It was more than ten years since I had been to my village where I spent and enjoyed my childhood and had my primary schooling, the plinth of which paved the way for me notching up a lucrative job in Kolkata. While living here I never felt cut off from my native village; I always felt quite at home here. But unlike the calm and serene atmosphere of the village I am not untouched by the hectic lifestyle in the hustle bustle of the metro. It is to me, and everybody must agree, a rural metro- a village in the town and a town in the village. However, as I am a man of soil, I sometimes get swayed and overwhelmed by the nostalgic feeling transporting and dropping me again in the whirlpool of village activities: running after the dragonfly, doing pranks of all sorts, playing "gulli-danda", "kusti", "kabaddi" and many more things not happening now in the village in the village. Several times I was tempted to visit my village but couldn't because of time constraint. The reminiscent of the village still keep haunting and running after me as I was running after the dragonfly those days
When I was a small child living in my remote village, I always had the strong liking for swimming in the pond and the village river and because of this fetish my happiness used to get doubled during the flood time. Like other rustic children I too always longed for the beautiful glimpse of the flood - the water inundating everything on the earth - the fields where the villagers grew different crops and sustain their families , the roads connecting the village with the nearest towns and district headquarter crowded with those shouting slogans only to be given the relief offered by the government , the small huts and cottages on either side of the roads which could be found in any backward village of India, different animals like cows, oxen, buffalos floating on the current of water, the snakes and the many of the insects I didn't know that name by that time. The tamed and those untamed used to become the friends, let alone the people. During the flood time the tall trees withstanding the swaying slap of the flowing water would spread their branches to provide the shelter for many birds and animals including the snakes and would provide to the tired travelers the soothing and refreshing shade. It seemed as if they were boasting and airing that they were mightier and more sympathetic than the human beings under the sun. The frogs were croaking at the top of their voice tearing the eerie atmosphere of the countryside caused by the moaning and bewailing of old helpless and hapless mothers whose sons were devoured by the flood. But these moaning sounds were quite incomprehensible to us.
Those days I was quite unaware of the havoc caused by the flood; in fact it was to us a fountain head of childish enthusiasm and happiness. The dead bodies being carried away by the current used to give bad stench. Nevertheless, without caring for all this we would enjoy our swimming and bathing to the fullest until one day I other children also, would catch a cold and start sneezing inviting the doctor with aalla (stethoscope) to my home for my treatment. Once I recovered, I would start again doing this. My parents would get anxious and worried about my health hampering my studies. The scenic beauty of the village during the flood time was fantastic and mesmerizing as well. Some of the villagers would be sitting, some squatting and some standing along the road untouched by the cruel hand of the flood and fish out; some for their entertainment while some for the meal to be cooked at home and tasted with great taste. Finding myself in this scenario I would not restrain myself and tempt to buy a fishing rod and catch like a veteran the fishes, but for the childish amusement, not for the food as in my family everybody was vegetarian. In this game of fishing in the flood water sometimes some children would get injured for the banshi would get pierced into the fingers of the children and my papa, as the medical practioner of the village and Salim Chacha, the snake catcher used to take out this little weapon with the great tact and experience they had over the years. I still remember my younger sister while observing this little operation being performed on a victim child had once got fainted.
