…continued … The Tree that remembered everything…31
Dada and Bula didi married the year I passed out of school. It was in winter. I wanted to wear my blue coat.
Ma said no.
“You will look silly” she tried to reason.
I was adamant.
“You have outgrown the jacket”
Bula didi bought me a half jacket that fit very well. It was winter but not that cold. I wore new trousers. I had them made at Kohinoor tailors.
I learnt how to stitch at Kohinoor tailors.
Lal Mia was my age or maybe a little older. His father…
…continued … The Tree that remembered everything…30
This the tree does not know. I don’t know whether the tree is still there. Even if it is the tree wouldn’t know because it is not here. This is happening now.
The call did not come to me; it did not come for me. Dada spoke to Dot matrix.
We call her Dot matrix. When she starts she goes khat…khat…khat…khat! Sometimes we call her Dotty. She shows displeasure at being called Dot Matrix. She is not unpleased with Dotty. We, our son and I, think she sort of likes the name. …
…continued … The Tree that remembered everything…29
“You want te?” Manju di always said te for tea.
“Then what do you want?”
“I don’t want anything”
“Are you sure” Manju di took her responsibility seriously. Ma and Papa had gone to the Army Command Hospital at the other end of town. Papa had to have a tooth extracted and Ma had to have her filling checked.
“Manju, you are in charge” Ma had told Manju di when she had come in at her usual time to help clean the house. “You cook today” Ma had told her “It…
…continued … The Tree that remembered everything…28
“Basu” He called out to me.
My name is not Basu. It never was. He called me Basu.
“Basu, you are a good boy”
I tried telling him that my name was not Basu. He would not listen.
“Basu what is in a name? I call you Basu, you answer, the purpose of the name is served.”
“Basu” He called out to me. I was on the bicycle. I looked up, he was standing at the balcony that jutted out from his first floor room. He waved me to come up.
…continued … The Tree that remembered everything…27
There was a petrol pump on either side of our stop on Jessore Road. Both were within walking distance and had a Dhaba each. Rana, Tootoo and I walked there to have tadka dal with roti. Those were special occasions when we got some money to spend. Like when Tootoo’s uncle from Delhi came visiting and gave him a ten rupee note. We shared a plate of tadka and had 2 rotis each.
The dhaba attached to the petrol pump towards the airport had tastier food, the other was nearer. We kept our…
…continued … The Tree that remembered everything…26
“We need to buy a fridge”
We were a month away from Dada and Bula Didi’s wedding.
“Bula told me her parents are thinking of buying us a fridge” Dada was talking to Ma. Papa was not around and I was not supposed to be.
“If they want to give you a fridge who are we to say no?”
“You are going to go away anyways, so how does it matter?”
I was sitting on the back steps. It led up the door to Ma and Papa’s room, the door was half…
…continued … The Tree that remembered everything…25
The train reservations had to be cancelled. There was still a week to go before the date of our return. Papa had no reservations, his trip had been unplanned.
“I will have the tickets cancelled” Ranga dada offered at the war council called on the evening of the arrival of the telegram. “You take the Rocket”
“You all don’t have to go now” Papa said pointing to Ma and me.
“No” was all Ma said. She used the tone that we knew. No arguments now.
We took the Rocket from Siliguri. Nepu Mama…
…continued … The Tree that remembered everything…24
Rana said “Did you see?”
I said “What?”
He got all excited “Don’t tell me you didn’t see?”
“I saw” I replied going all poetic “the street light flickering; the stars in the night sky…”
He didn’t let me finish “The shadow…didn’t you see the shadow?” He was all wound up but he put his hand nonchalantly on my shoulder and muttered “Act natural” while pointing at the southern sky and saying loudly “That my dear Sir is the North Star”
We were on night patrol. It was Durga Puja time. The pandal…
…continued … The Tree that remembered everything…23
On the Mall round, I made new friends.
In the mist I sat, at the Hawa Ghar overlooking white nothingness, when there floated in a Hindi film song from I know not where.
O Jaane wale, chale ja-na,
jate jate, akhri salaam
He appeared through the mist broom in hand wearing a yellow sweater with brown borders and matching brown trousers. His hair was thinning and he was as short as me. …
…continued … The Tree that remembered everything…22
Every story has a point but then what is the point of this story? Why does the Tree that remembers everything, remember this? Why does it hoard stories which it did not witness? I think it does become someone narrated them to it. Someone thought it important at that point in time to tell the tree what transpired. How else would it know about the events that took place in far away Darjeeling?
Dada left for Bhutan. “Do you know how to say 144 in Bhutanese?” He asked me before leaving. He did…