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I Love My Country Irrespective Of Party Offices, Shrines and University Campuses

I decided to tackle the recent menace of antagonism to the country by tweeting my simple but pure love for the mother, my country. Accordingly I tweeted- I love my country, my mother. May my pure love for the country pervade the whole length and breadth irrespective of party offices, shrines and university campuses.  People of recognizable intelligence have already come up with their versions of the need to be tolerant, not refusing to concede a little bit of diversion even if it amounts to some stray remarks sought to denigrate the motherland. These are the people who have been nourished in the healthy atmosphere of the country with its fluttering wings of freedom. They give vent to their pent up feelings of perversion by playing down offences of humiliating the country and its tradition of nurturing them with all its bountifulness. But can they, the enlightened lot, do it without some garb? They do it in the garb of the theory of tolerance, seeking to widen its boundaries to the extent of scorching the very country that have raised and nourished them. The irony of the game is that they are tolerated even though they dare to be treacherous.

How should one, having pure love for the country, deal with these people having misgivings about their loyalty to the country? When the love of an average Indian for the motherland clashes with the heaviness and complexity of the thought process of the so called progressive and skeptical men, the entity of the country does not squirm in a state of unease as the love of the masses can sustain the mother through all adversities as it has always done. The average Indian has grown up loving the motherland without pretences and without the need to further his selfish ends. He does not look for an excuse to show off his aversion for the country as he has does not have a goal to reach. Busy with the pattern of his collective life, an average Indian leads his life with transparency so that it does not reek of treachery.

Some people, indoctrinated and cunning, need to bank on their kind of polemics to whip up emotions as they need to squash the doubts of the public about their worth and play their cards to pave the way     for divisive politics. People with leftist leanings have always found everything fishy about the country, taking pride in their assertion not to be parochial. They have often clamoured for ripples in distant regions without being bothered about what is happening nearer home. They remain stunningly silent about Chinese imperialism in Tibet and incursions in India but anything of the same nature by the west in some other countries does not escape their critical scrutiny. They talk about freedom while the ideology they subscribe to does not guarantee the same. Leftist students in our country treading the path of dissent to the extent of raising questions about what has been unanimously judged as anti India activity are hailed as trendsetters while their counterparts in the land of China were treated with bullets when they clamoured for democratic rights. Yet we cannot but love them as we believe in the principles of tolerance, though not of the kind of their version as it is based on hypocrisies. We love them all including the so called hypocrites as we love the country with everything she has. We believe that the magnanimity of the country will absorb the venom of antagonism in her sublime and motherly way.

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The Identity Of An Indian

How would you prove yourself to be an Indian? You should be convinced of your identity in a crowd pulled by a celebrity, mostly a mercurial politician or an actor from the world of glamour or a star player from the field of cricket. You would be lost in a sense of your Indianness, mesmerized by the influence of any of these people and then revert to a life of dreariness, cursing everything with honest belligerence. You are proud of the legacy of the illustrious forefathers and quote them frequently to prove your points until you find yourself dragged into the limpid flow of your own life as a citizen on the fringes. But even then you are as much an Indian in the wholesomeness of the day, plodding on the way to life with your honest labour, putting in long hours to sustain yourself and your family.

If you are not happy with your identity at the end of the day on the strength of your experiences, you have failed to take stock of how you have added to the wealth of your being what you are. Your wife has not yet given you the bill you will have to pay for the function in the locality that is a ruse to host the fast emerging leader of the ruling party to send a message to the people who have invested in their enterprises in the area. He is going to charge for the way he has been around for quite for some time as the darling of the local people including you and you have to accept it as the price for your being a quiet and docile Indian. You may rue the fact quietly or in the privacy of your house in front of the people who care for you but you need not be dwarfed by the reality of domination looming large before you as millions of bovine Indians, whom you consider your countrymen, have to find it the same way.

The rickshaw puller, another common Indian you meet daily, talks to you as his breath whistles under the stain of the labour of pulling the rickshaw. He talks easily of how he does not think about the raw deal he has got from life and the way he has become used to living with the harshness of life. You nearly feel jealous of the man when he says that he downs his anguish with cheap country liquor at the dead of the night at the solitary house deserted by his wife who chose to be out on the lookout for greener pastures. Left to yourself on your chair on the balcony around midnight, you visualize the images of deception on the wall of darkness. When you come back to yourself, you know that you will have to grow out of it to lend credence to the man who is malleable and wants to be driven down the labyrinth of life because he does not have the guts to conform to anything contrary to it with a rebellious spirit.

