Bamboo Flower the Novel- Part 2
“Bamboo Flower”, serialized here, is a work of fiction by Akendra Sana. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and any resemblance to any actual person, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.
Contd from last Sunday
Rajen could now only remember how he had confronted his mother when he was about ten years old to tell him who his father was. He remembered returning home from the play field with, ‘Mother, where is my father? You said he would return one day. When is he coming?’
His mother then, went about explaining wiping her small tears that he was now big and that he would understand that his father had died months before his birth and that they, mother and son, had to stay at his grandfather’s house.
His mother went on to say that she would not tell him the name of his father because it was not the right time. She added that she would tell him on her own when she knew that he was prepared to hear everything about his parents.
These were obviously in his mind when the Headmaster raised the matter. He was now not prepared to confront his mother and make her suffer again.
‘I have done more than persuasion on earlier occasions. My mother will not reveal. I have decided to have her as both mother and father. I can’t ask again and I can’t be cruel’, he told the Headmaster.
As he said this, he remembered that his mother had said long time ago that it was their secret. Therefore, suddenly it now occurred to him that not making his mother sad was more important than his school board examination.
The Headmaster was helpless. He told himself that if he knew the mother and the son well he was not going to find the answer. Yet, he knew he had to do something quickly. He had once thought of asking his wife to speak to Thoibi, Rajen’s mother. They appeared friendly enough. He however decided not to and began thinking of other ways of answering that column in the examination form.
Later, the school examination board authorities advised that an affidavit be prepared so that only the mother’s name could be put in place of the father’s.
Rajen knew that the Headmaster had found a solution when a document was given by the clerk to be signed by his mother. After the examination forms were complete and filed, Rajen felt strange but almost new. He was now Rajen Hao, no longer H. Rajendra Singh. And he had first of March as his date of birth and was all of thirteen years when he wrote his Class Eight Board Examination in 1969.
He now knew that he would soon be going to the Khunthok-hanbi temple at the DM College campus to offer prayers for his exams. He would prefer to go alone but he knew that his friends would tell him to join them to go together.
Some said Rajen’s father was a wandering sage. Others said he was a soldier of an “unidentified army”. Nobody knew. He in fact had on several occasions heard boys little older than him making snide remarks about his parents at the play fields. It was one of those early such instance that took him to his mother with the question of his father.
What remained with him were these words of his mother: “Your father was a brave man. He was fighting for a cause he strongly believed in at a time when few had thought about such things”.
“I knew him for a very short time. Nevertheless, those were beautiful days. He was working for the upliftment of the farmers and overall improvement of the society. And he was of course helping the people to question the wrongs of the authorities”.
These were the words, he imagined his mother had then said once he grew up and was able to understand them. She had probably used more words to explain to make him understand.
Whoever he was, the man moved on and left Thoibi an unwed mother.
Memories were all she had to keep her going for years after years until Rajen started questioning. Yes, every question of her son was difficult. Yet, all by herself, she was reliving the relationship all the while. Thoibi would often then wonder if she had done the right thing of not telling her son when he could understand. Thoibi would think that it was better when the son was small and had only the gossipy neighbours to contend.
Yet she smiled silently many times in her struggle to bring up all alone a son, so unlike her in appearance and who had taken up so closely after the father he could never hope to see. Although, there was her understanding father, grandfather Ibobi to her son, bringing up a child without a father was of course a lonely affair.
Physical relationship for Thoibi with the father of her son was short. She could never find words to express her loss even to herself. She often tried to convince herself that human relationships were beautiful only when they recurred often in the mind and one cherished the memories.
Thoibi did make efforts to locate the father-to-be. Nobody could bring any definite information. However, few days before Rajen was born, a man came and only informed her that the soldier had died in an encounter in a nearby hillock and as a dying wish had requested the man to give the information of his death to Thoibi.
Even if she wanted to get more information in the following days, her body was taking over. When she gave birth to a healthy son, did she realize the futility of giving more thought of the life that was never to return.
It was much later that she learnt that Rajen’s father was a rare individual who was a soldier, all right, of an unidentified army because he was also a scholar who took upon himself along with a band of men who dreamt of evolving an “independent republic”. And that they had professed that their struggle was for “self-determination” and “independence”.
It took some time for her to understand what all that meant. However, as she grew older and had better-educated friends Mema and Bina did she begin to appreciate the things she heard earlier about her son’s father.
Rajen’s father however remained a mystery. For Thoibi, it was romance for a short while and her complete surrender. Then the loss and life of a single parent took over.
Thoibi knew that it was the spirit that remained and the body for whatever it stood was now of no relevance. Nevertheless, for Rajen it was necessary to create a persona of both body and spirit of the father he was never to see. He wanted to know a lot more.
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