Wednesday, March 28, 2012




Budhia loves the nature and moves in the forest. He collects medicinal herbs and sells in the weekly market just to earn his bread. One day while returning he accidentally pulls the cords of a trap laid by someone to catch the Jungle Fowls. Massod, the guest house keeper, negotiates with him and takes the whole lot of Jungle fowls. by just giving him a bottle of whiskey and repayment of the interest of loan that he gave him. Masood is a greedy and clever man and earns money from the people like him by money lending and even compelling their wives to entertain the guests of the guesthouse. That night Massod earned a lot from a guest by providing him roasted jungle fowls in the dinner and arranged Somebari to entertain the guest in his room. Somebari was the proposed bride of Budhia but due to a trick pulled by Masood, the marriage could not take place. In that chilly night, Budhia’s father, an asthma patient, became very sick. Budhia needed firewood to keep his father warm. He ran to guesthouse where Masood stockpiled firewood. He was about to stumble on a red sari near the Sofa just opposite the closed bedroom of a guest and heard the moans of Somebari from the room of a guest. He recognized this red sari which he gifted Somebari just before the marriage. In the back yard of the guesthouse, he found out the firewood and heaps of the peeled feathers of the killed Jungle fowls. He took the firewood and the feathers also. He thought that firewood and the feathers burnt together may keep his father warmer.(Read more for the full story)

In the background of the setting sun, the man standing motionless in the foothill jungle is not a silhouette. He is a local tribal. At the end of the day he was returning to his house, up in the hill. A small white cloth around his loins is the only respect for this late December chilly wind.

The other two people at the watchtower of the hilltop forest rest house are Smith and Arup, one Indian and another, a foreign national. They were trying to capture, through their movie camera, the valley and the far-off hills in the background of setting sun. The mist and the late afternoon fogs were disturbing them frequently and they were about to give up.

Smith whispered, “Look at that silhouette figure we just saw few minutes ago. He is now sitting on the ground and is pulling something.”

Arup hid his smile “This is the time for the birds to return to their nest. He has placed a trap long before. He is now pulling the cord of the trap to catch the birds live.”

Zooming at Budhia, Smith started his video camera and was soon disappointed. “He is now nowhere”

Arup said “Well! He must have gone to those bushes and tall tree, he may be seen soon in this slope of the hill”

Arup was correct. The tele-lense tracked him down the hill slope. Budhia was in his early forties but the power in his muscular body was negotiating at ease against the steep curves of the hill slope. He is now seen carrying a bamboo pole on his shoulder. The baskets tied at the both ends of the pole were swinging vigorously.

Smith was busy in capturing all these in his camera and said, “Oh lovely! His both baskets are loaded with big birds” Arup looked at the monitor of the video and zoomed the birds “These are jungle Fowls.”

Massod, the guesthouse keeper, brought the afternoon tea and laid the table at the Lawn. from the view-point tower, Smith signaled him to bring the tea over there.

Massod frequently gets generous tips from Smith in cash and full liquor bottles in kind.

In this guest house foreigners are very frequent. Masood can speak English by connecting fragments of words but he can understand very quickly. The eyes of this neck less plump man rotate like radar and can read a face quickly. As he was pouring tea, Smith asked

“What is there in Dinner?”

Masood replied, “Fresh Fish roast Sir. Big fish, river. If you no like, then Chicken”.

Smith quipped, “No Chicken, I want Jungle Fowl”

Massod bowed “Sir, tomorrow lunch I try, Evening no available”.

Smith signaled him to see his video monitor, “Have a look. Get this man; he has not gone far off by now.”

He threw a five hundred rupee and signaled him to go. Masood halted suddenly “ he may ask for a bottle along with money”

Smith shouted “O.k. you miser! Give him that also but make it fast.”

Arup was silent he stood up and started for leaving the room “I am leaving for the drilling site, possibly you want to stay back”

Smith nodded affirmative.

Massod was only worried about the bootleggers of evening time who may easily lure Budhia to exchange the whole catch for just few bottles of Mahua (country liquor). Although difficult for his heavy body even walking fast, he did as much as possible. On the turn of the spire road, near the guesthouse, Masood spotted Budhia, along with the catch of the day and he was relieved.

