Manu was lying under the shade of Eucalyptus trees savoring its faint fragrance. She was gazing at the sky, the azure blue sky with white clouds like cotton balls taking different shapes and titillating her imagination with each shape. Sometimes they made chariot on which she was ready to journey across the sky. Once it made an elephant, then quickly changing into a girl with a fan in her hand; all making a fertile ground for her rich imaginations.
This place was her sanctuary IN home but AWAY from the home. After transfer to this town, her father got this colonial bungalow as for residence. It was a big single storeyed whitewashed bungalow with four servant quarters in it. It had a beautiful garden in the front filled with the rich fragrances of flowers like Rose, Lily, jasmine, orange jasmine, spider Lily, Juhi and many others. But it was the backyard which was her favorite; with an orchard of mango trees, guava, jackfruit, falsa, mulberry and off course the eucalyptus tree which always pulled her near it.
She had escaped from the home. She could still hear the faint voices from there. Father was scolding Bharat, her younger brother for his mischief (he was always one mischief after another) and mother was trying to defend her.
लाडला son. The same story repeated every day. Whenever such situations arose, she used to slip outside silently and took shelter under the tree. She loved her brother, but he was too restless to obey the strict discipline of her father. “When will he become mature? “She was musing these thoughts when she heard mother calling her, “Manu!!Where are you? Come for study.
पढ़ना है कि नह ीं??”
She reluctantly stood up to go inside. She was a small girl. She was not a small girl. She had turned 20 this March, but she was so thin and waif like that she looked like a 15-Year-old girl behaved like that too. But in the college, she was a quiet and sensible girl. She was in third year of MBBS, and they have started hospital rounds too. But none of the patient thought her as “To be the Doctor”. She looked so young. With a sigh, she went to the study room, searching for Robbin’s pathology book.
Suddenly she heard some shuffling outside.
“Manu Didi! Daacterni Didi!!! Where are you? Please come outside!” Wailed Sunna, the wife of Roopan Hansda; one of the household helpers. Manu rushed outside.
“What’s the matter, Sunna? Why are you crying? “asked Manu.
“Didi, my brother is very ill, Villagers have brought him here. He is having severe pain abdomen. Kuchh kijiye Didi.Aap to Daacterni hain na. You can help him. He is my only brother. please help him. “Sunna sobbed. Her brother was lying in the varandah. Manu went to him and tried to examine him gingerly. She was only in third year. Though, they had started the hospital rounds, the practical knowledge of examining a patient was virtually nil.
But in the eyes of villagers and Sunna, she was a Daacterni who can do miracles. She started palpating the abdomen and tried to remember the names of quadrants in which abdomen is divided and which quadrant was tender. When she couldn’t decide anything, she told them to wait and went inside the house. She pulled her father to a corner and whispered, “Papa, I don’t know how to examine a patient. What will I tell them? They have come to me with so much faith. “Father assured her, “Don’t panic Manu. Try to examine him with full concentration. God will help you. “He told her. After being reassured, she felt her confidence returning. This time, when she examined, she could elicit guarding and tenderness in right hypochondrium. Perhaps it is a case of cholelithiasis. She answered Sunna, “don’t worry! Come with me to the medical college. I’ll request the professor to examine and treat him.”
And yes, it was a case of cholelithiasis. He was operated upon and in no time got discharged feeling healthy. Sunna was very grateful. Now Manu was a great Daacterni in her eyes. Though she was not the household helper (Rather her husband was), she came regularly to visit Daacterni Didi, every time bringing flowers for her. Manu was very much touched, and an unconventional friendship developed between them.
Sunna was very beautiful and young. She was dark complexioned with smooth and shiny skin and jet black hairs. She always wore flowers in her bun and always smiling. Sunna and Roopan has only one son, Babloo who was 12Yearsold. Whenever Sunna came, he always accompanied her.
One day, Manu and Sunna were chatting and Babloo was playing outside. Manu told jokingly to Sunna, “Sunna, Babloo doesn’t look like your son. You look so young!”
“But he is not my son, Didi! “replied Sunna.
“What??”Manu asked. “If he is not your son, then whose son, is he?” “He is Roopan’s son from his wife. “said Sunna simply.
“But you are his wife na? “Manu was bewildered.
“Na Didi, I’m not his wife. His wife died in childbirth. She lost her life while giving life to Babloo. “Sunna explained patiently to Manu.
