Roadside Shrines: Shrine by the Tracks
Duration: 00:23:47; Aspect Ratio: 1.333:1; Hue: 33.916; Saturation: 0.090; Lightness: 0.590; Volume: 0.399; Cuts per Minute: 18.913; Words per Minute: 130.502
Summary: A hole in the wall erected by the railways (besides being an access walkway for commuters) which separates the railway line from this locality allows the commuters to view the shrine.
Hence besides the locals, the commuter public who are regulars at that station inadvertently have 'access' to the shrine. They can visit the temple, either from the stations, or if they are commuters, do 'darshan' from the train itself.
Sometimes, these shrines become religious markers for anyone who wants to associate themselves to the site. This is very site specific as it becomes a ritual and is convenient as it does not deviate from their usual route. A silent acknowledgement by way of nod or folded hands to reaffirm faith.
The idea behind Vidya's project was to look at local histories, and communities that organize themselves around roadside shrines.
This particular shrine meant a lot to people who lived, in the poverty stricken area around it. The locals believe that the frequency of deaths on the tracks, and suicides, reduced after the benign eye of Sai Baba protected the area once the shrine was constructed.
Sai Baba is an interesting 'deity'/saint, he has been variously seen as a saint cutting across religions, and also, appropriated as the saint of one particular faith.
The young boys of the locality, all aged between 18-21 mainly though the age group extends to about 35, initiated this shrine and chose Sai Baba with the 'sab ka maalik ek"(We all have one master) slogan. This was adopted to initiate a practice of neutrality between all the sections of the locality and to bring people from different religions together. The boy interviewed-Rupesh Kabre explains how the locality, usually reticent and self preservatory,began working more as a unit, and how the living conditions improved along with a sense of civic duty. The space became clean due to the presence of the shrine, and everyone chipped in, in terms of time and even money, to get things started. Troubles crop up, in terms of land dispute and the odd scuffle, but overall the mood is upbeat as there is purpose.
The networks established have been fruitful in helping ailing people, accident victims, and people who need an immediate resource of manpower.
The boys were being monitored by the elders, who form a sort of unofficial advisory council. In the course of interviewing his mother Anita Kabre next, we learn how they keep a watchful eye on them.
The mother Anita Kabre interviewed is a member of the Shiv Sena (political party) shakha pramukh (local section) Mahila Mandal (women's collective) section. She is one of the 9 women members of the women's organisation. She helps out the boys during their ramnavmi celebrations, with the cleaning and decorating, but mainly her work had been to provide water lines for every tenant and getting tiles put in the locality. She did that independantly with the help of the local Shiv Sena corporator.
Produced by Majlis.
Standing on Parel station shows the shrine in plain view. The shrine is well known since it is visible from the station as well as from passersby who use the informal walkway through the wall to gain access to and from the station..
Lower Parel, by the station
sai mitra mandal
A community initiated shrine called 'Sai Mitra Mandal' which chose Sai Baba as its idol to promote neutrality (according to his preaching) amongst the members.
The shot from Parel station zooms into the mandal
VK:-Tell us your name.
VK:-you started this Mitra Mandal.
Tell us something about this Mitra Mandal
We were not united, and with that objective in mind, we started this, plus there was not one single place of worship in our sector, hence there was a necessity for such a place to be inaugurated and maintained.
Hence we did a "sab ka maalik ek" means, no discrimination between religions or caste and we made a Sai Baba shrine
After that all the differences that people had, they put aside, and everyone came together, and the festival we have for this shrine
VK:-so first tell me what problems exactly did your area have?
Well, people weren't united at first…they were aloof, and to bring people together there wasn't a space where that was possible
VK:-What troubles did this area have?
Lots…that keeps happening.
VK:-tell us that or else we won't know.
Well, the record of that is in the police station, I don't know, but it used to be a daily occurrence.
sai mitra mandal
VK:-There was tension in your -area?
Yes, there was tension, it was filthy, meaning there was no cleanliness, if we'd tell people to do the right thing, and in a right manner, people didn't want to listen.
As a solution -to bring a place of worship, to even bring about, first of all a general cleanliness to the area.
VK:-so how many of you did this?
Well it was a group of 4 to 8 of us, boys, we came together and decided.
VK:-which year was this?
Well it was around 1997 and it was successful, so on Sunday 5th April 1998, we inaugurated the shrine.
VK:-did u have any trouble building the temple?
No trouble, because we had the people's support. .
VK:-some people told us that there was some trouble earlier in trying to organize these things?
That may have happened earlier, but not when we tried to do it. nothing of that sort happened in front of us
VK:-How old are you? What is the age group of your collective?
We have all been born and brought up here.
