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Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The young brave hearts

Pinky, Tukai, Bablu and Rohan were sitting atop the  boundary  wall with long faces sad expressionand  dangling their feet Bhulo sat on the ground stretching himself out  with his face on his outstretched paws time to time raising eyes to watch his human friends and trying to figure out what they were up to. It was Durga Puja and it was the Moha Nabami , only a day was left and all the fun will be over.

Durga Puja as you all know is the ceremonial worship of the mother goddess, and is one of the most important festivals of India. Apart from being a religious festival for the Hindus,people belonging to all different faiths join and enjoy like all Hindus;,  it is also an occasion for reunion and rejuvenation, and a celebration of traditional culture and customs. While the rituals starts from Mahalaya, offering prayers to the forefathers , of fast, feast and worship, the last four days - Saptami, Ashtami, Navami and Dashami - are celebrated with much gaiety and grandeur in India and abroad, especially in Bengal, where Dasho-Vuja Devi Durga ( ten armed Goddess) riding the lion is worshipped with great passion and devotion. Ma Durga is the Goddess of Shakti (power) who destroys the demon and devil and makes the world peaceful and happy,

As always It was such fun this Durga Puja , going around the city all four of them in a luxury car Rohan’s parents arranged for them . Yesterday they were taken to South Kolkata and were taken around some very remarkable Puja grounds with innovative pandal ,innovative designs , grand lighting, also there were variety of type of Durga, made by artisans at Kumartoli. They went to some prise winning community pujas among which Mudiali was declared as best puja that  year. They went pandel hopping in the morning as at the evening time there would be tremendous rush and it would be difficult to drive the car and the children would need escorts lest they were lost in the crowd

During the Puja through Shasti,  first day of Puja  to Dashami,  various cultural programme were organised by  their neighborhood  Puja Committee in the evening which extended into quite late in the night. The children were allowed to stay on as almost all elders in every house in the neighborhood  were awake and watch it. Last night it was fun as the many parents and  elders performed a drama which they rehearsed during the a long period and the drama was a comedy and everybody enjoyed it very much.

Nabami morning the children walked round the neighbouring places and  watched puja pandels and idols all by themselves. All of them wanted to make most of the pujas , offering prayers ( anjali) to Durga Ma in the morning , pandel hopping after having lunch at the para puja,  during the Durga Puja no one in the neighbourhood cooked at home , as almost all women in every house remained busy with puja work community lunch and dinner were cooked for all residents and it was such a fun having lunch and dinner together and the Prasad , which consisted of khichri, sabjis, paisiom and sweets. These prasads and other food cooked in the pandel always tasted divinely palatable. As if a very large joint family were having food together , the taste and the feeling was so unique that even if these were prepared at home by the same women for their own family  it would be a  far cry from the community food.

The four musketeers were sad and thinking a way to find some fun before the puja ends. Navami night there was going to be religious concert at the puja pandel and the children were not much interested.

Suddenly Bhulo started to growl in a low voice and gathered himself up on all fours. It was obvious that Bhulo had sensed or smelt something wrong.

The children looked in the direction that Bhulo was facing and found a strange man, unusually tall, walking with a limp in the opposite direction. They could not see his face but watched that man was wearing a chequered blue half sleeve shirt and rotten jeans. They also notice that he had a head full of orange hair, very odd indeed.  

Pinky asked Bhulo to calm down and all four of them started following the man, automatically  without consulting each other. Suddenly the man looked back and the face had a terrible scar on its left side. The stranger looked back  quite a few times to make sure that no one was following and walked for quite a long time covering a lot of lanes and by lanes   and suddenly turned left. During the Durga Puja festival the whole of Kolkata and even whole West Bengal, are lighted up with grand decorating lights and music on the air, people come on the street, by car, by bus or simply walk through the street to enjoy the grandeur. At the evening time sound of Dhak  , smell of incense lighted by the people dancing before the deity   mesmerises the people in all the Puja grounds . Everybody wares new and shiny cloths, and everybody seems happy. And nobody cares about what others are doing.

The children kept a distance and Rohan said  "  the man is walking towards the Devil Tower!

Really , so odd chipped in Tukai"

Has anyone seen this man before? Asked Pinky?

No- was the answer in chorus.

Pinky stopped and said’ Bablu you go back with Bhulo you are too small for this expedition’.

‘Please didi take me along I will not make any noise I promise’. There were tears on his young innocent eyes. Pinky said okay everybody let us prepare ourselves for a tough journey. Devil tower itself is a devilish place and a satanic man is going to enter it. Everybody cross yourselves and pray to Ma Durga , come what may we will not be scared and will not backtrack

Four musketeers crossed their souls and with closed eyes prayed to Durga ma.

Do you think day light would be fading soon and dusk may come on us in Devil Tower asked Tukai.

