I escaped last week from the questions that the city life was posing before me. I escaped from the people that were coming too close for comfort and I escaped away, far enough to think about what was keeping me from breaking the walls.
I wasn’t escaping permanently, but just for a time enough to catch my breath and come back and deal with my life. So off I went- best friend, sister, and sister’s best friend in tow- to Malvan. A small town in Sindhudurg district, Konkan.
My relationship with Malvan has been a strange one. Although my family came from this place, I never went there for 9 years. When I did, I was a pesky 10 year old obsessed with Hum Aapke Hain Kaun. So there I was, in the backseat of the car, singing along to the songs, observing the trees passing and asking my grandfather some silly questions.
On that trip he told me that we all face same situations through our lifetimes, how we deal with them, is what differentiates each life story. On this trip, he could have ignored me, treated me like a kid but he didn’t. He treated my questions with integrity, answering them till I was convinced.
Soon, I didn’t have to ask any questions. He told me of his childhood, his mother, his father and a life full of poverty. He told me of his restlessness, to move out of the small town. He told me of his life in Mumbai, his struggles. He told me how he became a rich man and then bankrupt again. He told me how he tried to fight his bankruptcy and rise again. He told me how he succeeded and most importantly he told me how in his success he also failed.
I came back, the same pesky 10 year old, but I knew a lot more about my grandparents. And the narrow streets and thatched roofs of Malvan stood as a symbol of the story.
The whole village seems abuzz. The streets that once saw not more than one or two cars a week, were experiencing traffic jams. The street, on which my grandfather played Veeti-Dandu, is full of halogens as we approach a Ganesh mandir. The bright exuberant Mandir is decorated with flowers, lights and devotees.
An old man wearing bright orange robes walks in with an entourage of 10-15 people. And at every step, someone touches his feet and seeks his blessing. He smiles and walks. He stood before the golden Idol, bowed his head and stood again, looking at Him with love. It was a different kind of devotion.
He walked back and sat by the edge of the Mandir. People from the village, from outside the village came and paid their respects to this man, who’d grown up on this very piece of land. This man, when he was a boy, struggled to keep at school. His father was a simple man who was passionate about Ayurveda. Though the family lived in limited means, this boy grew into a man rich with curiosity. He struggled to start a handwritten magazine. He may have dropped out of school, but he read and soaked up the knowledge books had to offer. He learned Sanskrit and astrology. He soon started wondering about the world outside the boundaries of this village.
He went, he struggled, he conquered, he lost, he struggled again and now, he was the man who commanded respect with the way he walked. Tall, elegant and serene.
In a village, where once he had been too poor to be able to afford simple joys of life, he had built a grand Ganesh mandir. In a village, where school masters wrote him off for dropping out, he built a school. And even today, the money doesn’t matter, he continues to be rich with curiosity.