We are all creatures of God, so love all, for hatred can scorch even the wildest of forests.
It is a very common sight in towns and cities that a class of people for a living would pick waste paper, plastics and other rejected solid waste from the garbage consigned into dustbins by the people who live around.
Raju, a rag picker was busy in his routine of picking up waste paper, plastics and other normally useless things, thrown into the garbage bins.
Raju had a Guru, his master, whose advice was gospel to him. Incidentally this Guru also had to undergo this stage of rag picking to be able to earn two meals a day in his earlier years.
But as age had overtaken him, the Guru decided to settle down as a self styled God-man, instead of living like pigs and dogs in the lonely lanes. He was now a sort of a mini spiritual guru with his acquired knowledge of life through experience.
The essence of his teaching, if it maybe called so, is ‘love all – weather a tree or a man or an animal, it is a better form of living instead of meandering aimlessly, like a living corpse – God is love and loving is a thrill of fulfillment’, the master used to say to Raju. And during one of the sessions, with the guru, Raju put on a blank face as he could not comprehend this aspect of Guru’s philosophy.
Then Guru clarified, “We should not expect anybody to love us. We have nothing to do with others or their love. But we must love them and keep on loving them unilaterally irrespective of their reciprocation”.
Instead of leading a garbage life amidst garbage dumps, there is bliss in ‘leading a life loving others’. The master patted him on his back to impress upon him the meaning of his wise saying.
But Raju’s unexpressed reaction apparently seemed to be it would be futile to hope for any thing good in life and they were condemned to befriend only garbage with its entire stink. He was also too familiar with this type of talk from his Guru, that he was born garbage and was bound eventually to merge with the garbage.
‘How can we even dream of a luxury like love’?
One day it happened that Raju came across a photo of a young woman during his routine activity of rag picking. Many a time in the past he found such photos in the dust bins, but there seemed to be a mystery in this particular photo. He had a feeling the girl in the photo was staring at him muttering a mantra. As soon as he was confronted with the photo, he felt a sort of hypnotized. He had taken the photo, rubbed it against his far from clean shirt and shoved it into his pocket. He decided to seek out significance of his Guru’s idea of love and the lectures he had listened to many a time.
Later, whenever he was free from his garbage activity, resting under some shadow of a tree he used to stare and marvel, at the beauty of the woman in photo and to enjoy an inexplicable feeling.
He always used to indulge in day dreaming and fancying the presence of the girl and his conversations with her and enjoying the beauty of nature in all its aspects.
Days were rolling on. Guru scented a change becoming more and more apparent in Raju. Guru used to look at him questioningly to discover some thing unusual. Raju would react with just a smile and flee the scene stealthily.
One day in a lonely deserted street an array of municipal vans, burdened with garbage and its inherent bad odour engulfing the whole area. A young woman was also passing that way with a kerchief pressed against her nostrils to escape the stinking smell.
Even if it was none of her business to know what he was staring at, she was struck by a curiosity and started slowly inching towards his rear although she thought it must be some mad guy gazing at some thing he was holding in his hand.
But the woman however became curiouser and observing from his hind was shocked to see that the photo he was staring at was non else’s than her own. She wondered how her photo had come into the hands of this beast.
It would have been nice if she had ignored the matter as one of no consequence. But she was made of different stuff. Further her photo in a rag picker’s hands is outrageous. Muttering within herself, she yelled from behind him,
“Eh… Look. Give me that photo”.
Raju turned back and was stunned to see it was a girl, standing behind him.
“I am telling you, do you hear me?” continued the pretty woman but this time with higher decibels. Raju was unmoved—“I am addressing you man. Give me that photo” said the pretty woman raising her voice further.
Raju did not come to terms with what is happening around him.
He was musing “who is this pretty lady? What does she want from me? Does she object to my staying with my garbage companion? Is she asking me to get lost from here? Am I doing any thing wrong? Why in the hell she is yelling at me? Why she is looking at me with contempt? Normally only stray dogs and pigs come here to seek my company”.
Raju was unable to comprehend any thing of this situation. The woman picks up a stick, and pressing her kerchief tighter on her nose, shouted very angrily, “give me that photo”, flashing the stick towards him. She stared at the photo and then it occurred to him why she was yelling. She wants the photo handed over to her. Looking at her angry face, he put the photo in his pocket and also pressed his right hand on the pocket as if to protect it.
