‘Kubo-bird’ by Rudra Kinshuk

It is a morning of the latter half of Ashwin. Nikhilesh makes himself seated near the front-door of his house. No shirt on his body. But it has been covered with one end of his dhoti. In the morning a lean wind blows lowly. Nikhilesh feels a shiver. The month of kartik is about to begin. An incessant shower of dews drips from the plantain leaves on the grass under.  Tip-tap music makes the mind winding. This time there’s a nip in the wind. Woollen garments may not be needed but a mere shirt one must need. Let the story of the children drop. Nikhilesh is quite aged. He is almost sixty. Besides, he has recently suffered from pneumonia. Marks of the gone disease are still on his constitution. Dark shadows under his eyes are seen. His eyes still sing of depth but not of brightness. An odd bidi burns between his two fingers. Nikhilesh has forgotten to smoke from it. Still the bidi continues to burn. The fire, at short regular intervals takes breath. A thin smoke rises high. A wind occasionally comes to break up the column of smoke. This breaking does not have any rhythm. But suddenness is there. Now Nikhilesh looks at this burning bidi-end. Still he does not notice its burning. There are shades and folds in this indifference. This indifference has a special weaving design. In the course of time a man comes to understand everything, gradually.

The samanta-pond lies in front. It is brimming. Even a finger-tip will make it break into a piece of music. The woman-folks have started scrubbing tubs and brass pitchers. Today it is saptami-tithi, the second day of Durga Puja. The shadow of a jack fruit tree has fallen across water, still and meditative. In the Ashwin morning it looks like a young maiden, looking at her image in the mirror. A king fisher falls on the water and returns to its place with a small fish. The small fish is wriggling between the beaks of the bird. A crane is found circling over the pond. Its legs are about to touch the water. After circling thrice over the pond it stands on a very small branch over acacia tree. The branch bends down. Flapping its wings, the crone moves to a stronger branch and maintains balance. Like flying walking is also a thing to learn. Otherwise one must stumble now and then.

Bara-bou of the Mitra family in the village is now very busy. Her elder brother has come to take her to their paternal house on the occasion of the autumnal festival. Her paternal house is in a village of Bulbulitala. To go Bulbulitala, one is to take a bus at Samudragarh and to get down at Dhatrigram and to get another Bardhaman-bound bus coming from Kalna. Bulbulitala is on this route. The journey is not without hazards. It takes a couple of hours. Children will be with her. The buses get crowded. The more the day moves onwards, the more the crowd becomes bigger. So, her mother-in-law asks her to be prepared quickly. So, Mitra-bou has come to take bath in the pond. She is scrubbing the brass pitcher. Her long fingers are cleaning the pitcher with tamarind. The pitcher is stumbling on the cemented slab of the ghat. Tung, Tung, Tung, Tung…a very musical sound. It seems that a tiny child, with jingle-bells on its feet is dancing. The excitement of Mitra-bou makes waves in the pond water. And her excitement is felt in the kalmi-creepers and folui-fish. The mystic music of aspiration water insects, fishes and tortoises feel now. The body of every creature constitutes a dance. And occasionally one remembers water, soil and memorable naval-roots and this fragrance of this dance opens his inner soul, the soul of a small oriole or that of a barbet.

Dinu Goala’s speckled cow has freed itself from the cow-shed and entered the banana groove. A sound of tearing banana-leaf is heard. A papia bird is heard calling – piu kanha, piu kanha – in the village priest’s Bohol forest. When a child, Nikhilesh would discover some sort of madness in his inmost part of his soul when he heard this bird calling incessantly. Throwing away the bidi-end, Nikhilesh listens to the bird call.

A very lean smoke comes out of the thrown away bidi-end. Nikhilesh feels a startle in his soul. Nikhilesh feels restless. He could not keep himself seated still in front of this burned thing and its smoke. It seemed that the thin smoke breaks into numerous mirrors. And the melted glass of those mirrors seems to be mercilessly cruel and sharp razors. Nikhilesh feels severely threatened by those shadow murderers.

