Hindi story: waiting for him

It was eight o’clock in the morning. When father called for tea, Purnima ran towards the kitchen. It was Purnima’s responsibility to prepare morning and evening tea. His Neelima sister used to help her mother in cooking. As soon as she opened the kitchen window, she was surprised. She started looking around the field with wide eyes. The field outside the window was filled with hundreds of nomads and nuts. Children, old people, youth, men and women, everyone was engrossed in their activities as if they were happy. Many newborn babies wrapped in rags were screaming. Small dirty children were playing with dirty pigs and dogs. Purnima was looking at him with curiosity. Then he made tea and closed the window.

Mother said, “They are cowards, they don’t stay at one place.” Will leave from here in a day or two. Don’t pay any attention to them.

Purnima’s father was a Block Development Officer. Recently he was transferred to a block in Sitamarhi district. It was a small village, where there was a simple kutcha-pucca house for the BDO Sahib. Right in front was the sir’s office and the guards’ residence. Whenever Purnima would step out into the verandah or courtyard, the moustached, muscular soldiers would stare at her and she would immediately come inside. The kitchen was at the rear of the house and outside its window was a wide field. She would often look out from the same window.

There were tall palm trees, a Peepal and a Banyan tree and other small trees and bushes standing in a row in the field. There was also a thatched house for the cows and buffaloes, whose roof was covered with pumpkin vines. Perhaps due to freezing of water, a puddle had formed in the ground, where children used to play with water. The atmosphere there would also be resonating with the games and chirping of animals and birds.

Purnima loved watching all this. His sister Neelima was more interested in studies. Apart from course books, she was busy reading novels etc. He had nothing to do with the outside world.

In the evening, when the sound of folk songs along with dholak and jhal started echoing in the ears, Purnima again opened the window. Saw, some women were singing group songs by playing dholak and jhal. Small children were dancing together. In the middle, a teenager was dancing with great enthusiasm. Women were wearing heavy jewelery made of silver and copper. On the other hand, fire was burning in the earthen stove with wood and cow dung cakes and food was being cooked in an aluminum pot. Some people were also cooking small animals in the fire. Under the open sky, these people were spending their time laughing and singing in such a way that Purnima was looking at them with astonishment.

The next day people from the groom’s side had come to see Neelima didi. Since morning, Purnima was busy in decorating the house and was also helping her sister in her preparations. Today she could not see the view of the field behind, but she was happy that the boys had liked her.

Next morning when Purnima woke up and went to the kitchen to make tea, she got curious and opened the window. Oh! What is this? The entire field was lying vacant and garbage was spread all around. Don’t know why, she became upset and returned to her room. But when she opened the window in the evening, her eyes got stuck in that direction. The ground was clear and a small house made of bamboo sticks was established right in front of his kitchen. A buffalo and a goat were tied to a tree at a short distance. A woman was polishing and cleaning the utensils. He had placed one pot on top of the other and filled it with water. When Purnima looked carefully, it was the same woman who was singing and playing the dholak the previous evening. Then that teenager, who was dancing with his waist at that time, came with a bundle of sticks on his forehead. He was completely black, but his lips were red. She had black, thick hair and the eyelashes of her eyes were so dense that it looked as if she was wearing kohl. When he aimed at Purnima looking towards him, she turned her eyes away and said to her mother – “Boil the sweet potatoes, I am hungry.”

Sawan had knocked. Drops of drizzle fell and a sweet fragrance started rising from the soil. The cool breeze of the east started soothing the mind and soul. And then one day, in the heavy rain, Aftab was having fun while playing with the stream of water. Purnima also felt like getting wet in the rain, playing with the rain water, but how should the grown-up daughter of BDO Sahib go out in the village?

Then he jumped and sat on the branch of a tree, singing ‘Duniya banaye wale, kahe ko duniya banayi’ in an oily voice.

“Aftab, why did your son climb the tree at this time?” Now it’s almost evening, let’s get down.

