by Sharmila Roy Ghosal
( Dehradun, India)
It was in a quaint village in West Bengal where people were honest and gullible that a man walked in dressed as Lord Shiva, he had a trishul in one hand, his face was smeared with ash and his long hair was tied in a tight knot on top of his head. Little children stood in awe of him and cried out ‘Shivji’.Women came out of their houses to touch his feet.
The man dressed as Lord Shiva settled under a tree. He had a chela or bhakt with him who built a thatched hut for his master to stay. Women came with alms, fruits and money to pay homage to him every day. Some came with their tales of woe, the surprising bit was that even before the ladies could start to talk the sadhu was able to inform them about their misery.
Like someone’s son was sick or a daughter was not getting married, the women were astounded. “He is God’’. They went and told their husbands slowly the men too started flocking to the sadhu. On some pretext or the other the sadhu started squeezing money from the villagers. The women even parted with their jewellery and implored the sadhu to bring peace in their lives. “I will perform a puja to relieve you of your misery” he told the villagers individually, “But at the right time and date.”
The intention of the sadhu was to make as much money as he could at the cost of the villagers and escape from there. Now the sadhu’s chela was actually from the same village but had left the village many years ago when still a boy ,driven out on charges of stealing but he had a friend in this village Ram who supplied him with all the data needed about the different families and their problems.
Hence, the sadhu was always informed about the villagers when they came to him. Whatever money the sadhu could make at the cost of the villagers a certain amount was given to the chela and his friend.
One morning a car stopped in front of a house, a young man named Rudra got down from the car, he was a doctor with him was his friend Deepak a police officer. They had both been students of the village school before going to the city for higher education. Rudra wanted to open a clinic in the village and set up practice here. Within a
couple of days they came to know about the sadhu and his chela Sujit.
It was night Sujit was returning home from the bazaar with sweets and other food items for his guru when the police officer caught him, with the chela was his friend Ram. “Your friend has told us everything. Now without wasting my time tell me about this sadhu, all the details.” The officer’s voice was like steel. Sujit dropped whatever he was carrying and blurted out the details.
“The sadhu’s name is Bipin Pal, he is a convict a year back he had murdered his friend after looting and ransacking his house. He escaped from prison where he was put, by scaling the wall of the building. Last month I met him in a mela and we decided to come to this village, since I had a friend here”. The police officer frowned, “He told you all the details about himself”! Sujit nodded “Yes under the influence of alcohol”. “What is the name of the town he was imprisoned?” “Madanpur”, Sujit said. “A few stations from Sealdah(Kolkata).”
It was around 10 am the sadhu was talking to a group of women when Sujit came and informed him that the hut where they had kept the money and gold had caught fire. The sadhu got up and ran towards the hut to save his belongings, the wig that he wore fell from his head. Near the hut there was a large gathering of people. The sadhu stopped short on this path when he saw his photograph in his prison uniform hanging in front of the hut, smoke was coming from inside.
Rudra watched as his friend Deepak splashed water on the sadhu’s face to wash off the ash. The people gasped in disbelief to see the convict in front of them. Deepak had gone to the police station in Madanpur to get the sadhu’s photo. Before the people of the village could stone the convict to death, Deepak arrested him and put him in a police van to be taken to prison again.
All the gold cash that was put in a bundle outside the hut were given back to the people. Sujit and Ram did deserve punishment for helping an evil convict, so they were beaten and driven out of the village by the villagers. Rudra opened a chamber in the village to look after the sick and needy. After that everything was fine again in the village ***