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Sunday, January 3, 2016

Bholenath

Dayashankar Pandey rubbed chandan on the small and round slab of stone and looked disdainfully at Girdhar Tiwari. "Panditji, I'm astounded! It's just because of people like you that the Hindu Sanskriti is at the verge of oblivion. How can you even think that Benaras will tolerate ban on Mahashivratri procession? Aag barsegi, aag!" He fumed and cursed the government. Girdhar adjusted his canvas umbrella and laughed. He looked towards Manikarnika and gargled from the water of the lota in his hand. He came back to Mahadev sitting on ghat steps and offered a small ball of bhang, which placated the arrogant Brahmin.

Daya was a Bahurupiya. A Bahurupiya is a type of actor, who masquerades in the form of various characters, in Dayashankar's case, Mahadev's. In Benaras, there are hundreds of them. You will be meandering through the crowded streets, minding your own business, and suddenly you are accosted by nothing less than Bholenath himself, complete with a  snake in neck, Ganga flowing from his matted compilation of locks, trishul and reciting Shiv Tandav Stotra! People are known to remember their maker after seeing them. Some have actually met Him in shock. Benaras is a place, where people come to die anyway, so let's ignore them. Bahurupiya is not a beggar. Who in their right mind would call a god a beggar? English may be the richest language in the world, but it cannot differentiate between a Yaachak and a Bhikshuk. Yaachak is someone, who begs. Bhikshuk is someone, who does us a favor by accepting our offerings.

Dayashankar lived in a rented house near Gaudauliya bus stand. He and his  wife had emigrated from Jaunpur. 'Emigrated', as one cannot relocate from a mortal Jaunpur to the City on the Trident of Mahadev. Daya was a Sanskrit graduate and didn't have any other qualifications. He also dabbled in sleight of hand and was a stage actor in his college days. In Bholenath's city, he tried to search for jobs and failed as in the age of SQL Server and Data Analytics, there were no takers for a Sanskrit scholar who could recite Laghu Siddhant Kaumudi. Daya was jobless for months. Shiva is a merciful landlord and always looks after his tenants. No one sleeps hungry in his city. Daya, his wife and his six years old daughter didn't actually starved, but they just managed to live at the fringe of starvation. That was when he decided to use his histrionic talents and imitated the God himself. Everyday morning at 5 am he went to Assi ghat and applied his makeup, then blessed the locals as well as tourists. They paid some small change. Sometimes, he got foreigners, who were blown by his fluent Sanskrit and he earned up to three thousand in a day. By noon, he went to Lanka and blessed all the shopkeepers there for five rupees each. At 4pm, Shiva visited Harishchandra Ghat and Kedar Ghat. At 7pm, he was at Dashashwamedh Ghat and danced his Tandav at the amplified sound of Damru on the live broadcast of Kashi Vishweshwar temple's arti. Shiva was happy. Daya was surviving.

Today he was agitated. His daughter was sick and he didn't have any money to pay for the doctor. He took her to the Babu Deenanath Nursing Home near Pandeypur and they said that she's too weak. The quacks administered saline and charged him 200 rupees. He paid it, without knowing that the saline was simply distilled water. He trusted those Benarasi Thugs. Dayashankar didn't know history. Lord Welselly learned this when he lost his horse three hundred years ago. When his daughter became serious, they referred her to BHU.

Benaras Hindu University is one of the best universities in the world and houses more than 15000 students. It has a concourse, which is in 12 sqkm. Pt Madan Mohan Malviya begged from everyone and built this  university single-handedly. The university boasts of its own aerodrome and a police force, known as PEC. Once again, O my reader, he was a Bhikshuk and not a Yaachak.

He left the Assi Ghat and went to Ratanshi Jewelers in Nagwa Lanka. The Naked City of Ravan. The world enacts Ramayana on stage. We Benarasis enact it in the entire city with people following the play. We have a Lanka. We have an Ayodhya and a Panchavati. Nagwa Lanka is where Ravana sees himself naked, just before death. A small and scared kid came out of the shop with an apple, couple of bananas and five rupees coin. Daya smiled and blessed him. The kid forwarded his offerings, wary of the realistic rubber snake. The man behind the counter laughed, "Bless him, O lord! It's his birthday."

Daya froze. Birthday? He pressed the hidden bulb and Ganga flowed from the top of his head. He recited in a fierce voice:

"Aghorebhyoth ghorebhyah, ghoraghor tarebhyayah.
Sarvatah sarva sarvebhyah, namastestu Rudra rupebhyah."

