Indrajit and his family were visiting his friend at Bangalore for a short stay with them. The two families were meeting after a long gap of time. Of course, they were in contact with each other on mobile, video chats and so on. But face to face and in person, was happening now. His friend, Sethuraman, his wife, Sumitra and their only son, Ranjan were very fond of Indrajit’s family. Bindulata, wife of Indrajit’s wife was a teacher in a local school at Nagpur and was often writing articles on Indian culture and arts of ancient era. She was also contemplating to do Ph.D.
She had a strong hold on Indian History of Ancient period and the Golden Age and the later period Bhakti cult movement. Magadha, Gupta, Satavahana, Pallava, Chalukya dynasties, the literature, art, life-style, sculptures and what not of those eras, everything fascinated her. She would make an in-depth study and then only start writing on such topics. She used to feel so proud to be a descendent of such a great Indian heritage and lineage.
She somehow had a distaste for the later period. The period of invaders. With advent of Moghul invaders and the subsequent British traders cum rulers, there was a steady and deep decline in Indian heritage, prosperity and well-being of local citizens. The invaders in the beginning, were looters, plunderers, abductors, rapists and merciless mass killers. Large scale conversion was a big threat to the local people. Those who refused, were mercilessly killed. Luckily, she did not belong to the religion of any of the invaders. Otherwise, she would be carrying some the strains of their tyrant nature.
She knew very well that she was biased in her thoughts and thinking. But History was it was and it revealed tits ugly truth. There was nobody who was kind to his subjects. Because of such unruly tyrants, she tended to carry a biased opinion on people living in the present modern society.
She quite often condemned herself saying ‘she was not able to see any good quality among people of other religions, --- particularly the Islam and Christianity.’ She was well aware of good Samaritans from other communities, their exemplary noble deeds to mankind, charity, humanity at large. ‘Can there be a woman who can be said equal to Mother Teresa! Can there be a fisherman equal to K P Jaisal, just 32 years, a fisherman who knelt down in waist deep water to enable some women to step into a boat meant for rescuing them who were then caught in flood waters rising at an alarming rate! What about these saints? Nobody ever bothered about the religion of Sant Kabirdas, Sai Baba, Meher Baba and many such great thinkers, well-wishers and philosophers. They were not confined to their own religion or sect. They all belonged to the humanity at large. In spite of all such rational thinking, she could not avoid her aversion to the religion of the ‘invaders’. In today’s modern context, she would be branded as a staunch ‘Hindutva’ and on top, a radical thinker.
In order to avoid her own controversial biased thinking, she better confined herself to writing on the glorious past historical incidences of Ancient India, prior to the ‘invaders’ period. Occasionally, she did portray the great warriors like King Purushottam, the Porus, Rana Pratap Singh Chouhan, Jhansi Rani Lakshmibai, Chhatrapati Shivaji etc. who stood against such invaders and etched their name in History forever.
As far as possible, Indrajit did not interfere in her interests. But he did not want her keen interest in such glorious past heroes should come in the way of hurting or humiliating the sentiments of people of other religions. It was but natural for her that while glorifying such personalities, she would unknowingly demean people of other faiths. So, in order to avoid tussle between themselves, he had requested her to refrain from praising such glorious heroes of the past, when people of other faith were present around them. Even while talking about freedom fighters of India’s Independence struggle, a knock-out punch on Britishers was inevitable from her side. He, knowing his wife very well, was always on nerves, whenever they happened to meet friends or for that matter any outsider, from other sects.
Before leaving Nagpur, he told Bindu that they should make the trip as enjoyable as possible. The best way to ensure that was to stay from current politics and controversial topics. Bindu said ‘Let conversations be family oriented’. They had bought some video games for the playful boy, Ranjan, a Chanderi silk saree for Sumitra and some electronic gadget for Sethuraman. While staying at Bangalore, they were interested in visiting some places, preferably with the host, Sethuraman’s family. Sethuraman said,
“More than Bangalore, Mysore offers a lot more places of tourist interest. Jaganmohan Palace, Chamundi hill and temple, never-to-miss Brindavan Gardens and its Musical fountains Tibetan Buddhist Temple and many more. The only problem is we may have to stay back there for two or more days, which, I may not be able to comply right now. So, I request you to come again on a longer trip for those outstation visits. This time, you confine to local sight-seeing, …. Bangalore Palace, Bull temple Tipu Palace. Vishweswaraiya Technical Institute, etc. Once upon a time, Bangalore was known as ‘city of gardens’, Laal Baug and Cubbon Park, being very popular of the two. Even ISKON Temple is worth visiting. Here again, you may not be able to cover all these in your short stay, given that the Bangalore traffic is very hazardous and painfully testing your patience. So, you may have to be choosey. My best advice is just visit only one place and rest of the days be with us at home and enjoy our hospitality.”
