Section - I
Once there was a young man who was a from a family of sculptors, one day he threw his hammer and chisel to the ground. He told his father that he was leaving the work he was doing and also his father. He looked around his workshop, which was very small and congested. The walls were whitewashed many years ago. There was a small window in the room which opened into the backyard and it could be seen clearly as there were no curtains.
Hammer and Chisel
He showed to his father and said after all these years of hard work they were left with nothing. So, the kind of work was not yielding much money. The old man was amazed at his reactions. His voice was shaking, but it did not lose its politeness. The old man said that it was not for money but for the service of God they are doing that work.
*Old man making sculptures.
The young man got impatient and retracted to his father saying, that times have changed and that they cannot live on sculptures for temples only. They have to produce more like many people produce in Agra, a city in Uttar Pradesh, India. They have to keep pace with those latest techniques.
The old man told his son that that was the work he learnt from his father and in turn, he learned from his father. This had been the tradition for almost a hundred years and he hoped that his son would continue the same.
The young man replied that he was tired of that work wherein he was getting a meagre pay for the work from the temple committee in Srinagar. He was leaving. The young man went out of the room in a fit of rage, leaving his old father looking at him in front of a half-finished marble statue. He dropped his hands on his laps and closed his eyes and began to pray without hearing the "goodbye".
"Masterjee", is a Hindi word for the teacher, denoted with respect. It was the servant boy named Salim who called the old man "Masterjee" and entered the workshop barefooted. He brought hot tea for the old man and called out again out of concern. The old man looked at Salim, who had come to the old man to work some five years ago. Salim was totally drenched in the rain and his dress was dirty when he came to the old man in the storm. From that day, he stayed on to help the old master craftsman. Now, he had grown strong and tall. The old man was sure that even Salim would leave him one day.
The old man's face was pale and tired. He gestured the boy to sit down near him. The old man said that soon there would be no one but the old man as the last carver. All the other sculptors would be in Agra. In Agra, they are making a huge number of candle stands, paperweights and ashtrays. They are making a lot of money but not bothered about our skill and old tradition. Now, Gopal, his son has also left for Agra, so the old man has to finish the sculpture by himself. The old man trusted God and told Salim that with the help of God he would finish it. The boy was positive and said that he was sure that the old man would finish the sculpture and make many more as well.
Salim with tea!
The old man said that he didn't have the strength anymore to do the chiselling part. Carving took a long time. Then he straightened and started concentrating on his work and he said that he has to finish his work surely. Salim offered the glass of tea. Salim said that the tea would do him good and that he was going to the market for an hour or two. He said that he would be back to prepare dinner. The old man just nodded his head in acceptance and picked up his tools. The touch of the hammer and the chisel made him happy and filled him with confidence. The old man loved his work and he did not want to change it for any other work in this world.
Section - II
Some weeks went by. It was almost a month since Gopal left for Agra. The old man worked more and more. He carved the shoulders, the hips, the fingers holding the flute of Krishna perfectly. The flute was held on the lips delicately and the face was beautiful, the old man could see what he had carved out of the stone. He felt that he has to set the sculpture free with the chisel.
Krishna carved by the old man (Image for understanding purposes only)
The old man was neither hungry nor thirsty. He just wanted to finish the sculpture on time. It was the most important piece of work for him so he wanted to give his best and also it could be his last piece of work.
He worked more and more with his chisels. But then one day the old man could not take it anymore. His shoulders were aching, his arms were too tired and his vision started reducing. He was scared, he prayed to god on his knees, and he started praying often.
Salim saw that his master did not eat his food, he coaxed him and requested him to have some rice and vegetables. From morning the old man just had milk, so Salim asked the old man to have some curd as he knew that his master liked curd very much.
The old man looked up at Salim; he was worried and said that he would not be able to finish it. If Gopal had been there, it would have been different. Though Gopal did not learn the intrinsic details of carving, but in a year or two, he would have learnt for sure.
He became silent, but something was bothering him. Though the features of the statue were fine but something was missing which could not be taught. It has to come from deep inside means from the heart, Salim whispered.
The old man looked at Salim with astonishment. He saw that Salim became shy and turned back. The old man said that he was right and then said that if they don't have it in their heart (beating his chest), then they should better go to Agra and produce ashtrays for tourists from foreign countries. He screamed with anger and disappointment; so he reached for the glass of water. Salim encouraged Masterjee to eat something and that everything will be alright.
The old man ate and retook the hammer and the chisel. He worked almost till midnight. On early morning the chisel fell from his hand and the hammer dropped to the ground. His body fell forward and his forehead struck to the statue's flute and slid till his feet.
The old man worked till midnight!
He just said "Hai Ram" and fainted. When he woke up, he was on the cot with a cotton blanket.
Section - III
The old man could hear the chisel sound from the workshop. He listened carefully. He was not sure if his ears were tricking him or he heard the sound really. But he could clearly hear the strong blow of the hammer on the chisel.
The old man thought it was Gopal. He thought Gopal could have returned home and would definitely help him. They could finish the statue together. He tried to walk with difficulty and crossed the room to reach the workshop.
He was about to say Gopal when his lips froze and he could not say anything. He wanted to cry out of happiness and was thinking to ask him to stop the work.
But the old man could not move even an inch. He was so shocked that he could not move and stood there at the door staring at the back of the young stone carver on the face of the Krishna statue on the eyebrows above the eyes.
It was not his son who was sitting cross-legged and carving the statue but Salim, his servant!
It was Salim, with the hammer and chisel! (Image for understanding purposes only)
At first, he was shocked and angry, but after a few seconds, he was filled with happiness. The old man again said "Hai Ram" and went near the boy with great difficulty and placed his hands on the shoulder and called him out as Salim.
The boy was shocked and looked at his master. He stood up with the tools in his hand. The old man wanted to say something and told Salim when he was interrupted by Salim's words saying that he only wanted to help the old man. He was ready to learn from his masterjee and said the same. He had almost practised for two years in the quarry, secretly.
He pleaded with the old man saying he wanted to be a sculptor and always fought back the wish, but it was overpowering him. He said that this is the only thing he wanted to do and nothing more. He wanted to become a good stone carver if he could teach him.
Salim had practised secretly for almost two years in the quarry!
The old man pulled Salim's head near his shoulder and said that there is nothing he could teach him. He was sure that one day he was going to be one of the greatest stone carvers as he was doing it from his heart and soul and he had it in him.
*Image courtesy: CRS PHOTO / Shutterstock.com