Fiction: Wealth

---Apurba Bhuyan
 
The monsoon clouds were roaming like herds of buffalos in the sky since evening and it suddenly broke down with intermittent lightning followed by thunders. Heavy downpouring started, as if the sky with its full satisfaction has grabbed the earth with the long fingers of the rain and has given sweet blows to the soil's bosom passionately. The thatched huts made of bamboo in the newly formed islet adjacent to the prominent river island Majuli trembled with the gust of rain and wind. This village is newly settled in the islet created by the river Brahmaputra. Due to the erosion of the Brahmaputra, many villages of South Majuli have been submerged in water. The people of these villages who were rendered homeless have taken shelter on this islet. Where the Brahmaputra cuts on one side, on the other hand it also gives place to the homeless people to take shelter by making such mounds and islands. 
                           Baloram also built a house of two rooms on the islet. A kitchen had also been made by putting a thatch next to it. Thinking that Rupali will need a place for a stove when he would bring her home. Otherwise, there was no need of a decent house for a buzzing person like Baloram. He managed his life without much thinking. Baloram and his elder brother, who were orphaned and made homeless in their childhood by a devasting flood of the Brahmaputra, did not even know when and how they started earning on their own. Their ancestral farms, even their house, fell prey to the Brahmaputra. It is heard that his brother, a little older than Baloram, had settled down somewhere towards Dhemaji town in the north of the Brahmaputra. He got married to a local girl there. After that he forgot to take care of Baloram. Baloram is also a strong young man. He does not curse the Brahmaputra. He does not even want to sit idle abusing his fate. So, as soon as he became capable of earning his bread on his own, the idea of setting up a family of his own began to stir in Baloram’s mind. Moreover, on seeing Rupali, a resident of a nearby village, the spark of establishing his own family flared up in his mind. Getting a meaningful hint from Rupali too, Baloram decided to bring her home soon. That is why after completing the new hut in a hurry he brought Rupali from her home without a formal marriage before the spring festival. Not because of the family's objection, but because of Rupali's two elder marriageable sisters they had thought of skipping the marriage. Moreover, Baloram did not have the capability to arrange his marriage. On the other hand, Rupali's mind also started fluttering its wings.
                           Baloram's hut trembled in the strong wind and rain. In every gust of the wind rainwater seeped through the eaves of the hut and started inundating inside. Baloram's hut glowed with the intermittent lightning in the sky. Everyone got scared of the nature's orgy. Screaming of frightened cows, buffalos, birds, insects were heard intermittently. But Baloram and Rupali did not have the leisure to look into the frenzy nature. This was the first day of their conjugal life. Like the crumbling sky, twenty-four-year-old Baloram and eighteen-year-old Rupali's scorching bodies were also restless to break. Like the gentle stroke of rain on the ground, sweet excitement was hitting their bodies. In the gratification of making love, the sensual bodies of both Baloram and Rupali became frenzied like the nature. Just as the first shower of spring infuses life into the dry heart of the nature, Baloram and Rupali also wanted to forget the sorrows of the world in the first embrace of love. The sputtering words of gratification started flying with the trickling tunes of the rain. After complete satisfaction, both became calm. The wind and rain had also stopped by then. A gust of cold wind coming from the river knocked straight into the hut. But it was not able to tame the zeal of the young blood. In front of them there were only the dreams of the days to come.
                             Both laid on the mat spread in the middle of the room. Clinging to Baloram's chest, Rupali suddenly sobbed. Her drops of tears were dripping over the bare chest of Baloram.
"Hey! What happened suddenly?'' - Baloram got shocked.
Remaining silent for a few moments, Rupali with a deep exhale said, "I am feeling scared?"
" Oh dear, why are you afraid, yes, I will do something. ''- Baloram comforted.
Staring closely to Rupali he again said- "Tell me, why have you started crying like this? Are you not happy to be with me?” 
