May 3, 2017 | Devyani Nighoskar & Sanket Jain
The pilgrim town of Jejuri, around 50 km from Pune is most famous for the Khandoba temple, located on a hill. To reach the sanctum santorum, one has to climb about 200 yellow coloured stone steps with not only turmeric used as an offering to Lord Khandoba, but also with the hope and despair of many old beggars who sit at the corner of these steps. We took a journey twice through the steps of the Khandoba temple, a journey through the lives of these eight old people and tried to capture it here.
This is what they told us.
“I do not like it very much, at home. There is not much to do. My daughter-in-law troubles me a lot as well, and my sons are good for nothing. I probably earn more than them, by begging in this temple, and give the money to my family each time I visit them.”
“Why do you think I keep coming back?
Go live your life. You are young. I didn’t then. So I am living it now.”
“I came here 10 years ago when Lord Khandoba came in my dreams. You see, my husband was a dishonest and fraud man, and we lost all our property because of him. We were heavily indebted to our landlords. There was a lot of trouble then. He ran away, and I came here. I sit here and work for God, to compensate for his misdoings. And I won’t leave until Lord Khandoba comes in my dreams again and himself asks me to do so.”
Sunderbai Ramdev More
“My son is in the forces, and he is very angry at me because I sit and beg here. He just gave birth to a baby girl. He visits me sometimes, asking me to go back with him. But I don’t want to disturb their family life. The government has given me a house here and frankly, I like the independence.”
“I lost my eyesight at the age of 7 to an illness. There were hardly any proper medical facilities at my village near Paltan. Mt blindness rendered me unemployable. My brothers refused to help me. So I came here 15 years ago, finding my way through this walking stick.”
“Do I have a choice?”
“I have been around since the times of the copper coins. Both my sons died young due to horrible illnesses. I came here because I had nowhere else to go. Sometimes the police come during festivals and hush us all away. But they can’t keep us away from God for a long time. I don’t know what is next or where I am going to go after this. Perhaps I never will. Perhaps, I don’t want to.”
“My wife ran away, and her brothers forcefully took over my property. I came here to pray to Lord Khandoba. But I never left.”
Speech-impaired old woman
(As told by an acquaintance)
“After she lost her family, she became ill and her speech deteriorated. She still smiles though.”
(Waves her right hand, smiles, and nods.)
“After my husband died, I did not have anyone to take care of me. So I came here to god. He takes care.”
This journey we took is taken by a thousand pilgrims every day. Intentions differ, but the way is the same. Or is it?
Words & Voice: Devyani Nighoskar
Photos & Editing: Sanket Jain
Devyani Nighoskar is a Traveller, Journalist and a Nerd. She can either be found ogling at a heritage site, trekking a hill or having milkshake at a fancy cafe. You can contact the author here @runawayjojo
Sanket is a Media and Journalism graduate who is passionate about listening and understanding everyday lives of everyday people. He is often found in rural and remotest of the areas of Maharashtra covering stories of abject poverty. You can contact the author here @snkt_jain