Bamboo Flower, a novel – Part 11
“Bamboo Flower”, serialized here, is a work of fiction. 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.
continued from last Sunday
Tomba, the gardener who had become almost family since the time he was introduced years ago by grandfather Ibobi, was very happy. He was the direct victim of the rats. All his efforts had gone waste. He had got them trapped, killed them when he could. But the rats, with their underground passages, always were elusive.
The rabbits were kept inside an upturned basket for the first night. Tomba cycled to Thangal Bazar the next day. He had already prepared in his mind what kind of a cage it was going to be for the two fluffy animals.
He started with the wire nets. Then nails. He had imagined that the cage could be three by three by three feet. Iron wire-nets were cut to measure at the Hardware Shop itself. Then he went to buy aluminum sheets for the roof of the cage. The roof was to be slopped with a ridge in the middle. All the materials were nicely tied to the carrier above the rear wheel of the bicycle.
After he dislodged his cycle load, he went out to the timber shop. Since he had all the sizes in mind it did not take long to assemble the different pieces of wood.
He spent the better part of the day making the wire cage. Three sides were fixed with the fourth side made into a sliding door. Only that this was to slide upwards so that the door was shut when left alone. Hammer pounding over nails to fasten the wire-net to the wooden frame took most of the time. He could not have the roof fixed even by the time it grew dark and he could no longer pound the hammer.
It was only after his evening tea did Rajen go to the western veranda where Tomba had kept his wares to assemble the cage. He was disappointed that it was not ready but did not say anything except that he called out, ‘Brother Tomba, how is it going?’
‘Yes. Coming’, replied Tomba.
Tomba, however close he had become to the family, was always careful and conscious of his position in his dealings with either Thoibi or Rajen. More so, with Rajen. For Rajen, Tomba was somebody who could be trusted but he could not draw him closer despite his contributions to the family particularly during his own long absences.
‘So, it will be ready only tomorrow’, remarked Rajen when Tomba came near the half-finished cage.
‘Some paint will be purchased in the morning. Then the roof will be done,’ Tomba replied.
‘Oh yes. Some colour will do well. What colour do you want for the cage?’ he queried.
‘I thought we’ll make it brown’, replied Tomba.
‘Why, brown will appear as colourless as the rats themselves. Let us make it as colourful as possible so that these rats do find the cage and their occupants as repulsive to them as possible’, Rajen theorized.
‘Bright and colourful can mean something like bright yellow. Or what do you have in mind?’ Now Tomba queried.
Rajen kept quiet for a short while as if he was wondering what he should say. Then, from the corner of his mouth, he said ‘What about red?’
‘Red after sometime will become as dull as brown,’ replied Tomba.
Somehow, he did not like to agree to the choice of colour of Tomba. He did not know why. Yellow or rather bright yellow sounded suitable enough. But he was reluctant to just agree.
‘Let’s make it bright red’, Rajen declared.
Tomba only said, Okay. Tomba knew that further consultation would only delay the work. And if he knew Rajen well, it was only wise on his part to go along.
It was now left for Tomba to only find reasons to tell Rajen that the bright red they had “decided” to use was the most appropriate colour for the cage.
Before he could find any reason to cite, Rajen started with, ‘you know, bright red would mean that the cage would be visible even from a distance. It will help since it will be kept right in the centre of the garden where the rats are most active’.
‘For one, it is important to know where the rabbits are since they are supposed to drive away the pests’, Rajen continued.
‘Don’t you think that the roof should have a different colour?’ Tomba wanted more details.
This was something Rajen had not thought of. Yet he said, ‘Why do you think we should go for a different colour for the roof? Let’s paint it red as well.’
Tomba knew that the matter was “decided” again. So, bright red, it was going to be for the cage, he reminded himself as he entered his room for the night.
He began work on the roof after he had purchased paint and brushes the next morning. By late afternoon the cage was complete.
Paintwork was always a messy affair but he knew he had to do it as quickly as possible.
Since the cage was so designed that it could be kept covering the rabbits on the ground, it did not have a platform. So it had to be kept at a corner when it was being painted till it was completely dry. He pushed the cage towards the north-eastern corner and further right from the door.
That day he could only get the primer over the wooden surfaces and first coat of paint over the iron nets done. It was definitely taking longer than expected. Rajen would not be pleased, but there was nothing much he could do now, Tomba told himself.
When Rajen came home, he went straight to the western veranda. He had expected a glittering bright red cage with the two rabbits to take on the rats. All he saw was a colourless spectacle of dull red wire net and dirty pink wood.
He paused for a while and called out, ‘Brother Tomba, Inspection Time. What happened?’
Tomba came out smiling and said, ‘It’s taking longer than expected’.
‘You know. I want to see how effective they are as soon as possible. Can we put the cage out in the garden tomorrow evening?’ Rajen said.
‘Let me try. I want to get up early. Since at least three coats of the paint have to be applied I have decided to paint at a place where there can be some sun and a pedestal fan can be used so that drying between coats is faster. I only hope it doesn’t rain tomorrow’, Tomba spoke out confidently.
‘A bright red cage with two warriors inside to combat a thousand or so enemies’ spoke out Rajen laughingly.
‘Rabbits, of course, do keep away rats. Only we are not sure if the rats are so many and so menacing as they are here,’ Tomba opined.
‘You know, I believed you all and agreed to bring in the rabbits. I would have, in any way, preferred more pesticides and insecticides even if we have to forgo a season or two of vegetables’, asserted Rajen.
‘We may try everything within our means to combat the rats but we should never speak out as if we are scolding them. If we do that, it is believed that they will never leave and will in fact become more menacing’, Tomba was all wisdom.
‘Let’s see how the rabbits perform for the time being,’ Rajen said half-heartedly.
‘I will do my best as far as the cage in concerned’, concluded Tomba. He was obviously referring to the paintwork job he was working on. Yet, he could not help wondering how the paint odour would affect the rabbits, at least when first introduced into the cage.
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