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The Bus by Arun Kolatkar

The whole gamut of Jejuri shifts the imagery to the Ganga Sagar islands to which the ramshackle buses carrying the old and the infirm during the winter chill and cold of Makar Shankranti come from the far-off northern Bihar, U.P. and M.P. taking the people for a holy dip and darshan of the Kapil Muni Ashrama, but the return journey appearing to be tedious as for the strenuous journey, roadside resting and sojourn, missing and re-search for the lost personae as similar is the case with when interpreted in a comparative way. Our pilgrimages and inns had been as such and it is also so in the Canterbury Tales.

Under the sketch of which Bhairava should we read the poem? Which Bhairava does keep it foreshadowing Batuk or Martand? The latter is the one, the chief attraction of the poem, but the pilgrims forming the main content of the poem, the crux of the matter, whose key are they after all, the lock of faith unlocked with the key of scepticism.

How should we start the poem, with ‘Om Shri Martand Bhairavay Namah’ or something different? The poet is going to Khandoba to pay his homage to in the company of pilgrims hiring the bus clutching faith and doubt, but raked in between, overpowered by the latter he turning into an agnostic, a sceptic, an atheist. The Jejuri temple is the destination. Khandoba is but a local god of the folks worshipped in the Deccan. An avatar of Shiva he is a composite being representing others too. But the sceptic poet adds to. Under the towering shadow of the folk god, so puppet-like and bulging Martand  Bhairava he seems to have written the poem, but the reality far from. Hence, the zest of the poem will also be different. Kolatkar too a devotee of the Lord seems to be exulting with, but burlesque, masquerade and leftistic leanings lessoning him otherwise. Myth and motif are but one thing while reality is something other.
How his hands full with the flowers of faith? With the flowers of reverence or scepticism? It is also true all cannot be faithful. Where is faith at all? Who is actually faithful? One who serves Gods or one serves man? Whatever be that we are deviating and digressing from our point.

The state transport buses with the tarpaulin coverings hanging over or curled over, buttoned to were a modern experimentation or the glass shutters were broken, whatever be that the passengers by the side try to struggle keeping it down but the cold wind goes on flying it away. All through the way the wind keeps blowing away and shuttering the flaps, shaking and seeping into and the light too trying to glitter through an eye-hole, an eyelet on the flap and dazzling over the old man’s glasses picturesque of the old man and the sea, the sea of troubles and problems that life is full of.

The old man sitting next to him cannot feel it light falling upon, peeping through the hole and dazzling upon. The poet too cannot indulge in talks with him as the old mind may not comprehend it the crisis raking him. Shrugging it all, the caste system, the generation gap, he just goes on putting his inner scapes. But when you get down from the bus, fall you not upon the old man alighting. The poet as a modern pilgrim keeps about roaming in his own way and taking to the things in an atheistic version of deliberation.

the tarpaulin flaps are buttoned down
on the windows of the state transport bus.

all the way up to jejuri.
a cold wind keeps whipping
and slapping a corner of tarpaulin at your elbow.

you look down to the roaring road.
you search for the signs of daybreak in what little light spills out of bus.
your own divided face in the pair of glasses
on an oldman`s nose
is all the countryside you get to see.

you seem to move continually forward.
toward a destination
just beyond the castemark beyond his eyebrows.

outside, the sun has risen quitely
it aims through an eyelet in the tarpaulin
and shoots at the oldman`s glasses.

a sawed off sunbeam comes to rest gently against the driver`s right temple.
the bus seems to change direction.
at the end of bumpy ride with your own face on the either side

when you get off the bus.
you dont step inside the old man`s head.

The Bus, what sort of bus is it? Whom is it taking? Where are they going? Is Kolatkar with them? Is he gossiping with?  Or, taking a note of just to be poetical about? Such a thing it happens with the people going on a pilgrimage. Now the question arises in mind, how holy are we? How much virtuous? How chaste and religious from our within? Is he speaking in Marathi or English? Is he a Marathi man or an English man going on a pilgrimage? Jejuri, is it a faithful’s journey or a sceptic’s? Whose journey is it?

How the Marathi people boarding the bus? How the pilgrims? How the Indian mass in their attire? What about their progress to see in terms of John Bunyan? How the journey taken winding unto like the Up-hill of C.G. Rossetti? Were there private buses at that time? How had it been the condition of the govt. buses? Something also depends on management and maintenance and on the condition of roads whatever be that he is taking irony, fun and humour to be on his side to elaborate upon, clutching faith and doubt side by side he is going to Khandoba somewhat away from Pune. But thirty kilometre journey and that by bus is no pilgrimage. Had he been on foot, the experiences would have been otherwise and with strict adherence to the nomenclature of the local folks what one should take and what not while on the way.

Did the pilgrims start in the night time or early in the morning when it was still dark? Had they taken a bath or intended on taking in the pond adjacent to the temple complex? 

Tea they would not have then, might have sherbet, molasses mixed water, had it been the morning time journey. Some would have started nirjala, without taking water. 

The poems included in Jejuri are Khandoba poems, Jejuri temple poems celebratory of the journey undertaken in the company of the pilgrims, a bumpy bus ride undertaken, but Kolatkar here marking the rush and jostle not, but blind faith holding the ragged men, presenting them as superstitious Indian rural mass.

There is not much of faith, but of the ride and the bus and faith swaying in between, faith which is so frail and shaky as light is falling. The sunbeam dazzling upon, piercing through the flap holes or the streak glowing over the head of the driver and the turn he trying to compromise to reach the journey end show the search for faith and where it is found.
The Bus as a poem conjures upon the imagery of the buses tripping, shipping off to the Sagar Islands during Makar Shankranti and beating the cold winter waves the pilgrims flock to the landscape for a holy dip to be absolved of sins. A sea of people moving to, unmindful of the tiresome journey just for faith’s sake putting them into trouble without feeling their inner space, taking their heart into confidence as God knows what they will in the end? But can sins be? How to purge the heart of evils? 


More by :  Bijay Kant Dubey

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