The last Sunday of the Year
The last Sunday of the year has a different charm. The year 2017 has not been a good one. The economy refused to be energized. The Middle East continued to burn. Africa saw more bloodshed in the name of religion. President Trumph helped popularize the word fake news. Gujarat elections threw up a result that both the major parties claimed to be their victory. Pollution in Delhi forced children to stay indoors and pushed the sale of masks.
But go to the bazar, and you will see people merrily making their purchases, haggling over prices of vegetables even as the vendors insist that they are selling at rock bottom prices of the year. In the fish market, you’ll find people and vendors indulging in friendly banters. There is a palpable atmosphere of bonhomie.
That people have not lost their ability to enjoy life’s small moments despite everything- is the hope for humanity. Last Sunday of the year reinforces that belief.
I just returned from a wonderful trip to Udaipur, the ‘city of the lakes’ in the ‘desert’ state of Rajasthan with amazing company. I went as a resource person in a training programme on development journalism. There was great fun, great food and some real-time learning. But let me tell you about Udaipur, a city I’ll strongly recommend my readers to visit.
Founded in 1553 by Maharana Udai Singh, Udaipur was the capital of the kingdom of Mewar in the former Rajputana Agency. It remained as the capital city till 1818 when it became a British princely state and thereafter the Mewar province became a part of Rajasthan when India gained independence in 1947.
It is popularly known as City of Lakes because of its sophisticated lake system, which gives the city its unique distinction. Besides lakes, Udaipur is also popular for its massive historic forts and palaces, museums, galleries, natural locations and gardens, architectural temples, as well as traditional fairs and festivals.
About 40 km from Udaipur amidst hills and plateaus lies Poi gram panchayat. It is one of the first ODF (Open Defecation Free) GP of Rajasthan.
It was difficult to make it ODF because of several reasons- lack of the feeling that it was necessary, as the villages and household lie scattered, lack of water, and economic condition of most of the villagers were not good. However, the young BDO and not so young Panchayat Pradhan went on mission mode and tried every trick in the book and some out of the box idea to persuade people to construct toilet at home and use it. They focused on school children to trigger the mission. There were several obstacles and bottle necks. But at last they could do what many at the initial phase were thinking to be impossible. They made Poi ODF.
We went there, spoke to the villagers, and spoke to young school girls. We realized that when people are convinced and energized, change happens.
We also went to Silpagram, a beautifully designed place for artists and artisans, including a huge open air auditorium, couple of open air exhibition areas- where a weeklong handicrafts fair was being organized. Artisans from about a dozen states were participating, selling there wares. A number of cultural programmes were also organized.
As we were moving around soaking in the atmosphere, looking at the beautiful handcrafted artefacts from different states, taking in the aroma of food from the nearby food stalls – I found them. Conspicuous in their familiar attire- Yamraj and Chitragupta were standing there greeting people, engaging in small talks.
Call it providence. English translation of my book Yamraj number 5003 is about to be published.
I requested the two actors donning the attire of Yamraj and Chitragupta for a photograph with me and they readily agreed. As they smiled at the camera with me standing between them, I was thinking would the real Yamraj and Chitragupta be as jovial and good natured as their avatars in Udaipur?
Bhagaban ko diyero sab hai
Daulat hai, Ijjat hai, Sohrat hai
Tato pani vi hai
Nahane ki ichha koni
(God has given me everything. I have wealth, respect, fame. I even have hot water. But … I don’t have the desire to take bath.)
The columnist, a journalist turned media academician lives in Dhenkanal, a Central Odisha town. He also writes fiction. English translation of his Odia novel ‘Yamraj Number 5003’ is being published shortly.