Ranjan, out of curiosity, said,
“Let us go to Tipu Palace. They have recently renovated and made it more attractive.” Turning to Bindu, he continued, “Aunty, Tipu Sultan was a great ruler and was known for his bravery. He was one of the earliest warriors to resist the mighty British Rulers. In the Palace, you will find one marvellous piece of artistic treasure. It is kept inside a glass window. A life-size stuffed idol. A British soldier was mauled by a fierce tiger. He lay injured and the strong and fiery tiger with its sparking eyes and wide mouth majestically standing with a foot on him. A very striking pose. They say the king had deliberately got it made that way to exhibit his anger and disgust over the British authority.”
He continued, “Aunty, you will not believe, what we have here is only a replica. The original one was taken away and transported to England.” Bindu could not resist herself. Keeping in tune with the same tenor she said, “They… those Britishers were all known for looting. Have you heard of ‘Peacock Throne’ and ‘Kohinoor Diamond’? Once upon a time we had these with us along with much more valuable items. Now? All gone with the looters.”
She stopped abruptly there, as Indrajit was staring at her. She applied brakes on her tongue and changed the conversation. They all turned to the TV. Sethuraman was keenly watching and looked quite disturbed. Indrajit also diverted his attention to the Breaking News. It was all about Wuhan, a place in China. An outbreak of new and fast spreading virus, called ‘Corona Virus’ clamping the city. People falling sick and those tested positive for the virus were being isolated. The whole town was getting sanitised and as though an epidemic had engulfed them.
Sethuraman felt sorry for those innocent common people falling prey to the deadly virus. Indrajit on his part, complemented those medico warriors and health service providers, as they were risking their lives. Because the disease was deadly contagious. They repeatedly kept advising people to avoid crowding, avoid touching, avoid going places, etc, etc. On seeing those horrible scenes of real life and death drama, Sethuraman said, “Let us simply drop the idea of going anywhere. Let us be safe and secured. Remember the old saying, ‘Health is Wealth.’ Even though we are herbivorous, let us not deliberately venture to go places and invite problem. Wuhan is far away from here. But calamity does not know calendar or kilometres. Sorry to say Indrajit. For your own safety, you too pack up and go back to your place. This epidemic may turn viral and may soon become pandemic. Most importantly, be safe, and be healthy. That is vital at peresnt.”
Indrajit also agreed. Sumitra and Bindu were the only ones who missed their togetherness and were quite sorry for the short trip getting shortened still further. Ranjan who had gone out with his father came back with a neat gift parcel, a memento for them. It was a marvellous piece of art. A wounded soldier lying on the ground and a fierce tiger stamping on him, with tiger’s eyes sparkling and mouth wide open and sharp teeth protruding. One leg on the wounded soldier and one more leg in the air, about to strike the already injured soldier --- a striking pose indeed. Bindu at her first glance, did not approve the gift item, though she could not openly say so. She had her own aversion for the Mughal ruler Tipu Sultan. A tyrant man who did not hesitate to squeeze the locals so that he could fill his coffers. All Muslim rulers were alike.
Ranjan turned the art piece towards her and asked, “Do you like this gift item? Can you see the two stickers?”
She saw just now. There were two stickers, one on the soldier and one on the tiger… The sticker on the soldier read ‘CoronoVirus’ and the one stuck on the tiger was, ‘India’.
She instantly replied. “Oh! Yes. Very nice piece of art. Ranjan, you are great. Your selection also is very great.”
The stickers had changed her perspectives. ‘Invaders may be whatever they are. The tigers are stronger.’ That was what mattered.
The new invaders if at all attack, would certainly be mauled by the tigers.