“No, it is not like that. How can I live without you? But my sisters had frightened me after hearing about us, saying that I will repent by eloping with a clumsy man without a family. But my mother did not say anything like that. She has been suffering a lot since my father's death. Brother brought my sister-in-law and started living separately. He does not take care of us. My mother is managing our two time’s meals somehow. Sometimes we have to sleep with empty stomach. I did well by eloping with you. Mother's burden is lightened. Well tell me, how will our days run? There is nothing in your house for a bare livelihood.'' Rupali said in one breath.
                           "I shall manage everything. You do not need to worry. I have already decided. I will leave the job of herders under Harakant Mahajan. I will no longer look after his male buffalo. That is why I have started sowing urad-mustard occupying a few bighas of grazing land. Gopal, Nareshwar are also helping. I will also join the work of embanking the river under government job card from tomorrow itself. By the way, even Harkant Mahajan does not want to leave me. Gopal, Khogen, Nareshwar are there to graze his buffaloes. But yes, no one else can handle the young sturdy buffalo except me. When I climb on his back and pull the neck rope, he comes under control. Seeing his huge horns even Harakant Mahajan himself is afraid to go near him.'' Baloram said with pride.
                         “Then why he is nourishing the buffalo? Mahajan will get a good price if he sells it.'' Rupali said.
                          “Oh, this young buffalo is the pride of Harakant Mahajan. Why would sell? There is no other buffalo like it in the entire Majuli island. This time in the buffalo fighting of Magh, didn't you see his glory? One by one he threw down four heady buffaloes. Not only this time, every year Mahajan's chest swells with pride for this brawny buffalo. It is a matter of pride for me either. There is a demand for this dashy buffalo for impregnating female buffaloes in the nearby cattle sheds.'' Baloram said.
                       "Well, is it so? You are also like the sturdy buffalo. You also made me exhausted” Rupali said teasingly.
                        Baloram became serious. He told Rupali, "You know, yesterday I told Mahajan that I can't take care of his buffalo anymore. Everyone in the area knows about the bullying nature of Harkant Mahajan. He has a decent family with a beautiful wife, son, and daughter, yet he married the widow of Navin Master. The affair was going on while Navin master was alive and struggling for cancer as the people gossip. But no one dares to speak anything openly. In the pretext of calamity, everyone must extend their hands to Harakant Mahajan for help. Nevertheless, I clearly told Mahajan that I will do government work, I cannot stop my future for his slavery. Mahajan became envious. He said that he will see me. I will have to fall at his feet some days later. Damn, he considered me so weak…” Baloram exclaimed.
                "But you didn't even tell me about the government work..." Rupali said in a complaining tone.
                “The work of embanking the Brahmaputra has been going on towards that Nemati Ghat. I will also join there. Government job card has been given, what is called MNREGA or something like that. Rupeshwar Master's elder son has arranged for me. He is a political party man. You know, I must be present there tomorrow morning itself.'' Baloram said.
                  "Oh, the work of embanking is started in this rainy season. Where the government slept during the drought? People say that the work of embanking in the rain is not good. It means this time also the flood will destroy the dam, wash away our houses and crops.'' Rupali said like an intellectual.
"Leave it all. It is not our business to criticize the government. I got the job, that is the big deal. Now go to sleep.''
                    Baloram changed his side. Rupali kept weaving dreams of her future for a long time. She did not know when and how her eyes closed. She woke up at dawn to Baloram's shaking. By now Baloram had taken a bath and put on his old pant and shirt. It is better not to wear nice clothes while going to work. Yes, he has a nice pair of pant-shirt bought from the weekly fair for the wedding. He had bought two pairs of dress for Rupali from the market itself. Somehow, he managed to buy a small packet of vermilion, a vial of incense oil. For this he had taken some money from Mahajan, which had now run out. He had nothing in the name of savings. Thinking of taking it later, he had left some money with the Mahajan. The daughter of Khagen Master of their village got a job in the post office after passing college. She keeps telling people like Baloram to deposit money by opening an account in the post office. Baloram has thought that he will go to Khagen Master's daughter as soon as government work starts. Yes, savings are necessary.
