Phule as a Social Reformer
In the 19th century, the spread of the Western education and culture in our country gave rise to a new awakening of minds, especially among the educated classes. They began to look towards the drawbacks and deficiencies – the maladies of our social life and attempted to find ways and means to obliterate them. The pioneers of this new outlook were Raja Ram Mohan Roy and Mahatma Phule. Jotirao Phule’s work was revolutionary like that of Raja Ram Mohan Roy.
Like Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Jotirao Phule was also a harbinger of the Indian Renaissance Movement. He vigorously fought against the practice of inequality in Hindu society, particularly, that of Maharashtra. He founded Satyashodhak Samaj. The focus of Phule’s struggle is man and his dignity. His writing expresses the tenets of humanitarianism. He fought for liberty, equality and fraternity and felt the need for social restructuring. His first and foremost aim was to create a new cultural ethos and awareness among the people and to create a new social order. He stood for reform of Hinduism and was a champion of women’s rights. He opened the first girls’ school in India. He was the first person to raise his voice against Aryan-made Chaturvarna system and Brahminical hegemony. Satyashodhak Samaj which he founded aimed at purging the Hindu society of all its evils. He overthrew the Brahminical hegemony and endeavoured to free the commoners from their state of thralldom. An eminent Marathi writer and progressive thinker Janardan Waghmare writes: “Jotirao studied social hierarchy that was the outcome of Chaturvarna system in the contemporary Indian society. He wanted to raze that social fabric which gave birth to social inequality.” He studied the Vedas, the Upnishads, the Gita, the Bible, and the Quran. He vigorously opposed the idol-worship and urged upon his followers to follow the truth which he thought was the only God whom we ought to worship. He fought tooth and nail to break the rigidity of the caste system and put an end to the rituals in society. Satyashodhak Samaj teaches us to worship the Truth, which is eternal, tangible, and sustainable. The doors of Satyashodhak Samaj were thrown open to all and sundry. Jotirao had a special concern for the untouchables. He allowed the untouchables to fetch water from the cistern in front of his house, for the upper classes had never allowed them to touch their water reservoirs. Orthodox and conventional, they believed in pollution. This was Jotirao’s firm blow to the system that discriminates man from man and that allows animals but not the Shudras to drink water from public or private sources. He stressed the need to put an end to colour-discrimination, caste-discrimination and even sex-discrimination. He appointed his wife as a teacher in a girls’ school; prior to that he taught her. Like a sensitive social observer, he noticed the pitiable condition of the poor Shudras and Ati-shudras. His writing was centred on their predicament: He fought against the Brahminical hegemony, degraded and decayed state of agro-system, caste-discrimination, problem of ignorance and illiteracy in the contemporary society. He did a commendable work in social reform like girls’ education, widow marriages, and protest against shaving of widows. He dedicated his entire life to the cause of education and social reform. He stood against practice of polygamy and child marriage. He himself denied the proposal of his own re-marriage. He advocated widow marriage. He criticized the evil practice of the caste system and untouchability. He himself denounced idol-worship, rituals and superstitions and urged upon others to follow in his footsteps. He wanted to purge and purify the Hindu religion and to stop discrimination based on the caste system. Phule studied the origin of the Aryans from anthropological and ethnographic point of view and proved that the Aryans were not indigenous folk of India. In one of his Akhands, he gives etymology of the word Aryan saying that is derived from the word “Irani”. Aryans defeated Dasyus and forced them to adopt their culture. Bhaskar Bhole writes: “Phule’s struggle was directed against cultural colonialism. He opposed tooth and nail elitists’ cultural imperialism”.
Jotirao Phule endeavoured to rebuild the social order on the foundation of equality of opportunities and social justice. He exposed the evils of the priest craft and caste system and gave impetus to the movement for the liberation of the Shudras, the Ati-shudras and women. Under his guidance Narayan Meghaji Lokhande formed the Labour Organization. It was the first of its kind in India. On one occasion, Mahatma Gandhi addressed him as a real Mahatma. Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar rightly called him his mentor, his master.
His name was Joti, which means in Marathi a flame, which gives light. That flame which illuminated within his heart showed the people of his time the path of truth, equality, and humanism in the light of logical reasoning.
Ghole summarized Jotirao’s teaching in the following words:
Believe in one God, right conduct, equal right of men and women, and brotherly conduct towards all. Man will not be happy, unless his conduct is truthful. Truth is the home of all religions…. Truth is the pillar of happiness; the rest is all darkness. Truth puts the cunning to consternation; all hypocrites and poseurs lose their peace of mind at the thought of truth. Jotirao prays people not to be a party to falsehood or hypocrisy.
Phule as a Creative-Critical Writer
Jotirao Govindrao Phule was a prolific writer. He handled almost all the literary genres in Marathi. Through his writings, he wants to convey his thoughts to his readers and followers. He thought of literature as an effective medium to have a dialogue with his followers. His writing is direct and unambiguous and is the outcome of his profound reading and contemplation on various social issues. Throughout his life, he has professed truth as the only religion. He seems to have succeeded in creating a parallel system of religion which he named as Sarvajanik Satya Dharma. He believes in truth as the only God and worship of truth is the worship of God, whom he calls Nirmik, meaning the Creator. Dhananjay Keer writes, “Jotirao was the first Indian leader to preach and practise the maxim: “Truth alone triumphs”. He used to have it printed on his letterhead.
Phule wrote a drama titled Trutiya Ratna in 1855. He submitted the manuscript to the Dakshina Prize Committee, but it was rejected. He depicted the life of the contemporary Mali and Kunbi people. These ignorant, superstitious people were easily cheated by the Brahminical priestly class. Phule emphasized the importance of mass education through this play. In 1869, Phule wrote a ballad titled “Shivajicha Povada”. The ballad is dedicated to Ramchandra Balkrushnaji Rane, the President of Paramhans Sabha. The poem is in eight parts. He wrote this poem especially for Kunbi, Mali, Mahar, Mang and Kshatriyas. He portrayed the socio-economic, political, and religious conditions during Shivaji’s reign. He extolled the virtues of the brave king Shivaji in this lyric. In short, Phule dwelt on the legendary life of Shivaji at length in this ballad.
In his career as a writer, Phule wrote on various social issues. Compared to poetry, he has written a lot of prose. But his poetry has a special characteristic feature: It is subaltern, coloured by his great concern for “the poorest, and the lowliest, and the lost” in society. His poems are lyrics composed in a fixed metrical pattern called Akhand. Dhananjay Keer writes, “Jotirao is better as a poet than as a prose writer. His poems are lyrical. His prose is like wild fruit. It is not sweet, but has medicinal properties (like cathartic effects). It is rough, however, and at times suffers from grammatical errors and is occasionally obscene.”
In June 1869, Phule wrote another ballad, titled our Brahmin-ridden Policy Education System. In this poem, he criticized the policy of Pantojis (Brahmin Pedagogues). Most of such Pantojis were partial and were not ideal teachers in Phule’s view. He emphasized the need for reforms in the contemporary educational system.
In 1869, Phule wrote a booklet titled Brahmanache Kasab (the Brahamanical trickery). He wrote this book with a special purpose in his mind. The marginalized people were unscrupulously robbed of their wealth and other possessions under the guise of religious rites and practices by the Brahminical priesthood. He wanted to set the common people free from the clutches of the elite class. He expected that the British should educate the Shudras and the Ati-shudras through formal education system. In this poem, Jotirao exposed the false practices in the religious system. Bhats or Brahmins conducted such practices for mere mercenary gains, while the Shudras and the Ati-shudras were simply duped and thereafter exploited.
In 1873, Phule wrote yet another book titled Gulamgiri (Slavery). He wrote a prologue in which he mentioned that the purpose of writing this book was to wish the well-being of people. After the publication of this book on 24th Sept. 1873, Jotirao founded Satya Shodhak Samaj. This book was dedicated to The Good People of United States for their sublime selfless service and devotion to the cause of the Negro emancipation. In this book, Phule examined the origin of the Aryans. He also wrote elaborately about the conflict between the Aryans and the non-Aryans. According to him, the Shudras and the Ati-shudras were the non-Aryans and, hence, indigenous citizens. He also criticized the false, concocted tales which constituted Hindu mythology. He wanted to emancipate the Shudra brethren from the bonds of slavery, which the Brahmins have woven round them like the coils of a serpent. Phule wrote another book titled Shetkaryancha Asud. (The Farmers’ Whipcord) He wrote this book for the defense of the Shudra (Dasyu) community. In the prologue of this book, he wrote the lines:
For want of education, intellect deteriorated;
for want of intellect, morality decayed;
for want of morality, progress stopped;
for want of progress, wealth vanished;
for want of wealth, Shudras perished –
all these miseries sprang from illiteracy alone.
Phule concluded that there was not one single reason but a plenty of reasons that caused the depraved, piteous condition of the cultivators. The cultivators were duped by the Brahmin officials and their English bosses. Phule’s concern for the cultivators is clearly evident in this book. He not only discussed the problems and challenges before the cultivators but also suggested solutions to those problems. Presently, the Govt. of Maharashtra has undertaken a new scheme titled Mahatma Phule Land and Soil Conservation Scheme, which Phule had earnestly proposed in his time.
