Sunday, October 18, 2009

OLD MAN UNDER THE TAMARIND TREE



I danced to the tunes of the Kucha roads- the crowded bus that usually carried more people than it actually could; the people- vendors, farmers, teachers; and their goods- everything became a part of my life. Years of travel in the same bus, I had learned to be friendly with the broken seats and sweating people. I was a part of their lives, each day- and so, I was a part of their stories. But in my story, there was one man, whom everyone knew- and also, did not!

All day long, he used to sit beneath the tamarind tree. He was very old- some said he was over hundred and a few- over thousand! All I knew was- he was old- he wore clothes that were dirty and torn at odd places. He had an old shawl to wrap himself at night time. Sometimes, he was smoking, what they call- a Beedi. Most of the time- he only sat there- did nothing but stare hard at the sky.

I felt oddly pleased to see that man everyday. Just looking at him, made me smile- I felt that he was inspiring me in some way- I saw no purpose in looking at him- but I looked at him everyday, nevertheless. It gave me a satisfaction! And my liking for him, had what made him a part of my story.

Mausiji. That was how we called her. She was so loud that people at the bus, dreaded her sitting beside them. She sold flowers at the nearby town and that day, I played her host! Mausiji was full of questions. About my name, my family, my profession- and she was full of suggestions. She had her opinion on everything- from the colour of my shirt to the furniture in my house. She said that her generation really knew the way the world functioned. She knew everyone in the bus- and had opinions on them too.

"You see him? The one with the white cap- he sells milk. He had been trying to save all his income. But he has this wife who eats like a pig. Poor fellow! All his saving goes straight into her food! And that Kashiram? He gambles away everything! I always say…"

I switched myself off, mentally, when she came around to that. But suddenly, my attention was brought back when she said-

“See that old man under the tamarind tree”?

“Yes.. Do you know anything about him”?

"Of course. Don’t you know? He used to be a big man- very rich- a Zamindar(landlord). The whole village had belonged to him- but that is past! He’s lost everything. All that he’s got now is- that shawl. He sits there all day long, waiting for his son, who’d gone off, somewhere! They say, he was a very bad father- he’s repenting! I always say…”

Poor man. I wonder how he feels. It is really bad- to own everything and to see them go off your hands- yet, unable to forget the past- for everything always stays in front of your eyes!

All night, I was unable to take him off my mind. I tossed and turned in my bed- I felt sorry for him. The stranger, though he was- however, a part of my life.
Govind, the milkman- was always pleasant. When he smiled at people, they felt light and happy. I’d always liked him.

“… and our Sarpanch(village-chief) told us that he’s speak to the big officers. We’ll soon another bus”.

He had news about the village, about the town- about people.

“… they were telling me the other day that Prakash was arrested- did you know? They’ll soon arrest the old man under the tamarind tree too, I hope…”!

“What? Arrest the old man! Why”?

“Oh, don’t you know? He’s a bandit”?

I couldn’t accept the dear old man being a bandit. A Zamindar worked better with me, however. But, I certainly couldn’t help myself- being curious.

“He was a notorious bandit. Years before, he looted people and killed them, mercilessly. People were terrified. They say, he sits under that tree, all day long, guarding all his booties. No one dares go near him for he had laid a curse upon the tree. If anyone else, but him, goes near the tree, their nose would start to bleed and they’d die. Munshiji told..”

The old man was a bandit?! I couldn’t get myself to believe about the curse, but at least, it proved why he sat beneath the tree, always! I still couldn’t accept him being a bandit- so the information only increased my curiosity.

From that day, I stared looking at him more closely. I noticed that there was a mark on his cheek- a sort of scar left by a deep wound. I was beginning to believe Govind- and I was fascinated. The story of the old man was becoming more intriguing- each day.

It was around 8:00 pm. I was tired. I usually reached home by eight. I had had a busy day. The bus moved so slow. It made me think that I could walk faster than the bus. But I was tired. And all I could do was- to wait till I reached home.

Suddenly, there was a jerk and a noise. The bus had stopped. Break down. Some of us got down and pushed the bus to the nearby village. It was the old man’s village. But there was no old man beneath the tree! I felt strange to see the tree without the old man. It felt odd- vacant!

I joined the others, who were gathered at the nearby tea stall. I bought myself a cup of tea. The people were talking. But I couldn’t bring myself to listen to them- until I heard- “.. the old man under the tamarind tree, vanished..”

I turned around so fast that the man behind me, who was just speaking, spilled his tea all over himself! I apologized and enquired about the old man.

He said, “Don’t you know? He vanished”!

“What do you mean- vanished”?

“Vanished! He evaporated! Gone off to the Himalayas where he came from. He was a holy man- a Siddha- who knew the past, present and the future. He’d been under the tamarind tree- meditating, for hundreds of years; protecting us all. He’s gone back to the Himalayas to finish his penance. We’ve planned to build a temple for him, under the tamarind tree- where he’s left behind his spirit for the benefit of the villagers. The Sarpanch…”

So the old man was gone. And no one knew where- but he had left behind his memories- for everyone to remember and to share. For me, he’d always remain as the old man under the tamarind tree- a part of my life, my story.

