The beach at Chandipur has no chaiwallah. None to sell “moori” or shells ! And there is no camera-man either ! A group of Bengalis are busy singing Rabindra Sangeet. In the sky, the bright orb of the moon ! The sea has receded to a distance. Only its muffled roar is heard now. The scooter lies in the growing darkness. Shall we go and luck the scooter ? Dash it ! The light of the Panthanivas is running the moon light ! Is it possible to have a cup of tea ? What a pity ! May be, we could go down to Balamagardi. By the way, the house of John Beams is still preserved there ! We could even seen how the Budhabalanga river joins the sea. Godness gracious ! Such a long distance from a cup of tea ! Pupun dear, do not be mad at us ! Here, have some “mixture” ! See, the road is dangerously dark, interspersed with pits ! It’s a new place after all !
* * *
Pupun’s first day in school was a real experience ! You should have seen Archana cry after seeing Pupun into the bus ! The house appeared utterly empty. With her head on my shoulder Archana sobbed as though she had placed Pupun on the funeral pyre ! A few days earlier, I was totally lost in Pupun’s dream world of new uniform, tiffin box and water bottle. For the first time, Pupun could sense what it meant to have his own possessions : school box, note books, pencil, eraser, tiffin box and water bottle. My sofa, colour T.V. air cooler, scooter, mixie and cooking gas – all appeared distinctly trival before Pupun’s gleaming new estate ! Equally worthless was Archana’s jewellery ! We returned to the nursery rhymes. Like Jack and Jill, we climbed of the hill to fetch water and tumbled down one after other !
As for Pupun, he used to return like a battle tested veteran with dog eared, torn books, shoes grimed with cow-dung, matched with dirty shirt and pant. At times, the casualty included lost buttons and money, forcing poor Archana and me to join the battle. We could always sense his helplessness, like Abhimanyu, of facing single handed, seven warriors !
“Why didn’t you beat the daylight out of the chap that hit you ? You should have pulled out his hair ! Should have jabbed his eye with pencil or else bitten him ! What were your teachers doing ! Must have been busy as usual, in their gossip sessions ! Or else surely knitting their sweaters ! Couldn’t you tell them ?
* * *
Leaving the beach behind, we went looking for tea inside the village. When we returned, there was sea at a distance. Everywhere, there was a pallid moon. The beach floor shone with a silvery light ! We sat on a broken wall, a packet of “mixture” in Archana’s hands “Here, Pupun, help yourself !” I said. Pupun, of course had no interest. No crabs were visible in the darkness. The light from the Panthanivas lent a sepulchral glow. Suddenly, a jeep drove down the beach.
Shall we go to the waves ? Asked Archana.
“Yes, let us !” Pupun aloud, his voice making the girl singing Rabindra Sangeet turn back.
* * *
Pupun’s Convert School vocabulary had always been a matter of enigma for me and Archana. There were many words that we simply could not grasp. And some we could not imagine using in our conversation ! These words were outside his nursery rhymes and books. Perfectly abusive and unprintable expressions ! Pupun, the war veteran’s account never failed to amaze and worry us. His vengeful self, always spawned nails and teeth, his unseen eyes, cruel laughter and his invisible face sported pride. Once again we returned to our study of moral science. Once again we receipt parrot like : “Always speak the truth Pupun ! Get up early in the morning ! See what a wonderful day God has created ! Pupun, come and eat what Ma has served you ! Read what Baba has given you ! Go and play Pupun ! Never quarrel with anyone ! Return good for evil ! Return kiss for abuse ! And is slapped on one cheek, show the other !”
* * *
There is now water beneath one’s feet and yet they do not get wet. Only, one senses the feel of wet, sandy and muddy earth. Everywhere on the beach of Chandipur is spread out a layer of silver moon light. Archana’s emotional utterance : “Never have I seen such a sea in my life,” and my state of meditative absent mindedness articulated earlier : “I was not impressed by the first sight of Chandipur !” – from all these Pupun walks away in a spirit of detachment.
Throwing a glance at him. Archana said : “You know, Pupun’s virtue is that he has scrupulously followed our model of upbringing. But tell me, how exactly did we wish him to grow up ! Do we really know what it means to be a good man ?
Pupun’s mind no longer had the fear of crab.
Walking ahead, he asked : “Mummy ! is there a golden fish in the sea ?”
Retour à la page précédente