Little Ryan was too upset. Returning from his school, Ryan took resort to lying on his bed, skipping his lunch. Initially, Ma was being good to him, cajoling him to have his lunch but soon she became angry.
“What’s the matter with you, Ryan?”
“Nothing, Ma. All’s fine.”
“Then have your lunch peacefully without making a grumpy face.”
“But how will Ma understand my pain and even if I told her, I will be doomed.”, his brain answered to him.
Lying on his little bed, Ryan thought about his day at school. Ms. Polly, their English teacher, entered the classroom with a wide grin and greeted all “Good Morning”. And then Ms. Polly asked everyone to outline a short paragraph on what they were going to do in their summer holidays. Well, the problem started right then. Most of his friends, even his best friend Tina, said that they were planning to visit some distant places: some wanted to go to hill stations while others wanted to visit sea beaches. In the midst of so many happy faces and eagerly opening mouths to speak up about their upcoming holiday plans, Ryan felt alone: he just had nothing to say! Will he say that he’s going to just sit at home doing his holiday tasks? That would be embarrassing, isn’t it? His mind was struck with a brilliant idea. “What about saying that he’s going to Kausani to see the lofty Himalayas? That would be different and Ms. Polly will be impressed.”, a voice in Ryan’s mind told. Another voice popped up: “Oh no, Ryan. You’ll be lying to Miss. That’s bad!” In a tug of war between these two voices, Ryan was unable to decide which side to take. While this mental turmoil reached the peak, Ms. Polly’s dark brown eyes turned towards little Ryan.
“Yes Ryan, tell us about your holiday plans.”
“Mmm … We’re going to Kausani. Uttarakhand.”
“Nice.” A reply too short to vaporize Ryan’s enthusiasm in the thin air.
“So class, now you know what to write. Jot down the points now. Complete it in your holidays.”
Ryan could hardly write a word. The guilt conscience was pricking him inside. He looked once at Tina who was peacefully noting down the points for her plans to go to Shillong. All day, Ryan barely talked with anyone for it was the first time he was lying and that too in front of his teacher; he dared not to say this incident to his Ma.
In the evening, Ryan thought that he would request his father to take him to Kausani this vacation; at least the lie could be turned to truth. But before he could even drop this idea, Ryan’s father announced that they are going to his grandfather’s home this summer. Ryan was highly disappointed: no AC, no video games, no computer and obviously no internet connection! But his mind was so weakened by guilt that he could barely utter a word against it.
Holidays began. Ryan’s dream to travel to Kausani never became reality. They boarded a local train from the Howrah station towards a place called Tarakeswar. It was the second time he was visiting his grandparents and hardly remembered about the first visit (he was too small then). The train traversed between houses and rice fields and occasionally stopped at the stations. The calm air coming through the window freshened him. He was absorbing the serenity of the countryside and the slow lifestyle of the country people. The random eating of peanuts and salted green guava on the train added extra flavors to his long, tiresome journey.
It was evening by the time they reached their home. No wonder the hospitality of his grandparents made Ryan feel that he had returned to his home after a long time. It felt like it was not just his grandparents’ house but it had the warmth of his own, long left home. The whole day journey from the train and then half-an-hour bus journey took a heavy toll on his energy. Ryan took his plate of sweets and stood in the yard near the main door, overlooking their pond. A woman with her heavy load on her head was passing by and smiled at him.
“So, how are you? When did you come?”
“Just half an hour ago.”
The woman walked again, giving him a smile. Ryan wondered, he did not know her but she did! Well, she knew his grandfather and people here were very amiable, he concluded. Then he found a boy of nearly his age, bare-skinned and playing with a cycle’s tire, beating it with his stick while walking down the road. He was sun-tanned and dirt ornamented his shirtless chest and legs. As he went, he carefully scrutinized Ryan from his hair to his toes. Such a gesture from a complete stranger was astounded him deeply.
It was hot summer night. Ryan could hardly sleep. Sitting on his bed, he looked out of the window: it was completely dark, there was no trace of any human being. Outside his window, towards the east, stood a bamboo tree. The leaves of the bamboo stood motionless in the kingdom of tranquility. He looked at his digital watch: 11.30 pm. Ryan lay awake in his bed, trying to befriend the mystifying gloominess around him. An owl hooted suddenly to break the silence. It was something totally different from Calcutta where streets were flooded with lights at midnight and the honking of the public vehicles drove away all the silence.
The next morning seemed boring. He could not find someone of his age to play with; all he did was to roam in the yard, visiting the cowsheds, watching how the cows were milked and then walked down to the adjacent fields. He met his Grandpa there. He was a jolly, old man still looking after their ancestral lands.
“Why are you roaming alone?”, Grandpa asked.
“I have nothing to do. It’s boring here. No friends.” Ryan softly said.
Grandpa laughed out.
“So, one day out of Calcutta and you’re missing it badly. But here you can get priceless things which you can never get in your city. Now, go to that mango tree. You can treat yourself by some mangoes.”
Ryan found it to be pretty good idea. He walked down the red laterite paved path. The tree was enormous, mangoes hung from every little branch but all were out of his reach. Ryan stood blankly: what to do now!
