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|by Kusum Choppra|
The old Dervish's outer looks were frightening enough.
The saffron robe was edged with black, ragged at the edges, patched with black too. Matted locks flowed over the shoulders, eyes ringed with black kohl. His kadaun were worn smooth -- old fashioned and little seen in the modern times when sadhus moved around in Nikes and designer watches.
Here was an old fashioned sadhu - no rimless glasses, no watch, no shoes, all belongings were on him. The slim cloth jhola on his should swung empty. From his hand swung a glistening ghaggar. His words matched the frightening outlook of his mat locked appearance.
He set the ghaggar down carefully and stopped to survey his surroundings. He selected a spot for his meditations at the approach to the village; no passerby could get past without his appraisal.
Swiftly, he swept away dried leaves and droppings from the place and cleared up the spot; then carefully sat himself down, crossed his legs and balanced his arm on the cleft of his little stick support.
The Dervish took a deep, deep breath and closed his eyes. "Pyaasi ghaggar hai meri, bhar do pyassi ghaggar meri" he intoned softly and seemed to be lost in meditation.
The effect of the intonation was electrical. A swirling wind grew and whistled through the narrow lanes of the village. It was an evil, dry, hot wind, no relief from the sullen sultriness, very trying on the nerves.
There grew quarrels at every chowk, where the men gathered and in every household chowk where womenfolk struggled with saas-bahu complexes, in addition to the dreary household chores.
The wind swirled dry leaves into the neat courtyards.
" I had told the bitch to clean the aangan (courtyard). See these leaves floating around. This is what her mother taught her about cleanliness". A sharp blow caught the unfortunate young woman on the side of her face and head. A couple of teeth flew out. The wind caught them and swept them along. They were among the first offerings in the pyaasi ghaggar of the dervish on the road. It is an ill wind, they say, that blows no good. Was it the dervish's thoughts that blew up ill winds that raked in a gory stream into his pyaasi ghaggar.
A peep into it showed broken teeth, gouged out eyes, cut ears and fingers, congealed blood, even a limb or two. Whenever he sat in meditation with his pyaasi ghaggar in front of him, the hot wind ensured the eruption of some quarrel or battle and gory offering flew into the ghaggar --- but it remained ever pyaasi.
One day a modern sadhu came to him, hands folded in mock humility. Synthetic saccharine sympathy flowed off his tongue. " Baba, I have heard of your pyaasi ghaggar. Bless me, I will fill it as you wish."
The fiery eyes shot open and bored into the cold glints slitted behind the fashionable gold rimmed glasses; a salt-pepper beard matched the salt and pepper trim; thin lips stretched in a knowing smile mocked the Baba's silent thoughts.
Both men could well read each other's thoughts; the matted locks and the ragged patched choga of the dervish a sharp contrast to the short sleeved designer kurta and sandals, the dirty stained kada to the designer gold watch, the black rim nails to the manicured pink ones.
What was not a contrast was the cold intensity in the yes of both. " Aapki pyaasi ghaggar hum bhar denge".
It was said with a tone of finality. His henchmen sped into the village. The saas-bahu and the paramour spats gave way to a calm, calculated targeted violence, no longer within the family, but neighbor turning on neighbor, tearing asunder the community to take out the wounds that Partition had never inflicted in this region.
Eventually, the Goons tired of the gore. Their own families were reviled by their ferocious butchery. So much so that their flagging support had to be constantly revved up with loud pumping of family, caste, and village loyalties, sprinkled liberally with references of others trying to " hame badnaam kar rahe hain" and the pride of the Race etc etc.
The gore had earned them revile from near and far, within the country and beyond. When the hounds bayed for them, the leader, the suave sadhu with designer tastes, found his masters wanting.
They had their own games to play, their own moves to plot, their own goals to achieve -- their own little petty ghaggars to fill.
And when he took recourse to the Dervish, he found the matted locks flitting the breeze, as usual drenched in the intonation " Pyaasi ghaggar hai meri, bhar do meri ghaggar ko…"
The Dervish knew naught of the plots and plans and the pogroms. He continued his intonation that resounded in the brain of his suave listener.
"Kya chahiye Baba ?
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