“So you thought you can sneak away from me without paying the interest of loan. You worked for more than two weeks in the mines, got your payment on 1st itself but since then you are evading me.” Masood pretended to be very angry.

Budhia replied, “Ask your collector, Samsul. He caught me at the gate. He made me drunk and ran away with the whole pay packet. I am hounding him but he disappeared.”

Masood told dryly “That is the matter between you and him. But I want my money right now.”

Budhia prayed before him “Give me some time, tomorrow is the market day. I may get some money.”

Massod laughed, “If you are thinking of selling these Jungle Murgahs (Fowls) in the Haat (weekly market) Ranger saheb is also coming tomorrow.”

Budhia was angry now “I sell the Jadi- Buttis (medicinal herbs) not these birds. I am sure only you laid this trap for your guests at the guesthouse. I wanted to release the trap but accidentally I pulled the wrong cord. Right now if I release these birds they shall be the easy prey of the wildcats. Tomorrow morning they shall fly in the sky”

Masood shouted “Wrong or right, you only have pulled the cord and my two guests recorded that in their video camera. But if I serve the roasts of these fowls for their dinner they cannot show your photograph to Ranger Sahib. But if you release these fowls this evening or tomorrow morning they may fly in sky but you shall be in trouble. Ranger saheb after seeing your clippings shall put you behind the bar.”

Budhia put down the bamboo pole and the cages on the ground. He now realized that along with these birds he is also trapped.

Massod looked at him and poured some honey of kindness “ O.K I shall see to it that the guests pay me a good tip and I promise the expected tip may clear a good part of your interest.”

Masood took the two cages and fearfully looked at the Bamboo pole lying near Budhia. He released one big bird, took out a liquor bottle and signaled him.

“Take this bird for your father, good for asthma. And after the whole days hard work you deserve this bottle. This English daru (Liquor) is good for relieving the pain.” Masood left quickly towards the guesthouse.

Masood sat on the walls of the culvert before the portico of the guesthouse. Moping the beads of sweats from his forehead, he touched the feel of Rs. 500 note and the remaining bottle inside his loose dress.

There was one more half filled liquor bottle lying hidden here. He saw Sombari and Manglu waiting for him for the daily wages. Sombari is the cook of the guesthouse and his husband Manglu is the gardener.

He yelled for Manglu, “Manglu, take these birds, Dress one big and one small bird for roast. Sombari shall do the rest. Smith saheb is very happy with you and he has left that bottle and this fifty rupee for your tip.”

Seeing the glistening eyes of Manglu “Keep one bird for you, have a nice evening, Sombari shall stay back.”

Manglu stared at Massod but obediently followed him. Masood calculated fast. He has to keep his promise for the perfume bottle and mirror that Sombari was demanding for long. This investment shall keep her going for the post- dinner entertainment of Smith. Calculating the quick and good return, Masood felt happy.

Draining the last drop of whiskey that Masood gave him Budhia was boiling with anger. He should have checked the bottle. Masood is an usual cheater. This time also he must have mixed either water or Mahua flower wine with this whiskey.

Two years back he took two thousand rupees from Masood for marrying Sombari. But Masood double-crossed him. He gave five hundred rupees more to Manglu, the gardener of the rest house.

Sombari’s father preferred Manglu for obvious reasons. Budhia was invited to attend the marriage. He sent his father along with the red sari and silver bangles that he purchased for his proposed marriage with Sombari. After her marriage he saw her several times wearing that Sari and the Bangles going to guesthouse in the evening. Budhia knew her evening assignments in the guesthouse.

He was about to release the bird still tied by a small rope. It is already dark. This fowl cannot fly. Now It is an easy prey for the wildcats. He has a rare herb in his house. The bird roasted with that herb give a good relief for asthma patients like his father. Remembering his father’s face he decided to keep the fowl and got to his feet.

The herb medicine mixed with fresh honey did excellent job. The hearty meal and clear breathing made his father sleepy and he put him in the cot covering his body with a small blanket.

The room requires mending, the cold wind enters the room through many holes in the walls but he cannot help. The fireplace was empty; Massod’s men took away the firewood making false promises to his father. He could find some, hidden in one corner and an earthen pot. He selected some herb and mixing them with the rest of firewood in the earthen pot made it a fire-pot.

