Chapter 1: Jamna of Sarbhon
Bhikhu got up a bit late today. It had started drizzling early in the night and he had to make a dash into his house, gathering the untidy bedding with him. Jamana baa watched him scurry into the house “ Dikraa , dry your hair first; you may catch cold”
“No Maa it was just a drizzle” Bhikhu, never got upset his mother but he chose not to heed to his mother’s advice this time and tried to bury his head in the rolled out bed once again.
Jamana Baa, widowed recently, was a picture of quiet strength, her shaved head covered with the pallu of her red sari, her intense eyes hid her pain of losing her husband Morar too early in her life. Soon after she was married off to the handsome Morar, the label of ‘Aazad” stuck with her personality. Never to take any non-sense from anyone, not even Morar, She acquired a sort of notoriety in the quaint Kasba of Sarbhon. Why, she declined to be a simple, demure wife, at the beck and call of all elders.
She detested the call for ahinsa (nonviolent resistance) of the new breed of leader called Gandhi – “You are not going to get the freedom on a platter this way – you have to fight for your freedom” she would say.
She sang bhajans in her mellifluous voice in the early hours of the morning, grinding wheat grains.
Losing her first son at birth dealt a mortal blow. Then the second child, a girl, died of meningitis. She was distraught. Morar comforted her like a true loving husband. So the third one, Naaran, was precious. Elders advised Morar and Jamana to rename him Bhikhu, the one who was begged off from Gods, and leaning on close relatives, to buy clothes for him. A sort of fooling the Gods to say that he was not their son, “look we are not nurturing him. Please do not take him away because we are doomed to misfortune”
Jamna went about her morning chores with enthusiasm. After a quick bath, She folded her hands to the little temple of Thakorjee and then to the garlanded photo of Morar next to it.
“How are you Jamna? Count on me; I am at your service for anything you need” The aged widower Nathukaka was, as usual, was at the door. Jamna shot a nasty look at him, “nope“ and he turned away. “Shameless character “ Jamna mumbled.
Jamna got ready to face the day and face her own reflection in the palm sized mirror – it was same – the lovable symmetrical face sans the vermillion dot and the shaved head. The red pallu on the head gave the face a glow of a burning red brick. She hated the term ‘Ganga Swaroop’ (Pure like the eternally pure River the Ganga) ahead of her name. Was Ganga maiyaa a widow?
Bhikhu got up “Maa can I skip the school today?”
“No dikraa, you must not miss the school ever. You have to study well and become a big lawyer like your mama Dayaljee. Come on quick, have your bath, I will keep you hot rotla with baigan bhaatthaa on it – the way you like it”
Bhikhu knew. It was useless to disobey Maa. Her sense of discipline was unchallenged. Bhikhu got steeped into the same – He was a topper in the class.
Sport was something that he was not good at. Even here, Maa insisted that he went out to play the games that other boys played. Once Bhikhu injured his leg and his friends brought him home in a makeshift stretcher. Maa was calmness personified, nonchalantly applying the homemade paste of haldi (turmeric) and other ingredients, tied the wound up with a piece of clean cloth. “You will be all right tomorrow to go to school” She declared with a finality in her voice to the little Bhikhu wreathing in pain. ”Be strong, “ she added smiling at him.
But Bhikhu always fell short of her expectations. He was slightly built, easily getting cowed down to slightest pressure by his peers.
Was he still mourning the loss of his father? Maa would rather not give up. She was certain Bhikhu would be strong one day, just like her.
….to be continued