In the year 1885, Phule wrote another book titled Satsar. He wrote this book for the benefit of people. He wanted to convey his message through this short book. He realized that the Shudras and the Ati-shudras were cheated by the artful Aryans for several centuries. In the second part of the Satsar, Phule delineated the pathetic condition of women in the contemporary society and condemned the Aryans, who practised their idiotic ideas and put women to immense suffering.
Phule wrote Ishara (warning) in 1885. He wrote this booklet with a special purpose in his mind. He objected to M. G. Ranade’s views. Once, in his speech, M. G. Ranade said that the condition of cultivators was better as compared to the period before thirty years. Phule firmly rejected this observation and severely criticized Ranade. In this booklet, he discussed the problems of cultivators.
In the year 1887, Phule wrote a book titled Satya Shodhak Samajokt Mangalashatakasaha Sarva Pooja Vidhi. In this book, he wrote about the practices and rituals that he expected to be conducted by the followers of Satya Shodhak Samaj. As the name indicates, Phule’s new organization was a truth seekers’ society. In this book, Phule elaborately wrote about the rituals at the marriage ceremony, hymns, bridal songs, etc. He discarded the traditional mythology, rituals and established a parallel, alternative system in society. Hari Narke writes: “Through the use of language, arts, religion, and history, Phule succeeds in creating an alternative but genuinely Indian culture. That is the outcome of his thought and work.”
In the year 1891, Phule’s book titled Sarvajanik Satyadharma was published posthumously. In the prologue, he mentioned that he had written this book for the benefit of his brethren. Phule expected good conduct from his followers. He did not believe in the religious and ethical system initiated by the Aryans and practiced by the cultivators. The Creator created living and non-living things. In order to please the Creator, Phule discusses what type of conduct should be expected? How should we live with other people in society? He sought answers to these two questions in this book. He also discusses certain notions and practices as the Creator’s worship, chanting God’s name, donating food, heaven, men, women, sin, happiness, Sanskaras, betrothals, evil deeds, death, the life after death, and his prayer for all men and women. This book can be called a compilation of his thoughts.
Phule’s Akhandadi Kavvyarachana was also published posthumously. It was published in the book titled Mahatma Phule Yanche Charitra by Pandharinath Seetaram Patil which he brought out on the occasion of Phule’s birth centenary. Akhand is a metre or a type of poem practised exclusively by Phule and somewhat resembles Abhang. In these short poems, Phule speaks about the dominance of the upper class, the pathetic condition of the Shudras and the Ati-shudras. Some of these poems are satirical in tone.
Asprushyanchi Kaifiyat is a book written by Phule. It was posthumously published in the issues dating from April to December, 1980 of the tri-monthly journal Purogami Satyashodhak by Sitaram Raikar. In this book, he depicted the condition of the untouchables in the contemporary society. He also elaborately discussed the dominance of the upper classes and the slavery of the Shudras and the Ati-shudras. In this regard, Govind Talvalkar writes: “If we try to find the essence of his writing, we will find that he had a heartfelt craving for the universal human freedom.”
A Note on Trutiya Ratna
Mahatma Phule’s Trutiya Ratna earned him a place among the Marathi dramatists in the nineteenth century. He wrote this play in 1853. After the gap of 126 years i.e. in the year 1979, Pandharinath Patil collected the manuscript and published it in the reputed tri-monthly Purogami Satyashodhak. Later in 1989, Dr. Rustum Achalkhamb produced this play. In his book Gulamgiri, Phule gives us an interesting account of this play. He writes, “In 1855, I presented the manuscript of this play to Dakshna Prize Committee to get publication grant from the government. But Brahmin members of the committee insisted European members not to allocate fund that was why the committee rejected my proposal.”
Phule had marked out as a rebel against the established values of fundamentally orthodox society. In the portrayal of lower strata of society Phule’s play signifies a definite departure from the mainstream Marathi drama that mostly deals with the more privileged sections of society. We can discern it if we delve into the core of the play. This play can be plugged with the Dalit literature. Like a sociologist Phule minutely studied the historical and anthropological perspective of the Hindu society. He also studied the causes of inequality in the contemporary society. He discussed these facts in his writing.
He delineates the condition of illiterate superstitious cultivator’s class. Malis, Kunbis, Mangs and Mahars were not permitted to attend school so they were groaping in the darkness of ignorance. Brahmins used to dupe these people in the name of religion. Joshi cheats Husband and wife telling them that the planet called Saturn is all set to kill their unborn baby and in order to save the baby they will have to feed Lord Maruti’s twenty three Brahmins with ghee and wheaten cakes. Through this play he speaks earnestly about superstitions in the society. Dr. Datta Bhagat rightly calls this play as the first social play in Marathi literature. The language used in this play is simple but at the same time colloquial. The choice of such a medium for the dialogues makes the play even more living and realistic. The characters are not wooden like puppets but they are full of buoyancy of life.
The play opens with the dramatist’s note, “This is the story of a Mali-Kunbi woman. She is in her early stage of pregnancy. A bud has just sprouted in her womb. Joshi, the Brahmin priest meets her, bluffs her and robs her of her money”. The gist of the story is in this way narrated at the beginning of the play. The audience can anticipate the course of events in the story of the play. The stage directions help to create the picture of Kunbi’s house. The locale is a village. Stage directions indicate the time and the place and also the general appearance, age and mannerisms of characters. Phule depicts the contrasting picture of two classes: the upper class that consist Brahmins and the lower class that consists cultivators Shudras and Ati-Shudras.
The title of the play is apt and self-explanatory. ‘Trutiya Ratna’ has a mythological reference. Trutiya Ratna (third gem) is knowledge which is one of the fourteen gems recovered from the sea during the great churning done by Gods and demons. Phule knows well that knowledge is the power. Education can bring change in the lives of Shudras and Ati-Shudras.
Vidushaka plays the role of Sutradhar in this play. His dialogues are laden with irony, wisdom and wit. Husband’s meeting with padre in the temple seems to be a turning point. Padre, a Christian asks philosophical questions to Kunbi and succeeds in proving that worshiping idols made of stones doesn’t mean worshiping the Creator. Creator is omniscient, omnipresent and omniscient power devoid of any form. So, instead of worshiping earth or stone we should worship her creator. Discussion with Padre helps Kunbi to realize the true nature of God and hollowness of idol-worshiping. Husband starts thinking seriously and he concludes that his illiteracy is the root cause of his ruin. Wife, too, realizes this. Dialogues between Padre and Husband constitute the very essence of drama.
Phule firmly opines that due to the advent of Britishers the process of social change is accelerated in the Indian society. Had Britishers not been in India, the unjust tyrannical rule of Peshwai would have continued. And Shudras and Ati-Shudras couldn’t escape from the evil clutches of Peshwai.
The demons Rahu and Ketu are symbols of demonic power exerting upon the good. Phule uses myth and legend as symbols to give a broad significance to this theme, to make the particular dramatization of the human predicament general.
Joshi’s wife, Spouse and Musalman are two minor characters in this play. Musalman is a silent listener. He carefully hears the dialogue between Husband and Padre. He too, hates idol worshiping. Spouse is as shrewd as her husband. She is interested in inviting her mother and brother for the feast.
The last scene of the play is a significant one. Dramatist emphasizes the need of educating Shudras and Ati-Shudras even the adult men and women in these classes. Phule himself opened the first girl’s school in India to educate the girls. Both Govindrao and Savitribai Phule ran night school for adult men and women. The play ends when Husband and wife decide to attend Phule’s Night schools. Adult Education and Night School, reservation for children belonging to different castes and religions are the new concepts proponed by Phule well in advance.
Joshi (The Brahmin priest)
Wife (Kunbi’s wife)
Vidushaka (The commentator)
Damu (Joshi’s brother)
Spouse (Joshi’s wife)
Padre (Christian Father)
Musalman (A Muslim of Quazi’s stature)
(This is the story of a Mali-Kunbi woman. She is in her early stage of pregnancy. A bud has just started sprouting in her womb. A Brahmin priest Joshi meets her; bluffs her and robs her of her money.)
(Place: An outer space of Kunbi’s house. Feeling that the house-owner is not at home, Joshi stands in front of the yard; loudly announces the day, the date, constellation position, name of the portion of the earth approaching the sun and astrological period as per the almanac. Hearing his announcements, she comes out and stands in the yard, carrying a handful of grains.)
Joshi: (Nervously) Bai, is this all you have brought for me, a Brahmin?
Wife: What? What has happened, Maharaj? Is this no good to donate to you? I’m a poor woman. My husband earns four rupees every month. That’s all we have.
Joshi: Bai, I am not denying your offering? But it isn’t sufficient for me to get a square meal. How can I wish your well-being?
Wife: (gets bored) Go, Baba. Brahmins are very adamant, obdurate people. How long should we think of your bread and butter? Why don’t you start working?
Joshi: (I’m destined to work. You needn’t harp upon it, again and again.) That’s right. But remember I won’t hear any of your complaints, if you face some trouble or loss like your neighbouring woman.
Wife: (ponders) My neighbour’s baby? Oh, it was all a part of her misfortune.
Joshi: (laughs) Ha, Ha, is it really so?
Wife: Yes, of course. Do you think that she died, because she didn’t propitiate a Brahmin like you?
Joshi: Be it a little, but it should satiate me.