He kept the firepot under the cot but preferred to sleep outside. The smell and the fume of herbs burning slowly with the firewood are not good for him.

He made a small fire over a small heap of dried leaf, took out a good old bottle of “Mahua” from his cellar, and drained the contents in two gulps.

The colorless liquids together with roasted fowl were sufficient not only to keep him sealed from the blowing cold wind but also from the whole day’s episode. However, he found no success in the later one; rather the past started circling like a movie reel.

He knows this forest like the back of his palm and likes moving in the forest than working in the mines. Upon a self-compromise, he works in the mine for that number of days sufficient for the food for his family. In the remaining days, he moves in the forest from dusk to dawn.

The tall trees, shrubs and medicinal herbs growing underneath, birds, jackals are his friends. He picks up the medicinal herbs and the roots and sells them in the weekly market. The locals call him as Vaidyaji (herbal doctor). Budhia enjoys the recognition.

The small hill river meanders around this forest for seven times. These places are the rest shelters for him. He likes the corner near the small waterfall, the birthplace of this river and very often takes the rest for a while. The jungle fruits, arrowroot, occasional huge potatoes are good enough for recharging his stomach.

The recent mining has spoiled this forest. The river is drying up. The tall trees are dying. The birds, beers and the jackals are vanishing one after another. The simple tribals like him are all captives of people like Masood. The thought of Masood made him angry. He threw the empty bottle. The remaining drops of liquid flew to fire and the fire flared up.

He heard a groaning sound of his father and sprang up. The firepot extinguished and the room was very cold. The old man was almost in a state of breathlessness. Budhia fished out two herb roots, made a paste in the earthen mortar quickly, and placed it in the tongue of the old man. The old man was little relieved. All the old man requires now is the fire. Budhia ran towards the guesthouse to get some firewood.

Budhia found Masood in the kitchen snoring heavily but there was not a single heap of firewood. He moved from there towards the backyard store. Possibly the firewood stocks are lying there.

He was about to stumble on something near the Sofa just opposite the closed bedroom of Smith. He recognized the stumbling objects as the same red Sari and bangles that he gifted Somebari on her marriage.

The full moon of the midnight has flooded the backyard. There were two big heaps and a single heap of firewood. Some one as if decorated the single heap with piles of feathers peeled fresh from the flesh of Jungle fowl.

As he approached the heap, he found another tiny feathers heap. It could be red; moonlight has partly obscured the color. He did not stumble on it this time.

The backyard is just opposite the bedrooms of the guests. The sound of moans and another shrill sound were entering his ears. His trained ears of jungle were baffled at first. It appeared as if a Hyena has just de-skinned a big fowl.

He picked up the small heap of firewood adding the last one found just now. Running towards his house he thought, “This heap along with these feathers and skins of Jungle fowls shall burn more, it shall give my father more warmth.”

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Home-made Bio-Ltmus Paper- His first invention

He was continuously raising his small hands. I was just entering our township.My reflexes acted sharply and the car came to screeching halt. It was my son Rony, who just opened the door of the car( it is never locked) and sat beside me. He had a packet with him.

“ Sorry Baba, but that is the only way to stop your car.’

While driving, my eyes can spot only the tyres of cycles and automobiles and only limbs (not the faces) of moving live objects. That is the only way to concentrate for an absentminded person like me allowing the mind to remain in restricted fields only.

We finished exchanges and I said “what made you to come here, I am returning now. We could have...”

“Baba, I want to get this done right now. Mummy is out on Ladies club meeting. This is the only time”

He took out a the small Rail engine “This is now moving slowly”

“Oh! These Chinese made toys are not supposed to last long. Next week I shall get you a better one. This time it shall be Japanese made”

He took out a rectifier from his pocket “This fire may improve this engine”

“ How do you know?”

“ Yesterday the maintenance people changed a thing like this for our slow moving fan. Now that fan is moving very fast, so, why not for this engine?’

“ Where could you get this thing?”

“I asked the mechanic uncle to give another such thing.”

“So what we do now?”

“Simple. Just let us go to market and give this to that Raduio repairing shop. He shall replace this with this one, …fire or something you said’

Only day before yesterday I gave this toy to him and thank god, it is intact until now. With any working toy, he was more interested in opening it, to see how it functioned rather than playing with it. He already knew that all these toys, there was a motor and from yesterday he knew not the motors moved speedily with the help of the rectifier.

