Fiction Happy Inspirational

Giriraj was insisting on his grandson Motilal to learn about his ancestral and traditional art of pottery. But Motilal was least interested in it. “Who would meddle with mud and clay? What a nasty and ugly activity!” He disliked it. He preferred painting to pottery. Giriraj tried to convince him that the potters’ wheel was the oldest and still the best of all inventions made so far known to mankind.

“You should feel proud to be belonging to a potters’ family. Learn this activity as your hobby. It need not be your source of livelihood.”

“No, Grandpa. I do not want to waste my time on that. I am born to create history as an artist in portrait drawing, landscape painting, large size murals etc. I am not cut for pottery.”  

“Hey what is this non-sense going on here?” Grandpa was referring to the blaring breaking News going on in the TV. It was a live debate about a young guy Rahul Gandhi who was charging the very Prime Minister of India as ‘Chowkidar Chor Hai’ meaning the very gatekeeper cum watchman was the thief. The guard had to protect and be a guardian, but he accused the guardian to be a thief.  Many sprang in favour and a few against such a drastic remark.

Giriraj felt that it was a gruesome assault. The man charging was a young guy and the person on whom it was hurled was far more senior in age and position. The accuser had no respect for age or dignity. Whether the charges had any truth or not it showed the young man’s immaturity in handling the situation. It was as though he was keen on harping cheap popularity of the masses. That clearly showed his disregard and disrespect for the position held by the man in the chair of Prime Minister. Giriraj turned off the TV.

He looked at Motilal and told him “This guy, modern role-model for young India, is teaching what you people should not follow. Just because he comes from a family of riches and strong political ties, he simply ignored morals and ethos to be followed in public life. The House has some decorum and discipline which must be maintained. I am reminded of a similar story of ‘Watchman is the Thief’. In that story, the one termed as thief is held as a hero and the one who insulted him as thief is till date cursed and downgraded as a traitor.”

Motilal asked “Who is that hero, you are praising so much?”

“You must have learnt in your schooldays about Maharana Pratap Singh Chouhan, a fearless king of Rajasthan, our ancestral home. He wanted to marry his fiancée, Princess Samyukta who happened to be the daughter of this deceitful Jayachandran.”

“But how does it connect with this watchman-cum-thief news item?”

“Yes. It does. Father Jayachandran wanted to insult Rana Pratap. So, he ordered a potter to make an image of Rana Pratap as a man of low standard -- a gatekeeper. His name was well ingrained on it so that people will know that the watchman is none other than Rana Pratap himself and are sure to laugh at him. He invited many princes from various kingdoms but not Rana Pratap. Instead, he erected that image of gatekeeper with name of Rana Pratap carved on it. He placed it at the entrance as though he was just a watchman. Father Jayachandran had a sadistic pleasure of reducing the mighty king to a mere a gatekeeper at his doorstep. His daughter, the princess came with her maid to the hall of princes. The accompanying maid kept singing laurels of each and every prince, one by one. Many having heard about the beauty of princess, had come from far and wide, with a fond hope of winning her. Every prince was expecting the young lady would place wedding garland on his shoulders. But she kept moving on. Finally, when she saw the sculpted image of watchman with the name of her dear lover, she placed the garland on that very image itself.”

Grandpa continued further, “You will not believe what followed next. The very king Rana Paratap was hiding behind the watchman’s image and he just pulled his fiancée to himself and his loyal horse ‘Chetak’ leapt just in time, to take his master and his lady to safety, far away from the scene of commotion. Jayachandran, the father, kept shouting ‘Oh see this scoundrel. The gatekeeper turned out to be a thief. ‘Chowkidar Chor Hai.’ Watchman cheated me. The potter cheated me. Watchman is a pucca thief.  Jayachandran frowned. Other princes got offended and left the hall saying, ‘What a disgrace! You invited us here, only to be humiliated and insulted?’

Moti, you can imagine how angry he would be.” He paused and then continued.

