Few days back I came home, i.e. my ancestral abode. I have come to be of myself, for self-realization through the prism of my beaten path.
Ever since I came, I suffer from insomnia.
A sense of reluctance always worked in me for waking up by the sound of early Morning Prayer call. But now usually I pass sleepless night plunged in the easy chair placed on my elevated verandah of ground floor of two storied Mansion. Morning Prayer call jerks me up from my thought and I go upstairs to get some sleep.
I fail to reconcile the events of my life; so many things I think I deserved but didn’t get, also there are other things which I got but really did not deserve. My assessments were wrong in so many occasions.
Over a period of last more than thirty years, I created my own little world having roamed in alien cities in pursuance of my govt. job. But now I am back to my source, leaving my created domain, I thought my own.
This homestead is an old Zamindar Mansion, built by my great grandfather. My father begot the whole property being only son and so did I. Zamindar system is well past but the Mansion stands as witness. Though the modern communication infrastructure has done away with its remoteness but still nature reigns here.
Though my distant relatives live in surrounding houses but no one lives in the Mansion since my parents died. It’s a desolate abode in real sense.
This is a homestead where lies my boyhood. It’s a two storied building, stands in a walled complex in the middle of green lawn and orchard. It has a giant ornamental bi-parting swing gate flaunting grandeur of Zamindar.
My golden days were already over by the time I completed my govt. job. My whole material world are connected with the job.
The age which allows freedom from the direct control and affection of parents, teachers and elders and creates scope for independent thinking, I got into a peculiar profession where the system obligated me to think and lead life in a certain way.
I became a servant to my profession.
These are my realization now. Then being guided by the exuberance of five senses, I considered climbing the upper rung of the ladder to be the yardstick of success.
I foraged through my service life in that way.
In all my new appointment I used to be mesmerized being exalted to be the harbinger of new chapter by bringing in change and rectifying whatever was old, terming them to be wrong and injustice.
Then my eyes were focused only towards front and on others.
I rambled through my service life being viewed as paradigm pioneer for display of merit, rectitude, kindness humanity etc. Time passed very fast and brought me to the end of my journey.
I already handed over my charge to the new incumbent.
I have no responsibility and no authority from next day. Having attended farewell party in a big banquet hall, fanfare and drumbeat followed by farewell speech full of emotional words and teary eyes of host and colleagues and jolly good fellow etc. I mounted in the govt. Jeep for the last time to carry me and heap of gifts and garlands to my house.
I sensed the smell of change.
-New Sir does not like a fresh stick of rose every day, he said that’s a wastage and bought me the bottle of car scent instead. My old driver blurted out as I pursed my lips disliking the alcohol based scent.
The driver is with me for my whole tenure. He knows that I replaced the artificial scent with the natural flower on my first day with a brief speech on its harmful effect. That day he listened to my speech with rapt attention and also nodded to my opinion.
On reaching home, I turned my attention towards me. I looked back and tried to have a good look at my long road of journey.
My heart sank.
Life so long appeared to be a fallacy. All were old and I was new till that day. But everything turned upside down and I became permanent member in the party of old. Life was a maze I felt.
At this stage of my life, world at large seems to be spurious and trinket and parochial, full of snobbery.
I felt exhausted. The world I created seems to tumble down. I came back to my source to take a stock holistically.
I woke up from my thought with the Morning Prayer call and about to walk up the stairs but paused as gentle breeze wafted a puff of aroma at that closing of wee hours. I felt so refreshed, that was a known aroma recalling my childhood. There was a Sheuli flower plant standing in one corner of my lawn. I found the grass turf under the plant turned white with the fallen flowers.
It is also called night flowering Jasmine. It’s a tragedy for it cannot flaunt its beauty in day light, because flowers drop off before the first light.
I thought of collecting some. I was about to be on my feet but balked seeing some uncanny movement under the plant.
I tried to have a good look.
Some minor girl was picking the flowers.
-Picking flower at this time! How could she enter? I thought.
I went down into the lawn silently.
She was picking flower fully stooped with rapt attention.
She looked up sensing my presence and got a bit nervous.
-It goes waste just like that, if you forbid I wouldn’t come from tomorrow. She stammered to gloss over.
– No, no I don’t forbid, you may take those. I assured her.
-What would you do with those? I tried to be a bit personal.
She would make garlands and straightway go to the market from here and go back home after selling. She informed.
-But how could you enter the compound?
She chuckled at my query.
-Why do you smirk? I asked.
-You are big people and thus only big things attract your attention. There is small break in your wall by the hedge, you would surely miss if I don’t show you. She said with a giggle.
-How much would you sell all those?
She giggled again with a sharp sweet sound. That was mesmerizing, sounded ethereal in that serene ambience.
-Price would be as per number of garlands.
I was really enjoying talking to her.
-How much per garland?
-I don’t believe in bargain, I would take five Tk. per piece. She chuckled again.
