Hard truth: The little conveniences of life, earn their value when they are taken away from us without much of a notice.
There was this tall, dark ‘bihari’ lamp lighter, who came every day in our lane with an equally tall, dark iron stick with a small hook at the end. He came along with the dusk to light up the only bulb, set high up on the lonely pole, that the municipality blessed us with, to make our narrow lane all the more darker with it’s moody, cloudy orange cast. It looked like a tired, one-eyed bull from a distance.
He must have come every day along with the dawn, as I always found the light switched off when I stepped in the veranda doing my morning brushing.
Our neighbors tripped in the dim light and cursed the lamp. Our friends kept on losing coins which while handling, rolled again and again and could never be found in that casual darkness. Someone even dropped eggs once and blamed the light.
It didn’t bother the lamp neither her nonchalant lighter. They were both indifferent to our non stop grumblings.
Then someone threw a stone and pop went the bulb. That someone jumped over the wall of Rumki’s house and chose to take, along with other things, the heavy, copper water pot which belonged to no one but Rumki’s ‘thamma’ (grandmother).
‘Who dares to do that?! I wondered! For a month and so, the unknown chap was cursed, day in and day out.
‘Who could even think of stealing that?!’ I was amazed by the brave heart.
The lane became darker and only then, the grumpy trolls living in the tiny houses around the tiny lane, realized, though for a short while, that even a tierd bull’s eye keeps a good watch over the neighbourhood.
The ‘bihari’, that’s how he was referred to, wearing his hand loom ‘fatua’ and white ‘dhoti’, nonetheless came twice. It wasn’t easy to break a bulb which has a dog collar around it and so was it equally challenging to change it with a brand new one. But that someone who was quite immune to Rumki’s thamma’s curses, ventured again. This time, while leaving, took Gabu da’s one or two underwear left by mistake on the wire outside for drying. That did boiled an anger deep down in some private parts.
The ‘bihari’ was asked to change the bulb ‘ASAP’.
He understood it in his own sweet way and made it As Slow As Possible. The ‘eye’ remained shut and in the meantime our one and only manhole cover probably ended up in a pawn store. It would be something similar if right now in current time, a Covid came positive for a person living in that very lane. Even Rumki’s thamma, who was always on a self imposed quarantine even at that pre-corona era, started prophesying who will surely ‘go to the drain’. The manhole remained shamelessly naked and the eye chose to stay shut.
‘Bihari’ didn’t bring the new bulb, but he did come every evening and probably all the mornings with his stick with the hook which he used to pull the switch placed high on the pole, on and off as needed. He came to deliver the message of light and even if there is no hope, he came alright!
Finally ‘dadu’ bought the bulb, more than the inconvenience of darkness but most probably, I doubt, it was the fear of bumping on to Rumki’s thammi sitting on her ‘MoRa’ (cane stool), while crossing their open verandah.
That evening, the eye opened and stared. It was more powerful one and every one sighed a relief. I was proud of my dadu, then, for a reason and many a times for no reason at all. But it was the ‘bihari’ who performed the act of Gemini circus of climbing the ladder and yet strictly managing his ‘dhoti’ from being disobedient. People went back to their normal life. They chatted and crossed glancing casually at the open manhole. People did trip now and then but they in between accepted that it also could be possible because of their old, oversized flip-flops. Even someone bought eggs and risked a catastrophic financial loss while crossing the lane. Even though to dadu’s great dismay, Rumki’s thamma didn’t stop, but life more or less went to normal, till…..
‘Someone’ threw a pebble again in another night!!
(Artwork: Piu Mahapatra)
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