Hazy Reflections12 mins 193 12 mins 193
Step out of village to know that outside is nothing but little bigger than yours.
Finally, it was time to be get relieved from Daringbadi. After the little farewell meeting in the evening, of which I have very little reminiscent, the very next morning I took my bike for a ride to G.Udayagiri. This part of Odisha, I still have reservations about having better infrastructure now. What more can ask a 25 year’s youth, having heard numerous stories of defeating a ferocious jungle beast with sheer uninterrupted eye-contacts? Took a narrow asphalt road, only boulders left, with multiple submersibles and dilapidate over water bridges, running through the jungles, said to be a short-cut one.
Quite a few times I had traversed the road in our official jeep. Within 15 minutes of taking a diversion from the state highway on the short-cut road, I had to flip-up the helmet visor that had accumulated droplets from the dense fog that the water droplets started dripping down. With every passing minute the terrain became rougher that often made my bike to hobble on the loose boulders. In spite of the grunting bike, I was enthralled at the sound of a cricket.
I had to put my headlight on and to blink often to have a better view of the surroundings through the dense fog. The landscapes down below, beyond the thin mist, made me gasp, “Alas, I had wings”.
Suddenly, a panther appeared at my left and matched my bike for a few meters and skidded into the jungle when I took a sharp right turn at full speed.
Opening eyes, relieved myself of re-living a story shared by one of my staff, namely Mr. Santosh Sahu which goes like…
Some 5 years back, the then branch manager asked Mr. Sahu to accompany Raikia on certain bank-related work. As it was late afternoon and were scheduled to travel in the bank’s official Willy Jeep, the branch manager suggested taking a short cut, that I was traversing, to curtail 20-25 km on the state highway, to destination. Mr. Sahu was too junior to have a say on the tour plan.
Within 20 minutes of traversing into the jungle, it seemed like the sun dipped behind the horizon little early. The driver had to often apply Hanuman gear (colloquial term for first gear) as the loose boulders pitched back few meters, getting squeezed under the rolling tires that emanated a strong smell of burning rubber with fumes that filled the area around the graunting jeep.
Jungle stream running across over a submersible bridge had enough water that splashes up to the front windscreen at a little misjudgment of its depth that the driver had to put wiper often.
The branch manager sitting alongside the driver on the left front seat gave a cool stare at Mr. Santosh, which read like as if he were at mistake in choosing the short-cut one. But enough time elapsed, reaching a point of no return.
With jungle getting dense and the road-side tree-tops joining overhead in the shape of arch, made the driver put the headlight on. It was almost a straight long stretch of few kilometers and the light beams were tearing apart the darkness, that a strong smell occupied whole of the jeep.
The branch manager on his turning back towards Mr. Sahu, noticed the driver getting totally straightened in applying his full force on the accelerator and looking intermittently at the left side open window and then at the front to control the jeep, put into full throttle. Even Mr. Santosh was looking at the left front open window with un-blinked eye-balls popped-out.
The reflection of the headlight from every direction had enough brightness for the branch manager to notice a panther sprinting alongside the jeep. The panther picked up for a photo-finish to the accelerating jeep, possibly running at the topmost speed.
The branch manager, Mr. Sahu, and the driver had their eyes riveted on the beast, sprinting so close to the jeep that, if the branch manager were daring enough could have run his palm back and forth through the dense fur, dancing in the smooth wave as that of a ripen paddy field at breeze.
The driver boasts often of his driving blindfolded in and around Daringbadi, if were given a chance. Still his eyes fixed on the carnivore, the jeep took a sharp right turn almost on the inner wheels that made the branch manager rising few inches above the sprinting panther which disappeared, slidding straight, right into the darkness.
Being small town, it didn't bother me at all to find the branch and I was welcomed with open hands by my branch manager. Before my asking, he offered me to stay at the upper floor, meant for branch manager's residence, with words “Patra Babu, byasta hebeni, ghara na milila jayen, aithi arama re ruhantu. (Patra babu, don't worry, stay here till you find a house.)”.