Bhanu Ghosh’s eldest son now returns with accompaniment of drum-beating, having made the kala-bou, bathed in the river Khari. He dances lively with the music of the drum, beaten by Kalipada, the drummer. A crowd of children follow them. Once upon a time it was Nikhilesh who used to look after the community festivals as Durga Puja, Kali Puja and Gajan. The soft kala-bou would have been on his shoulder as strong as one of that  a buffalo. Nikhilesh was then hardly twenty two. His strong body would break into a dance. Profound warmth would come out of his body and inject intoxication into the autumnal wind. Silver pieces of memory throng in Nikhilesh’s mind. Several days back from the actual date of festival, he would collect contributions from the villagers. And it was he who bought and carried the heavy load of pomelo fruit, coconuts and sugarcanes. Gagan Pal, the artist would come from Krishnanagar, the town famous for its clay-dolls. He would put clay on the straw-structures of Durga, Lakshmi, Saraswati and other children of Mother Durga. The idols gradually would come into their dream shapes. The last day of putting colours to the idols, Nikhilesh was very late in returning home from the place of community-festivals. He could not sleep the rest of the night. The idols would haunt him whenever he tried to close his eyes. His dreams would get coloured and fragrant.

Like birds, the days have wings. Nikhilesh feels sad and nostalgic. Life is no bicycle Strong hands even often fail to control life. Nikhilesh now feels all these. His eldest son is now in Kolkata. The youngest one works in Nagpur. They have settled in their places of work. They send money orders to Nikhilesh. He  lives with his second son’s family. His second son’s wife loves him respectfully. Sunandita, his daughter-in-law is a girl of Birbhum district. Every now and then she asks Nikhilesh, “Baba, please take your bath soon”. Her voice is pleasant and musical. Like the first shower of rains, Nikhilesh likes to be called ‘baba’ by his daughter-in-law. Nikhilesh dreams of a tiny boy are sitting beside her mother who is cutting a pomelo into pieces.

The second son of the Biswas family is going to his father-in-law’s place accompanied by his newlywed-wife. The lady looks as charming as the flowering rice-crops. Nikhilesh looks closely at his own body. The tightened bow is lost. His skin hangs loose everywhere. Nikhilesh mutters to himself: Life is such a game where every win ends in ultimate defeat. Nikhilesh feels that a large bioscope has opened its wonderful world within his mind. And several birds of different colours – sparrows, robins and lotora-birds are diving in the endless canvas of the sky. They are blooming into flowers, melting into fragrance.

Nikhilesh is now seated in one corner of the veranda. Sunandita, his son’s wife is taking out pulp from the hemisphere-shaped coconut-pieces. When a child, he would find his mother doing the same. Nikhilesh could discover that her bracelet’s music would mix with whiteness of coconut-pulp. Sunandita’s two hands have now become milky because of ceaseless oozing of coconut-juice. Nikhilesh looks at Sunandita and the old tree of berries in the home-yard. The tree has become very old but still is full of leaves. In his childhood he would see a bird regularly visiting the tree. He would like his mother to tell him the name of the bird. One day the unidentified bird stopped coming forever. Nikhilesh feels suddenly a void within him. A fear starts growing bigger and bigger in him. He, bring terrified comes close to Sunandita and starts sipping milk of coconut from Sunandita’s hands. Sunandita drops the hemispherical piece of coconut from the grip of her palms. She is puzzled a bit.

It has been raining. An endless shower of rains makes music of eternity. And the birds get drenched into skin. A lotora-bird is found sitting on the scarecrow in the field. A sailed boat is found moving in the river Khari. A few days later there will be Sashyasadh, the festival of worshiping corps. The whole field will be a great music hall. The conch music will open the wombs of crops. Nikhilesh today feels much better. He is standing, keeping her back on the berry tree, and looking at the sailing clouds. Clouds, rivers and birds have been planting their seeds of fairly tales into his soul. Sunandita says, “Baba, take bath”. Nikhilesh starts weeping and embraces the tree. All on a sudden numerous kubo-birds start coming out of the stem of the berry tree and flying into the sky. The sky, above the tree has got full of choreography of numerous birds. The sky has turned to be a huge blue canvas. And the birds depict it with blue wonders on it. And the world becomes full of incessant music of the kubo-birds call—-kub………. kub….. kub…………

About the Author: 

Rudra Kinshuk (Born 1971), a poet transcreator and critic has to his credit a number of publications in English, including Footprints on the Sands (1996), Portrait of a Dog as Buddha (1998), Marginal Tales of the Galloping Horses (2002), Meditations on Matricide (2012) and Fragrant Anchors (2013). His poems have been translated into French and German. A collection of his poems translated into French is in print with the title Ancres Odorantes (2013).

Illustration by Alan Van Every (Featured image on the front page)

 

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