The Mad God of Morsi (Part 1)
A celebrated Journalist’s firsthand account of the mystical forces
Disclaimer: All the names of the characters and places are fictional and bear no resemblance to anyone living or dead
Year 2003. This was the time when Hridaynath had freshly graduated from the reputed School of Journalism from Pune in India. Mobile telephony and internet had just started making inroads in the subcontinent. More than Entertainment, Lifestyle or Fashion, he was driven by ideals of a just society. It was perfectly clear in his mind that his first priority was to try to bring the struggles of the marginalized communities to everyone’s attention.
Giving a voice to the neglected segment of the society, he believed, was the only way to create a semblance of balance in the highly polarized society.
Year 2021. His work often took him to the interiors of the state, and the stories he filed were the hot topic of discussion amongst his peers and political observers alike. They(the stories) were so attention-grabbing that they also invariably got him into trouble and made him vulnerable to attacks from the local mafia and political clout whose vested interests he inadvertently managed to stir the wrong way.
Today at 40, Hridaynath Jaanam was a celebrated journalist, having won several awards and scholarships for his groundbreaking reporting on the problems of rural life in India. A British Chevening Scholar, he also loved mentoring young budding journalists in the role of an academician. His university lectures on Development Communication were standing-room only and in the times of pandemic his sessions on live-streaming platforms were also a huge draw.
A no-nonsense journalist, Hridaynath revered the rationalist philosopher Ghanshyam Panwate and did not himself believe in the mumbo-jumbo of any religion or religious practices. In the company of like-minded listeners, he often referred to Panwate saying, “Religion is not a thing that anyone can openly avow… it is like one’s underwear.” However, he was so extremely well read when it came to different religious texts that not many stood a chance in civil argument on matters of religion. Of course, exception was if somebody took off on an irrelevant tangent.
Today, it was going to be an altogether different session. A lecture where he was prepared to let out the mysterious events that had shaped his perception about life and religion. Of course, he was a bit nervous. So much was at stake. But one day he had to let it out.
Fortunately, there was a big solace in it for him. The whole thing was a highly paid arrangement between the country’s media mogul TV Sketch Entertainment Pvt. Ltd. and him. He was more than covered in case something went wrong. The whole affair was designed in consultation with a top-notch editorial team. He also had an open offer to join as an Executive Editor with their news wing.
Soon, he began speaking in his deep, solemn voice.
This happened to me on one of my recent field work to the Wardha region of northern Maharashtra. One early morning, I set out for a walk and saw this woman approach me. On other occasions, I would take a good look at her, greet her and go my way. But on that day, I instantly stopped in my tracks. She looked to be aged around fifty-plus years with freckles and wrinkles on her face, and carried a garlanded and decorated deity on the top of her head. She herself looked rustic and belonging to the section of the society that mostly subsisted on alms from devotees.
As if almost under a spell, I took out a 100 rupee note from my upper pocket and handed it to her most humbly, and bowed down before her. I felt her warm hand touch my forehead. For that moment, a flash of white light appeared before my eyes. Then, as I raised my head, there was nobody in front of me. I turned around. Still, no woman could be seen. Was it then a hallucination? Coming to my senses, I instantly checked my shirt pocket. The spare 100 rupee note was not there.
Embarrassed, I looked around to see if anyone had noticed me offering alms to the woman with the idol of the deity on her head. I thought, how difficult it would have been if somebody were to upload my irrational behavior on social media. What plausible explanation would I have? I was totally at a loss for words. Why did I do something stupid like that? What had come over me at that moment?
I hurried back to my lodging in the village. The good lady of the house giggled when she looked at me. I did not understand why. But I noticed she was wearing the same green colored blouse like the one worn by the woman I saw a while ago. On entering my room, when I looked in the mirror, I was shocked. My forehead was covered in a patch of vermilion.
To be continued…