Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Bhagnadih ka Bhagya

I peered in through the open door, expecting someone to call out and ask for my identity. My guide, a reporter(patrakar) for The Dainik Jagran nudges me and ushers me in. It’s been a long wait to get till here and I didn’t need a second invitation. I walk in and the first thing that greets me are the busts of the two great men. Right behind them propped up by the wall is a family tree that confirms the existence of the clan. I look around for the inhabitants of this modest rural household. I somehow find it inappropriate to be talking insde the house. I gesture towards Birender Bhaiya.

“Sab bahar kaam mein lage honge.”

“Ugh” I nod.

In May earlier this year, the state government had decided to gift Siddho-Kano’s descendants new dwelling units as part of the celebration of the 154th anniversary of Santhal Hul. The Telegraph Jharkhand wrote -

Converting the family home of the legendary martyr brothers into a heritage temple, setting up a museum housing documents and other testimonials related to the Santhal Hul, beautification of the Kadam Dandi – a fountain where they took a bath before going to war- and a stadium are also on the cards.

I walk around the village, my guide pestering me to hurry up, complaining about how he has to get back to work. A bunch of kids spot my camera. Chewing sugarcane they venture closer, till i can ask them their names. One of them is co-incidentally called Kanhu. Later i learn it is a common name in the area, nothing to be acting smug about. I ask them about the temple, stadium and the likes. They tell me the stadium is at the other end of the village. We walk to the Kadam Dandi, where i find a chap bathing.

“Siddhu - Kanhu ladne ke pehle nahate the. Aaj kal log kabhi bhi naha lete hain!” my guide exclaims to general amusement.

“Yeh ladayi ke baad naha raha hai.” I say spotting two buffaloes sitting in the shade, their dark skin glistening.

The sun is out in full force and so is the workforce in the fields. Almost everyone, man woman or child is out with an umbrella. This is a phenomenon I’ve never seen practiced anywhere in India except the east. Rain or sunshine an umbrella is a must for the working class. I ask the children what class they are in. They tell me in detail, pointing out their school. The boss of the group is a girl who’s mannerism fiercely resembles some i know. She asks me if I saw the Murmu family tree when I was inside. If I haven’t there is one at the entrance of the village. She can take me there in the car.

Last year Suresh Mahto adopted the youngest of the Murmu generation and sent them off for their schooling in Ranchi. While the Murmu family still lives a life of normalcy away from the public glare, the village is hounded by politicians constantly. Each pays tribute to the heroes in their own way and promises a better future.

I look towards the village one last time while driving out. It’s a typically quiet, hot and humid afternoon. Paddy is being sown, women are out in the fields. My guide gently exclaims

“Sab Rajniti ka khel hai. Jab chunao aata hai toh unnati ki baat karte hain. Uske baad idhar ghoom ke bhi nahin dekha jaata. June tak sara development complete hona tha. Election khatam, sirf stadium bana hai.”