Wife: If the neighbour had given you adequate donations, would you have saved her baby?
Joshi: No doubt, I would have done that. Had she given me substantial donation, I would have cured the baby of all its ills. Safe and secure, the baby should have survived at any cost.
Vidushaka:(Waves his hands at the audience) You ask Joshi just one question: Why couldn’t he save his own children? Why couldn’t he bring them back from the jaws of death?
Wife: I don’t know anything about the troubles the baby had. Why don’t you tell me?
Joshi: What? You mean you don’t know anything about the unpropitious stars? Eh, once Lord Mahadev was utterly scared of their evil influence; so, He hid himself beneath the surface of water. Who is spared from that?
Vidushaka:(waves his hands at the audience) Lord Mahadev is a simpleton, indeed! That was why, believing in Joshi’s words, He was scared of the unpropitious stars and plunged himself into the water.
Wife: (anxiously) Are those unpropitious stars haunting and harassing me?
Joshi: No. They aren’t harassing you. But they are bent on doing harm to your baby, but, sorry, I can’t tell you how that will all happen.
Vidushaka:Let’s believe the Joshis can bring people back from the jaws of death. Then, why doesn’t the British Government shut down all the hospitals and stop providing medication to patients? Why doesn’t the government free itself of the entire responsibility of saving people by entrusting it to the Joshis?
Wife: (Panicky, drops the grains in her hand in the sifting fan, folds her hands and pleads) Maharaj, give me the solution if you have it.
Joshi: You’re a mad woman. Do you think you alone can find a solution? Your husband’s income is meager. He hardly earns four rupees a month.
Vidushaka:Let’s believe the Joshis are astrologers. In the past, one of the Peshwas committed suicide by jumping onto the fountain of the palace. Why didn’t the Joshis give the intimation of this to the sepoys or guards well in advance? Where in the hell was their learning gone, then?
Wife: (Pondering that her husband may not help her.) All that you say is right. Will you, please, tell me how much expenditure we’ll have to incur?
Joshi: Well. Let me go now. We’ll discuss it later. I shouldn’t while away my begging time, thus.
Wife: (implores) Don’t go, Maharaj. I’ll offer you more grains.
Joshi: No doubt about it. Sure, you’ll give me grains. But don’t I need any money to meet the grinding charges, firewood, vegetables and ghee? If I accept mere grains from you, I’ll have to put up with eating boiled grains only.
Wife: Maharaj, you’ll ask me anything you need; I’ll give it to you. Give me a clue to save my baby from the evil spell of the unpropitious stars. Please, do me a favour.
Joshi: You’re Kunbi women! Will you keep your promise? Eh, as soon as your husband comes, you’ll swiftly slip into your house, leaving me alone to face the wretched situation.
Wife: Don’t think of the worst, Maharaj. I have heard my husband saying that Brahmins are superior to all the classes in our society. The more you donate to the Brahmins, the more you’ll get. My husband is a poor fellow. What shall I do? If God blesses my husband with more gifts, then I’ll offer more donations to the Brahmins. (Joshi laughs slyly and smacks.) You needn’t bother about him. With his scant money at his disposal, he’ll be at ease with me within the four walls of our house. Maharaj, don’t leave. Wait till I come back. (She goes.)
Vidushaka:Hasn’t Joshi succeeded in cheating a woman?
Joshi: No. Bai. Let me go, now. Stop chatting.
Wife: (Looks back while stepping into the house, hurriedly) Just wait for some time. I’m coming.
Joshi: Why don’t you allow me to go? How can I help you, anyway?
Wife: (Shouts while putting down earthen pots) I’m trying to get you something, Maharaj. Don’t go, please. (Brings around ten kilogram of bajra in an open round basket)
Wife: Joshibua, it’s all for you. Have the grains. Won’t they suffice?
Joshi: (Angrily) Do you think I’m a poor labourer, like your husband? Striking hammer on an anvil?
Bravo! Bravo! You are very scheming, aren’t you? Won’t we survive on bread for more than three days? Shouldn’t we Brahmins have rice to eat once a day at least?
Vidushaka:(to the audience) See how crafty Joshi plays a trick and extracts rice from a poor woman. In fact, she can’t afford to part with even a handful of grains.
Wife: Don’t hurry, Maharaj. I’ve a mind to give you rice, too.
Joshi: (As if laughing) Ha! Ha! Is that so? Bai, you can understand everything. (Fishes out a snuff box from a pouch tucked in his dhoti round his waist, twirls his moustache, draws in snuff shaking his head vaingloriously, like a son of a magnanimous man.)
Wife: (Fishes out a silver coin from closing slip of a basket) This is for you. Take this to buy pulses and rice.
Joshi: Stop. Let me sniff some snuff. Eh, Bai, you’re always in a hurry.
Vidushaka:Until now, Joshi was in a hurry. But, now, he seems relaxed. He’s become happy with the donations received, hasn’t he?
Wife: Are you contented now, Maharaj?
Joshi: (Nods his head) Yes, indeed. Don’t waste time, now? Put one paisa and a small betel-nut on the almanac. I’m giving you a solution to save your baby from the evil influence of the unpropitious stars. (Wife is not left with a single penny, but borrows a paisa from her neighbour and hands it over to Joshi; she touches his feet humbly; sits anxiously a little away; requests him to give the solution.)
Vidushaka:Maharaj, it’s very difficult to quench the fire of hunger in one’s belly.
Joshi: Bai, what’s the name of your zodiac sign?
Wife: My name? I’m Jogai.
(Joshi spreads a paper before him on which a picture of zodiac signs is drawn, quickly touches the tip of his right hand thumb on the joints of other fingers, mutters something in a soft tone, bites his lower lip, casts his glance at Wife’s face.)
Joshi: Bai, your zodiac sign is Capricorn. You must know that Saturn in your zodiac sign will definitely harass your baby. You want solution? It’s here. From today onwards, on every Saturday, you’ll offer a garland made of rui flowers or leaves to Panchmukhya Maruti. You’ll have peace of mind. Secondly, in order to spare your baby from the evil influence of the unpropitious stars and to seek Maruti’s blessings in preventing those unpropitious stars, you should feed twenty three Brahmins with ghee and chapatis in the forthcoming month of Shravana. Then, your baby will be spared for several months and years.
Vidushaka:Joshi’s statement highlights one of our superstitions – the role of the unpropitious stars in a man’s life. That Joshi and Jogai have the same zodiac sign. Nevertheless, Saturn compels Jogai to feed chapatis to Joshi. On the other hand, Saturn asks Joshi to eat up those chapatis. Secondly, I think this idea of stars and their intervention in human life is the Brahmins’ fantasy, a figment of their imagination. Then, how could they harass Joshi, their father, their creator? In my opinion, Joshi, too, shouldn’t harass the common folks, their children….
Wife: Maharaj, when will the Shravana commence?
Joshi: After sixteen days hence onward.
Wife: It’s drawing near. When my husband comes, I’ll let him know all about this. And we’ll soon make the necessary arrangements.
Joshi: Bai, let me go now. Start your preparations. Don’t commit any mistake. I’ve given you the solution intuited by my sole desire of your well-being.
Wife: Go now, but tell me when you’ll be back here. Are you coming back, soon, again?
Joshi: Not so soon, perhaps. I’m a lot busy these days.
Wife: Give me your address, please.
Joshi: In the old market. I live in the butcher’s lane. Once you reach there, you ask anyone, he’ll show you Jairam Joshi’s house. I live a little beyond it, towards the north of his house.
Vidushaka:Joshi lives in a butcher’s lane. Is he living there to liberate sheep from the evil spell of the unpropitious planets?
Wife: Go now. But come back within a couple of days. Whenever I invite you, please, do come.
(Joshi starts for home. Wife hurriedly prepares meal; sits at the threshold of the house, waiting for her husband to return. He comes; she serves him food.)
Wife: Do you believe in the dictum that “troubles are caused by the unpropitious stars?”
Husband: Yes, I believe in that. It isn’t untrue. Like Christian Missionaries, Brahmins, too, wander here and there telling people that stars can cause much trouble to us. Do you think they are liers?
Vidushaka:The Kunbi isn’t less ignorant than his wife. What’s the root-cause of it? Isn’t there a ban on their education?
Wife: I believe it’s all true. That’s why I’m seeking your opinion. This morning, Joshibua, who lives in a butcher’s lane came here and predicted ‘something bad’ about our expected baby.
Husband: Bad? Tell me what and how bad it is. Let me know all about it.
Wife: (Blushes) Don’t you lose temper! We’ll have to incur some expenditure.
Husband: Let’s hope, it won’t be a costly affair.
Wife: Not very much. We’ll have to spend a paltry amount. First accept that you’ll do it.
Husband: There’s no other alternative. What use is our conjugal life, if we fail to do that – for our baby’s sake, at least?
Vidushaka:Kunbis are an ignorant lot! That he takes Joshi’s useless words to be true. An unlucky chap? Who can help him?
Wife: May I tell you? May I tell you? (Nods her head three-four times.) Joshibua has told me that in order to prevent the Saturn’s disfavour to ill turn of my zodiac sign Capricorn from torturing our expected baby, we should feed and propitiate Lord Maruti and his twenty-three Brahmins with ghee-besmeared chapatis.
Husband: Well. What’s your opinion, then?
