A Story Carved in Stone
Long back, teaching my son about the difference in the living and non-living objects, I was baffled when he very innocently asked me, “How can human beings be categorized as living beings when they have to die?” His nana, my father, had recently died and he was not able to comprehend as what still made us call human beings as living ones. Looking at the mountain in the far distance, he spoke like a philosopher, “these are the living beings, as they don’t ever die.” I was speechless at the point of view coming from a mere 4 years old child. I had no answer to his question. But stones have captivated me ever since for the immortality that they carry within.
A cursory look at our drawing room and any keen observer is attracted toward two pieces of carved stones, prominently displayed as piece-a detour! They really are my very prized possession and imagine I found them, covered with slime and moss, lying neglected at the road side of my own village. I know one thing about them that they were used as a support to the wooden pillars of a verandah of an old inn. With progression of villages the ruins of the inn were long covered in dust and a new pucca shop was built in its place. A price to pay for modernity of villages. A heavy price, indeed, to pay for modernity!
It was on one of my visits home that suddenly my attention was caught by some round object, half hidden in bushes, but still proud enough to stare hard at me. A closer look revealed it to be a portion of a carved stone. I am always attracted towards things antique and this was a rare find for me. I dug hard in the mud and soil and lo the whole came out. Covered in slime, dust and moss but it looked graceful. I was suddenly reminded of Gail Wynand’s first meeting with Dominique in “The Fountainhead”. “Purity…twisted in such dreadful shape…” this was how I saw the stone staring hard at me!
I closer search found two carved stones or say pillar rests. I wanted to bring them home. It was a difficult task by any standard as I was traveling alone with three small kids, four bags and what not. But I couldn’t leave the rare find back there. How my brother roared with laughter to hear about my plans, “You really must be joking!” He was not able to understand why someone would carry those stones, of what use they were. But I had fallen in love with them.
It is another story haw hard the task was. I had to change two buses and these were real heavy. I had severe pain on one side of my body, for many days, where I had carried the bag with all the weight on one side! But I was just ecstatic. Cleaning them of all the dust and slime brought out the majestic beauty of the stones to light.
I wondered at the artisan who must have carved this round shape out of a stone! How meticulous he must have been! And he must have done it with least of the modern tools to make his job easier. The love, care and the devotion that must have gone into making of these makes me revere the person. I gaze for hours together at these stones marveling at human ingenuity and workmanship. I don’t know about the masters who must have made these and what rewards they got, or perhaps just sufficient enough to make his both ends meet.
I could not find any answers to these questions that nagged me off and on. It was during another visit to Baijnath that I was pleasantly surprised to find small statues of Lord Ganesha carved in sand stone adoring a small shop. I, immediately, bought two of them and enquired about the artisan. “He is an old man and lives somewhere near Jogindernagar” was all that I could get. I wanted to meet him but the shopkeeper said, “he comes very sparingly to the town with these carvings.” I was sad for not finding the person but had I even found the person had I the time to go and meet him? No, by no means I could spare time.
By this time watching me standing at that shop, another person came to enquire about the carvings and started bargaining for the price. I was sickened as I know well that these people would spend any amount of money to buy an electronic toy for their kids but when it comes to pay for something that is a result of someone’s hard labour and sweat, they bargain hard.
And the other day I was wondering about the reward that artisans got in days gone by! I got an answer to my question. But imagine the legacy that they leave behind long after they are gone.
I got answer to another of the questions, nagging me all the while, behind the back of my mind since long that the man may be mortal but his creation that stays after him remains immortal. I salute all the creators of the world! We are the non-living!