was sitting on the roadside rail, his attention focused on a packet
full of telebhajas. He spotted me, and hastily gobbled down the last
two of those scrumptious begunis and said, 'Hey Mr. Palaram where
were you yesterday? I didn't see a whisker of you, what's up?'
'I went to the circus with Mejoda.'
'Oh really? So how was the show?'
The one you can call de-la-grandy-mefistofilis. Elephants, tigers,
lion, motorcycle and so many things. You know, what though? The chimpanzee
topped them all, Tenida, it took tea and smoked.'
'Pooh!' sneered Tenida, scrunching his face so that
his nose shrank to the size of a nut. 'Forget your chimpanzee. It
is nothing in front of the hanumans that my uncle's friend, Ramgiddhar
'Really?' I drew close to Tenida. 'Where did Ramgiddhar
see the hanuman?'
'I know what you mean,' I nodded. 'When I went to
Puri I saw some big ones in Jagannath's temple.'
'Forget Puri! Those are lesser humans, I mean lesser
hanumans, sitting with big bellies stuffed with offerings. All they
need are amulets round their necks. If you want to see the real hanuman
go to the forest of Keonjhor.'
'Keonjhor. What's that?'
'If you knew about Keonjhor you wouldn't be in Potoldanga
gobbling potol and catfish. If you want to listen to the story, then
bolt your mouth and don't crackle like a crane.'
'But Tenida cranes don't crackle. They …………….'
'Shut up! Cranes don't crackle? Then someday you will
say crows don't crow they bleat!'
'OK OK. Please continue.'
'Of course I will. Now listen carefully and don't
interrupt; you will learn a lot. So Ramgiddhar Babu was a contractor.
He used to build roads, pools etc. Once he went to the forest of Keonjhor
for his job, replete with coolies, tents, jeeps and lots of things.
There was a clearing in the forest where they set camp. About two
miles from that place, a bridge was being built on a rivulet. Twice
a day, he went there to oversee the work in progress. In that forest
hanumans were aplenty, their homes on the trees. These fled as the
rabble and jeeps shattered the peaceful environs. You know Ramchandraji
is no more, so they have no one to bank on. At night the tipsy coolies
sometimes used to sing 'Rama ho Rama ho' with rustic instruments,
and the naïve creatures were repelled by the cacophony.
"In spite of this something happened.
"That day Ramgiddhar was eating chapatti outside
his tent. Suddenly he saw a big bull hanuman wistfully eyeing his
chapatti. Ramgiddhar's heart melted. He chucked a chapatti to the
hanuman. It grabbed the chapatti and nodded as if in acknowledgement,
and then vanished into the forest. The next day when Ramgiddhar sat
to dine the hanuman returned. Ramgiddhar gave it a chapatti and it
also nodded and went its way. This went on for several months. Everyday
the hanuman comes, takes its ration and nods its thanks before leaving.
Never disturbs Ramgiddhar, or demands more than its share. A happy-go-lucky
sort of creature.
"One day, however, Ramgiddhar Babu messed up
the peaceful rationing system. That day he had had an altercation
with the coolies that left him a bit cranky and unmindful. He did
not notice that the good boy hanuman patiently waiting for its ration.
He gobbled up all the chapattis, then swilled down a big bowl of milk,
before wiping his regal moustache, completely oblivious to the hanuman.
"The next day, when he settled down with the
platter of chapatti there was a whoop! Before he could realise what
was afoot, all eight chapattis vanished in a trice. Flicking its tail
before with a great whoop, the branches swaying under its weight,
the hanuman disappeared from view.
"One or two coolies started shouting, the cook
began wailing for the stolen chapattis and Ramgiddhar just stared
open mouthed. "What? How ungrateful! Everyday I'm giving away
chapattis to this traitor!" If it were any other animal Ramgiddhar
would have had it shot, but the kin of Mahabirji could not be shot.
That would be a grave sin.
"Ramgiddhar grew so angry that he tore off a
few strands from his regal moustache. Then he said, 'Ramgiddhar is
the Rajput of original Baliya. He will teach you a good lesson.' The
next day he called the chef and asked him to knead two chapattis with
the hottest chillis available in the area. When he sat to dine, he
chucked the two special chapattis on the ground and the hanuman plucked
those from the ground and back to the treetop after saluting him.
The coolies armed themselves with clubs. After one or two minutes
the hanuman started braying from the treetop. It was jumping from
one branch to another, hollering loudly. Birds and leaves were flying
in all directions. After the Ramayana the Hanuman's mouth was burnt
for the second time.
"The hanuman was screaming from the treetop and
below Ramgiddhar was laughing his head off with his gang. The Hanuman
is taught a good lesson. How dare he loot Ramgiddhar's chapatti? After
tossing about in the trees for sometime, the creature disappeared.
After laughing for another half an hour, Ramgiddhar went out to work.
He had forgotten what happened to Ravana when he burnt Hanuman's mouth
in the Ramayana. He came to know in the evening.
"When he returned from work the sun was about
to dip into the horizon. The wind was brisk, birds chirping. Ramgiddhar
was in high spirits. The jeep was moving slowly on the small path
through the forest and Ramgiddhar was humming a song"Arrey ha
bon mein chale Ramchandraji, saath mein chale Laxman bhai" (Rama
is leaving for the forest and brother Laxman is with him). At this
point his car stopped. The path was blocked with small twigs and big
branches strewn all over it. Country people are really weird! An irate
Ramgiddhar asked his driver Batkul Singh to clear the path. Batkul
Singh got down from the jeep and was about to clear the road suddenly:
"Goop gup hoop hoop gobat."
"The entire forest started bellowing in unison.
Storming the treetops at least hundred and fifty hanumans jumped onto
the ground and surrounded the jeep. After the Ramayana, this seemed
to be the second execution of Ravana. When Batkul figured out what
was happening, he bolted through the forest like a bullet. Flabbergasted,
Ramgiddhar also jumped from the jeep but the hanuman grabbed him.
Ramgiddhar started screaming, "Help! I'm done for!" His
voice drowned in the sea of whoops. Do you know what happened next?
Two bull hanumans clutched his ears tightly and another slapped him
several times on his face.
"When Ramgiddhar stated screaming for help, the
one he tricked into eating the hot chapatti rammed a chapatti into
his gullet. You can guess which chapatti I'm talking about? This was
one of those chilli-studded chapattis. As soon as his tongue got a
taste of the chapatti, his mouth was set aflame. He tried to spit
it out, but when he tried to do so he got two more thumping slaps.
So Ramgiddhar swallowed the chapattiironically got himself at the
receiving end. It is not plausible to trick a gang of hanumans. If
one hundred and fifty hanumans give him a slap apiece he would be
reduced to the size of a little mouse. What he swallowed to avoid
the slaps was not a mere chapatti, however. It was a conflagration.
His eyes watered, and it seemed to him that his gullet was burning
with fire. Ramgiddhar could only utter 'water' before blacking out.
When Batkul Singh returned with guns and coolies there was not a whisker
of the hanumans. Only an unconscious Ramgiddhar was left on the path.
He spent one full month in the hospital to recover from the chapatti.
"That's why I said don't tell me the stories
of circus chimpanzees. If you want to see the real show then go to
the forest of Keonjhor." Saying this Tenida knocked my skull
with his knuckles and vanished towards the Sradhdhananda park.