By Nishi Pulugurtha
Dida made a nice fish dish. I like eating fish. I also like eating kolmi shaak. Mama said he got the shaak from a field nearby. Ma makes it very well. But Ma is not at home. She is in Kolkata. She works in a house there and looks after another Dida. That Dida does not talk at all. Ma said that she was sick. One day when Ma called, Laltu said he wanted to speak to Kolkata Dida. Ma said she does not talk, but Laltu wanted to talk. So Ma put the mobile to Kolkata Dida’s ear and Laltu spoke to her. He asked Kolkata Dida how she was. If she had eaten. And Kolkata Dida made loud noises. She did not talk but made noises. Whenever Ma calls, Laltu wants to speak to that Dida. I talk to Ma every day. She told me that she would get me colours and a drawing book from Kolkata. I told her that Dida made shaak and my favourite fish for lunch. She told me to be careful, jhor was coming. She told me to listen to my Dida and Mama and to be careful.
Everyone was talking of the jhor. As I was eating rice, shaak and fish, Dida told us about the jhor. She said it had a name, Amphan. I liked eating aam too. She said it would rain heavily and there would be lots of wind. Bad winds that would take away everything. Crops would be damaged. Water would come into the fields. The river water would rush out also. We had to be careful. She told us that there had been many many such jhor. There was one called Aila, one called Bulbul. Bulbul is the name of a bird, in my book I have seen pictures of the bulbul bird. I miss going to school, miss my friends. School is closed for many days now. Ma said that there was a disease so we had to be at home. Corona, she said. Our teacher also told us about it. My tuition sir also told me about Corona. Ma said wash your hands and I told Laltu too. We washed our hands a lot.
Laltu is my mama’s son. We play every day. He fights with me too. I am his Dada but he does not listen to me, he hits me too. When I cry, my Mama scolds him and beats him. I like playing with him. We have a sister too. She is small, she cannot talk but she makes noises like that Kolkata Dida. I can carry her in my lap. Mami puts her on the mat and she makes all kinds of noises. She cries a lot. Didi says that she cries when she is hungry. When Laltu and I talk to her, she smiles. She has no teeth. Dadu has a few teeth. Dida says some fell off. The baby will soon have teeth, she says. Mama does not go out on his boat in the river to fish. Ma said it is because there is a lockdown. Everyone has to be at home. Dadu does not want to sit at home. He is always going out. Dida and Mama tell him not to go. But he does not listen.
Dadu was a fisherman too. He tells us stories of how he used to fish, about the boat, about the river. He also told us about bad winds. I remember he told us once about a jhor too. These days he does not tell us stories. He seems to be angry with everyone. Dida tells us stories at night and when we sit to eat. That day as we sat down to eat lunch, it started to rain.
Everyone else finished their lunch early. The river water can enter into our house so Mama, Mami, Dadu and Dida picked up all the rice bags and put it high up. The sound soon became loud and more loud. I got scared and sat right next to Dida. She started talking to us. Laltu was sitting quietly beside me. The little baby, Bonu, was sleeping. The sound became more loud. I thought there was a rakhosh on the top of our roof. Dida had once told us a story about a rakhosh that made loud angry noises and ate up everyone.
It was dark inside the house. All the windows were closed. There was no current in the house. Mama said it was because of the jhor. Angry, loud sounds went on and on. The wind was angry. The windows were angry also. Everything outside was angry. Ma called to talk to me. I told her I was sitting with Dida and everyone at home. I would listen to them all. She said she would call again. Dadu was smoking a beedi. It had a bad smell and the room was full of smoke. But I sat there next to Dida. The angry sounds were not nice. Bonu started crying. I think she was frightened. Mami held her in her lap. I called her and she looked at me.
There was a much bigger noise and we all got wet. It was raining in the house. I looked up and saw our roof fly away. Mami started crying. It was a new asbestos roof that Dadu and Mama had got made. It flew away angry. There was water everywhere. Dida shouted, the rice bags were getting wet too. We had to leave the house. Another big sound and a big tree fell near the door. I was holding Bonu in my lap. She was crying. Laltu was holding my hand. Everyone was trying to remove the tree. We had to go out. But they could not. Ma called and Mama told her what happened. Then some people came running. One was my tuition master. They helped to remove the tree. We took whatever we could and ran out of the house. There was another big house. We went there, climbed the steps and it was dry there. The roof was different, not like ours. There was no water inside.
Dida looked at us, she dried us. We took out another pant and wore it. We had to stay here for some time. There were many people here. We have to stay here, Dida told us. For some time, we will be alright here. Mami gave me and Laltu some muri to eat. There was one small lamp burning. I could still hear the angry sounds outside. Dadu said that it was raining still. That was the jhor, I think. I wanted to ask Dida but she looked sad. She said the rice would be all gone. Dida worked hard for it. Mami said at least we all were safe. We were in a dry place. I could not talk to Ma. No one could make any call. I think the jhor did something. Shyam and Hori were there too. They were in my class in school. They were my friends. I liked them and we sat down all together. Shyam’s mother and Mami started to make rice and boiled potatoes for dinner. We all sat together. After some time the angry wind stopped. I think it got tired. It was still raining, someone said. Hori’s Dadu started to sing a song. Ma sang that song too. I liked that song. I didn’t tell you my name. My name is Samaresh.
Dr. Nishi Pulugurtha is Associate Professor in the department of English, Brahmananda Keshab Chandra College and has taught postgraduate courses at West Bengal State University and Rabindra Bharati University. Her research areas are British Romantic literature, Postcolonial literature, Indian writing in English, literature of the diaspora, film and Shakespeare adaptation in film. She is a creative writer and writes on travel, Alzheimer’s Disease, film, short stories and poetry. Her work has been published in The Statesman, Kolkata, in the anthology Tranquil Muse and online – Café Dissensus, Coldnoon, Queen Mob’s Tea House and Setu. She has a monograph on Derozio (2010) and a collection of essays on travel, Out in the Open (2019).
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