We all would call him Chota hanuman. Somehow on Tuesday, he would show up in our mohalla visiting door to door, wishing everyone good luck. When happy, he would read our palms. I remember mom feeding him and slipping some coins into his pocket. Like a baby, his face would light up.
What was his real name? He would limp to his left leg while walking because of Polio. He must have been 14-15 years old, stout and dark complexion with long hair.
I moved to Delhi for higher studies and forgot about Chota hanuman. My local connections became limited. As we grow, life throws enough challenges that we get sucked in our own little bubble, and detachment becomes a virtue.
Sunny Winter of December is my favorite, the clear sky after a foggy morning. I was out for a walk. I crossed sweet shop, Sanzi Bazar and Bus-stand. At Hanuman temple, my eye got fixated seeing a living creature sitting next to the Idol. There he was: Chota Hanuman, with eyes closed in dhyana(meditative pose). I wanted a closer look to affirm my confirmation. A man in 30’s wearing a costume from Ramlila. He had red Sindiur, aggarbaati, flowers, and coins lying around him, along with fruits and sweets. An elderly couple offered some bananas to him. I wonder if they confused him with the original Idol.
I walked close to him and whispered: ” Chota Hanuman Ji ki Jai.” He instantly opened his left eye, observing his surroundings for a moment, and replied: “khus reh beta.” He asked for my introduction and promised to visit later in the evening. I felt sad for my mother because she would make a feast out of Chota Hanuman Ji’s visit.
At 5 pm, Chota hanuman arrived in a rickshaw and introduced himself as Kishore. He said he would stay brahmachari ( unmarried) like Hanuman Ji.
I told him I would get married at some point, although I had crossed the age of marriage. We laughed, exchanged jokes, and got back into our childhood. I asked he continues being a Chota Hanuman, to which he said
” Atul Ji, ab to Marte dum tak Chota Hanuman Saath rahega” (I will continue being Chota Hanuman till my death). He chanted some Sanskrit sloka and told me about giving Sanskrit tuition to school students. He has to show up in Hanuman’s getup every Tuesday at the temple. It gets him extra income and keeps him closer to people and Hanuman Ji.
He also admitted Sheeplishly that he is not a palm reader. It’s the uncles, aunties in mohalla(town) who put him into it. He carried the act while talking gibberish and making all happy. Was he crying? Were his eyes wet?
Then he threw a googly cheekily with mischievous eyes: “Ramlal Ji bhi monthly allowance dete hai humko”( a rich Marwari Seth of my town pays him monthly allowances). I asked why. He smiled and said, “30 saal pehle bete ko bola tha neta Banega, ban Gaya” (I predicted reading his son’s palm that in the future he will become a politician, which he is now).