Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Stuff that spills out when tubelights stop working.

Okay I was supposed to have finished some pending work by now. But the tubelight in my room just stopped working. I won't be able to read. I won't be able to sleep.  So well ...

On a bright sunny autumn day, when the soft clouds floated in the clear blue sky like small cotton tufts, Bhuto was born. It was that month of the year when Debi Durga visited her earthly abode, four children in tow. Bhuto was the youngest of nine children. His eldest sister's son was born a month before him. It happened like that in the 1950s.

Bhuto's family lived in a village. They weren't poor, in fact, they were quite rich. With several orchards of the choicest fruits--mangoes, jackfruits, litchies, a pond, and many cows--poverty was something they knew nothing about. Bhuto's childhood was a colourful kaleidoscope of memories--learning how to swim with an upturned kolshi (a metal utensil with a narrow neck used for storing water) that would float on water, climbing trees, attending the local school, eating a basketful of mangoes perched upon a tree and in the evenings whispering sweet nothings in the ears of his best friend--Budh,who was the gentlest cow they owned.

Bhuto's father was a doctor. A fact that explained why he had such luck when it came to marriage. His wife Nonibala Devi was the most beautiful woman in that village. Had Bhuto's father been a regular village bumpkin, he would never have won such a beauty as his bride. She served him well. Nine healthy children; six of them boys. No one could complain.

But the female in the house who enjoyed undisputed authority was not Bhuto's mother it was Bhuto's paternal grandmother, Shoshthi Devi. She was a woman of voracious appetite (one large jackfruit would be her breakfast), sharp intellect and an enormous memory that had soaked up all the verses of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata (the compulsory daily ritual of reading aloud the two epics that her daughter-in-law was made to follow had something to do with it perhaps!). When she passed away in her late 90s her grandchildren were running about joking and laughing as her white-haired son assembled her funeral pyre. She was too old to evoke tears. Can anyone grow so old? Should anyone grow so old?

Years later when Bhuto's mother Nonibala would die, in a different house, in a different country, all her six grown-up sons would gather around her, as she would lie peacefully dressed in white, sandalwood smeared on her forehead, surrounded by tuberose flowers--her sons would gather around her and pose for a photograph. Photographs are for creating memories, capturing beauty--but this one captured death and robbed it of its dignity.