Two Leaves and a Bud (cont)

— Two leaves and a Bud (continued from part-1)

Free English rendering : Arun Chavan
Original Marathi by : Anuradha Bhosale

Akshay’s granny is no longer working for a living. Age has finally caught up with her. For the past two years she is more or less tied to her hovel. I was able to persuade Saurabh and Swamy eatery proprietor to give her food. I am glad, they have kept the promise graciously and their granny is gratified. Thus, all’s well on that front!

Two Leaves and a BudNow in the 9th grade, his performance at school is average. But I am sure he will clear the final exam next year with good grade. It will be an important milestone in his march towards the building of a career useful to him individually and to community at large. He belongs to a backward Matang community which has remained educationally unadvanced, compared to others of the type, despite legal concessions in education and employment. My hope is he will not need the crutches of the concessions and will be able to carve out a career for himself on his own merits, and thus be one with the big society.

All said and done, the ground reality is that there is no cohesion or a sense of togetherness between the different underprivileged sub castes and communities, though they share a common history of oppression from the privileged upper Hindu strata through the centuries. Also there is tension between the people of these strata and the outcastes as a whole. However, at AVANI all are sought to be treated even–handedly. There is the deliberate effort at broad–spectrum integration cutting across these man–made barriers.  I think Akshay has the making which will prompt him to shed the blinkered sub–caste identity and seek fulfillment as an organic part of the vast concourse of peoples called India.

Some months ago under the guidance of a well – known dance instructor our school children had set up a ballet on a historical theme, in which Akshay had a part. It was broadcast on the local TV channel and was widely appreciated. Akshay’s mother Yashoda happened to see it, and perhaps thereby she was able to trace his whereabouts. On a Sunday afternoon while I was working in the office a woman stepped in and told me that she was Akshay’s mother, came to see him.

She asked me ingratiatingly, would I allow her to see him? My immediate unuttered response was, ‘better late than never!’ I was pleased, the maternal feeling in her compelled her at last to come searching for the forsaken child. I sent for Akshay who was in the male dormitory. Good half an hour passed but he did not turn up. I was somewhat annoyed. He materialized before us only after my second call for him. He entered the room, looked at her for a moment with a frown, and then turned to me and exclaimed, “who is this woman. I don’t know her.  Mummyji, please ask her to go away from my sight!”

Long minutes ticked away in tense silence. In my distress I lost their count. None uttered a word. Yashoda, squatting in the corner of the room in vain tried to mop in silence an unending trickle of tears by the hem of her saree. Then Akshay spoke out, “Mummyji, I have only one mother and it is you. I do not know any other!” At this Yashoda shook with unconsolable sorrow. The flood of tears and choking spasms gave way to her guilty feeling. She spread the threadbare hem of her saree before me in supplication and begged for mercy. She cried, “Give my son back to me, I beseech you! I will be your slave for a lifetime!”

Akshay was not appeased. He still raged with anger. Yashoda was aching to clasp him to her bosom. But he stood aloof averting her gaze, still as a statue. I took him aside and asked him mildly to forgive her. But he remained adamant; and as I turned to Yashoda, he quietly slipped out of the room. I told her to give him some time to ponder. I assured her, “Time will heal the wounds, and once again he will be yours!” She tarried for a while, asked a few questions about his health, his studies. And then, as she got up to move out, once again thanked me profusely in a voice trembling with emotion.

I told her Akshay is being well looked after and not to worry about him. In reply she heaved a deep sigh ……I felt, she was reconciled to the situation, and before taking my leave, left with me a large packet of biscuits and sweets for him. As for me, I felt sure that, for all the tears and anguish Akshay will finally emerge the richer with two mothers, equally devoted!

Free English rendering : Arun Chavan
Original Marathi by : Anuradha Bhosale

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Anuradha Bhosale graduated from the Tata Institute for Social Work in Mumbai and worked as an apprentice to Arun Chavan at Verala Development Society. After understanding the needs of the area she branched out on her own creating a small organization called AVANI which is a Marathi language acronym for Clothes, Food and Home for the poor children.

Arun Chavan was a professor of English Literature at Kolhapur University when he saw the poverty and destitution that surrounded him. He decided to give up his job and devote his life to working for the poor. He founded the Verala Development Society and has been working for the past 40 years to bring about a socio-economic change in the area.

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