Today was the day of the Thursday bazaar. Ganesh went to the office early but there wasn’t much work to do. Bored he went around the bazaar. Went in front of the vendors of vegetables and legumes. As Sarjabai was bringing him meals there was no question of his buying vegetables. Then he took a round in front of the dress and hosiery shops. In the shades clothes for little children as well as dhotis for elders and nine yard saris for women were stocked. Among them of special interest was skirt of the Banjaras and a top to wear above it. Seeing the dress Ganesh felt amused. It was noon time so all around there was a crowd of people who had come from neighboring villages. There was an overflowing crowd not only in the shops arrayed on either sides of the road but even on the roads a big stream of people moved along like a huge wave of flood. Ganesh walked making his way through the crowd. Ganesh was terribly bored… Come, let us go towards Madhurani’s shop.
His legs automatically turned towards Madhurani’s shop. Leaving the crowd of people in the bazaar behind he began to walk towards the water tank. He felt like taking rest for a couple of minutes in the shade of the banyan tree that was near the water tank.
But no, he must first go to Madhurani’s shop…
Then he turned towards chawadi, the police station. Madhurani’s shop and his room, both were near the chawadi. From afar he saw a huge crowd in Madhurani’s shop and was disappointed. Making his way through the crowd
It was not possible to talk to Madhurani in this crowd.
For a couple of minutes he stood hesitantly.
Should he again go to the bazaar or return to his room and lie down.
But having come up to here; let me at least have a glimpse of Madhurani.
He began to walk towards Madhurani’s shop. Making a way through the crowd he somehow managed to reach Madhurani’s cash counter.
“Oye Shyama…that woman has stuffed jaggery in her lehenga.. go..go and catch her… these dirty beggars come here from villages and steal…” Madhurani’s vigilant eyes had spotted a woman stealing jaggery.
“Oye..go fast… catch hold of her,” Madhurani shouted at him.
As soon as the servant and the woman saw each other, she scurried towards the bazaar. Ganesh stood near Madhurani and watched the going on. Madhurani was not aware of his presence.
“Hey Bai.. give me some oil,” someone from the crowd held out a bottle for oil before Madhurani and said.
“Give me a kilogram of salt..” another woman spread her lehenga to take the salt.
“And give me a cigarette,” Ganesh said holding a ten rupee note before her.
“Can’t you all wait… there people are carrying away the entire shop… have some patience,” an annoyed Madhurani shouted at Ganesh.
But when she realised that it was Ganesh, she felt embarrassed and said, “Ganeshrao, it is you, is it? I thought it were someone else.”
“No.. let your work finish first…leisurely…I am in no hurry.”
“But we are in a hurry,” a woman said aloud from the crowd.
Madhurani angrily stared at the woman and said, “Oye Bai… If you are in that great hurry, go to the other shop…. See, my servant has gone there to catch the woman… If I get up from the cash counter to fetch you things… these thieves would carry away my entire shop.”
The woman fell silent.
Madhurani was fully right.
If when she was sitting at the cash counter a woman dares to steal some jaggery… if she turned her back even for a moment...the people in the crowd could easily have looted her shop.
“Ganeshrao… wait for some time… as soon as Shyam comes, I’ll help you,” she said to Ganesh.
Just then Madhurani’s servant brought the woman captive.
“Hey witch…you are accusing me of stealing… this jaggery is what I have purchased… I have paid money for this…” the woman tried to be one up on Madhurani.
“You have purchased it.. is that so…” Madhurani got down from the cash counter and asked.
Hey Shyama.. go to the shop and keep an eye. I will see when this woman bought the jaggery,” Madhurani now stood before the woman.
“You have purchased it… is it”.. Madhurani caught hold of her hair and gave her a hard slap.
“Tell me how much jaggery did you buy?.. and for how much…”Madhurani gave her one more hard slap.
Hey Bai, you don’t have to hit me..”
“Then tell me.. how much jaggery you purchased? And at what price?” Madhurani tugged her hair and made her fall..
“Wait..I’ll tell you..” the woman said trying to stand up.
“Half kilo… for four annas” the woman somehow managed to blurt.
“Since when did jaggery began to sell half a kilo for four annas..” Madhurani now gave a hard slap on her back.
She pulled out the jaggery hidden in her lehenga and said, “Shyama… see how much this jaggery weighs…” Shyam took the lump of jagery from Madhurnai’s hand and began to weigh it in a balance.
“It is one and a half kilo”
“Listen all of you…. this woman says… she purchased half kilo jaggery from me… and how is it that it now has measured kilo and a half… and she says she gave me four annas for this….” Madhurani kicked the woman who was now crouching.
“Now tell me, you bitch.. you scoundrels… you come to this village and thieve… wait I will put an end to your coming here… Hey Shyama… wasn’t the Havaldar here some time back…”
“Yes, madam, he has kept his bag here… he said he would come while returning…”
“Shyama.. bring a rope… I’ll tie this woman and hand her over to the police…”
“Forgive me, Bai… I have made a mistake… I’ll hit my own face but please don’t hand me over to the police… what would happen to my little children” the woman began to plead and catching hold of Madhurani’s feet began to shed tears.
“So..you are afraid what would happen to your children… you didn’t remember them while thieving…” Madhurani once more kicked her back.
“Come on, get up. This is my business hour… that is why I am leaving you… and beware, if I see you again in my shop… come… get up and make yourself scarce,” Madhurani lifted the woman by her hair. The moment the woman could stand on her feet, she ran away.
“Dirty beggars..” cursing them Madhurani again took her seat behind the cash counter.
All the while Ganesh was watching her without blinking. He was seeing an aggressive Madhurani for the second time.
What ever it be, Madhurani has her own way of handling situations.
Any one else would have got puzzled and confused.
My wife, when she was pillion riding my scooter, a thief snatched her purse.
For a long time she could not utter even a word.
She recovered after a long time.
But by then the thief had escaped.
In her place, Madhurani would have jumped down the two wheeler and ran after the thief. She would not have stopped until she had caught him by his wrists.
Today Ganesh seemed overwhelmed. He was appreciative of Madhurani.
Now a days women have to be tough like this.
If every woman in our country was so tough…
Then women would never be harassed in our country.
(to be contd.)
Original Novel by Sunil Doiphode
English Version by Anil Ekbote