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Savouring the idea of India

Savouring the  idea of India

Photo for representation. File photo

Usha Bande

AFTER a hot cuppa at Narkanda, Himachal Pradesh, we headed towards Baghi, our weekend destination. It was early June. The heady aroma of the ripening apples filled the crisp air. At one bend, the road bifurcated and for want of road signs we decided to make enquiries. A short distance away, a man was sitting on a boulder in the dappled shade of tall deodars near a tiny log-hut. We approached him.

‘Baghi? OK, go straight.’ He moved his arm with a flourish.

The log-hut appeared to be a post office. The man understood our quizzical gaze. Assuming an air of self-importance, he said, ‘I am the postmaster here.’

‘Also the postman’ — suddenly, a gruff voice came from nowhere; a lad landed in front of us, giggled and clapped, and equally unexpectedly sprinted down the steep slope with the agility of a mountain goat.

‘Crazy!’ the man said with a smile, picking up the khaki canvas bag. ‘I am waiting for the Rampur bus to hand over the dak. If the bus brings letters for the village, I will go and distribute them. Otherwise, my duty is over.’

The remarkable encounter ended and we resumed our journey, enjoying the joke cracked by the lad.

Little did I imagine that six months later, there would be a replay of this scene in a different setting and language!

The place was Miraj, a small town in Sangli district of Maharashtra. We were searching for Vena Bai’s Ashram to collect material for a book on socio-cultural awareness among women in Maharashtra, a field in which Vena Bai, a disciple of Samarth Ramdas Swami, had made a significant contribution.

The labyrinthine lanes of the old town led us to a blind alley. A small hut-like structure with the red-and-white emblem of the postal service stood nearby. A young man in khaki was locking the door.

‘Vena Bai’s Ashram? Follow me. I am going to the head post office.’ He picked up the ubiquitous khaki bag and volunteered. ‘I am the postmaster here,’ he added.

The words had hardly escaped his mouth when a lad came tripping merrily, guffawed and blurted out, ‘Also the postman!’ Indeed, it was a throwback to the previous episode.

‘You are crazy!’ the man said sheepishly.

As I shut the car door, a whiff of mango blossoms wafting in the warm February air rustled in my ears. A bird cooed. In a jiffy, the apple region of Baghi and the Alphonso mango region overlapped in my imagination. I savoured a bucolic bliss at that moment.

‘The idea of India?’ I babbled. Whatever its political or economic connotations, for people like us, ‘the idea of India’ stands for the delight in being anywhere in this vast country and savouring its rich life at the grassroots level.

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