The Wise Man
Rangeeli held the hand of her two-year-old daughter Rupmati and stepped on to the boat after her four other daughters Radha, Laxmi, Rano and Durga. Durga, the eldest, was ten years old. They lived in a remote village, on the banks of river Yamuna, in Haryana. She was married to Hariram and they had five daughters. Needless to say, all the daughters saw the light of the day, one after another, only because Rangeeli’s husband Hariram was desperate for a son. Hariram was a landless labourer. Each addition to the family was bending his back a bit more but, as everyone knew, a man who had no sons was under the spell of a curse, and this spell needed to be broken. His parents and other relatives would always show pity on Hariram, for being deprived of a boy child. With time his frustration kept increasing and tolerance levels, decreasing. He would vent all his helplessness on Rangeeli, who had no option but to take it all quietly. The girls, especially Durga, were always by Rangeeli’s side, like a shadow, helping her in every possible way.
Rangeeli had a God-gifted, artistic bent of mind. She could make pretty handicrafts using colourful threads, beads, etc. She loved making these and Durga, as well as Rano, had also learnt from her. They would keep making different things in their free time, and decorate their house. That was their own way of de-stressing, by doing things that they loved to do.
One day a fakir was passing through the village. Hariram caught sight of the fakir as he was walking in front of their house, and fell on his feet, and pleaded that he be blessed with a son. The fakir demanded to see all the members of the family. They were all called out and by just one look at everyone, the wise fakir could decipher the whole story. He closed his eyes for a few moments and then pronounced his advice,
“Your wife, along with your daughters, need to visit the Dargah at Sonipat, every no-moon-day. They will have to pray there, to get rid of their sins and woes. Only after their prayers are accepted, and they are blessed, will you have the privilege of getting a son. My son, both you and your wife have to be patient! It may take many visits to the Dargah for the sins to be dissolved. May God grant you wisdom!” The fakir moved on. Hearing about a solution and the probability of having a son, Hariram was filled with joy. Turning to Rangeeli, he ordered,
“Did you hear the fakir? It’s all your sins and the sins of these girls of yours, that are delaying the arrival of my son. Now, without fail, every no-moon-day, you will religiously go to the Dargah with your daughters. I should not see you missing this sacred ritual, even once.”
So, this was the first trip that Rangeeli made out of her village, to go to the Dargah. They had to cross the river Yamuna to reach Sonipat. Rangeeli could feel the cool breeze on her face, as the boat ferried them across. It was such a liberating feeling! She had never ever stepped out of the village, so this was an absolutely amazing experience for her as well as for her daughters. In her heart she prayed that God take His own time in pardoning their sins. They reached Sonipat, and with the help of instructions from the boatman and from a few people there, they made their way to the Dargah. On reaching, they all prayed there. Rangeeli did not pray for a son, because she did not really want her child to grow up and be another Hariram, and she knew very well that she would not have the power to stop him from being so. She prayed for a happy life for each of her daughters, a life that would much better than that of her.
After praying, they all stepped out of the Dargah and was amazed to see such vibrant life all around. Sonipat was a much bigger town than their village. They were wide-eyed, looking at the number of people around, the hustle and bustle of the place, and the stalls and shops selling varied fares. Rangeeli was attracted to the stall selling many colourful mats, wall-hangings, scarfs, bangles, necklaces, rings, and what not. They all went close and stood gaping at such lovely things. It was beyond their imagination that there was a world, as beautiful as this! It was time for the boat to leave, and they all made their way to the river. It was an extraordinary day for each one of them and they were filled with all the visuals that were completely overwhelming for them. Re-living every moment of that magical day, no one spoke a word on their way back. Home was the harsh reality and Sonipat seemed to be a fairy land. Each one of them was now looking forward to the next no-moon-day.
The trips to Sonipat opened up a completely new world for Rangeeli. Her mind started thinking on new dimensions altogether. Now she had dreams for her daughters. She started dreaming of her daughters being a part of that fairy land. How, she did not know yet. But at least, her flight of imagination was scaling new heights now.
Gradually, the trips to Sonipat became outings that all of them, including Hariram, looked forward to. Hariram was happy that he was inching towards salvation, by being blessed with a son, soon. On one trip, Rangeeli and her girls were wearing the jewellery that she had made at home. Like on every visit, they went to have a look at the stalls again. The shopkeeper’s eyes fell on the jewellery that they wearing. He got intrigued,
“Where did you get these from?”
“Oh, these? We make them at home,” came a shy reply from Rangeeli.
“Wow, these are beautiful! I have an idea. Why don’t you get all the stuff that you make and, if I like these, I will keep them in my shop to sell. I will pay you for all the stuff that I take”, suggested the enthusiastic shopkeeper. He could see the lovely art and skill that this woman had, and he was truly appreciative of her fine work. Rangeeli took time to comprehend what she was hearing. She could actually sell her hand-made stuff? She could earn money too? Her heart was jumping when she said a yes to the shopkeeper, and she promised to bring these on their next visit, after a month.
Thus started a new life for Rangeeli. Her stuff was widely appretiated and these sold like hot cakes. Slowly she started getting specific orders and she was making good money. All this was kept away from Hariram. She kept all her earnings safely in a gap made in the wall of their room. She wanted all that money for her daughters. Rangeeli evolved as a much happier person now. Hariram could see the change, but he thought it was the effect of her prayers in the Dargah, and got even more hopeful of his wish being fulfilled soon. At Sonipat, Rangeeli’s work got noticed by the Artisan’s Association. They found her work very traditional and appealing, bringing a very different art form of work. The women from the association took time, but ultimately managed to convince Rangeeli that she would coordinate the opening of a branch of the Artisan’s Association in her village. The center would be at her home and other ladies from the village would come and work there. The association would provide them with funds to increase their scale. She would be a medium to empower women of her village. Rangeeli was dumbstruck. Her main fear was, Hariram would get to know everything now! The good women at the Artisan’s Association explained that by doing so, Rangeeli would only help her daughters become self-reliant. The thought of a brighter future for her daughters brought out all the courage in Rangeeli, and she gave her assent.
Hariram was shellshocked at what he was hearing these city women speak. His wife has been earning through her handicraft? She was to start a center at home for other women to come and work? The ladies from the assosiation knew their job. They convinced Hariram of a better future for all of them, with the extra money that would come in. They also spoke of them becoming the most respectable and important family of the village. The benefits started making sense to Hariram, and he agreed.
‘Rangeeli Kala Niketan’ flourished. Many women of the village joined in. They would work the whole afternoon and would produce some exquisite pieces of work. Durga and Rano were also actively involved in it. There was now a lot of satisfaction and confidence in Rangeeli, as well as in the girls, which led to a positive change in Hariram’s behaviour too. The no-moon-day trips continued, till one day Rangeeli found herself to be pregnant. This time, unlike on the previous occasions, Rangeeli was quite calm and relaxed. Surprisingly, Hariram too was showing a lot of positive change.
It was a no-moon-day and it was raining cats and dogs. Rangeeli was in labor and Hariram was pacing up and down outside, when the midwife came out and smilingly announced,
“You have been blessed with a healthy son.”
The wise fakir was wandering somewhere far away.