The very next morning left early along with one well wisher, who as promised previous day, turned up on time, in search of a house. Returned back with dejection as I didn't like the houses at all. My branch manager, on way to bath, hissed, “Patra Babu, ghara dekhiba pain jaithile? Byasta huantuni, ghara na milila jayen, ai'thi arama re ruhantu. (Patra babu, did you go searching house? Don't worry, continue here till you find a house.)”.
The gracious gentleman allowed me a free passage to the residence, meant for his exclusive use but it became a customary for me to have his repeating the above lines at morning and evening that made me to intensify the search for a suitable house.
Finally, on the D’Day of my shifting to a 3 bed-room house made my branch manager to purr, “Ete byasta hei'ki kahinki ghara nei gale? Aji-kalia pila … apana mane … (Why were you so hurry in taking a house? Today's generation … you people … )” further continued, “Privacy to be respected” and gasped “Ha…Ha…Ha…”.
The first opportunity in my life for an exclusive residence of my own, made me to purchase a water purifier, a plastic study table for my television, few plastic chairs and a pair of single beds, placed in 2 rooms with proper beddings.
This became one of the transit-home to a couple of junior probationary officers posted at the centre, a newly appointed doctor, few of my colleagues and was a favored over-night stay for lot many, faces of whom I have almost forgotten.
In that small society of 12 houses of the same landlord, never I was discriminated being bachelor. In no times I befriended with all those kids and their friends from the near-by societies.
In that small open area surrounded by the houses, I joined Cricket everyday after office and the Sundays were the most awaited with full-fledged cricketing from the 9.00 am onwards till late evening with a brief break for lunch.
Often their fathers assembled in my house on public holidays for afternoon card game, followed by hot teas from someone or other. I was treated by everybody as family member without exception.
Pattnaik family right beneath me became very close. I was invited for a lunch or dinner on special days and I didn't know how come my joining the family for dinner along with their 2 adolescent sons became a regular phenomenon. The warmth still continues and is extended to their parents and mine.
One fine day we were about to start dinner that we heard someone shouting “Patra Babu”. I was amazed to find Mr. Panchanan Mishra at door-step. Mr. Pattnaik invited him inside. After a little chit-chatting the couple requested the gentleman to join for dinner as it was a special one, being a full-moon night.
With little resistance the gentleman joined us.
Since my days of posting at Daringbadi, I had good acquaintance with Mr. Panchanan Mishra, a senior SBI official, posted at Phulbani. Being from same district, the gentleman invariably on his official visit to the nearby branches gives an opportunity to have dinner or lunch together. My G.Udayagiri residence made him to stay over-night quite few times.
After the dinner he was vociferous of Mrs. Pattnaik's culinary and after little chit-chat, we retired up stare. An untimely power-cut made Mr. Mishra “Let's go to the roof-top!” and I gladly obliged.
The black-out made the overhead bloomed full-moon abundantly splashing whiteness upto the horizon, distinguished from the shadow of mountains. Within few minutes, our trivial chat-chatting came to an end. The gentleman started murmuring an intense Bollywood song, “Jindegi ka safar … (Journey of the Life...) “.
Not that his voice quality was good but appalled by a palpable pain in his high bass murmuring, to ease the situation I asked, “Sir, apanaka pila-chua kana karuchanti? (Sir, how are your kids doing?)”
Murmuring stopped. The gentleman at his mid forty raised his head up into the sky and looked straight at the shinning full-moon, at full-bloom. Two full-moons started dancing in the eyes and in no time became hazy as the accumulated tears spilled at the corner of eyes, I pretended not to have noticed.
Fluttering of few bats over-head and hissing wind were disturbing the endless valley of silence, spread between us. My pleading silently, “Sorry Sir! Might be I should not have asked the question!”, Shri Mishra blinked his eyes, letting the tears soaked, responded, “Don't be sorry at all. Rather I should be sorry for troubling you often. Ha…Ha…Ha...”
