Revenge10 mins 227 10 mins 227
*This story was submitted for commonwealth short story competition in 2018.
It was a routine winter day. Shankar, as per his daily schedule woke up before sunrise. After bath with cold water, he finished his morning prayer and offering to God Shiva. He wore a full sleeved knee length shirt and dhoti. He put on his sleeveless coat and traditional headgear called ‘Pheta’. His humble wife Parbati told him that food is ready, as soon as she saw him ready. He first went outside to take the feed bag kept in the corner and went to Mahadeva, his ox in the foreyard. As Mahadeva turned his head, the bell tied on his neck tingled. Shankar put a lot of feed in Mahadeva’s pot and patted him on forehead for a while. Going inside Shankar called Mahesh, “Maisha, o Maisha, come on wake up boy. We will have to leave early these days.”
After finishing his breakfast, he looked at the bed and noticed that Maisha is still lying lazily browsing through his cell phone, which Maisha has got on his 18th birthday six months back after he aggressively insisted on it. ‘Maisha, keep the phone aside and get ready quickly.’ said Shankar in an angry tone. ‘I am going to the landlord to get some money for repairing home. I will be back in half an hour.’ he added.
Shankar was a Nandiwala. The godly ox is called Nandi, which can be found sitting right in front of the entrance of Lord Shiva’s temples. Nandiwala is one who takes care of this ox and makes money out of talent exhibited by both of them. Some people donate in cash or kind to sacred god’s ox as an offering. Shankar considered Mahadeva as his family member. His daily chores were also taken care of, as like other members. He was decorated with ornaments and offered delicious food at festivals.
Shankar learnt many tricks from his father in this tradition, stretched back to thousands of years. Getting answers to common folk’s questions from the Nandi, telling fortune, balancing Nandi’s weight on his thighs and so on. He connects his community to Lord Shiva’s inmates, as preached to him from childhood. The Nandi and the tricks are considered to be gifts from Lord Shiva. He felt that being a Nandiwala is nothing but like the messenger of Lord Shiva. Hence Shankar has a very simple life.
Still a year back his home was just a shade made of tin and raw wood. Recently he has allotted with a well-built home under the housing scheme of government. But the construction was so poor that in the last rains his house started leaking from roof and walls. It is now in such a condition that it must be repaired immediately. Hence he rushed to get money from the landlord in the village.
When Shankar came back he saw maisha was bathing, behind a thin partition made up of old cloth. Shankar poured water from the bucket on Mahadeva and washed his body. He washed Mahadeva’s face, ears, and thorns. He wiped out Mahadeva’s body with a towel. Then he put the long soft cloth on Mahadeva’s back. The cloth has many pockets in it, around ten. By this time maisha was ready with cloths on and was ready after eating bhakri (Indian bread) and gravy of sprouts.
Maisha came and stood beside Shankar as he was getting a final hand on his drum. This was a traditional drum that was used to intimate people about their arrival. It is played in a special traditional way. Maisha wore jeans and a half-sleeved shirt. His hair was fashioned in a modern way and he was browsing through his cell phone as usual.
Shankar held the rope tied in Mahadeva’s neck and bowed down to him touching his hoof. Looking at maisha he said, ‘O hero, come on, we will have to start now.’ Maisha started walking behind his father. Shankar has a well-built physique of 5.8 feet. From his erect and confident walk, anyone can figure out that he is one who regularly does physical exercise. His rounded shoulders well-shaped arms and wide chest grants his wheat colored body a royal abode. His brownish eyes and typical mustache made him look handsome. But the wrinkles on his forehead and chicks gave a mysterious look to his personality. He was a wrestler in his young years and had bagged many trophies to his name. After his father killed in an accident he was forced to this profession of Nandiwala. His father on his deathbed took a promise from Shankar to follow and cultivate this tradition after him. So Shankar was left with no other choice.
Maisha was a teenager of 5.5 feet, reluctant to this tradition of Nandiwala but unwillingly he was forced to accompany his father, Shankar. The cell phone was his first love. After getting a cell phone on his birthday, he thought that with it he has got the world in his hands. He was always found stuck up with his cell phone either chatting with friends or watching movies or commenting on social platforms. This profession of Nandiwala is outdated one, as he thought. He wanted to travel places, have party with his friends and have fun all the time. Any kind of work or job or study was a waste of time for him. ‘Live life to the fullest’ was his philosophy. Rather he has stolen this line from one post and added this as his tagline. Whatever his ancestors were doing and now his father was following is nothing but a mess, is what he thought about this profession. Is this necessary to keep an animal when there is no room for the humans in the house? Why we should feed Mahadeva when we ourselves are in trouble for food many times? What life we are living in? Is this really life? These questions always roam around Maisha's mind.
