Mukul was returning from District Education Office on his cycle, whistling his favourite song. He had finally applied for upgrading the village primary school to middle level.
He had come to the village couple of years ago as a government primary school teacher. He had played all roles in the school from principal to peon. All the hard work put in by him was wasted due to high dropout rate after primary school. The nearest middle school was located on the difficult mountainous terrain four kilometres from village, which forced the children to discontinue their studies.
Upon reaching the village, Mukul came to know that a meeting has been called by the local leader of the ruling party. It was regarding the massive statue of unity which was to be erected on the river bank swallowing the land and livelihood of thousands in the nearby villages. He had heard about it before, but had always brushed it aside,
Government has hardly any money for repairing dilapidated school buildings; statue must be their last priority.
“It will be your moment of pride to have the world’s tallest statue of Sardar Patel on your land,” the leader grinned.
Mustering courage, Mukul asked, “Would Sardar Patel himself have liked to have his gigantic statue?”
“What foolishness!!! Do you know Buddha was opposed to idol worship? Yet he has the largest number of idols in the world to his name.”
The leader continued, “China has the world’s tallest statue, and that of Buddha. We have to surpass China.”
There was applause by some villagers. Mukul was outwitted. He kept mum despite his disagreements:
How can you surpass a country by building a taller statue?
Making idols of Buddha, might be a mistake. How can one mistake be justified by another?
Would our Iron Man be any less, without this 182-meter statue?
Mukul remembered his childhood unity games filled with fun when he and his friends used to make cairns with different coloured stones. More the colours in a cairn, greater was the unity.
‘But alas, this three thousand crore cairn of unity would submerge many lives and dreams including his beloved school.”
Despite long haul of protests by tribal villagers, the statue was erected. Being a government servant, Mukul had to be present at the statue on the inauguration day.
There was heavy deployment of security, who even guarded the life-size posters of politicians.
Somebody from the podium said, “The statue will instil unity among us.”
Mukul murmured, “There are better ways.” The childhood stories of an old man and the bundle of sticks, or the pigeons flying together with the net could infuse any society with all inspirations for unity.”
He saw the colossal statue and turned his face away. It appeared to him as another monument of exploitation.
After spotting a chai stall at the base of the statue, he went and sat there for the whole day. That was the only place from where he could avoid the statue.
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