In the morning there is a hangover of distraction and you feel like taking years to come to terms with yourself. You are branded as the most inefficient of men at the office though there is no mention of the fact that you are sensitive. Nor can you bring yourself to accept the fact that you have a strange feeling of nausea because of the way you find a smell of indignity sticking to your being. You cannot be on your own as you seem to see a parade of glamorous and powerful people who are grinning at the millions of your extended family in a condescending manner, deriding the mechanisms of chastisement. The medical officer from your organization scolds you for the medical bills incurred by them on your account but then he looks down at the ground saying with a pat on your back that you are probably right thinking the way you do. But you do not feel comforted in the pain of his confession as you find yet another Indian as much wounded as you are.

On your way back home you dedicate the pain of the day to the smoke of your cigarette and remain stranded in a traffic knot because of the procession taken out by a political party to demonstrate its strength. You recognize yourself as a weakling and a pawn until you find yourself emerging from the car and enacting a dream. You jump on to the roof a car and address the people around, giving them everything with a magical formula. You then dance in the street like a famous actor and then taking out the belt of your trouser play like a cricketer to the sheer amusement and clapping of the people around including many of those in the procession. They take you to be insane but they look on with a feeling of admiration. By the time the police intervene, you seem to be foaming at the corner of your mouth, looking forward to an opportunity to shed tears quietly.

Leaving you confined to a solitary cell, they explore ways to let you go as they seem to notice a streak of goodness in you. But you are now busy reciting the lines of the poem that your grandfather read out to you from your bedside, ‘Where The Mind IS Without Fear.’ The poem fills you with the sense of dignity you often find missing coupled with the tenderness of love. As you finally stagger out of the police station you meet the rickshaw puller, still smelling of liquor.  He exclaims with surprise to see you at the place and tells the police officer on duty they have made a mistake. Then without caring to listen to what they have to say, he whispers to you that he has come to return a bag from an unknown passenger in a hurry. The bag, he says with a mischievous smile, contains a lot of cash to wash away the sins of many. You look into the eyes of the common and ordinary man, every inch an Indian, and rediscover your sense of indianness warm and vibrant.

A NON POLITICAL STORY

There was no one at the party office when Charan went there at the appointed time, carrying the newspaper, the mouthpiece of the party,  to spend his time. He often sat at the office for long hours waiting for some people to come. Even if one or two trickled in from the slum across the road, it was to watch TV that had been donated by a party loyalist, a local promoter, who had been  in the good books of the local party MLA.  He thought ruefully that when the party came to power, the attendance at the party office had thinned as the members had realized the importance of going to the houses of the leaders instead of coming to the party office. But there was a welcome exception. Every day around six Tarun came to the party office and spent a good deal of time. He returned from his work and sat at the party office. The very first thing he did was to order a few cups of tea for the two of them. On most of the days there were only the two of them and they would talk about many things being reported in the papers.

Tarun was a liberal and did not approve of the way the government was pushing for many things and earning the ire of the people. He said that the party should make the government understand that policies, which clashed with the interests of the common people, would negatively impact the support base of the party. He was willing to show some ways by following which the government could fulfill its obligations without jeopardizing the interests of the people. Charan had great respect for Tarun who was very educated and many cadres in the party respected him too. But he could not help smiling inwardly as he heard Tarun wanting to give his suggestion to the party leaders as he knew that his opinion would never be sought by them.

He had been very much exited from the morning and had also prepared himself for all the strain he would have to take. On that day Charan had come a bit earlier as there was going to be a meeting of the party workers. He received the message from the local MLA of the party that he would like to interact with the workers of the party regarding a meeting of the CM in the area for the development of an industrial estate. When Charan first read the written message of the MLA approved by the president of the local unit, he could not help thinking about Tarun. He was against the way the government was grabbing land by force. But inwardly he was elated that after a long time the office, which was a hub of activity when the party was in the opposition, would bustle with the presence of some dedicated party workers. They had stopped coming to the party office and would meet the leaders they wanted to meet at their residences. He was friendly with everybody who would frequent the office during the days of dissent and turbulence. He had to go to jail several times and felt proud of the sacrifice he had made. The government of the rival party was hostile and would never miss out on an opportunity to send them to prison.