The mechanic boy installed the rectifier and tested the speed. The engine now shot like a released Arrow from a Bow. Then, he was a six years kid.

The right time for him to make experiments was the siesta hours of his mother. He would take his toys, audio cassettes and his kite making kits to upstairs to begin his operations. He would either make new kite of various shapes or open up the toys and cassettes to see what made these objects work.

One afternoon when I returned my residence, I found my daughter Junia and wife was watching something made by him.

As I came near, my wife said “ Look at these blotting papers. We don’t have to buy Litmus papers for the chemical Lab assignments.

Junia was a student of Class 8Th standard and they were supposed to buy litmus papers on their own for their Science lab experiment.

Seeing those blotting papers I said “ Only yesterday I saw a couple of this papers on the roof top”

My wife was complaining that She was finding only few Jaba (hibiscus) flowers, not enough for her daily “Puja” I went to see whether the flower plants require a replacement or there is some disease. I found none.

Junia said “ He rubbed the fresh Jaba flowers on these blotting papers and dried on sun. The red color disappeared possibly due to bleaching or something else. But see it works”

She brought two small glasses, one contained foaming “Surf” solution and another with fresh Limejuice. She dipped the blotting papers on both of them. The paper dipped in Limejuice became red instantly and in “surf” solutions, it became blue. Diluting the contents on both of them and dipping blotting papers on them produced the same results.

Junia said “ Baba, Citric acid is weak and when we diluted it to great extent it becomes more weak. Even then, these Litmus papers are sensitive enough to detect the presence of a weak acid and the other a weak base. I think these papers should work for all acids and bases strong or weak. Tomorrow I shall test it in our lab.”

His mother said proudly “This is his first invention and after all he is my son.” On such occasion, it is always her son only. I admitted like every time. This is not the time to debate but time to celebrate.

Next day, the results were successful in the lab and the science teacher congratulated Rony for his attempt. She said that she was not sure whether this is discovery but told them that these flowers contain an organic dye, which the blotting papers soaked. This dye might be sensitive to both acids and alkali resulting change in color. He presented this in the annual exhibition of the school and the title of his product was “ HOME-MADE BIO LITMUS PAPER.

Rony is 24 now, a software engineer with a multinational company. He is involving in developing some kind of new software product. Possibly, like charity, inventive brains develop at Home.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Holiday on Holi


My old friend GG, now a senior scientist at NASA, talked just now on telephone wishing me happy “Holi”. We both recollected his another "brain wave", just on the eve of “Holi”, We, four masketeers, as called by others , all got involved and enjoyed it.

Four of us were from different states and social levels, but we loved each other a lot. Possibly love is best based without any rhyme and reason. GG was the talented most and besides studies he had several funny plans(“ Brainwaves” we used to say among ourselves)in which we all were either convinced and agreed to execute.

Few of his “Brainwaves” which we four participated are as follows

1. We, as uninvited guests, enjoyed the dinner of the marriage ceremony of the most miser( used to keep his Bunglaw gate closed during holi and Diwali but took plate load of food during Hall- days) H.O.D’s daughter’s marriage. With a fresh hair-cut, Dhoti-Kurta and Shawl we got mingled with “Bar-yatri”. Our Professor with folded hand requested us to take more sweets. We also took couple of icecreams too and a “sweet” revenge.

2. Posed as beggars in the crowded Gol bazzar of Kharagpur Town, we all earned Rs 25(in 1974) and enjoyed a dinner at Chhedy's Restaurant in our technology campus.

3. Shaved our heads, wore saffron dress with other accessories and moved around the India without ticket in 20 days by train. Besides the journey, We earned Rs 2000 as generous “Pranami”.

This incident dates back to 1971 when we were in 3rd year. GG and others were taking training at Kharagpur Rly. workshop and I was at GSI office at Kolkata. Including Weekdays, there were altogether 5 holidays for Holi. So I came back to campus.

GG and others came to my room, they already fixed up a plan to go to Digha one evening before holi and play the colors festival on Sea beach. There was an added attraction as narrated by GG.