She finished picking the flowers by that time. Darkness faded by then and things became clear. She brought out thread and needle and started making the garland.
She has a lock of thick hair touching well below her shoulder line, unkempt and tousled. Her round dry face with two sparkling eyes looked very attractive.
She stood up with her garlands to depart.
She would be eight to nine years with a scraggly malnourished body.
-I beg your leave.
-How would you go out?
-Why, through the same break. She smirked again.
-You need not to go through the break, I am opening the gate for you.
She looked perturbed.
-Would you sell your garlands to me?
She nodded yes without saying anything.
I asked her to come on to the verandah.
I took all five garlands from her and gave her a note of fifty taka.
-I don’t have change.
-You keep that.
She paused and thought something.
-All right, I would give five more garlands tomorrow.
She has one elder sister and two brothers. Her sister is married and her brothers work as household servant. Her mother also works in some house. She lost her father few years back. They live in a hut in the jungle not far from our complex. She informed.
It was decided that she would come to pick flowers every morning but wouldn’t enter through the break. She would knock on the gate and I would open the gate for her. She would pick flowers, make garlands and sell those to me.
I plunged back into my easy chair as she left. I did not feel any urge to go upstairs.
Sun started peeking all around. Early autumn dew on the blades of grass and leaves sparkled in the sun rays. World was waking up and getting busy gradually. That was a wonderful morning.
I noticed a long line of red ants entering through a hair crack on the floor with food in their mouth.
They work through the night! I was surprised.
I felt to follow the trail and see their food collection process including the hoarding place. To my utter surprise I found that the trail goes through the gap below the door sill into my room.
The door was closed but that did not make any difference for them. No space in this world remains unoccupied. I thought.
The girl came next day same time. I opened the gate with the first knock. She kept picking flowers from the ground totally engrossed. The silhouette was only understood by the movement of her body.
She finished picking before day light broke.
-May I make the garland sitting on your Verandah? As you will buy the garlands today.
I nodded positive.
She came up on to the Verandah, sat and made the garlands.
I handed over fifty taka note while receiving the garlands.
-Today your advance would be adjusted, you remember.
I nodded positive.
-You need not to do past accounting. The money is yours.
She looked straight in my eyes, thought something and then took the note from my hand.
-May I go sir? She sounded a bit lost.
-Do you need handmaid? She gulped.
-No, what I would do with maid?
Very lightly I answered.
It drizzled in the morning that day. I brought out an unused umbrella from my room and gave that to her.
-Yellow umbrella! Her mirth effused.
She liked the color very much.
She started coming every morning. I got habituated and then I used to open the gate even before she even knocked. I kept waiting for her arrival and the same whole episode recurred.
Mostly I watch her silently. She goes away having handed over the garlands and taken money.
-Do you like to tell me anything? One day she said hesitantly as she was leaving.
She asked me the same question for the last few days just before her departure. I always answered negative. Though her query puzzled me a bit.
Suddenly she did not come one morning. I was very surprised. Thought that she might be having some petty problem.
She did not turn up for next consecutive days. An unknown uneasiness filled my mind.
For last few weeks I grew a habit of going to bed early as I had the urge to get up early morning to open the gate for her. But now since there was no goad of getting up early, there was no necessity of going to bed early.
Now like earlier I don’t feel to go to bed at all.
I spend the night strolling on the verandah and reclining in the easy chair.
The garlands have shriveled in last few days. The fallen flowers under the tree also made litter.
-What happened to the girl! I felt a vacuum inside.
After couple of days, I decided to take a walk through the foot path to her hut as she described.
As I crossed the outer boundary of our homestead the path moves through an orchard and at the end I noticed a hut.
I stood in front of the hut hesitantly. No body was found as I looked around.
-You are ‘Fool Sir’ I guess. I noticed a middle aged malnourished woman stood nearby.
I did not quite understand what she said.
-Fooly, my daughter told me about you and also informed that you would come.
The lady entered the hut.
‘Fool’ is the local tongue for flower and the girl must have named me ‘Fool’ as she collected flowers from my house. I thought.
She came out with the Yellow umbrella. I recollected that I gave that umbrella to the girl in a rainy day.
-One madam from the nearby town booked Fooly as her house maid. Now Madam’s daughter has left for abroad and thus she took her hurriedly. Fooly was not interested but they promised to send Fooly to school and arrange her marriage in due course of time.
She told while handing over the umbrella to me.
-Fooly said before her departure that ‘Fool Sir’ would come to take the umbrella’.
I stood in a fix. I have come to take back my umbrella! I heaved a deep sigh of remorse.
I took the umbrella and took to my unwilling feet.
-The poor little girl titled me ‘Fool Sir’ may be just to put a name on me, I’m sure. But that day I realized that I am indeed a ‘Fool Sir’.
* Never accept favor, every time you refuse favor you grow. Meher’s Quote
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