The Monocle ManHearing the gentle knock, he heads towards the gateway, his heart pounding, not knowing whom to expect at this hour.
"Poetry is like pliable clay that can be molded into numerous shapes. Our literature defines poetry as a multidimensional cluster of Kshastriya letters and syllables, each phonetic unit playing a vital role in shaping the poem and its core meaning."
"Can you please elaborate the importance of Chhanda in an aesthetic Sanskrit poem?" asks one of the lads.
"It will be easier for you to comprehend if you consider Chhanda as a well-pitched road and all the vowels and consonants as the vehicle speeding on it. If you want to compose a good poem, you should always know how you play with each word and syllables synchronically.”
Bhanu starts mulling over his cranial cavity as he recoils at the pungent smolder coming out of his cigarette. The soothing view of the sundown, which can be seen from a small casement jerry-built with rusty iron bars, becomes a source of inspiration for him in bringing his poem to life. He finds himself in a dilemma, whether to pen down his evolving thoughts or to answer all those incessant queries about Sanskrit literature asked by a group of young poetry aesthetes. He chooses the latter and starts enlightening the crowd about Kshastriya knowledge.
"To write a poem in Chhanda, a definitive pattern of syllables is required. Let’s take an example of a poem written with a 5/5/6 syllable count."
He continues with glee on his face.
"Abolish nature, or adore the earth, what should thy conscience do?
Transcend thy ethics, O generous one, for the love thou pour to!
Note the pattern of syllables depicted on this piece. Each and every word before a comma consists of a required amount of syllables."
As he engages himself in tutoring his pupils, he gets interrupted by a gentle knock on the rugged wooden-gate. He heads towards the gateway, his heart pounding, not knowing whom to expect at this hour. As soon as he opens the door, a sense of relief washes over him as he immediately recognises the figure’s unmistakable blackish mole and the round, wobbly paunch.
"How's the class going on, Bhanu?"
"Dayaram Ji! What a pleasant surprise. I didn't know you were back! How are you?"
After taking a breath, Dayaram Ji continues talking.
"I am doing fine. Anyways, I have something important to show you. Would you mind giving a short recess to your class?"
Bhanu, at this very moment, does not understand the reason behind Dayaram Ji's impulsive approach but understands the urgency of his request. Bhanu dismisses the class straight away and draws another unfired stick from his pack. As he lights up his cigarette, Dayaram Ji puts his thoughts into words.
"It's a good thing that you took the initiative to teach our youth about literature. But teaching students in such a hole-and-corner fashion inside this warehouse is dangerous. Be careful."
"I know what I am doing, Dayaram Ji. We don't have any choice but to conduct classes in such a furtive way. They (the Ranas) won't let us establish schools… I know the risk, but it's worth it."
"But if they come to know about your classes, you will be doomed. Come, I have something important to show you that might help."
Dayaram Ji places a mysterious object on the desk in front of the blackboard. The object looks very weighty, and its core structure seems to be well built with all kinds of stout, metallic materials. A protruding drawer-like portion from the object connects its lower half with the upper half, making it look like a conjoined box glued together. Bhanu cannot comprehend what he is looking at until Dayaram Ji puts his curious mind to rest.
"What in the world is this thing?" asks Bhanu with skepticism.
"This is a printing machine which I bought for a low price at a marketplace in Vanaras."
"A printing machine? What would I be doing with a printing machine?"
"You fool!" exclaims Dayaram Ji, and continues talking, marking his face with joyous expressions.
"This machine can print some good learning materials. Let's say numerous copies of your original poems and essays, which you can distribute to your students and help them learn more about the literature. Just imagine, you can print hundreds of copies within a couple of hours!"
"Have you used it before?"
"Oh, dear Bhanu! This works like a charm.”
Clearing his throat, he continues.
"I used this machine to print some of my works. The 'Vanaras Printing Press' had some excellent staffs and workers there. During my days as a columnist for Janata newspaper, I got the opportunity to learn about the press and publications."
"I have to tell this to Mohan and Anantaram . They know a lot about printing. Thank you so much, Dayaram Ji!"
A moment of silence ensues with a dash of fear and excitement. With a heavy sigh, Bhanu mutters.
"Can I do it?"
Dayaram Ji deepens his frown and asserts softly "I am sure you can!"
“What’s the status?”
“Fifty copies are out. We need more!”
Bhanu, along with two of his dearest friends, engage themselves in printing the pamphlet fastidiously. The meticulously cut paper displays some words and verses in an attempt to enlighten the people about the tyrannical-rule of the Ranas. As the letterpress process reaches its peak, Dayaram Ji barges inside the room. The thud echoing from the door goes unnoticed as it camouflages with the vociferous sound coming out of the large machine. He puts on his monocle and observes the locale, only to see Bhanu approaching him in high spirits. Taking a freshly-printed copy from the stack, Dayaram Ji runs his weary eyes onto the pamphlet.
“Till when do you all wanna stay encroached, suppressed and invaded!!!
Know your real enemy..!!!
Join us and express yourself!!!
Praja Parishad is your one true friend!!”
“These are some impressive words indeed!” Dayaram Ji blurts out.
Beaming with pleasure, Bhanu continues.
“Today is the day Dayaram Ji! My students are gonna be here any minute now. As soon as they come, Anantaram will hand them these papers. Instead of continuing my poetry class, I would like you to say something regarding this matter.”
“It’ll be my pleasure to help,” exclaims Dayaram Ji, putting his monocle inside the left breast pocket of his black overcoat.
Suddenly a loud thump at the door grabs everyone’s attention. Bhanu’s face lights up in utter jubilation as he approaches the door to welcome his students. Anantaram positions himself beside the latch, holding the bundle ready to distribute the paper to each one of them as they make their way inside. But as soon as the door opens, the view in front of Bhanu startles him. With his eyes wide open, Bhanu starts to shiver in fear.
A group of finely-dressed Rana officials holding an exquisitely-designed long barrel musket shove their way in, aiming the firearm directly at Bhanu’s sweaty forehead. The group eyes the room discreetly, despising the inky aroma that the printing machine emits. As they proceed further, they start to yell in unison, tearing down everything coming in their way.
“You rebels! You all shall be hanged to death!”
The room echoes the clamorous sound of chaos. Bhanu becomes helpless seeing his dream shatter within seconds. He plunges into a thread of suspicion, not knowing whom to blame for this betrayal.
Maybe one of my students? He speaks to himself in silence.
“On the ground, everyone!”
Bhanu, along with Mohan and Anantaram, fall face-down to the floor.
But Dayaram Ji stands still.
The printing machine no more makes deafening noises.
The benches and tables upend.
The papers disperse all over the ground in a haphazard manner.
All are shaken to the core, except Dayaram Ji, who is calm.
One of the officials, bedecked in reddish-black coat, puts down his musket and addresses Dayaram Ji in a hoarse voice, patting his sturdy shoulder.
“Thank you for your cooperation! You shall be rewarded a bag of gold and an acre of farmland near Kritipur. His Majesty expresses much gratitude and appreciation.”
Dayaram Ji smiles.