GG heard that some characters of the Novelist Bankim Chandra Chatterjee become alive on the full moon night near a Kali temple located on a small hillock . The rendezvous might or might not take place but the breathtaking view of the sea and the big breakers of the full moon day tide hitting continuously on the empty midnight beach was guaranteed.

I was planning to go home but like every time I agreed to go with them and cancelled my plan.

DIGHA is the nearest Sea beach about 70 Km from Kharagpur. A professor of Aeronautical Engineering dept.(GG's dept and very close to GG) while going to his native place during summer vacation gave the keys of his house and imported Volkswagen Car to GG . We planned to go to Digha in that Volkswagen car. GG used to get a handsome money order from his rich parents and unquestionably he was the director cum financier of all such brainwave projects. Just before leaving we saw the registry peon of our Technology post office, who used to bring money orders also, was knocking the door of GG.

At noon we reached Contai(Kaanthi) and were taking lunch in a road side "Dhaba". Some people returning with families from Digha told us that all hotels are full and room rents are as high as Rs 1000 or more. Food and water are also scarce and very costly. Even mud built houses of Fishermen are full."

In that age nothing appears formidable and we as usually shrugged. Worst thing going worst, We might have to sleep in the car in the night, enjoy the day and should go back in the evening of Holi.

After a few Kilometers, the traffic moved at snail’s space. The single lane road was jammed with incoming and outgoing traffic. Many out goers commented 'No room any where even in the beaches of Old and New Digha."

GG driving the vehicle was silent and cool, the rest were not and discussing the alternatives. We reached Digha and found things are true. With influx of so many tourists, there was no point in looking for any kind of accommodation.

One of us, Arijit became sick suddenly and threw up, possibly due to tension. Our problems got more complicated. Staying inside the car and keeping the whole night awake may further worsen the situation.

GG now broke silence "If you guys have finished chalking out alternative accommodation, I have a nice proposal. It is going to be a rent-free decent stay within walking distance of the same sea beach, provided you just listen to me. Make a single and solid promise that you shall keep your mouths shut and open your mouth only when I say. Till your stay you shall only call me by my Nick name."

"Yes boss but what's all these ?"

"You shall come to know everything but are you making that promise or not ?"

Our inner strength was diminishing. A decent stay that too free only in lieu of keeping the mouth shut was most welcome, we all deserved a wash and freshen up.

We crossed the New Digha and was going towards Orissa border. Now the road was clear and after 10-15 minutes drive we stopped near a tea shop.

GG asked the tea shop owner, the path direction for a village called "TaalBagan" which was 2 Km further. As directed, GG left the main road, followed a dirt road and stopped near a grocery shop.

A gentleman was coming on a bicycle from the opposite direction and just stopped there. Seeing our Volkswagen, he came forward with a smiling face.

"Sirs, it will take less than few minutes. I was getting anxious."

The gentleman asked us to follow him and we entered a two storied house with a sprawling big garden at the front. We were looking at each other and GG gave us a stern look reminding us our promise. The gentleman was possibly a caretaker of the house took care of the luggage.

GG told the man " We all four shall share the big room in the upstairs."

He said "Yes sirs. I arranged like that only."

There were three rooms in the upstairs we all settled in the biggest hall type 4-bedded room. Through the window, we saw the attached two diametrically opposite facing ponds of the house. Cool fresh flow of wind was flowing through the cross large windows of the room.

The caretaker appeared with a bunch of coconuts and right then a coconut water drink was just needed.

" Sirs, If you plan to take bath right now, I apologize. The generator is not working properly. You may have to wait for about an hour. Our people shall fill the tank by that time."

GG nodded " How far is the Sea beach”

“Sir, you may have a look of the sea from the terrace. It is just 5 -10 minutes walk. There is a path through palm- grove from the back yard of this house.”

The call of aroma of the fresh Sea-fish cooked in the kitchen of the house was irresistible in our empty stomachs and we signaled each other.

One of us said“We shall take bath in the in the backyard pond."

"Yes sir. The other smaller pond is for..."

“That is for cultivation of Prawns. You get a good yield?"

He replied " Sir, Production just started. Not yet up to the mark."

He ushered us to the bathing pond , kept few towels on the concrete stepping and said just before leaving.

