Two very special people from nearly five decades back
Last year, one Saturday evening, sitting by myself around midnight, I was reflecting on my life and the various people who helped me thru that journey. Somehow, my mind went back to Jagannath-da who I had almost forgotten.
I was born a farmer’s son. My dad used to till land till he got a break and got a job in a steel plant that was getting constructed about 100 kilometers away from our village. During those very very early days of my life – a life comprising of a hut made of dirt, roof made of straw, ablutions in ponds, a lot of playing in dirt roads and such rural facets – Jagannath-da and his brother Santo-da were our heroes.
They both worked with my dad and his brother (my uncle) in the land that we had growing rice and potatoes. And they worked on a lot of household work for us. They – specially Jagannath-da – served a very important role in my life. I was too short then to pick the mangoes and tamarinds from the low hanging branches of the trees. And too weak and of terrible aim to fell them with stones. So, Jagannath-da used to pick me up on his shoulders and then I used to grab a mango or a tamarind. Or two.
That evening by the poolside started a near impossible search for Jagannath-da and Santo-da. I knew the name of the village they lived in but I did not have contacts of anybody in their or my village who would know them. Eventually, my dad had given away some part his land to Jagannath-da and Santo-da and sold the rest. Then we lost contact.
As luck would have it, when I was in Frankfurt during transit this time, one of my very distant cousin sent a message that somebody in that family of Jagannath-da (they were seven brothers and one sister and I am sure had at least twenty to twenty five sons and daughters) actually has a mobile phone and that my cousin will get me the number in a day.
She came thru for me. By the time I landed in Delhi, I had a number. After I landed in Bangalore, I called up that number and I asked whoever picked it up to pass it on to Jagannath-da. “Chintey paarchho? Ami Damu-r chhele Bachchu bolchhi”, I asked, half afraid that I might be a very distant memory for me.
I really had nothing to worry about. He rattled off a lot of things about me and our time together nearly fifty years back that I have mostly forgotten. Touched that he actually remembers me so vividly, I promised to see him and Santo-da this trip.
Yesterday, I made the trek to my old village. Dad had gone off to sleep in the afternoon. I grabbed a local guy and got him to drive me to the village. (My brother had to rush back to Kolkata since my elder nephew is down with fever now).
Just as the car turned at Shibtala, I could see two gentlemen sitting under a tree, umbrellas in their hand (it is rainy season here). I distinctly recognized Jagannath-da. I had to wait till Santo-da smiled to remember his face. I do not remember how long the hugs lasted but they were not long enough!
So many memories. So many things to thank for. Such great, simple and honest people from the yesteryears.
We went walking around the village and remembering some of the old spots. Found out that their family still till the land my dad had given them. Believe it or not, Jagannath-da – the one on my left – is 85 years old! He came walking from his village to meet me. Santo-da brought his bicycle!
That was one of my best intersection points of my life. These are people on whose shoulders I have – literally and figuratively – climbed upon to be who I am today!!! I hope to see them a few more times in my life and spend a little more time with them…