One day I was sitting to take my breakfast; my wife was in the kitchen preparing something for me. While waiting for something to come to satisfy the stomach I switched on the TV and began to change channel after channel only to glue my eyes to the TV screen. The news channel Aj Tak was highlighting the dreadful situation of the flood engulfing entire North Bihar. To see the alarming flood situation I was dumbstruck; I had never seen such a devastating flood ever before. I fell into a pensive mood. Flood seemed to me a monster creating all kinds of holocaust. when the water receded and everything was normal with the transport plying on the roads not touched by the flood and particularly the train I could not help catching the train to Darbhanga my hometown; this train was sure to connect me with the imaginative and unfelt happiness of the future when I would reach the destination and meet all and visit the thing quite worth seeing. Mine was there on the upper berth everybody desires to occupy for trouble free journey and also for the germination of thoughts. The Gangasagar Express streamed off with a loud horn declaring its intention that it is going to the place recurrently washed away bit by bit by the slow slap of the flood. I after keeping the little belongings I had, prepared myself for sitting and then lying down on the reserved seat. I closed my eyes and let my mind pregnant with infantile thoughts taking the wings of the imagination roam free wherever it wanted to, in the sky of vast universe sometimes sitting on the tree of philosophy, sometimes chirping in the echo of Vedantic mantras and sometimes touching on the wounds of humanity waiting to be healed up by the goodness of heart and social harmony until loud fish selling noises made by the passengers mixed up with the potters looking for the customers who could hire them for carriage, woke me up all on a sudden. I got up in helter skelter, as the train arrived on the last destination. I got down with my belongings and headed towards the platform where I could board the narrow gauge train to my nearest railway station.
Somehow or the other I reached my village. By that time it was drizzling as if it were giving me a red carpet welcome. In conformity of the custom in vogue in the village, I touched the feet of the elderly people coming on my way and thereafter had a few words of welcome. As soon as I was visible to my bhanja and bhanji, they ran towards me, whether for the chocolates and sweets or out of love and affection I didn't know, and both of them again ran back shouting" Mama aa gaye, Mama aa gaye" as if they were competing with each other to tell first of my arrival, leaving me wonderstruck.
But what I had thought before arriving here was shattered to pieces resulting in my continual repentance over my act. Now it seemed to me that with the modernization of lifestyles in towns and cities even the country life has undergone radical transformation in terms of cultural and social values. I was under the impression that the people here are as innocent and simple as they were I had seen them in my childhood, with interest for fishing, meeting, getting together in social functions, and so forth. I had never thought that they became quite urban in their language, behavior, thoughts, and customs. What I have found is that they are utilitarian, thinking of everything in terms of profit and loss. The tulsi in the corner of the courtyard, which was once worshipped like god with great reverence, has now longer any importance for them. Offering pranam to the rising sun and mothers showing deep in the evening and then giving ashirbad to their children are no more their in the village.Bhajans and kirtans , ashtayaam and nawah (nawahna) are nowhere to be seen. After all, why should anyone waste their precious time on all these silly things? They don't fetch them any direct and material profit.During my childhood in every village there used to be two- three" kansars"(mud-made herths) for frying "bhuja", "chura", "murhi" to be relished in the evening by children and also adults. How fun it was to eat these things from the pocket made up of the towel! But they were nowhere to be seen.
At the night that I passed in the village I was not able to sleep and hence kept tossing up and taking turns on my bed kept at my dalaan with vast openness for the wind to come into, as I was wondering at how the rapid urbanization had carried away the people and whither nobody knows? The idea and interest for enjoying the fantastic view of flood and getting associated with the village people I knew for reviving the experience of childhood days was drown into the teary pool and my idea to be rooted to the culture and rural tradition submerged into it, only not to come out of it alive. While in kolkata I always touched upon the good things of the village for being a true and good human being .Sometimes I had heated exchange of word with my friends with liking for the town life; I was always in favor of village life but for the cultural, social and moral betterment of people. I began to think that flood has not done any harm and damage to any property in particular. Instead it has destroyed the framework of rural heart and devastated the goodness, innocence, sympathy, cooperation, brotherhood, and above all vast fabric of society and carried them away from the heart to the infinite ocean of oblivion. I found myself all alone in the crowd. It seemed to me that flood washed away and eroded the heart of village , leaving it quite barren .The village appeared to me a barren land with no seeds of love , compassion, cooperation and friendship to grow for the sustenance of human relationship in society. The fabric of society was so shattered. The flag of symbolic meaning of village that I always hoisted in Kolkata laid crestfallen right before my nose but I could not do anything but kept staring in the dark.
BHASKARANAND JHA BHASKAR
BASANT, KHARKA, JALE, DARBHANGA