(The chant of “Rama Krishna Hari”
is heard in the background. Kanhoba, Tukaram’s younger brother, is lost in fond
memories of Tukaram. He begins to talk about his beloved, rebellious brother to
the assembled villagers. These memories are tinged with sadness. He narrates
them in the first person. The voices of Tukaram, Kanhoba’s wife and the
villagers are heard only at intervening junctures).
Kanhoba: It was Monday, the day
Tuka disappeared. It was the second half of a month in Spring. The mornings were
still misty out in the field. That day, after cleaning the cowshed and milking
the cows, I went to the field to gather grass at the break of dawn. I had
carried along my afternoon meal. My sickle was swishing through the grass, and
from time to time I hummed tunes based on devotional songs I had composed
myself, in typical joy of the poet.
It is He who
resides on the banks of the Gomti
Who pulls all
the strings of this earthly show
But thoughts of
the family were intruding upon me. Just as one can think of spiritual thoughts,
one can also think clearly on family related questions, when one is out working
in the field. One can give voice to bottled-up anger and disappointments. That’s
what I was doing while cutting the grass. I was explaining things to my wife. I
was trying to make my sister-in law, Tuka’s wife, understand. Of course,
thoughts about my shop too kept straying in. I knew I was measuring my
expenditure from a leaking vessel. And thoughts of how Tuka had lost twenty odd
days singing about Heaven were also weighing heavy on my mind. I was saying to
myself: “Oh Tuka, my elder brother, if only you would pay a little attention to
household matters, we could live in such comfort.”
Tuka had been of
little use to the family for the last few years. But over the past few days, his
renunciation of materialistic matters had grown even more rapidly. I had never
seen him so carried away during his religious chanting. His poetry had developed
an intensity not noticeable earlier. Like a vice-like grip tightening around
your neck, the words of those devotional songs would keep resonating in your
mind. Suddenly, in the midst of doing other things, I would catch myself humming
First comes the Lord. The shells
and conch adorn Him.
The eagle comes flying in. Fear
not, fear not , says He.
The brilliance of His crown and
earrings cast radiance all around.
like a rain-filled cloud, He is a sight to Behold.
O Kanhoba, take care! Do not get so
engrossed in these thoughts. This is not your path. Is it Tuka’s path then? When
was that decided? Who decided it? I tried to gather back the memories. In his
childhood, Tuka used to play all games, with us, like us. Then he started
sitting in the shop. A little later, our parents passed away. Remembering days
gone by, unknowingly, I began to recollect his life-story.
Kanhoba : This incident occurred at Anandowari, as the verandah around our temple was called. We spent the merry
days of our childhood here. It was here that we became knowledgeable adults.
Sitting here, Tuka wrote his songs of devotion. And often, at this very place,
Tuka and his colleagues would chant the devotional songs he wrote. One night, as
the songs came to an end, his disciples urged Tuka thus :
Villagers : “O sir, we want to
hear your life story.”
Kanhoba : “Then, overcome with
embarrassment, Tuka briefly sketched his life story in the form of fifteen or
twenty couplets. I began to sing those couplets. Repeating them time and again,
I forgot why I was singing them. This is a common experience while chanting
Tuka’s devotional songs. One forgets oneself. I too have composed devotional
songs – as Tuka’s brother, as Kanhoba. In fact, many have imitated his “Says
Tuka…” style of narration. So these copycats begin with “Says Rama” or “Says
Gondya” or “Says Kisha”. When I heard this sort of poetry bursting forth in
every house, I stopped composing.
What a scorching day ! I kept
cutting grass till the afternoon. I ate in the shade of a tree, drank water from
the river. Then I noticed a dried up tree. I cut it to take as firewood. I
gathered up the stack of grass, tied up the firewood, put the whole bundle on my
head and headed home.
Reaching home, I threw both bundles
in the courtyard and entered the house. Inside, Tuka’s wife was sitting
with her back to the wall, her legs straight out in front. She was six months
pregnant. Her eyes were streaming with tears. Her neck rested against the wall.
She was looking vacuously into the distance, clearly surrendered to despair.
Tuka had vanished -- for the second
time. In a way, this was not entirely new. Since a full month before this
incident, Tuka had made it a habit of leaving home every morning, while
proclaiming that he had got a call from Heaven and would soon leave for that
abode. Since she was now pregnant, it was no longer possible for his wife to
look for her husband up and down those hills. Which is why she was waiting for
me to return. She looked up at me. She was exhausted – bearing the burden in her
womb and the burden of life with Tuka.
Awali (Tukaram’s wife) :
Kanhoba: She called out to me but
once, and then she began sobbing uncontrollably. My wife stepped in at that
point and said:
Kanhoba’s wife: “Brother-in-law
Tuka has not returned home since he stepped out yesterday. The children have
already checked at the temple, but he is not there.”
