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Saturday, 5 April 2014

A FATEFUL MEMOIR by Sobhan Pramanik Part 3

(Based on incidents post Indira Gandhi’s assassination)

Sobhan Pramanik

Part 3

That morning, the first of the winter breeze had started to blow across the village drifting through the canopy of our Jamun in a sullen puff. In its shade lies freshly shed leaves of the tree amid a pattern of light and shadow, as the soft glowing sun peers through the leaves.

Baba as usual was in his shop, engrossed in his regular morning trade. The front of the shop occupied by a cluster of people. They casually lean over the brick walls on which broad cracks shelter millipedes or on the foldable wooden doors wearied by the termites, chattering away how cruel the act was of assassinating the prime minister. In their eyes a shade of hatred for the accused, Satwant Singh and Beasant Singh and their shoulders erect with determination to fetch justice. They occasionally calls out to Baba, declaring which part of the meat they should be given. Hind legs being the preferred choice due to its high fleshy content.   

From above their shoulders, Mehran catch glimpse of his father sitting behind the Sal trunk. His face glistening in perspiration as his muscular forearms stained in patches of dried blood comes down hard on chunks of meat resting atop the trunk; the steel chopper in his clutch sharply moving through flesh and bones. Clinging to his body is a yellowish vest, the skin of which worn with usage acts as a translucent drape over his broad tonsure and a round Taqyiah cap on his head, which he occasionally adjust as its slips from his sweaty scalp. In the backdrop was the buzzing of flies that hovered over pieces of meat lying scattered on the floor, the collective bleating of the goats tethered to the Jamun and the faint playing of the transistor radio that hung from the fragile doors of the shop. It aired songs from the latest flick, Amitabh Bachchan’s Sharaabi. Baba nodding to the lethargic tune of the song relentlessly chops meat on the wooden trunk as beads of sweat trickle down the sides of his face.
Someone from the cluster stretches his hand out and tunes the knob of the radio. It is now set to a news station where a nasal voice rants about the massacre across the nation. Suddenly the murmur of the crowd ceases, glum faces strangely hangs on each other. Sound of baba’s chopping now much more distinct against the befallen quietness. One of the customer collects his meat and turned to leave the place. At the tail of the queue he pauses with an agitated expression.

“Government should handover Satwant to the public. Hanged to death, is a punishment to sober for the heinous crime he has committed. He should be shoved up his ass a flaming iron rod. ” He ended up spitting a mouthful of chewed tobacco on the loose soil and clenching his jaws with brown stains of tobacco juice distinct against the white of his teeth, he trotted towards the gate. His elongated shadow trailing him like a devoted slave.

Mehran sat by the veranda smearing an herbal paste on his mother’s burns. She lay on a jute cot ahead of him in a grey burqa, the curtain of which flipped back over her skull as he gently applies the paste. Her face contracting and relaxing against its sting. Through the translucent linen of the burqa, is visible the metallic earrings pressed against the rise of her mandible and the brass bangles clinking on her slender wrist every time she shakes against the pain of the wounds.

Cheeru sat by Mehran all the while, occasionally squawking at the sight of the squirrels that frisks through the hedge of marigolds at the other end of the courtyard across a grassy bed. Its buds, slightly sunken against the approaching winter. In her claws are sliced green chilies, she pecks at them with her bent beak splattering tiny white seeds all over the place. Suddenly she takes a leap down the veranda, jumping down clays steps before flying to the branches of Jamun. In her beaks held firmly the sliced chilies devoid of seeds. Comforting herself on the branches, she sat with her tail dangling, munching at the chilies as the winter breeze kept rummaging through the branches. The leaves whimpering in a gossip.         

 Mehran having emptied the bowl of paste and making sure she is comfortable on the cot, pulled up a woolen sheet till her waist. He then slipping into his sandals, walked briskly passed his father’s shop where he still continued to chop meat as a fairly thick crowd of customers impatiently awaits their turns.

He was sure to visit the lake for yet another round of skipping stones today for the glide of her wet feet over the broken path to the village somehow didn’t fade before him. Halfway down the road Mehran whistles. Its shrill note floated across to the courtyard in the wind and Cheeru came flying to perch on his shoulder as he continued to walk.


Peering from behind the trunk of the neem with his palm against its bark, he knew he won’t be able to play skipping stones. A group of army men strolled the place as labors lift the burnt remains of the Gurdwara onto the back of a truck to clear the place. Mehran, still with the hopes to catch sight of her, climbed the branches of the tree and waited behind its heavy foliage with his eyes fixed on the broken path unwinding towards the village. He tore a packet of baked gram seeds and started munching as Cheeru picks up a few grains from his palm.
With the soft streaks of sun making way through the branches, warming him against the cold breeze and the rustle of the leaves certainly didn’t fail to lull him to sleep much against his wishes of staying up.   

When he woke up, he had anxiety rolling down from his forehead in tiny beads of sweat…

To be continued...

Authored by -- Sobhan Pramanik   

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