The Vagabond I Met On Rathayatra
The Vagabond I Met On Rathayatra4 mins 23.4K 4 mins 23.4K
"How come you are here?" someone asked me from behind and then I felt a pat on my shoulder. I turned back. A tall middle man was smiling at me. "Excuse me, do I know you?" I asked. He laughed and said, "Yes, you do. Try to remember." Suddenly there was a roar from the crowd. I looked at the noise. People had started to pull the cart. The crowd was quite huge, as expected. However, I was standing a little far from the crowd. My age was obviously not permitting me to be a part of this big herd. And anyway I was not interested too.
My friends and neighbors who saw me there were literally shocked. "How come you are here?," they were surprised. "Haven't you been to Puri this year?" they would ask. They had enough reasons to be astounded. For the last 40 years I would definitely visit Puri on Rathyatra. However this year, the first time in the last four decades, I chose not to go to Puri. Even I was intending not to attend the local Rathayatra as well but then I couldn't resist myself from coming here. It was an old habit and would obviously die hard.
Suddenly I was reminded of the man standing in front of me. "So, why did not you go to Puri this year?" He was asking me again. I said, "Don't you see what is happening in Puri?? They sold our Gods for money. They sold my Kaalia. They sold Odisha's identity and individuality. Only because Kaalia can't speak and confront you does not mean you can play with him. He is sitting quietly and seeing everything. He will take revenge and I am waiting for that day," fumingly I said in one breath. The grief and heartache that were perturbing me for the last two months seemed to cease after I put my heart out to this unknown man.
"Hey, but who are you and where have we met?" I asked him.
"In Puri, I stay in Puri and we have met there only," he replied. Every year I would meet thousands of strangers in Puri and befriend them. So now I was sure he must be one of them.
"Oh, what are you doing here then? Puri folks never leave their town on the occasion of Rathayatra," I asked.
Before he could answer me again we heard a big noise coming from the cart. I saw an old man being abused by the Pandas and then they threw him away from the cart. The man fell down on the road. But before people could step on him, he stood up and while sobbing he walked away slowly away from the crowd. As he was passing by us, I stopped him and asked, "What happened brother?" He looked at me and said, "Nothing. I couldn't pay them money for touching the idols. So they abused me, beat me and threw me away. Kaalia is not a poor man's God anymore." The man beside me patted him on his shoulder, smiled at him and said, "Don't worry. Everything will be alright."
"I have come from my village to see the three idols but they did not let me see. If the situation is like this here, then what must be going on in Puri. How much I wish to visit Puri on a Rathayatra. But now I don't feel like going there," the old man said, hid his face in his palms and left the place slowly.
"Me too," I sighed. "This is the reason I haven't gone to Puri for the last two months. How much I wanted to see the Naba Kalebara. But then you know what happened and I didn't go Puri. Nor do I want to visit the temple in the coming years." My had a lump in the throat while saying so and my eyes filled with tears. By the way did u see Kaalia after his Naba Kalebara?" I asked the man. Suddenly there was a roar from the crowd as the cart had started to move again. I tried to catch a glance of the three idols. The noise was getting higher and higher.
"Yes, I saw Kaalia but not in the temple. He told that he has left the temple for the last two months. They made him a vagabond," the man replied from my behind. "What?? I said loudly and looked back. No one was there. I searched for the man the whole evening. But I couldn't find that tall, dark middle aged man with two exceptionally big eyes and a naughty smile on his betel stained red lips. That vagabond had vanished into thin air.
(Based on controversy of the Nabakalebara of Lord Jagannath, 2015)