The age group is from 17-35 yrs. We are all 17-18 yrs old.
The ladies in the group are all older because they are mostly our mothers and aunts.
Rupesh Kabre talks to Vidya Kamat
VK:-How many men in the mandal?
They are approximately 20 odd men, and 10-12 women.
VK:-Ok, now can you tell us, what are the various duties performed by the mandal and what are the daily activities of the shrine?
Work etc is done regularly and work is allotted amongst the mandal boys. They do their work automatically.
Work like cleaning the temple premises, official work, suppose someone has expired, then there is always someone around to do the work and handle some responsibility and do chores and help
If there is any problem, there's always someone on hand to help, suppose there's an accident, someone's serious, and there are always boys available. if anyone asks who we are, we say we are from this mandal.
VK:-Do you have any trouble building this temple and did you get any help?
Yes, initially we had financial difficulties and a Matunga sport s secretary helped us out, plus we all pooled in money how much ever we could Rs200-500,per person, and we tried to raise money and we built this shrine.
People keep contributing and we run it based on funds we receive from within this locality, people who give out of their own free will.
And with their help itself, at Ram-Navmi, we organize this festival.
VK:-What is the significance behind mounting an idol of Sai Baba?
There is just one thought process behind that and that is, of unity which doesn't distinguish between caste or religion
Hindus come here as well as
VK:-Are there Muslims here?
Yes, there are about 4-5 Muslim families within our circles, and in this mandal itself there are Muslims
VK:-And they help?
Of course, they are as involved and their contributions equal those of the others.
VK:-Ever since this shrine has been built, what changes have you seen taking place?
Well, earlier people were aloof and keeping to themselves, now there is a lot more interaction, if not speaking then people at least greet, talk, fold hands in acknowledgement of the shrine. That way, there is at least some sense of community being experienced. Right from one end of the locality to the other, this feeling has filtered through to all the people living here.
This street here in front of you was very dirty; one could not even stand there. Today as you can see, its clean
VK:-What are the remaining programs that are organized here?
Raam-navmi,dutta jayanti, sai saptah(celebration of Sai Baba),which takes place only once a year
Varghani (donation) is asked from the people, once a year, and there is no compulsion to contribute, people give money because they want to.
VK:-When do you remove a Palakhi (processions)?
Palakhi, we do it a day after raam-navmi
VK:-Tell us more about the palakhi
the Palakhi starts from the shrine and every worshipper should get to see it so it goes by every building, then out till the Dadar Tilak bridge, there's a hanuman mandir there and then once it meets the hanuman mandir, it circles and finds it way back to the shrine from the other side.
VK:- Now when did the Hanuman idol come into this shrine?
The hanuman idol is not of this shrine. one person got it here to do exercise .just so it doesn't get kicked or hit, we have kept it in the mandir for 2days.we do not do Hanuman pooja (temple services)
If today someone got hanuman today, then tomorrow someone can bring an idol of some other god and put it, we won't allow that, those are our rules. Its only a Sai Baba shrine.
VK:-Has there been any other tension in the area?
Now here in front of you is the station, some bad episodes have occurred in front of you, people from outside your locality. VK:-Elaborate.
Yes, there were lot of ugly episodes taking place at the station -people were scared, no one was willingly going there.
But now since there is support within our ranks, so if there is an untoward episode, the boys run immediately to the spot.
There is a sense of security.
People come from outside, they have relatives, etc; it has nothing to do with us.
Dadar tilak bridge
dadar tilak bridge
VK:-But now tell me, who are you? And what exactly, since you are the ones who have started this, what are your plans?
What do you want to do for your community?
I mean, either through your Mandal, or yourself, there is now a sense of unity, so where do you want to take this?
Do you, though your god, only want to do god's work, or do community work?
Along with god's work, community service is of utmost importance to us.
VK:-To you, what is the difference between the two or what is similar about it?
For community service, what one does by virtue of oneself, by running around results in that much more community service; in that people have to come together.
And god's work, that is ongoing, that's always present.
VK:-So according to you, god's work and this community service is the same.
Yes, its one and the same
VK:-So you want to view it such that by doing god's work, you are able to do community service.
Well, the community service that we do; that all the boys and girls do, happen as part of our god's plan.
We do these acts in his name.
VK:-Have you had any personal experiences regarding Sai baba that has instilled or restored your faith in him?
That I cant tell you personally, for us to tell you as members of this mandal would nullify it, it would have no value
VK:-What I'm saying is, have you had any personal experiences?
Yes I have seen and experienced it .People fight, 8-10 days, but then everyone is united at the end. That's due to our faith.
VK:-you have benefited from this.
Yes benefited by way of ….us becoming almost like family members.
