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Thursday, 7 November 2013

MY LOST PRINCESS Part 1 By Sobhan Pramanik

Part 1

Sobhan Pramanik

Summer of 1970
Mallikpur Village
Some 200 kilometres from the city of Kolkata…

It was a humid afternoon and the sun was beaming at its pinnacle. Warm wind was drifting through the village making the leaves of peepal tree quiver at its place. It was under the shade of that peepal tree that I sat bent on my toes with the shooter marble in the crook of my index finger. As I placed my knuckle on the earth and closed my left eye to aim perfectly, I could feel the tension hovering over my friends. With me striking the green marble out of the ring I shall be winning the rack and that means they will have to handover their marbles to me. Losing marbles, then, was a child’s deepest grief.

As the shooter flew out of my finger and struck the green marble I was aiming, I eagerly waited for it to roll out of the ring. But it didn’t. By the time I realized what had happened I heard Ganesh’s mischievous laugh gradually fading in my ears. I looked up and saw him running as fast as he could with his box of marbles pressed in his armpit.
“Hey this is cheating. Ganesh had thrown that pebble to divert my marble.” I shrieked pointing to the brown pebble in the ring.
I looked at Samir, Ahmed and Vikas who had put back their marbles in their box and were dusting the soil from their trousers.
“At least you people give your marbles. It is me who has won the game.” I pleaded for my prize.
“First ask Ganesh to give his marbles and then we will also do.” Ahmed said and they all started walking away.

Disappointed, I sat leaning onto the trunk of the peepal tree and was placing my marbles back in the box. It was when I was dabbing by partly wet eyes with the hem of my shirt, I saw her by the barbed wire fencing waving at me. She wore an old orange skirt that had visible stiches and a pair of silver anklets that jingled at her heels. Her shoulder length rough hair was held at place by a white hair band that occasionally slips down to her forehead and she keeps pushing it up. In her little arms, rests a princess doll whose tiara was missing.
“Kulfiwala is here. Let’s go.” She said with an innocent smile.

Kulfiwala reminded me of the one rupee I didn’t had today. I placed both my hands inside the pocket of my pyjama, hoping for a penny, but there wasn’t anything.
“What happened?” she asked.
“Nothing Rini” I beamed at her.

I quickly laid down on the ground over my chest and parting the fencing wires a bit with my left hand, slipped to other end. Having reached the other end of the fencing, we ran across the sun tanned grass bed to the kulfiwala and asked for two kulfis. He then held out to us, two pale yellow kulfis, as Rini collected them and waited for me to pay him off. I pulled out the box of marbles that I kept tucked in my pyjama and handed over to the kulfiwala saying, I don’t have money.  
Rini noticed me doing so and pitched in, “Pratik what are you doing? You love your marbles nah…”
“I love you more than my marbles….” I said as a bead of melted kulfi streaked down Rini’s fingers.
It happened like an instinct for me. Because at six, I hardly knew what love was.
Time slowly nurtured my emotions and it was in her absence in the following decade that I was falling in love with her.

I was six year old when dad decided to shift me to my mashi’s place in Kolkata. He said Mallikpur’s condition was worsening day by day and that I should not stay there anymore. When I had asked him what the reason was, he satisfied me by saying that Mallikpur did not have good schools. The kid in me believed that and left with his dad for Kolkata.
It has been ten years since then and my childhood memories of Mallikpur had started to lose its ground; except Rini and the marble sessions beneath the peepal tree. Now I am in the final year of my schooling and with exams approaching, it was indeed a tiring day at the school today. I lay on the bed by my side and flip often a diary. A part of me wants to relive those childhood days at Mallikpur. A part of me was craving to enjoy kulfi with Rini once again.
And to live the nostalgia I chose to ink my memories.

29th September - Nostalgia

It was the last day of the school before Durga puja and as soon as the clock struck eleven, children like a swarm of bees came rushing out of the classrooms.  Our school was the only primary school in the entire Mallikpur and kids in large number came to study there. My baba (father) was one of the teachers there. In the first half of the day he used to teach at the school and for the rest of the day he used to engage himself in raising crops on the lands leased out to him by the very cunning landlord of Mallikpur, Prithviraj Bhattacharya. I along with my baba and Ramu kaka (dad’s younger brother), earned our living by selling the raised crops in the market. A chunk of the revenue was given to Prithviraj kaka and whatever left in bits after giving went down the account of our earnings.
We didn’t pull off a good life but it wasn’t bad either.

Leaving school on the last day before vacation, our excitement knew no bounds. Every child out there had that big sparkling smile on their lips and the hall room was buzzing with their excited talks. No school for the next one month or so means no studying and unlimited hours to be spent at marbles and enjoying the puja.

Autumn had just started to set in and the sky above Mallikpur was a clear sheet of blue with traces of cottony clouds plugged at places.  I was walking home by the narrow, dusty road cutting through desolate paddy fields where stacks of fodder grass were kept to be dried in the sun. Smell of wild berries growing along the path lingered in the pleasantly drifting wind. I had just reached the place where we used to play marbles that I heard someone sniffing behind the bushes.

I decided to find it out. 

To be Continued...

Read Part 2 here -  Part 2

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