Anirudha Bakshi sat on his favorite cane-wood sofa kept stylishly at a corner of the open veranda. He lived with his family in his plush bungalow within the serene setting of Kolkata’s coveted Lake Gardens locality. It was a lazy Sunday morning and Anirudha sat down to read the newspaper. In the month of January, the mild warmth of the fresh sunlight mingled with the cool breeze lent a cozy feel to the entire ambiance. His two children, ten-year-old Raju and seven-year-old Nina were playing in the backyard garden. Anita, Anirudha’s wife was assisting his mother Shantibala in the kitchen for finishing the special Sunday lunch for the family.
“Bandar Ka Nach Dekho… Bandar Ka Nach Dekho!” a shrill voice pierced the tranquility of the atmosphere. [meaning: Watch the Monkey Dance… Watch the Money Dance]
Anirudha lifted his face and stared across at the street. His attention had been broken by this sudden interruption. However, a different inquisition engrossed him as he tried to locate the place from where the voice had come.
Another equally piercing voice joined the auditory setting. It was that of Anirudha’s father, the septuagenarian Mr. Shankarlal Bakshi. “BABU, do you remember? When you were small and we used to live in Giridih, every weekend I used to take you to see your favorite Bandar Nach [Money Dance]. You always used to enjoy the performances thoroughly! Call Raju and Nina, they must watch it today. These people don’t show up nowadays!”
Anirudha uttered a brief, “Hmm…” His eyes had spotted the monkeys and the Madaari, their master, on the footpath across the street, beside Mr. Chakraborty’s mansion.
The Madaariwas a man in tattered clothes. He held a ragged leash to which two equally dirty and undernourished monkeys were tethered. On his left hand, he held a wooden Damru, the fabled musical instrument of Lord Shiva, with which it is said that he produced spiritual sounds while the whole universe was created.
Anirudha sat on the sofa, stared at the Madaariand like a flash of lightning, fragments of memories whizzed past his eyes! His poetic heart established a bridge with his analytical mind and a concoction of strange signals raised the rush of adrenaline in his blood, within half a minute! However, in those thirty seconds, he saw something that his conscience had sublimed within his subconscious self-imposed ignorance…
--- FLASHBACK BEGINS ---
When he was seven years old, Anirudha lived with his parents in Giridih. Mr. Shankarlal Bakshi was a government employee and was posted there. Even in that short span of life, since his birth, Anirudha understood one thing clearly. RULES were RULES and he needed to follow RULES! The RULES were defined by his parents (an indirect societal pressure that Anirudha didn’t understand then). He was a Bengali boy who was supposed to be a bookworm and was supposed to learn singing Rabindrasangeet. He was supposed to love football and was always supposed to worship his elders like GODS! There was a strict routine in everything. The weekdays had their own routine and the weekend had their own. Anirudha was supposed to visit the same relatives, every time they visited anyone, and do the same things and eat the same food as was prescribed in the RULES. His father would show him Bandar Nach[Monkey Dance] every Sunday and he was supposed to hug his father with glee! Anirudha was thankful that the RULES didn’t prescribe hugging and kissing the moneys! Everywhere, there was an invisible LEASH from which there was no escape!
As years passed, the RULES became more stringent. As a Bengali boy, he was supposed to study Engineering. His hobby of becoming an author was meant to be trampled forever. In college he had to abide by the RULES set across by the seniors and follow the political adherence injected into his character through influence. Being a Bengali, he had to become a self-declared Political Analystand needed to participate in every possible discussion regarding Indian Politics. There was no escape! The invisible LEASH tethered him again!
He was given the liberty of marrying his college sweetheart, only after the couple pleaded in front of their respective families for almost two years and didn’t leave behind a single temple to offer their prayers! Such were the power of the RULES. The LEASH continued its stronghold!
Even now at the age of forty-years, Anirudha was following the unseen forces of the RULES in office. The only difference as that these RULES were now governed by his boss, instead of his elders! Even now, the invisible LEASH bound him.
At this age, his restrictions on food, his routine of life, his discretion on choices, everything was bound by an invisible LEASH imposed by the society!
--- FLASHBACK ENDS ---
Anirudha’s déjà vu ended abruptly by the sound of the Damru. The Madaariwas now standing right in front of their gates. Anirudha stared in that direction as his mind’s eyes saw his father’s face in place of the Madaariand his own in place of the Monkey!
He laughed on his own and said to himself, “We are all moneys, doing the MONEY DANCE! Bandar Ka Nach!”
“How much for a performance?” shouted Anirudha. Raju and Nina had come out to the balcony already along with Anita, Shantibala and Shankarlal.
“Fifty rupees!” replied the Madaari.
“This is exorbitant!” protested Shankarlal.
Anirudha calmed down his father with a logic of the growing inflation in the country and said to the Madaari, “Alright, please begin.”
The Madaariplayed his Damru, uttered some weird poetry and made the moneys perform to his strange music. Raju and Nina clapped in ecstasy while the others stood and watched.
Anirudha brushed away his melancholy, looked at his children and said, “Guys, welcome to the World of MONEY DACE! Bandar Ka Nach!”
Deep within he promised himself, “Its time now. The LEASH must dissolve! I will not become a Madaari and they would not live yet another life of MONEY DANCE!”