People say shady figures are seen there at night and moving lights and moaning sounds
comes out from the place.  Exclaimed Rohan

Ooops lets go cried the four musketeers

And Bhulo barked excitedly.

Now devil tower was dilapidated bungalow type building with windows and doors closed. There was a huge place  at the back which must have been a garden once upon a time but now the garden was covered trees and bushes and creepers, a mini jungle as it appeared to the children  .The rusty iron gate at the right side of the building must have been built by the owner to let the cars to be garaged. This passageway however was relatively usable than the building and its unkempt garden.

Pinky and her gang sometimes visited the building and peeped into the rooms with plasters completely gone and cob webs dangling everywhere but they went to the only during day time.

That afternoon they stopped at a distance to guess at which direction the stranger had gone after turning left. The narrow lane went some distance as a  dark  dirty water body, covered  with dried  leaves  and garbage and water plants fell on the left side, it was a breeding ground of mosquitoes, people said there were rats and may be snakes too, as this water body had no owner , at least not known to the people living nearby, even Pinky’s dadi was not ware about it. The water body ended at a distance and the devil tower stood blocking the lane.  It was a blind lane On the right side of the lane there was a huge empty ground rounded off by brick barricade to thwart trespassers. And during the grandeur and light of Puja this place remained dark and deserted.

When they reached the steps to the back door they found marks of fresh footsteps embossed on the dirt.  Simultaneously Bhulo gave a snarl..  They quickly went and hid behind the thorny bush. A sturdy man came out and looked here and there and said there is nobody boss it must have been a stray dog and went inside. The gang froze with fear and asked sternly Bhulo shhh.,  Bhulo who was all alert and tail wagging looked down with tail between legs.

The man with orange hair came out and murmured I am sure I heard voices and looked around and stopped looking straight at the bush and said ‘ look Srikant don’t  you  think there is something behind that bush.’ Srikant laughed and said check you power boss that is only the shadow; who would come to this goddamned house.   ‘

The two vanished into the building  and soon came out with helmets in hand . The Boss said, should you put a lock here also, don’t you think that it might draw unwanted attention. After all we are new here and have locked the consignment inside.  Srikant seemed apprehensive and with a smirk jerked his shoulders and said “as you wish Boss.

The two went out strolling as if they were lost and looking for a particular address. The children sat there huddled even ten minutes after they were gone and then tip toed up the steps and went inside looking for a locked door.

The children wandered from one room to the other and found nothing suspicious until they heard the faint bark of Bhulo upstairs. Though it could not be seen from outside the building had a room up the starecase..  They     quickly went up and found Bhulo barking from behind the closed door. They were baffled, how could Bhulo go inside a room locked from the outside. Oh my, exclaimed Tukai look there is a window. They all ran to it and got the shock of their life, Bhulo had entered the room through an open window. Day light was fading and it was already dark inside the room but they could easily figure out that four children were sitting on the floor with their back on the wall;. They opened the door easily as it was shut by only a  latch from outside. As they came nearer they saw four children were huddled together with their mouth gagged and hands and feet tied. They looked terrified, hungry, dirty and dishevelled. Pinky and friends  hurriedly took out their gags but the children did not make a sound. When goaded by Pinky and the group they opened their mouth.  They were from poor families in villages and they had been handpicked by the duo with a promise to provide jobs at big cities. They had also given some money to the hapless parents as advance salary.

The oldest among them was a girl about ten , who said that these two people were crooks and they were going to sell them like cattle to strangers. Already two children were sold to an Arab but the sheikh did not want to by the reaming at a time as that might  raise suspicion. A small boy held out his palm and there were fresh marks of burn made by lighted cigarette butts, a punishment for crying out loud.

Don’t they give you food and water

Tukai asked as the children looked famished. They gave us one bun each at morning also a bottle of water. They did not give any food now also.
If they come tonight they might get some food otherwise they would have to starve

Babul started crying at these words

The children said they usually come back at about 10 in the night.

How long have you been here, Rohan asked

They brought us hear on the Austomi night

Pinky stood up and said don’t waste any time we must run for a safe place , the captives were extremely nervous and though they were free of the shackles they wobbled while trying to stand up and take a step or two.  They all started towards the door and their stood the man with orange hair; he had a gun in his hand pointing at Pinky. The sturdy man also had his gun pointed at the children.

Surprised! Said the Orange head  with a smirk. You thought you would outsmart us. You stupid pigs you have walked into our trap. Why do you think the front door was kept open and unlocked?

Heh Srikant , said boss we have got special food to offer to the Sheikh, they are fat and ripe and would fetch a fortune. The two men laughed a menacing way  there teeth showing , body shaking but  there was no sound coming out.

Srikant call up Rehman, tell him about the new items and ask him to come early. The neighbourhood people would soon find out that their kids are missing. We should make the deal by 8.00 pm.  The concert programme at the puja ground will be over by 10 pm.  So they will find about the missing children by half an hour later.  We should clear out of this place by 10 at the latest

Yes boss, Srikant showed his dirty yellow teeth and dialed the number.

