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Monday, 31 March 2014

A FATEFUL MEMOIR by Sobhan Pramanik Part 2

(Based on incidents post Indira Gandhi’s assassination)

Sobhan Pramanik

Part 2

Situations had hardly improved in the village of Kishangarh. Hundreds of Sikhs across the nation were being killed by the common mob. They randomly broke into people’s house, if they were found Sikh, they were stabbed to death. The rage post Indira Gandhi’s assassination did provoke the government to employ protective measures by placing armed troops at places to mitigate the impact of the disastrous happenings, but even then things were far from being normal.

It was on one of the fear afflicted days that Mehran sat by the lake in the west of the village, just beside the Gurdwara that was burnt down the other day. Its water a shade of cobalt, reflecting the clear sky, noiselessly laps against the rocks on the sides. In the strong wind that blew across the lake, resounded Cheeru’s deep throated squawk from behind the deep green foliage of eucalyptus and neem that had stood with grace for decades by the west of Kishangarh providing shade to the visitors of the Gurdwara. She soon emerged through the dense branches, her velvet green feathers flapping against the current caught glints of the sun as she flew towards Mehran. Cheeru perched on Mehran’s shoulder, her long pointed tail held loose down his back as she nudged against his ears. Her curved read beak parting and uniting to shrill squawks before Mehran took her in his lap and stroked the top of her head. His tip of fingers vanishing behind her adobe of silky feathers as Cheeru imitated calmness with her round eyes lazily brought down.

Mehran was then taken to skipping stones. His first few attempts took not more than a five leaps and he was disappointed with it. He longed to see his stones touch the other end of the shore before drowning. He let Cheeru sit up on a rock beside and having collected pieces of a broken clay pot from amid the charred remains of the inflamed Gurdwara, he started to launch them spinning across the still waters. The ripples from the previous attempt had not even vanished that another landed flat on the surface and went leaping ahead to quiet some distance. The sound of pebbles drowning one after another with the water irregular with stretching ripples and Cheeru’s squawks for few more roasted gram seeds hung in the pensive breeze.

Agitated Mehran then took one hard throw at the water. The pebble leaving his fingers went leaping all the way across the lake and had just hit the other end that he broke into a wild jumping. His parrot reacting against his exuberance flew to a height and took circles over him before once again lowering herself onto one of the barren rocks tanning by the tranquil lake under the mild November sun.

“Stupid boy…” Called a feminine voice from the other end. Mehran though was ecstatic with crossing the lake in his skipping stone paused to pay a heed. On the other side stood a girl, her expressions steady and hands bent at the hips. Twin braids of her dense hairs, the ends of which in a red bun rested upon her clavicles. Her loosely clung blouse, the left sleeve of which has almost slipped down from the blade of her shoulder somehow lingered to the wetness of her skin. Black, creasy lehenga that billowed around her to the breeze had the tiny bells stitched to the linen, jingle in a metallic orchestration. Mehran was still to figure out the reason of her outward remark before his eyes fell on an earthen pitcher by her legs. Its bulged belly draining the water in a thick line from a hole as Mehran’s thrown pebble rests just by its sides. His playing had cost someone an earthen pot.

“Is this a place to keep earthen pitcher? You mad girl...” Mehran was never to bow to his mistake. He was taught in his Madrasa never to surrender before tough situations and he misunderstood it as never to surrender before anything in life, let alone mistakes. 
Her deep set eyes further narrowed at Mehran before she spoke. “So you think this jheel is for your skipping stones session?”

“Yes” .Period. “Problem?” He reverted with sheer sternness tossing a few baked gram seeds at Cheeru’s claws. She in no time finished eating it and was busy sending shrill throated squawks of ecstasy through the foliage and over the lake, for the perfect amount of salt sprinkles the seeds had.          
“This isn’t the place to collect water.” Mehran ended.

