The Common Man Speaks

10Sep/180

Short Story: The Orange Garlands of Bharatpur

Marigold Garlands

The television set in the rich household of Bharatpur was showing an important development that took place in the town that evening. The news was shocking but it didn’t shake the family members. The effect of the cool breeze of their new expensive air conditioner and the delicious pizza was too much for them to be bothered about anything else.

Earlier in the day

Ramakant was obediently sprinkling water on the orange marigold garlands in his shop. The droplets shone like diamonds in the early morning sun. This has been a subconscious activity for him since long. It not only kept the flowers fresh but also spread the fragrance of the marigold.

The 55-year-old was passionate about his business, although it hasn’t made him rich. The fact that his garlands get a place around the neck of the idol in the adjacent temple, albeit for few minutes, was too fulfilling for him.

Bharatpur was the land of the extreme. The wealthy families of the town had to wonder where to spend their money. The poor, on the other hand, saved every penny to ensure they won’t stay hungry the other day. There are areas where the luxurious high-rises lie just besides slums. Two separate worlds exists just few metres away.

The abnormal gap does become a cause of concern for Ramakant, who lied somewhere between both extremes. He knows much more about Bharatpur than his calm face and joyous nature show. With his keen interest in history coupled with the fact that his father being the freedom fighter, he understands Bharatpur in and out.

But he sees little hope in the socio-political situation of the town. The new regiment, that had promised heaven, has been destroying the once ideal town brick by brick. Apart from economic collapse, the secular fabric of the town has been under serious threat since recent times. Atrocities on the marginalized were a regular electoral feature.

On top of that, anyone who criticizes the establishment or raises troubling questions was labelled either an enemy of the land. By the way, being an enemy of the land was equivalent to being an enemy of the majority religion.

Ramakant now concentrates only in his daily routine and service to God, more so after he lost his beloved wife Lakshmi to tuberculosis (TB). He finds solace in God. He believes the Kalki Avatar, the 10th avatar of Vishnu, is the only hope now.

Marigold Garlands

His daughter Damini, however, has the opposite mindset. The 25-year-old Political Science professor in Shaheed Bhagat Singh College is a fiery young woman. She has a strong heart of a revolutionary but, at the same time, is soft-spoken and compassionate.

It is this emotional side of hers that compels her to champion the causes of the marginalized. Protests and demonstrations are her regularly routine. Holding banners with her hair tied in a ponytail in her usual attire of a kurta and jeans is a familiar sight in Bharatpur. She is also known for her polite yet hard-hitting articles.

Damini’s transformation has been revolutionary to say the least. She was almost the opposite as a child and during her early teens. During her schooling period, she was a reserved student who hardly opened her mouth. But studying Sociology during her college days proved to be a turning point in her life.

The subject sowed the seed of transformation in her. Studying about the oppressed classes of the society, both in India and abroad, gave her a completely new perspective about the world. She realized that just earning money and living a luxurious lifestyle can never be her aim. Doing at least something about the oppression around her was necessary in order to live a life, instead of just surviving like blind consumerists.

Participating in inter-collegiate drama competition increased her confidence no ends. Soon, she was seen performing street plays as well on social issues. The person who was hesitant to speak even in front of handful of people now didn't care even if hundred pair of eyes were glued to her.

The passing away of her mother had a lasting impact on Damini, obviously. The incident made her more responsible at an early age. In other words, it further honed her skills as a leader ready to shoulder responsibilities. By the time she enrolled for post-graduation in Sociology, she was a different individual altogether.

Despite her father’s profession, Damini has never been sure about the existence of God. But she is more than sure that one shouldn’t expect Him to solve our problems.

Ramakant wasn't oblivious to the massive change in Damini. He knew she was walking the razor’s edge. But he always saw his late father in her and that ensured he never stopped her from walking her path.

Damini was teaching in her usual calm manner today. But deep inside, she was all looking forward to something after the lecture. As soon as the bell rang, she barged out of the college campus, travelled to the town hall area on her bike and marched in the protest rally against something serious.

Back at his shop, Ramakant wasn’t hoping of any major business that day as it wasn’t any festival or special religious day. So, it came as a pleasant surprise when a man came to buy around a dozen expensive thick marigold garlands.

But his joy was shortlived as his friend came running to give him the news about Damini’s arrest along with a number of other social workers, activists, journalists and professors for holding a powerful rally against the government.

Ramakant was sad to hear that but not worried and not at all surprised. He knew this was coming. Off late, the current situation has been reminding him of the days of the freedom struggle his father used to narrate.

The family in the rich household just besides Ramakant’s shop was watching the news about the important development in Bharatpur that day. The seriousness of the issue didn’t matter to them as they hogged on to the pizza slices in the cool breeze of the air conditioner.

The news anchor was heard saying, “The activists protesting against the release of those convicted in the gruesome lynching were arrested by the police. On the other end of the town, the convicts were welcomed by their party leader with thick marigold garlands.”

By: Keyur Seta