Elections were fast approaching and it was necessary to take up canvassing. For that purpose Madhurani had arranged an election meeting in the city. More than four lakh people were expected to attend. Madhurani had distributed the responsibilities of stage, prominent guests, security etc. among her close and trusted workers. In that respect Madhurani’s management skill was meticulous. Ganeshrao had experienced it many times before. Of course there were police to look after security. But Ganeshrao had the responsibility to be in constant touch with them and keep an eye on security arrangements. Madhukarrao was given the task of gathering people. He was already bringing truck loads of people from nearby villages.On their part, people were also eager to visit the taluka free of cost.
The meeting was to take place in the mango grove. The mango grove was a vast ground in the centre of the city. Of course, today, there were only a couple of mango trees. But earlier there might have been a full-fledged grove. From that time people had begun to call it an amrai – a Mango Grove. The meeting was in the afternoon so there wasn’t much problem of lighting. The person who was given the responsibility of looking after the dais had done a good job of erecting and decorating it.
Slowly people began to arrive. Truck after truck was bringing them from nearby villages.and just like dumping sand on the road-side, were dumping them at the meeting place and returning for the next trip. People from several towns had also begun to arrive. But there were not many people from cities.
On the dais, the person looking after the sound system was extremely busy. He had fixed a mike and was ‘mike testing’ it. The villagers watched him with amused interest as though they were enjoying his work. Just then a huge car arrived. From it Madhukarrao and other workers close to Madhurani got down. Ganeshrao also got down from it. Madhukarrao threw a sweeping glance on the arrangements. From all those whom he came across he enquired how the arrangements were going on and drove away in the same car. Perhaps he would now return only with Madhurani.
Teams of police personnel came and spread themselves across the ground. The only work Ganeshrao had was to spread the hundred and odd workers working under him all over. But he was not in charge of security. Security was the task for the police. Beside the hoard of police who provided security to Madhurani, providing security to her was also his and his other workers’ responsibility. The security consisted of seeing that only those who deserved to go near Madhurani would be allowed to go near her while other common people were kept at a distance.
People from Ujni arrived and got down from a truck Ganeshrao saw them and being acquainted with many, walked towards them. The first person he met was Sada. Seeing Sada Ganeshrao recollected how Sada had got drunk and had abused him. This recollection made him break into a smile. Now Sada was looking very tired and weak. He would be just a year or two older than Ganeshrao. But he was looking frail and much older..
“What Sada, how are you?” Ganeshrao enquired after him. He began to look at Ganeshrao with great surprise.
“Ganeshrao?” he exclaimed happily.
You have gone down a lot,” Ganeshrao observed.
“You have also changed a lot….you seem to have put on weight….. and what is this…Have you now become a leader?” he asked.
He was unable to hide his happiness.
“Have you given up drinking or are you still continuing with it?” Ganeshrao asked casually.
The happiness on Sada’s face suddenly faded.
“No, I think, the habit will end only with my life”
Ganeshrao felt bad that he had unnecessarily asked him this question.
“Are there also others who have come from Ujni?” Ganeshrao asked looking at the crowd getting down from a truck.
“Yes, there are many more. They say that another truck is also coming.”
“Is Sarpanch coming?” Ganeshrao asked.
Sada’s face once again darkened.
“Sarpanch has passed away… about five-six years back,” he said grimly.
“How come?” Ganeshrao exclaimed in surprise.
“Age had caught up with him… But, in a way, it was good that he passed away…. He suffered a lot…. He was unable to see.. ....and even walk…. He was unable to walk up to the toilet and had to attend nature’s calls from his bed itself ….His son was not taking care of him… .I did whatever I could….He had given me ‘sealing’s’ share of land…. The son might have forgotten this help but Sada hadn’t. … He could have given the ‘shilling’land to anyone. But he gave it to me…” Sada became emotion charged while he gratefully acknowledged this.
For the first time Ganeshrao saw a new aspect of Sada’s life. He looked at him with new found respect.
Just then an attendant Pandu, who was at Ujni when Ganeshrao was there, came to him.
“Ram..Ram….Sir… he bowed and greeted Ganeshrao with great respect.
‘How are you?” Ganeshrao enquired.
He had grown up in age but the manner of his behavior and his servile attitude had changed the least.
“Who is the Gram Sevak now?” Ganeshrao asked.
“I don’t know, Sir… You went away from the place and I left the job. As long as you were there, the work seemed interesting. The Gram Sevak who came after you was himself taking away all money…Then what was there left for me to do?…. Then I got married. Now I am in the business of planting hybrid seeds,… ..I take the plant of seeds on installments…from the Guard Saheb…
“Oh, that means you are doing quite well….”
“Yes, Sir , I am doing quite well… But things are not the same in the village as they were when you were here.
(to be contd.)
Original Novel by Sunil Doiphode
English Version by Anil Ekbote