Bamboo Flower, a novel – Part 54
By Akendra Sana
“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
contd... from previous Sunday
The damaged pumpkin only brought a new silence no outsider could have understood.
Nobody was in the veranda when Uncle Prakash came that morning. ‘Isn’t there anybody home? Is the Sunday making it better indoors?’ The voice was clear.
No one heard except Kiran, now happily married to Priyo and was already expecting her first child in a couple of months, replied, ‘yes, uncle, we are all home except that everyone seems to be indoors.’
Since he was only on bail all this while, Priyo had to surrender formally only days before his wedding so that he could carry on with the life he was now getting used to. Johnny did not have to do any such thing since his name was cleared by the authorities possibly because his name did not figure in any known crime according to lawyer Biren. So it was now obvious that they would not ever have to return to their old ways of life in the jungles.
However much Rajen had tried to make his mother understand that it was not in his interest for either Priyo or Johnny or both to share the house on a permanent basis, Thoibi went ahead to make Priyo marry Kiran without any new arrangement.
Prakash saw Johnny coming in from the gate in his tracksuits returning from his morning run.
Seeing Prakash, he said, ‘you are standing, uncle. Please have a seat. Aunt Thoibi must be there.’
‘Kiran must have told her’, Prakash replied.
It took a while before anybody reappeared. So Prakash sat waiting on one of the cane chairs in the veranda.
‘Oh, Brother Prakash. I hope you have not been waiting for long. I was at the back of the house when Kiran called out’, Thoibi came out smiling. And in the same breath, called out, ‘Thembi, Brother Prakash is here, some tea, please.’
Thoibi knew that Thembi was probably not in hearing distance, but the idea was that anyone nearby would convey to whoever was in the kitchen for tea.
‘I was in a nearby house and decided to drop by to see how you all are doing’; Prakash spoke out as if he had to explain his presence.
Then he asked, ‘How is Rajen doing? Is he better?’
Thoibi knew that Prakash was referring to Rajen’s rats obsession.
‘Yes, yes. He is much better. He has realized that we have to live with them. But what large numbers when they first appeared! As the only male member of the family those days, I know, he took upon himself to protect the land from the ravaging rodents.’ Thoibi spoke out all over again as if she was speaking to a stranger.
‘Good to see you, uncle.’ Rajen said as he came out bleary-eyed.
‘Nice to see you, Rajen. How are you?’ Prakash asked.
‘Mother and Leima tell me that I am better. For them, the rats have not been the problem. I have been the problem. Of course, now, I agree with them. However much I hate, I guess we have to live with the rats. In fact, I see less of them now even though only yesterday they destroyed a whole pumpkin. I took it to be Brother Tomba’s private grief and not mine.’ Rajen said all these as if he had been waiting for someone outside the family to hear him out.
‘I guess it is better that whatever grief or worry we may be having, it does not go beyond the self and ones relationship with others do not suffer’, counseled Prakash.
‘And moreover, however much we try, our private grief cannot get centre stage. There may be bigger problems for others’, Prakash continued.
‘Yes. I guess you are right. It is no point seeing ones problem bigger than it deserves. Rats must be everywhere. We cannot destroy every one of them. We can probably only contain them’, Rajen was supplementing uncle Prakash.
‘You look good, Rajen. So, the Manchu beard is an addition?’ Prakash could not help saying.
‘No. I will be clean-shaven again. I must be looking horrible. But I know I am better now’, he replied.
‘And how are Priyo and Johnny liking their work?’ Prakash enquired. It was more to keep the conversation going since he already knew that the publication had benefited by their presence since Rajen had been on leave for weeks.
‘They are doing wonderful. They have left their mark on “The Voice”. But Priyo would soon be leaving. He and Kiran are starting a new NGO. Johnny seems to be enjoying the work’, he told Prakash.
‘What do they wish to do? Yes, of course, isn’t Kiran in some such work?’ Prakash asked.
‘Yes. Kiran is experienced. Priyo is joining her. They have registered an NGO called “Centre for Social Change”,’ Rajen was to inform Prakash.
‘Sounds interesting. But what exactly would they be doing?’ Prakash was keen to know more.
‘That is something I also wanted to know. Priyo said that they would be working in the areas of health and making some intervention to achieve economic upliftment amongst rural poor’, replied Rajen.
‘So, there is something I wish to get some answer from Priyo himself. Well, isn’t he home? Please tell him I am here and I wish to speak to him’, Prakash said.
As if to take the message in, Thembi came out with tea and biscuits. Within moments of Thembi going in, Priyo came out.
‘So, I hear that you are doing well. How selfless is this new work of yours?’ Prakash asked him lightheartedly.
‘Kiran has experience. We should be useful to others for whom we will be working’, Priyo only said.
‘Of course. We all work to be of use to others and ourselves. Why is it that your target is only going to be the rural poor? Nobody seems to be bothered about the urban poor. I think the urban poor are more marginalized and dehumanized. Some social workers like you should be looking at this,’ Prakash was now giving advice.
‘And for many to be of use to themselves only.’ Rajen wickedly joined.
To be contd...
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