The Red Vermilion Dot on the Forehead smeared with Turmeric

Update for month of November 2013

Morya was a boy not more than four and a half feet tall. His determined steps indicated his confidence beyond his age. Morya did not know how old he was, but that did not matter to him, as he had casually asked me what it meant. I was taken aback by the casual way the young boy asked me this question. I first observed him as he was climbing down the stairs at the Dadar station bridge. He was walking besides an older girl in a worn salwar kameez with a cloth bundle on her head and a crude rural drum strung across her shoulder – crosswise. She must have been a couple of years older so I fathomed that she was not his mother. I followed him and his “sister’ till they disappeared into the crowd outside the station that spilled onto the flower market under the road bridge flyover. I was on my way to the temple for my weekly obeisance to the creator. It was also an opportunity for me to thank him for what he gave us and ask for general health, prosperity and good biding. And as is the usual practice at Hindu temples, I would drop some loose change or a few notes into the slotted donation box placed strategically in front of the deity – so that devotees can pull out little coins or notes from their little purses or clenched fists to drop into the box (lest someone forget the “purpose of the visit”). I usually then walk across to the market nearby to stock up on my weekly groceries and veggies. But that day, I stopped outside the temple as I saw Morya again. He was with his “sister”, however his clothing had changed. He was wearing a long red skirt – and was shirtless and his tonsured head was covered with a red scarf. I still recognised him by those steady mature, yet vulnerable eyes and his forehead that was smeared with yellow turmeric, and punctuated by the large red vermillion dot at the centre of his forehead. He was walking upto devotees who were either waiting for their taxis or just standing by the road nibbling on their little prasads. Morya was carrying the whip made of cloth and had draped it like a python across his shoulders. He was seeking alms and if someone refused, he quietly walked away – unlike the usual beggars who would pester those with food to part with at least a piece or two and leave after getting their “dues”. His sister followed him with a slow rumbling scrub of a bent stick on one side of the drum. This was only to attract attention now, but when Morya would perform, it would become his rhythmic beat. Her head was balancing a small stool coloured red with a deity’s idol on it. The deity was smeared in red vermillion. I walked through the crowd to see the young boy and perhaps talk to him. As I negotiated the crowds, a long green bus came along and prevented me from crossing the street. But that would not deter me or would it?

The D Street had climbed its highs and the D Boyz on the higher floors were quite happy to have taken their beloved SENSEX so high. But then this young D Boy amongst them climbed down the stairs of the tall building structure and walked down to the busy marketplace street that operated during the day in these crowded CBD lanes. The boy wore a red t-shirt and slightly ruffed maroon trousers and his walk was with a purpose. You could notice the SENSEX also follow the red dressed D Boy till he mingled with the crowds in the markets where people sold more than people could buy. Don’t ask me how that happened, but this was a case where the consumer was not the King, I guess, not unlike the consumers at D Street. And in the bargain, the SENSEX dropped from lofty heights of 21200 points to as low as 20196, but end its trip for the month to just 20791.

The green bus passed and I crossed the street. Morya was headed to the grocery store that I frequented. I hastened my steps and quickly caught up with him. I did not want to startle him, so I walked past him and stood near the entrance to the large grocery supermarket. I tried to look busy. The young boy, as was his usual style, walked up close and looked at me through those purposeful steady black eyes, mature yet vulnerable, and mumbled something that I did not catch in the traffic and market noise. I turned around and saw the boy. He looked younger than I thought and I asked him his name. He looked frightened and almost walked away, but I softened my tone and quickly tried to open my manpurse, strung around my shoulder. He stopped and awaited his alms. I pulled out a few coins and before I could place them in his cupped hand, I raised my eyebrows again – asking him his name without talking. He silently murmured “Morya”. I asked him about his sister (she indeed was his sister). He was a sin taker. A sin taker? Yes, he whipped himself in public to take on the sins of the person who gave him alms. No – I could not do this to the young boy. I almost felt like taking away the money that I gave him. And that was when I saw this young lady – perhaps in her thirties looking at the boy and walking towards the sister. She wore a worn out green saree with a maroon blouse and also had a drum strung around her shoulder. Her saree was draped over her head and her nose rings and large vermilion spot on her forehead indicated that she was perhaps his mother. She was worried and was talking to the sister. I let Morya go after thrusting a currency note into his hands. Perhaps he could have a tea and few snacks with his mother and sister, and I just let him go.

How many Moryas do we know? How many times do we pass them by. Some are part of a syndicate of beggars and many will grow up on the streets and perhaps die there. Would you give alms to seek sin cleansing? Could I have done anything different? I have som many questions this week. Perhaps you would help me with a few answers

Have a good week ahead and I wish Morya and many others like him also a good week ahead!


3 thoughts on “The Red Vermilion Dot on the Forehead smeared with Turmeric

  1. Just read your blog article on Morya.
    Like you,I too had many questions crossing my mind while reading your meeting with Morya.
    Not anymore in Mumbai but can picture every graphic detail that you write about except the supermarket which was not there during my time spent in Matunga,Mumbai.
    When will see that day when we stop meeting such Moryas is the question at the head of my question list?
    I too would have done exactly what you did!

  2. Thanks Narayan!
    Your warm and spontaneous response added something special ( we are all connected) and lifted my spirits this morning.
    Sri Siddhivinayak Temple has undergone huge changes but the ‘spirit of Bhakthi & Karunai’ is alive and this is what keeps our community together.
    Your writing portraying Morya reflects the reality that is very much part of contemporary life in our great land but very few of us have the ‘time or eyes to look and feel’ !
    A friend of mine once remarked ‘being too sensitive leads to self-suffering’.
    And so life goes on. . . . !

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