Bamboo Flower, a novel – Part 47
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
Nini disappeared as suddenly as her entry into his life. She did not contact him after that visit to his office. Rajen could not muster up enough courage to try to meet her. He decided not to pursue her, at least for the time being. He reasoned that it would be wiser to find out what was in her mind and this he could only do by waiting.
It was back to work in the office and rats at home. Somehow, he had been feeling lighter. His experience in the hills of one night must have made him to think differently of his problems, he told himself.
Nearly a month had passed when there was e-mail for Priyo asking him to download an article by her. And would anyone believe that it was on the phenomenon of the flowering of bamboo. Of course, he silently smiled as he read the text.
Flowering of bamboo, could rats be far off, he asked in his mind, smiling, enjoying himself. However, he could not help wondering if the rats, Nini was going to talk about were going to be as menacing as the rats in his backyard.
Apart from the general belief of this phenomenon of bamboo flowering occurring almost every fifty years somewhere in the hills of North East India, Nini also detailed the flowering of bamboo in 1959 all over the then Lushai Hills, the Mizo Hills, which was then a district of Assam state and there was multiplication of rats which devoured the crops, bringing in a great famine - the “mautam” in the Mizo language and recalled that the government undertook a large-scale relief operation but the people required much more and the general inadequate acts of relief work and other feelings of government apathy led to the insurgency movement that razed that part of North East India for over two decades.
‘So bamboos have also been contributing to the rise of insurgency,’ he told himself when Johnny walked in to show him some photographs.
‘Johnny, can we get some photographs of flowering bamboo?’ he asked his cousin. In fact, on seeing Johnny he immediately began to think that the text deserved some photographs.
‘What? I haven’t seen any such thing let alone photographing them’, Johnny replied.
‘They would be priceless if anybody could get to photograph them’, he continued.
‘Of course, they would be rare photographs,’ Rajen agreed.
‘Are you sure that there cannot be library pictures or even private collections?’ Rajen again asked Johnny.
‘The possibilities are remote considering that they occur only once in fifty years and in the remotest wilds of the Northeast, as you say’. Johnny was all wisdom.
Priyo walked in, in the midst of this conversation and heard what Johnny was saying.
‘So, you two are on the flowering bamboo trail.’ Priyo observed.
‘Well, I was asking Johnny if there was possibility of getting some photographs of flowering bamboo.’ Rajen replied.
‘I have also been thinking that such rare photographs would be interesting,’ Priyo also stated.
‘Do you think it is possible to get such photographs even if they are private collections? We’ll carry courtesy so and so.’ Rajen said still not giving up.
‘Well, the only way out is to run a Northeast Region-wide campaign to get a rare picture. But even that will not help because cameras are still rare in the backward areas and cameras are important to us chroniclers and not necessarily to those who had to suffer the onslaught of famine and hunger.’ Priyo put the whole thing into some perspective and it was carried without pictures.
‘Bamboo hit the headlines only when they flower just as places in the Northeast get a mention in the media when there is some insurgency related incident, more so when there is violence.’ Priyo then said.
From then on, her contributions were on an average of one a month although she had said that she would be sending every fortnight. This was something he had asked why to Priyo who only said that as a freelancer she was not asked and that she was paid only for the stories used. Rajen wanted to be in direct communication with her even if it had to be only for work. However, since he had already delegated such jobs to Priyo, he did not want to do anything that could be misunderstood.
Rajen tried not to show any undue interest in her work. Nevertheless, there was always a strong desire to find out if there was any message for him even as her mail attachments were downloaded. Somehow he could never muster up enough courage to contact her. It was perhaps because of the way she had left. She had behaved rather strangely from the moment they parted after that memorable journey, he thought. Was it only significant for him and how was it for her were questions he could never answer, he noted.
By now, Rajen had learnt to live with whatever nuisance the rats were subjecting him. He was beginning to think that they were not such a bad thing after all. In fact, he began to reason that they were not as much a nuisance now as they were when they started appearing earlier.
Rabbits were introduced first to combat them. Then of course, the bamboo twig Nini presented perhaps had its role to check further expansion. And somehow they no longer seemed to oppress him.
So, just when he had almost forgotten how menacing the rats could be, Nini sent an article based on rats menace at a park in an Indian city. Her article read thus: The rats belonging to the particular species in that park had a tremendous power of adaptability, which had helped them to spread their colony in the park. Moreover, easy availability of food had also prevented the rodents from leaving and that the small animals could tunnel in the underground continually. Studies had showed that a single rat belonging to this particular species could tunnel twenty meters within a short span of time and that there were more than one thousand rats in the park, according to her.
The piece then went on to describe how the rats in some form also worked as scavengers. Some definite use to humankind at last, he thought. He could not help wondering if there was something universal in these nature’s wonders. Moreover, what a maze of routes these rodents must be making underground whether they were in his backyard or elsewhere, he again noted.
To be contd...
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