Holding a stick in my hand, seated high on my favourite pet buffalo, Kajal , I am off to the deserted grasslands on the outskirts of our village and then to wash my buffaloes of their grim and dirt in water. The grasslands are the remains gifted by the river Son (Yes, there are other rivers in Bihar too, apart from the great Ganges!). The river is all dried up, but it proves a boon to the people who grow their crops in its basin. When the river was fresh and young, I used to take my buffalos to its water to have bath, but now I have to take them to the village taalab (pond). I think it is the dirtiest place in the village. All sorts of activities can be seen happening here; women washing their load of clothes, children with their pets (Cows and Buffaloes, like me!) and men with their bare bottoms! It amazes me that women wash their clothes with the same water as men wash themselves with! More so, the green disease which can be seen increasing its hold from sides towards the centre of the pond; doesn’t seem to perturb anyone’s mind (but mine it does!).
Coming back from the pond is always a feast for the eyes (and sometimes the stomach!) The Jalal sweet shop which I pass on my way back home, makes the best jalebis in the world, I can bet on that! Jalebis you know? (I believe the city dwellers eat them too) The round hollow sweets made up of either dal or maida (I am not sure, what batter) which are filled with sweet syrup. They come in various shades, but I like the brightest of orange ones! As a kid I always thought that they are filled with syrup with the help of injections but now I see that Halwais dip the hot Jalebis in sugar syrup instead. It still amazes me that how the sweetness is imbibed by the Jalebis so well? Wish this sort of imbibition process of sweetness can be done by our religious leaders and politicians too, who only have sugar syrup sticking to their tongues!
My mother always asks me to bring Jalebis (When we can afford to) from Panditji’s shop since he is from OUR RELIGION, but I like them more from Jalal kaka’s shop (he even gives me one free of cost, when he sees me eyeing them with awe!) It makes me wonder how religion can affect the taste of the Jalebi?
I stay in a hut near the village temple. My house (People make a home; this is how my mother told me) is made up of mud and bricks-not the kind you see in the city (I know this because I went to city with my father once when grandmother would not stop coughing) You have to really bend low and enter through the door, otherwise you would bang your head. The thatched roof gives me bouts of sneezing, so I often get to sleep outside in open. But my sister is never allowed to do so. She is just 5 year old but already begun to feel the difference in conduct that a boy and a girl get in a small village as mine (Is it different in the city?)
Apart from taking buffaloes out for grazing and washing, I love sitting near the school wall in our village to watch children study. I have heard there is a scheme called Sarva Shiksha Abhiyaan which says all the children should study in school, but I guess education has more to do with changing the mindset of our elders who still feel that studying in school would do us no good. They often tell me even educated do not get decent jobs in today’s world (I am still to find out if it is true!) Moreover I am not allowed inside the school on pretext of being one from the lower caste. I understand how work can define your caste (as done in olden times, as told to me by my grandfather) but how can birth do so is still a mystery to me!
Earlier I did not want to go for grazing out the Buffaloes lest I become the same all my life; but then my mother told me about Lord Krishna who used to take Cows out for grazing. He became one of the finest and most loved Gods when he grew up. Does that mean even I can become a God by taking cattle out for grazing?