Purnima thought, all the nomads have gone away, but these mother and son have made a home here. Although Purnima felt irritated after seeing Aftab, she did not feel at ease without seeing his activities. Purnima used to watch everything like him cutting wood, making scissors, climbing trees and acting like a monkey, helping his mother in her work and playing loving pranks on her, even molesting animals etc…. Purnima kept watching everything.

Sawan had knocked. Drops of drizzle fell and a sweet fragrance started rising from the soil. The cool breeze of the east started soothing the mind and soul. And then one day, in the heavy rain, Aftab was having fun while playing with the stream of water. Purnima also felt like getting wet in the rain, playing with the rain water, but how should the grown-up daughter of BDO Sahib go out in the village?

The rain splashes from the window were slowly wetting his body.

“What are you looking at, Ma’am Saheb?” Go close the window. Don’t splash water make you sick. We are creatures playing in the lap of nature, nothing happens to us.” Purnima ran away from there.

Sometimes during the rains, Aftab would come out of his small hut made of grass and would take out his head like a turtle and play with the rain. He would put a bundle on his forehead and make strange facial expressions. Seeing all this, Purnima became jealous. How much fun it is! Openly enjoying the infinite splendor of nature. Sometimes he felt like entering and sitting in her small hut. How would it feel there? Thinking this, a shy smile would appear on his lips.

Days were passing. Aftab had made friends with Ramu, the son of BDO Sahib’s peon, who used to serve Sahib. One day Aftab reached Purnima’s house with her and said to his mother – If you have any work, please let me know, give me a chance to serve you, I will not let you down.

Now from time to time Purnima’s mother started assigning him small tasks, Aftab would complete them with great promptness.

“How dark you are!” Who named you Aftab?

Have you seen the black color of the leather? The sun is shining in my mind, you can’t see it.

Snake… Snake… Purnima shouted, people ran. As soon as Aftab heard the sound, he brought a thin stick and crushed the snake’s face. Here… dead… dead… how afraid you are!

Winter had come. Purnima was standing wrapped in warm clothes.

“Don’t you feel cold, Aftab?” What light clothes you are wearing!”

“I burn in the sun all day long, it’s so hot that I don’t feel cold.”

What do you guys do? How do you survive?

We go around singing and performing magic shows. Apart from this, we also do buffalo stuffing work, from which we earn some income.

Buffalo stuffing what?

Didn’t understand… heh… heh… and there was such a smile on Aftab’s lips and such a sad expression in his eyes that Purnima trembled from head to toe. She swore in her mind that she would never talk to him again.

Neelima didi’s wedding day has arrived. When Aftab’s mother came to know, she said to Purnima’s mother – “I will play the song, I will bless my daughter, will she call me?”

Purnima’s mother called her. On the day of Mandam, he played the dholak with his group, sang songs and danced a lot. When her mother gave her the money and gifts, she cried and said, “I am very fortunate to have got the opportunity to come on such an auspicious day.”

On the night of sister’s wedding, Purnima got dressed up in saree. Don’t know why her eyes were searching for Aftab. Then he came to the pavilion with the peon’s son. There was something wrapped in paper in his hand. She said- “Mam Saheb, this is for you… without this your makeup will be incomplete.” Today you are looking like Poonam’s moon, ma’am sir.

Purnima’s heart was beating fast. When he opened the bound page, he saw… the gajra of flowers… whining… the fragrance filled the breath.

She put Gajra in her hair. Aftab was staring at her. His gaze did not move away from her face. What were the emotions in his eyes today that Purnima’s tears shuddered. Time went on as before.

I am leaving sir, will you remember?

When will you come again? Purnima could only say this much.

He laughed sheepishly and said – I will come again next Sawan.

Days passed, seasons changed and then rain drops started falling with the east wind. Then the sweet smell of soil arose and I started feeling dizzy.

Suddenly news was received that Aftab died after falling from a tree and getting hit on the head by a stone.

Purnima was looking out the window towards the wide field.

Sawan had come, but he did not come.

Mala Kumari, Address: C/26, Kankarbagh Housing Colony, Near Tempo Stand, Patna-800020, Mo. – 8789754204

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