VK:-in your area, is there any other big problem?
Well, the main problem i.e. the biggest problem we are facing is of demolition of our entire locality and our houses. so, in order to save that, we are trying, our whole locality is trying.
VK:-is this your area/land or is it railways land?
Actually the land belongs to Central railway, that's what we have heard, some say it belongs to the Customs office, some say its BMC owned land, the final decision of that is pending, I myself don't exactly know what it is.
VK:-So since your Mitra mandal has begun, you have been involved in trying to save your houses.
No, no, this has only begun since the past year and a half.
There are 4 Mandals, this is just one. They all celebrate different festivals too, but now these 4 mandals have come together and we are trying to save our houses; all the mandals have collected all their grievances and we are trying to save this place.
VK:-So you are saying this has become a sort of community service of sorts?
Yes, so it has become a community service of sorts.
VK:- do you have any support or help from any political parties?
There is usually one festival a year, and usually some party member contributes money, a donor ,some give rice, some give money to finance say rs.500-1000 ,but in our mandal, there are not ties to any political party.
And if we have any ties, it's the individual who has his own ties with the party, not within our mandal.
Today if the roof is financed by one party, or the bricks by some other party, it bears to relation to us.
We are only concerned with our community well being and our mandal and our shrine and we are only affiliated to those.
Whoever contributes, contributes for his or her own good, we have nothing to do with it.
VK:-Now is there anything else u want to do regarding this shrine?
Currently for the next 2-4 years, nothing till we get a final decision on what is going to happen to our living conditions?
Otherwise we want to do a very big festival and celebration of this mandir
VK:-What sort of festival?
Meaning, we want to increase the size of the temple. We have some plans we are trying to make arrangements, but we don't wan tot discuss that now.
If we open it now. And if it misfires, then its an insult, so….
VK:-ok, so you are Rupesh's mother?
VK:-ok, so you are in this locality for how many years?
VK:-What is your name?
Anita Prakash Kabre
Now about this place and this locality, you must know more than Rupesh.
(smiles and nods in the affirmative)
So tell us, what is it like be a woman and to be living in these settlements?
It used to be dirty; the residents were also not maintaining the premises. things improved, the children were schooled, a more pious attitude was instilled in them, and due to this there was a desire to make some sort of shrine to propogate that belief. and in the course of this, the kids decided that they would do this 'one god for all" shrine of Sai Baba
You elders helped the kids.
Yes we elderly women helped out
VK:-The three of you?
not these three. there are nine of us
VK:-so there are nine of you who are mandal members.
Yes, raam-navmi, for 8 days we stay up…
Wash the clothes, wash the utensils, and fill water, for that we stay up…
VK:-so the women do all that cleaning and household chores,
yes, we womenfolk come in the middle of those boys just to do this work for them
VK:-and the cooking?
That the boys bring a cook from outside
The mother of the boy, Rupesh Kabre, from the interview above, Anita Kabre, reprises her role in the activities of the mandal and her involvement with the women's groups of her locality.
She goes on to describe how she helps the boys in their quest to change the local community, and a certain 'way of living' and also to improve living conditions and quality of life in the community which can only happen once basic amenities are available to everyone fairly.
VK:-ok can you tell me at this time, did you have any personal problems and did they go away once this shrine was built?
It comes down to individual desire, once the shrine was built, whatever internal fighting etc taking place, those stopped.
Well even if people don't talk to each other for a week or so…then those fights get resolved too.
If some boys do the wrong thing, they can be told sternly by us too.
Now, you asked about the hanuman idol, didn't you?
Well i just saw it today. During the temple services, I can tell the boys not to do this.
Now Rupesh Kabre told you this.
I came from the village I didn't know t his was going on., when I did the mandir puja in the morning, I saw it. so, in two days time, this idol will go.
VK:-Do you, as women of this mandal, get any help or gain anything from this?
We in fact help them run it.
VK:-in your women circles, women's organizations etc that you may join any of the questions that any woman may have, those you try to solve?
Yes. We do.
If people fight, we resolve difference; if they are reduced to blows…we intervene and resolves those issues too.
VK:- do you all come to the shrine and resolve difference?
No. we do it at our various houses, send the two concerned parties there etc,and resolve differences, then we all meet later and discuss it too.
VK:-so what about the other queries, questions, concerns that women might have, do you'll discuss and solve those too?
No, that doesn't come within the scope of what this mandal is doing.
VK:-Family issues, and problems, have those been solved due to the presence of this shrine?
Yes, I'll tell you about those, it has definitely helped.
Accidents have reduced, after going to the temple, fights and arguments have reduced.
VK:-earlier you told me about an episode, I really liked that story a lot, about that man, who came and offered services to the temple.
