Monday, March 12, 2012

Stories on a Moonlit Night

The boys at the Ashram without an exception believe that ghosts do exist and they will vociferously defend this contention. Apiluddin’s intervention resulted in the Ashram compound being lit up. My purchase of a solar lantern also helped during evening studies and in making my evenings a lot more bearable. But, these did not help to dispel their fear of ghosts. It seems that the darkness around is directly proportional to the fear of ghosts. I noticed on a number of occasions that a conversation starts with, “Do you believe in ghosts?” My answer in the negative does not satisfy them and they try to convince me that ghosts exist and almost immediately a story follows.  I would like to share one such story with you that I was told on the full moon night of Holi.

Subroto, a seven year old, narrated this story with appropriate seriousness and I was amused at the way he pronounced “Bhnoot” and “Pedni” (a male ghost and a female ghost respectively). I will retain these spellings. Here’s Subroto’s story:
The youngest group. Subroto is in the centre.
“There was a small hut and on one side stood a Babla tree and on the other was a date-palm tree. Many Bhnoots lived in the Babla tree. A vicious Pedni lived in the date-palm tree. They fought and quarreled with each other and the poor couple living in that hut got very scared and one day they fled their home. They went to live in their pishir bari (paternal-aunt’s house) in another village far away. Seeing that the humans had left, the Pedni thought it was more fun scaring humans than to fight with each other. So she called a truce and took over the house and started to scare anyone who happened to pass by. She became such a menace after sunset that the villagers were very scared to go that way even in broad daylight.

One day a friend of the local Prince and his wife were returning from a wedding feast and happened to pass by the hut. The man asked his wife to wait near the hut while he goes for a pee. On returning he could not find his wife. The Pedni had eaten her up. He started crying and ran to the Prince. The villagers by then had gathered and they complained too.

The Prince seeing the plight of the villagers, brought in his army at night, but the Bhnoots and the Pedni gave them a sound beating and scratched their faces and arms and legs and even bit of chunks of their cheeks. There was so much blood everywhere. The Prince thought hard and decided that something else needed to be done. He had this new idea. Since the Bhnoots and the Pedni never attacks anyone during the day he had to extend the day. So, he spent a lot of money to string up electric lights. There were search lights, big bulbs, hundreds of tuni bulbs (fairy lights) and the night dazzled like day. This did the trick. The Bhnoots and the Pedni could not go out to get food. They realized that they would starve to death and so they fled the place for good….and the couple came back from their pishir bari and everyone lived happily ever after.”

Did anyone know that ghosts need food? But, if Subroto says so, you better believe it!

The Government would do well if these villages in the Sundarbans are electrified as soon as possible, because, apart from lighting up homes it would surely help in driving away ghosts!

Dol Purnima & fish on the playing field

How did I spend Holi? I was with the workers on site. Some local women and children attacked us with colours. My workers were not spared, but, not me. I am allergic to powdery stuff. “System dishtub aachhey”, I told them. Back at the Ashram the boys had had their fun, the telltale smudges of red and blue on their faces and behind their ears was evidence of it. Much after Subroto had told me his ghost story and when everyone had gone to bed after dinner. I was sitting outside, when Diganta – a thirteen year old came to me and invited me to take a walk with him. “The full moon looks good from the school playing field”, he said. I readily agreed. There were quite a few boys from the school hostel there and two girls were learning to ride a bicycle. The place looked serene and the large pond next to it glimmered in the moonlight. We walked in silence for a while until Diganta asked me the inevitable question, “Do you believe in ghosts?” I had had my fill of this and changed the topic and asked, “Were you here during Aila?”

 “Yes”,he said.

“What was it like? Do you remember?” I asked.

“Oh! I was in class when the storm hit and from the second floor verandah we could see a large wave of water approaching this village from the Matla River. Soon enough this playing field was knee deep in water.”

“What happened next?” I urged him to continue.

“This field had a lot of grass on it, but all that has gone because of the salty water. But, that day people from the village ran to the safety of the school building and they brought along their goats and cows and chickens and ducks. The school became so dirty that it took all of us about a week to clean up the mess. There was also a lot of fish swimming around on this field. People caught as much as they could. They wanted to cook them in the temporary kitchen the school had set up. The Headmaster did not agree because there was little firewood. So, people grumbled and ate whatever was arranged and went to sleep with their catch of fish next to their heads. Soon the place started reeking of rotting fish! You missed it!” he exclaimed.

“Missed what?” I asked.

“The scene of so many fish swimming in the flood waters on the playing field. It was wonderful!”

Diganta was about ten years old when the Aila had struck.  At that age one remembers only that which is amusing.  Hope this world will present him with endless amusing moments.

Progress of the Olive Ridley Shelter

The construction is progressing well now although delayed by more than a week due to the truant head carpenter – Binoy.  The first level is complete and work on the outer dome structure has just been started. Hope to be able to post pictures of the final shape next week.  I have made a few changes from the original plan and redesigned the position of the windows. This too, I hope to post next weekend.


Jayati Bawari said...

I am getting more attracted to see this place and meet the people there. Beliefs give us a strength even if they are non-existent or shear tales. I loved the ghost story by Subroto. It has a relieving positive ending... the strength for village boys and girls.

Jayati Bawari said...

I am proud and happy for my friend!

Sujoy Das said...

Great stuff Abhida!

Bonbibi said...

daroon shob gawlpo Abhida! ar chobigulo phataphati :-)

Laurent Fournier said...

fatafati, formidable, génial... ak dum!

Sarath Sarathy said...

Really i feel tat i was with you people . With exited Ghost story

manjari said...

You have us riveted to this...waiting for the final pictures next wishes this could continue, though...:)

Anirban Mahapatra said...

The bamboo arch in the last pic reminds me of the gora potton imagery from your Boat Project. A compelling sense of good things to follow soon...

Sush Sen said...

I must meet Subroto to tell him of the very friendly ghosts I have known. The construction work is coming out so awesome. Your pics are just too good...and the story compels attention. Waiting to visit this place.