Bhai, the consignment is ready; you have to come early as delay may spoil the goods, he spoke over the mobile.

He listened to the person at the other end and said, this time we are delivering excellent goods and the price would be higher I tell you.

Bablu tugged  Pinky’s top Pynki looked down and he whispered Bhulo is not here!

The fat man noticed him and gave him a hard slap on his face - Did I said no talking, no sound, forget and get a slap as reward and laughed his soundless laugh. Tear drops started falling down his chubby cheeks and he wept silently while Pinky sat down and comforted him and noticed a bluish red mark on her brothers,  cheek and glared at the villain.

The man took a step forward at thundered- look down you bitch, don’t ever show me your red eyes or else ...  He did not finish and put the nozzle of the gun on her forehead. Bablu clutched at his sister, Tukai and Rohan came closure and guarded their friend.

The two men found it funny and punched each other playfully but did not take away their guns. He again put his gun on Pinkys forehead and said Jhansi ke rani eh.. Where are your soldiers ... These monkeys/? and pointed to her friends.   Strangely Pinky did not feel scared but felt anger and humiliation boiling inside.

You call yourselves brave- you are like rats who come on the sly, and slap children’s .Ma Durga will destroy you. Anger overtook her fear and she stood erect and tried to take away the gun from his hand. There was a scuffle Pinky surprised the man and a shot went out of his gun and hit the window pane broking the glass as he fell down on his back.
 All the children started crying and a hell of a 
Pandemonium broke out , children started running helter smelter, the noise reached out side, some passerby’s stopped and looked here and there to find origin of the gunshot.
Suddenly Tukai shrieked , here is a strange orange porcupine and I have stepped on it’ for a second there was pin drop silence in the room, then all the children started laughing pointing at his head, bewildered the villain touched his head and it was as bold as a cricket ball, the orange wig was on ground and children started running and jumping on it.

The Orange Head was furious and lifted Pinki up by her hair and slapped hard and shouted at his mate- Srikant finish her off,  but as Srikant did not answer he looked back and looked straight into the nozzle of the gun police officer Ramakant Sing pointing at him. Srikant had already been caught and hand cuffed by the second officer. Bhulo came running and jumped at the fat man and surprised, the gun fell from his hand.
Thank your stars children, if Bhulo did not come in time and forced us to follow him , you might have died or been sold. Pinkey and her friends took Bhulo in their laps and gave him a thousand hug.and  Bhulo put his tounge out  licked them and smiled a happy smile.

That night all the children had a disturbed sleep often waking up and crying save us, don’t hit and their parents  sitting by them put them to slip  cajoling and reassuring.

On the last day of final day of  Durga puja,  vijoya dasami,  women put vermilion on the deity and put vermilion on each other. All the women wore white sari with red border which they kept for this day when they bade teary  goodbye to Durga while immersing her on river Gangal and chanted ‘come back next year’.
The community members embraced each other and distributed sweets among themselves as a ritual
The four captured children had slept well, washed themselves and had put on new clothes presented by the puja committee.

On dasami or dashera  there was a programme where pop singers were invited to perform on the stage.

Everybody was present and the singers were coming up the stage when Rothin Uncle, the president of the puja committee took up the mike and asked everybody to sit down and keep silence. The Officer in charge of Police Station joined him.

He took the mike and addressed the gathering

On the Navami Puja there were four brave children who dared to catch two very notorious crooks that were connected with child trafficking gang and helped police to catch and bust their nefarious activities without thinking about their own safety. With their help four poor children from rural Bengal were freed from their clutches and would be handed over to their parents. The puja committee jointly with the police are presenting bravery prizes to them and proposing their name for Presidents bravery award. It is a fitting act on the day of Vijoya Dasami, the day of Victry of good over evil.
Everybody screamed and clapped the four rescued children, now clean and with new dresses danced with delight,

But we have not mentioned the bravest and cleverest of the gang- Bhulo. If Bhulo did not come running from the devil tower and insisted the police officials should follow him, by pulling him by his shirt sleeve and guided to the devil tower, we might have lost our children.

At First The Police Officer wanted to ward off Bhulo, as he tore his new shirt by tugging at it, but constable Ramdin recognised him and told “Saab, something must be wrong, I know this dog and his master. “ and convinced the officer to follow Bhulo, and had to run hard because Bhulo kept running at a high speed, looking back now  and then to be sure that hey were following him.

Everybody cheered and clapped while Rohan, Pinky , Tukai and Bablu were presented gift boxes and Bhulo with delicious dog treats and new and shining ball to play with.

The children cried Jai Ma Durga and the whole ground full of spectators shouted Durga Ma ki jai. It seemed the spirit of  good souls cried together and the sky and air joined to hail  the Devine Shakti, which prevailed over evil.

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