Inspired by Sholay
“Soovar ke bachchon!” Babbar woke up sweating...it was the same dream again. Who was this guy and why did his voice keep chasing him? He roughly remembered the image of a bearded guy who used such language, in fact the exact phrase! Babbar remembered him as he carried a “real” gun; Maayi said it was real. It was heavy unlike the ones he bought from the village fair and it shone in sunlight…This was long back and he must have met him twice or thrice…he was an imposing figure…
”Babbar…Babbar! Daydreaming again?” He was brought back to the present by Guddu. In all of Shyamgarh, he was his only childhood buddy. Others just steered clear of him and his Maayi.
“Let’s get to school, shall we? Today we would be hearing the story of those two heroes who came and saved our village from dacoits. Chhoti Thakurani is getting Thakur Sahib to narrate it.” Guddu said with twinkling eyes. They had to walk to the adjoining village for school as Shyamgarh did not have one.
“I almost forgot, let’s rush.” Babbar loved stories and school. He adored Chhoti Thakurani; she was so nice and taught in such a simple manner. Babbar knew from villagers that all of her family was killed by dacoits. It was decided by all elders that they will not name the dacoits or their leader ever, as even saying it brought chills to many; also it was the past and best forgotten….
“Yes the coin was a counterfeit” Chhoti Thakurani repeated, as Babbar asked the question with surprise. For so many years she had been telling herself the coin did not matter, yet she had saved it and looked at it with mixed feelings of yearning and guilt. What could have happened if the coin was genuine...?
Her fate was sealed in this village and she had to keep working for the good of the villagers for fulfilling the dreams of so many who sacrificed for it.
Her father-in-law was getting to the end of the story as the curious bunch of children listened with utmost attention.
As the story got over, so did school for the day and Babbar walked up to Chhoti Thakurani. “Hukum!” he called out. She loved this eager one; he picked things fast and was one of the smartest in the class.
“Why did dacoits come to the village? What did they want after all? Are they also not village farmers at some point? How can two men outsmart a dozen of them? Is this story real?”
“So many questions!” she smiled and sat down.
“I want to be a police officer. If I know the answers I think it will be helpful,” Babbar offered.
“Of course, but thankfully we have fewer dacoits now and by the time you grow up I hope we have none. So best is to concentrate on studies and start forgetting about them. Let bygones be bygones.” she was a little overwhelmed with the story narration and needed some peace and quiet.
“Sure, you will be proud of me one day.” Babbar gave in and rushed to join Guddu for going home.
Thakur sahib enjoyed children’s company and today was no different. It was difficult to narrate the story that he had lived and one that continuously haunted him, but it was important for children to know what all went into giving children the freedom they enjoy and almost take for granted. He felt sad for his daughter-in-law, if only that story had a happy ending for her…
“Maayi, what happened to Baba?” Babbar asked when he was about to sleep. Maayi always said he was no more and evaded this question…Babbar tried his luck nevertheless.
“He was just not keeping well for long.”
“What was the ailment?”
“Vaid ji could not decide” she offered.
She still remembers when one night she had to go alone to pick up firewood and had fallen into the jungle well. Thankfully there was no water in the well. All her shouts fell on deaf ears and she had passed out after getting exhausted. When regained consciousness, she found herself in a hutment. The guy who saved her had come inside and offered to drop her back. He was very helpful and understanding. He looked every bit like a “ghode pe rajkumar” as he literally carried her back to Shyamgarh on a horse. There was some chemistry as Gajodhar kept coming back on pretext of checking her health. They fell in love and Baba married her off. He said he was serving in the army and sure enough carried a rifle with him. She was left alone in the village and he used to come on and off, his mannerism and pattern disturbed her.
One day she got to know about the dacoits troubling the Ramgarh natives. She was pregnant and on a hunch asked Gajodhar if he knew anything about it. He admitted that he had cheated her and was the one who is being talked about. She could not do anything about it. He came couple of times to meet little Babbar, and one day she got to know he would never come again….
“Maayi, sing me a song ….” she was brought to the present and started humming his favourite lori.
Thakur Sahib could not sleep that night.
