SONAJHURI: Chapter 1 Bumba - 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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SONAJHURI

A Novel Santwana Chatterjee

CHAPTER ONE

 

Bumba

 

Rina , Reena, Reenaa, the call was becoming louder and louder and I peeped out of my hiding place.

 

This is the last time I am going to call, I warn you and I laughed into my pillow.

 

Oh please come out, I can’t find you, I promise I am going to give you my new yo-yo , I do promise, I could sense the fear creeping into his voice . I felt sorry for him. I saw him standing foots apart, his hands in the pockets of the khaki half-pants, hair in disarray , the yo-yo was hanging out from one of the pockets. It was a big yellow one with red circle in the middle and was gifted to him by Sameer uncle. Sameer uncle came the day before.  He was a regular visitor and every time brought some gift for me and Bumba.  Sometimes he would bring Runu aunty and their children Chumki and Babu too and we four would have a wonderful time together. This time he came alone and  brought  a Yo-Yo for Bumba and a doll for me, but I liked the yo-yo better. Yo-Yo was a new thing in the market and for that matter I had already destroyed the doll by taking its limbs apart, part by part. I did not like its face , kind of shrewd like a witch, thin lips and slit eyes. The yo-yo was so much more attractive and Bumba was especially possessive about it, yanking it by his index finger and curling it to his palm. He won’t even let me touch it, “Rina, don’t, you will break it:”

 

But now he pulled it out of his pocket and put in my outstretched hand and though I was only five I guessed he was not at all reluctant to do so. “Lets go to the roof, daima has put the blankets and the pillows to warm under the sun, lets play our favourite game.” So we took my dolls and went to the roof hand in hand.  It was cold December morning in the year 1958.  The sun was shining brightly but it could not dispel the  chill and the sting in the air. We had our sweaters on and relished the gentle glow of the sun wrapping us like a soft and warm blanket. Bumba and I jumped for a couple of times to warm up.  It was a Sunday and Bumba did not have to go to school. On his holidays we played the whole day long. First we raced each other on the roof Buma beating me all the time. Exasperated and angry I refused to race him and then he suggested we play the beggar game. In this game we would be beggars making space behind the blankets spread over the balustrade as our humble home.  We would bring some imli, or pieces of green mangoe , if it was summer time, some salt, chilly and a little mustard oil, surreptitiously in a Tiffin box and relish them as poor people, having nothing else to eat . It was our favourite game. Bumba also played with my dolls, though he was made fun of and teased for this, but I loved to play with him too. He was  two years my senior but acted as if I was a wee little sister .  

 

Our house was a two storied pink building. We lived on the first floor and the ground floor was let out to a Marwari family.  The staircase from ground floor ran into a wide open space used by us as the drawing hall, where there were a sofa set, one divan, telephone and a huge long mirror that was hung on one wall.  On the left side of the hall  there was an u-shaped long varanda on one side of which was our dining room and on the other side kitchen and the servants room with privy.  From the balcony we could see the  cemented court yard on the ground floor. The marwari family had two sons  about Bumba’s age. They were fat and fair. The servants would apply cream of  milk on their bare body, while they sat on a stool like grand princes .  Bumba and I would watch  and laugh among ourselves, sometimes even teasing them loud and they would run inside and complain to their mother.  By the time she could catch us and scold us , we two would vanish from the scene. On the left side was the big living room with attached bath, where ma and father slept , opposite which were  two rooms one was small and with the extra    furniture dumped there and the other was quite big, where Bumba and I slept.  At the end of the passage was a room that was used as the study room. Both our room and ma’s room had a balcony attached to it. The balconies appeared quite spacious to us, may be because we were small children.  Our house was situated near the Park Circus Maidan and the street was named Syed Amir Ali Avenue.  Park Circus Maidan was the favourite ground where Gemini Circus and all kindls of fair were being organized. Father would take us to watch the circus and the fairs with daima accompanying us and if and when ma was not bed ridden, she would come too.  whenever  I pass through Park Circus and Amir Ali Avenue I try to identify the building but was disheartened to see a few month ago that it was pulled to the ground, may be for raising  a multistoried building. I felt as if something had gone away from my life, something very special and very private.

 

Daima found us sitting and playing under the blankets, which were spread over the four-feet boundary wall of our roof and provided a cozy place for us as our imaginary tents. ‘Come on you two, it is time you take your bath and have lunch. Hurry, your  father is at  home and would be very angry to find you dirty.’ We left our toys on the floor and tip-toed downstairs to take shower and have lunch and be good children, so that our father did not find anything to become angry with. I had never seen father to be angry with us though but none the less was extremely afraid of the prospect of him becoming angry. He was a very calm and quiet person and never played or chatted with us. Sometimes when I came across his way he would pat my head affectionately and that was all. He would call Bumba though and ask him about his school and his studies but I was not yet put to  any school may be that was why he never called me. I felt jealous of Bumba on those accessions and would stop talking to him on one pretext or other for the day.

 

That particular day we did not see father when we came down . But daima told us not to make noise as  ma was not well and the doctor-uncle came to visit her.

 

Father talked to doctor uncle for a long time after he examined ma and became so grave we did not dare go near him. We wanted to know what was the trouble with ma, but nobody listened to us.  We were surprised to see grandpa arrive and went straight to ma. That day he did not even talk to us at length and seemed very preoccupied. We coaxed him to tell us what the matter was but he only said it was nothing serious only a small fever. “But then grandpa, why should so many doctors visit ma for a fever only”  we asked. Grandpa just looked at us absentmindedly as if his mind was not there and stroked us lightly on our head and went out with father and the doctor. After a while father came back alone. There was absolute hush in the household, nobody spoke out loud and people came and went to her room. Doctor-uncle came several times and brought more doctors with him. We had a quiet and boring bath and could not spend time splashing water on each other and screaming our heart out. I loved the Sundays and holidays when Bumba would be home and we would do everything together. Then we were served lunch on the floor of the kitchen itself as the dining hall was near to fathers room and Daima said we would disturb ma with our nonsense chat. I remember the lunch that day as it was my favourite and we enjoyed it thoroughly. The rice was warm and soft and watery with a generous amount of ghee on top of it. There was fish fried crisp, boiled and mashed potato and eggs boiled hard. Daima did not have to feed me like other days and we finished our lunch in a no time.  


Next: Chapter 2 >

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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.blogspot.com. Santwana can be reached by e-mail at santwanastar [at] gmail [dot] com.