"Yes, this is the picture I want you to take!" he exclaims suddenly as I sit chit-chatting with him in the courtyard of his village home. I am visiting the village of Burj Jabbar near Mansa to meet Bant Singh, the Dalit icon who overcame atrocities on his body to sing louder still the songs of protest against exploitation of the workers.
For a moment I wonder what picture he wants but then I see him pointing to the kikar tree that forms a filigreed canopy over the courtyard. Up there in the branches is a squirrel tugging with its mouth a piece red cloth.
"Do you know what the squirrel is taking up the tree? It is our Party flag," he tells me. Now Bant is red as they come being the vice-president of the Mazdoor Mukti Morcha affiliated to the over-ground, ultra-Left Liberation group. The he tells me the story of the squirrel and its passion for the Party flag.
"I have been watching this squirrel for a couple of months. It got hold of the flag that was lying here and it has been trying since then to take it up the tree. Since the flag is heavy, it falls down but the squirrel does not lose heart. It takes the flag once again and starts taking it up," he says.
Now let not the squirrel be taken as the fresh recruit to the communist cadre even if it has only been seeing red of late. Red is a beautiful colour indeed and that is the reason why it was attracted to the flag. But why is it taking it up the tree? Well, only for building its nest and keeping the baby squirrels comfortable with the soft touch of the fabric.
"My first reaction," says Bant smiling, "when I saw the agile squirrel making away the flag was to ask one the children to chase it and recover our Party flag from the broad daylight theft." Needless to say that Bant now cannot now give the chase because his limbs were amputated following a heinous attack by the landlords' sons. His fault was that he took the course of law to get the culprits convicted for the gang-rape of his minor daughter.
"But when I saw it was raising it high up the tree, I held back. It is a good thing to see our Party flag rising high," he adds.
As I stir to take the camera out of my bag and click the picture, the squirrel is alarmed and let goes of the flag. The red square of fabric slips a couple of branches below. But the squirrel does not give up. It climbs down and starts tugging it up once again.
I put the camera back without taking a picture and look at the squirrel and then at Bant and feel that there is something common to the two of them: an indefatigable spirit!