The moment I heard this I threw
down the sickle in my hand, and without even bothering to adjust the clothes
which I had hitched up while working in the field, I stepped out to look for
him. I began by looking for Tuka’s cymbals. They were not in place. I rushed to
the temple. He was not there. Then I checked at the Anandowari. But I couldn’t
find my elder brother or his cymbals even there. Dear Lord! Chanting His name,
Tuka goes and sits in some remote corner everyday.
Well, I muttered, let the Lord now
find His disciple. Yes, this wayward thought did come to my mind: “Oh Lord,
where are you? Are you there at all? You are forever bringing misery into our
lives. Tuka keeps searching for you, and I keep searching for Tuka. How much
longer are you going to keep creating this confusion? Who will bring home the
bundles of grass? Who will store them? Who will milk the cows? Who will go out
into the field? Who will sit at the shop? How will this household survive? Will
you force a pregnant woman to search for her husband? Then why should she have
become pregnant? ”
After saluting the Lord’s image and
stepping out of the temple, I began running through the streets of the village.
By now the people had grown used to this sight. I heard someone say:
Villager : “Looks like Tuka has
got lost again.”
And when I at last found him,
someone would say:
Villager : “Looks like he has been
Kanhoba : Tuka has got lost. Tuka
has been found. What did the villagers know of the terrible travails we went
through between these two events? (Angrily) They will understand only
when he is not found one day. (Laughing) Then a realization came to me.
What will they understand, anyway. Nothing. People have already forgotten those
who have come and gone. So also they will forget Tuka. The Lord’s wheel of life
keeps turning so quickly.
Emerging from the temple I ran to
the river. I stood on the rocky ledge overlooking the Indrayani. The stillness
of the afternoon had spread over the river. The light gleamed on the swift
current of the water as it ran past.
“Tuka! Elder brother!” Calling out
his name, stopping to listen, running up and down the bank, gasping to catch my
breath, looking intently at dangerous points along the way, pressing my heaving
chest in alarm everytime I caught sight of some object flowing down the river.
Who knows how long I kept searching him in this fashion. Then evening descended,
and exhausted, I sat on the nearby rocks.
(An eerie silence).
Evening. How often we brothers had
sat together as the gathering darkness descended upon this very spot. Savji,
Tuka and me. Savji about fifteen years old, Tuka twelve, and I must be about
ten. How many years had passed by. The Indrayani still flows past as it used
to. The thick bushes on the opposite bank are still standing. Those bushes on
the other side of the Indrayani always fascinated Tuka. From time to time, he
would look intently at them. I used to feel frightened of these bushes, and I
would turn my back on them.
We would already have rounded up
the cattle we had taken out to graze. That job had been entrusted to Tuka and
me. Savji would accompany us only as an escort. While we kept watch that the
cattle was feeding properly, Savji would seat himself on a rocky ledge on
the riverbank. Then he would begin singing devotional songs.
Before darkness descended we would
turn around the cattle, Tuka and I, and seat ourselves on a boulder beside
Savji. Then, as Tuka began to stare intently at the thick bushes on the opposite
bank, I would begin to imagine that something horrible was lurking behind the
thick foliage, the huge rust-coloured branches, the vines that coiled around
them. A variety of high-pitched sounds emanating from there would reach our
ears. The river bed would gleam in the blackness. Suddenly a dry branch
would snap and fall to the ground with a thud. The nocturnal sounds of the
jungle began right from there.
As the evening grew longer and the
sky turned red, the bush would turn dark and stand straight like a rampart. I
would feel even more frightened, and Tuka, he would keep talking about the
bush. He would narrate what he saw in his dreams. In one such dream, he saw that
he had crossed the fierce current of the Indrayani river and entered the
thicket. As he walked along the beaten track inside the thicket, the
portion he had just traversed would gradually vanish. Next, his parents and
siblings would disappear, and finally our village Dehu, would get erased. He
would be left completely alone!
In another dream, this same thicket
would appear to him as a source of strange joy. In the sunlight, against the
deep blue sky, he would see a white crane perched atop a solitary branch that
had risen far above the bush. The moment Tuka crossed the river and entered the
bush, it would get engulfed in a bright light. The songs of birds would fill the
air. The trees would bloom with tender, purple and green leaves. Flowers would
blossom. The air would turn fragrant. And the beaten track would gradually clear
itself to mark a path. He would feel like singing with the birds. His throat
would fill up with words. But before the words could burst forth, he would feel
choked and awaken from his dream.
Tuka must have told us this dream
numerous times while we sat on the rocks. Half my attention would be trained on
the cattle which we had herded together and were now standing behind us. I was
afraid that if they broke the formation we would not find them in the dark, and
they would be eaten by the tiger who was sighted around the village from time to
(Savji is singing to the
accompaniment of a traditional one-string instrument. The words are extremely
Kanhoba : Savji ! (Silence).
I feel it was under that reddish
glow in the sky that we three brothers were moulded into what we would later
grow up to be. Our future was decided sitting on that rocky ledge.