Once when he was returning home at the dead of the night, he was manhandled by some thugs of the ruling party. They threatened him saying that he should not go beyond limits. That day he had been a part of an agitation against the visit of a minister. There was an impressive turn out of people responding to the call of the leader of the opposition party. They were full of verve and looked resolute to put an end of the anarchy of the government that had been irresponsible enough to be involved in a police firing that had claimed the lives of a number of innocent people including some women and children. As they turned violent, the minister had to leave the venue without inaugurating a club meant for senior citizens on the advice of the police who feared for his life. Curiously many of the protesters were old men who demanded a statement from the minister denouncing the act of police firing and insisting on his resignation as he was the minister in charge of the police.

Charan remembered every second of the time the people had spent after they came to the party office from where the leader of the local unit had addressed the people. Then it seemed to be the world for him that would set the pace for change. That day he had been impassioned and did not hesitate to fight for the cause of the party with a determination to die even if the police fired on them. As the incident of police firing had already caused the government a great deal of embarrassment and it had been cornered by the orchestrated opposition of all the parties, the police did not do anything other than providing a cover for the leader. They did not even arrest the people who had gone too far. That day Tarun found the men coming out of the depth of darkness and pouncing upon him. They allowed him to go with a stern threat. That night as he lay in bed he could not help thinking about the murders that left the area stained during the last few weeks.

Charan felt restless thinking about the arrival of the people with whom he had fought for the cause of the party that finally brought it to power. He thought about the way he would conduct himself after a long time and try to make the people at home. He dusted the chairs, the table and the books of the party office. In his enthusiasm to play the perfect host from the party that stood for a cause, he took out a book written by a prominent leader of the party and read some lines. He sniffed at the book and coughed as it had been covered with layers of dust. Then he ran his eyes around trying to understand what he should do. He then went out and gave instructions to the owner of the tea stall across the road that he should be ready to do brisk trade as several cups of tea would be ordered for the party workers and the leader who was a tea addict.

Charan could not but feel worried when it was a few minutes past six as the meeting was to be held at five thirty. He took out his phone and contacted the leader. The phone of the leader kept ringing but there was no response. He could not understand anything and smoked a bidi trying to find a clue to the matter.  A little later his phone rang and he was told by the secretary to the MLA that the leader would not come due to an emergency. No sooner did he hang up in a distracted manner than his face beamed at the sight of some people entering the party office. As he hurried forward to welcome them, one of them threw himself on him and pushed him to the ground,shouting that he was a stooge of the MLA. He did not know most of the men and could not understand why they had suddenly turned violent. As he lay on the floor of the party office after some blows were rained on him, they went around smashing the furniture of the office. His heart ached and he wanted to stop them with every ounce of strength he still had left in him. Bu a searing pain in his head and in his jaws did not allow him to speak. The men shouted the name of a leader showing their loyalty to him and he could understand slowly that they were a dissident group of the party itself.

After they had ransacked the office for some time, they left like a hurricane. Suddenly he could feel a hand on his shoulder. He looked up and saw the face of the son of a party veteran who had been a close friend of his. He thrust a five hundred rupee note in his hand saying in a polite tone that he was helpless and that he should get a checkup done by a doctor. There was a look of contriteness on his face but it could not hide the feeling of his casualness that he had to conform to. In spite of the excruciating pain, he could not but feel pity for the young man who had to sell his sense of justice to the man he followed for the sake of his survival.

A little later Tarun entered the party office clutching a package of samosas that he had bought as he wanted to celebrate his birthday with his best friend at the best place where he could feel secure enough to guard his convictions against many of the evidences he did not feel inclined to accept. As he stood stupefied at the sight of the things upturned inside the party office, Charan burst into tears at the sight of his friend who had always been by his side. Tarun dropped the package from his hand and let out a scream that sounded like that of a vulture hovering over a corpse. Despite everything that he was capable of, he could not tell the innocent man lying sprawled on the floor that the entire plan of making this attack was made by the MLA to contain the growing wave of dissidence against him at his house in the very presence of some men loyal to him including Tarun.

