"Poetry is like pliable clay that can be molded into numerous shapes and figures. Our literature defines poetry as a multidimensional cluster of Kshastriya letters and syllables, each phonetic unit playing a vital role in shaping the poem and its core meaning."
"Can you please elaborate the importance of Chhanda in an aesthetic Sanskrit poem?" asks one of the lads.
"It will be easier for you to comprehend if you consider Chhanda as a well-pitched road and all the vowels and consonants as the vehicle speeding on it. If you want to compose a good poem, you should always know how you play with each word and syllables synchronically. If you get your Chhanda right, then in no time, you'll be able to create a masterpiece."
Bhanu starts mulling over his cranial cavity as he cringes at the pungent smolder coming out of his cigarette. The soothing view of the sundown, which can be seen from a small casement jerry-built with rusty iron bars, becomes a source of inspiration for him in bringing his poem to life. As he finds himself in a dilemma, whether to pen down his evolving thoughts or to answer all those incessant queries about Sanskrit literature asked by a group of young poetry aesthetes, he chooses the latter, knowing his incapability to compose a meaningful literary piece in such a clamorous locale. Without giving a second thought, he starts enlightening the crowd about Kshastriya knowledge and the century-old literature.
"A poem written in Chhanda totally depends upon the syllables of various words. To write a poem in Lok Chhanda, a definitive pattern of syllables is required, and the whole poem should be written with a 5/5/6 syllable count. Let me simplify it by giving you all an example."
He continues with a glee on his face.
"Abolish nature, or adore the earth, what should thy conscience do?
Transcend thy ethics, O generous one, for the love thou pour to!
Take this extract for instance and note the pattern of syllables depicted on it. Each and every word before a comma consists of a required amount of syllables, making it a perfect Lok poem."
As he engages himself in tutoring his pupils, he gets interrupted by a gentle knock that resonates from outside the rugged wooden-gate. He sluggishly heads towards the gateway, his heart pounding excessively not knowing whom to expect at this hour. As soon as he opens the door, a sense of relief plunges him as he immediately recognizes the figures’ unmistakable blackish mole (situated just below the left eyelid) and the round, wobbly paunch.
"How's the class going on, Bhanu?"
"Acharya Ji!!! What a pleasant surprise. I didn't know you were back! How are you?"
After taking a short breathing space, Acharya Ji continues with his talk.
"I guess I gave you a surprise. I am doing fine! Anyways, I have something important to show you. Would you mind giving a short recess to your class?"
Bhanu, at this very moment, cannot pinpoint the reason behind Acharya Ji's impulsive approach but understands the urgency of his request. Bhanu dismisses the class straight away and begins to pack his bag, offering his favorite ciggy to Acharya Ji.
"Do you want some?"
"No, thanks. I am good."
"Oh! So you quit smoking too?"
Bhanu draws an unfired stick from his pack. In the course of time, he lights up his cigarette while Acharya Ji puts his thoughts into words.
"It's a good thing that you take the initiative to teach our youngsters about literature and writings. But you have to be careful about what you do and how you do it. Teaching students in such a hole-and-corner fashion inside this warehouse is fatal and may cost you your life too. Be very cautious."
"I know what I am doing, Acharya Ji. We don't have any choice but to conduct classes in such a furtive way. They (the Ranas- an atrocious monarch whose principle revolves around totalitarianism and considers education as the reason of chaos) won't let us establish schools… I know the risk, but it's worth it."
"But if any Rana officials come to know about your classes, you will be doomed. Anyways, I have something important to show you that might help."
Acharya Ji places a mysterious, heavy object on the desk in front of the blackboard. The object looks very weighty, and its core structure seems to be well-built with all kinds of stout, metallic materials. A protruding drawer-like portion from the object connects its lower half with the upper half, making it look like a conjoined box glued together. The arrangement of the eerie-looking apparatus seems very ethereal. Bhanu cannot comprehend what he ogles at until Acharya Ji puts his curious mind to rest.
"What in the world is this thing?" asks Bhanu with skepticism.
"This is a fine, Miele MV-50 printing machine which I bought for a low price at a marketplace in Vanaras (India)."
"A printing machine? What would I be doing with a printing machine?"
"You fool!" exclaims Acharya Ji and continues, marking his face with joyous expressions.
"This is a machine that can print some good learning materials. Like for example, let's say numerous copies of your original poems and essays, which you can distribute to your students and help them learn more about the literature. Just imagine, you can print hundreds of copies within a couple of hours!"
"Have you used it before? Does it work fine?"
"Oh, dear Bhanu! This works like a charm. Do you remember my book on Sanskrit Grammar… the one I had sent directly to you after publishing?"
"Yes… the one with your photo on it?"
"Ah-ha!! I used this same machine to print it. The 'Vanaras Printing Press' had some excellent staffs and workers there. During my days as a columnist for Janata newspaper, I got the opportunity to learn about the press and publications. It was so easy for me to publish my works there."
"I have to tell this to Dharma and Gangalal. They know much about these stuffs! Thank you so much, Acharya Ji!"
A moment of profound silence escalates along with a dash of fear and excitement. With a heavy sigh, Bhanu mutters.
"Can I do it?"
