Masterjee was a traditional sculptor. He made a living by making statues for temples. He did this work because he believed in traditions. His father was a sculptor, too. But his son Gopal was different. He used to argue with his father about the stupidity of not changing his profession for good. One day Gopal went off home for Agra to be a more successful man life. Masterjee knew that his son’s decision was good but he was helpless. He loved his traditions and his sculptures.
That night Masterjee struggled hard to complete the statues of Radha and Krishna. His hands were weak, his mind was weak, yet he wished to complete his work. He prayed and cried. he wanted his son help him. Finally, at the wake of the day, Masterjee fainted. When he opened his eyes, Masterjee saw someone completing the statues that he had left unfinished. Was it Gopal, he thought. No. It was his servant boy, an orphan, Salim. Salim sculpting Radha and Krishna is wonderful and more than that, Masterjee found his successor!
Questions and Answers
- Why was Gopal indifferent to his father’s profession?
Gopal was more practical than his father. Gopal believed that being traditional sculptors wouldn’t pay them for a decent life. He believed that mass production of sculptures for the tourists other than for temples. He also believed that making candle-stands, paper-weights and ash-trays would bring them good revenue.
- Why was the master sculptor not able to understand his son’s stance?
The master mason loved his work and didn’t want to change it for any other work in the world. This is the work I have learnt from my father and he had learnt from his father. We have kept up this tradition for hundreds of years. And I hoped you would continue our work.”
- Why did Masterjee tell Salim that he was going to be the last stone mason in his village?
“Masterjee. Masterjee” Salim, the servant boy entered the workshop. His voice was filled with concern. He held a cup of tea in his hand. The old man lifted his head. He had a pale face and looked old and tired. He said, “Salim, soon I’ll be the last stone mason here, as everyone has gone to Agra. Look, Gopal my son has gone too. Now I’ll have to finish this sculpture all by myself”. The old man looked at the orphaned boy Salim and said, “ I have very little strength. I can’t work with the chisel the way I used to. Carving takes too long a time. I have to finish the work and I will.”
- How did the master mason’s love for his work ruined his life?
For days together the man worked continuously without taking any rest. His one desire was to finish the sculpture, which would be his last. He worked till his hands began to tremble and his shoulders started to ache. His arms grew heavy and his eyes grew tired. And then he couldn’t see anymore.
- Why did Gopal throw the hammer and chisel to the ground?
Gopal was the son of a stone-mason who lived near Agra. Gopal was more practical-minded than his traditionalist father. His father, who was a master stone-mason, believed that the profession he had taken over from his ancestors was a Godly one because they carved Gods on stones but Gopal was least convinced of that theory. He wanted to put an end to the poverty that the traditional profession had brought them into. After having requested his father to take up another profession in the nearby Agra or let him go to Agra, Gopal grew angry so he threw his tools – the hammer and chisel.
- Can we say that Gopal was wrong?
As far as their poverty was concerned, Gopal was never wrong. He was a practical-minded young man whose only aim was to end his family’s poverty and the miserable conditions.What was wrong with Masterjee?
Masterjee, as he was known in his little village was a traditionalist. He was superstitious. He believed that Gods had entrusted the work of idol-making to his ancestors so he and his sons and daughters should do the same work. For him, choosing another work – however profitable its was – was a sin. He was so much blind that he didn’t see the poverty that his family was suffering and had no commonsense to see that Gods would never want a group of people starve and die.
Under Construction – Get back later
- The young man threw the hammer and the chisel to the ground and cried: “I’m leaving you, father, I’m leaving you and your work. Look what it has brought us”. He spread out his arms, looked at the small, congested dark room, the slabs of stone and marble stacked up in one corner, the cot covered with heaps of used clothes. The paint of whitewashed walls has come off. “Look what it has brought us – nothing , nothing!” the young man repeated in anger. “This kind of work just doesn’t pay.”
- The old man stared at his son. His voice, though trembling, had not lost its usual gentleness. “It is not the money alone that matters, son. It is the service, our service to God.”
