Pupun’s birth had completely changed my world. Stepping out of the operation theatre of the Nursing Home, the nurse had let me hold the newborn baby. With him snuggled between my two palms, I had entered into a strange new world that recognized no distinction between obscenity and propriety. Only nudity made for beauty here. Till yesterday, the woman who concealed her motherhood in Public. Before me, there lay an aged world. Holding the cherubic hands, I had stepped into the world that day, precisely at twenty minutes past ten A.M. ! To be sure, I have always been a contented and successful man. There was no shame of South Africa in me ! No problem of general election ! Nobel Prize, Jnanpith or Arjuna Award ! There was no 21st Century, radio activity, future of man, communal riots, fascist politics, extremism, price rise or dearness allowance. Absolutely nothing ! – Only Archana for myself and the four walls around us !
Well, sofa, T.V., dining table, glass, almirah, carpet, cooler for the heat of summer and room heater and geyser for the cold season. Also, there was mixie, hot pack, Banarasi saree, coat, suit, expensive quartz watches, a scooter – and Archana’s growing waist line.
At that moment, Pupun was our only achievement. Three years after our marriage, every one near and far, the in-laws as well as well our own people – meaning the whole society – had become obsessed with a single thought : Why was there no Pupun in our life ! As it is, Archana had irregular periods. Before her sanguine encounter every time, she used to dream that Pupun had come in to her womb. And yet, there had been no sign of Pupun. Only a bloody coldness !
I had little shame or guilt as to why there was no Pupun in our life, much as Archana forever agonized on this account. We had a good bungalow and scooter. There was jewellery in the bank’s locker. And we had status and social prestige. Only, there was no Pupun ! That did not seem to matter, at any rate to me! However, Archana’s opinion was just the opposite : that in every one’s life there had to be a Pupun ! Every one was capable of creating a Pupun ! Only I was not ! This was the burden of Archana’s sorrow and complaint.
After Pupun’s arrival, our roles were reversed. The one who had prayed for Pupun kneeling down at the altar of 33 crore temples, bathing in a tank of red hot chillies, she had lost all desires ! Her sleep never got disturbed at night and she nearly forgot the date of Polio injection. Shaking the box of baby food at night, she would remark : “Goodness, the baby food is over!” When Pupun had loose motion she would say : “None of them is necessary ! Only a glass of sherbet with a pinch of salt and sugar will do the trick !”
* * *
A handful of Bengali tourists loitering on the beach turned and looked at us. Taking the injured self of Pupun on her lap, Archana admonished me : “You should never insult a child before others, it will only aggravate his complex.” And then she said to Pupun : “Come Baba, come my dear ! The crab is not going to harm you !”
Shaking off his mother’s hand, Pupun ran on and looked back. Eyes laden with anguish, he said : “Alright, I shall tell my friends that my father is a demon who flings me into the sea !” Saying this, he fled on the beach.
Archana called him back : “Pupun darling, come and leave your shoes behind !” But Pupun was in no mood to comply.
* * *
Holding the hand of Pupun, I had learnt how to walk. When Pupun had fallen down as a toddler, it was I who had cried the most despite his utter helplessness. I had suffered his constipation ! And it was his hunger that forever fuelled the fire in my stomach! Pupun’s cry had always upset our world.
Once when Pupun was one-and-a-half years old, he had cried out in the middle of the night. What could possibly be meant by the adventure of an infant ? It was neither a war cry, a charter of demands or a slogan ! “What is it Pupun ? Would you like some water ? Pupun pushed away the glass of water with his hand. Want a comb ? Or a ball ? Here, take this box or read the newspaper ! A, B, C, D ! One, two, three, four ! Want to remove powder from the box ? From the lower shelf of the dressing table ? Want to pull out the broken clock from the drawer ? Hair pin or imitation jewellery ? All right! Now take this doll or that bear, tiger, cat or zebra. Or else, take the elephant that resembles a bear ! Or the dog that resembles a “jackal !”
Disinclined, Pupun pushed away everything. Suddenly, my happy and successful household had crumble miserably into poverty. I had everything and yet nothing ! For Pupun, that was my ultimate failure and disgrace !
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