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Realistic Fiction


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‘You are looking at my still water since long, but I wonder your mind is somewhere else thinking deeply about something; Is it so dear,’

In the midst of drum beats, uludhwani¹, shankadhoni² – a murmur of voices slightly indistinct initially, but then when trying to listen intently – slowly  started realizing someone  whispering in my ears.  Someone truly said, auditory sense follows the mind. Maybe trying to bridge  an emotional gap created over the years between me and the pond at our native place Barasat where I spent my early childhood days under the shadow of  my grandparents’ affection.

I was just relaxing sitting on the red colored L-shaped sitting platform on our pukur ghat (pond quay, a concrete platform with steps lying alongside the pond and projecting into water), not very far away from our puja mondop,  gazing at a bunch of reddish colored small fishes swimming in the  water with scattered water logged algae and  a black colored big sholmach (snakehead murrel fish) appears like a guard around them, on an autumn forenoon when we visited Barasat to celebrate Durga puja.

Unknowingly I was speaking softly to myself, ‘I was just thinking about my childhood days taking bath in your water playing and swimming with my childhood friends, sometimes visualizing myself sitting on the other side with Dadubhai (grandfather) with a fishing rod trying to catch fish from your water; I feel like going back to my childhood days – that time your water was so clean almost crystal like,’

A soft  voice again like a light gentle breeze started ringing in my ears, ‘Yes at the time of my birth, my water was so clean, pure and sweet, your Thamma (grandmother) and the neighbours’ wives used to take drinking water from here in the brass & earthen pitchers, after taking bath. I used to enjoy the  girls gossiping sitting at the steps, then carrying pitchers with water at their waist. Sometimes those girls I remember, used to sing ‘o ghatejolanite,’;  you know why I remember the song; as ‘ghate’ ‘jol’ – these words are familiar to me; Was it a popular song that time,’

‘lalita go
o ghatejolanitejabonajabona
o ghatejalanitejabonajabona
o sakhionnoghatechalna

‘Yes,’ I replied ‘It sang by Manna Dey, and those days everyone loved to hum this song.’

‘I also remember your neighbours staying at flats on the north side, their kids to recite ‘Oi khane ma pukur pare, jiyolgacherberardhare —-’, another one ‘Nam Tar Motibil, bohudurjol —–; I remember those for the familiar words ‘pukur, pare, hansguli, —-,’

‘These are nursery rhymes by Rabindranath Tagore, our beloved poet; Would you like me to recite few lines for you now,’

‘Nam tar Motibil, bahudurjol;

Hansgulibhesebhese kore kolahal.

Pakecheyethakebok, chilurechole;

Manhcrangajhup kore pore eshejole.’(4)


I continued, ‘I know everyone including me are now busy with our own priorities, so forgetting the basic requirement to keep you clean’.

‘No, I have no complaints, at present it has become very trivial’.

‘Why’ I asked.

‘I have listened people talking sitting on the ghat that soon you are going to demolish the house made by your Dadubhai to convert into a flat including demolishing this ghat, and may be in future would like to cover me with earth.’

‘No, I don’t think so. You are partly right, the concrete ghat and platform are likely to get demolished to make access road to the new flats which are to be constructed, but I don’t think you will get covered with earth. That is what I have heard from my uncles. But I agree your water need to be cleaned regularly, what Dadubhai used to do every alternate year by cleaning the bushes, putting limestone / gypsum salt in the water.’

‘Do you know who is my father?’ I was surprised with his question.

He continued, ‘Your Dadubhai is my father. He created me in 1949 by digging the earth and constructed me. He used the digged up earth / soil to elevate the foundation of your ancestral house where you lived with your Dadubhai at childhood.’

Yes he is right, I thought, Dadubhai only created him by giving his birth; And Dadubhai used to look after him as if as a part of our family.

‘I used to feel so much honoured when my father used to perform Tarpan on every Mahalaya morning standing in water upto his chest height,’ he said.

‘Yes, I can remember those childhood days. When I asked Dadubhai about this, he explained ‘On wee hours of Mahalaya morning, Hindus visit the ghats of Ganga or other rivers to pray to the ancestors to bless our kin, and for me this Pond is as good as Ganga’’.

Later I learnt the beginning of Devi Paksha starts on Mahalaya. Mahalaya the end of the Pitru Paksha, which is believed to be the evilest period referring to death, this is the reason Tarpan is performed.

Tarpan, a ceremony that says “Adieus to the evil that is the Pitru Paksha and welcomes the “Devi Paksha”. Triumph for the holy and auspicious days, devotion or shraddha to the coming happy and prosperous days.

