THE ROAD THAT GOES TO JAW SHORE

continuation of The tree that remembered everything….6

My brother was coming on his bicycle to fetch me. In the morning I had taken the school bus as usual. Now I don’t remember why I had to go to school that day but it must have been something very important, because I left from one home in the morning and went back to another in the evening.

When school gave over Dada was there waiting for me. He was the reluctant transporter assigned to take me to our new home. I got up on the front rod of his bicycle and we pushed off. I didn’t have time to say a proper goodbye to my friends, I left it too late.

“How long will it take?”

“How long will what take?” My Dada (Dada is elder brother in Bengali) he sort of never answered a question with an answer. A question for a question was more his style.

“How long will it take to reach home?”

“Depends!”

“On what?”

“On how long I take to reach, that would depend on how fast I peddle and that would depend on my mood.”

It was a long ride, and as conversations go we shared a limited one. It was almost dark when we reached home. Papa, Ma and Dada had shifted in the morning with all our stuff. I had to go to school so I couldn’t ride the truck that had all the furniture and boxes and stuff.

“How is Minnie?”

“How would I know, I am here lugging a sack of potatoes home?”

“How was she when you left?”

“Now that you mention it, I remember asking her how she was, just as I was leaving…”

“And?”

“She said she was Meow!”

Cats don’t like shifting, I knew Mini was upset. When I reached I had to reason with her. I pointed out all the benefits of living almost in the country. I told Mini that this was better than being cooped in a second floor flat plus there was so much space all around, fields and ponds; no pollution; no noise. The plus bit was what Papa told Ma before we moved.

Ma was not sure we were doing the right thing.

“The bus stop is half a kilometre away, the next house is so far away they can’t hear even if I shouted”

“There is an advantage to that…now no one can hear the passing wind”

Papa pointed to Dada who was intently watching a DC 10 Thai Airways plane land. Papa always said passing wind when it came to farting.

“An Army Officer passes wind”

“Humans suffer flatulence an average 40 times everyday, it is there in RD”

Dada had a whole collection of old Reader’s Digest issues that he wouldn’t let me touch. Any talk of passing wind and Ma would cover her nose with the edge of her sari.

“No foul talk in the house”

Papa took me to the new School, we went on his scooter. Most of the way, to the school, there was a wall that ran beside us. It was the Airport boundary wall and had been coloured yellow once. With the wind on my face I asked Papa questions about things that I was seeing for the first time.

“How long is a runway?”

“This one would be about 3 Kilometres I think”

“Why is it called runway? Planes don’t run away — they take off”

The Highway we were on went to Jessore in Bangladesh. There was a battered signboard that said NH 34 but everyone called it Jessore Road. In Bengali you pronounce it as Jaw Shore.

“Papa how far is Jaw Shore?”

“About 120 Kilometres from Calcutta I would say”

“So if we kept riding when would we reach Jaw Shore?”

“Never, they will stop us at the border and I don’t have enough petrol”

So we had a road going to Jaw Shore but if you took the road you couldn’t reach Jaw Shore.

I remember that the first few mornings I woke up in the new house was like jumping dreams. Have you ever noticed that the dreams you remembered when you woke up in your childhood are the dreams that you can still remember but you can’t remember the dream you had last night? You know you had a dream but what was it? Back then I woke from one dream to live another; then slept to dream some more.

“Ma, it is all white outside, I can’t see a thing”

“It is fog, don’t open the window, it will become cold inside”

It was like a big blank outside. Inside it was dark and mysterious and sitting by the window I could hear people talking. It was like seeing with the ears. I sat on this side of the glass window and hear the world outside. Slowly the sun came out and the noises became living forms as a shining dew covered world emerged.

Ma couldn’t stop Mini from going out and when Mini came back her footprints followed her around the house till they dried off. Mini sat on the top of the chest of drawers and licked herself clean of all the wetness she had collected. When the sun fell on the mirror behind her, Mini curled up in a ball and basked in its reflection purring herself to sleep.

The mist is there in memory, some of it real some maybe from the dreams I had dreamt. The empty plots all around the house have filled up, except two in front of the house. The chest of drawers is there; Mini isn’t. I sit with my son at the same window and watch children kick a football around. I couldn’t show him the mist of adventure where sound had life and imagination filled its forms.

That day when I went to look at the new school with Papa, they made me sit for a Test. Maths, Science, English and Bengali. I didn’t have a pen, the teacher gave me one. Writing the test I thought of the paddy fields that we crossed on the way there. Papa pointed out the fields.

“That’s paddy and behind that those are potatoes. The tall ones on this side are jute”

“Come back next Wednesday, we will let you know the results” Mr. Ghosh the school administrator told Papa. There were 12 or 15 of us who had given the ’Test’, not all for the same class. There was a boy who walked with crutches. One girl had very powerful glasses.

On the way back, we noted the distance between school and home — 4 Kilometres.

…to be continued…

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THE PUMPKIN SELLER

THE PUMPKIN SELLER

The Pumpkin Seller is a cynic and tends to observe life through a sceptic's prism. The use of pseudonym is deliberate to avoid bias that attaches to names.