A Prayer For My Daughter

On the day I thanked God as the proud father of a daughter, I did not have an inkling of the fact that I would have to face the reality of letting her enter into the jungle of our modern life. With an increasing number of cases of rape and molestation making headlines, it is difficult to get rid of a feeling of fear and uncertainty about what is in store for my angel. The government is talking of tough posturing and many stringent steps are being taken by the law enforcing agencies but there has not been a drop in the number of such cases.  On the contrary, such incidents are increasing in an alarming manner, making us wonder if we are living in a civilized world.

You have seen your little girl grow into a woman past the days of innocence, marked by her spontaneous giggles, fun and laughter. Now a new life has begun in the shadow of adulthood.  When a father talks to his daughter, sharing with her his feelings of apprehension and jitters, she tends to rubbish them saying that she knows best how to defend herself.  But being a father, familiar with the tenderness of your daughter and her foibles, you know that she will not be able to defend herself if ever she, god forbid, finds herself in such a situation. The thought that our daughters are dangerously vulnerable to the unpredictable attacks of sharks feeding on flesh, keeps gnawing at the mind of every sensitive father and I cannot help waking up in the middle of the night, drenched in perspiration. Against such a background when the mind is filled with trepidation, there is no way but to pray to god and hope that good sense will finally prevail upon men. Many people talk about putting up resistance to those prurient men to ensure the safety of our daughters but how will you find out the men who might do so?

Wailing police jeeps scouring lanes and highways, severe punishment to the extent of execution, the collective anger of the nation, demonstrations and appeals have failed to prevent yet another ghastly incident from happening. Before we can recover from the shock of an incident in which a tender and young human body has been ravished and mangled, there is another hitting us in the blankness of the heart as we seem to have wrung out the last of the emotions by way of grief. Yet for the sake of humanity and those who are still in the custody of our love and affection, we cannot avoid what we have to do and therefore the onus lies with us to ensure that they can live and breathe in the world, though it has been stained and scarred.

Against this murky backdrop there is something we can do by being a bit more strategic and trying to learn what our masters have said about something which might be of some importance in this regard. You cannot shift your house to a different place for fear of a burglar but you can fortify it to ensure that there is no way to break into it.  In the same way we have to be careful about something which we know is precious and need to protect it from the lecherous gaze of those who tend to be covetous. Starting from the days of the Bible to the present, it is necessary to note that the number of people who covet a neighbour’s wife, among other things, have not dwindled in number. In the lively comedy As You Like It, on the eve of making a journey into the forest of Arden, Rosalind is concerned about her beauty as it will arouse wicked desires in the minds of people more than gold. She says, “Beauty provoketh thieves sooner than gold.” Therefore when our daughters or the women under our protection get started out on their lives in the outer world, we have to take care to ensure that they do not appear to be too provocative, though it is not necessary to disguise in men’s clothes or smear the face with umber to look ugly. This is not a suggestion to change oneself by surrendering to the perverse ways of some men who are infinitely lascivious but to tread the path of life with a bit of caution.

