Sunday, March 13, 2011
Nineteen twenties that was, 'Juniper' the old colonial style English kothi(bungalow)at Hazaribagh in Bihar (an eastern province of India). Built by an English rly.engineer in eighteen thirties. Later sold to an Bengali zamindar(land lord) Babu(Mr) Suryanarayan Aditya, grand father of Mr Gobardhan Aditya a retired civil servant of Calcutta,
present owner of the kothi. The kothi was built over an area of almost thirty six decimals, a high plinth single story building, decorated with a beautiful garden in front of the kothi; and an orchard of different native fruits behind the kothi. Since Babu Suryanarayan to Mr Gobardhan,the Aditya's used to spend their leisure times at 'Juniper'. In absence of Aditya's kept under supervision of hereditary care takers 'thePaswans';and Lachchu is the current day care taker,who lived in the servants quarter there.Since long Mr Gobardhan could not managed to tour there.
It was late December with chilling festive environments of 'X' mas celebrations,night clubs,wines,parties etc.etc. Celebrating one such merry evening party Mr Gobardhan happily retired to his bed. Awakened early morning,having an early morning dream,lazily lying on the bed with closed eyes as if he was dreaming again; 'T.uu..u......Lachchuu.....find me..lachu.. find me..t..uu.u" hiding himself under a Victorian style mahogoney cot. He went to his childhood days playing hide and seek,with same aged Lachchu, son of Rambilas the caretaker. He was joyfully walking down the memory lane lying dizzily under warm quilt, halted suddenly.
"Chota babu, tu inha ata kiu nehi? Mera tabiat thik nehi, tujhe dekhne ko ji karta hai' (Young master why you don't come here? I am ill,longing to see you). A whispering pitiable tone entered in Mr Gobardhan's ear. The moment Mr Aditya sprang up from the bed and shouted loudly "Lachuu.....Lachchuu?" Jamini(Mrs Aditya) came hurriedly in to the room and en-quired "What happened?Where is Lachchu?It's Calcutta my dear,are you dreaming?" "Oh! no..I am sorry" replied Mr Aditya.
"Listen Jamini, I have decided to go to 'Juniper' right now. Tell Prasad(driver) to make the car ready." told Mr Aditya.
"Prasad? He didn't turned up to day, and i am not going to allow you to travel alone driving a car.Remember doctor's warning on your heart. It's more than two hundred kms from here.So dear, don't think of taking such big risk."Jamini replied.
Over ruling all oppositions from Jamini,self-willed Gobardhan started towards Hazaribagh alone, driving his car. Reached Hazaribagh at the stroke of evening,it was very foggy with slightest possible visibility,invited an early darkness. Advancing closer to his kothi,Mr Aditya begun to think"Eh!I have done a mistake,should have informed Lachchu in advance, don't know where is he now?" As his morris minor moved closer to the in gate of his kothi,he was surprised to found Lachchu standing there with a lantern in a posture; as if he was waiting to welcome him,receiving a prior message. Lachchu came smiling to the car and told "Akhir tu ne aahi gaya" (at last you came?) and opened the gate. The car slowly moved in to stop at portico,Mr Aditya alighted there.
"Tera bibi bachche kidhar?"(Where is your wife and children s?) asked Mr Aditya.
"Iidhari kanhi hogi"(may be somewhere around here) answered Lachchu,and affectionately guided Mr Aditya to his personal room.
"Tera kya hua?"(what happened to you?) asked Gobardhan "That's a long story,leave it now.You get freshed first,I am going to prepare tea and will serve then" answered Lachchu.
"No, first you come here,sit near me.Lachchu, we met after a long gap,there is lot to talk to you" replied tremulous Gobardhan.
For a while Lachchu was standing like a statue touching the Victorian mahogoney cot,his eyes glimmered with pearls of tears and the lips moved. "Chota babu mai tere liye bohot din se apeksha kar raha hunh,Tujhe dekhe bina mai kaise jau,akhir tu mera jigar ka dost"(I am waiting for many days , to see you, young master.I can't leave without seeing you.My only dear as life) spoke in a very low tone.
"What? What are you talking off? I can't hear you Lachu,speak loud.Aare yarr (hey friend) lit up a candle.your lantern is very dim, i can't see your face." told Gobardhan.
"Sorry i don't have a candle or a match box.The lantern too i brought from a faraway village.Chota babu you know,my aged eyes can't find anything here now,waiting to have some redressal from you.Suffered a lot of problem to find the lantern,when i got to know this morning that you're coming?"
"Hah...ha.ha..ha...Lachchu this morning...ha..ha..ha..you got to know that i am coming?...Hah...ha..ha..ah..ha Lachchu you remained as naughty as ever; good joke."
"Sahab(master)!.........Sahab!.....Are you there?.........Are you there.......?? Suddenly a chorus of young tones,dominated by a mature female tone rained cats and dogs to Gobardhan's ear.
"Yes; I am chota sahab here.But who are you ? come in"Gobardhan replied loudly. A middle aged women veiled in widow's weed, shakily entered the room along with four different aged children s.
"Sahab mai Lachchu ka bewa.Lekin aap kav aye?Itna jorse aap kiu hass raha tha?"(I am Lachchu's widow.But when did you came? Why you were laughing so loudly?) asked Fulbanti(Lachchu's widow)
"Lachchu's widow...?" the only word came out from the mouth of Mr Gobardhan Aditya,the retired civil servant,the grand son of great zamindar(land lord) Surya narayan Aditya ; before he fell down to the floor like a fallen tree. After a minute or so Gobardhan got up to found Lachchu was standing smiling aside him.
"Ehh! Lachchu you are here, but why your wife is in widow's weeds?They were telling that you're dead?"
"Look there" Lachchu replied.
"Oh!..ho...ho! why your wife and children s were crying so madly?Who was lying there?.............me?..? cried Gobardhan.
"No..h,dear,that body was MR Gobardhan Aditya's flesh and bones.You are with me.Leave them to their state.Let's go and play hide and seek again,do you know that, the 'Kuls'(kind of small juicy fruit)
begun to ripe in the orchard behind,lets find some ripe one's." told the joyous Lachchu.
The two pals laughed and leaped like kids.Went out through rear window like a blast of wind..........Suu...rrr...aat.
Posted by NIRUPAM GHOSH at 3:00 PM