by Kiran Jhamb
Nina’s grandfather had built a Shivjee temple more than a hundred years ago. This temple at Gaimukh, district Bhandara, has a strong following. The devotees believe that if you ask God for something here, He will definitely grant it. First, they flock to ask and then they throng to give thanks.
The temple is connected with the history of the villages around and if it hasn’t become so by now, will surely soon be declared a heritage site. On Shivratri especially it is very difficult to get darshan. A weeklong madaiee (fare), too, is held with thousands of shopkeepers selling their wares. It is a kaleidoscope of colours, crowds, noises, voices, music. Khada tamasha amuses the devotees at night.
Nina’s family are the trustees, so for the whole week, they have to stay in the village to run the show. Police bandobast, ambulance, fire brigade - everything has to be arranged. Donors arrange for free food and lodging for the visiting devotees in Bhakt Niwas.
Nina had very fond childhood memories of traveling to the temple in her grandfather’s bullock cart on Shivraatri. At that time there were no roads leading to the temple. Nostalgically she remembered how there used to be hundreds of bullock carts. Now not a single bullock cart could be seen. Motorcycles and four-wheelers like Trax were galore. Tread of progress! Even the fare had lost its old hue, imagine they are selling jeans and scarves. Still, some shops of lovely earthenware and local art were there.
In India, many Indias run simultaneously. You have traditional India and ultra-modern-urban-metro India and an amalgamation of the two somewhere in the middle. In the Daan-Peti of the Shiva Temple this Shivratri, the trustees found a letter addressed to Bholaynath.
It began with the salutation ‘Hey Bholaynath’. This ‘hey’ was definitely not the popular American greeting. And after knowing the content of that letter you too will be convinced that we are entitled to celebrate the Women’s Day on eight March and it is no more a blind hollow aping of the days being celebrated in the West.
The letter was written in Marathi with a generous sprinkling of English words - must be by a first-generation university goer. The girl addressing Bholaynath was very clear that she wanted a government job by April-May. She wanted to repay the debt incurred by her mother from others. She wanted success, happiness, fame, money, love, friends, fans (I am quoting) in her life. She was thankful that Mahadev had come in her dream. He should give her the strength to face every crisis in life. She should have so much money that she
would never have the need to plan to use it. She wanted to make her parents proud. She wanted to win accolades, to enjoy life.
She had faced tension, failure. She had loved, loved so deeply ‘barbad hote paryant’! But she had been denied love in return. This time again she was in love with a ‘S. N.’ (full name is given, please God make no misidentification!!) and she wanted S.N. and she wanted God to make her parents also like S. N.
She had always tried to understand life. God had given her more experience (hardships) than her tender years warranted. She thanked God for letting her know that she was ‘connected ’with him for the last so many births.
On this Mahashivratri she was fasting and it was her fourth fast. If by April-May God did not give her the government job she would stop keeping fasts. And if he would give her the job, she would keep the next five Shravan Somvaars and always come to visit him on Shivraatri. She had signed her full name ABC clearly to help God identify her. At the back of her mind must have been the thought that God must be getting thousands of such requests on a daily basis. She did not want to take any chance of a mistake being committed.
The letter was written without leaving margins on both sides - it was like a kharra (chit) which you see students bring to examination halls to cheat. And all the English words had been spelled correctly.
Indian mythology is very clear – if you want a good husband you must worship Lord Shiv. She had just broadened the canvass. Interestingly she was bargaining with God. She believed in the give and take. She almost threatened God that they would part ways if He did not listen. She was very clear about what she wanted in life. The husband was at number two, the number one request was for a job. Taken as a random sample she augurs well for Indian women and their empowerment. Tread of progress!
The reel life had taught her that falling in love is ‘paramo dharma’ and she has the right to choose her partner. Disappointments in love must be faced and pushed back. One can fall in love again. And the definition of a good girl, one who earns, who makes her parents proud, also includes the right to fall in love.
Readers, you will agree we are way better off than the West with their anxiety disorders, psychiatrists, therapists, and support groups. You see, we can directly talk or mail to our God. ***