THE sun shone feebly and evening approached sooner. Gentle blowing of cold wind marked prevalence of winter. The already low temperature dipped further which compelled people either to stay under the blankets or sit by the fire side. In morning the gradually descending fog would intermix with fire smoke. Piercing the fog, sunrays would caress the low temperature on earth and the atmosphere would slowly start heating up. Septuagenarian Kanu liked to sit beside the fire side. He would sit beside the young yet vulnerable fire and watch it grow to a mature one.
There was a similarity between him and the winter. Days turned colder like his body did, effortlessly! He would also wait for the morning sun like the long nights did, eagerly!
Kanu welcomed winter wholeheartedly every year. His frail body would turn young by the fireside. Somehow he would gather small twigs and branches of trees for the fire. It would take him the whole day. Sitting beside fire he would gobble roasted potatoes and smoked marijuana. Kanu was responsible when he was young. His age has now started taking toll on him. His younger children had talked to him and had sat beside the fire, had discussed plans and failures with him. Things have changed now.
He had heard his sons discussing about his faith. Such a conversation was perhaps obvious he thought. Perhaps old age also meant dependence on others. He knew he had to stay alone some day. His younger son soon shifting to town got married the previous year. He didn’t know how to react to the discussions on his faith by others, perhaps his old age was too mature or perhaps he thought love for his children would never cease even if they were far.
But he wished to see his grandson, Paresh growing up. He knew his fragile body would not be alive, still he hoped. Paresh, still a bright 7 year old, loved sitting beside the fire side like his grandfather till late midnight. He shocked his grandfather by staying up late, such a consistency was rare at such a tender age. In Paresh Kanu saw his long buried childhood, the patience of an observer like he once was.
Paresh was fond of his grandfather. He would follow kanu to the forest whenever Kanu went. Kanu would get exhausted and resting to a rock would watch his grandson helping him, at least with the small twigs. Dry branches and twigs were nowhere to find in open spaces. The forest which was a home to mango, litchi, jackfruits, coconuts and the beetle nuts bathed in the mist. Feeble morning sunlight took long to reach the darkest corner of the woods. Before the sun could dry the complete forest another spell of mist would blanket it in the afternoon.
“ See, the mango tree has so much to offer. Its sturdy branches would make a good fire,” Kanu told Paresh pointing to one of the numerous ‘lengra’ Mango trees.
Paresh and his Grandfather had to collect the moist fire wood and dry it in the sun. So it was a kind of adventure for the nine year old. Kanu was never dull, this time he followed Paresh. Paresh, quicker in his movements would swiftly collect fire wood and gather them to a heap. While on the hand Kanu would chop off the dead big branch the old Mango trees offered.
“To make a fire we have to save the forest?,” Paresh asked.
“There has to a balance between the both. We have to sow seeds and raise saplings as much as possible. The denser the forest, the bigger the fire,” Kanu winked at Paresh.
Winter sun set early. The afternoon became too eager to overshadow the day. Evening came slithering and darkened every corner. It accompanied silence disturbed by continuous orchestra of crickets drifting in the air coming out from the dark.
In the meantime, Kanu was also aware of Paresh’s growing a mature habit of leisurely sitting beside the fire. Kanu would ask his grandson to sleep early, but his grandson was very eager to know about the art of fire making. Paresh was rather shocked to see his grandfather igniting the baby flame in a blink of an eye. His grandfather managed the twigs inclined to one another in a crisscrossed way and later bigger logs and tree branches, on top of it. A bit of coconut husk on top of the twigs help catch the fire
Kanu was indeed a hero to young Paresh’s mind. The concept of God was complex for his tender conscience to define and in Kanu he saw the resplendent fatherly structure called the God. Kanu’s white beard surely added a feature.
“Oh! it’s enough now son. Get some sleep otherwise mother will shout again”, Kanu said. “I don’t like to sleep in winters and tomorrow is Sunday”, Paresh retorted.
“Still you can’t sit here all night long son”,
“Another 5 minutes”
The forest seemed to lean itself towards the fire. The crickets played low too, they too enjoyed the warmth. It was so enticing that Kanu and Paresh made themselves comfortable on heap of hay beside the fire.There was a long silence of at least an hour. Both didn’t care to interact and gazed at the fire instead. Paresh noticed that his grandfather lay stiff. His eyes sank and ceased winking. He didn’t even move his hands to ward off the smoke that hit his face. Paresh got alarmed; “Is he dead?” “Did his soul escaped with the smoke?” The elderly have the confusing habit of passing away silently!
“Koka..” Paresh called
“Koka.. are you there?”
“huhhhhh, yes, yes I am here. Oh! the weed was strong. It took me to somewhere I never been before,” Kanu said suddenly waking up from the type of slumber only he knew, smiling in the same time.
“You are still strong too,” Paresh let out a sigh of relief.