THE BIRTH OF A POEM

The other day I sat with a pen and a piece of paper to write a poem and the result was futile as I could not write one. All the thoughts which keep gnawing at my mind all the time were there willing to be expressed but the very action of writing them down did not seem to come about the way a poem is created. Then with a wry smile I recalled the words of the worst critic I have ever met that a poem could not be written if I was not in conflict with me. A sense of regularity, according to him, was not suitable for writing a poem as poetry was not of the genre of something we are used to in the normal way. He said in a prophetic manner that it had to be created in a profusion of mental turmoil even when there was a perceptive clarity. I do like the way he presents his ideas but I have a fear of his intellectual superfluity as these seem to be too ornate to be real. He said that the best way to say one’s prayer was when one was at peace with himself but when it came to writing a poem he had to be in conflict with his mind to craft the magical perfection of words, extracted from the turbulence of the mind. I could not understand what he said, though pregnant with something that made me feel heavy and uneasy, I went on muttering some abstract lines to my mind as if to assure it that I was in harmony with it.
The problem is that the awkwardness of a stray crow on the parapet, the helplessness of an immensely popular leader struggling to hold on to his charisma and making a fool of himself in the eyes of the people who once cheered him, adding fuel to the media to scald him, the agonized smile of a decrepit old man after having done a flight of stairs are among some of the images which have coalesced into the words and sense of my poetry. When they spilled on the pages, I did not feel like I was writing something of substance with my mind focused on something I was desperately looking for. In the mean time, I did enough of trying to be infused with a romantic penchant to produce something which they say forms the core of poetry to be applauded without any effort. Even as I was tottering on the verge of romantic affairs, I meticulously tried to salvage whatever I could but by the time I carried it to the page ,it had been substituted by a sort of stoic indifference spawned by a feeling of bitterness, concealed in the layer of my prosaic imagination.
Once again I was prodded to the curious life and feelings of an industrialist seeking to switch over to the life of a farmer. But I was not satisfied with what I wrote and decided to concentrate on the turmoil of the mind. The more I tried to look deeper into the caverns of the mind, the more I seemed to be haunted by the image of a moron, lying across the page of what looked like a poem. I was clueless about what should be the themes of my poetry when I felt stabbed in the heart, receiving a series of regret letters rejecting my submissions to some humble publications. I decided to give up the mind for the heart as it seemed to be too volatile, having a flair for lampooning me as a poet probably influenced by the follies I had committed as a human being, the latest being a loss of a five thousand rupees that I had given to a fish seller on the promise that he would give me a part of his profits. Today when I came back from the market place, my mind was filled with the news of the way the man had duped me of my money by running away with the daughter of vegetable seller. What I gathered from my little talk with the other vendors was that he was not going to return soon, as the man ostensibly to be forced as a father in law, was carrying a sharp knife with him all the time to use it on the fugitive. Getting over the shock, when I was planning to write another useless poem on the subject that had been a little less stormy for me, I could hear the sound of a chuckle growing into an explosion, threatening to spew into the innocence of the heart. That very moment saw me convulse with a sort of restlessness that I had never experienced before and I began to mock the mind with a sort of strife I had learnt to borrow from it.
I rang up the girl who had jilted me a couple of days ago and told her that I did not need her. There were many other scores to be settled including the case of the fish seller, though my mind mimicked my heart and told me to part with the amount as a gift on their prospective wedding. My restlessness began to grow and I smoked a number of cigarettes finishing with a bath. Then as I sat down at the computer table to record the strife of the mind, I found the first two lines of the poem as the figure of a man, who had been curved due to protracted illness slowly but steadily leading him to death, but the smirk on the face told that the curve of the body was a bow to all of those who had deceived and hurt him to encourage them to go on doing so to add to the variety of the world sustained by the gullibility of the mind. The mind which was now free and far more genial told me in a whisper that the friendly critic had knocked at the door when the poem was finished, only to be told that the poet was dead.

