Tuesday, March 15, 2011

God of gall.

I'm often flummoxed by how people cunningly and adroitly make hay while the sun shines. Yesterday, I was off-colour with a touch of flu and took total bed rest after visiting the family doctor. After gulping down the first dose of tablets and capsules (5 in all), I picked up a book that Ujwal had got from her cousin, Vibha. The latter’s husband is a Trustee of an ancient Ram temple in Ramwadi, Kalbadevi. The book is purportedly written – or, shall we say haphazardly compiled? − not only for commemorating the more than 200 years of the temple's existence but also for establishing beyond a shadow of doubt its place in the history of India’s independence struggle. The Chaphekar Brothers assassinated Rand and Ayerst in Pune on 22 June 1897 when the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria’s imperial reign was being celebrated all over India. The provocation apparently was the high-handed misbehaviour of the British troops in the exercise of the emergency powers vested in them for controlling the Bubonic Plague epidemic raging in Pune. The Brothers used to be the musical back-up for the daily kirtan performed by their kirtankar father in Ramwadi. They quietly vanished for a couple of days to do their appointed task in Pune and then returned to resume their daily routine in the Ramwadi temple as if it was business as usual. Later they were betrayed by a desi Judas called Dravid, arrested and sentenced to death. By the way, one of the Chaphekar Brothers had earlier tried to enlist, was rejected on account of his caste (Chitpavan Brahmin) and held a grudge against the gorra admi. A plaque honouring the Brothers was installed in Ramwadi in early 1987. All that is splendid but does it call for a disjointedly compiled, shabbily produced volume full of factual errors and quite a bit of atrocious writing to drive home the point ? The needle of suspicion veers towards vested interests. The principal compiler and contributor, a State Award-winning historian, who also happens to be the chief honcho of the Trust that owns and runs the Ramwadi temple seems to have seized the opportunity to guide the flow and components of the narrative for his own ends. The volume reads like a self- and sire- hagiography vanity-published at the cost of the hapless Pathare Pradhu temple Trust. He misses no opportunity to show how kind, considerate, humane, virtuous and far-seeing he and his dearly beloved father who is no more happen(ed) to be. If you take the drivel he shovels at you at face value, they are/were manna from heaven. Good grief, Charlie Brown. Remember Lucy’s immortal words: “I never made a mistake in my life. I thought I did once, but I was wrong.”