Wife: I’m a woman. Not as intelligent as you. Your opinion is mine; I share it, too. Don’t we need much money for all that? A mere chatting will be wasting words.
Husband: You’re right. How much money will it need?
Wife: Why are you asking me like a mad man? Don’t we eat up chapatis on festive occasions?
Husband: You don’t understand the crux of the matter. Don’t we eat chapatti along with water-mixed jaggery? Doesn’t Joshi expect sumptuous ghee and water-mixed jaggery? Neither you nor I can guess about its quantity. Now tell me, who’s mad, you or me?
Wife: (blushes) Well. I’ll enquire about it with Joshibua.
Husband: Do you know his address? Tell me. I’ll go there. You’re carrying. Don’t go out in the sun.
(Joshi is seen entering the door of the house; he calls upon Bai. overjoyed both, Wife and Husband rush out to see Joshi.)
Wife: (Stretches her chin upwards, surprisingly) Why are you so scared, Maharaj?
Joshi: My snuff-box is missing. I’m tracing it here and there. So, I’ve come back here in search of it.
Husband: What’s its cost, Maharaj?
Joshi: I don’t know, Baba. A host had given it to me as a gift. How could I guess about its cost? May be it’ll cost a quarter of a rupee.
Husband: I have a four-anna coin. Accept it and don’t get upset, please.
Joshi: (Perhaps, he might be checking my pulse. His wife might have talked to him about the coin she gave me earlier. He’s testing me, reading my mind perhaps to understand my trickery. Startled, he says further.)
No, no. I don’t need your coin. It amounts to extorting money from the poor and the humble like you? But, I’m helpless. What should I do, now? Had I not visited your house, I shouldn’t have lost my snuff-box.
Husband: I can understand your feelings, Maharaj. So, I’m giving you this coin on my own. Don’t take it otherwise.
Joshi: Well. May God bless you! (Joshi snatches the coin away greedily from the Kunbi, almost like a juggler.)
Vidushaka:Did you understand how skillfully Joshi robbed the Kunbi of his coin on the pretext of the loss of a snuff-box?
Wife: Be relaxed for a while, Maharaj. Just tell my husband the amount of money required for the proposed feast of the Brahmins. We’ve decided upon it, accordingly.
Joshi: Very well. There’s nothing objectionable from my end. We, Brahmins offer you suggestions and you’ll comply with them in toto. That’s how we oblige you with our advice.
Vidushaka:Joshi’s is a very easy task, isn’t it? He says something casually and gets everything in return solemnly.
Husband: Yes, explain it to me, Maharaj. I hope you won’t have any reservation on your part. Had there been any, you wouldn’t have come here, walking down all the distance.
Joshi: The minimum you’ll have to spend is five rupees for all the ritual including worship also. And, the better it will be, if you add some more jaggery. But remember what counts most is your devotion.
Vidushaka:Joshi induced the Kunbi to spend five rupees more. Added to it is “devotion”. What more does he expect?
Husband: Okay, Maharaj. Within a couple of days, I’ll somehow or other collect five rupees and hand it to you by way of donation. Feed the Brahmins and do whatever you like to.
Joshi: Are you a mad man? “Do whatever you like to” what does it mean? Explain it.
Wife: Maharaj, don’t be angry with his words. After all, we are Kunbis. We know just one thing-ploughing the land. We don’t know how to talk to the people like you.
Vidushaka:This plough-driver’s wife doesn’t know the truth that if the Kunbi had acquired learning while driving a plough, Joshi would have fled away hot on his heels, it seems. But Wife is mistaken. That’s why Joshi seems all set to rob them of everything – food and money as well.
Joshi: That’s hitting the nail right on its head. It’s all right. Bai, what shall I do, if the sum of five rupees falls short? Should I pawn my utensils to meet the Brahmins’ demands?
Vidushaka:When the Kunbi can pledge his utensils, why shouldn’t Joshi come forth to do so?
Husband: Maharaj, I might have spoken wrongly. Don’t think of pledging your utensils. Tell me, how much money all together we need to arrange the feast. I’ll have to mention it to the bond-writer. Writing twice on a bond paper means paying him double the fees, unnecessarily.
Joshi: Well. Go, Baba, get a loan of ten rupees. So, I could engage a Brahmin to recite all the mantras. Then, it’ll be all right. All’s well that ends well.
Vidushaka:Joshi seems to be concerned about his own well-being and doesn’t care a fig for the Kunbi’s financial condition. What’s your opinion?
Husband: Just explain it to us, Maharaj. You may lay blame on us, if we disregard your wishes. Go now, but visit us, again, on the zero moon day. We’ll schedule the function at the earliest, probably on the first day of the lunar fortnight.
Joshi: Am I your servant? Go now and come tomorrow. You’re giving me orders. And I’m just making such vain and fruitless trips.
Wife: Don’t worry about your trips, Maharaj. I will give you more gifts.
(Joshi sets out for his home. Hearing Jogai’s Vidushakaish babbling Kunbi loses his heart. He is talking to himself: “Who’ll give me loan except the Christian? And, when shall I repay it? I get only four rupees a month. My baby! It’s the root cause of my misery unto death.”)
Wife: You’re looking upset? Why? Do you have no mind to pay Joshi his donations?
Husband: What the hell is such a thought? Unless we pay him his donations, we won’t be able to conduct this function smoothly. By the way, I’m thinking of how to draw the loan, and from whom.
Wife: Don’t worry. Go and meet Babji Christiwalla. He lives in the farmhouse in the field. He’ll advance you ten rupees’ loan. Give him a bond worth twelve rupees and a half. Also assure him to pay one fourth of the principal amount as interest. We’ll repay it on easy installments. Do you think whether there’s any more hitch?
Vidushaka:These illiterate women fail to understand the truth that, in the course of time, these Christian money-lenders exploit the Kunbi and reduce him to penury. Thus, the Kunbi himself becomes a debtor; makes his wife as a guarantor; executes the bond to Babji Christian, accepts the loan advanced, and carries it home. (The Kunbi goes in search of Joshi’s house, gets hold of him and brings him back to his home. Both Husband and Wife jingle the coins, assure him of the money in possession, and request him to hasten the assignment undertaken.)
Joshi: I must work fast. But I’m in search of a Brahmin who could do the religious service sincerely. Where on the earth, could I find him?
Wife: Maharaj, why don’t you do it yourself?
Joshi: I have a lot of work to do. How can I do it all alone by myself? That’s a great challenge?
Vidushaka:Is that really a challenging task, physically or mentally?
Wife: Maharaj, do the way you like it. We won’t object to your doing it. See that God is propitiated with it. That’ll be enough for us.
Joshi: That’s why I’m thinking of a proper man. Just wait. Keep silent. Let me think for a while (It is better to entrust this work to Damya. That chap speaks irrelevantly and barks almost like a dog and he will also help me convince this Vidushakaish Kunbi.) Listen. On pondering over the matter, I come to the conclusion that my younger brother Damu could do the work, very sincerely.
Wife: It’ll be good, if your brother turns up.
Joshi: Well. Now, let me relate to you the types of grains and their quantities required for the feast. So, give me your ears. (Asks the Kunbi to spend four rupees) Don’t buy ghee. We’ll manage it. You don’t know wherefrom to get good quality of ghee in the market. (Goes back to his house; asks his brother to accept the religious assignment, the next day.)
Damu: Who’s the host?
Joshi: A Kunbi.
Damu: How long will it go?
Joshi: That I’ll decide. That chap will act according to my advice.
Damu: That’s good. Ask him to continue the religious assignment for a week. My dhotis are in tatters. I could buy a new pair. But don’t ask him to buy the pair of dhotis for me, Brother, just ask him to give me the amount. I’ll buy the dhotis of my choice.
Vidushaka:But Damu has a mind to buy a salver instead of dhotis to furnish his drawing hall. Joshi is completely blank about it.
(He returns to Kunbi’s house. Wife has already sent Husband to do the shopping. She is alone in the house. Joshi has to wait for the pooja, till the Kunbi returns.)
Joshi: (Sees the Kunbi) Oh Baba, our plan’s succeeded. I mean Damu has accepted the assignment. And I’ve spoken a lot about your financial stringency. He appreciated our plan. But he’d some reservation about Saturn’s pleasure just after a day’s pooja, it’s too short a span in his view.
Vidushaka:Joshi assures Damu to give him a pair of dhotis. And then Damu agrees to perform the pooja. Don’t you think that this is the greatest favour done to the Kunbi by the Joshi brothers?
Husband: How long, in your opinion, should the pooja last?
Joshi: For eleven days at least, in my opinion.
Husband: I don’t mind. But I’m afraid we’ll run short of money.
Joshi: What should I do? I’m being economical for your sake. I know the saying: “Cut your coat according to your cloth”. That’s why I’ve promised him a pair of dhotis.
Vidushaka:Does Joshi really want to be economical and save the Kunbi’s money? Don’t you smell something foul in his speech?
Wife: (claps her hands) Maharaj, how excellent is your plan!
Joshi: Should I ask him to continue pooja for eleven days?
Husband: Yes. By all means. We’ve ten rupees at our disposal. Do with it whatever you want to. You’re at liberty. You needn’t seek our consent.
Joshi: Well. I’m leaving. Keep now wheat and rice ready. Grind wheat neatly and properly. (Proceeds towards his house.)