A Comeback

The school was closed as it was being renovated with the funds that the authorities had got after a long period of petition. My friends, who used to play with me, had already gathered at the playground but that day we decided to turn our attention to a stationary truck by the side of the playground. The weather was good and we had gathered in a number large enough to frighten the selfish giant. This was the story we had just read and always looked for an opportunity to go into such a garden and play with him. But we could not get started out until one of our friends had arrived after attending one of his home tutors. When he arrived another half an hour later, I told him about the thrill we would experience by exploring the truck and hiding in it when we would play hide and seek. He   took a good look at the truck and then nodded, saying that the idea was very good and worth a try.
As soon as it was decided, we all clambered into the truck and sat there at the back on the platform where normally goods are carried. We sat there having the thrill of sitting at a place which almost looked huge like an open room fixed on wheels. One of the friends with the gift of imagination said that once the truck had started, we would go far away from the place and we would not have to study and do the homework we were loaded with. Suddenly as I stood up to look around, I saw a formidable looking man staring at me. As he suddenly screamed at us ostensibly to free his possession, the truck, he looked like an incarnation of the terrible giant we had been reading and he did not look like he was going to change to love the children we were. Then he came rushing towards the truck and the other boys who had stood up by then saw him and without a second thought jumped from the truck and ran away to safety. As I tried to do the same I was not as much lucky as my shirt got caught in the hook supporting the wooden plank at the end of the truck. once I was caught by the huge iron hook, my body turned upside down and began to dangle for a split second and then unable to bear the weight of the body, the shirt gave way and I fell to the ground head down. I had a feeling that I could hear a faint cry and then I passed out. When I came back to my senses, getting over the darkness in which I had relapsed several hours later,  I had seen darkness which had devoured the sunshine of the day. I was feeling too nauseous and could feel the presence of a good number of people around me in the room. The doctor, who had come, seemed to check me with a look of anxiety and then after a careful examination for what lasted a good period of time, he announced in a prophetic manner, ‘Shift him to the hospital before it is too late.’ My mother who had been sitting beside me, stroking me affectionately began to sob and told someone in the house in a nearly choking voice, ‘Send a word to his father and ask him to come at once.’
By the time my father came nearly out of breath with the look of dread on his face, I had vomited a number of times causing many more people to come to our house, including the parents and relatives of the friends I had been playing with. As the room was abuzz with the whispers of the people and the doleful sobs of my mother, I was gently picked up by some people and taken into a hired cab. When the cab began to move on the way to the hospital, I lost my consciousness again. When I again came back to my senses, I was lying on a bed at the R, G, Kar hospital. Later I heard from my mother that my father had implored the doctor to do anything to save my life as he had been told that my condition was very critical. They compared the condition to my being kept in a room full of deadly snakes and then added paradoxically that I could survive if I was not bitten.
As a child I was very restless and was loved by nearly all the people in the locality with the exception of the people who had lost some of their tiles from the stones hurled by me as well as my friends. Later I heard that each of them came to the house to meet my mother and enquired about my condition. When my mother told them about the dangerous condition I was in, some of them had tears in their eyes. Days after I had been discharged from the hospital when I listened to my mother, I realized the power of love and began to hold it as something of a passion encouraging men to be more than what they are.
This part of the story is built up by what was told to me by my mother as well as what I still remember of what began to happen to me and corroborated by the other acquaintances. The next day as I was lying on the bed, I had a feeling that my head was gradually being turned to the ceiling.   The nurses placed me on a bed on the floor but there was no improvement in the condition. Obstinate as I was I tried my best to look down but I could not do so. I heard a scream and something of a chorus of some agitated voices. My mother yanked herself away from the people who tried to prevent her from entering the care unit and placed a photograph under my pillow.  Sitting beside me, she began to urge me to utter the name of the saint she worshipped. Suddenly I felt I was illuminated and drawled the name some times before losing my consciousness. Then she rushed out of the room and did not stop until she had been standing before her old father who had been a devout follower of the same saint. She was direct and unusually composed, ‘Is your God true and responds to genuine prayers?’ Her father answered in a cool voice, ‘Yes, he is and he does respond when you call her from the bottom of your heart.’
With the answer delivered, he quietly went into the room where he spent most of the time, painting portraits of the saint Thakur Anukul Chandra and meditating when he got some time free. While engaged in the minute work of the strokes of the brushes, he never looked up and did not exchange a word with anyone but that day he could not paint as his eyes were blurred by the tears he had fought off not because he had told his daughter something he had to tell her but because he was feeling a strange sort of calmness born out of his conviction and faith in the power of the saint he had worshipped since he came of age. He had instilled this love for the saint among all the members of his family and they too began to regard and worship him.
He was very fond of me and would often tell me about the strange story of his life and dedication, filling my mind with veneration for the saint, though I could not understand many of the things he talked about. When I could read books without anybody’s help, he gave me some books on the life of the saint. I learnt from the book that the saint was based at Pabna, in the then Bangladesh. He showed exceptional caliber from his childhood and was devoted to the cult of the vaishnavites. Many miraculous activities in his life struck people with wonder and he began to emerge as a great spiritual leader of the order he had founded. He had a large following among people of different classes with a number of prominent Indians and westerners. One of the westerners influenced by him was one Houserman. He spent a great deal of time with him and recorded the impressions of his influence and the inspiration he had got from him in a book entitled ‘Ocean in a tea cup’, which he intended as a biography of the saint. After the partition of the country, he shifted to the free India and founded his order at Deoghar. My grandfather was entrusted with the official duties of the photographer and the artist. Besides telling me about the saint who had changed his perception and his way of thinking in a concrete way, he told me about the lives of the unusual people who used to interact with the spiritual leader. Many of the messages of the saint that my grandfather told me by way of reciting rhymes were leant by me by heart and even to this day I realize the uniqueness of their truth.
 On the second night of my admission to the hospital, there was a state of unusual quietude at the house with my mother and father in a  state of mournful silence joined by the other members of the family. People from the entire neighbourhood kept a vigil before the house, waiting for a morning to bring a piece of news. My youngest uncle, who could not contain himself, arrived at the hospital at the crack of dawn and learnt from one of the nurses that I was sleeping and was out of danger. He in his excitement ran back home all the way from the hospital to the house, covering a distance of several miles to break the news and what followed was a hurrah of joy and laughter by the people who had been weak on account of being deprived of their sleep but they were not without the strength of their mind to show their emotions by hugging one another, shedding tears and thanking god.

