I have forgotten the name of the shop keeper at Jhandatar (was it Bechu?) who used to set his plastic and clay toys shop just before Janmashtami. His shop is still there, at the point where Hararbagh-Mansarovar gali meets the one coming from towards Kedar Ghat Post Office. I had seen his shop where he had started selling small plastic and clay toys for Janmashtami jhankis while going to or returning from my school. It must have been a year before or after 1988, nearly a quarter century ago. I still remember that I was thrilled at my discovery.
I had seen many attractive kinds of clay toys in Suraj Bua’s wooden almirah that was kept in the front room, just under the iron locker. There were the usual wrestlers with clubs and mugdars. There were wrestlers engaged actively with each other in wrestling pose. And then, there were those various miniature vehicles that went into making the traffic on the roads that generally used to meet in the form of a square at the centre of the area decorated. As I have already mantioned, she had given me (and Rajesh) some of those toys, but I wanted more. My new discovery made it possible for me to acquire some such toys of my own. I asked mother for the money which she readily gave, and I bought my first wrestler.
I was so happy that day. Then came many other types of wrestlers, cows, deer, Vasudevji carrying Krishna in a basket overhead and Shesh Naag’s hood over his lord to protect him from the rain and so on. I remember how my mother had converted a cardboard carton into a beautiful jail for Krishna’s parents. Even the grilled prison doors were made in the wall of same cardboard box. We used to arrange a couple of small lights inside the box in a way that light used to fall on the protagonists in the evening, our show time. Another place from where I had bought a lot of material for the decoration was the slope of Bans Phatak, especially around the stretch of the road starting from the junction of the main street with the gali that leads to Vishwanath Temple and the one that leads to Gyan Vaapi.
When I had seen the whole stretch of street for the first time, I had nearly lost all control over my mind. My happiness had totally pervaded my thoughts and I had only one thing in my mind: to buy all the kinds of toys that the roadside stalls had to offer. I got various types of birds, Krishna in raas leela with the gopis, Bakasur vadh etc. from there. Those were the toys with life like colours and expressions on their face and with them, decorating for Janmashtami was more fun. I must have discovered the market that is set only a couple of days before the festival while I was a student of Adi Vishweshwar Coaching Centre on the same street.
A couple of years after that, I had lost all interest in the festival and also in decorating a room on that occasion. I don’t remember having bought any toys either. My mother, brother and Rajesh, Suresh, Sameer etc. carried on with the tradition of decoration with the material and toys that were at home already. Change.
Ten years, I’ve left that piece of my life behind. Only ten years! Not such a long distance. Will I revivify the olden times and self if given that impossible chance, not to turn back the time machine, but simply to exist in the same space and time as my Kasi? Will I?
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