Acharya Ji deepens his frown and rolls his eye, in order to get the hang of what Bhanu had just said. As he looks into his canny eyes, Acharya Ji immediately comprehends his deep-seated, unspoken thoughts…those thoughts that he knows can unfold something big.
"I am sure you can!"
“What’s the status?”
“Fifty copies are out. We need more! By the way, how many students are there in your class?”
“We need at least a hundred copies of this pamphlet. About fifty copies shall be given to my students, the rest fifty…we will give them to our members.”
Bhanu, along with two of his dearest friends, engage themselves in printing the pamphlet fastidiously. The meticulously cut paper displays some words and verses in an attempt to enlighten the people about the tyrannical-rule of the Ranas. The main motive behind establishing this secret organization (which goes by the name ‘Praja Parishad’ meaning People’s Council) containing like-minded literates, poets and authors (including Bhanu himself, who passed out from Vanaras University with a diploma in Sanskrit Literature) is not political nor is related to any form of governmental crusades. The sole purpose of this group is to raise awareness among the people about their rights…their right to speech…right to freedom…right to education…and right to liberty. And Bhanu knows clearly that he isn’t going to back now, whatever maybe the consequences.
As the letterpress process reaches its peak, Acharya Ji barges inside the room. The thud echoing from the door goes unnoticed as it camouflages with the vociferous sound coming out of the large machine. He puts on his monocle and observes the locale, only to see Bhanu approaching him in high spirits.
“Acharya Ji! Have a look at the pamphlet we’ve been printing.”
Bhanu hands a freshly-printed copy to him, expecting some words of appreciation for his effort. But instead, Acharya Ji expresses a sarcastic grin lowering his eyebrows as he runs his weary eyes onto the pamphlet.
“Till when?? Till when do you all wanna stay encroached, suppressed and invaded!!!
Know your real enemy..!!!
We are your friends and ‘They’ are your foes…!!!
The Crown is your enemy…!!!
The books are your real friends…!!! Come join us and express yourself…express your thoughts!!!
They can’t always restrain us…Let your inner being speak…let your views flow!!!
Praja Parishad is your friend… The Majesty is your enemy…!!!”
“These are some impressive words indeed!” Acharya Ji blurts out in low voice.
“Thank you. And to be honest, Dharma was the one coming up with these influential words. He is the one who is worthy of your admiration."
“Well done, Mr. Dharma!!”
Dharma beams with pleasure. Bhanu pats him consolingly on his shoulder and continues.
“Today is the day Acharya Ji! My students are gonna be here any minute now. As soon as they come, Gangalal will hand them these papers. Instead of continuing my poetry class, I would like you to pour out some wise words regarding this matter.”
“I will be glad to help. After all, they are the ones leading the way.”
“My students are my strength, and no matter what, I won’t let this opportunity go to waste. They ought to be enlightened about their rights and their happenings.”
“I agree!” exclaims Acharya Ji, putting his monocle inside the left breast pocket of his black overcoat.
“By the way, as the printing machine is working fine, I was thinking of publishing my own Sanskrit Anthology, compiling some of my best works. Should I go for it, Acharya Ji?”
“I’ll take that as a yes then!”
“That won’t be necessary.”
Choking on his own saliva, Acharya Ji mumbles softly.
Suddenly a loud, incessant thump at the door grabs everyone’s attention. Bhanu’s face lights up in utter jubilation as he approaches the door to welcome his students. Gangalal positions himself beside the latch, holding the bundle ready to distribute the paper to each one of them as they make their way inside. But as soon as the door opens, the view in front of Bhanu changes everything…not in the sense of optimism but in the sense of pessimism. With his eyes wide open, Bhanu starts to shiver in fear, his mind berating the mind-boggling turn of event that happens right there.
A group of finely-dressed, Rana officials, holding an exquisitely-designed long barrel musket shove their way in aiming the firearm directly to Bhanu’s sweaty forehead. The group eyes the room discreetly, despising the inky aroma coming out from the printing machine. As they proceed further, they start to yell in unison, tearing down everything coming in their way.
“You rebels! Y’all shall be hanged to death!”
The room echoes the clamorous sound of chaos, the sound that was beyond everyone’s anticipation. Bhanu becomes helpless seeing his dream shatter within seconds. He knows how easily his luck has deceived him, but cannot understand in what way he got played away. He plunges into a thread of suspicion, not knowing whom to blame for this betrayal.
Maybe one of my students? He speaks to himself in silence.
“On the ground, everyone! Hurry!!!”
Bhanu face-plants on the floor.
Dharma face-plants on the floor.
Gangalal face-plants on the floor.
But Acharya Ji face-palms !
The printing machine no more makes deafening noises.
The benches and tables upend and scatter.
The papers disperse all over the ground in a haphazard manner.
Bhanu shudders in terror.
Dharma quivers incessantly.
Gangalal becomes shaken to the core.
Acharya Ji gradually falls into the pit of serenity.
One of the officials, bedecked in reddish-black coat, puts down his musket and addresses Acharya Ji in a hoarse voice, gently caressing his sturdy shoulder.
“Thank you for your cooperation! Without your help it would have been very hard to find them. You shall be rewarded a bag of gold and an acre of farmland near Kritipur. His Majesty expresses much gratitude and appreciation.”
Acharya Ji smiles, his eyes exhibiting emotions of mockery and treachery.