41 comments:

Bliss said...

Nice writing as always!!!

Keep going!!

Matangi Mawley said...

@ bliss..

thank u!

viki said...

that was nice..?!!! going by the description of ur old man is he inspired by the character played by elder rajini in the movie muthu..!!! i do c a lot of similarities !!:)

Leo said...

oh dear :( first time missed the first comment since 3 posts i think..

but yeah, ur storytelling still rocks as usual!! :)

Matangi Mawley said...

@ viki..

well i dont know abt the rajini thing.. bt this is surely based on a real-life character.. any one who wud ve crossed thiruverumbur bridge to reach tanjore, tamil nad would know who the person is..

Matangi Mawley said...

@ leo..

thanks!

VickY said...

nice story ji

there have been so many characters that i remember from my past...but i can't express myself the way you do.

nice post

rauf said...

Temples shrines are built on myths. All myths begins this way and they get stronger as years pass by. Coming generations add more stories, more masala.

Good to read Mathangi, i could get the smell, heat and dust while i read your story, reminds me of Munshi Premchand.

feardbond said...

As always,that was awesome! But even i see a lot of similarities with the elder rajini's character in muthu. And coming to how varied the descriptions were,people always do that na,spreading something even without knowing if it's true!

viki said...

hmm yea... it nver struck me.. i ve also seen him..!!! but to me someone told tht he passed away..and the people there did a proper burial ceremony to him..!!! hmmm did he actually 'vanish'??

viki said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Matangi Mawley said...

@vicky..

thanks!

Matangi Mawley said...

@ rauf..

true!! :) thanks!

Matangi Mawley said...

@ fearbond..

thanks! :)

Matangi Mawley said...

@viki..

no idea.. ithu nijamalla.. kathai! ;)

Rohit said...

gripping..read each and every sentence :) nicely drafted..

Matangi Mawley said...

@ rohit..

thanks!

Karthick said...

Wow beautiful piece of work!! Honestly enjoyed reading it!!You touched the core in
Dimensions of human perceptions.Wish the old man finds good life in Himalayas for What ever he was, if atleast he had actually gone der..?

Matangi Mawley said...

@ karthick..

thanks!! :)

Arpit said...

The art of remembrance I would say, has different methods to display itself. Nice, clean writing. :)

Indrajit said...

Beautifulll!! Bravo!!

Most of your works take me to Malgudi days kind of world...So real , I cud see near my eeyes.

An R.K Narayan in the making. :)

Matangi Mawley said...

@arpit..

thanks!

Matangi Mawley said...

@indr..

hey.. wow! thanks! :) i love r.k.narayan's work.. n to think someone actually compares my story with his.. its jst amazing to even think abt it! thanks a ton!! :D

Parul said...

Interesting plot.. :)

Matangi Mawley said...

@ parul...

thanks!

SHWETHA said...

Oh my!!! Were they just words or something more?
Heart-wrenching, quite a serious one :).
Nevertheless, a good one indeed.!!

Matangi Mawley said...

@shwetha..

thanks!!

man in painting said...

Nice one
wishes

Matangi Mawley said...

@ man in painting..

thanks! :)

tk said...

haa! wat do i say to this?...its so good! and u are so good!....when wil u give this to me for srishti? :)

Matangi Mawley said...

@ :).. tk..

thanks! soon... :)

Anonymous said...
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Matangi Mawley said...
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I'll try 2 be truthful said...

it has a nice flow , its like you flow with the story.
nice.

Matangi Mawley said...

@ i ll try to be truthful..

thanks!

rampantheart said...

I liked the vagueness of the story, Mat. Pl don't associate vague with a negative trait. I liked the way you gave an ambiguity to the story so that each reader might come up with a theory of his own. I also liked the way you brought out the local people's opinions which is how a place functions. In my opinion, the old man was neither a bandit nor a zamindar, he was just an abstract character who added a tinge of obscurity to the story. Usually writers give shape to their main characters. But you differed from conventionality and have done good justice to the piece.

Cheers!

Matangi Mawley said...

@ rampantheart..

you got the story well.. that was exactly what i had tried out here!

Anonymous said...
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V Mawley said...

In most of your skits, (Right?) your innate sense of aesthetics is evident, in the selection of the accompanying pictures and in the present case,your language apart.. the picture unmistakably brings to mind Malgudi Days...,

This idea of presenting a single incident from different perspectives is a "classical" format and you have indeed done a remarkable job of weaving a highly readable story out of an everyday scene... your keen insight into people's psyche is notable... Congrats ...

Matangi Mawley said...

Appa,

Thanks!! :) you have made my day!

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