One day he had got two boys to get rid of dacoits…now that evil was out of the way, but he had another problem at his hand…proper education. He knew his daughter-in-law tried her best but a proper teacher was needed to fill the void that the village school had. The terror of dacoits refused to leave the village and no good teacher was willing to come and settle here. He noticed the young and creative minds that could do wonders in the real world when properly educated.
Taking his chances, he wrote a letter to his friend in town to see if some noble soul would be ready to serve this cause.
He had another worry on his mind…what will happen to bahu after he is gone…but for this pain in his heart, he did not know what he could do…
Angad was being told to go and teach in a village…a village? What rubbish!
All his years of double MA going waste in a nondescript place. He had refused outright but had to go and spend at least a week in the village so that he could take a long leave of absence to never return. He took a tonga ride to the village. The mare of the tonga was famous as she had once saved her owner from the then active dacoits. In the last mile, however, the tonga had to be abandoned as one of the wheels gave away. He decided to walk taking the jungle root and lo …he fell into a deep pit. After falling he realized it was a dried up well. He shouted for help and then gave up and sat down. It was evening when he heard some children playing nearby. He shouted for help and saw a couple of heads emerge on top of the well.
“How did you reach there?” asked Babbar
“I fell down.”
“Ha ha ha…how can anybody fall down a clearly visible well?”
“Will you help me?” Angad hissed
Then they vanished for minutes and Angad lost all hope.
When they were back they had a jute rope with them that they threw at him to catch and tied it to a tree.
Angad could successfully climb out of the well and thanked the boys. He asked for directions to the school and the boys ventured to take him there.
He started following the children, while they asked him all sorts of questions – his name, occupation, life in a city to his parents and siblings. He gave all the answers and asked about the school. This was a good starting point for Babbar to narrate about Chhoti Thakurani and all her efforts in teaching the children. Without meeting her Angad was very impressed with this lady whom children adored.
When they reached the village, the children showed him way to the haveli and went running back to Shyamgarh. They wanted to be home before it got dark. The servant welcomed him to a hutment and after getting fresh he came out on the verandah…from there he saw a beautiful lady dressed in simple white clothes lighting the lamps of the haveli corridor. She looked so pretty and seemed to be so absorbed in her thoughts. Though he never believed in love at first sight, he immediately fell in love with her. At that instant he decided to spend his life in getting this village back on track, and winning the heart of this lady…whatever it takes….
Next morning the school was bustling with energy to the seams by the time Chhoti Thakurani came. She saw a young man surrounded by children, talking to them…laughing with them and explaining complex science through stories. She immediately turned and went to Babuji to know who he is…what is he doing in her school and why…why she wanted to look again and again at him and listen to him.
Babuji told all about Angad and his qualifications. He also explained how they needed more teachers who could give proper education to so many children of both the villages. She accepted the idea and returned to school.
Babbar introduced both of them and they became friends as their common love was children and their education.
Maayi was very sick and the fever refused to go. Babbar knew Angad had some medicines that could help Maayi. At least he can give a ride to her to the town on his bike. He rushed to Angad and explained the situation. Angad and Babbar came to Maayi, who was almost breathing her last. She took a promise from Angad that he will always take care of her son and shared the secret of Babbar’s father with him…
She left Babbar with Angad and passed away….
Angad got Babbar home near the haveli. Babbar now knew what his dreams meant and who the man who came in them was. He hated himself for being the son of such a dreaded man. He tried to run off when Angad caught up to him and long with Chhoti Thakurani convinced him that it was none of his fault and to give his father’s deeds a closure he must become a police inspector like he dreamed of becoming someday.
Babbar took a promise from them that they would get married so the he at least can make right one death his father had caused.
They agreed to get married and invited Beeru and Gunwanti from the town. They both were happy for the village and about the marriage. When they met Babbar they immediately liked the bright kid and decided to adopt him as they were childless. Angad told them who Babbar was and after a slight hesitation they agreed that Babbar deserved to live a life of his own.
Thakur Sahib could not be more happy. The village had an educator, his bahu was no more single and Babbar was not leading an orphan’s life; he had a bright future ahead of him. He thought to himself… “Now I can die in peace”.
Meanwhile, Babbar’s father is counting his days in jail and plans to take revenge... “Thakur, Beeru, Gunwanti, Chhoti Thakurani…Main ek din waapis aaunga...”