A sudden movement of the mango leaves occurred. Ryan saw someone climbing down the tree: he was none other than that dusty boy. He walked away, seeing Ryan but after going a few feet distance walked back to Ryan.
“Will you eat raw mangoes? I have some.” Before Ryan could answer anything, he stretched out his hand, holding one.
“Wait, let me cut it for you.” The dusty boy took out a blade from his pocket, peeled off the mango skin and sliced the fruit. Then he sprinkled some salt over the pieces of mango and gave Ryan.
“What’s your name?” asked Ryan, munching the mango slices.
“You don’t know how to climb a tree?”.
“I can teach you.”
Within the next half an hour, Ryan struggled a lot and finally managed to climb the lowest branch of the tree. He was amazed to see Krishna climbing to the topmost branch with ease. It was a different feeling for Ryan – sitting on the branch of a tree and to watch others passing below him and the sky seemed closer to him. In his neighborhood in Calcutta, there were giant trees but had never seen any boy climbing up. Krishna gave him another slice of mango, marinated with salt and red chili powder, a sight of which instantly watered his mouth.
“Don’t you go to school?”
“Why won’t I? Class 5.”
“Me too! Ah, you’ve holidays now.”
“That is your house?”
“My grandparents’. I live in Calcutta.”
“Nothing. You’re a rich kid.”
Krishna’s voice sounded a bit awkward as if he was mocking him for his family’s wealth. For the first time, Ryan felt accused of being rich. He could perceive why on the first day, he was scrutinizing him. Looking at Krishna, he felt he was indeed lucky – lucky to have all the materialistic pleasures of life.
“Krishna, I don’t know much about here. Let’s take a stroll around the village.”
Krishna was happy. He readily agreed, climbed down the mango tree and also helped Ryan to get down.
“Come with me.”
The two boys walked down the path and then entered the rice fields. At one point of time, Ryan found himself totally surrounded by the rice fields and the houses have receded away from them.
“Where are we going?”
“To the cremation ground.”
“What? Why? Are you crazy? Who goes there now?”
“You should thank God that I won’t take you there at night. You would have seen ghosts hanging down the trees, some would pull your hair or tickle you.”
Krishna burst into a loud laughter after seeing Ryan’s red face.
“I am not going with you. Back to the mango tree.”
“You’re a coward. When I can go there, why can’t you?”
No boy can ever digest the word ‘coward’ and it was not unusual that Ryan couldn’t. He began walking again towards the cremation ground with renewed zeal. After about ten minutes walking on the grass laid path, they reached their destination.
Unlike Ryan’s expectation, the ‘eerie’ cremation ground turned out to be a very neat and tidy place, with trees, unknown to him, stood here and there. There was a small temple of the Goddess Kali and in front of it, was a clean yard.
Both of them sat on the steps of the pond, situated towards the east of the temple; their feet dangling in the cool water. Krishna brought out a small dough of whole wheat. He made it into some small balls and threw one-by-one to the pond water. Soon a shoal of fish gathered and began to kiss their feet for food. Ryan was amazed at how the Pied Piper brought the fishes to them!
“Do you know fishing, Krishna ?”
“Yeah, I catch fish every afternoon. But luck matters, someday I have to go empty-handed and someday, I get enough for two days.”
“Will you teach me?”
“Why not? But you’ll have to be patient.”
No one spoke after that. Both of them were enjoying the solitude around them, the cool breeze gushing in between their bodies, the leaves of the trees swayed and some birds sang while Krishna slowly threw the wheat balls to attract the shoals of fish.
“Ryan, let’s go! It’ll rain soon.”
“Why on earth will it rain now? It’s sunny.”
“The goats are bleating in the field continuously. Can’t you hear that? Look here, the ants are rushing with their food to hide in that secret hole. It’ll surely rain. We must leave. It’s a long way back home.” Krishna said in a rush.
Ryan was taken aback. He never knew that Nature would send signals before any calamity so that her children were safe. Krishna could recognize those little hints for he stayed very close to Nature but Ryan, living in a metro, was completely detached. It was for the first time he had come so close to Mother Earth and that too with the help of the son of nature.
Ryan and Krishna sped off through the grassy path and they could see the black clouds encroaching the sky. Ryan looked up to the sky to feel its vastness. The sky from his 3BHK flat was too small to appreciate its majestic beauty. Towards the far eastern sky, they could see the strikes of the lightning. Ryan slowed down to see how the lightning split the chest of the sky followed by the grumping of the thunder. The black clouds were fast approaching yet Ryan stopped to see them hobbling towards him.
“Hey Ryan, come on fast. We’re going to get drenched.”
“Really? You’ll catch a cold, kid.”
“Don’t pull my leg. I have begun to like everything here. We hardly notice these beautiful things in Calcutta. Dadu was right, this stay would be memorable.”
“Let’s run fast.”
Before Krishna could say anything further, drops of rain had already started to fall on them. Within few minutes, the wind blew too strong that dust entered in their eyes. Soon it started raining cats and dogs: both Krishna and Ryan leaped in joy and danced their heart out to set their souls free.
Did you find this story of Ryan and Krishna interesting? Well, it doesn’t end here. If you like and want to know how Ryan overcame his guilt conscience or is it gets suppressed forever, please continue reading the next part “The Son of Nature – Part 2” too!