SONAJHURI Chapter 7: Our Home - A Novel by Santwana Chatterjee | WBRi Online Magazine

"Sonajhuri" is a serialized English novel by Santwana Chatterjee published in WBRi Online Magazine section. Each episode has links to previous and next episodes.

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A Novel by Santwana Chatterjee



Before you enter our Park Circus house you would find a huge krishnachura tree, branches full of velvety lush green leaves, washed clean by a rains in the rainy season. The Krishnachura tree carried a special meaning for me and Bumba. The tree had grown so big and its branches spread with their lush green leaves and read flowers in bunches touched our balcony. Bumba and I would take out the long stems inside the red flowers and use it as swords and fight against each other. It was our favourite game. The branches spread to the balcony as well as the roof and we touched it caressingly and talked to it like it was our friend.

One day Bumba and I was coming down from the roof when we stood rooted on the stairs itself which led to our drawing hall where daima and ma was discussing something in a high pitched voice obviously agitated “this must be the work of that naughty old bham ( old Mole ) ….a bunch of bananas, a box full of sweets all finished ! Just imagine ” both of them had their palm on their cheek and their eye brows up, eyes rolling. Now ‘bham’ is a kind of wild animal, resembling a mixture of cat and the fox with a long tail with black coat. These animals have a very soft foot and very cunning. They eat almost anything and everything, fruits, sweets, small kittens, puppies almost anything and quite ferocious at that. In our locality there were some bhams, but they never came into human proximity. Ma and daima was talking of cutting the branches and we two jumped and cried in unison, no, no you cant do that, the tree is our friend, it has life and it can feel pain. You should never do that. But ma was adamant, there was a satyanarayan puja scheduled for today and the bham had eaten the sweets for the deity. So the source of this evil that is the tree must be shortened or better still should be cut from the base. Bumba and I looked at each other. The truth was that it being a holiday the two of us invited Ramesh and Meenakshi over to spend the afternoon playing at our house and Mr & Mrs being away to a meeting of the Brahmo Samaj there was no problem. At certain point of time we felt hungry and I was sent to bring the sweets and the bananas, of course not letting any one come wise of it. But now that they were thinking of hurting our friend the Krishnachura tree, and we had no option but to confess that we two had finished the sweets and the bananas after lunch, when they were taking a siesta . We did not tell them ofcourse that Meenakshi and Ramesh joined us for the feast and we were happy to pay back our debt. We were lucky that ma did not report us to father otherwise it could have been a bad day for us.

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That afternoon when we tiptoed downstairs because father would be angry with us as ma was not well and we had our lunch on the floor of the kitchen instead of the dining room, we were not told to take a nap but were allowed to play on our own and nobody noticed that we went back to the roof and played to as much as we wished.

Too many things happened in the next few days; there were a lot of people in the house going out and coming in and talking in whisper. Papa would not be going out to office for some days, so we were told and that ma would be confined to her bed only. A few more days passed and less and less people came to our place only Reba masi came every day and took care of us and looked after ma also. Almost three years went by after that but ma did not recover fully and could not look after us and the household matters any more and delegated more power and authority to Reba masi for the same and somehow she became an inseparable and permanent member of our family. Ma and father depended on her a lot. Ma stayed mostly in the bed or she would sit in the balcony under the shade of the huge Krishnachura tree that grew just in front of house. The day I learned that trees have life I always felt that particular tree could understand what we talked about and often agreed to our talks by swaying its branches.

In the evening when father returned from office, she would put on a fresh saree and put on a bindi , and Reba masi would make a huge bun with her long silky hair and both of them would sit on the balcony, where daima would serve them tea and snacks. Reba masi, herself was a spinster and worked as a nurse and obviously a very good choice to look after ma. We called her masi(aunty) but in reality she was no relative of ma .

I was very fond of Rebamasi but Bumba did not like her much. But then Bumba was a very quiet and thoughtful boy not at all like me, always on the look out for a fight and he never showed his dislike openly but I knew instinctively. Only time that he showed his displeasure were the times when Reba masi would try to exercise her authority and asked Bumba to show her his home work . With uncharacteristic rudeness he thwarted her advances in that direction. I did not realize , but slow but steady, I started to drift away from Bumba and became much more attached to Reba masi, and she , on her part, very cleverly started taking centre stage in our household, taking care of father and me and making Bumba an outsider in his own home. Ofcourse, I did not realize it then and started taking her side on the differences that started to come up regularly between the two of them. Father was extremely fond of Bumba but, he too started taking her side, and may be that is how he gradually faded away from my life. I still remember the yo-yo episode with affection. I dropped his precious toy in no time and broke it into two, while trying to become an expert like Bumba that very day and felt real guilty about it. I tried to join the two circles with moist atta (wheat ) paste and my chewing gum respectively and failed and took the broken yo-yo in my palm and approached him, my voice small and breaking with fear of offending him, “I am sorry Bumba , I have broken it” and stood before him half- expecting a blow or a twist in my ears atleast, but he did nothing of the sort. He looked at me for some time and said “ok , throw it away”. I will remember his gesture till the day I die, it appeared so magnanimous to the child of five years.