(After some days the Kunbi sends the message to his master that he’d be on leave for four days. He makes all the preprations well in advance. On the eve of the feast, Joshi pays a visit to the Kunbi’s house; stands at the door pompously with his hands akimbo.)
Joshi: How do you do, Baba? Are you thoroughly prepared for the pooja?
Husband: (With his hands folded,) We’re ready, Maharaj. But what about your pooja?
Joshi: Oh, mad man. Haven’t you come to know anything about it yet? O Baba, for the last ten days, Damu has been doing the pooja in the temple of Panchmukhya Maruti.
Vidushaka:Really? What a great chaos! Which mantras Damu might have been chanting, to dupe the Kunbis!
Husband: Do you mean, he’s been doing pooja for the last ten days? It’s all okay. But had you informed us earlier, we would have been there to touch his feet.
Joshi: You may do that, tomorrow. Don’t get scared. Bring all the food and other things to my house before the evening. We’ll conduct the function in my house, because your house is very small and you don’t have enough utensils, too. That’ll facilitate you. (Starts for his house.)
Vidushaka:Joshi decides to conduct the function at his house, because he expects to get the leftovers of food and other things, that’s why the pundit makes several excuses to the Kunbi and fixes his house as a venue for the function and the feast. Isn’t it so?
(As per Joshi’s suggestions Jogai and the Kunbi start carrying grains and other things on their heads and shoulders. Joshi converses with his spouse.)
Joshi: Dear, do you have any idea as to what we’re going to have here?
Spouse: What’s it? How can I have an idea, unless I’m given to understand?
Joshi: Eh, our Jogai’s husband is going to feed twenty-three Brahmins with ghee and chapatis, tomorrow.
Spouse: Good, but who’ll be inviting the Brahmins?
Joshi: It’s me. I’m in charge of it. I’ll invite whomsoever I choose.
Spouse: I’d like to remind you to call all my real brothers and cousins. Secondly, since you’re conducting the function, you’ll make the Kunbi offer them substantial donation; won’t you?
Joshi: Right. That’s done. That’s the right occasion to help our kith and kin. If not now, when shall we help them? I was to invite them. But prior to that, I wanted to read your mind and seek your opinion.
Vidushaka:This is the right time when Joshi should extend his helping hand to his relatives. That’s why the proverb says: “Steal the wheat and perform your father’s funeral rites”.
Spouse: (With a gesture of love) Oh my goodness! How strange you male species are! Were you testing me? Don’t you have a concern for your brothers-in-law?
Vidushaka:O Bai, right you are! He is a male. But mind well, he’s a Brahmin. You don’t know much about him. Better inquire after the widows of the Brahmins and their community. They will show you in right earnest his true colour.
(The Kunbi stands at the door carrying a load of flour on his head. He cries out: “Help me unload, Maharaj, help me.” Joshi asks him to request a passer-by to help him. He has just put on his holy mantle. So, he’d have got himself polluted by touching him, perhaps.)
Spouse: (Winks) Have you gone mad? Some passer-by or the other will help him put the load down. Do you think he will stay there forever burdened with the load? You’ll say your evening prayers first and get ready to have your meal.
Vidushaka:People walking on road show pity on the Kunbi, but not Joshi’s wife. She eats up chapatis given to her by the Kunbi but hardly shows any mercy on him.
Husband: Maharaj, are you helping me or not? Otherwise, I’ll be just throwing it off. My head is aching and my neck is about to crack. What the hell have I got to do with your holy mantle?
Vidushaka:Quoting from the Bible, I say: “You’ll have to carry your burden.” Doesn’t it hold good here?
Spouse: (Reluctantly) Oh Baba, don’t make a fuss of it! I’m helping you. Beware! Don’t shift all your burden to me.
Husband: No. Baisaheb. Just help me a bit to stand upright. I’ll myself put it down. I won’t give you any more trouble. (Finally, puts the load down on the ground.)
Joshi: (From a distance) Sit down. Have rest for a while. Are you really exhausted?
Husband: That’s how we go, Maharaj! We’re destined to suffer. And we should bear with it till our last breath.
Vidushaka:True! It’s true! The Stars named Brahmins are turning unpropitious for Kunbis!
Joshi: That’s right! Would you like to invite any of your Brahmin friends at our house tomorrow?
Husband: (Overjoyed, about to say something…)
(Joshi’s wife intervenes.)
Spouse: Have you gone mad?
Joshi: Mad? Me? Why are you calling me so?
Spouse: Listen. You are giving him a permission to invite any outsider Brahmin. Say whether it’s a feast especially for our relatives or a banquet open to all.
Joshi: (She has somehow or the other accommodated her brother) Bravo! Well done! How’s it that you’ve risen to the occasion, indeed?
Vidushaka:See Joshi’s spouse has played a trick for her brother’s sake. Joshi, her husband, got it, didn’t he?
Husband: Maharaj, you are thwarted in your attempt to give me the permission to invite a Brahmin friend of my choice. I won’t be eating at your house.
Joshi: No, Baba. Don’t speak like that. I’m bound to give you some leftover food as prasad.
Vidushaka:Brahmins have sumptuous food – a lot of ghee and chapatis to eat up. And the Kunbi has some leftover food as prasad – That’s Joshi’s kindly gesture! Wow! The beggars are choosers here!
Husband: Well, Maharaj. Do as you like. That’s your pleasure.
Joshi: You can leave now, but bring two or three bundles of firewood within a short while, until the evening, I’ll be finishing my meal. Then, I’ll be visiting Bhavani Peth to give invitation, in person, to Brahmins. If I reach late, they may, perhaps, accept someone else’s invitation.
Husband: Okay. Be fast, please.
(Puts the cane-basket on his head upside down and starts moving. Joshi comes out of his house running hurriedly holding with his hand the folds of the holy mantle; stands behind the Kunbi’s back)
Joshi: O Baba, do as I ask you to. When you’re coming back next time, get the remaining amount without fail, so that I might buy a pair of dhotis for Damu. Tomorrow, I won’t have any leisure. Earlier Damu asked for money. He wanted to buy a pair of dhotis on his own. So, I’d ask him whether he wanted money or a pair of dhotis. Let him do whatever he wants to. We shouldn’t object to either. That’s all about it. Twice or thrice, he seemed to insist on money.
Vidushaka:Joshi said that Damu insisted on the payment of money. Who’ll believe in such a bluff?
Husband: It’s okay. (rises to go)
Spouse: (Serves meal to her husband) Listen, didn’t I prevent the Kunbi to invite any outsider Brahmin? How was the trick I played?
Vidushaka:We may call her trick a sort of pretence.
Joshi: Well done! Your trick’s excellent! Aren’t you a Brahmin woman? Being a Brahmin and not playing such tricks, I think, amount to futile existence.
Spouse: Listen. Tell me when you’re going to Bhavani Peth. Several days have elapsed since I met my mother. Please ask her to see me tomorrow anyhow. Finish your meal at the earliest. If you reach late, you won’t be able to see her, for she should have left by that time for a religious discourse.
Joshi: No problem. As soon as I finish my meal, I’ll go there. But, on the pretext of buying a couple of dhotis, I have to wait for the Kunbi. I’ve asked him to bring the remaining amount. He’ll be coming soon. Shouldn’t I wait for him for some more time? He seems to be a strange, unpredictable guy. Quite unreliable that way. Moreover, it isn’t a loan. So, how can we force him to repay it quickly?
Vidushaka:Even the money-lenders who advance loan to their clients recover their principal money with interest keeping in view their clients’ convenience. Even they don’t intimidate and exploit their clients like the Joshis.
Spouse: Do as I tell you. Go to some tailor and get a couple of dhotis from him. This is only to show to the Kunbi that they have bought them and then return them within a couple of days. When he comes back again, I’ll receive the money from him. I’ll further tell him that this money has to be sent to you through somebody. I’ll inform him that you waited for him for long, but left the house hurriedly to give invitation to Brahmins. This is how I’ll be receiving money from him. Then, you may give it to Damu Dajiba or retain it with you forever.
Vidushaka:Wow! We’ve just one stomach! How much should we lie to feed that?
Joshi: Your plan is very excellent. But don’t hesitate to accept money from him.
Spouse: No! I’m your wife, after all. That won’t happen. Don’t worry. When he comes, I’ll intimidate him, receive money from him first and then only help him unload.
Vidushaka:Look! What is she assuring her husband! She’ll receive money from him first and then help him unload. Excellent! See how kindly she is. There’s no limit to her kindliness.
Joshi: That’s right. You’re really clever. I needn’t worry. You’ll do the job well.
Spouse: Oh dear, is the Kunbi a rich man? If he is, ask him to conduct the ceremony twice or thrice.
Joshi: No. He isn’t a rich man. Had he been a rich man, I would have set a new trend in our society: In order to save prenatal babies from evil spell of the unpropitious stars, they must feed ghee and chapatis to the Brahmins for five times. Who’d then object to my reading Harivijay at his house? Well. Let him first repay this loan; we’ll think of your plan after-wards. You’ll ask our host to stay tonight here in our house. Say that we didn’t hire a servant to scrub and wash our utensils in the early morning, because, in that case, we’d be obliged to pay him the wages. We’d a meager sum – just ten rupees.