Savji later abandoned all
materialistic life. But I kept dangling over the sea of life, clinging on to a
spiritual branch. Now, sitting on that very rock, it occurred to me that if Tuka
was not found, I would be the only one among us brothers left. Where once we
three sat together, I would be sitting alone. (After pausing for a moment).
This is the destiny of those who go in search of God. This is what happened to
Dnyaneshwar and his siblings too. But what does it really mean to go in search
of God ?
(The darkness grows).
Total darkness. Even though we do
not see it in the dark, life goes on. The parched Indrayani continues to flow in
the dry months after Spring. Life does not alter its course to accommodate our
limited vision. Even our own blood brother gets lost in the wheel of life. Life
knows no brother, no sister, no father. Life has no relation with anyone. But
then, who is related to Life? God? That God so beloved to Tuka ? Here, sitting
on this rocks near the riverbed, I suddenly remember a fear from my childhood
days. Where did that fear disappear? (Pausing) That fear still exists.
Only its nature has changed. The fear now is about what might have happened to
Tuka. The fear of how everyday life and livelihood will go on.
The moment one remembers everyday
life, one remembers the family. (Rises.) People at home will be worried.
My sister-in-law must be half-dead with fear. Drawing their children close, both
ladies will be huddled together. What shall I tell my sister-in-law on
Then I thought, maybe Tuka has
returned home. And he might be worrying about me. He might set out to find me.
Kanhoba: (Laughing) The worries of
a materialistic man keep performing these somersaults. One person worries about
another. Then the other person worries about the first. Worrying about others is
something man likes to do. He only feels alive when he worries. Only someone
like Tuka can go about, not bothered about wife or family. “Tuka ! Elder
As soon as I reached home, I knew
that Tuka had not returned. The weak red glow of the lamp was visible from
outside. The door was open, but I did not feel like stepping in. With what care
we had so often cleaned this house, painted it, oiled the wooden beams! Inside
that house were my wife and children. So were Tuka’s wife and children. Yet the
whole house seemed sad.
Up above was a night sky filled
with stars. For so many years, the same stars must have passed overhead. Yet one
had never wondered about them. So what, if there was a sky above. So what, if
the stars shone. Let the sun and moon rise and set. We were so happy down on
this earth. We were the More children, the children of moneylenders. We had no
reason to lack for anything, no reason to grieve over anything. This very
bullock cart on which I now sat, we had stayed up one whole night to decorate.
While setting off on pilgrimage, we had raced with other carts and emerged
winners. Whenever our painted bullock cart took to the road, people would stare
goggle-eyed. Each of us brothers had a favourite bullock.
We were still young when we learnt
that we were shudras, Kunbis by caste and traders by profession. It was
impressed upon us that all this was important to understand. We learnt that our
ancestor first came to village Dehu seven generations ago, and that made us
‘Dehukars’. We learnt that we must be proud of our caste. We also learnt that
each one must stay within the parameters of his caste. Mother imbibed in us the
pride of being moneylenders, while Savji drilled in us the revered place
occupied by Lord Vitthal in the More household.
And Tuka? Tuka gave us our
childhood ! He was everything for us children. Who would not be fond of Tuka?
Everything that a younger brother could want in an older brother, Tuka was all
that. The moment you got out of bed, rinsed your mouth and ate a snack, you
would run out to play. I would always be hurrying to follow you. The moment you
arrived, children would run out from every home, just like the milkmaids ran
after the child Krishna. Vitidandu was your favourite sport. But then, you
liked all games. When it was your turn to pitch the wooden splint, you would
stand really close. Fear was something you simply did not know. And when it was
your turn to hit it, the splint would go soaring over our heads.
Sometimes, we boys would go out
with the village girls to worship the sand dunes. While they walked ahead
singing, we would bring up the rear, playing catch. Tuka knew all the songs the
What’s more, you even knew all the couplets women chanted while grinding the
grain every morning. Everyone was impressed with that. When we tied up the swing
during the monsoon, you would make it soar the highest and scare the girls.
When the swing soars to its
highest, just before it begins to descend, it pauses for a moment, and that is
the greatest moment of joy, you would say. And you say, one cannot describe the
intense feeling of that moment.
Is that the intense feeling you had
experienced, elder brother, when you were once found, in a spiritual dazed
state, atop the mountain?
I rose from the platform and
entered the house. Face downcast, like some criminal, I quickly crossed Tuka’s
wife’s prostrate form, and went further inside. In the kitchen the stove had
gone cold. My wife had put our three small children to bed under a quilt.
Walking in, I began to heat the stove. My wife followed me. Sitting beside me,
taking the twigs from my hand, she quietly asked:
Kanhoba’s wife: “What happened? Did
you find him?”
Kanhoba: I shook my head to
indicate he had not been found. Then I said, I searched on the river. Tomorrow I
will go up the mountain. Stirring the twigs under the stove, her head lowered,
my wife muttered:
Kanhoba’s wife: “Brother-in-law
will not be found. What evil did I commit in my past life that I should have
fallen into this madhouse. But you at least should not lose your head. No, you
will not lose your head. Let us leave this village. This house is cursed by
Kanhoba: “Cursed! That too by Lord
Vitthal!” I shouted in anger. “Shut your mouth, you whore.”