- “Father, times have changed, and so has the stone mason’s work. You cannot live carving sculptures for temples only. Come on, father! You have to mass produce like all the other people in Agra.”
- The lines around the old man’s mouth tightened. He said, “No, my son. This is the work I have learnt from my father and he had learnt from his father. We have kept up this tradition for hundreds of years. And I hoped you would continue our work.”
- “No, father, there is so much more money in candle stands, paper-weights, ashtrays and plates for tourists”. The young man walked out of the room angrily. The old man sat before the half finished marble statues of Radha and Krishna.
- He dropped his hands into his lap and closed his eyes. He was praying. He did not seem to listen to the hesitant, “goodbye”, the son called out from the door. He sat still.
- “Masterjee. Masterjee” Salim, the servant boy entered the workshop. His voice was filled with concern. He held a cup of tea in his hand. The old man lifted his head. He had a pale face and looked old and tired. He said, “Salim, soon I’ll be the last stone mason here, as everyone has gone to Agra. Look, Gopal my son has gone too. Now I’ll have to finish this sculpture all by myself”. The old man looked at the orphaned boy Salim and said, “ I have very little strength. I can’t work with the chisel the way I used to. Carving takes too long a time. I have to finish the work and I will.”
- The boy offered tea to the man and said, “Please drink this. It will do you good. Yes, I know you will finish this work.”
- The old man sighed and picked up the chisel and the hammer. He loved his work and didn’t want to change it for any other work in the world. For days together the man worked continuously without taking any rest. His one desire was to finish the sculpture, which would be his last. He worked till his hands began to tremble and his shoulders started to ache. His arms grew heavy and his eyes grew tired. And then he couldn’t see anymore.
- At that moment Salim returned. He saw the old man and asked him to eat some food. The old man whispered, “I am not going to finish it. I will not complete it. If Gopal was here, it would have been different, although he was not a good sculptor. He had difficulty in carving the face and hands properly. There was something missing in his fingers, and that something can’t be taught.”
- Salim whispered, “Because it comes from somewhere deep inside you.” “You are right Salim.” And then the old man added, “And if you don’t have it inside you, then you’d better go to Agra and mass produce ashtrays for the tourists.”
- The boy asked Masterjee to eat, and after feeling a little better the old man picked up his hammer and chisel again and worked till late in the night. In those days he prayed a lot.
- Now he prayed for help and strength and he prayed for his son. In the early hours of the morning the chisel fell from the old man’s hand, the hammer dropped to the ground and he fainted.
- When the old man opened his eyes he found himself on the cot in his bedroom covered by a light cotton blanket. From the workshop the chipping around of the chisel reached his ears. He listened. Had he heard correctly? He could hear it again, strong blow of the hammer on the top of a chisel. Gopal! He was back. Gopal had returned. He should help him. They would finish the statue together. Weakly he walked to the door. Gopal! He was about to say, but the words froze on his lips. “No!” he wanted to cry out. “Stop the Work!” But he couldn’t move and stood staring at the young stone carver working at the face of the statue. It wasn’t his son Gopal, but Salim, his servant. The old man watched stunned, unable to speak. Anger gave way to a feeling of admiration, “Hai Ram,” the old man whispered. Finally when the weakness had left him, he walked over to the boy, put his hand on his shoulder. “Salim.” The boy started. He turned, looking up at his master. “ I…I….only want to help,” whispered the boy. I…. “I’ll learn, if you teach me, Masterjee! I have been practicing secretly. For almost two years, in the quarry. I know. I should not have done this. But isn’t this different, Masterjee? This is sculpture, isn’t it?”The old man pulled the boy’s head against his shoulder and whispered, “There is nothing I can teach you, my son. Go ahead, you have it in your heart. I know you will be one of the best stone masons India will ever have.”
- Based on your understanding of Part I answer the following questions.
- What was the old man’s profession? What was his attitude to his work?
- The young man threw his hammer and the chisel to the ground. Why do you think he did so?
- How did the old man learn carving? What did he expect from his son?
- What was the young man’s opinion about his father’s work? Do you think he was right?
- What did Gopal suggest to his father? What was his father’s response?