Monday, April 16, 2012

The Bell

Kumar was returning to his village after a decade. The city had given him all that he had wished for, as a kid. It was a long journey in his life to blend into the city life. But, it would be longer to go back to his original life. It was as if all these years he was living in a dream. A dream, where he lived as someone else. He had no regrets of leaving his village, for he knew, he would return.

The bus was crowded, but Kumar had managed to get a window seat. It was probably the effect of his attire. The neatly pressed white shirt and the blue jeans, which he had changed into at the railway station, made him look no less than a movie star. The Polaroid dark glasses on his chalked out face, and the neatly set hair just added more stars to his appearance. As soon as he got the luggage loaded on the bus, the other passengers made way and let him select any seat on the bus. He was busy soaking in the scenery the route had to offer. He had four hours before he could reach his house, his village, the place where he spent his childhood.

His thoughts were running faster than the bus. Were they running ahead to see his future? Or to go back to the sweet memories of the place, was something nobody except Kumar could tell. He remembered his house and the temple. Both the places, where his favorites in the village. He would always enquire about them. He had unlimited memories from the time spent near the temple. He would go there every day with his friends. The banyan tree, on the banks of the river, just behind the temple, used to be their hangout place. He would run into the temple and try to touch the huge temple bell. He wasn’t tall enough then, to touch it. He would come back with a long face, to cheer him up, his friends would form a tower, for him to climb up and hit the bell. After this they would run away fearing the scolding from the temple priest.  Since Kumar would fall from the top of the tower, almost every day there would be wound or a bruise on his body.

The bell rang, but this time, it wasn’t the temple bell. It was the simple bell in the bus, which brought back Kumar from his memories. His village was just a kilometer away and this was to alert everybody to get ready to make their way to the door. The scenes seemed familiar to him. The long stretches of farmlands with men and women toiling in the harsh sun. He could see huge towers too in the middle of these farms. He understood them to be the assets of the cell phone companies. He wondered, even if there were problems for water and electricity, there was no dearth of cell phones.

The sudden break on the bus put a break to his train of thoughts. As he set his foot on the road, unloaded his luggage from the bus, and the bus continued his journey, he saw a dozen people waiting on the other side of the road. They had flower garlands, basket of flowers, drums, and trumpets. As soon as he crossed the road, he was surrounded by his uncles, cousins, who lifted him on their shoulders. The welcome party paraded on the roads of the village and finally stopped in front of the huge gate. The drums and trumpets did not stop until the huge gate opened.

Kumar stepped in, on one side, he saw the cowshed. There were a dozen of cows. Few years back, when he left, there were just a couple of cows and one of them was pregnant, due to deliver the calf. The sight of the cows and and cow dung in round shapes on the wall brought a smile to his face. He remembered how he would help his mother make those cow dung cakes. In that excitement, he would smear the dung all over his body and would get scolded by his mom for messing himself. His mother would remove his dirty clothes and bather him with the water from the well.

As he stared at the well, he visualized a small boy playing with a bucket of water. The boy’s mother was forcing him to quit playing, bathe quickly and change into the dry clothes. She was splashing water on him. He could feel the same, and realized, somebody was actually sprinkling water on him. He looked at the hand. They were the same tender hands which took care of him in his childhood. The same hands which bid good bye to him, when he was set to leave the village. He touched the hand and kept it on his head. His mother had promised him, whatever happened; she would never leave his side. She had kept her promise. She was his moral support.

He looked at her eyes. He could see tears, similar to how they were when he was leaving. There was one difference, this time he could spot the joy hidden n them. The tears were shining like diamonds. The mother and son hugged each other. As they parted, Kumar’s father stepped forward. He was waiting for this embrace for a long time. He met his relatives, distributed the gifts he had carefully packed for everyone. His mom just couldn’t take her eyes off him and her fingers were busy ruffling his hair. His father looked at him with pride, while Kumar felt content lying on the floor with his head supported on his mother’s lap.

Kumar was eager to visit his childhood hangout place, the temple. In the evening, he dressed up in the traditional attire and went to the temple. As he entered, he saw a tower of kids and one short boy, trying to reach the bell. Just when the boy was about to touch it, the priest came running with a stick to chase the boys. The tower collapsed. The boy touched the ground, luckily fell on his palms. Kumar could understand the feelings of the boy. He went near the boy, lifted him up and helped him strike the bell. The joy on the boy’s face gave Kumar immense happiness, probably much more than, is he had hit the bell himself.

A month later, there was a development in the temple. In one corner of the temple, there were multiple bells hanging at different heights. Everybody now had access to the bells. Ofcourse, this did not stop the boys to form the tower. This was to hit the bell which was six feet above the ground. Kumar felt, his decision to come back home was not wrong afterall.