Yes, once, I think it was 1998 or 99, I don't know the exact date, in December I think,
It was a Saturday, this man was standing on the road, and he decided to give fruits, a coconut. At that time, I myself came and took everything from him to offer to the idol
All caste/culture difference aside, he lit wicks, he lit incense sticks, broke a coconut, and I brought the Prasad (food offered to the god) home. At night, at the time of aarathi, I took the Prasad back to the shrine and gave it to the boys ,and they cut it and distributed it.
Even the railway people who used to never come here, now they do?
Even students of Ruparel college, boys and girls,
They fold hands from where they are or they come touch the feet of the idol.
They can see the idol form the platform, so lot of passer bys acknowledge the shrine and the idol in particular.
VK:-what was the reason behind how the shrine is oriented?
That was something decided between the boys themselves.
VK:-They decided amongst themselves?
Yes, they decided.
VK: you know, what they say about the north south, east-west orientation…
Yes,(points to the wall next to her)this is the wall facing east
(the temple is oriented north -south)
VK:-Any other personal help that you women have received do to this shrine being established? Has your life changed? Improved?
(already shaking her head slightly in the negative)
Has any such episode taken place?
No, no such episode has taken place yet, at least I don't think it has.
VK:-your questions in life have remained the same
Yes(with a smile)
We'll do it, in the future, when the boys grow up, they're still young
the boys just want to do good things, they have that drive.
Whatever good the boys can do, we will continue advising them in these matters
VK:-now boys also, they listen to the words of the elders.
Yes they do
-They fear god, even if they don't listen to the parents sometimes, they still fear god,
If something untoward happens, they touch the feet and make a promise never to repeat it again, we will improve, we will get a job….
This advice when we give to the boys, they listen
But….they don't get that job….. (starts laughing)…they don't get the job..
VK:-earlier when we spoke, there was some talk of women even giving u p their lives whenever there was some serious fight
That was before we came.
VK:-when did that take place? 25 years ago or something?
I'll tell you, well it was sometime (closes eyes to recollect)…1985, 1986, 1987, 1988.there was trouble in these years, things were happening.
1990 onwards, things were better, just small episodes and some infighting.
Then in 1989 they built the shrine and then it all stopped.
(Looks at the two ladies sitting next to her and asks them very primly) Correct?
(They nod in the affirmative)
1989, points to the plaque on the wall.
VK:-So after the shrine was built, there was no untoward incident.
None, even suppose some husband wife had a fight, and
the wife gave up her life, even that stopped.
Since five years, nothing like that has happened.
VK:-who is this lady?(to the lady sitting next to AK)
she lives right by us, she is Muslim, I told you. we had 4 Muslim families, she is one of them..
VK:-here's one more Muslim lady here somewhere
one is upstairs there(points in the distance to one of the houses),she's gone to her village,
Do you come to the shrine?
Muslim lady (ML):- yes,yes,every Thursday, whatever needs to be done,coconut,offereings that need to be given ,we give. It's not like we think we are Muslim, we wont do it. we have gone with these people to Sai Baba mandir also
ML:-Yes, at Shirdi
That's my boy over there(points)
(Shouts out to him),
VK:-it's ok he's feeling shy.
ML:-Yes. He got shy suddenly. but yes, we live in harmony.
VK:-you pray to Sai Baba
You offer sweets? Garlands,
Every Thursday, coconut, sweets, whatever is the norm.
VK:-could you t ell us anything else about Sai Baba?
(Smiles and shyly says) No…
VK:-if you were to comment on how conditions have improved in the locality
there is improvement now, there are good people, she is there(points to AK),
VK:-how many years are you here?
VK:-so the place has changed a lot
oh yes, a lot, a lot.
And in a nice way
VK:-Has it changed after the shrine?
Yes, even more so.
First it was dirty, now bricks have been changed etc, she(AK) has put those.
AK:-I'm in the Mahila Mandal(a woman's organization)
I am the presiding officer.
We have put tiles, put in gutters, asked for garbage cans,
VK:-well this work that you've done, this is what we were asking you about earlier,
…now what work have you done?
This work, all you women have done, right?
No, just me. Yes I'm from the Ajit Pandit Shaaka ( ) 62nd sector.
I had requested for these items, tiles, gutters,
I s aid I want tiles; I got the tiles put in.
Ajit Pandit helped us
Ajit pandit, he's from the Shiv Sena
( political party)
He just did it recently.
He got us all water lines
In each house?
Yes, in each house. That much work I have done
They came themselves, saw the gutters etc, he said ill help you, then this past week on the 8th,he put all this. It's not even been here a month.
better living conditions