The kid screamed and jumped back. Daya exclaimed, "A birthday! And, you send the daily offering? I refuse it. Mahadev refuses it. Shambho Bholenath Tripurari!" He played the Damru. The kid expected some magic, as Damru is always associated with those roadside shows. The jeweler hastened and paid a tidy amount and a couple of toys. Shiva blessed everyone. Everyone was happy, except the god himself. He was worried sick in the fear of his daughter. Like all poor parents, he cared more for those free toys than the money. He knew that the money is already spoken for, but the toys are more valuable and more dedicated. They will bring more happiness on those dried lips. Money is immaterial as the child can't understand it. Given to himself, he'd never waste the money on toys, which could be spent on medication. But, at times a chocolate is better for the morale than antibiotics.

 He stuffed the small pink teddy bear and the clockwork toy train in his shoulder bag and went forward, reciting Shiv Panchakshari.

"Nagendra haray, trilochalanayah,
Bhasmang ragay supujitayah... "

It was 4pm. He went to a public telephone and called BHU. His wife was crying. A surgery was required. Mahadev dropped the receiver of the phone.

Dayashankar went to a tea stall and asked for a glass of tea. He pulled out his wallet and counted his money. No one was amused by seeing the Lord of Kashi, sitting on the footpath and counting changes at a tea stall. After all, it's Benaras. Daya had Rs 462 in cash, few toys and 3kg rice. He looked at the toys and smiled. It was an omen. She'll live to play the soft teddy. Bholenath won't joke like this! He has given this for a purpose! With exhilarated heart, he proclaimed, "Shiv Bhola Bandari!" Everyone echoed, "Har har Mahadev!"

He cut short his tour of business and returned to Kabir Colony. The main gate of BHU was before him. He stopped for a second, then recited the Vedic scriptures of Rudrashtadhyayi, which described Mahadev:

"Chandrama manso jatar chakshor surajostaja
Shrotadwaush pranasch, mukhadagnirjayatah."

His psyche is as cool as the moon and his eyes are burning as the sun. His breath is the scream of the hurricane and his mouth is as all-encompassing as a wild flagration.

He carefully wiped his blue forehead and went in. He went to the counter. The Mallu nurse asked in her belligerent tone, "Kya mangta?"

Shiva said, "Riddhi Pandey, my daughter. She's admitted here. My wife Parvati should be listed."

The nurse checked the computer and asked him to go to the general ward. Bed number 307. He went rushing. O reader, this can only happen in Benaras that someone in so outrageous a costume as Shiva can barge in a hospital and no one raises an eyebrow!

Bed 307 was empty. A quick check with nurse revealed that the patient was in the operation theater. Daya ran to the OT. His wife was sitting there. Daya sat next to her. She saw him and broke down. Daya smiled and kept his hand on her shoulder. He consoled her inconsolable wife. He pulled out the pink teddy bear from his bag.

"Arre! Why are you worried! Look here! I purchased these toys for her. She loves pink na? And, I also got this small train. It's a bit scratched, so I got it cheaper. You don't worry. She'll be out immediately." He laughed.

Parvati cried in random disconsolate waves, "Riddhi ke papa! Your daughter died an hour ago."

She couldn't speak anymore and chocked in her own grief. No more words were necessary. Daya looked blankly at the pink teddy bear and the small blue toy train in his hands. He looked at his devastated wife. The doctor called him for paperwork.

************

Parvati was getting frisky. It was more than three hundred years that Shiva took her out. Today she decided to dig her dainty heels and insist. Mahakal decided to give her a tour of his own city. Nandi and Veerbhadra arranged the cortege and the team took off. They flew through Mughalsarai and Ram Nagar, they passed the Varuna river and laughed at the antics of the loony monkeys of Sankatmochan...

It was a lovely tour.

They reached at my favorite Dashashwamedh Ghat. It was midnight. The ghat was silent. Shambho waved the guards away. Rakesh was shining in the sky. Shiva adjusted him on his head, so that he's brighter.

Both the lovers enjoyed the moonlit night. The Ganges left her naughty nature and acted mild. Mahadevi smiled at the Manikarnika Ghat across, which was named after her earrings. Just like a normal teenager, she hitched her skirts and dipped her fair feet in the cool water. Fishes swooned and kissed her feet. Fishermen went hungry that night. She looked smiling at Shiva and was shocked. She  looked at him strangely.

"Bholenath, you say that you are a Bairagi and you never feel any emotions. You always claimed that you are aghor. Then why do I see you crying and tearing a pink teddy bear and throwing it in Ganges?"

Bholenath looked at her and smiled through tears.