Ma was so beautiful, so soft and so loving. I used to curl into her soft and warm body and demand for stories when I felt sleepy and the days when she was not ill, for Ma was in and out of her sickbed all the time. I did not know what ailed her but she was never too strong and father fussed over her like she was his daughter. I remember, I used to touch ma’s hand and the blue veins on the other side of her palm that were so much visible and made designs on her white skin. The veins stood out fluffy and I played with them. Ma would take me in her lap when she was well and play with my hair and tell me stories. She would show me how to draw figures, she was quite good at it and would spend time on her drawing papers, sketching and colouring and I watched fascinated, how she made figures appear from no where in her white papers, or would paint the white paper with blue , with a patch of red which looked like the sun and white floating clouds and almost black trees . I watched her lovely face engrossed in her creation forgetting that I was watching and I would tug at her saree to remind her that I was there, as I feared that I am going to loose her in those drawing, that she would vanish into the jungle that she was creating and I clung to her and she would draw me close with her free hand and continue with her drawing. We still have with us some of her paintings that were framed by father and hung on the wall. People ask about the painter and we feel so proud to announce that the painter was none other than our mother.

Bumba was such a gentle boy, almost girl like and I was boyish and quarreling all the time. Bumba and I used to fight in earnest, I don’t know about Bumba but I was real earnest and would bite him whenever he would overpower me and that was too often. Bumba was very cute and innocent and our relatives loved to tease him a lot.

Sameer uncle often visited us and always brought some gift. Once He came with Runu aunti and their children. They bought some chocolates for us. Sameer uncle was talking to ma and he said he went to Boubazar in the north and he bought a few kgs of ripe mango, my mother’s favourite. Ma said , Sameerda these mangoes

are really good having a rich smell. And Sameer uncle said “Boubazar is a very good market place.” Bumba was listening with interest and he said “Sameer uncle, do you live near Boubazar ?” and Sameer Uncle said “Yes”. A few days before we went to a wedding and the bride was looking so grand with red sarees, gold ornaments, flowers and all , that Bumba wanted to have a bride for him. So he said “Sameer uncle will you bring a bou for me the next time from Boubazar!”

If we spell the words separately it would mean Bride market as Bou stands for bride and bazaar means market. Bumba was so cute that when he heard of the place he requested Sameer uncle to bring a bride for him from Boubazar.

There was an odd silence for a few seconds then there was laugh riot and it went on for quite some time to the utter embarrassment of Bumba. Sameer uncle would tease him whenever he came to our place referring to his request and poor

Bumba would turn crimson with embarrassment.

Sameer uncle would definitely visit us with his whole family on the day of Bhai Duj, till ma was there. Sameer Uncle, Bumba and Babu would sit on the floor, where ma would spread a carpet and then ma would put Sandalwood paste in her little finger and place it on his forehead and wish for his long life. she would light a dia and keep it at a side. Sameer used to gift ma with beautiful saree and ma would first offer plate full of sweets. I and Chumky followed ma and would put Sandalwood paste on Bumba and Babu and wish long life for them and offer sweets. Ma would buy gifts for Sameer uncle and also for Babu, , Chumky. Babu and Chumky also brought gifts for me and Bumba. Later we all have the sweets together. At lunch time Daima used prepare many items, mostly the things to Sameer Uncle’s choice. We always looked eagerly for the date.

Till date the same rituals were being followed in our house, with Bumba , Meenakshi and Ramesh, and our children.

Next: Chapter 8 (coming soon)

Previous: Chapter 6 >

Santwana Chatterjee is a creative writer and blogger from Kolkata and is a member of the Tagore family. She is a prolific contributer to Washington Bangla Radio - her other writings can be found by using her name to search this web site. Her own blog is at Santwana can be reached by e-mail at santwanastar [at] gmail [dot] com.