(Music. Silence spreads. Then…)
Sometime late in the night I got
up, awakened by a dream of Tuka. Even in his youth, Tuka had a round face. And
large, round eyes. Thick eyebrows. His eyes held dreams. Several dreams. Not
like Savji’s solitary dream. I had dreamt of Tuka’s first day at the counter.
Getting up early and full of joy he had accompanied our father to the shop.
Tuka… Merchant Tuka …
“Promise to tell me the truth Tuka!
In your thirteenth year, when, donning a turban in style, you went and started
doing business, was that not because you enjoyed doing it? The moment Savji said
he would not mind the shop, did you not step forward. And did not people begin
to recognize you as ‘Tuka Sir’, within a year? You too had found Savji’s
renunciation of materialistic life an act of madness. Within a couple of years,
you began to handle all the business that went with being a trader and a
moneylender. Counting the money gave you pleasure. Like a cock who has grown a
plume. Every word you uttered, every gesture you made, indicated that you had
learnt the intricacies of the business. You had understood man’s desperation to
live. Your name had traveled all the way to Pune. Your first wife suffered from
asthma. Fearing that she would not conceive children, your father got you
married a second time. Your second wife came from a rich family. More
importantly, she enjoyed robust health. You did not like her very much, but
although you did not agree on many things, you could never resist the sensual
pleasure she gave you. Do you not admit this ? Savji denied himself sensual
pleasure. But you partook of it happily. Actually, being the elder son, Savji
should have looked after the business. But he did not want to sit at the shop.
He was quite happy singing and praying. Where was Savji’s wife all this time?
Was she ever at our house? In truth, she should have been remembered by all. She
was the first of Lord Vitthal’s several victims in our house. I doubt that Savji
ever maintained relations with her as a husband.
If Tuka’s last years remain veiled
in secrecy, Savji life itself was a secret. How did he discover the knowledge
of renunciation even before discovering any other knowledge? Was he born
without reproductive organs, like some people are born without a limb?
How strange! Just as we never understood him, his wife too must have never had a
chance to know him. Lying down there, prostrate, I wondered: Any moment now
Savji’s wife might enter from that dark door, and seeing us grieving for not
having found Tuka, she would laugh pitifully.
(A long silence. End of the first
Rising early, I set out to find
Tuka. Tapping my rattle-tipped stick, I made my way once more to the river.
Hardly had I walked fifty odd steps than I saw Janya, the village idiot,
standing before me. Seeing me, he laughed, and started to yell:
Janya: “Lost… Lost… Tuka is lost
Kanhoba: And yelling in this
fashion, he began to dance. Elder brother! When this same Janya went mad, and
the village kids ran behind him flinging stones, you often shooed them off and
saved him from the torment. And today, the same Janya is dancing because you
cannot be found. Elder brother! I had expected some people to rejoice on
learning that you were lost, but to think that this idiot should be happy about
“Where did you see my elder
brother? Tell me. Where? On the other side of the river?”
a word, Janya kept repeating the action of someone tucking up his lower garment.
Leaving him, I set off again. Behind my back I could hear his mad laughter. Once
I thought: he is making fun of me. Then I thought: he is truthfully telling me
what he saw. I turned behind to look. Imitating Tuka as he danced, his hands
raised as if holding up wooden castanets, he began singing in an atrocious
voice. I could not bear to listen to his grating tone. Covering my ears with my
hands, I began to run. For over a month, Tuka had been walking about, singing
exactly such devotional songs.
river, waiting to catch my breath, I stood. But I could not forget the idiot.
Tuka would speak to him as if they shared a relationship. Often he would sit
watching Janya intently. Once, Tuka said to me:
Tukaram: “ Kanha, if Janya is mad, then everyone should turn mad. While we struggle to
attire ourselves, he has shown us that even a loincloth is enough to cover the
body. He has taught us that it is possible to live without the love of wife,
children and friends. He has proved that it is not necessary to have a house to
live in, the blue sky above is quite enough. He has disproved the tenet that the
body needs bread and something to eat it with, and that too three times a day.
Kanha! He has taught me that everything we cherish as being precious, is
actually a myth. He does not even need a God to live by. Who knows! Perhaps what
we live is a falsehood, and he is on the right path. Have you noticed, he looks
happier than us all.
The tender, red
leaves of the Palas have begun to bloom. Wild berries have started to green. A
nightingale has been calling out in her shrill note for some time. Elder
brother! Just see how Nature is dancing with joy. Seeing her rich splendour you
often went crazy. I cannot believe that you have gone away, abandoning Nature.
You, of all people, cannot say: what do I have to do with Nature, with Life?
