Maharashtra-My Favorite haunt
I have lived and served in Maharashtra for substantial period of my working life and if I have a continuing or rather abiding interest in Maharashtra and its people and therefore, if this account is laudatory, it should not be called prejudice on my part. The fascination keeps on growing per day and I simply keep on marveling at the essence of people of Maharashtra, which sometimes beguiling has given it the growth engine that drives it forward. This lies in its people’s simplicity and firm attachment to its soil and spirit of continuous social reform. However let us begin from the beginning.
I, during my formative years, while preparing for entrance exam for Administrative Services, used to frequent libraries in the two Colleges in Etah, a small township in western UP. There, once I laid my hand on the book named ‘Fall of Mughal Empire’ by the eminent historian Sir Jadunath Sarkar as translated in Hindi by Yogesh. I took its Volume-I and fell in love with it by the time I read its first page. And so started my fascination with Maharashtra and its people (Perhaps you may be aware that Marathas were the principle players in this period).I then started Shivaji, by Sir Jadunath Sarkar again. It is said that when Sir Sarkar was writing his Magnum Opus in ‘Aurangzeb’ and had manuscripted it’s two volumes that he came across the historical figure of Shivaji. He was so impressed by sheer strength and glory of character of Shivaji that he rested writing Aurangzeb and completed the one volume of Shivaji and then completed the remaining 3 volumes of Aurangzeb. Now you may be aware that few authors can write with such command and authority and with such good expression as Sir Sarkar. But I am getting distracted. Suffice it to say, I had fairly good idea of Maharashtra and its traditions before I entered the Police Services and as the luck would have it I got allotted Maharashtra Cadre (This is no comment on the allotment process).
Even if you have read or not the book Shivaji, you have to be in Maharashtra to see the veneration and God like stature that he commands in the eyes of people. His awe inspiring presence in every town and village and his mounted statue on main crossing is a source of strength for people across all walks of life. It is said that real and lasting appreciation comes from the adversary. Aurangzeb observed after demise of Shivaji that all his life he spent in chasing Shivaji without much success and called him mountain rat but he had not once an occasion to find that his conduct was anything but exemplary and not even once the prestige or honor of Royal Ladies or entourage was in danger, should they fell in the hands of Shivaji. They were sent back most honorably deserving of their station. Such a man was Shivaji.
People of Maharashtra display simplicity in ample measure. This simplicity is evident in all they do or in their way of life. Their food, their language, dress, traditions and their livelihood all have this stamp of simplicity marked on it. For us North Indians it is often interpreted as lack of finesse and hence often a critical view is formed. We North Indians, who have risen in the cradle of Indian Civilization, who have seen pinnacle of success in every field of life, forget that as was our Rise, so was our fall, that for thousands of years we were trampled and massacred by foreign marauders leading us to preserve our traditions and customs but in the process lost our fellowship and brotherhood just for the sake of survival. Also while Maharashtrians, having lived and ruled in Northern India for 100 years and having ‘been there, seen that’ still retained their simplicity and attitude. In fact, in Maharashtra, the nature and climate has made the man hardy, given to living on the fruits of his labor, where everyone has to work including women and therefore they are self respecting. They do not claim the richness and splendor of up-north and standard of living is by and large similar between well-off and the common man. It is not surprising that having made such progress in industry and being financial war-horse of the country, People of Maharashtra have still not learnt the ‘Pretense ‘or ‘Showmanship’ and retain their workmanlike attitude till date. That the Governments over successive years, despite progress and its increased earnings have preserved a uniform standard of living is not only a credit to the Governments but a great tribute to the people of Maharashtra.
People of Maharashtra are intensely proud of their villages. Every person from Maharashtra, if outside Maharashtra, would like to come back to the state, which, well, is obvious. From state he will like to go to the Region, from Region to District, from District to Taluka and from Taluka to his village. Our posting policy runs aground in managing this situation and it seems that an irresistible force in the village is pulling them towards it consistently. The reason lies in the homogeneity and quality of life in the villages in Maharashtra which can be understood only by visiting or living there. This was not achieved in a day or two. The people have greatly contributed and invested in its prosperity, building of its traditions, a social milieu which is largely equitable and continuous reform. In essence every one must belong to or hail from a village and even it creeps in the names of city and people e.g. Jalgaon, Taasgaon. Khamgaon, Shegaon, Goregaon and Punegaonkar, Aurangabadgaonkar etc etc. A common question on first meeting is, ‘Which village do you belong to ? I would not be off the mark if I say that the village festivals and traditions have carried to the urban homes and has become the part of culture of the people who are intensely proud of it. Once I heard The Director General of Police of Maharashtra talking to Commissioner Of Police Mumbai (Both Maharastrians and batch mates) that,’ Hey, don’t you forget that today is Pola !’ Now in the concrete village that Mumbai is, Pola seems to be an incongruity but customs followed for centuries get the force of Law and smell of the Culture. Do you know as to what Pola is? It is a welcome ceremony of the Bullocks back in the village after having toiled in the rainy season and now that the crop is grown up, ‘The Bullock Raja is back to Village, and should be welcomed’. The pair is thus given good bath and bedecked with festoons and cowry shells. Such prepared pairs of bullocks of all the villagers are held at the boundary of the village and at an appointed time in the evening, the held-back bullocks are released and rush in the village where they are taken before each house and the housewife welcome them with Aarti and Tilak and offer them sweetened bread (Puran Poli). A drum is taken out, men dance and take part in the age old Indian custom- Toddy drinking. (Toddy is being some places replaced by country liquor or distilled liquor). This Pola is celebrated with same fervor in the biggest Metropolis as Mumbai or the common villages or the big towns as Pune, Aurangabad, Nagpur etc. etc.
