Pupun’s life is sandwiched between Archana’s college, her computer class, my office and our empty house. When Pupun wakes up, Archana is gone for her class. And when Pupun return from school, there is Archana in her college and I m in my office. Pupun waits for the maid servant. It was a persistent worry ! Suppose the maid was absent, suppose there was a big lock on the door upon his return ?....
“Why do you worry darling ? Are not we there to think of you ? ”If the maid was absent, then we would be there ! Mummy or I would certainly take leave and stay back !”
“I feel scared Baba ! I am still scared !”
“Why do you fear my dear ! Am I not there ?
* * *
“Get up at five, in the morning ! Being your mad rush with Pupun in mind ! Ring up from the office ! find out : Has Pupun returned ? Has Archana returned ? Ring up the garage of the school bus ! Is the school bus okay ? Is the driver on duty or is he on leave ? Ring up Archana’s college ! Find out if she has her staff council Meeting ! In the evening, on the way back, collect Pupun from the play ground and make him do his home work !”
With all this, one is naturally unhinged. At the times, Pupun seeks out his own destiny, devoid of parental contact and announces : “Give me the key Ma when you computer class ! I shall keep sitting in the drawing room and ring up Baba in case I feel scared !” Only at such times does Archana notice that Pupun is no more keen to play or mix with any one. He watches other children at play from a distance. Helpless, he sits absent-minded on the study table, forgets his addition, subtraction, division and multiplication. And when he does attend to his studies, he gets arrogant and defiant.
* * *
“Mummy, how does a golden fish look ?” Pupun asks as he walks ahead on the beach.
Far away, there is the roar of the waves. And behind, there is the dim light of the Panthanivas. Further off are visible, the flickering lights of the Missile Centre’s colony. Around us, there is of silver. In the sky, there is the moon and clouds. Beneath our feet, there is muddy earth. Watch out, there could be quick sand somewhere ! Every step appears uncertain. Baba Pupun, watch carefully come and hold our hands !”
The sea is far away. Only its roar is now available. Those that sang Rabindra Sangeet on the beach of Chandipur, the Bengali tourist—they are not visible any longer. At a distance, the lights of the Panthanivas are twinkling. What is the right ahead ? Is it a rock ? Where is so much of fog coming from ? Could it be fog or some smoke at sea ? Or are we in the middle of the sea ?”
“Mummy, what does the golden fish eat ?
Our hearts beat fast. There is no one in sight. What we called the beach is no longer visible. Have we reached the middle of the sea ? Is some giant monster going to emerge from the deep ? Will we get dragged into the depths by some undercurrent ? Can not we have the glimpse of the waves ? Or will our feet slip in ?
“Mummy, what is the colour of the golden fish ?”
From somewhere, there comes the sound of roar ! The black rock appears to be rearing its head. Everywhere there is the silver sea ! It is there and yet not there ! Forever elusive ! We seem to be on our Great Journey, on the waters of the still and immobile ocean. Archana gripped my hand in fear. “Let us not go any further,” she said, “I am getting scared !” “Baba Pupun, please come back !”
“Do not go any further Pupun ! There could be a quicksand somewhere. There is no one around ! So quite and yet so fearful, this Nature ! Come back dear ! Let us get back to the beach of Chandipur ! Back to the middle of the village, to the town of Balasore ! Return to our town, to our house, our bed and to our secure quilt !
Pupun keeps running ahead. And we are frozen by fear ! Not a soul in sight ! Only the sea, the moon, the sky and the clouds ! Death could be lurking somewhere ! Pupun darling ! Our creation ! Come back dear ! And hold our hand ! Let us get back to the beach !
* * *
Pupun went scampering. Standing on the jade black rock, he exclaimed : “Look mummy, look, I have become a golden fish !” From behind the rocks, like some giant fearful demon, the sea leapt with its huge monstrous waves. We shook in fear by its turbulence and thunderous roar.
“Is the tide coming once again ?” Come on Pupun ! We must save our dreams and our life !”
A giant breaker came and dashed against the rock. Water climbed from our feet up to the knee and receded. With my hand as a grip for support, Archana cried out : “Pupun !”
With the noise of the sea, the cry no longer reached me.
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