Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Kusum goes to her husband's house

Lachhmi could not remember exactly when she had come here in sitarampur. Long, long ago she had to leave her parents’ home to live with her husband and in-laws. It had taken many days for Lachhmi to accept the place and the family of her husband. She had wept in the night and felt strongly to return to her parents and her little brother. Kusumpur-her native village, had not been very far from Sitarampur. She had frequently thought of fleeing to the fold of her old cozy life. She had been eight then.
She was now forty eight. During these forty years t
here had been a metamorphosis in her life. It was now her family, her own. She was happy and satisfied and never wanted to go anywhere outside her husband’s village and her family. Lachhmi could hardly find time to think over her childhood, her parents, brother and her village. They had receded to another world-which Lachhmi would never need to look for.

Her in-laws were long dead. Lachhmi had become the mistress of the family. All her three sons were married by now. Raghu, her husband was a meek and humble man. But Lachhmi had a daughter, Kusum-who was only ten years old. Kusum had become dear to all perhaps because of coming as a girl child-after the family had become much relieved with consecutive three male children.

Raghu was a wealthy farmer. So he did not face any trouble to find a suitable young man for Kusum. He was the only son of a wealthy grocer.

The marriage was settled and Lachhmi and Raghu began to be ready to celebrate the last marriage occasion of their family. Everybody was waiting happily for the day. But Lachhmi was a little depressed. At the time of discussions and exchanges of information with regard to the marriage, Lachhmi had asked her husband, “Is it in a village or town?”

“It’s a town, a very populous place,” Raghu had gone on telling “It takes almost one and half a day to reach there.”

“Oh, then it’s not possible to go on foot or by a cart”, Lachhmi had said depressingly.

“No, no-it’s the train that takes thirty four hours!” Raghu replied with a self respect and looking towards the railway station continued “It’s no problem. Kusum will board the train 2115 UP from our station and reach at the door-steps of her in-law without a break journey. You can not reach there without train.

Lachhmi had suddenly remembered the day when she had come here by a bullock-cart. It would not be possible for Kusum to come to her frequently. It was too far a place.

The marriage was over. The whole family with the bridegroom with his bride gathered at the platform of the station. Lachhmi came to the station for the first time. The whole world appeared to be an alien world. Kusum was weeping hiding her face into the breast of her mother. Raghu suddenly told in a loud voice “The train is coming.”

Lachhmi looked to the engine. It seemed to be cruel and angry-profusely pouring hot steam. It was fretting and fuming at the childish behaviour of the restless people. The train had only three minutes’ stop here. So Lachhmi did not get into the train for a last hug. The bell tolled and the train moved on.

For a moment Lachhmi felt that the whole world fell wrong with development. It had separated people and deported them to far unknown places from where it was very difficult to return.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

It was a big rain-tree. It bore innumerable pink flowers in summer. Sometimes some places get characteristically memorable by virtue of some presence about them. I knew of a place because of an old temple there. The plaster had fallen off from its walls that had long ceased protecting a deity. It stood with a dark hollow, reminding an absence. I heard it had been a Shiva-temple. The place bore an impression of abandonment to me. So was it also with this rain-tree. It gave an inseparable dimension to the railway platform on which it stood. The tree swayed its branches and leaves in nonchalant air to diffuse the hustles of people with the trains.

It stood on the edge of a fencing that separated the station from outside. On a careful examination it would be evident that the tree should have stood on the other side of the demarcating line along the platform. Perhaps the in-charge, an Englishman, under whom the station had been planned and constructed, had fallen in love with the tree. So he had encroached with a little curve, enclosing the tree within the station area. That was fifty years ago.

There was a bench under the tree for the waiting passengers. In summer the place beneath the tree was full of fallen flowers and the evening air carried a fragrance that reminded one of far off places, the destinations of all trains of the world.

I would visit the station of an evening and sit on the bench. It was very refreshing to sit there. The tree was also a habitat of many birds. So in the evening there was loud tweeting and chirping of the birds as they prepared for rest for the approaching night. The night fell on this place from this tree.

One afternoon, in the month of April, the entire sky turned black with clouds. The tree became still - and not a single leaf moved. It was an abnormal stillness. I left the station for home. On the way, suddenly, a violent storm came rushing from somewhere. I began to run. It began to rain also. In minutes the storm and rain made terrible havoc. When I reached home I was completely drenched.

In the morning we found widespread devastation everywhere. I heard that the railway station was greatly damaged. The metal shade on the platform had been blown off. But when I reached the station the first thing that attracted my eyes was a void. The tree was not there. It was uprooted and fell on the other side of the platform leaving a big hollow on the platform.

I went to Ranchi after a few days. I returned after one month and reached the station by 2115 UP in the afternoon. The station wore a new look after a thorough repairing. The curve of the platform had been set right by a straight fencing. There was no trace of encroachment now.

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