He again murmured, ‘On Dashami day – the fishermen used to catch fishes from my water by spreading nets and since early morning you all together with your cousins used to watch this standing around  me, it was a scene to watch – which I  miss today. Initially I used to feel very sad when the fishermen were catching fishes who were swimming and floating happily in my water. Later I realised fish is a food item for you – like I need sunlight, air, rain for my survival as per cycle of nature.’

He continued, ‘But I was very unhappy when one of your neighbour caught one of the Kalbose (LabeoCalbasu) pair from my water. Your Thamma when used to come at the pond at noon time after finishing her lunch and standing on the step with the water up to ankle height, this pair of fish immediately used to swim around her legs to get fed by her with rice. I used to feel so happy, by seeing them getting adored and fed by your Thamma.’

‘Do you know what happened to the other pair,’

‘For few days I have seen him playing with your Thamma, but then he suddenly vanished, even I don’t know what happened to him. Do you know, your Thamma also used to feed a pet water snake, a non-poisonous one.’

‘Yes, I have seen it few times when I used to stand on the ghat while Thamma feeding the snake and Kalbose fishes. Isn’t it a miracle, how they used to come to know the presence of Thamma.’

‘I guess by the voice or fragrance of your Thamma, they used to love her very much. I used to enjoy the group of ducks swimming on my body with ‘quack, quack’ sound since morning till evening, and your Thamma when used to call them back at evening standing on the quay they all used to go back to their home in a line.’

He continued, ‘Your Thamma used to pluck water spinach which was growing abundantly on my body  those days, you must have relished deliciously the sag bhaji (chopped greens deep fried with garlic) prepared by her. I also used to feel very proud when  your Dadubhai used the lotus flowers grown on my body in Durga puja.’

I said with excitement, ’Do you know, lotus is considered the most auspicious and sacred. This flower represents beauty and non-attachment, as it rises above water without becoming dirty or wet. So, this flower are offered to Maa Durga on Asthami. You should feel proud of, we used to get quite a few of our required 108 nos lotus flowers from your body only.’

‘But now no lotus flowers are growing in my body.’

‘As I know, Dadubhai planted some lotus tubers in the clay mud at one corner of you – and as lotus is a perineal plant, so it continued to grow for few years.’

‘My father was a great man. He planted so many trees like coconut, kul (jujube), neem, jamrul (white apple), jackfruit, guava and also the flower trees like shiuli (night flowering jasmine), tagar (crepe jasmine) around me; till now I  enjoy the morning sunlight as well as the cool breeze in the afternoon. But once the ghat with sitting platform will be demolished as planned, I will be missing the peope who  still do take a bath in my water, people like you will have no opportunity to sit and speak with me.’

‘I can understand your feeling. But you are grown enough today to understand the necessity of demolishing the old house to construct a new one which needs a broader road access; But as I told you already that your entity will be maintained intact. You should feel happy since 1986, the immersion of our Maa Durga is being done in your water only,’ I said.

Suddenly I was taken back by a jolt, when Rupali called me, ‘What are you doing here sitting alone, since long I am calling you to come to puja mondap to offer Asthami prayer, it’s almost getting over. Purohit is getting delayed to offer asthamibhog to Maa Durga.’

‘Okay, okay – I am coming,’ and whispered to my newly made friend, ‘You understand my friend now I have to say Goodbye to you, but we will have a chat sometime again in near future whenever I pass across you.’

While proceeding to puja mondop to offer anjali (prayer), I felt a whispering humming sound ringing in my ears,

‘Goodbye is such an awful word
but it’s the only one that fits
the only thing that can be said
in this predicament.
Please take care of yourself
and be strong and true,
And take heed when I say
I will remember you.’

——————————— o ———————————

Footnotes :

  • ‘Uludhwani’ is a high pitched loud vocal sound accompanied with a rapid back & forth movement of the tongue and the uvala, a custom followed by Hindu devotees during festivals, marriages.
  • A ‘Shankha’ (Conch Shell) has religious ritual importance in Hinduism, and is blown by women during festivals, marriages.
  • {English translation of Bengali Song} :

O’ Lalita! Tell him to go away today.

Tell him to go away today.

I shall not go to fetch water from that quay.

I shall not go to fetch water from that quay.

O’ dear let’s go to some other quay.

O’ Lalita! Tell him to go away today.

  • {English translation of Bengali Poem} :

Motibil is its name, It is big and deep.

Crackling ducks drift along;

Along its muddy verge herons stand gazing on, Kites fly above in the sky;

Below kingfishers suddenly dive.





Supriya Kumar Debroy

Supriya Kumar Roy, who was originally from Barasat in West Bengal, is a mechanical engineer from NIT, Kurukshetra and presently living in Vadodara.

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