A Leaf Under The Stone

He was waiting on the edge of the pond with a cane in his hand as his nephew had been in the water for over three hours, swimming with the local boys. He knew that this was something of a sport for the children of the colony but he could not approve of it as he had high fever a couple of weeks ago. As Tatun saw his uncle standing with the cane he was frightened of the lashes on his back and furiously swam to the edge of the pond on the other side. He stood on the other side and looked at his uncle looking somewhat faint. Then he broke into a run and disappeared in a hut adjacent to it. It was the house of his maternal grandfather. There he was adequately pampered and was out of the reach of everyone including his menacing father. Jyoti stood there for some more time realizing that his mission was ineffective and then retraced his steps back home. One thing that he knew was that anyone from their house would never be able to do anything to Tatun with his grandfather standing beside him. As he went back home, he was not crestfallen but he relished the fact that there were some people who genuinely loved the boy who was so restive.
 
A little later it began to rain heavily propelled by the clouds of the rainy month of Shravana and he sat on the muddy veranda of the house of his grandfather, floating some paper boats that his young uncle had helped him make. As soon as a boat was carried away by the current of the rain water that had collected in the hollow of the courtyard, he clapped his hands. His young aunt came quietly and sat beside him as some Tagore music began to waft in the air. Tatun’s face was quite sodden by the gusty winds of the storm that was blowing with the rain. Every day as he swam in the pond, he could not help nursing the secret desire of meeting the mermaid who had a full family at the bottom of the kingdom of water as his grandfather had told him on one of his drowsy nights. If he met the mermaid, he would visit her family with his hands full of gifts such as some marbles for her children and invite them to come to their house, though he would not forget to warn them of his short tempered uncle always on the move with a cane in his hand.

 Whenever he thought about his uncle he did not feel gloomy because this was the only way for him to live as he would never have any children. Once after beating him a bit severely for an offence he often had been warned about, his uncle burst into tears and then smothered him with wet kisses.  As he was very obdurate he did not feel the pain and also did not flinch when he was being beaten but when his uncle began to cry, holding him in his arm, he too began to share the pain with the uncle and began to cry with him. That evening he took him to a fair which was held on the ground of the college out of the locality. There he met a witch who told him that he would soon be mounted on a high. He could not understand the words of the witch but his uncle rubbished the words saying that the witch  was a man disguised as one to earn money by making fake  predictions to frighten people who loved to be scared and warned. Two days later he was again beaten by his uncle for an act of bravado that, he heard days later, startled them out of their wits.

A man looking after an elephant came to their locality to earn some money by providing entertainment to the people and he was given a ride on its back for a coin he had pushed into the hand of the trainer out of sheer excitement. He looked scared and yet felt like a hero when all the innocent people including his uncle looked at him with awe. Before he could realize anything, he was entwined by the huge trunk of the elephant at the silent signal of the elephant trainer and was installed on the back. Then he was a part of the might of the elephant scorning many things including the room of the school where he was locked for several hours depriving him of the sunshine, the company of the local dogs each of which vied with one another to carry out his orders and finally the shop that often refused to give him credit when he needed a kite desperately after his was lost in the battle of the sky. He sat there like an emperor looking down on the people who did not ever assert themselves except when they quarreled with one another over petty issues after they came to India in the ignominy of the partition, leaving behind everything including their sense of dignity and a sort of solvency.
 Later when he disembarked from the back of the elephant, he was duly treated with generous lashes of the cane but he did not smart from them as he was still sharing the might of the elephant. After the anger of the elders subsided, he was proudly mentioned to the neighbours as the boy of the elephant and was even encouraged to say something before a small gathering of the teachers and the students of the primary school about the hair raising experience of being on the back of the elephant. That evening his grandfather even told him the story of an elephant that had trailed a hunter for days because he had killed one of its babies and that finally the elephant had killed the man by crushing him under its feet when he was resting in front of his camp in the afternoon. By the time the story came to an end, he was feeling too drowsy to ask him if it was the result of the elephant episode that he had begun in the locality. The stars were gleaming in the sky with the moon looking too cloyed with its beauty and Tatun was as much somnolent as the other inmates of the house.