Junglee Jasmine8 mins 337 8 mins 337
Goddess Lakshmi and Saraswati do not live together...
The adage is much older than our Grand Parents. The words we heard must have descended since a long chain of pedigree. Goddess Lakshmi and Saraswati epitomize wealth and beauty as per Hindu mythology.
Krishna’s wife handed over a newborn baby boy into the hands of Jasmine, her daughter and sighed her last breath in spite of best efforts by a doctor, left Krishna mourning for their decision to go for a second child after a gap of 10 years. Doctor’s reprimanding about probable complications of an old age pregnancy didn’t make Radha back out of her promise to gift her husband a baby boy.
A smaller part of the foot-hill town Keonjhar sank into deep sorrow, gathering around the blazing funeral of Radha.
Neighbors named the newborn Chandan and extended all sorts of help in his upbringing. The friends and relatives proposed for a second marriage but Krishna could not imagine accepting someone to replace his love for Radha and he had complete faith in Jasmine to be a foster mother for newborn. It was his return of love for the lady who embraced death than leaving him clamoring for a son. The common Indian women sentiment, in spite deprived of basic amenities, enthralls at the joy of giving.
In a matter of months, the three reconciled with their present and soon Krishna resumed duty at the sole banana ripen factory of the town. Jasmine missing most of her classes to accompany someone of their close relative who was there with them for taking care of Chandan.
Days of happiness runs faster than sorrowful days.
Poor, God’s own child and rich are blessed equally. Rich become richer and the poor become poorer.
Chandan started going to school for his primary education and Jasmine to the banana factory owner’s home for household work as she was the only earner for her school-going brother and ailing father diagnosed of last stage cancer who was counting days to meet his departed wife Radha in heaven.
The owner’s wife had a special corner for Jasmine as their only daughter was 10 days younger. The lady happily offered jasmine the worn out of her daughter, who was studying in a far off boarding school.
Goddess Saraswati blessed Jasmin amply in growing to a beautiful girl and almost outgrew all of her aged and the dresses offered by her lady employer. There were not left enough fabric to shift the stitch an inch further and were not enough to cover her voluptuous body. Goddess Lakshmi’s misery made Jasmine, a replica of a scantily clad sculpture of a stone artist.
Jasmine‘s growing sensuousness was not by choice.
Dying father’s medicine and her little brother’s upbringing made her left with little to save her blooming womanhood than depending on the clothes, donated by her owner, re-stitched. Krishn’s deeming eyes begged God for an early exit that may help his offspring to have a little bit better life than belittled. But the Almighty had something more than what Krishna, the God’s own child, prayed for. The decaying bones of a pitiable father were witnessed by Jasmine growing adorable day by day. The rest of the world enjoyed sniffing the essence of Jasmine through their vulture eyes, except few like one Karim Chacha, a colleague of Krishna with impaired vision due to old age, finding a chance to chat with Jasmine, does bowed head.
Losing a mother at teenage and discharging mother’s role to her baby brother, witnessed Jasmine not only overgrowing girls of her age physically but also mentally. She had a nurturing mother inside the sumptuous structure that caused sleepless nights to many, capable of blowing life to a sensus sculpture of Konark in their dreams.
Jasmine dip inside a jungle never stops blooming and spreading its essence, whether it is noticed or goes overlooked. Its fragrances pierce dipper into the woods, often racing ahead the dark nights of a chilly winter. Like Junglee Jasmine, hill-side Keonjhar town poor Jasmine was no exception, was richest in spreading the aroma of her alluring sensuality of compulsion, making a number of vultures drooling for an alcove.
Nothing in this small hill-side town could stop her leading a miserable life full of dignity.
Two days raining cats and dogs made her fever shooting up and making her breathlessness and she didn’t go to the work at the news of the lady owner being out of the town. More than the burning temperature she was worried about Chandan, who was not only her brother but she was more than mother to him, was suffering from Malaria with intermittent sobbing that made the pattering sounds of the rain subsided at instances. The sobbing became more frequent and at instances seemed as if the kid would not get breath back after a long sigh.
