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ISSN: 0974-892X


July, 2011



Durlabh Singh

The  Last  Bloom

The countryside is barren and of little use to the eyes of farmers and agriculturalist but it is of much interest to the people with different outlook. It is specially so to eyes of the people from the towns and cities who long for any country scenes to refresh their souls, supposedly anything other than man-made ugliness will do.

Even in a barren tract of land, there is much to see and admire especially for urban folks who are surrounded by man made structures, which cater mostly for utilitarianism without any recourse to the aesthetic effects. If you look closely there are more dimensions to natural scenes than there are in man made structures.

Even in this barren land there is profusion of varieties, of grasses and of the flowering plants. Though there is rocky soil strewn all over the landscape yet you could find in between a profusion of greenery and variety of patterns of different hues, such as black green, gray green and green yellow of grasses and blooms.

When it rains, the rocky soil does not absorbs all the moisture for its underground reservoirs but allow the water to slither down its smooth slopes to gather into pool like formations and with time these overflows collecting all the little hollows into a one great pool of pleasing appearance. Slowly the wind set to work as a gardener, bringing in different seeds from other lands, to deposit and in time plants are formed with their roots in the moist under structures. You can see one such miracle in a pool, studded with exquisite lotus flowers.

Kishore and his mother lived in a small hut at the edge of the village. They were extremely poor but proud. She was not so old in years but starvation and hard work had taken it toll on her body and she looked far older than her age .As now when her son had grown to five years, she was trying to work full time in the fields, owned by a big landowner who never cared much for his farm labourers or other hired hands. His chief motive being the profit from his land and as long this motive was fulfilled; it was not his concern as to what happened to the workers. In the countryside there were no laws for the poor or the landless peasantry.  His karma dictated that he owed his position due to good deeds done, perhaps in his previous existence. It was simply the justices of the gods that his kinds were born in a privilege position. Rich were rich and the poor just poor and that was the divine law and the human should not interfere with it.

He did not think that he ill treated his workers or paid them paltry wages but was confident that he was fulfilling the gods’ commandments by providing seasonal work for the peasantry. Anyhow on the Divali festival he gave his workers few extra rupees and some mithai or sweets for the families.

Kishore’s mother, Mamta, when she was young was left an orphan and had to fend herself and she was mistreated by all and sundry but here and there were few kind women who took pity on her and fed her against any death from starvation. She turned out to be a pretty young woman, which was not so good for her. She soon became the center of lust for all the village young men and who tried to take advantage of her on any available opportunity.

Years ago she used to work on a rich landlord’s farm who had a son, which used to come to overseer, her and other women workers but was always boastful of his achievements with the ladies. When he saw Mamta, his lust was aroused but pretended to be her friend and protectorate. When she was verbally abused by other men, he stood for her and protected her against the physical abuse by other villagers. He managed to come closer to Mamta in order to win her confidence and thus to possess her sexually. Mamta was innocent and when he declared his undying love for her, she was bowled over. He told her that as soon as he had managed to get approval from his father, he would marry her but in the meantime they should physically come even closer and she should fulfill the sacred duties of a virtual wife by sleeping with him. The poor girl was completely deceived and did what she could to please him.

As her ill luck would have it she became pregnant and the attention of landlord’s son began to shift towards other young workers. He told her that on his father’s command, he had to go to the big city to set up a business and as soon he had succeeded in that enterprise, he would send for her. He never came back, married a rich girl and settled in the city.

She concealed her pregnancy from the villagers for few month by dressing differently but when it became too visible, she was told that unmarried mothers had no place in that society and that she should leave soon for some other place otherwise some harm might come to her. She went from village to village to find a suitable place to live and pretended to be a wife of a man who was killed by the robbers, who also stole from her all the money and the jewellery she possessed and that she was forced to flee on account of further violence envisaged by the robbers. An old farmer provided her with a depilated hut on the edge of the village, which had been left inhabited for some time.

