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The unbearable ordeal of a madaari

The unbearable ordeal of a madaari

Photo for representation. Tribune file photo



Shamsher Chandel

IT was the summer of 2000, and Shimla was abuzz with preparations for the President of India’s annual summer visit. Amid the hustle and bustle, a curious conundrum arose. While the district administration and police were busy making security arrangements, a spate of thefts drew the cops’ attention away from the President’s visit. As if that wasn’t enough, there came a missive from the office of none other than Maneka Gandhi, who was then the Union Minister of Social Justice and Empowerment, calling for the urgent rescue of a bear from the clutches of a bear-tamer (bhaaluwala madaari).

By the next day, the news of the cops being on the trail of the madaari had spread. When the bear-tamer got a whiff of it, he did a vanishing act faster than a bear does a somersault. A police officer in charge of security, however, asked his juniors to stay focused on the President’s visit. ‘Forget the madaari,’ he instructed them. Though the authorities shifted their attention back to the Head of State’s fast-approaching visit, a few more incidents of theft were reported, adding insult to injury.

And no sooner had the police forgotten about the madaari and his bear than the duo resurfaced. Taking advantage of the cloak of darkness, the madaari and the creature boarded an empty Punjab Roadways bus stationed at Lakkar Bazaar and quietly slipped into a seat at the rear. The bear lay on the floor, while its master sat anxiously.

Moments later, the conductor and the driver returned. Soon after the bus took off, the madaari approached the conductor, who sat near the driver, and offered him five rupees.

The conductor handed him a ticket. The madaari pointed out, ‘Do sawari hai (there are two of us).’

‘Doosri kahan hai (where is the other one)?’ asked a flummoxed conductor.

‘Ek bhaalu hai seat ke neeche (there is a bear under the seat),’ the anxious madaari pointed out with an apologetic look on his face. As the bear revealed its full self and stood up straight on its hind legs, the driver got terrified and jumped off the bus. The conductor held his ground and signalled to the madaari to get down at once.

The two weary travellers now found themselves on the stairs of the hostel of the government college for boys at Sanjauli, hoping for a bit of respite and rest. Little did they know what they were getting into. The boys agreed to let the human-bear duo stay on one condition: ‘Show us the bear dance all night.’

The night wore on, but the boys did not relent. Completely exhausted as they were, the madaari and the poor bear pleaded with the lads to let them go. And so the wandering duo disappeared into the darkness again.

#Shimla


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