“The whole of Kishangarh collects water from this jheel itself…”

“You want me to break the other one as well.” Mehran said spinning yet another piece of pebble between his fingers, his left hand adjusting his brown Taqyiah cap on his head. “If not…then please empty the place. I need to send this piece across as well…” He raised the pebble before her vision and imitated of aiming of it at the other pitcher held at her waist.

“Accha. Ek toh chori…aur uper se seena zori…”  

“You are wasting my time…” Mehran was in no mood to apologize as he instead drew his right arm back, aiming the pebble at the filled earthen pitcher at her waist.

“You need more chanas Cheeru…?” He queried looking at his parrot and dropped few more gram seeds at her claws. She squawked yet again thanking Mehran and went back to pecking them with the beak. All the while the girl at the other end stood watching his idiocy. Anger lurking in her eyes. Had the Jheel waters wouldn’t have been separating them, she would have ran up and smashed that other pitcher on Mehran’s head and laughed her agitation out as he would have went berserk with a swollen skull or even a bleeding one. 
But nothing much could be done when you are just lucky. It was Mehran’s day after all.

“So you aren’t leaving?”

“No” Period. “Break this and my mother will break you.” She responded.

“Okay. Game” He replied and with it sprung out of his fingers a piece of stone. It went spinning against the air, gradually slowing and then taking a final dip around her waist, it struck the pot just below its neck.

A faint tap could be heard as the concrete piece hit against the baked clay. A piece of it fell back inside, leaving a somewhat square hole for the water to come gushing out. Cold, clear water of the wide jheel in a soft murmur kept leaking to the ground. It went down wetting her bare belly and her billowing lehenga.

Mehran then sprung yet another piece of stone. This time slightly bigger in dimensions and it struck right at the mid of the pitcher, emptying it within seconds. Her lehenga stuck to her lowers, perfectly sculptured her slender legs. The hem of it had the water dripping in heavy beads, adding to the puddle at her feet. Across her face a blank expression. Cells short of emotions, looked pale against Mehran’s idiocy as the sun kept beating down, reflecting off her silky ribbons in her hair.

“I will screw you. Just wait here…” She turned on her heels to run towards the village. Hem of her wet lehenga whipping against her ankles as she ran calling for her mother.
“Yes…yes…go. Go tell your mother…” He replied. This time popping a handful of gram seeds in his own mouth.
Moments Later…
“Where is that boy?” Said a stout woman, tucking the drape of her saree in her waist. Her hands dark, like the ones who spend long hours by furnaces as thick silver bangles rolled up and down the length. Skin of her face droopy and eyes fanned by meek grey lashes. Beneath the veil of her saree atop her head was visible her receding hairline.
“He was just here…” her daughter replied frantically looking across the lake.

“How dare he breaks our pitcher? Beti, you should have just caught hold of him before calling me. Today I would have taught him a lesson.” She said with pressed lips, breathing heavily in anger. Tip of her nostrils rise and shrink in succession.

They waited for few minutes looking for Mehran. Their hands raised atop their forehead against the sun’s glaze and looked way beyond the lake, only to catch sight of the burnt Gurdwara resting in ashes and the patrolling of the army men along the roads, the government have employed to control the massacre the Anti-Sikh riot have created after assassination of Indira Gandhi.
Not having found Mehran, they started to walk back. The woman asking his daughter not to come again to this lake to fill water.
With Cheeru softly perched on his shoulders, Mehran saw them recede to the village from one of the high branches of the Neem tree by the lake. He sat their all the while hiding behind the dense branches, as they both waited for him beneath to teach him a lesson. Gently working his jaws over the baked gram seeds there dawned a shy smile of his lips.
…For the sight of her wet feet that airily moved along the dusty road leading to the village of Kishangarh, of the clinking of her tiny bells stitched to her lehenga and the wild swing of her braids when she angrily said, “Ek toh chori…aur uper se seena zori…”, he knew will make him come to play skipping stones at this very lake for the days to come…

To be continued...

Authored By - Sobhan Pramanik     

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