                          Baloram said to Rupali, "You quickly take a bath and boil some rice for me. I will go out eating only with salt and chili. Today the first task is to catch up. Twenty kilometers to go. Some money to be managed before the Bihu festival. We must go to your house once, isn’t it? How can we go empty handed as a new couple seeking their blessings?”  
                          Rupali served him rice with burnt potato. The sun had not come out yet. The weather was a bit gray, but it seemed that the sun was just about to rise. While getting on his old bicycle, Baloram suddenly kissed Rupali standing nearby and said, "Stay well. I will return before evening.”
Rupali abusing the crow sitting on the nearby eaves said, "Look, how inauspiciously she is croaking. Today I will light a lamp at the temple of goddess. Moreover, today is the first day of your new job”
“Ok, but take someone along. Do not go alone. '' Baloram got on the bicycle.
                           It was almost dusk while Baloram returned. As soon as he came, he saw that the bamboo gate was lying in the courtyard. The newly planted banana, battle-nut plants seem to have been destroyed by the cows or buffaloes. Could not Rupali keep her eyes? Calling Rupali, Baloram entered the room banging the door. But the scene inside terrified him.
                            "Rupali, what has happened to you?" Baloram murmured. She screamed, "Don't come near me. The beast touched me…." She started banging her head against the wall.
It was as if the ground slipped under Baloram's feet. His whole body shook as if it acted in a strong earthquake. He immediately got excited and shouted, "Who is that bastard, tell me his name. I will tear him to pieces...”
                             Crying Rupali said, " That animal was your Harakant Mahajan. As you did not go to his place, he came here looking for you. He got angrier on seeing me. I told that you have gone on government work. Presuming, you have left his job for me only, he shouted on me. At that time, I had reached home visiting the temple. He thrashed me to the ground and broke down on me. I want to die, I want to die.'' Rupali started rolling over the ground crying and scratching her distorted hairs.
                           Baloram trembled with anger. His countenance became stern. Taking out the cleaver he had kept hanging on the wall, he hurriedly left the room. Then suddenly rain drops started falling outside and the thunder of clouds shattered the sky. As soon as he came out, Baloram cut the banana plant planted near the yard with one stroke of the cleaver as if he has blown the neck of Harakant. He started running towards the fields in front of his hut. Harkant Mahajan's house is on the other side of the field. Baloram was ready for war like a buffalo. Rupali was running behind him. Her sari has slipped from her body. She wrapped Baloram in her arms from behind. She sobbed, "You can't go to Harakant's house. You are going to kill him, but the beast may harm you either. How will I live if something happens to you? Just think about our dreams…” Baloram became silent. His mind keeps on beating. The cleaver fall to the ground from his relaxed hands. He turned and wrapped Rupali in his arms. Getting drenched in the torrential rain, Rupali started sobbing clinging to Baloram's chest. Baloram's eyes also started shedding tears. In the gray light of the evening, waves of silvery water started drowning the field.
***

Bio: Apurba Bhuyan
Age 54 years. Professionally an engineer and presently serving as a senior executive in a prominent oil and gas exploration company of India. From childhood, he has kept keen interest in literature. He also belongs to the “All Assam Sahitya Sabha” a well-known literary organization of the state. Building his roots as an Assamese poet and writer he has written in various literary magazines, collections, and e-magazines. Besides Assamese he writes in Hindi and English and translates his works. His four poetry and two no story books have been published in Assamese so far. His works can be seen in Muse India, FFP Poetry forum, Poem Hunter, Pratilipi etc. Few of his representative works in Hindi can be accessed in Indian online editions "Kavita kosh Hindi" and "Gadya kosh Hindi".

2 comments :

  1. A very beautiful piece and I really appreciate how the author has described the beauty and the importance of the river and the dependency of the lives of the local people on it.

    ReplyDelete
  2. An intriguing storyline mingled with seamless narration

    ReplyDelete

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