Tourist, poet, pilgrim
As I read this book, I smiled with the words going round and creating images in my head, and I longed to get on that bus to Jejuri.
The one that is no more than a thought in the head of the priest (as he wonders whether there’ll be puran poli on his plate) when:
With a thud and a bump
the bus takes a pothole as it rattles past the priest
and paints his eyeballs blue
The bus goes around in a circle.
Stops inside the bus station and stands
purring softly in front of the priest.
A catgrin on its face
and a live, ready to eat pilgrim
held between its teeth.
I smiled again and sighed with pleasure when I read:
come off it
said Chaitanya to a stone
in stone language
wipe the red paint off your face
i don’t think the colour suits you
i mean what’s wrong with being just a plain stone
i'll still bring you flowers
you like the flowers of zendu don’t you
i like them too
Then I wasn’t smiling and my heart dipped low for the old woman:
She won’t let you go.
You know how old women are.
They stick to you like a burr.
You turn around and face her
with an air of finality.
You want to end the farce.
When you hear her say,
“What else can an old woman do
on hills as wretched as these?”
At Jejuri (where every other stone is god or his cousin) you will also meet a sheep dog (who had never told a lie in his life) the temple rat (who knows to jump away from the temple bell just before it swings into action) the reservoir built by the Peshwas (not a drop of water; nothing it it, except a hundred years of silt) cocks and hens in a field of jowar (seven jumping straight up to at least four times their height as five come down with grain in their beaks) while your brother who came along stands outside in the courtyard where no one will mind if he smokes, and you will soon find it terribly, terribly hard to find out when the next train is due.
You don’t have to go to Jejuri to feel the colour and the thick flowers (and the heat and the crowd of pious peasantry and their smell). They are all here in this book, a little mythology, a thousand-year old tradition, the reality of what you see today, a sociological commentary, and a word-painting that shows vistas, landscapes and people you wouldn’t see even if you actually went there yourself.