Shirdi. It was a fantabulous journey. We went through proper rural Maharashtra, Maharashtra as it is (minus the frills and fancies of Bombay and Pune). Small huts, fields, streams and temples. If you thought that poverty existed only in cities, you need to think again. The fate of small and marginal farmers is as pathetic. Now policy changes have to be for such people, India lives in its villages. I learnt what this means. After a 4 hour journey in the shaking at its seams ST buses, we reached Shirdi.
Now this is one place that is getting so commercial. In Shirdi everything comes from a price, from water to welfare. People hound you in the street. How many make their livelihood out of Sai Baba I wonder. What would Baba have to say to this, if he were alive. Would he happy that he is the source of livelihood for so many or would he be sad that his word and teachings are getting lost in the process. How many come to celebrate him and how many to ask? We all have our own ulterior agendas. Poor Baba.
The way back was enthralling too. The nearest station is located in a village called Nagarsol. We went through roads or rather where there were no roads. I wonder how the driver drove precariously in the uneven roads. If the earlier trip was through rural India, this was through the bareness that marks rural India. We passed through the village ( the bus did nearly pass through the houses that are located dangerously close to the road or vice versa. Any closer we would be having afternoon snacks in the residents living rooms) and finally reached the station. Which is one building with one platform, one station master, one attendant and one guy selling juices. The station was nearly empty, other than we who had got off from the bus and who were all travelling by the same train. The state transport plies buses from Shirdi to the station at regular intervals only to ferry people to that station. Only two trains stop at that station during a day, filled with people who want to visit shirdi. As the afternoon passed, the station became a mela, filled with families, all awaiting this one train. The fruit juice vendor who was trying hard to make a sale and then slowly he had a field day. Even though he had competition. Another guy selling frootis had suddenly arrived amidst all this hullabaloo and had set shop next to this fruit juice guy. But clearly the fresh juice guy had an upper hand. I bet he made more than people in cities do. It was a scene straight out of a Rushkin Bond book or a Rk Narayan novel. And to describe the afternoon in its entirety would take a story.. maybe I will write one.
The train came and in 5 mins the platform was empty. And life there had just got back to normal. people had slipped back to their comfortable silence.