You, more than any of us, had lost himself more deeply in it. You had a zeal for
life and what you were doing for our family gods was also a part of that
zealousness. Like the rest of us common folk, your faith in God too was
not untouched with practicality. Then, elder brother, when did you undergo the
big change? When?
our home changed. Like a tree that first loses its flowers, then its leaves,
then has its branches drying up, that is what happened to our household. Our
once happy home! Since when did it change? The day when some evil eye turned on
it? Death! Death does not change every home. But it changed ours! First Father …
then Mother… then Savji’s wife! Savji’s wife died and our house became cursed.
was on the road to ruin. Savji’s wife died – she was freed from her sorrow. She
died, and Savji left on a pilgrimage. But are there not other households where
someone turns a mendicant? And everyone loses their parents someday. And if
there was drought, did it hit the More household alone? It hit all of Dehu, the
entire region. In every home, someone died of hunger and someone went bankrupt.
Then why should this Savji, this Tuka, be born in our house alone?
up the mountainside, I purposely abandoned the beaten track and sought
out little known bypasses. I felt sure that in some thorny bush or craggy
nook, I would find Tuka. I reached the mountain top. I sat where Tuka used to
meditative posture). I am Tuka. I am not Kanha. I am Tuka. Now, where will I
head out from here? What will I do? But one cannot peek into Tuka’s life like
this and know it in a couple of moments. That is simply not possible. How can I
grasp Tuka’s mind? When he disappeared, how far had his thought processes
evolved? How did they develop? My mind began to think of all sorts of
things that could have happened to Tuka. Could he have stepped into the river in
a state of trance, and got carried away? Could a crocodile have dragged him away
when he entered the water? Or could he have crossed the river and kept on
walking, when suddenly a wild animal sprang upon him? God! Oh God! The
devotional songs he had recently been singing in his state of trance began to
ring in my ears. He kept bidding goodbye, saying he was going to heaven. “O my
brother, goodbye, I am off to Heaven! … I am going, I am going, I am going…”
Repeating these words, he would bid farewell to everyone he met.
He would weave a
fantasy and create ever new worlds. Suppose another woman begins to like me?
This idea once entered his mind and he immediately composed a song on it : “Now
I have traversed that desire.” In reality, there was neither such a desire, nor
was there any such woman. Similarly, there is neither a divine vehicle to carry
him away, nor is there such a Heaven. He would be here, in some thorny bush or
stony niche, and I would find him. I was sure of it. Last time I had searched
him for seven days. Now, if the need arises, I will search for him night and
But why did Tuka
become like this? If only those two deaths had not occurred, Tuka would not have
become like this. Our father expired suddenly. Tuka had piled up the bullock
cart with gunny sacks and gone to do business in the Konkan region. We completed
the cremation and were waiting for him to return. The house was steeped in
sorrow. Mother had fallen ill and was confined to bed. Tuka returned. He stopped
the bullocks in the courtyard outside. He began unloading the sacks. The moment
I saw him I exclaimed: “Elder brother!”
has passed away!”
Quietly, I came out. I carried in the sacks he had just taken off the bulls. The
moneybag was inside. I kept it carefully in the cupboard. Someone has to do
these things. Just then Tuka came out, and without even putting on his slippers,
began to walk down the road leading to the river. Alarmed, I dropped what I was
doing and began to follow him.
We reached the
cremation ground, and he stopped. I went up and stood behind Tuka. His eyes were
streaming with tears. How Tuka wept! The next time was when Mother died. After
that, I don’t remember him ever crying. Suppose those two deaths had not
occurred. First Father. Then Mother. The later Tuka was moulded as a result of
these two deaths. I am sure of it.
brother! I cannot fathom the incredible sorrow you demonstrated at the time.
Elder brother! Did you not know that no one’s parents live forever? Our parents
pass away. Then the parents of our children, we ourselves, pass away. This
happens, it is the wheel of life. And so the world goes on. Was it your pride
that did not accept this? Or were you so ignorant as not to understand what even
a common man understands?”
Of course I did
not say all this to Tuka. I sat beside him the whole day. By evening, Tuka had
quietened down enough to talk to me.
“Kanha! When father passed away, Mother exclaimed, ‘Oh, why has this happened
?’ I ask the same thing. Why has this happened? Why did Father die? Why did
Mother die? How spiritedly I entered business when Savji decided to pull out. I
conducted the trade with enthusiasm. I put all my interest into moneylending. I
would bring home sackfuls of coins. Father felt fulfilled. Mother caressed me
lovingly. But what good did it do? I thought I was managing the business so
well. I would continue to bring happiness to our Father. We would live
prosperously. Everything would continue happily. Hard work would bear fruit. But
what happened instead? What did we get in return? We got wealth. But we lost our
parents. All our wealth did not help to ward off their death. Who plucked away
our parents from their joyful life and family? Who is this Death? And why is he
so uncaring of human emotions? Whatever we human beings may do, Death has no
place for us. How frightening all this is! Death ends everything…and we are
blissfully unaware of it?”
the sound of drumming)
Kanhoba: On the
one hand my head was full of such thoughts. The sun was scorching. The sunshine
under which, while ploughing the field, while cutting the grass, while digging a
pit, I would feel my strength increasing rather than decreasing ; the sunshine
under which the veins of my hands, my legs, my neck became taut with strength ;
the sunshine which seemed so filled with the juice of life, that same sunshine
was now arousing completely different emotions. The moment I find Tuka, these
emotions will disappear. (Laughs) That is life. The moment our frame of
our mind changes, everything appears different. Tuka! … Elder brother…
It was during
this drought, Tuka, that your first wife died of starvation crying “Food, food!”
