As usual, when he was at leisure in the afternoon, Ganesh went to the Mahadev temple. But seeing the temple deserted Ganesh was surprised. In the temple there was not a single game of cards going on.
Perhaps that day the police must have arrived in the village.
When the police came to the village the game of cards was discarded. If someone was caught the police took him away or took some money and left him. Here, when people did not have money to play cards, from where would they pay the police? On the day of Nagpanchami, the festival of the snake-gods, it was a feast for the police. On the Nagpanchami day, near the police chawdi people played chakri, cards and several other varieties of gambling. That day the police came without fail and went away after earning a lot. How could a backward village be so forward? Ganesh wondered. Not only this, it seemed in the Falats all over the village there even was a gambling den of Matka. Falat was possibly the corrupt form of plot. Ganesh had never gone to the gambling den. But when their neither was a phone or a fast communication network, Ganesh wondered how people would come to know of the Matka numbers. This continued to remain a puzzle.
Now, when there was no entertaining game of cards in the temple, where could he go? Madhurni’s shop remained closed in the afternoons. In the afternoon she went to the village stream to wash clothes. Once, Madhurani had told him this. The village women, in groups of four and five, took their washings to the village stream.
Then, should he go to the stream?
But there would all be women…
What would he do among all those women?...
And if someone smelt something she would defame him in the entire village…
As if she announced through a village announcement system.
In these matters women are very clever.
The stream was near the temple. So near that if at any time there was a flood in the stream, the water used to enter the temple.
Ganesh could not contain himself. He now wanted to at least have a glimpse of Madhurani.
What should he now do?
Must he go?
But not empty handed…
He must think of some excuse for his going.
What could be the excuse?
The excuse of having to go to the toilet…
Yes, that was the best..
No one would get any doubt…
Ganesh quickly returned to his office. He asked Pandu to fill a mug with water and bring it. And carrying the mug he started for the village stream.
“Are you going towards th village stream?” Pandu asked.
“Yes… why?” Ganesh asked.
“No.. but why do you need a mug of water when you are going to the stream?” Pandu said.
What must he answer him?
Ganesh opened his mouth to give a reply. But then without answering him he started for the stream. While walking towards the bridge he came across a she-buffalo all covered in slush and mud. Carefully keeping a distance away from the buffalo he went ahead. He recollected an amusing incident of an earlier buffalo. One day, after taking bath and wearing freshly ironed clothes Ganesh started to go to his office. That day he was a little late for work. Whether anyone else commented or not Ganesh always liked to be at the office on time. As he was slightly delayed he was tracing quick steps when he came across a herd of buffaloes on the street. The herd was so large that the animals had occupied the entire road. Two shepherds were perhaps taking the herd of buffaloes for grazing outside the village. Making a way through the herd Ganesh was going to his office. As he passed along, suddenly a buffalo shook her slush covered tail to drive away a fly that sat on its back. But as Ganesh came in its way, the tail struck him. A big map-like stain appeared on his shirt. Ganesh stopped as if someone had suddenly put brakes on him. Angrily he began to look at the animal and at the stained shirt. The shepherds laughed seeing his plight. Ganesh turned back and came to his room.. to change his shirt.
(to be contd.)
Original Novel by Sunil Doiphode
English Version by Anil Ekbote