MADMAN AND THE DYNAMIC DUO
There are several accounts of how men felt about the freedom struggle and how they shaped the present day India but there are not many that trace the growth of women through the timeline. I have tried to fill the gap in history with my own creativity . The real dynamic duo paved a way of development for the marginalized sections. The story contains several direct and many hidden and indirect descriptions of the scenario in middle and later part of 19th century.
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The morning of 3rd June 1844 was brighter than usual, in the Naigaon village of Satara district of Maharashtra, as a tiny ray of hope to be named Madhavi was born To Khandoji Nevase Patil and Lakshmi.
A spark that will turn into a sun that will illuminate the lives of millions for decades.
Her name would become a symbol of defiance against the deep rooted evils that exploited the people and ensured that the differences prevailed between classes.
It was a bright beautiful day, 13 year old Madhavi was delightfully playing, carefree and young when Ramakant, a 15 year old village boy, of the same Mali community approached her with a dull face, seeing him like that she enquired
“What happened, Why are you so serious?”
He seemed disconnected and lost at the moment the ever cheerful boy had a deep frown on his face, Something was on his mind, bothering him deeply. Upon seeing this the little girl pulled his ear and scolded him and said “ I know something has happened, tell me.”
It took Ramakant a while to collect himself and focus. Madhavi was talking about the morning, when a black cat crossed their path.
Kant didn’t seem to respond, Madhavi felt sorry for him. She consolidated him by saying, “My grandmother says that everyone is bound by their karma and those who do bad are punished by Lord Vishnu himself”
“Oh really”, uttered Kant.
“Yes, that wicked cat will get her share of karma” says Madhvi.
To that kant asked if she really thinks that cat is going to get her share of punishment or “vishu” will spare it?
“What do you mean?” Asked Madhvi
“Today my grandfather took me to Savakar and on our way, he brought idli for himself, and carried the packet with a thread tied to a stick, making sure that his hands don’t touch the food. We walked and walked, after a while we finally reached our destination the moneylender was sitting in the garden when Ajuba slipped in the mud in front of the Savakar’s house and I jumped in to save the idli and offered them to the fat man with a smile on my face, my Aji says we should always smile while serving, it makes people happy.
But then suddenly, Ajuba jumped in and smacked me on the head. He apologized to the fat man and promised him to fetch another packet of idli. .
Ramakant continued, “On our way to the shop, Ajuba explained that we are considered untouchables by the upper class and they would be polluted too if they eat the food we have touched.”
Madhvi laughed and said “Maybe it’s because of your buckteeth, moreover rats took your teeth, and you look ugly”
This infuriated Ramakant and he pulled her ponytail hard enough to make the little girl cry, and the other children gathered around.
According to their justice, it was decided that Madhavi will get to pull Ramakant’s hair.
She did not hold back and pulled his hair harshly. The guy's head was now resembling that of his Ajuba.
One night when neighbors gathered around after the meal, the curious duo asked the elders if the buck teeth and lack of other teeth that Ramakant and his Ajuba shared were the reason for untouchability.
Elders shared a laugh at the childish idea, they explained the concept of untouchability to the children, it was a lot to process for the young minds. Before they could have wrapped their heads around the foolish concepts of the world, the stories of atrocities done in various regions started to pour in. In a society where acts like Sati and human sacrifices were a normal practice, they came to know how dangerous the world around them was.
Ramakant recalled a person being beaten in front of the temple. Upon asking about the incident, he came to know that the guy was a Chandal and was beaten to death as he took the path that passed a temple early in the morning during the head priest’s arrival.
On seeing the lines of freight on the duo’ forehead the wise man spoke again. This time about the ongoing rebellion of 1857, in an innovative way. He asked the people to assume the British raj as brahmanical supremacy and Indians as untouchables. He said that the British had suppressed the Indians for quite a long time but it was due to the courage and valor of various freedom fighters that the British raj was to end soon. Similarly, he continued that The only way they can be free from the oppression of the ‘higher castes’, was if people dared to defy the prevailing social norms.
There were laughs and cries among the crowd saying Defying the natural order? going against the will of lord brahma himself? all this traveling and old age has done a number on him and laughed. A single traveler has asked for shelter from us, untouchables for almost a decade, and that even a complete crackpo, declared a middle aged man from the crowd.
The traveler, after all, didn’t seem to be much interested in opinion of the masses, focusing solely on the two little birds whose wings were still intact, he started preaching about the how different people were fighting for their freedom that how there were thousands out there ready to self-sacrifice their lives for freedom of their kin. He continued to put up and support arguments by giving examples of the leaders of the freedom struggle like Rani Laxmi Bai, Tatya Tope, Begum Hazrat Mahal and so on.
With each example something changed, the little sparks now started to become raging fires that will consume every evil that will come in their path.