With village comes the social reform of Maharashtra. Maharashtra has a long and celebrated tradition of social reform and almost every notable and revered a person has been involved in one way or the other with social reform. Baba Samarth Ramdas, Thakkar Bapa,Shirdi’s Sai Baba, Shegaon’s Dhuni Baba Phule Baba and Tai Savitribai Phule,Ghatge Baba, Tukdoji Maharaj, Baba Amte, B.R. Ambedkar,Shivajirao Patwardhan, Doctor Jadhav of Ahmednagar, Women of Taluka Jawli of Distt. Satara …. the list is endless -from 17th century till date and continuing(My apologies for many of them not being mentioned due to constraint of knowledge and space). Almost every district can boast of a social reformer and every aspect of social life is touched. This requires continuous discussion, exchange of views and then adoption of the reform. A Maharashtra village is thus a ‘Melting Point’ of the views and opinions and therefore more aware and progressive.
You will find that many people in the villages would generally give generously to a common cause, though would be restrictive in personal hospitality. It is a common joke in Maharashtra that one person would not invite another person for tea but would rather, in an obverse manner say, ‘You must have, anyway taken tea already? showing his reluctance to be hospitable for simply no other reason than his aversion to it. However invite the same person to a ‘Constructive Work’ common to villagers and he would not hesitate to contribute substantially and come out with number of suggestions also for better implementation of the project. On the reverse you find north Indians very generous in hospitality, in fact insistence in taking more food is a known tradition but would find that socially there is lack of homogeneity and disregard for public or social work. All this may be due to historical developments as mentioned above but, the flavor of earthy and vibrant village is always my personal preference.
And now I bring the language and its practice as a spoken tongue. Marathi is Prakrit, a form of spoken language in an area, deriving its base from Sanskrit and Devnagri as its script. That gives north Indian like me a distinct disadvantage as, at the first glance, we can read it and understand a bit from the commonality of few words. That makes them a bit easy in learning the language instead of learning from basics i.e. grammar and develop command. In comparison, our brethren coming from the states where script is not Devnagari e.g. Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala have to work assiduously on it and learn from the basics with a teacher and grammar from class I. They obviously develop a good command over Marathi. But these are general attitudes and as is said, ‘Exception proves the Rule’; Otherwise, any Indian can learn Marathi if he sets about it with reasonable application. But our brethren with Devnagari script find one thing in common; the Matras are all reversed. The larger(Deergh) is put as small(hrasve) and the vice-verse. I could never unravel the mystery or the reason behind it or rather did not apply myself by consulting a linguist. I will give few examples; Sur becomes Soor, Deepak becomes Dipak, Shagun becomes Shagoon and so on. By now you must have realized that this change appears essentially to speaker of Hindi language and is impression of a great language like Marathi from a very stand-off point of view. This is, to say the least, a perfunctory view. Marathi has due to long association and Rule in the Mughal Court, picked up number of number of Farsi language words. Huzoor, Zahir or Jahir, Purassar or Pur asar, Meherban etc. are common in official language circulars and petitions and really make a very interesting reading. But it being heavily Sanskritised, its spoken content has a very salutary effect on the Non-Marathi listener. And if you have to really listen some chaste and true Marathi, go to Pune and onwards and see the full flow and the articulation as well the pronunciation in spoken language of even a common person.
People from Maharashtra have one trait that is truly most loveable and endearing. They are great nationalists. In every situation, every disaster, every emergency where an occasion to serve or contribute towards the nation’s requirement arises you will find the Maharashtra people in the forefront. Be it the Indo-China War or an earthquake or a catastrophic landslide, you will invariably find even common people from Maharashtra coming out in both the numbers and quantum in a big way. The other day, I was going through the list of contributors for helping the Kedarnath flood victims. I was surprised that people from Maharashtra were big contributors. There is no obvious connection but for plain ‘National Feeling’. I know personally that a chemical firm, on requirement from Army, developed a chemical specially and ensured all its supply till the war lasted and did not charge a penny for it. The Nationalism of people from Maharashtra is legendary.
And so is my tribute to the people who are simple and loving, who are dedicated to its progress and reform, are hard working and reasonably practical and given to a good laugh at the end of a hard day, the people who adopted me as one of their own and till this date reciprocate and respond to any idea worth trying. My heartiest Salutations to People of Maharashtra for the selfless love they give and their spiritedness for national causes. Fate played its hand, a Trump Card in placing me after retirement near Delhi due to family requirements and the ardent lover of Maharashtra is far removed from it. However it is said that the things you like are more appreciable from a distance. Jai Maharashtra.
So be it
As Lord Ganpati
E-231, Windsor Park Pankaj Gupta