In those days,
elder brother, you had not yet turned in feverish search of God. You were not
even a poet. The handful of saintly persons who now accompany you, had yet to
arrive. You faced the famine with the same courage that you exhibited in
childhood, when you learnt to play a game you did not know, or the way you
astutely dealt with business matters when the responsibility fell on your
shoulders. I liked you in that image, elder brother. Even today I like that
image of you. Badgered by deprivation, your sorrow on the death of your wife and
your son, left you powerless. I had never seen you so powerless. Yet I still
liked ‘that’ elder brother. Because you behaved during those crises just as we
behaved…and when you became so weak I resolutely took charge of running the
And just then,
the moneylender came and knocked on our door! It was as if the sky had fallen
upon us! But even so, what did it matter, elder brother! Drought ends. Rains
return. Crops grow. Trade begins. Moneylending starts, once again. But no! Your
world changed completely.
(Stops to dry
his tear-filled eyes)
Rains! The rains
after the drought! I remember that I was at the foot of this mountain searching
for some roots or leaves that we could eat. For some days we had seen clouds
roll into the sky overhead, and then drift away. I was praying that the clouds
should gather force …
… and then, all
at once, the raindrops began to shower down. Letting them strike my face, taking
deep breaths, I began to dance… I started to catch the raindrops, catch the
falling hail, in my palms. Later, the hailstorm ended and it began to rain
fiercely. I just stood there, grateful ! From all four sides I could hear the
sweet sound of running water. What I had assumed to be the carcass of a dead
cattle, slowly raised its head !
What more does a worldly man like me need to be happy? God should send us rain,
corn should grow in the fields, wells should fill up with water, wife and
children should be happy, one should be able to celebrate festivals with pomp
…what more does one want?
Tell me Tuka,
tell me if I am wrong. But I felt all this, and you did not ! You simply got up
and started to repair the dilapidated temple in our house. The rains had been
good. For an experienced man like yourself, it would have been easy to re-open
business. But you never even looked in that direction. Our parents died, you
wife and child died, the drought brought us humiliation, people insulted us, it
wrenched our hearts. For the rest of us, time brings relief. Wounds get healed.
But you took all
this to heart. You kept on mending the dilapidated temple. Whatever money
remained in the house, you poured into that. You paid no attention at all to the
We were angry
with you. I said to my wife, we need every coin we can earn and here is my elder
brother pouring anything we get into the temple. How are we to survive?
wife, spoke out then for the first time. Yet , for the first time, you paid no
attention to her. You kept repairing the broken temple. Once, when I
found you in a transported condition atop the mountain, and unable to stop
myself I questioned you on this behavior, you said :
Having repaired the wall, I washed my feet, entered the temple, paid my respects
to the Lord, and sat to one side. A villager followed close on my heels, saluted
the Lord, and like me sat to one side. Then another villager followed, and did
the same. I was astonished, because I did not feel uncomfortable, in the least.
After the drought I had become a little afraid of human beings. Every person who
came, I thought, had come to ask for something. Often, scared, I would go and
hide in the darkest corner of the house. But this time I did not feel the
slightest fear of these two villagers. My mind was peaceful! I had entered the
temple hundreds of times before that. But it was only then that I realized what
a temple truly is. The temple is the only place in a village where business
relationships end. A bankrupt man like me enters these four walls inhabited by
Lord Vitthal and his consort Rakhumai. My own moneylender also arrives. Yet,
before the Lord, everyone becomes equal. Though calling ourselves human beings,
we often forget this principle. Kanha! I have decided to drown ‘moneylending’ in
still clearer confidence.)
“Kanha, the man
whose property I attach, the man in front of whose house I begin to agitate, his
end and mine are eventually the same! Then why should I become a greedy lender
and loot somebody? So I have decided to drown moneylending in the Indrayani!
Kanhoji, looking into the waters of the Indrayani).
brother! Everyone thinks I am searching for you because you are my brother.
Perhaps they even say, he went to look for his brother because if he did not, it
would be contrary to custom. But I know, deep within my heart, why I am looking
for you. I seem to be looking for you but I am really searching for what I have
lost. Elder brother! I have had a glimpse of what you were searching for. I too
have taken a small dip in the pool of renunciation in which you are so
completely immersed; and I have emerged, albeit a little scarred. After all, the
spirit of renunciation which has so haunted our home has not left me untouched
either. Perhaps, completely renouncing the world is a happy state to be in, but
there is nothing worse than suffering periodic twitches of renunciation. All at
once, materialistic life seems petty, yet one is unable to abandon it.
