Today my morning started with some terrible headlines in newspaper about Hindu –Muslim riot, murder and rape which created anger, hatred, distrust in me at my age of fifty. I was scared and for a long while was sitting petrified with a blank head. Only a line, once heard somewhere was scrolling over my inner eyes – More the Civilization is growing old, more it is growing stupid and selfish.
Suddenly I remembered a story ,my Amma told me , when I was a child. Amma was my Grandma. It was one those bed time stories but had a special genre.
While telling that story her eyes would laugh silently and by her mysterious facial expression she would try to inspire a sense of fun in me . So automatically my face would become smiley but at the same time , I did not know why, I could perceive with some certainty that Amma herself would not consider the story to be funny at all. It was her mere game of pretension.
Amma would tell the story with these lines – Once upon a time there was a little village surrounded by river Padma . Name of the village was Hathatpara. It was was only three miles away from my father’s home. You know , in those days every villager had to use boat to reach market , school and others .Nearly half of the villagers were by caste Bouri and Namasudra . Only one Brahmin and one Kayastha family lived there. Rest were muslim families .
There was an old temple of Baba Biswanath. You know, He was Lord Shiva. The Mosque of muslims was however newly built and in its formation Mahim Ghosh , the land Lord and village Pradhan(Head) had donated a lump sum amount . It was a beautiful village you know , far better than your town. We had quiet and calm life, not like today’s clocky-walky busy race .
At this point Amma would take a break staring at me to create an ambience of suspense.
In that year ,only four days to go to end the month of Muhharam , while Muslim villagers were shopping for their merry Eid festival , suddenly Imam of the mosque came to hear something terrible and became speechless. Within a little while that whispering information propagated to all and created a shuddering silence. Actually what happened was that Muezzin of the mosque had fallen critically ill , became senseless and so had been hospitalized . And the big question tossing in their minds was who would sing Azan on the day of Eid . So they were scared because they believed that without Azan , their Namaaz would not be sacred and so ghastly wrath of the Allah would punish them.
Imam and some old and wise Muslim villagers sat together to find a way out . A person to replace Muezzin should have good character and very good singing skill. Names of so many guys had been taken into consideration but none had been approved. So their discussion was going on and on. Ultimately after a long tiring session it was found that in that village no Muslim person was able to sing .
Imam was intelligent enough to know that he would be liable to solve the issue .
Just at that time Hazibul uttered in a very low voice – please forgive me , but I waaant to say that , I knnooow it is not so religious , but better to do something than to think ,isn’t it ? no Muslim can sing here , and yooou seeeee without Azzan you knnnow ,road to Jahannam is clear . Are you ready to go there ? We should save ourselves . And …
Imam interrupted him – Hazibul , when you speak – speak out clearly !
Hazibul took a deep breath and said – A pure Muslim is he who is pious & tender hearted , isn’t it ? Then why are we not calling Parasar , the younger son of Kailash Babu ? he is intelligent , a classical singer , very polite . He has all the qualities . May be he is Hindu , but he has the qualities. We can request him to help us when we are in trouble. Now you villagers are there , better you decide what to do !
Villagers became speechless . Imam sat tongue tied ,eyes closed started nodding his head horizontally and vertically and after a while said – Allah almighty Khuda is our creator . He will protect us.
On the day of Eid , Muslim villagers could hear Azan , came and gathered at mosque-yard and participated in assembly prayer of Namaaz .When all religious customs were over Parasar came out of the mosque . He sang Azan very well , some stated even better than Muezzin and later became the most whispered benevolent hero of the village.
Here again Amma would take a pause looking at me with her eyes laughing and I would laugh with her without knowing what was funny in it.
Five years after that Eid , some villagers again had fallen in trouble and that time it was with Hindu villagers. In the Month of Magha (Bengali month) , just three days before Saraswati Puja festival , at afternoon , village Pradhan Mahim Ghosh suddenly called villagers in the temple yard . In that meeting he did burst into shouting – What’s this? Have you heard , that nincompoop fellow Purohit (Priest) is hospitalized ? Acute food poisoning , doctor told me , and now is in critical stage . What a dumb gluttony! Only three days to go, How can I manage a new Brahmin now ? All Purohits are engaged . None will come . You see , decoration of puja pandel (Temporary Structure) is going in full swing . Please suggest something ..
