Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Someplace else

  • Standing near the timber bridge (from where I clicked the photo), you can see two distinct trees – a tall coconut tree and a rather dwarfish banyan tree – standing, rather forlornly, in a vast field. Except for them, the landscape looks flat, empty, and quiet. “There used to be another coconut tree, a pair, and the house was just in the middle of them,” my father said when I showed him the photo. He then went on and showed me where the small pond with blooming lotuses was, where the neighbor’s boundary began, and where, during monsoon, he put traps and caught fish. “Three decades back, there was a village here and this was our home,” he said.
  • The mango tree in their courtyard, my mother used to say, was of indeterminable age. According to her, it had the same old and gnarled look ever since she remembered – it neither showed much vigor nor did it die. Rather, this tree weathered many a storm and acted as a center of all household activity – during Summers, it used to provide cool shade; in Winters, the communal fireplace used to come up under this tree; on a flat stone near its root, masalas used to be ground; and the buffaloes used to lie around it at night. In fact, one of my mother’s favorite stories about this tree was (which she described rather animatedly) how during the 71’s Bangladesh War stray bullets flew and wedged on the very trunk of this tree. The tree remains till date. But, the courtyard is now empty and there’s no one left to tell stories about the tree.
  • The temple atop the hillock is modest by every standard. When we reach the place, there’s none of the hullabaloo that usually surrounds a busy temple. Encouraged by the lovely mild day of Winter, I walked about the place to explore more. Although never been to this place, I had heard many a stories related to this temple. For example, I knew the big entrance with statues of twin lions atop it, the adjacent pond where shoals of fish came up to feed on thrown food, the flight of stairs where rows of lights were lit on deepavali night, the little garden in front from where fresh flowers were plucked every morning, the nearby tomb of an exceptionally tall Mughal general who came here to conquer but ended up dying in a bout of malaria. It was funny how I knew the place without ever seeing it. And maybe because I had those stories swarming in my head, sitting on the steps I started conjuring up an image – of a young woman slowly climbing up the stairs, her bare feet dusty from all the walking, her hair still wet from the bath, her forehead glistening with perspiration, her slightly smudged vermilion bindi shining in the sunlight, her hands holding a puja thali, her face lit up with a smile – of my young mother.