You wanted to drown moneylending in the Indrayani! Drown moneylending in the
Indrayani! I was so carried away hearing your expression, that I went straight
into the house to collect the pawned-item registers. As I opened the cupboard, I
could feel the eyes of both our wives piercing my back. Just then, one of the
children ran upto me and stood by my feet holding the hem of my garment. Looking
down at him, I thought: what will happen to these children once the debt
registers are drowned ? They will walk hither and thither crying “Food food” !
Will you make beggars of the whole family? Will our drought never end? Elder
brother, I fought with you that time. Forgive me. I had not then understood
your evolved state of mind. I had not reached a level where I could appreciate
your thinking. I did not understand that you were clearing your path, stage by
materialistic, self-centred, narrow-minded brother will say, I said to you at
that time. You do not care for your wife and children, your brother, your
brother’s family, I said. You are reducing to dust the business that our father
built through dint of hard work. Many people are non-materialistic. Our brother
Savji was non-materialistic. But once his responsibilities were over, he went
away. But your family is still around, my family is still around. How can you
set out to drown the registers, while the question of their survival still
“Tuka ! Are you
setting out to drown your life? Then give me my share of the pawned-item ledgers
and do what you like with yours.”
Your face showed
pain. You returned to me the registers I had handed over to you. I selected some
of the registers and placed the remaining ones in your hand. You went to the
water body. You put a stone into the bag and flung the whole lot far away. Those
registers must have reached the bottom of the Indrayani. Your face radiated a
strange happiness. You had removed some heavy obstacle from your path.
And for some
moments after that, a distance like I had never experienced before, came up
between Tuka and me. We both stood still by the Indrayani. My mind was in
turmoil. I longed to apologise for my mistake, and fling into the water the
registers I had kept aside. But I lacked the courage to do it. Consoling me
Tukaram: “ I am
not angry with you. Kanha, the sorrows that we see people suffering, are not
real sorrows. Sorrows are born of relationships. Those sorrows are false, those
relationships are false. The real sorrow is that of birth itself. Hardly does
one remove someone’s sorrow, than he begins to grieve over something else.
Fulfill one need, and another arises. To remove such sorrows is childish. Kanha,
man’s real sorrow lies in something else altogether. Come, let’s go home.
chanting is heard in the background)
Jai Jai Ram
Krishna Hari ! Jai Jai Ram Krishna Hari !
(Praise the Lord
! Praise the Lord!)
does not realise how fast days turn into months in the everyday pursuit of
survival. Our family size and its problems kept mounting. Sometimes, looking
back, one feels that one kept doing the same things over and over. I run the
shop now, as my father did before me, and my grandfather did earlier. Like me,
my forefathers ploughed the fields and went to cut grass in the field. What came
out of all this?
The sun has
begun to set on the horizon. Soon it will be night. Is the sun concerned with
whether Tuka is found or not? Only man cares about fellow men. The elements of
Nature do not bother about him. Elder brother! We are trying to save your body
from these emotionless elements. For us, the body is everything. Respond at
least once to my cries.
note in his voice)
Will I never
find you now? Where have you so hidden yourself that the place is unknown to me?
What will I be left with once you depart? People will be content with your
poetry. But I will not be able to read your poems in your absence. Just seeing
those pages, I will break down and start crying.
You are more
affectionate than the Divine Mother!
than the moon !
To the blind the
world is forever sightless!
But we who have
eyes cannot see!
Shall I tell you
something? Reading the devotional songs you have written, I too have begun to
compose such songs. I could never fathom how you thought up these devotional
songs, one after another. I used to spend a lot of time thinking about what
might have prompted you to create a particular composition?
Crush not the
flower finding it tender!
Eat not the
roots that you so love!
Taste not the
water enchanted by pearls!
Puncture not the
How did you
always go right to the essence? Does the foundation of your devotional songs lie
in Lord Vitthal or in ‘Tuka’? Do these songs occur to you when some thought
comes to mind, or when you witness some event? I too would compose a song,
prompted by some intense feeling. After that, uninspired, many days would pass
by. Sometimes months. I cannot understand how so many new songs come into your
mind. Like a honeybee moving from flower to flower, your songs pick the nectar
from so many objects and topics. Every moment comes alive in your writing, and
turns happy. Tell me, how is it that although my life is full of struggle, you
understand better the subtleties of life? As if, the moment it sees you, life
opens its innermost petals before you , but closes its petals the moment it sees
Tikaram’s devotional songs …Maaze maana)
miracle ! Thirteen days of nightly fasts ! I remember how it happened.
I am going to drown my notebooks in the Indrayani. Whether I am drowning mere
paper or poetry, let God, and those who think my devotional songs important,
decide. If these words of experience are false, then it is best that they sink
to the bottom. That will be a good test of our worth. No man can be deemed an
intellectual or an ignoramus on account of his birth alone. Our mouths can be
sealed on the strength of muscle power, but not our minds or our souls. All
tyrants committing injustice behave just like this. But why should we fear?