"Enjoy your baths Sirs. I shall arrange a Petromax light( Kerosene Pump light) there."

" Do not take the trouble. Full moon shall appear very soon."

Except me, all others were excellent swimmers. I took few dips in the water and came back and others were continuing their swimming but gave up soon due to darkness. The thick clouds forbade the Moon to appear.

The caretaker ushered us to a tin shaded petomax lit big room near the pond. His men brought Tea in big thermos and Hot Pakoda and few plateful of fried sea fish.

By now we guessed this could be one of the ancestral property of GG that for some reasons did not tell us for some reasons.

One of us said" OH! This is all for you GG, had you not..."

GG forbade and said in a hushed voice" do as promised, I shall tell you everything a little later."

O.K who bothers. The rain started soon and the music of droplets of rain on the tin shade compelled one us to sing few songs and lastly one chorus.

As we were going to our room in the upstairs, The caretaker appeared " Sirs, any thing from the Cellar and what shall you like for the Dinner?"

GG quipped" Four bottles of beer and snacks. if it is not otherwise inconvenient for you then Khitdi(Rice and Lentil cooked together) and fried fish shall be the best.

" Done Sir. It shall be ready by one and half hour."

One petromax lamp was placed at the corner. The rain was continuing, I opened two cross windows partly and said, " GG, excuse me, I shall give you people company for the snacks , You know I do not.." GG signalled and I closed my lips. One boy arrived with a bucket of Beers kept in cold water and and another boy arrived with a big plate of heapful fish fry and Potato finger chips. As they left GG now said"While we drink I shall tell you everything, but less share for Snacks for non drinkers."

Finishing his mug GG handed us an Airmail envelope from his hip pocket. The letter addressed to identical name of GG with partial correct address.

There is a Taalbagan near our campus but other part of the address was overlooked and was delivered to GG.

One Mr. Pattanaik from US wrote" GG ,my four friends scheduled to arrive on 13th of June have cancelled their plans and may arrive during Durgapuja Holidays. If you have purchased things like Beer etc for them as I told you in my last letter do not return but keep for them during Durgapuja. They like beer very much.

We read the letter, unknowingly I gulped by mistake beer from one of the mugs and was about to throw up. GG pushed a Fish fry in my mouth and the bitterness in my mouth and throat went away.

One of us asked GG "Now tell us your part. We shall decide thereafter."

" I opened this letter by mistake and I did so because the name of the addressee was the same, I did not look further down the details of address. I read the letter and then only I knew it was not for me."

I said " When you got this letter and then why you did not redirect this letter?. Possibly this time it would have reached the correct addressee. "

GG said" I got this just before leaving and I thought if I post it at Digha. it may reach correct destinations. We reached Digha and found no accommodations and Arijit became suddenly sick. Then I decided to avail this accommodation which by all chances may remain vacant."

One of us said" Are we not staying here as Impostors?"

GG said " No. We have not yet told that we are the friends of that Gentleman. We came to this village and the caretaker took us here without asking our names. It is true he assumed it so."

One of us analyzed " I assume what GG is saying is correct. GG had a prior information of the accommodation through a wrong delivery of letter . Seeing Arijit sick and finding no accommodation he took this chance. He drove upto the village. In villages, cars seldom come and on hearing the sound of automobile, the caretaker also named as GG came out and he assumed us to be the guests and we reached here.”

True we have not posed as impostors but we made the caretaker to think that we were the proposed guests. Had we told him the truth he would have refused. With this continued rain, we would have been in lots of trouble. But it is better we now tell him the truth and if he asks us to leave we do so."

As we all got up GG said " He has left half an hour before to his village. Normally, he leaves after the guests take their dinner. But since it is raining he has to leave early and I said O.K. I tipped him Five hundred which he refused once, but took it after I insisted."

Arijit said “Possibly, GG did it for my sake, let us forget it.

" We all joined saying "Forget it. Tomorrow we shall see." one of us put his tape recorder on and we danced together. We had a hearty dinner of hot Khitdi, Prawn curry and Fried fish.

The rain of the night continued next day and upgraded into a 3 day long depression. The Causeway connecting Main town Digha and this village was about about to be flooded. We were compelled to leave in early morning without meeting the caretaker. We played holi inside the car in that year but not on the beach.