Kishore was given the nick name of Kishu by all and sundry. When he was five years old, her mother used to leave her home when she went to work. She could not afford the school fees, so he never went to school. He began to drift about the village in search of a playmate but all the children of his age were usually at school. He was a curious child and so began exploring the surroundings and countryside around the village. He watched the different coloured flying birds and became fond of their songs. He liked birds, beasts, the empty barren landscapes and the sound of the wind whistling through few trees on the rocky landscape. One day he went far, about two miles away and heard puffing sound of an approaching train. As he had never seen a train before, he was anxious to see it with his own eyes. He found the rail track and which led him to a small station. He sat there fascinated by the big monster of an engine and bright red carriages. The train stopped on the little station for about few minutes and he watched sellers of food, souvenirs, kites and woven woolies offering their goods for sale to the passengers.

When he went home, his mother did not had enough money to buy even flour to make the chapattis and they had to go hungry for the night. They swallowed sips of water and went to bed empty stomach. Still hungry and as a result of his malnutrition, a restlessness was being built in the boy and in order to divert his gnawing pain, he began to explore the countryside around the village more and more. While walking one day, he came upon a pond of lotuses, which was pretty enough to draw his attention. Here was a panorama of beauty and colours and one could loose oneself into that dimension and forgetting one’s hunger and pains of poverty. He sat there contemplating a world of solace and consolation was there. The blues, the pinks and the whites fascinated him and there was the green, brilliant greenish yellow colour of petals at their base. Here was a calm world resting on its laurels and not on everyday world of his own life with its dark despairs, hopelessness, pain and hunger where nobody really cared or even wanted to care. It was strange that one had to be born and die alone this way.

He moved further and decided to go to the station to see the train again. On the way he stopped at many places resting, looking at birds, the flowers, the field mice which seemed to him to be as poor and scraggy as himself and wondered whether that they also suffered from hallucinations of hunger and pain. He waited for the train to arrive and saw and the distant black blob, which increased in size and slowly the front of the monster was visible. It was huffing and puffing dragging the long carriages behind it. There was majesty in its operation and one could loose oneself contemplating that majesty. He wanted to be like that engine, not contemplating the life but simply running in spite of all the burden it had to carry.

He saw some villagers selling rotis and cooked vegetables to the passengers and he decided to tell her mother to do that when he arrived back home. Luckily that time there was enough flowers and vegetables in the house and he persuaded his mother to prepare some food to be taken by him to the railway station for sale to the passengers. He tied theses in a bundle and started his journey towards the railway station, visiting the lotus pond on his way. The lotus flowers always provided him with solace and courage to go forward in spite of all his infirmities. He asked a lotus flower whether he could pluck it, in order to take it home to keep its sweet company and the flower replied in affirmative.

At the sight of a slight little boy selling rotis, people’s hearts were moved and they bought from him some food. A woman looked at the lotus in his hand and wanted to buy it, Kishu was reluctant to part it with but she offered to buy it for a rupee, which was a goodly sum of money, so he sold it remembering their poverty and hunger.

Mamta and Kishu were pleased with the money earned and had enough to eat for few days hence. As the new blooms came into the pond, the child was able to sell those at the railway station too.

The rainy season did not arrive on which the whole population and especially the farmers depended upon. The fields began to grow dry and the grain from the crops yielded only a tiny fraction of its normal yield. The countryside became dry and parched
but the sun did not diminish its intensity. Domestic and wild animals began to die due to lack of grass and water.

It was a bad time for the village and for the villagers who were mostly farmers but as the drought prolonged, there was no way they could sow the next crop. Even if they tilled the ground and sowed the seed, it was going to rot or get stolen by the mice and vermin of the field. What was the point of sowing the seed, which could be more profitably employed in feeding themselves and their families? Mamta used to get spare grain from the farmers to feed herself and her child but suddenly there was not any work left for land labourers to be employed by the farmers and landowners. Their situation became precarious. They were already half starving and what was to become of her and of her only child? Gloom and starvation were opening their claws to snatch them away.

The pool began to get diminished and the lotus flower began to die. One day Kishu went to the pool and saw a lonely flower still left in bloom. With a tense heart he plucked it and started towards the station. Pangs of hunger were gnawing at his entrails and they knotted inside of him. He must sell his last lotus flower. His body was so week that he could hardly walk, at every step he had to rest as dizziness was spreading over his brain and body and the world was becoming darker and darker. Suddenly he heard the whistle of a train and tried to hurry across the rail tracks to the platform.

He never returned home. They found a body of a child, a skeleton of shriveled dust, the dead body of a child with severed legs and who was still clutching a single lotus flower in his hands.