The high school maidan of Lucknow central school was crowded with people flocking from every village to engulf themselves in the joy of Mahotsav. The coloured lights with banners of all political parties subtly placed under them attracted the crowd, some even vehemently arguing for their own leaders amidst the loud bursting of firecrackers.
Near a tandhai stall, Radha and Ashok were relaxing while people kept coming to get blessings from them feeding them with hay, grass and banana peels to please them. Some were even bowing down to them while Ashok stood still lost in his thoughts, ruminating. Ashok in between tried scaring one by shrugging his head and pointing his horns towards the young chap while Radha serenely stood there poised giving out blessings. While the crowd started dispersing from the stall and moved after receiving the blessings from Radha and Ashok, Radha tilted her head and watched Ashok for a while in silence. Radha hesitantly broke the silence by asking Ashok, “Don’t you think our government is doing so much for us? I mean, we have been incessantly exploited by humans since time immemorial and we all have been silent all the while”.
Ashok was caught off guard and the sudden inquisitiveness in Radha surprised Ashok. Although he decided to resume the conversation with a cynical smile on his face like always.
Ashok: Revolution may come through fear, but will only last through conciseness and conviction. Through us, they are creating a class, a class of nationalists. Perhaps I would agree that the fight for proles have been disillusioned and the verve and rigour of identity have changed.
Radha: I have an Adhaar card now, what identity are you talking about?
Ashok: That exactly is the problem my dear, they are providing with an identity. You still don’t have a choice. They have appropriated your existence for their political benefits. They have used your identity to reap capital benefits. While your fellow beings are slaughtered the most here compared to any other country, you are hypnotized by the belief that you are being protected for your nobility. Don’t you see the irony dear?
Radha: I do not care about it. I have been promised with air-conditioned houses and security of life like never before.
Ashok: Oh! That’s indeed great. It is absolutely pleasing to know that they care about your well-being.
Radha: They do, they do. Just look at me. I have been provided with fine clothes too. The shiny saffron Ghaghra is just too pretty. You infact have to get out of that shabby suit of yours. And to be honest, olive green never suited you Ashok.
Ashok: I am comfortable this way. My comfort lies in my choices. I am humbled by the nobleness they thrust on me but I remain ignoble. I don’t want privileges.
Radha: I don’t understand you. I have never.
Ashok: But I understand Radha. I understand the pain of being lynched in front of your own family. I understand the helplessness of being slashed in public. I understand the pain of being tied on and flogged till death.
Radha: Don’t you understand our pain?
Ashok: I very well do. Perhaps more than anyone. They slaughtered my daughter in public during a protest in Kerala. I very well understand the pain of loss.
Radha: I am so sorry. I shouldn’t have brought it up.
Ashok: It’s okay. She would have been killed anyway. I am happy that she was killed on our soil and not for someone to export her meat…
Do you have a lighter?
Radha hands over the lighter slowly to Ashok. Ashok immediately fixes a cigar in his mouth and lights it and let the smoke blur his sight for a while.
Ashok: Radha, do you believe in God?
Radha: What is God for you?
Ashok: Anything or anyone that you could find solace in could be your God. Perhaps a facilitator of your existence or perhaps one who comforts you.
Radha: If that is what you are referring to God as I have a forge of Gods here.
Ashok bursts out laughing and asks ‘do your Gods hurt others?’
Radha: I know where you are getting at Ashok. My Gods hurt those that hurt me.
Ashok: What a strange God have you got Radha?
Radha: Being protective of me is strange for you?
Ashok: No. Being selectively protective is.
Radha: You are not making any sense to me.
Ashok: I don’t make sense to your Gods either. One of your Gods threatened to kill me when I refused to act like a God. When I remained obstinate he beat me with his stick and shooed me off.
Radha: Why wouldn’t you want to be a God? You will be worshipped by all these people Ashok. Humans have high regard for Gau mata.
Ashok: What a strange world we live in Radha? Gau mata can be worshipped but don’t you think these people who back you now have motives beyond all these facades they throw on you. Your forge of Gods insists you to be God. I am a mere mortal Radha. I am no God. I can’t be one.
Radha: You can. You have all the power bestowed upon you.
Ashok: Power? What power?
At this point in time, a group of people with saffron shawls around their neck headed towards Radha and Ashok. Radha looked at Ashok for some time while he comfortably watched them coming for him.
Radha slowly handed him over a saffron shawl. Ashok looked at it for a while and asked, “You want me to put in on? After all these years you have known me?
Radha: That’s the way-out Ashok.
Ashok: Could you do me a favor?
Radha: Yes, for sure.
Ashok: Could you walk up to the end of this lane and open the exit doors for me?
Radha in all her grace headed towards the exit doors while the group surrounded Ashok and Ashok silently looked at each one of them. With beads of sweat settling at their brows and furiousness veiling their face, they all looked at Ashok with rage. All of a sudden someone from the podium played the national anthem and the flocking crowd came to a still and stood up in attention. The group entrapping Ashok too stood still unflinchingly while Ashok slowly made his way and walked off from the group and headed to the exit doors of the maidan.
Beside the exit door was Azad café where people were sipping coffees out of their matka cups and just before leaving the maidan, Ashok looked at the crowd as the national anthem came to an end and he yelled his lungs out, “Not in my name, Not in my name”.