Jasmine dragged Chandan near her bedridden father and woke him up for keeping an eye and stepped out and sprinted splashing flowing water on the roads to Doctor’s home. She narrated about her brother’s condition who immediately wrote on a paper one medicine that surely was to give relief to the suffering kid and offered money for the purchase of the prescribed medicine. Jasmine thanked the doctor for his generosity but didn’t accept money and ran to the chemist shop who gave medicine sensing the urgency, at her tears, fuming on her drenched cheeks but on words of her paying the money before the shop closes along with earlier dues of ten thousand.
After stepping into the house shivering completely sodden immediately poured the medicine into her brother’s mouth and started rubbing his foot and palm to save him getting frozen as Krishna was patting the kid’s forehead. The rain God was at last happy as the tapping sound of rain was subdued so was the radiating heat from little Chandan’s body.
Relaxed Jasmine got up from the ground where her little brother was enjoying a nap with profuse sweating on the forehead as body temperature was falling to normal. Searched for the drums and the utensils, if she had enough to pay the chemist as she had promised but there were not.
Jasmine stepped out of her home with still little rain in the air for others preferring to be closed door. Overhead rain drops wiped the stream of tears and flowing water on the road wiped the fatigue of her tiring foot as she strolled in the pothole water pools on the road, leading to the factory owner’s house.
She didn’t have to cross the factory gate stealthy as Karim Chacha was on duty whose aging eyes have lost luster for a couple of years. The factory owner opening the doors to an untimely knocking made his predator’s eyes sprawling at the snow-white wrinkled soaked skin from forehead to toe, draped completely drenched as if a just christened idol of marble stone, waiting for artist’s final touch before being bejeweled to Konark, to be worshiped for her sensuality, that can turn, a man of celibacy, on. He was a crook.
“Seth, I need money for my little brother to whom I am more than a sister. Mother!”
With un-blinked eyes the man pulled violently, clutching her wrist making the feverish soaked shivering body sinking into his open arm and shut the door behind and whispered “Whatever you want ... Jasmine... At last, my hunger will be satiated!”
After clasping the adorable sculpture of Konark for few seconds, purred at Jasmine’s ear “Your body is so ... hot? Are you OK?”
“I am fine Seth, but not my son!” uttered sheepishly on her way being dragged with rage by the old man.
The old man led Jasmine to the office of the factory and shut the door behind, made her sit at a corner of a spongy mattress. Manipulated with the wick and put the county lamp off. As he was undressing, blowing of shell in rhythm to clapping, ringing bells and beating of drum gushed in from the overhead skylight and sprayed chilled droplets that wreck a little quiver to the sacred thread hanging across the hairy chest. It was time for evening rituals at the foot-hill Deity temple.
The windy air from the skylight poured in the scent of Jasmine, spreading all over the room and scent of Chandan (sandal), emanating from the essence stick burning in the oblation of the Deity made the scavenger offering his adulation, with folded hands touching his forehead, standing numb and eyes shut for the Deity, carrying a blazing sword, staring at her subjects from an elevated altar, riding a ferocious lion, tamed, with frowning face since time immortal.
Before putting back the latch firmly shouted from the half-open window, “Karim, increase the gas inlet into the factory. The current bananas are a greener lot. More gas is required to meet the delivery deadline.”
[The story was published in our college magazine in Odia some 25 years back when I was pursuing Engineering at UCE, Burla. Don’t recall characters or the places of references. But recall the last line “Karim, increase the gas inlet into the factory. A current lot of bananas are greener... ...”
My friend was a literary giant of our college days. After I left college, I often searched his name in Odia magazines during my brief layover at bus stands and railway stations at different parts of Odisha, till I heard from a batchmate in 2015 about his leaving this mundane world somewhat in 2004 or 2005.
Bhegnath, your leaving has not distressed your Junglee Jasmine spreading fragrance and will continue to do so eternally.]