The sun rays were very pleasant still ; they had not yet acquired that heat which they soon would. Kalpana sat going through the newspaper as was her routine every morning. The news ‘Ram Temple Gets Heritage Status’ caught her attention and brought a smile to her face. She put the newspaper down and poured herself a cup of tea - so many images flitted across her mind.
The people of Chandan Nagar had approached her seven years ago. There was a small temple in their vicinity crowded by chawls. They wanted their temple to have its ancient glory restored. They wanted the chawls on the path leading to the temple to be removed. Perhaps the ones who were shouting loud against those chawl dwellers, were the ones who were jealous of the low rent they were paying. The chawls belonged to some Mohites. The Mohites claimed themselves to be King Bhonsle’s relatives. They collected pittance for rent and never did anything to improve the ramshackle houses, or sewerage, or water supply.
Kalpana was the Mayor of the city at that time. So she methodically and thoroughly dealt with their problem. She had the land records checked. The land on which the temple was built belonged to a nartaki (dancer) - one Chandanbai, and King Bhonsle known for his amours, had gifted the land to her. These Mohites were not King’s relatives. They were Chandan bai’s relatives who had later falsely claimed the royal kinship to garner social grandeur. Maybe over the years they had even forgotten the falsity of the claim and started believing their own propaganda. The land had never been given in succession to them. She challenged their claim and served a six month notice to the slum dwellers to vacate the dilapidated houses, so that they may be razed.
There was much hue and cry - the slum dwellers and Mohites in unison sang against her. One night five male members of the Mohite family, roaring drunk, knocked at her door to protest. She was living on the first floor of a multi storey building. She summed up the situation as she peeped through the eyehole. Her husband had gone to Delhi. She knew people will come running to her help. Her children were asleep.
A stick was always kept in the corner of the drawing room for her young daughter to switch on the fan as the switch board was quite high. She picked up that stick and opened the door. She stood with an aggressive stance brandishing the stick, " Kuan hai? (Who's there?) Why have you come at this time? I have called the police, and they’re coming." She never moved from her place, but pretended as if she was about to attack them.
Listening to the commotion on the staircase, the doors on her landing and the upper floors started opening. Emboldened by this, she came a step or two down as if she was really going to attack those drunks. They were frightened because over her shoulder they could see men gathering, and they ran away.
Kalpana kept her face straight while receiving her neighbors’ sympathies though inside she was shaking with laughter. The whole episode had been really amusing. Those Mohites were flabbergasted to see her fierce attacking mode because they had been expecting her to cower. Their expressions had been ludicrous, disbelief writ large on their faces, but she encashed the situation. Very carefully, systematically she spread the news of her avatar of Jhansi Ki Rani, who had tackled five men courageously and given them a good chase. This had contributed to her image building programme.
In due course of time the slums were demolished and a road leading to the temple was built . She had refused to spend corporation money on the decoration of the temple. She had formed an association of the residents to look after the temple. She had used her political clout to help them in raising fund but had not given them any financial help from the government coffers. They had appointed a regular priest. The offerings received by the temple were to be given as his salary to him.
Kalpana’s tenure as
the mayor came to an end. She was now a simple party worker. Last year once
again this temple entered her life. She received a frantic phone call in the
middle of the night, "Tai (Sister), the Hanuman idol has been desecrated.
Please come immediately." Kalpana recognized the voice of the
caller. It was Ganoba, the local do-gooder. Excitedly he was going on,
“Tai, it was Pintya. He is drunk. I have caught him.”
“ Are you in the temple?”
“Yes, I have called Vitthal kaka also."
Kalpana could see the gravity of the situation because Pintya’s caste would be a graver trouble raiser than the act. She reached the site and questioned Ganoba who was enjoying his two minutes of fame because nearly fifteen people had gathered on the scene.
“Oh! Tai, you should have
seen Pintya. He was kicking God Hanuman’s idol with his foot and it fell from
the pedestal and broke.” This idol, she knew, was
situated near the gate.
“ How did Pintya get through the gate? Wasn't it locked?"
“No the priest is out of station and his son forgot to lock the gate.”
When she turned towards Ramesh, the priest’s son, he nodded shamefacedly. No use scolding him, he was a mere boy of fifteen; the deed was done.
Kalpana asked them to bring Pintya. Pintya was unrepentant, “Sala, Kuch bhi to nahi karta hamare liye.(He doesn't do anything for us.) Yes I pushed him - kaisa bhagwan hai (What kind of a god he is)! He should help us.” The human element of the situation lightened her mood. It was an unsuccessful man’s frustration which had made him hit out at God - as they say a child quarreling with the Father - fair enough. He wanted what God had not given him - though he was a Dalit and the God in this case was not a Dalit God . Otherwise, there was no evil intention.
More and more people kept on gathering. Elections were looming. Her party workers were excited. They felt they were on the verge of getting a big issue to raise the rabble. Since Pintya was inebriated he was in no state to call his people - so at that moment they were not present.