Suddenly a wave of silence splashed in the room and switched off smiles from all faces . Mahim Ghosal knew it well that no other Brahmin Purohit (Priest) would come to perform rituals of Puja in such a river locked distant village.
Ninety years old Sadananda , known to all by Sadananda Khuro (uncle) coughed and told in a husky cough muffled voice – Mahim , one bavon (brahmin) is gone , so you chilect (select) another bavon as our Furut (Purohit –Priest) .
Mahim cried – And do I have a Brahmin producing factory ! you presume so ? Khuro , when you sit – just sit , don’t talk .
Undaunted Sadananda again told – Why ? you see Fagu is there . He can chant Gayatri Mantras well . We may Call him .
Mahim then became furious but with restrained voice replied – Ohho ! Old age had ate up your brain uncle. Fagu ! Can anyone choose Fagu ? What a day-slumbering, stomach-driven, liqueur-lover characterless fellow is he ? You said to make him a Purohit ? Strange! Have you forgotten? He was a pumpkin thief- a dumb rustic idiot.
Radhu was hearing the conversation patiently. He was the idiot of the village well acknowledged by all and was famous for his consistencies in telling misappropriate words in wrong time. At that time he with a big smile told – If our Purohit were not hospitalized we can easily select him, can’t we ?
Radhu intended to continue but seeing the angry reddish eye of Mahim Ghosh , he thought it better to stop.
“O Mahim Karta , what a bad news , your purut is dying in hospital ! Then who will perform puja rituals ?”- these loud words splashed into the room like sudden waves and hearing this Mahim Ghosh could recognize the speaker and looked outside of the room and could see Sabir Ansary, half -standing on his bi-cycle. He had a a business of decoration and so was hired to decorate the Puja Pandel . Something came in his mind, so Mahim Ghosh again told –You wise men of village Panchayat are here . Now decide who will be that pious man we can trust to do our rituals .
None of the villagers had any option , so they told – Mahim , we trust you , please you do something.
Mahim knew his fellow villagers well , so he asked – Yes , I will select but you give your words that you all will accept my choice, sure ? No one will tell against me , will you ?
After that Mahim came out and told Sabir – O Sabir Bhai(Brother) , Go on with your pandel and tell your brother Yusuf meet me at evening .
In that evening , at the backyard of the house of Mahim , he was seen talking with Yusuf in low voice . Yusuf , a bit anxious , cried- Mahim Babu , It is not good for me , I am a Muslim , a recpectable Imam , how can I be your Purohit ? My fellow person , my society will not spare me . Your villagers will never accept me to do those rituals . And I do not know Sanskrit Chants !
Mahim pondered and after few seconds told in a very grave and calm voice- Your religion speaks for love and peace you said that day , Did not you ? You are a kind man . So will you not help us ? We had allowed Parasar in that year to help you ? Hadn’t we ? You see , we all are brothers . Can you not help me , your poor elder brother ? you see , I am suffering from high blood pressure . Any time , doctor told , I can be no more . In your problem who is there to help at last ? It’s me , you know it well . Do it Yusuf . And , and you see , I will waive all your loan you owe to me , for sure . That amount with interest had already crossed fifty thousand rupees. You are not a rich man , I know . But as per contract , interest will be doubled from next month . Please do this job and you take my word , from now I will forget about your loan for ever . Those loan papers will be destroyed. I will do it . Live a happy life ever after . Can you not do me such a little favor ? Every villager will ever pray for you . Yusuf , please , this is my humble prayer .
Saraswati puja festival with all rituals occurred perfectly without any slightest hindrances. Yusuf dressed in dhuti performed puja rituals as Purohit and chanted Sanskrit mantras . Mahim gave him a booklet “ Saraswati Puja Mantra made easy” and it helped him a lot. Every thing had gone perfect . After that Mahim waived his loan .
I would ask Amma – Where is that village ? Can you not take me there ?
Amma would breathe a deep sigh and would tell – In that year when Gandhiji died , a terrible flood had swept out that village for ever .
But today I can find some fun in it. Those poor and so called illiterate villagers went by their heart to live a good life . They had perceived their own religion by their own realization , not by any corporate dictum. Now today after so many years , so called educated persons are shouting on secularism fruitlessly.
Now I believe ,that Village did exist in a world of dreams , which once was real but now we even dare to dream.