“You must be knowing the rest of the story. Jayachandran unable to swallow the insult, invited and took the help of treacherous invader Mohammed Ghori who was defeated by Rana Pratap himself, --- now his son-in-law --- not once, but seventeen times earlier. Now the two insulted enemies viz Jayachandran and Mohammad Ghori, conceived a surreptitious plan to attack their common enemy. They won the battle but failed to earn a good name. Rana Pratap is remembered till date for his bravery and honesty, whereas Jayachandran is forever considered to be cunning, deceitful and dishonest. Today you see people sing laurels of Maharana but not Jayachandran.”

“Hello Moti, I want to emphasize the importance of our ancestral clay pottery in this saga of victory. It was all because of one potter made a statue of gatekeeper and that paved way for etching out a glorious and prestigious tradition for us. Pottery is not that lowly or ugly thing as you imagine. I have one more incidence to quote our ancestral glory of pottery. This time it is the saga of a strong devout bhakt Kumbar. He was known as Gora Kumbara, a potter turned into a saint who lived between the 13th and 14th century in a small village bordering Karnataka and Maharashtra. His wife left their child to his care and went to river for fetching water. He supposedly lost his child while curing the clay by his legs for making pots, because he did not notice his child fumbling under his feet as he immersed himself in chanting the name of God. She on coming back, cursed him heavily for losing the child. But he continued praying to God. When God pleased with his devotion brought his child back to life, he was called Saint Gora Kumbara by the people. By the grace of God, he got back his child. The God, ever watching the drama of life of all of us, in appreciation of strong devotion of this devotee, wanted the world to know about this potter. This supreme Watchman, Omnipresent-cum Omnipotent Watchman brought this potter to glory by giving back his child.”

“Yes Grandpa. We had a lesson on this Kumbara saint in our schooldays. Our teacher said, Kannada superstar, Rajkumar won the best actor award for portrayal of a potter. He even advised us to see that film. Let me ask you one thing. You have been strongly advising me to go for this art of pottery as hobby. By the way, do you know this clay pot-making art called pottery?”

“yes, of course. Each time I go to our native place, I surely make it a point to visit my friend Sukumar and turn his potter’s wheel into motion. I do the clay curing very finely and he does the designer pottery. But last time, when I met him, I found that he was in the process of replacing all those items claiming them to be antique and obsolete. It seems he wants to replace them by recent technology. I missed my old hobby. But I immediately remembered our other potter friends in nearby villages. I went there and keep my skill alive. It is after all our traditional art. We need to protect and stand by that.”

“Grandpa, I saw an ad in paper about a Rajasthani style kitchen ‘Chowki-dani’ and another one by name ‘Dolar-i-dani’ where traditional Rajasthani arts are performed to the diners cum visitors. Pottery is also on showcase and people do try their hands, on potter’s wheel for fun.”

“God is great. Our ancestral art is alive. It is our heritage, you see. You need not pursue this heritage for your living. You strive for your ambition and follow your passion. But you please ensure that our heritage is not allowed to fade away.”

“Okay, grandpa. I will simply follow your method. For you, singing bhajans and hymns always, is your way of life. You keep saying Lord Krishna is your supreme God and you sing His praises. Similarly, I too will continue my drawing and painting classes as my work and hobby for pleasure and also try to learn pottery from you. Next time, when you go to village don’t forget to take me along with you.”

“Yes. You are right. Krishna is my everything. He is watching us from above. He is our supreme Watchman. I am deeply involved in singing so much so that I have lost my mind and soul from other worldly affairs. He has stolen my heart. I am drawn to Him by His charms.”

“Grandpa! What did you say? He has stolen your heart? Your Watchman? So, you want to say that Watchman is a thief! You are also repeating ‘Chowkidar Chor Hai’. Then why blame Rahul Gandhi for saying so?”

“Yes. Yes. I should be thankful to him for showing me a new dimension to his slogan. My ‘Watchman’ – chowkidar, is termed a stealer of butter and He is also a good stealer of hearts. Of course, we need to surrender to Him and place our hearts at His lotus feet.”

“You say too many things Grandpa, which go beyond my understanding. But, one thing is clear --   not all watchmen are thieves and not all thieves are bad. Who is watchman and who is thief --- depends on our understanding and interpretations!”

Finally, they agreed on one point. They both said in one voice --

‘Let us hail our Watchman’.   

January 29, 2021 18:19

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