Pic Credit: Painting is by our emerging artist Shiv Pujan Prasad, MFA 1st year student at BHU.
One, two, three! Ramanna swiftly took three dips in the river and ran back towards Shripad panda's parasol for chandan tika. Pandaji was busy rubbing the new stick that he bought yesterday. Ramanna sat on the wooden platform beneath the bamboo parasol. In hurry he forgot to change his wet dhoti. Pandaji screamed, ‘the chawki is getting wet, you idiot'. Ramnna stood up immediately and went off to change the dhoti. After a few minutes he came back and sat smiling in front of pandaji. Pandaji applied three lines of white chandan and a red tika in the middle of Ramanna's forehead and then tied a mauli on his right wrist. After offering some gangajal from his aachmani he pointed at the copper box beside him for dakshina. Ramanna dropped a five rupee coin in it and remained sitting there, staring at the bamboo parasol. Since childhood Ramanna had loved these parasols. At six he came to this city from Tamilnadu with his family. His father used to sell garlands outside temples. But having a fascination for these parasols, Ramanna had switched to another profession and started selling gangajal to the visitors coming at ghats so that he could spent his whole day at ghats near these parasols. Everyday after selling twenty bottles he used to roam here and there looking for a chance to sit under a parasol. Beneath these bamboo canopies Ramanna felt like a king of the world. These parasols were the slice of his sky.
Ramanna woke up early that day. It was an auspicious day, Kartik Purnima. There will be a huge gathering of morning bathers. So he could make a good profit. He sold twenty-five bottles in half an hour then started roaming but not able to find a seat under a parasol. Suddenly he saw Shripad panda leaving his parasol, he thought something and went to sit on the vacant chawki. On seeing Ramanna seated on his chawki Sripad panda got furious and kicked Ramanna from his seat and started abusing him. Ramanna felt so humiliated and the very moment he decided to have his own parasol.
In the evening, Ramanna went to Beni dada’s garage, the only artist left for making bamboo parasols. Ramanna asked Beni Dada to make a bamboo parasol and inquired about the cost. ‘Three thousand', Beni Dada replied carelessly. ‘Three thousand? It is too much Beni da. Please do some concession for me’, Ramanna requested. ‘Not a single penny less than this', Beni Dada replied. The frame will require six bamboos and each costs four hundred. What will be left for me? Besides that I have to close my garage for fifteen days to make one parasol. Who will cover the loss? Go home and come tomorrow with the money. Ramanna returned home with disappointment.
At night he opened his cashbox and started counting the money. 98, 99, 100 total 2200. Still eight hundred left to complete three thousand. Ramanna couldn't sleep that night. At the crack of dawn he ran to Beni dada's house started knocking the door desperately. Beni Dada shouted, ‘who is this?’ it's me dada, Ramanna! Beni Dada woke up irritated and opened the door. What happened? Why you came so early? Beni Dada shouted. Ramanna took out the money tied at the corner of his dhoti. ‘Beni da please keep this and I promise I will arrange the rest of the money in ten days’, Ramanna pleaded. Are you trying to fool me? You moron! Go, I will not make any parasol for you. And Beni Dada shut the door fiercely.
Ramanna sat there waiting at the threshold. Five hours later Beni Dada came out to go to his garage and found Ramanna sitting there. ‘ Ok, give the money and come after fifteen days', Beni Dada said. But I will not let you touch the parasol until you pay the total amount', he warned Ramanna. Ramnna jumped with joy and handed the money to Beni dada.
For fifteen days Ramanna worked very hard. After selling gangajal he used to ride cycle rickshaw till night to collect the remaining amount and had earned eleven hundred in ten days. On sixteenth day Ramanna was ecstatic. He got ready early, took the money and went straight to Beni dada's house. Beni Dada was sitting outside the house. Ramanna came running towards Beni da and handed him the remaining amount. Beni Dada counted the money and asked him to wait. He went into the house and came back with the bamboo parasol.
Ramanna's eyes were filled with tears when Beni Dada handed the parasol to him. Today Ramanna's childhood dream had come true. He had got his slice of sky today. Ramanna returned to the ghat with his own parasol. On his way he bought a marigold garland and some incense sticks. He placed his parasol on the last stair of the ghat just near the river. He decorated it with the garland and lit the incense sticks. Ramanna's garlanded new parasol stands out between the old ones and caught fancy of the visitors. Ramanna's face was shining with the light of contentment. And the light was so pious that it compelled an artist to capture Ramanna and his parasol in me.
I felt so proud to absorb a heritage that may vanish from these ghats one day, but remain in me forever.