Dnyanoba, did they fear? Everyone knows there is butter in curd. But only he who
knows how to churn, will succeed in extracting the butter. Will fire be ignited
by itself in wood. Someone has to rub and create the friction, isn’t it? Only by
extracting the stones from the wheat will we get good flour. Only by suffering
hardship can one safeguard the field. If one does not think about these rules,
respect these codes of behaviour, one cannot benefit. Only if man makes the
necessary motions can he ward off the dangers that surround him. I chant the
Vedas and some Brahmins prostrate themselves before me – thus does religion
fail. If my folly is that I cannot accept the fraudulent teacher-disciple
relationship, then I must suffer for it. Even if I resist, they will force me to
do it. So, I have now placed my faith in God and the ordinary people, Kanha.
Then the water
miracle transpired. The immersion of the notebooks had been done. The fasts were
completed. And then, the notebooks floated back to the surface! Safe despite
their immersion in water. Who can say why they surfaced? Perhaps a turtle or a
crocodile happened to dislodge the stone you had kept on the pile of notebooks.
Or, as later people began to say, the Lord himself removed the notebooks and
held them up before you. Oh God!
The fact that
you were not near me in this darkness, by the river, was a source of intense
pain. Now that I had partly realized what you really were, I was thinking how
joyous it would be if I found you! What you had been saying was true. This
existence is false. Everything here is false. Look! It is already forty years
since we have been together, and within fifteen or twenty years more, neither of
us will survive. Like Father. Like Mother. They disappeared. Savji went away.
Everyone has come to this world only to depart. Where did they come from? Where
did they go? These thoughts troubled you endlessly. Your persistence to know was
born of exactly this quest. It was a search to understand where did all life
You were taking
deep dives into life. Sitting on the bank of the pond during our childhood, I
would watch you and ask “Elder brother, did you touch the bottom?” Gasping for
breath, you would bring your head to the surface spitting out the water, and
shake your head to say, “No, no!” That is what I was remembering now. At several
places you would shout “Found it , found it” and emerge with your fists raised
above the water, but when you opened your hands they were empty. At other times,
your hands were grasping at something, but I was unable to comprehend.
(Silence. End of
the second day).
This was the
third day of my search for Tuka ! On the third day of the search, once again, I
reached the banks of the Indrayani. Following me, Rameshwarbhat, Bahinabai’s
husband, Mumbaji, arrived on the site. Everyone was silent. No one would say a
word. Unbearable silence. Then, taking courage, someone said:
Villager: “It is
said that Tuka ascended to heaven in his bodily form. A shepherd boy apparently
saw the flying vehicle which bore him away. Others say Tuka jumped into the
pond. Still others say a crocodile carried him off. Some claim that he simply
walked away. A few say…”
could no longer hear anything. Darkness gathered before my eyes. I felt the
ground beneath my feet begin to tremble. A cacophony of voices began to roar in
my head. I could not bear the thought that I might never see Tuka again. I began
to make my way rapidly up the Indrayani river, alone. My mind was in turmoil.
How could Tuka, my elder brother, disappear like this – this question kept
reverberating in my head. My mind was full of suspicions. But who knows, perhaps
the Lord really did take him away. But where? Elder brother…!
to see something. He starts running. Suddenly he spots Tukoba’s cymbals and
blanket. He holds them tightly against his chest. A sob is wrenched from his
heart. He comes running back home and stands in front of the idol of Lord
Vitthal. He is trembling violently in anger).
destructive Narayana! So you have targeted us for your trials. Black face! You
have brought our entire family to ruin. Why, pray? Are you doing whatever comes
to your mind because you think we can do nothing ?
music. Dheend dheend….Then suddenly, silence).
Two days have
passed since Tuka has gone. I am constantly walking up and down the house. My
eyes, instead of seeing the objects in the house, remain riveted on memories
associated with him. Here we were born, grew up, laughed, sulked, ate, played,
wrestled, exulted, enjoyed.
( Begins to
“Oh God ! Just
the other day I was mad at you, I lost my mind. I prostrate myself before you.
Forgive me. Now, that anger has disappeared. Hereafter, I shall spend my days
caring for my wellbeing, raising my children. Singing Tuka’s songs I shall
behave responsibly. Oh Lord ! Whether you exist or not, whether you bless us or
not, none of these thoughts concern me. If you exist, fine, please stay
peacefully in your abode, and I will stay in mine. Even though I am the only
brother now surviving, I do not blame you. Which village do you reside in? Tuka
was inquiring after you. He went in search of your village. He left without
completing your song. I am now stepping into the world singing your song. Until
I am united with my brother, grieving for him, I shall continue to chant your
name with the same intensity as Tuka.”
(One hears the
sounds of the veena. Followed by the pakhwaj and taal. A traditional song of
devotion begins. The notes of the Bhairavi begin. Fade out…)