Nov 7, 2010

The Gang of Enchanters

It’s 3:50 am, a cold November morning. Yet the well lit large room is already packed. On the colourful stage sits a Mr Greyhaired with checkered shirt and jaw-cart resembling early Neanderthals. The other old man sitting nearest to the stage must be in his late 70s. He is wearing a black fake fur ear cap above his fragile shoulders where a marigold garland hangs. The third contemporary, sandwiched between the stage and the side wall is older and thinner with a visible jaw-less jawline. He is wearing a Nehru cap above a white kurta. The remaining three comrades complete the bandwagon of enchanters. Around them is a room full of people: old, young, men, women, kids, eloquent, sluggish, mirthless and chirpy.
Notice the fake fur among marigold garland and moving chimtaa

The enchanters are enchanting various rhapsodies. While most are rhythmic, some are cacophonous owing to their worn out throats. To compensate, they have come with a Dholak (double headed hand drum), and severalChimta & microphones. People come to crouch on their knees and heads in front of the stage and submit petty coins & notes money into a Thaali (large saucer) where a lamp lits.
The gang member with Nehru cap was shivering in cold.
Among the chants begins a fresh rhythm ‘Chotti si kishori mere angana mein doley rey’ roughly ‘A young Juvenile girl plays in my garden’. Personifying the character, a 5-year girl stood up and danced to the gang’s enchanting. Several women shower notes and coins on the child as an old lady puts another marigold garland in her neck.

5 year old girl, personified and dancing as Radha. She's doing it since she was 3
After one hour of singing hymns and chants, the gang member sitting on top gets up. The action is followed by everyone in the room. This event is called aarti, which is the chant of closure. As the gang is chanting, the old man with Nehru cap and a young fellow raised a makeshift curtain on the premise of feasting the chief guests, the Gods. Chants get louder. Chimta and Dholak with this newfound gong are adding to the mesmerisation, propelling the trance. The crowd is clapping louder and louder. Among all the fragrance is also present a very sweet aroma, of sugar and indigenous ghee.

The famous halva is being prepared in a big bowl on a stove in the next room. The semolina (sooji) mixed with ghee is being stirred with a metre long stirring spoon, seducing the cooks and visitors alike.

The makeshift curtain raised to offer bhog or many-course feast to all deities
The first streak of sunlight is barely visible and the gang has stopped their rhyming. They have just read through the epic-scripture Ramcharitmanas (written by Goswami Tulsidas).
So this is the gang of enchanters. They are people playing the last of their innings. They have nothing to gain or to lose. With them, everything is less: eating, sleeping, talking, worrying, travelling, effort. Their gang is a means to spend time and earn the currency that they need in other world: devotion. This gang has built a temple and a school. They are retired with fake or no teeth and minimum withal, yet philanthropic hearts. This morning’s congregation is a routine performed since quarter of a century. Their enchanting is a welcome break from their unused living. It is during these chants that they feel of some use. They feel powerful, and in control. They feel looked-up-to, they feel considered. These enchants are as godly as human they are. They are a source of opium for the gang, a source of power and h-i-g-h.

All the presentees stand as the gang recites the concluding aarti
High on chantings, dholak and chimta, the gang concludes the epic-structure Ramcharitmanas by Tulsidas. The aromatic halva is being distributed by kin of the organiser. Having received their participation souvenir, visitors frenzy out, young ones shoving the crowd and old ones lagging behind. Oblivious to all this is the gang of enchanters, sitting on the rug enjoying tea-soaked Parle-G biscuits. Soaking in tea makes nibbling the biscuits easy, even with artificial teeth.


1 comment:

  1. Very nice... reminded me of some days in my life that perhaps i will never get back....

    It was totally nostalgic. thanks !!!

    Keep Writing !!!


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