Monday, August 2, 2010

Shantaji

Shantaji teaching girls how to make hankerchiefs (courtesy: Nikhil G)

Farming takes up most of the villagers' time, while our day is preoccupied with studying. So whenever Shantaji drops by to chat it gives me a reason to socialize, a break from brain-overload. Even if I have nothing to say she carries the conversation forward, talking about everything and anything that comes to her mind.

Yesterday, she dropped by to narrate her tryst with the monsoon and how after hitchhiking on four motorcycles she finally made it to the Kheda. Sunday is her day off; she had visited her mother in Bhilwara and attended a sermon by a religous guru. If you do good deeds, God will reward you. Also, take the name of Lord Ram as often as possible. In one hour, we can take His name a few thousand times...at least. Nikhil gave his two cents: If God only looks at our good deeds, he doesn't need us to say His name. Our actions determine our intent, not how many times we say His name. The reasoning of an atheist didn't affect Shantaji. Rather, she began chanting Ram, Ram, Ram.... It sounded like she was trying to save him from the darkness of disbelief.

It can't be easy for a sixty-plus woman to leave her husband, children, and grandchildren to live in a village and teach stitching. Then again, after working for more than two decades, I suppose it's even harder to sit at home, idle and bored. She has a strong desire to work, and continue to work for as long as possible. Already, she's dreading the end of our stay here, because that is when her employment in the Kheda will come to a close. However, Taraji is thinking of employing Shantaji in Bhilwara once Nikhil and I leave for Delhi. I have no doubt that wherever Shantaji works, she will find many who adore her optimism and garrulous nature. I, for one, am her self-declared fan.

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