Vidushaka:O you all Mali and Kunbi people! I request you to read or listen to the dialogue diligently. Then, you’ll be convinced that it is better to be robbed by dacoits than rely on Brahmin Joshi’s advice, even in a dream.
Spouse: You seem to be an expert in making excuses.
Vidushaka:Making excuses is a toilsome job. You’ve to use your tongue, haven’t you?
Joshi: What should we do, then? How else could we Brahmins earn our livelihood?
Vidushaka:O Joshi, start doing some work right now. Then you’ll have honourable life (without being taunted by Mang, Mahars). Now, give up all your stratagems. Otherwise, your future seems to be bleak.
(Joshi finishes his meal; has a sip of holy water; wears his clothes; hangs his sacred mantle; hurriedly wears his dhoti; puts on his shirt while walking; goes to his mother-in-law’s house; informs her that her daughter is eager to see her the next day at his house; goes to the cloth market, buys a pair of dhotis on the condition of returning the same within a couple of days: meets his friends and relatives till ten o’clock at night; comes back to his house; sees the Kunbi arrived for a halt; praises his wife, and finally reclines on his bed and is sound asleep in a short while. On the next day, Joshi asks the Kunbi, his wife, children and the rest to do all the household chores.)
Joshi: You may go back to your home now. Take your bath. And be here again with your wife at one o’clock at noon. Meanwhile, I will be serving food to all Brahmins. Then, we will conduct them to Maruti’s temple. There, I will request them to shower their blessings on you. (The Kunbi happily returns to his home and gives all the account to his wife.)
Husband: Our preparations are over now. Only we’ve to go to the temple at one o’clock to seek their blessings. That’s all.
Wife: Now, I feel relaxed.
Husband: Yes, by all means, you must feel relaxed now.
(Hearing the sound of cannon-ball, they move and arrive at Joshi’s house, where they see the Brahmins have just started eating. Seeing this, both of them sit desperately under the sparse shade of the projected roof of Joshi’s house, outside the wall, till three o’clock. Joshi finishes his meal along with the other Brahmins, chews a betel-leaf and a betel-nut; takes a nap; then rises; enters into the house and brings some food on a leaf-plate.)
Joshi: This is prasad! Go yonder there. Sit and eat up all of it, at ease. (Keeping a distance, he drops the leaf-plate in his dhoti-fold.)
Husband: (Moves his head) It’s fine, Maharaj. We’re lucky that we have got the prasad.
(Both of them eat up all the food on the leaf-plate, licking it clean; drink water and sit at another spot under the shade of the projected roof outside the wall.)
Vidushaka:(Turns to the Kunbi) O Baba, you’re lucky indeed. This is the reason why Joshi, instead of a handful of grains, extracts about ten kilogram of grains, one silver coin, one shivrai (copper coin) and one betel-nut from your wife. Also, he takes from you another silver coin to make good the loss of his snuff-box’. Secondly, you follow Joshi’s advice and didn’t go to your work for four days. Thus, it was a loss of fifty paise per day for you. To get a loan of ten rupees, you made your wife a guarantor; yourself became a debtor and assured the money-lender to repay twelve rupees and fifty paise as though you were an eyeless block-headed fellow. You worked like a slave and made all the preparations of the feast for four days and four nights. On the other hand, Joshi is also a lucky man, because without doing any work, he made you pay for his food. He made you give the donation to his brother Damu to buy a couple of dhotis. He invited all his kith and kin, family members to have meal at his house at your expense and all of them had dined earlier than you, the host. Yesterday, he hesitated to help you put your load down. However, like a shameless man, you carried bags of food-grains on your head to his house. You also did the household chores in his house till ten o’clock in the morning. Following Joshi’s advice, you took your pregnant wife to Joshi’s house before one o’clock and both of you sat there under the shade of the projected roof outside the wall in hot blasts of air till half-past four. In the end, Joshi threw some food in your dhoti-fold and asked you to eat it as the prasad. Taking all these points into consideration, I would like to announce that you are the luckiest man on the earth. What? No. Not at all. You mean you aren’t lucky? According to Christians, nowhere in the world except in Hindustan, one can find such a credulous Vidushaka who follows the Brahmin’s advice. (touches with his hand softly the cover page of Dnyanprakash.) O Baba, tell me, aren’t your caste people, the Brahmins, publicizing such true stories in your presence? If this story is true, publish it in the magazine. Don’t shy away from publishing it.
(After that, around half-past four, all the Brahmins lead the Kunbi and his wife who have been sitting under the sparse shade of the projected roof outside the house, to the temple and start chanting verses loudly to bless them. Padre starts preaching the ignorant Kunbi, who is standing at one of the corners of the temple. Let’s see how the Brahmins huddle together encircling him in order to distract his attention.)
Padre: Do you know Patilbua, how many Gods are there in this world?
Husband: Yes. I know the answer. We have our own Gods. We aren’t in a godless universe, as you are.
Padre: (Astonishes) You mean we don’t have our own God? Will you explain it?
Husband: Is there any idol of goddess in your temple at Mammadevi? Look here, you can see our God face to face with your eyes. (points at the idol of Panchmukhya Maruti.)
Vidushaka:See, Padresahib. Just see how the Brahmins have left the Kunbi illiterate to such an extent that he fails to distinguish between God and stone?
Padre: You are right Patilbua. You think this stone idol to be God. It may be true. Won’t you be furious at me, if I ask you questions about God? Will you give me answers?
Husband: Yes. Why shouldn’t I? You ask me the questions and I will give you their answers.
Padre: Patilbua, what is your Lord Maruti made of?
Husband: Why should I be angry with you? Our God Maruti is carved out of stone.
Padre: Very good. Whence might have this stone been brought?
Husband: I think it might have been brought from a quarry.
Padre: Very good. Was this the only stone lying inside that quarry?
Vidushaka:Why are you asking me such nonsensical questions? Don’t you know the pebbles spread on the roads are obtained from the same stone? Years after years, we trample on those pebbles which then get transformed into soil. Aren’t you aware of such a simple process?
Husband: It is called a quarry. How dare you say that this was the stone lying there in it? Such huge stone! I hesitate to call it a slab, a microcosm of that macrocosm!
Padre: Very good. Can you guess the size of that huge stone?
Husband: Sahib, I’m at a loss. I can’t guess the size of it.
Padre: Well! Can you locate the place where it has been brought from?
Husband: Yes. It’s simple. That mass of stone can be found in the bowels of the earth.
Padre: Very good. Stone can be excavated from the earth. Will you, please, tell me whether that stone is inside the earth or the earth herself is embodied in stone?
Husband: Stone? It can be excavated from the earth. This is evident. A five-year-old child can tell this. No wonder if I could answer it. Secondly, the earth, the poor thing has been constantly bearing the weight of that huge stone without making grudge or complaint for centuries. So, we can conclude by saying that the earth has mothered the stone.
Padre: Very good! Now, my next question: What’s the origin of the earth? Has she originated automatically? Or has anybody created her?
Husband: (Eyes half-shut, lowers his head slightly, conjures up this vast world) Sahib, I think someone might be there who might have created the earth.
Padre: Bravo! Bravo, Baba! (Raises his head upwards, looks at the sky, and speaks in a passionate tone) Oh Heavenly Father! You created mankind and this entire world! You are Omnipotent! Infinite is Your power and intangible are Your ways! You are a Blissful One! We should all worship You devoutly. Oh God! You are gracious, so Mali Kunbi people can see You these days and wish that the Kunbi is blessed with prosperity. (Casts his glance down at the Kunbi) Patilbua, it will be good if you tell me, “Who should we worship the Earth or her Creator?”)
Husband: Creator, of course. We should worship the Creator. We should worship Him from the bottom of our hearts. Pondering over the problem, I realize the truth.
Vidushaka:Padre Sahib, go on advising him. Don’t waste your time wiping drops of sweat on your face with a handkerchief. Otherwise, these magpies, the Brahmins will encircle him; poison his ears, and make that ignorant man hate you. Yes, they will do it in all certainty. You might have had that kind of experience earlier. So, I needn’t repeat it.
Padre: Stay where you are, Patilbua. I’d like to ask you something different. If you allow me, I’ll ask you.
Husband: Padre Sahib, ask me whatever you wish to. Do ask me about God, our Creator. He is maddening me; So, I don’t like anything except Him.
Padre: (Points his finger at Maruti’s idol) Patilbua, is this your God? Is He invisible? Should we devoutly worship Him instead of our Creator?
Husband: (Angrily looks at idol of Panchmukhya Maruti) Sahib, your name becomes you. Certainly, I realize now that this stone isn’t worthy of worship. I would like to break this stone into tiny particles and would like to mix those particles with the soil. I would like to do this deliberately, because I don’t wish that any other credulous man like me goes bankrupt following the Brahmins’ advice. Secondly, unless we break this subterfuge, people in our community won’t be able to identify true God, the Creator.
Vidushaka:(Addressing the audience) Ponder over and distinguish between the advice given by each, Padre and Joshi.
Padre: (Panicky) Patilbua, don’t break it now. There’re a few people who will justify your act. That is why the remaining ignorant folk will sue you in the court of law. They will arrest you. You will be convicted of vandalism. The government also will punish you.
