Lower Antelope Canyon, Arizona

The Kali Pujari

He did not know where she had come from but her words affected him so much that he decided to turn into a Shakti Pujari. Bali Daroga was a Vaishnav who would never sacrifice animals to appease his Krishna but the wandering sadhvi's words shook his strong mind and body. She predicted doom for both his beloved children and that they would live forever young but only in memories of loved ones; they were supposed to die very soon.

Bali daroga was a policeman in the Colonial Police force that was stationed in the erstwhile princely state of Manipur. He had a big house for himself to stay; many orderlies nonchalantly did the chores of the house. There was a staff each for his horse, his elephant besides a cook, a gardener, a boot polish guy and a little boy who only assisted him in changing the coal of his hookah. His beloved children grew up oblivious of their impending doom as predicted by the sadhvi. The household conversed in fluent Manipuri and Assamese since the latter was their mother tongue. The first world war broke out and my aita could not give me any futher information. The last remanent of Bali Daroga's stint in Manipur is a black and white picture taken with his staff and Manipuri soldiers standing gallantly with their traditional headgear. I imagined Bali Daroga to be one of those Indian police personnel during the Raj who perpetrated harsh punishments on freedom fighters.

World War I finally came to an end and Bali Daroga's household pushed the prediction to their subconscious. Why wouldn't they? The son grew up to be a fine gentleman with lightening skills in football and his daughter married a suitable educated boy, the first agricultural graduate of undivided Assam who was soon climbing up the ladder of success. The sacrifices and Kali puja were carried on with a feverish enthusaism nevertheless.

The World War II engaged India and Bali's son who was in undergraduate College decided to join the IMA. He passed the Military Academy with Flying colours and was supposed to be inducted into one of the regiments of the Gorkha Rifles. While Bali's daughter was tending to a big brood of children and was also expecting confinement in the coming days. Time rendered Sadhvi's words wrong but not until one day when undergoing the pains of labour Bali's daughter slipped away leaving her last child. It was unexpected but the Kali puja was carried on with equal zeal. Bali's grandchildren were really small and didn't know the pain of losing a parent. Their only hope, their mama, Bali's son was soon to be posted in Shillong as a Lieutenant. The little kids were waiting with delight for their beloved mama.

World War II was over and so was the rule of the British Empire in the Indian Subcontinent. However, as we all know it left a big scar, the partition. Bengal was partitioned in 1905 under Lord Curzon and then in 1947 India was to be divided. Families and friends would be separated by a single stroke of a pen. Punjab wouldn't have five rivers anymore. These developments brought with them another impending war between two young countries. As fate had it, Bali's son was to play a major role on his part. His Shillong assignment was called off abruptly while he prepared himself for the cold climes of Himalayas. One day during his assignment in the war, Bali's son volunterred to swim across a turbulent part of the icy Indus. He was supposed to carry a cable across the river to establish some sort of connection. His swimming skills were no match for the turbulent Indus and he was carried away by it's icy currents. Bali's kali puja was nevertheless carried on with great zeal and passion. Hell broke lose in Bali's household; his son's belongings reached home and the Prime Minister also sent condolence messages. But hundreds of such messages could no longer bring back his son. He was lost in his own world wherein he would wait patiently for his son to come back home. The hookah boy was still there and would serve him prefect coal and tobacco leaves fermented in molasses for his hookah's fire. Bali lived to see his grandchildren grow up and was always hopeful of his son's return. He was never so cheerful before. A certain frame of time had stopped for him since the day he heard of his son's death. Kali pooja was undoubtedly carried out with sacrifices and its original grandeur, a ritual that had started in Manipur lived to die along with the Daroga bura sahab.

Comments

Leo said…
the pujas were carried out with fervor, but still the lives were lost in the end na? very nicely narrated, but even after that why was it carried out? had it become a habitual tradition by then?

Leo @ I Rhyme Without Reason
Anonymous said…
Yes it had become a habit which ended when Bali Daroga Sahib's life reached the dead end.