Saturday, January 24, 2015

Bittersour taste of tender mangoes

Winter is going through its last lap; a few more days, and then it will be gone. The mango trees will become inflorescent and buzzing flies will envelop them. Then millions of tiny fruits will appear and engulf the branches. Most of them will fall littering the ground, and eventually something resembling tender mangoes will appear.

There was a time when children would start pelting the trees with stones right at that stage. Now that particular period of childhood has disappeared along with the bittersour taste of tender mangoes, freshly shot down.

There are very few who can still remember how exciting it was to write something with a tender mango seed on a neighbour’s freshly whitewashed wall. It was like writing with an invisible ink; when you give the first stroke, it would be marked like water, and then evaporate. Only afterwards would the angry neighbour notice the brown letters emerge.

 Slowly and gradually the writing would become prominent and darker by the passing day. To the utter disappointment of the owner of the wall, there would remain no option for him other than a repaint, to be rid of this vandalism. Nor was he able to catch the culprit, who would have long disappeared right after writing the slogan. Perhaps the most hostile and the ugliest part of it was the kind of graffiti that would resurface from underneath in a few days even after a repaint.

 Well, it was not like the boys would ever want to be caught red-handed. So in most of the cases the slogans used were some iteration of “His-name + Her-name”.  A few excellent surfaces for such anonymous “Blog-Posts” were the buildings that still under construction. There was less chance of getting caught and building’s newly cemented walls were so much smoother than the old houses.

There was local youth, a rail-company draftsman, who was asked by a renowned property developer of a suburb to produce a grand plan for a new school building for the local girls’ school. He did it meticulously well, being his first professional assignment as a building planner. In his Rail Company he was never given such a big responsibility.

The old and abandoned zamindarbari was already was in use as a temporary set up for the school and was brought for a pittance by the promoter, but it was pulled down part by part, piece by piece and the school’s routine also rearranged in a similar fashion. It was a promoter’s first experience in both construction and as contractor and it took a fairly long time. Small children enjoyed these long holidays more than ever, but the middle school girls had to share the same classrooms for an amalgamation of subjects.

Two sisters, one smart of whitish complexion and the other, darker, shy were getting late returning home one evening, being from a different locality as they were. The forced holidays brought intercollege boys an unexpected opportunity to flirt with them. In a dusky forthcoming evening, two youths stood at both sides of the only road, stretching a skipping string to its ends, blocking the sisters’ way.  The girls in sarees, could neither jump the line nor was there left any room to bypass the boys. The younger and smarter one ducked and passed, smiling meaningfully to the boy on the right. But the shy, elder sister stood there confused, clutching her books tightly to her chest and with tears in her eyes. The boy on the left had to loosen his end and let her go without much to say.

In the course of the next three years, their father gave his younger daughter’s hand in marriage to that flirty bright young man who had become a graduate and joined a merchant firm by then. But the shy elder sister had a fiancĂ© who did not pass the exams and remained unemployed. Her marriage was then arranged with a suitable man in a different township, leaving him.

Eventually the school building was raised up to two storeys, but the doors and window shutters were still missing. One morning, the class-teacher of the junior section had found “Her-name + His-name” written with tender mango seeds all over the school’s bare walls; this was the fiancĂ©’s last attempt to stall the marriage.

But it did not work, the girl was gone. She had disappeared just as a shadow melts into the darkness when the light evaporates at the day’s end and the writing on the wall was whitewashed.