Vidushaka:Padre Sahib, why are you so scared? No. Do you think that these Kunbi Malis can break idol of Lord Maruti? No. When he goes to his house, as usual, a Brahmin will tell him that Padre’s religion is pagan, a fake one. Following the Brahmins’ advice, this man will start criticizing your religion. Do they give him enough time to think of religion? They are a thoughtless lot. Secondly, using their political power and literature for ages, they have succeeded in ingraining an idea in the minds of Mali Kunbi people that the Shudras should never disobey a Brahmin’s orders. If you think this is all untrue, read Manu’s books and Parshurama’s also.
Husband: What more shall I tell you, Sahib? These shouting Brahmins have duped me badly in the name of this God called Maruti. If I tell you my story in detail, you’ll definitely suggest some kind of punishment for these Brahmins as a class, too. Otherwise, you may not prevent me breaking this idol.
Musalman:(Listens to their conversation; stretches out his hand) Why? Padre Sahib, good that, in the days of yore, our emperors broke into pieces the enormous idols of the Hindus. All these people cry shouting at the top of their voice. That’s a great cause for regret.
Padre: You don’t know, Sahib. Your emperor did one good thing, that is, they themselves broke idols of Hindu deities. But they were mistaken because, like us, they didn’t convince the Hindus to break idols of their deity with their own hands.
Husband: Sahib, what is Bhai saying?
Padre: He said that one of their emperors broke the idol of your Lord Somnath at Sorti. He further said that the emperor did really well. That is why I answered him that, like us all, the emperor in your community didn’t convince the Hindus to break their idols. That’s why all the Hindus today condemn the heinous act of your emperor.
Husband: Bhai. Don’t harp on your opinions. Let Sahib speak to me for a while. Now, I realize both, your views and Sahib’s, are true.
Musalman: Padre Sahib, I’m very much pleased to see that Patel is speaking to you. Go on. I’m also standing here to listen to both of you.
Padre: Do you think the Brahmins have cheated you in the name of Lord Maruti, because they, too, are ignorant, like you people? They treat the Shudras just the same way as their ancestors had treated your ancestors. So, today, we can’t lay any blame on them, saying that they are cheating you.
Husband: If the Sahibs are on Brahmins side, who will prevent them from doing so? He opines that a son should peacefully subsist on his father’s property, but shouldn’t pay its taxes to the government. It means that, like their ancestors, they should eat our chapatis and we pay them for preparing them. Should we wander here and there looking for their ancestors for vengeance? What a great fun it is!
Vidushaka:A bird in hand is better than two in the bush.
Padre: Oh Patil, don’t lose your head. Keep yourself cool! Speak to me. Can you read? (The Brahmins wink at one another)
Husband: Sahib, my anger is futile. I can’t do any wrong to those Bhats! Anyway, I can’t read.
Padre: What? You mean you can’t read?
Husband: Sahib, when I was a young child, I lived in a village with my father who sent me to school. It is true. But as Pantoji would punish me severely, my mother asked me to give up learning and start tending cattle.
Vidushaka:(Turns to Sarkar) Whatever Kunbi is saying now is all true. This happens many a time.
Padre: Why did Pantoji punish you alone? Didn’t he punish other pupils, too? You might be a naughty boy.
Husband: You’re right. I was really a naughty boy. But, were all Mali Kunbi pupils naughty like me? In my village, all Mali Kunbi parents withdrew their wards from the school. Now, you’d say that all Mali Kunbis are illiterate. They were least interested in learning. That might be the reason why they withdrew their wards from the school.
Padre: Yes. In keeping with the Brahmins’ reports, my opinion is the same.
Husband: Sahib, when we see the Brahmins get educated and become government employees, like taluka revenue officers, attain name and fame, then, we, too, are inclined to earnestly attend school and get educated. We, too, desire to become learned and aspire to be at least subordinate revenue officers. Do you think we’ve never thought of that? But I wish you could know the stratagem of these Pantojis.
Vidushaka:Sahib, I request you all Padres should seriously ponder over all that Kunbi spoke.
Padre: You’re right. But the scene’s changing, now. These days, Candy Sahib is expeditiously imparting teacher’s training to many students and is also appointing them as teachers in village schools.
Husband: You’re a stickler, Sahib. I, too, have heard that Candy Sahib is imparting teachers’ training to many students and making them learned and as intelligent as elephants and appointing them as teachers in different village-schools. But I think he is beating the air. Don’t you think that all the Brahmins in those villages try to create obstacles in the learning of Shudra pupils by misguiding their parents or by incapacitating them to serve as village revenue clerks?
Padre: Fie! Fie! Patilbua, you speak out of malice, because these days I’ve heard the Brahmins stressing the need for educating the backward classes in society.
Vidushaka:Wait for a few more days. Then you’ll get piles of complaints made by the Mali Kunbis against these Brahmin Kulkarnis. Presently, these people have scant understanding. They’re afraid of the Brahmins; however, they don’t openly show it.
Husband: It’s okay. Sahib, don’t you think that the Brahmins shed crocodile tears? I mean, are you sure they honestly pay visits to the villages in the absence of Sahib?
Vidushaka:Very good, really. Padre Sahib, you Englishmen taught us your language; however, some of your Brahmin students often say “we need to keep social distance at certain level”. Don’t they say so?
Padre: They say one thing and do another. What should we do?
Vidushaka:Yes. Try to know the facts, Sahib. Don’t rely only on the advice of the educated Brahmins. And don’t act in accordance with their advice.
Husband: How can I explain this to you?
Padre: You can explain. Yes, everyone has his own share of intelligence.
Husband: I think that, in the Government Board of Education, we should pass a resolution. According to that resolution, we should conduct census of Mali Kunbi people living in hamlets and villages. Taking into consideration their percentage of population, we should reserve some seats for Mali Kunbi pupils in schools. And in case we find the villagers not sending their wards to a particular school for want of fulfilling the norms, such a school should be closed down. See, then, what happens? These Brahmins will start advising Mali Kunbi people to send their wards to schools. They will inform the Mali Kunbis that the Shastras are a fiction. Some Shastras recommend putting a ban on the Shudras’ education. They will say that it’s a big lie.
Vidushaka:Sahib, they won’t have any other alternative. That’s why they will be forced to say like that. If the Kunbi Malis don’t send their wards to schools despite their fulfilling norms, the concerned schools will be closed down. Consequently, Brahmin children will also turn out to be illiterate like Mali Kunbi’ children. This policy can be aptly described, as in the proverb, “Show your father or be prepared to perform his funeral rites”. But, Sahib, will this government show concern about the problems that the Kunbis are facing? If the government takes necessary steps, then surely it will help the Kunbis to stand in good stead.
Padre: Patilbua, you’re right. You said that all the Mali Kunbis withdrew their wards from the village school. Was the school required to be closed down, then?
Husband: No. It wasn’t closed down at all. Some Brahmin pupils were learning there.
Vidushaka:That won’t happen. Can anybody give severe punishment to his caste pupils instead of teaching them sincerely!
(The Brahmins finish chanting verses; Joshi carries a holy jug in his hand and stands behind Jogai’s husband.)
Joshi: O Baba, are you coming to the house?
Padre: O Bhatji, let him speak to me.
Vidushaka:Joshi doesn’t know the fact that, for a long time, Joshi has been training the Kunbi like a parrot, and now he deserves to be the former’s teacher.
Padre: O Baba, we’ve come here to have a word with these ignorant folks. And this is one of the commandments of our Saviour.
Vidushaka:Marvellous! It’s heartening that your Saviour is constantly striving to uplift the Mali Kunbis with the help of the British Government. (Averts the Brahmin’s eyes.)
Joshi: Speak! Bring your Jesus Christ here. (To the Kunbi) Go, Baba. Get polluted! Listen to his advice. Don’t miss it. You’ll greatly benefit by it. (Stands aside, angrily)
Vidushaka:Joshi doesn’t know the fact that, with the lapse of time, Jesus Christ will consecrate his God Brahmadev, a freak God having four mouths.
Padre: Patilbua, Brahmin children continued their learning, while Mali Kunbi children gave up learning. What could be the reason?
Husband: (Looks at Joshi’s face, anxiously) Sahib, how can I answer every question? Why don’t you try to understand it on your own?
Vidushaka:These Mali Kunbi people are naive. Unless they themselves report their sorrows to the government, it won’t understand their condition. He who wears the shoe knows where it pinches. How could the government take measures to alleviate their sufferings? These people are really day-blind.
Padre: Patilbua, don’t be scared of Brahminbua. Tell me the truth. I’ll publish it in Dnyanodaya without anybody’s fear.
Vidushaka:In the years to come, Dnyanodaya will be a worthy asset for the Kunbis. This is my prediction. Bear it in mind.
Joshi: (Speaks in a soft tone, turns to Jogai) Jogai, is your husband gone mad? Your husband is trying to compare himself with Sahibs. That’s okay. But who will scrub the utensils at home?
Vidushaka:Bravo! Englishmen, Bravo! May God rid them of all their anxieties! It is because they always try to uplift the status of the Mali Kunbis. Anyhow, the English- men wish to see the Mali Kunbis attain their rank and social status. On the other hand, the Brahmins wish to see them as scrubbers.
Wife: You always make hurry, Maharaj. Stop. Listen to what Sahib is speaking about God. He is speaking for better than you Brahmins. Let me hear him.