On the other hand, Shankar always tried to tell Maisha that life is not so easy. He was also loved to live life to the fullest but philosophy and path are different. His path is more realistic than maisha and hence he expected maisha to come along him. This philosophical difference between the two was the reason of clashes amongst them. At times Maisha took a very staunch and aggressive stand. But Shankar always kept calm realizing his age. Shankar was confident enough that maisha will some day or the other gets his lesson. After all, it was nothing but a mere generation gap.
The village they residing was just adjacent to the city. Almost everywhere new constructions were on. Trees were vanishing and the jungle of concrete was erected every day. Only a few houses of old style were remaining just like monuments of the past. The sight of Shankar, Mahadev, and Maisha walking one behind other in a line was giving a strange feeling. Shankar representing an aging generation, in a traditional dress just looked historical. It was more like three animals walking in the jungle of concrete in search of food.
Shankar stopped at the gate of one housing society. He started playing drums and singing in his loud voice. In a few minutes, many people gathered around them. After singing for few more minutes, he handed over the drum to his son Maisha. Maisha started playing it. Then Shankar started collecting money and other things from the people gathered around. A lady offered wheat, another lady offered jawar and bajra, and another one gave rice. Some offered fruits like banana, apple and very few offered money in cash. All the offerings were carefully stored in separate pockets in the cloth worn on the back of Mahadeva. Shankar collected all the cash and put it in his pocket.
Then Shankar came to another housing society. The same scene was repeated here. After singing for a few more minutes, he handed over the drum to his son Maisha. Maisha started playing it. Then Shankar started collecting money and other things from the people gathered around. Someone offered wheat, some other jawar and bajra, some gave rice. Some offered fruits like banana, apple and very few offered money in cash. Two or three persons asked him to exhibit his trick of knowing the name of the person with the help of Nandi, i.e., Mahadeva as a mediator. Here the person and Shankar stood beside the Nandi and Maisha stood around 20 feet away from them. The person uttered the name in ears of Shankar and Shankar uttered it in the ear of Nandi. Then Shankar and Nandi with the secret gestures suggested the name to maisha and maisha got them right.
Then another person uttered the name in ears of Shankar and Shankar uttered it in the ear of Nandi. Then Shankar and Nandi with the secret gestures suggested the name to maisha and maisha got them right. This trick got him 100 Rupees.
After roaming around a few more societies Shankar had only 150 Rupees In his pocket along with few kilograms of grains and some fruits. It was very hot as they were experiencing October heat. Hence Shankar decided to take a break. He found a big tree and told Maisha to have a little rest here in shadow. This tree was located just adjacent to the compound of a farm. Shankar tied Mahadeva to one of the poles of the compound wall in shadow. He put some feed in front of Mahadeva in his feeding pot. He bought water from nearby well and put the bucket in front of Mahadeva. By this time Maisha has put down the mat and brought out the food. Both of them washed their hands and just sat down on the mat. Shankar opened the lunch tied in a cloth. Some fried village vegetable, Tiffin full of gravy, little pickle of pepper and around 6 Indian bread was the meal. Shankar took two onions and broke them with his fist. He offered one to Maisha but Maisha denied it saying, ‘It stinks.’
As per his routine, Shankar took a piece of bread and uttered the name of Lord Shiva then he started his lunch. On the other hand, Maisha did not wait for anyone and started his lunch. Shankar just let go of him as he was used to it. Just a few minutes after they have started their lunch, 4 to 5 luxury vehicles arrived there and more than 20 people alighted from those vehicles. The soil dissipated by the vehicles made their lunch a mess. Both of them stood at their place rubbing their eyes.
It was the landlord surrounded by his aids. He said in a very angry voice, ‘Shankarya, have you become the owner of this land? Can’t you see what rubbish your ox is doing here on my farm? You bastard, you people are becoming vagabond now.’
The landlord’s eyes were reddened and he was very angry. Some of his aid said that we should drive away his family from the village. Another suggested recovering rupees 1 lakh as a penalty. A youngster suggested beating both of them like nothing. Many of them supported him and marched towards the father-son. They were beating both of them with fists, feet and some with sticks. A couple of them started beating the Nandi. Both the father-son were begging not to beat.
Many people working in the field gathered around and started watching the incident. Both the father and son have been beaten like hell. An older man obstructed and make the men stop beating. Shankar and Maisha, Both of them were almost like dead. They were just shivering with pains. Shankar was unable to do anything because he was under the burden of money given by the landlord.
Maisha was very keen. Whatever his ancestors were doing and now his father was following is nothing but a mess, this incident was enough to underline this thought in his mind. Is this necessary to keep an animal when there is no room for the humans in the house? Why we should feed Mahadeva when we ourselves are in trouble for food many times? What life we are living in? Is this really life? These questions started roaming around Maisha's mind. After all the mess was done by the animal!
Suddenly Mahadeva came running towards the landlord and dashed him so strongly that the landlord was thrown at a distance. Everyone was astonished by the sight. Mahadeva was staring at the landlord like an angel of death. Mahadeva’s eyes were reddened and his whole body was shivering in anger. He was staring at the landlord as if the landlord is an animal with whom he wanted to take revenge.