Nowadays the newspaper and the television are only inundated with the dreadful chronicle of floods in different parts of the country. Where has the water level crossed the danger line, where has the chief minister and the central government distributed the flood relief to the flood-stricken helpless people and how is the cabinet ministry framing to save the country from natural calamity in future?....the whole newspaper is jam-packed with this news only and one can hardly get some other important news there. Although after all strategies nothing is being materialised.
Being irritated Mishka folds the newspaper. In her childhood, when she was hardly 10 or 11 yrs old; she had a similarly harrowing experience. As a result, she can easily empathise the agony of these vulnerable, helpless people. Although her family didn’t have to suffer that much during that flood because they belonged to a well to do and upper-class family. In fact, she had a quite exciting boisterous time during those days. Childhood thrills. Foolish too. Mishka wobbles her head with a duchenne smile in disbelief. When the river dam broke and the water entered the town and they had to evacuate their one storey quarter and went to get a shelter in the near college building….when they were watching the cows, goats and other cattle and even the empty vessels floating and passing away with the whirly muddy water from the window of the chemistry lab in the 5th floor or having the khichdi (an Indian dish made with rice and pulses) made by the distilled water of the lab and even the time when the water level decreased and the helicopters were throwing the relief sacks towards them…all these things were giving an adventurous thrill to her childish immature mind. However, along all these, there was another incident which happened simultaneously and she couldn’t find an answer to that…not even today.
It was the month of July. A full-fledged monsoon. It was vivid in her mind even today. Because along with the flood another embittered memory was mingled with it. Just one week before that terrible flood, the death news of her grandmother shocked them to the core. Only after two months, they were supposed to go to Kolkata in the Durga Puja vacation. For his job, Mishka’s father had to live out of Kolkata with his family. They used to visit their grandfather’s ancestral house once a year. She and her elder sister used to wait for this puja vacation for the entire year. Mishka’s grandfather had expired before she came to this world and surprisingly she was born just the next year of his demise. Probably, for this reason, Mishka was always a special child to her grandmother. She used to egg her on every unjustified demand, childish mischief and secret horseplay. Mishka couldn’t imagine a single moment of her life without her grandmother who she used to call Bhalomaa (Goodmother). Needless to say, her abrupt quietus came as a bolt from the blue for her as well as for her parents and her elder sister. The date of the visit to Kolkata was preponed. It was decided that after ten days they will start. Though it could have been earlier the condition of their home was chaotic after the flood. All one storey quarters were submerged till their door’s top. Needless to say, most of the furniture were underwater for quite a long time. Although they tried to save them the endeavour didn’t succeed entirely. Mishka can remember that they returned home two days after the water level decreased to a noticeable extent. An empty earthen pitcher with a tied rope was hanging from their entry gate. It was indeed very metaphoric to the scattered sights of catastrophe all around as rope and empty pitcher symbolizes the self-destruction. When they opened the main door, all the kitchen utensils were floating out with the muddy water. After observing the litter and disarray inside, Mishka was almost in tears. It was evident that being light-weight, all the wooden furniture must have been floating in the water and when the water was drained out, all of them were dispersed here and there. There was a petrichor of alluvial soil everywhere. It was a herculean task to clean the entire house properly because each and every furniture were coated with a thick layer of mud. It became hard like cement which was only could be removed by vigorous scraping and this responsibility was given to two people. One was their cook Lata’s husband Mahesh and their permanent gardener Jagannath. Every day they used to carry out the mud-coated furniture to the outside lawn and there they used to start cleaning it with water, mop and coconut coir. At the end of the day, the furniture used to gain its previous look, clean and shiny. There was a similar piece of furniture in their home. That was her father’s bookcase. That wooden book almirah had three shelves and it was quite cumbersome. It had three sliding glass doors and was jam-packed with her father’s different types of books. Most of them were his Mathematics related heavy books and some were novels, Encyclopedia and some were her elder sister’s course books. That wooden bookcase was also mantled with cement-like clay. After getting dry, its black mahogany colour was turned into white like plaster of paris. It was so heavy that Jagannath and Mahesh kept it as their last task. It was kept in the dining hall which was between Mishka and her sister’s bedroom and the common bathroom. To save the place it was kept sidewise and as a result, only one side of the almirah was visible.
To be continued...