Vidushaka:Everyone likes the truth. Has it not been proved so far?
Joshi: The Kunbis are mad, indeed! (Stands there biting his lower lip)
Vidushaka:You’re right. The Kunbis are mad. That is why they’ve been following the Brahmins’ advice like sheep. (Joshi is about to say something.)
Padre: Shut up. Shut up. Brahminbua don’t make any noise. Let Patilbua tell me the reason why the Brahmin children continued their learning. (Joyously, touches Kunbi’s head with the point of a staff) Speak! Speak! O Baba, speak! Don’t hesitate.
Husband: (Reluctantly) Sahib, those children belonged to his own caste. Secondly, if any boy in their community quits school, other Brahmins-men and women in their community-will go nagging him to join school to such an extent that life may become impossible for him. He’s left with no alternative but to resume schooling.
Padre: Well. If any Mali Kunbi pupil turned a dropout, then why didn’t his parents advise him to join school, again? Ought not your parents to have you given that advice?
Joshi: Bravo! Sahib, Bravo! You put him an excellent question. O Padre, ask him to tell the reason why his parents didn’t advise him to join the school again.
Husband: Joshibua, won’t you be angry with me?
Joshi: Speak. Speak. Hell with my anger! We won’t be able to punish you, because we aren’t living in the Peshwa Raj, now. Will you adhere to Manu’s laws? For your information, see ‘Manu’s Code’ ||A|| ||Law|| ||Verse|| ||Article No. 205||
Vidushaka:(Waves his hands at the audience) Did Manu consult the Mali Kunbis at the time of framing laws?
Husband: Don’t you always tell us, parents, that Manu’s law denies the Shudras the right to education? What should they do then? How can they violate this law and send their children to school? You Brahmins have left them illiterate. That is why they followed your instructions like blind men. But now, in Hindustan, due to the grace of the British government, some Mali, Kunbi, Mang, Mahar men won’t waste their time condemning Manu’s laws; instead, they’ll prove that Manu’s laws are obsolete and the pages of that book are worth selling waste paper or may be used to pack snuff-powder or be sent to make cowries to the charity houses for the blind and the handicapped.
Vidushaka:(Speaking to himself) I think if we use those pages for packing snuff-powder, someone will open the packet and will read the verse printed on it. Yes, that’s just possible. So, think of another better option which will help the Malis and the Kunbis to attain their welfare and the Brahmins, too, will then mend their ways.
Joshi: Well. It’s okay. If we educate you, we will end our monopoly in the sphere of education. So, we don’t show any interest in educating you. If you hold the same opinion, answer why your father sent you to school, despite your knowing full well that Pantojis punish you severely?
Husband: Don’t you have the answer to this question? A superintendent or some education officer of higher rank would always inspect the school and strictly instruct them to enroll the pupils belonging to all the castes in the community. That is why whenever the officers come to inspect school, Bhats and Kulkarnis pack all pupils, including the Shudras, in the classrooms like sheep in a pen. They do this only to show the officer that pupils from various sections of society are learning in that school. Secondly, there isn’t a single man in my community who is imparted education like you and has become learned. If you know such a man, produce him before me or we’ll go to the village to meet him, if there is any.
Joshi: Why doesn’t Sahib know all this?
Husband: How could he know it? Who will inform him of this truth? Who is empowered to inform Sahib?
Joshi: Why didn’t your father inform him to do it?
Husband: My father? Yes. He lived in that village. Even Patil didn’t take courage to inform the mistakes committed by the Kulkarnis and the Brahmins. How could my father, a simple villager, do this? (Bites lower lip.) I’m waiting for the day, when God will enable us to inform the mistakes committed by the Brahmins out-rightly, and openly, to the government.
Vidushaka:(To the Kunbi) Baba, don’t be afraid. God has brought Englishmen in this country, because he wished to alleviate the fear in the minds of the Malis, Kunbis, Mahars, Mangs about the Brahmins. And God would rid you of all your troubles.
Joshi: I’m not to blame you. This is Kali’s influence. That’s why you are exposing our tricks.
Vidushaka:(Waves his hands at the audience) All the centres of learning are accessible to all sorts of people belonging to the different castes in the British raj; yet they wish nobody to expose their tricks.
Husband: Sahib, have you heard? Am I telling you lie? Come along with me. We’ll go from one village to another to enquire with the villagers in the absence of the Brahmins. Then, you’ll come to know: Who is the lier – Brahmins or I? Secondly, until now he was referring to Manu’s name, but now he’s speaking of the God Kali. I can make a speech on Kali, but now I’ve no desire to ridicule Him. We’ll speak about Him later, when we have ample leisure at our disposal. Having deeply thought over the matter, I realize that Brahminical beliefs are all ill-founded.
Joshi: Eh man, who called you a lier? Accepted that Brahmins are liers, you shouldn’t lay any blame on us. How long is Sahib going to stay in this country? It’s your community and mine that will be residing in this country forever. Like the Muslim rule, this British rule, also will be coming to an end in the near future and then the Peshwa raj will be restored. Eh, from good old days, the Brahmins have been called to advise all other castes of different folds in our society. Hence, you, Shudras, should salute us. Therein lies your much-coveted darshana of God.
Vidushaka:(Waves his hands at the audience) Brahmins have imposed ban on Shudras’ learning. To lift that ban and to make the Shudras educated, God has sent the Britishers in this country. The Shudras and the Atishudras will be obliged to Englishmen, when they become literate. Then, they will hundred times prefer the British kingdom to the Peshwa Raj. But, in the near future, if the Britishers start oppressing natives like the Moguls in the past, then the educated Shudras and Atishudras will establish their own kingdom like their brave ancestor, Shivaji the Great. Like the Americans, they will attain independence. I’d like to suggest to Joshibua to remember this well that the oppressive, wicked Peshwa raj will never be reinstated in this country. And, then, we’ll encounter the issue of darshana of God? Even Bhats have never had this darshana of God, the Almighty. So, how could they assure others of that?
Husband: Oh Bhatjis, against this British kingdom, your oppressive rule, called the Peshwai Raj, will neither sustain nor survive. Let’s not remember the oppressions suffered by the Shudras, the Atishudras, the Mangs and the Mahars in our community. They’ll realize this well, only after they have had education. And, then they won’t put up with the Bhat-Brahmin hegemony.
Padre: Patil’s right. By God’s grace, he realized the truth. And he spoke of it outright without anybody’s fear. Having heard the truth, let out spontaneously, I’d like to guess that, in the due course of time, God will help the Shudras and the Atishudras become educated who will then prove that the Brahmincal Shastras to be a collection of fictitious tales. He’ll also help the Shudras abandon the practice of idol-worship and they’ll learn to identify the true, live God. He’ll make them His true disciples. But you’re saying that we should salute the Brahmins, whether they worship God or not.
Joshi: Worship the Brahmins and you needn’t worship any other God.
Vidushaka:(Waves his hands at the audience) The writers of Dnyanodaya always salute the Brahmins. Now, they shouldn’t accept salutation from the Kunbi-Malis and the Mahar-Mangs. This is my suggestion to all the Joshis. In the future, if I happened to attend a Shudra’s marriage ceremony, I would not definitely shy away to speak there outrightly how the Brahmins make a mess of such ceremonies. (Exits, saluting everybody.)
Padre: (Speaking to the Kunbi) I earnestly wish to convince the Brahmins and resolve their doubts as they have started comparing themselves to God. It’s evening, now. I must leave. But, whenever you’ve leisure, please, call on me at my Bungalow. Then, I’ll explain to you how the Brahmins have been cheating you people, treating themselves as your Gods. I’ve had a talk with them and found that they’re liers and hypocrites. (Places his hat on head and exits)
Husband: (Hurriedly speaks to Wife) I’m going to the shop to settle Joshi’s account there. You’ll go home and keep roti and vegetable dish ready. In the afternoon, I won’t have enough food to eat. (All exeunt)
Husband: Eh, I cleared Joshi’s debt. Have you baked rotis?
Wife: Yes. (Serves food on the plate before him) Have this.
Husband: Take your plate, too. Today, we’ll dine together!
Wife: No. I’ll eat afterwards.
Husband: Eh, you, too, finish your meal quickly. Hearing the advice of selfless Padre Sahib and taking in to consideration all the incidents that happened that day, I realize the stratagem of the Bhat-Brahmins who are cheating the illiterate the Mali-Kunbis and other Shudras and are also robbing them of their money in the name of God and religion. I also realize the importance of education. So, we’ll finish our meal quickly. You’ll go to the night-school housed in the mansion of honourable Jotirao Govindrao Phule, the place not far from our house, where Sow. Savitribai teaches adult women. And in his mansion honourable Jotirao Phule has opened up another night-school for adult men, too. I’ll join school. Both Mr. Phule and Mrs. Phule teach their students freely without charging any fees. Both of them very much persuaded us to attend their school but we turned deaf ears to their requests. That’s the greatest mistake we’ve ever committed.
Wife: (She sits near him. The two eat together) That’s right. We should attend Mr. and Mrs. Phule’s schools and learn there to read and write. Then, we’ll come to know of several things about the world in which we live.
(Both of them finish their meal, carry slates and pencils in their hands and join the night-school run by Mr. and Mrs. Phule, specially, with a view to educating adult men and women.)