The buzzing of the air became little turbulent with Shri Mishra letting a long sigh and the silence continued for another few more minutes.
Suddenly his robust palm patted my back, making me pant a little and his continuing…
I was the eldest of our PO batch and was considered as a mature person to all sort of professional and personal issues. But I made a blunder with my own life. I still live a single's life though have a son and wife. I didn't dare to file divorce knowing re-union was not possible.
I don't know if the bachelor inside you can judge me or not but let me continue…
I got married to a worthy family of Berhampur with an established pedigree of advocates. Within couple of days of marriage I came to know about my wife being very ill-tempered and often got crazy. Initially I thought might be of her pampered upbringing. Within 10 days of marriage, on a little fight, we were not in talking terms. The next fine morning her brother arrived from Berhampur and without a further word, he took her back, threatening me to ruin. My mother was too old to intervene and I was of no match to the arrogant advocate for a discussion. Even my wife didn't give me a chance to stop her from leaving.
I tried to contact over telephone but all calls went unanswered and my letters never replied. Almost after 15 days I visited their home. On my repeated request I was allowed to meet the lady. I could hardly recognize her neither she did. She had become a different person, totally shabby.
That day I had a long fight with the family for their making my life shambles. Finally their father in his mid-eighty with folded hand requested not to stretch the matter further and pleaded me to let her continue thereat with the treatment untill she gets cured completely.
I had no choice than to reconcile with my fate. In another 10 days, I received a call from them about my wife being conceived. I visited their home soon after but there was no improvement in her condition. My subsequent visit witnessed her condition deteriorated till one fine day I heard about a son being delivered.
Power restoration made a Bollywood song getting sailed from far off, “Mere bhigi bhigi si…pal'kon me jaise…(My drenched eyes ... ) ” as Shri Mishra continued…
I visited their home to see my new born child and was not that elated at all at the lady's condition who even didn't know her becoming a mother. My brother-in-law though married since quite few years were childless and the couple become the foster parent to my new born boy.
I felt like unwelcomed in my further visits that I almost stopped visiting.
After a prolonged silence, I managed to utter, “When did you meet your son last?”
Last year. My wife was in the same condition and the boy was pursuing +2 Science. Meeting him felt like as if I were meeting some of my friend or a neighbour's son.
Folding forearms over chest, my palms could feel the Goosebumps near elbow area but was not sure if it was the chill in the air or the coolness, radiating from the face of my story teller under the overhead full-moon, hid behind a thick cloud, spreading a blanket of darkness.
Passing of the overhead cloud made splashing of more and more light of the full-moon that I could see Mr. Mishra in complete trance. A little breeze from the distance mountain passed whistling and then followed a long silence till my saying, “Honestly, I don't believe that you don't have any special feelings for your son?”
A mother connects to her child from the moment, it takes shape. She carries the child within. She feels the first movement of the child. She can fell the baby growing inside, undergoing a lot of physical changes, till the day of enduring a life-threatening painful labor to bring the child to this world. After delivery, the child recognizes mother from her heartbeat and body warmth. Just her cuddling makes the baby stop crying. Mother-Child relation is very special and “Motherhood” can not be defined in words, it's a ocean of emotions.
Father arrives quite late in a new born. It's the child's babbling, sliding, crawling, falling on hips till it takes a first step, clutching its tiny palm around father's index that ignites “Fatherhood”.
A prolonged silence continued …
I was deprived of every such little act of my son. I don't think you can understand what I mean to say. Get married, have your kids. A posting away from home, as we all bankers do have, will make you understand what I am saying today, if at all you remember. It's too late, let’s have some sleep. I have to leave tomorrow early morning.
The full-moon was playing hide & seek with running clouds, splashing bright lights and patches of dark shadow as we left the terrace.