Their eyes were no longer of the mere children, now they had become the divine eyes of the warriors that had looked hopelessness and fear in the face. Among the many battles to come, they had successfully won the foremost and most important battle, the battle within oneself.
The night grew darker and the crowd began to disperse, the madman and his two disciples stayed unmoved and unbothered by their surroundings. As the time passed, both the family members and the villagers got more and more discouraged to disturb the trio. Something phenomenal was happening right under that huge banyan tree, something that the intellect of the villagers were not able to understand but their subconscious kept many people hooked to the place.
Wealth of knowledge was imparted to the two and to the surprise of everyone, the traveler who was staying for over three months and showed no signs of leaving, vanished.
Almost a year later Madhavi and Ramakant were married to each other. Madhavi was an illiterate before the marriage, following the marriage Ramakant started her wife’s schooling at home. Education opened a new world before the couple, the books on French revolution that Ramakant borrowed from his seniors almost blew the young couple’s mind.
Living within the social framework, Madhavi realized how lucky she was to have been married to a nice guy with a good family, others around her were not that lucky. Drishti, her friend, was sold to her husband who was 5 times her age because her father was unable to repay a debt.
Amidst such an environment, Madhavi was sitting by the window looking empty. Seeing her like that, the 16 year old husband enquired “what are u cooking tonight?”
An empty “whatever you want...” was heard as a reply. He immediately understood that something was bothering her.
After asking several times, she opened up, “do you remember Sonal?”
“The one who got married 3 months ago?” Asked kant,
“Exactly” said madhvi
He enquired “What about her?”
“I received news that her husband passed away 15 days ago due to a disease. When we were ten she used to boast a lot about her hair, she had long silky hair, even I was jealous of. Now, her head would be shaved off to ensure that no one can “claim” her again. She will be a burden to everyone for the rest of her remaining life. Only if she had access to means of livelihood, only if she had access to education.
She could have started a new life again.
What was her fault, for which she deserved a lifetime of humiliation?” Sighed madhvi
“No one deserves to be treated like that, our sense of pride is what differentiates us from an animal. If you like, you can invite her to live with us. I'll talk to Ai and Baba...” said kant.
“Just a mere thought of that humiliation aches your heart? Alas the hearts of people have turned into stone. No one stood by her side, not even her own parents, they must have made her feel responsible for the death of the deceased, to force her to take such a step”
“What step!?” exclaimed Ramakant.
“After completing post cremation rituals, she drowned herself in a river” said Madhavi as she sobbed.
Ramakant held her firmly in his arms
Madhavi did her teacher’s training at Ms Farar’s Institution in Ahmednagar and passed third and fourth year from a normal school. After completing her teacher’s training she started teaching girls at the Maharwada along with
Kantabai who was a revolutionary feminist as well as a mentor to Ramakant.
After about a year and half of teaching the trio of Ramakant, Madhavi and Kantabai opened their own school at Bhide Wada.
Bhide Wada was the home of Tatya Saheb Bhide who was inspired by their work. The curriculum at Bhide Wada included traditional western teachings of mathematics, science, and social studies. Within two years of time the trio was operating three different schools for girls in Pune. Combined the three schools had a combined strength of approximately one hundred and fifty students. Like the curriculum, the teaching methods employed by three schools differed from those of the government schools. It was locally propagated that the trio’s schools were better than the government ones. As a result of this reputation the number of girls at these schools outnumbered the number of boys at the government schools.
The dead fish eyes of community’s men and the vulture eyes of the Brahmins looked at them with envy and fear, the people of their community probably envied them, for they had broken free from the centuries old curse while the people who imposed the curse feared those mighty warriors for they themselves had shattered the chains of oppression and had set on a journey to break the chains of other. They feared those warriors because if that happened the “upper caste” would lose their supremacy and the illusionary sense of security that had arisen from others’ suppression.
Madhavi enters the house after a tiresome day at school. She has a saree covered in dung and mud. Ramakant casually asks her about the day. “Exams are nearing and there are a few students who are little behind the others, so I might have to take extra classes starting the next Monday”, Madhavi replies with confidence.
Ramakant couldn’t help but ask, “How do you bear so much without showing a single sign of agitation?”
Madhavi replied, “They throw dung and mud at me to break my confidence, to shatter my spirit. Huh... such a foolish tactic, they shower me with the soil of this land, the soil which is cherished by the blood of hundreds of freedom fighters, I take it as more of an honor than an insult and dung...”
Ramakant interrupted “And the cow dung cakes are used to purify homes, so when they throw dung at you they are purifying your spirit. Right? ”
“Correct”, Madhavi replied.
“Seriously?? Jai Ho Shri Madhavi ji” , giggled Ramakant.
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