
“Ganeshrao, where are you going ..be seated… or is it that you too are feeling like having a smoke..” Madhurani said to Ganesh.
Ganesh fell in a dilemma, should he go or sit. He sat down. Just then a stream of people who had gone out returned to the hall.
“I think Patil has come…” Ganesh said.
“After having made us wait for such a long time…I have unnecessarily come for the meeting,” Madhurani said grumbling.
Then, looking at Ganesh, she changed her expression of displeasure and smiling at him said, “But one good thing is that you have met me. Otherwise I would have left long back.
Ganesh merely looked at her and blushed.
People who had gone out came in. When they all settled in the hall at last Patil came in. As soon as he came in he glanced around the hall and greeted to one and all. Then, sitting in the centre of the hall , he called the Sarpanch who was standing in the gallery, “Good morning ..Sarpanchji .. come in.. let us finish the meeting quickly.”
Sarpanch turned back and greeted to Patil in return and sat next to him, a little unhappy.
“Then, shall we start the meeting?...” Patil asked Sarpanch as if he was seeking his permission.
Sarpanch looked at Patil and conveyed his consent.
While looking around he noticed Madhurani who was sitting in a corner.
“Madhurani,, come forward… here…” Patil called her to the front.
“I had asked her to sit there the moment she arrived… but ..” Sarpanch left the sentence hanging and looked at Madhurani.
Sitting in the corner Madhurani gestured and told them that let things begin, she was comfortable where she was.”
Patil looked around and as though remembering something said, “And yes… during this election there are two seats reserved for women .. we must get ready at least for one… shouldn’t we… That is why I invited Madhurani for the meeting… She must get used to meetings.” Patil said.
Ganesh noticed Patil’s administrative skill and a politician’s experience. Because when earlier Ganesh had spoken to Patil, he had used pure urban Marathi and from his talk he seemed well educated. Then, why should he now talk like a rustic? Possibly to create an impression in the minds of people that he too was one of them.
(to be contd.)
Original Novel by Sunil Doiphode
English Version by Anil Ekbote