The young woman became even more furious and decided that it was futile to dialogue with him.
Then she moved away to the road, took out her mobile and pressed a few numbers.
Within minutes, a police jeep arrived, with the siren on its roof blowing at full blast. Four constables emerged from the jeep and saluted the young lady. She then motioned them towards Raju. The Police lost no time in mercilessly thrashing him and then shoved his body in the back space in the jeep and she climbed into the front seat beside the driver who dashed off to the station with his leg crushing the accelerator to the floor.
In the police station the Inspector Vikram viciously barked at him, “What do you have in the pocket? – take it out”. Raju did not reply. The police thrashed him mercilessly. They also tore off his shirt and from its pocket, snatched the photo.
Then Vikram took the photo and he was flabbergasted to see it was his darling daughter’s photo.
He turned to Raju and asked him – “why do you want this photo?”
Raju, spontaneously and with unexpected dignity replied “I am in love”.
Vikram could not immediately digest what he heard, and again asked him with fury in his face, “What the hell are you saying”.
Raju thereupon thought of his Guru and his wise words echoed in his ears. ‘There is nothing more blissful than love’, and wondered at the funny behaviour of these people around.
Then a determined Raju, sort of declared “I am in love”.
Vikram then sized him up looking at him from top to bottom; He then started wondering about this man’s stinking physical condition. According to him, it would require one barrel of dettol to soak him in for a week to reasonably clean him.
He was unable to figure why and how such a stinking man had the guts to pronounce that he was in love, with his daughter and whether he was a mentally challenged man. However the young woman, who was watching all this, was simply stunned and unable to digest how this stinking idiot happened to be in love with her. She was wondering why her dad was wasting his time and energy in treating this mental case in his usual police fashion.
Then her father Vikram handed the photo to his daughter and asked her to return home, saying he would follow after ridding this moron of his madness. Navya Tara, his daughter took the photo and quietly fled the scene.
All the constables have ruthlessly ravaged him till they are physically tired. Then the Assistant Police Commissioner arrived on the scene.
Vikram reported to the Assistant Commissioner of Police that the man lying there wounded was holding on to his daughter’s photo in his pocket, swearing that he was in love with her.
The ACP, who was already in a bad mood shouted at Vikram, “You are always preoccupied with such garbage cases, but what happened to the case relating to the kidnap of the Seth, the pawn broker. I am being bombarded from the IG’s office for further progress. Tell me whether you can do it or otherwise I can make other arrangements”.
The ACP having said thus, Vikram started brooding, “whether he was doing the right thing in making a big noise about the rag picker business. Am I making a mountain out of a mole hill? And am I over reacting?” mused Vikram.
Raju had been sent away, his body with heavy injuries due to the torture and the thrashing of police. Even in this condition the deep rooted feeling of love was smoothening and sweet enough inside. Is this the efficacy of true love?
Raju now realized the truth of his Guru’s teachings which in essence says, ‘there is nothing nobler than love’. Thus he felt as if mentally floating on a wave of love in an ocean of imagination.
Raju could not understand why they have snatched away the photo from him. However, the woman in the photo firmly got entrenched in his heart. Inspired by this feeling and he picked up a few color chalk pieces and drew the picture of his beloved on a nearby high compound wall, incidentally, establishing he is also a talented painter, though it may seem paradoxical.
One day as Navya Tara was strolling on that road, a life size picture of hers greeted her, full of glamour and beauty. With out batting an eye lid, she just stopped and stared at the picture on the wall for quite some time. She reflected to herself, “Am I really that glamorous?” Involuntarily she was filled with a feeling of thrill and satisfaction.
But the ego in her got the better of her and she wondered how a dirty stinking rag picker could draw such a picture in a public place? Having thought like that, she reached the wall, climbing on the garbage hill beside the wall reached it and erased much of the picture with her bare hands.
Raju came there but to him; the same picture with same pretty and smiling face was still in its place despite being erased partially.
One day, when she was returning from her college by that road, which wore a deserted look except for two professional thugs. They instantly started assaulting her. She was desperately protesting trying to get clear of their hold.