“Then who are you to Roopan? “demanded Manu.
“I’m nobody to him, just taking care of him and Babloo. “said Sunna.
‘’Then how you came to know him? “enquired Manu.
There was a sweet smile on Sunna’s face. She remembered the day she saw Roopan for the first time That was around 14-15 years ago. She was just a child of 14 years. It was the annual function day of her tribe with Mela in Santhaldih block. She had gone there with her parents, elder sister Champa and her younger brother Devan. Ohh…there was such a crowd in mela, so many interesting things happening simultaneously. She was wide eyed trying to absorb all the events in her mind. BUT the most interesting event for her and the whole tribe was’ THE DANGAL’, means wrestling competition. It was here she saw Roopan for first time. He was from the neighboring village, winning round after round of wrestling. His body was sleek and shiny, bathed in perspiration looking just like a Demigod. Sunna couldn’t keep her eyes away from him. He won the last the last
round too. Everyone was applauding him. But Sunna was just staring at him. She had forgotten even to applause. It was love at first site. Then she saw him coming towards them. Her heart started fluttering. But lo…. he did not even acknowledge her and went directly to Champa, her elder sister.
“Champa, I have won the Dangal. Now I can give your father a pair of bulls. Will you marry me now?” asked Roopan. Champa was blushing now. Her parents were smiling widely and proudly. They had got a very worthy son in law indeed. But Sunna was shattered. Somebody squeezed her heart violently. But she could not express her anguish. She had to be happy for the sake of her sister’s happiness.
After LOTA-PANI, they were married. Within one year, They were most attractive pair of their tribe spread across nearby villages. They loved each other like anything. Very soon Champa became a rallying point for women of her tribe. There was another jubilation in their family when Champa was told of her impending motherhood by the lady doctor who visited her village. Champa was in advanced stage of pregnancy when misfortune stuck them. She fell during a dance ceremony and had to rush down to the nearby health center. Champa was unconscious by the time doctors operated upon. But alas! She could not even see her baby. Roopan was left bewildered. His love, his life, his dreams all were shattered in a single stroke of tragedy. He broke down, wailed inconsolably forgetting their culmination of love, the small baby. Champa’s mother came rushing down along with Sunna to get hold of the baby as Roopan and his entire family were in the deep shock.
When the final rites were over, and things were little bit normal it was time for Champa’s mother and Sunna to leave as she must manage her own household. Roopan was still in denial mode. Sometimes behaving like a lunatic. Off late he had developed a new habit to never part away from the toddler which reminded him of Champa. Seeing his precarious state all elders of the village requested Champ’s mother to leave Sunna for some time for sake of the toddler. Her mother reluctantly agreed for few months and set a deadline when Sunna will be back from Champa’s’ village.
Sunna started living with them and caring for the toddler. Her father and brother were furious as she did not return even after deadline was over. There was a special bond developed between the Child and her. The child always seeked Sunna and could not be pacified within two months of her stay.
“This is my story Didi.” Summa came back from the past.
“But Why didn’t you marry him? “asked Manu.
“He will never remarry. He still loves and worship Champa despite knowing that she will never come back. I love Babloo like Yashoda loved Lord Krishna and Roopan loves him in memory of Champa. I am nowhere in the mind of Roopan That’s the reason which compels me to love him more.” Sunna explained patiently.
It was becoming weirder.
“If he doesn’t love you then you should leave him. Why do you care for him and his son? “Manu was a bit angry too.
“Because Didi, I LOVE HIM for his honest love for Champa. You will not find such a person. Love is not a business. It is caring and sharing.
It is like understanding each other without any single word said.
In love tongues are tied but eyes talk. It comes from within. Love is eternal. LOVE is about giving yourself completely without holding back anything. I do not know what the rubbish I am talking about, but I love Roopan from my heart, mind and soul together, so I’m living with him, caring for him. I don’t care whether I get something in return or not.” She said simply. Her eyes were moist.
At the same time Babloo returned from school. She rushed to gate to receive him. Today she had cooked Kheer, his favorite dish.
Manu was speechless. This illiterate girl had taught her much, she had not understood even after so much study. We are surrounded by our pride, ambitions and achievements which buries our true feelings.
And this simple tribal girl did not care for pride or comfort. She was honest about her feelings and followed it. She was quite happy doing this.
This lady taught Manu…the real meaning of Love….