Srugam And Granny
By Ananya Mahapatra
Srugam tied his hair up his head and started moving forward deep in the forest to gather some wood for cooking and food for munching. He is the only son of his mother, who raised him to be the man he is today, alone.
He heard about his father’s death from neighbours and the Granny who lives in a cottage near the banyan tree at the village end. His mother never mentioned it.
One can see Granny’s veins popping out from her sagged, chocolaty skin. She was toothless and walked, holding a polished bamboo stick, bending her waist. Her leaking abode is a treasure for Srugam. Be it a festive swing or a seasonal ambience, every time, Granny would cook sumptuous cuisines for Srugam, desserts especially. He couldn’t stop leaking his rough and rugged fingertips whenever he had those.
It’s been three years, Granny is no longer telling him stories or making him treats he liked. She is no more. Yet before going to the jungle, he never forgot to go to her empty cottage to do some cleaning quotidianly; he would at least sweep the verandah and sit there for a while, remembering those fun days he had with her.
That day he did the same, paused near the banyan tree before going to the jungle, and started looking at the lone muddy cottage. The rattan boundary surrounding he made four years ago began to rot because of rain, wood borers, and termites. “Should I change the rattan?” he spoke weakly, then moved the poky entryway to get inside, which also rotted partially. Following in, he went for the shrubby broom for some cleaning.
After sweeping, he sat on the bare verandah and wiped the sweat from his face on his rusty red gamucha. Looking at the barren yard, he started to whisper, “But one thing I never understood, why the villagers never actually talk about her!!? And why is that whenever I wanted to speak something about Granny to anybody in the village, even to my mother, the whole atmosphere would
change, like nobody was paying attention to what I was saying and they would go busy with their own kinds of stuff”. One year, two years, three... eighteen years had passed till his father’s death. Still, there was not a single day he would sit close to his mother and talk about all the fun he had with Granny.
“A year or two would be still all right, but eighteen years?? I met her for the first time when I went out from home alone…maybe I was two or so… Yeah... it’s been so many years.” Srugam was mumbling. Yet, there was a strange thing about all these: he could not avoid Granny.
“She was too nice to me; she was no different to me than my own Granny. She gave me food to eat and adore to reckon on… maybe, I—I think….” But in a trice, a woosh of wind passed through him, and the susurrate made the whole verandah even his body suffused with dry leaves and dust specks.
Exactly, this, or something similar, would happen every time Srugam tried to think, even talk about Granny. He got up and shook off his body to clean the dust with irritation. “I should get going… it’s getting late….” He gathered his things and egressed towards the jungle.
Straight after he vanished from that sight, a loud wail burst out from the cottage. A woman she was, with loose hair and wearing a white saree tailing on the ground from her shoulder, she came out holding a newborn baby with one hand and a big dekchi with the other, constantly whining like a madwoman. As soon as she came out, a mudstone chulha came out from nowhere in that barren yard, and a massive fire started to rise up from it. Without any second thought, she sat in front of that chulha, put her feet inside the burning fire and dumped the dekchi on the chulha’s top, still whining, holding her baby close to her heart. “My baby grew up…but all I want is a baby. He can’t grow up. Why…why did he grow up?? I loved my baby; now I’ll have to do the same I did with his father.” Then she started grunting, “I’ll wait till your wife holds a baby, the day she will give birth; that day would be your last day.” A burst of hysterical laughter followed, echoing the yard.
By Ananya Mahapatra