Raju who was busy with his professional work in a near by dust hill, heard the shrill of some woman and intuitively rushed to the scene. One of the goondas kicked him in the face, during the fight that ensued and Raju lost one of the front lower teeth. However with all his physical and will power he managed to scare away the two guys and carried Navya to a safer place away from the spot.
But the woman felt slighted and felt below her dignity to be rescued by the same dirty man before who even the thugs looked better for external appearance.
She reached home, and cleaned her self with soap particularly the parts of her body touched by the rag picker during the encounter. Somehow even after all that cleaning she still felt a sense of inadequacy.
The result of this street fight, Raju realized that the woman he rescued was the same person in the photo. Strangely he was not aware till this moment that the photo he was holding and the woman he rescued are one.
With this turn, his reverence and faith in his Guru had gone up enormously. He fully realised that there was genuine happiness in love.
Again as ill luck would have it, Navya, one late evening, was returning home by walk from somewhere. Four rowdies were trailing her in their car and at the turn of the road forced her into the car and drove away to their den in a lonely and isolated place. After this kidnap, they were trying to sexually assault her, and she was resisting with all her might shouting and yelling. But it reached no one’s ears, and turned out to be a cry in the wilderness.
Raju, at that point of time was busy with his professional work in a far away place. He suddenly had a hunch that some harm was befalling his beloved and raced like a mad bull intuitively to the place of the incident. He fiercely struggled with the thugs and got his beloved Navya released from their clutches. Her books, mobile and other personal articles lay scattered on the floor but unmindful of all that she ran home for life.
The police who arrived on the scene took away the four thugs and also Raju along with them and subjected them to traditional police torture and inflicted bleeding injuries on them. Even in that condition Raju recollects his Guru’s words of wisdom and derives solace. While all the others were groaning in pain, Raju seemed to be day dreaming enjoying the sweet and blissful company of his beloved.
When ACP arrives, Vikram showed these 5 people and complained that they made an attempt to kidnap and molest his daughter.
ACP says, “These five people?” pointing out at them.
And Vikram confirms and thoughtlessly, he included Raju also among the jailed although he was not a wanted person nor connected with the crime.
The four criminals, turning to ACP confessed to him only those were the people involved in the crime of kidnap and sexual assault and pointing to Raju said, this man nothing to do with the incident and on the contrary he attacked us and rescued the woman from our clutches”.
Then ACP slightly upset, turned to Vikram and said, ‘that if innocent people were framed and tortured, only criminals will remain in the community’.
Then, in response to a gesture from ACP, Raju was allowed to leave in an honourable way. But, Vikram was not happy at this development because his plan is to somehow frame Raju and shove him in the jail and thus permanently to get rid of him.
Having gone home, Vikram took his daughter to task for moving alone in the street despite his alerting her many a time not to, Navya kept mum.
She then started self introspection, “why did I not obey my dad’s warnings. Why was I going alone on that deserted road? Why was I involuntarily moving towards Raju’s habitat?’
She was asking herself. Even Vikram was to unable to comprehend why his daughter had been uncommunicative and keeping silence, when Raju’s name was brought up for whom she always felt nothing but contempt.
The same day, Navya deliberately strutted towards the man sitting far away under a big tree, and after reaching him, knelt before him and snatched the picture he was holding in his hand. She saw herself in the photo apparently very pleased with her looks and very courteously returned to him before she vanished from the place. She was so over whelmed at the very thought of this man adored her so much.
Now she was no longer angry with him. She justified her transformation, considering he was also a human being like she was. May be, she was born with a silver spoon in her mouth and he was born to poor parents and certainly poverty is no crime and would not make a human being in any way inferior because of that.
Even while going to bed, she was unable to get him out of her mind. ‘He saved me many times from what could have been a disaster’. Now, to her he looks no longer a dirty looked rag picker but a handsome young man. So much that whatever pictures of handsome movie stars she had seen it looked like his.
How much he had adored me despite all the contempt and hatred I poured on him. She had come to realize and was now reciprocating. He was such a nice man. He never bothered me in any manner. It seems like a devotee’s love to God in the form of a stone Idol.
In the meantime, the home ministry issued a warning call through mikes in the street and also in electronic and print media. The whole state was asked to be alert taking all precautions like staying indoors. Security checks of all people in all public places were the order of the day, in the light of threats from Pakistani terrorists.
The police discovered 100 kgs of RDX in one of the dustbins and took into custody about 10 rag pickers who again included Raju and this time his Guru.
