Picking up the bale of grass I started feeding Ganpya inside the cowshed.
This big wooden structure housed our two oxes, Ganpya and Harya. While Harya was like any other Ox, Ganpya was something else.
While he was an imposing, graceful animal, his large pair of gently curving horns, pointing forward, were his ticket to fame.
In fact, these horns advertised his virility and the neighbouring farmers vied with each other to mate him with their cows in the optimistic hope of producing clones.
Shortly, we started making so much money out of this extra-curricular activity that we retired him from the daily grind of toiling in the fields.
However all good things come to an end and age caught up with Ganpya, making him incapable of living upto his virile image. He was like the antique car which has served its purpose but continues to grab eyeballs.
So here I was, along with my friend, Parshya and Ganpya, roaming the streets of the old city of Kolhapur. The idea was to lure the town folk and capitalise on their awe upon seeing this magnificent specimen.
As we made our way through the narrow street, the passing crowd stopped in their stride and stared at the majestic animal. We had coloured the huge horns tomato red and adorned them with bronze ornaments on their tips. Bead necklaces and soft, brightly painted cloth placed on his back completed his elegant look.
A sudden cry went up in the air, “Get back into your houses!”.
Before I could realise what was happening, an elderly man approached us, “Please come in. It’s dangerous to be outside. It’s Ranga and his gang of goons. Come on, come inside, quick”.
I looked at Ganpya quizzically, but the man continued, “Oh, don’t worry about him. There’s lot of space inside”.
It was very difficult to push him inside but once in, we were surprised by the huge courtyard. We took Ganpya to a corner where he was loosely tied to a pillar.
After washing our hands and feet, we were ushered into an inner room.
“Come, make yourselves comfortable here. I am Mahipatrao and this is my Ardhangni, Sumitrabai. You will have to stay with us as the notorious Ranga is on prowl”.
“But tell me Mahipatrao, where is the police?”, I asked him surprised.
Mahipatrao looked at his wife and replied, “Oh, this Ranga is a goon on the roll of the local politician, Tatyasaheb Patil. The police are in his pocket and he has a free run here”.
Sumitrakaku served us hot Pithla-Bhakri with a dash of onions and this sumptuous though simple meal made me and Parshya drowsy.
But I felt ill at ease. Mahipatrao and his wife had been kind enough to feed us and our Ganpya as well but why to inconvenience them further?
“Mahipatrao, I think we should take your leave now”, I said.
“Oh, no no. Ranga is still in town. You have to stay for the night”, he insisted.
With no option left, I went over to Ganpya and was happy to see the arrangements.
I then moved inside to lie on my mat. After a long tiring day, I was asleep within minutes.
A huge commotion woke me up. I saw that Parshya was awake too and near the room door.
As I reached the door, I saw 4 men, brandishing swords menacingly and a girl cowering behind Mahipatrao, who was trying to protect her.
“Mahipatrao, don’t be a fool. I don’t want any bloodshed but don’t force me. Hand over the girl to us and we would go away. Don’t spoil our night. Otherwise…”, one of the men threatened.
“Ranga! You are crossing all limits of decency. Don’t forget, the Lord above is watching…”, Mahipatrao shouted.
“Ha, ha, ha… Yes, he is watching and he will just watch us enjoying this girl. But why are you flirting with death?”, Ranga thundered as he took a step towards Mahipatrao, his sword raised threateningly.
I looked around for a weapon to protect myself, then picked up a staff and rushed out. Parshya followed me.
Ranga laughed derisively on seeing the ‘weapon’ in my hand.
“Oh, so you have friends. Alas! I will be leaving behind more corpses this time”. He ordered his men, “Take care of these two pests”.
I rained a few blows on them but both of us were soon overpowered.
Ranga struck. But Mahipatrao managed to catch Ranga’s wrist and the sword was stopped in its tracks. They pushed against each other but finally the older man was tiring and fell down with Ranga on top of him.
Ranga raised his sword again for the final strike, when suddenly a huge shadow surged ahead. We saw the horror filled eyes of Ranga, as he was gored to death by Ganpya. How did he manage to free himself from the pillar?
The huge form of Ganpya then charged towards us, the limp body of Ranga still hanging from the horns.
The terrible sight was enough for Ranga’s men to panic and they tried to escape. I thought Ganpya might gore us by mistake but… Ranga’s body had fallen off, and he charged towards the fleeing men.
One of the men held my legs pleading, “Please stop him. Only you can control him. Please… Please stop him”.
“Ganpya… Ganpya, Stop!”. Finally he mellowed down. There was no fight left in them and they cowered in a corner.
By this time, Mahipatrao had recovered and fetched a rope to tie them up.
“But Mahipatrao, what are we going to do with them?”, Parshya asked. “You said that the police are with them. So…”
“The local police are with them, not the district headquarters. We will take them to the HQ”, Mahipatrao smilingly assured us.
Today Ganpya’s horns flaunt golden crowns which were bestowed upon him by the District Police department in recognition of his role in ridding the old town of its cancer.