They were driven to the police station and shoved into prison cells in the station. The ACP looking at these poor rag pickers with suspicion and contempt ordered the constables to deal with them with all their strength! “Don’t leave them till they confess the truth!!”.
The ACP after passing this oral order left and Vikram felt so happy that he had now another opportunity to end this rag picker’s story once and for all. The whole scene looked like a lion preying on an entrapped lamb. These people prostrated with all their sincerity to the police and pleaded that they were innocent and knew nothing and had not even heard of a thing called RDX.
Strange but true, at the same time, the real terrorists were entertaining themselves in a 5 star hotel enjoying a substantial menu, a prelude to their adventure in terrorism.
It is a pity that these people, the rag pickers, who do not know why they were born for , leading a life of abject poverty their only source of income out of what they manage to pick from garbage, and sell that in an effort to keep the body and soul together. They were right now groaning with the unending and barbarous hammering with the police batons
Vikram got all of them inside the cell with their bodies bleeding profusely. The strange thing was they were under going all this inhuman torture at the hands of police merely on suspicion. However Raju’s mind kept on lingering on love for his beloved. He had a hallucination of Navya calling him by name and expressing her love admiration for him
In the meanwhile in the police station, Vikram opened the cell door and with an iron grip got hold of Raju’s wrist and hauled him into the adjacent empty cell. A lungi cloth was tied to the ceiling fan in the room and converted it into a rope.
He got Raju completely stripped and made him stand on a chair. He then fitted his neck in the knot and Vikram kicked the chair fiercely with his booted legs. Raju was left hanging and battling for his life. Thanks to his Guru the ennobling feeling of love overwhelmed him in the midst of unimaginable suffering.
As the noose was tightening against around his neck he seemed to have reconciled that any day this was better and more honourable way to end his bodily existence with all the garbage and stinking odour, disease, and poverty. He then mentally saluted his guru for instilling in him the courage to die this way.
Then suddenly like a lighting thunder, Navya dashed into the police station and got a glance of his beloved Raju hanging from a fan in a cell visible to her perhaps have his last breath. Then with all her strength she had, she kicked the cell door only to find Raju’s present critical condition. She hurriedly picked the chair lying on the cell floor and placed under the feet of Raju. She got on the chair and with all her being she hugged the semi-conscious Raju with one hand and with the other untied the knot with considerable difficulty. She slowly brought him down and placed him on the floor and draped his body with her upper cloth.
Inspector Vikram her father was observing all this, without batting an eyelid. If it were not his own daughter, he would have dealt with her in his ruthless police pattern.
Coming out of the cell with unbounded and uncontrollable temper, she shouted at her father, “you inhuman brute, do you know what you are doing? Do you know the real enemies are else where? If you are not aware let me tell you that some commandos from Delhi have come and nabbed the terrorists in a 5 star hotel where they were making merry, before embarking on their monstrous attacks, whereas here, you are exhibiting your evil strength on a poor and hapless innocent man”. Having said this, she fled away with Raju to her house in an auto passing by.
She personally bathed him in warm water applying soap and shampoo mildly cleaning his wounds and nurtured him. When she touched him for the first time he experienced how it could be cared for, which even his own mother as far as he could recollect, did not do. Here, her mere touch electrified him with a very strange and pleasant feeling. Then she took him inside the room and observed all the wounds inflicted on him on the orders of her father in the police station.
She could not help breaking down while cleaning his body and very hesitantly asked him how he was able to put up with all the pain inflicted on him?
His curt reply was “love”
“How did you muster courage to brave this ordeal?”
He once again said “Love”
The same question Navya was asking in different ways.
However, to all of her questions, he had only one word answer, “Love”.
She dried his body with a towel and took him into her air conditioned bed room.
She sat him near the dressing table – mildly tended all the wounds and affixed band aids over the wounds. All the while he was under a spell enjoying just settling his eyes on her. But she was unable to reconcile the unbearable feeling of distress looking at his wounds.
She went to her father’s room, picked up a pair of pants and a shirt, and clad him with them. She then went into the kitchen, brought some food and fed him like a mother does to her baby. Then she gently kissed Raju’s forehead and slowly lowered him on her bed. After all this nursing he closed his eyes and succumbed to much needed sleep in a jiffy.
Then an infuriated father with reddened eyes arrived in a mood of volcanic ferocity.
When Vikram saw Raju sleeping soundly on the luxurious bed in his daughter’s bedroom, he felt outraged and his anger knew no bounds. But, for Navya, there is no question of retracting her action concerning the man now in deep sleep.
She slammed Vikram in a language which infuriated him and despite his best efforts he was finding it impossible to reign in the volcanic anger in him.
She directly questioned him. “Dad, do you want to kill him? You have beaten him enough, kicking him with your boots and your lathi. Did he ever even once resist and beg you to stop the torture?’
The photos of great souls like Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Theresa are hung on your office walls. Why do you have such great souls’ photos, is it to ridicule their very memory. No doubt Raju is a very poor man. Still he is also a human being like you and me. You better learn to love people and there is God in love.”
This rebellion of his daughter further infuriated him. In the meanwhile, her mother has arrived on the scene with all her pent up contempt for the stranger.
She shot a question to Navya, “you shameless sinner – who is that beggar, – how dare you bring him right into our house”.
She is so blinded with anger that she started shivering. Then she started hammering the sleeping man with some vessels and kitchen instruments. She seized a cricket bat hung on the wall with Sachin Tendulkar’s signature printed on it, and started hitting Raju with it so much that he woke up startled over what was happening around.
She demanded to know from her daughter, how she was emboldened to use her father’s dress to drape a stinking stranger and that too into the bed room. Navya blocked her way prevent further hitting. And even Vikram took out his belt to continue the onslaught on the helpless unarmed simpleton rag picker Raju.
Even in that pandemonium, being subjected to incessant thrashing, he managed to smile at her. He offered his respects to her with folded hands and started to exit from the place.
It is now mother’s turn again to express her disgust to Navya.
Even while Raju was leaving, Vikram followed him in his police jeep, tied him to the vehicle and started speeding the jeep dragging along Raju while Vikram kept kicking him with his booted leg.
This Raju, who earlier risked his life fighting with thugs to save Navya from them, why he is not offering any resistance now? If Raju wanted, he had the strength to pull out Vikram from the jeep and show him the doors of hell.
But Raju is made gentle and humane stuff. He reconciled to himself that might is right and the mighty inspector could use his brutish might on the poor as per his whims and fancies.
In God’s creation, just as we leave it to Him the task of protecting us, the birds, goats, sheep and cows depend on us entirely to look after their well being little knowing that we are massacring them to satisfy our food needs. Yet these creatures won’t protest under any circumstances.
Similarly in society the rich and powerful would go on preying upon the weak, who just cannot revolt being helpless.
Vikram kept on thrashing him, hauling him along with the jeep for miles and miles.
They reached a place where some construction company was building a road cum bridge. Some drums containing black tar (bitumen) were being heated from below to bring it to a boiling stage. Added to that it was a very hot day in the month of May. Hundreds of workers were toiling on the job
Vikram emerged out of the jeep, caught Raju by his hair and dragged him to one of the drums with the boiling tar. He forcibly caught and lifted him by his legs with all his might and lowered his head down into the drum with tar boiling in it to the top edge. The tar is boiling in full fury as if to match his vengeance and tyranny.
Raju was thus barbarously lowered and soaked inside the drum, with the tar boiling to the brim. It is difficult to imagine a more barbarous way of torturing a human being.
On the contrary Raju however must have felt like bathing in a lake of love in the heaven above with so many angels in heaven entertaining him. Some other angels were bringing his beloved Navya, fully decorating her with flowers of all hues, with jewellery and perfumes towards him. He then took his bride in a small boat and he was rowing himself with all the natures’ beauty welcoming them from all directions. In culmination of her overtures of love she kissed his lips with honey flowing from both sides. Throughout they were exchanging pleasant words.
There was now a crowd near the drum trying to find out what happened to the man inside the drum of fuming tar. Vikram was observing all this like any other curious passer-by.
Navya rushed to the heated drum and seized the hand. As she came into contact with the drum she instantly collapsed with his hand in her’s. And she never regained her consciousness.
The Guru is now out of jail and is looking for another worthy disciple.
Original STORY: S.GANAPATHI RAO
FROM THE BOOK “MARIGE THAARUSAROVARAM” (Telugu)
Translated by: Mandalika Satyanarayana