Ramu kaka walked straight … At the age of 80, he could easily put 25 year olds to shame. Tall, well-built and bursting with energy, Ramu kaka was agility and vitality personified . Nobody in the North Lakhimpur district of Assam could dare to challenge him in stamina and strength.
Ramu became kaka at a very early age. Ever since he had started working as a manservant with Principal Mohanty’s government bungalow, he had become a sort of permanent fixture at the bungalow. Principals came and left, but Ramu never left that sprawling house spread in over 2 acres with over sixty percent of it covered in trees. Ramu had occupied the servant’s quarter upon his appointment as the “orderly” and had never left. The administration had tried its best to get rid of Ramu. However, the Principal Sahibs had always protested against the orders of dismissal and retained Ramu. For Ramu, that bungalow was his place of worship … His Mecca … The birthplace of his sons, the place where his wife breath her last, the place where he became a grandfather … Ramu loved Bungalow Number 14 and everything about Bungalow Number 14 loved him back.
So on December 08, 2016, when Ramu kaka was finally asked to leave, he couldn’t help but slouch for the very first time. He was suddenly tired. His world was being taken away from him and this time no amount of protest would retain him. Professor Sarma was obstinate about having someone younger, fitter and more alert than Ramu. Mrs. Sarma wanted to run the place her way and wanted more rooms so that guests could be accommodated in Bungalow Number 14 for her daughter’s baby shower. Mrs. Sarma wanted to chop off the trees to increase the size of the parking space. She had promised Lata, her maid in the previous house, that she would get her son attached as a manservant with Bungalow Number 14 … A young man of 18 who had passed his 8th grade with first division, Krishna was swift and smart. He had dreams of working as a tourist guide to all the foreign tourists who came to Assam … Young, beautiful, carefree people who were high on life and marijuana, Krishna was besotted by their fair skin and light eyes. Krishna never wanted to serve Mrs. Sarma. He, instead, wanted to travel …
Ramu kaka was busy packing when he heard a stern, no-nonsense knock at his door … the knock was one of authority. Hurriedly abandoning the old black-and-white photograph of his wife, he came running to the door … Mrs. Sarma had come to inform him that he needed to vacate the servant quarter a week earlier and that he needs to leave the place latest by the following Saturday. Mrs. Sarma’s daughter’s delivery date was re-scheduled and she needed that servant quarter to house her daughter’s entourage. Ramu kaka, of course, had no alternative and stood there … Frigid and unflinching. The only movement could be spotted in his neck when he nodded in submission.
Ramu kaka had to leave … He had informed Sahu, his elder son, of what had transpired with Sarma babu and his wife and Sahu was elated to have him back. He was excited to house his father and his children looked forward to having dada around. Ramu kaka, on the other hand, couldn’t help being melancholic.
The last week dragged and for Ramu kaka it all went in daze. His favorite trees were getting cut … Those trees, he had nurtured with his own hands. The space which he had preserved with his sweat was being violated and the only manner in which he could protest was being absolutely silent through the whole act. He knew the insignificance of his place and position. For him it was an out of body experience and he knew there was nothing he could do to alter the feeling of doom.
Bungalow Number 14 was “dressed” and “decorated” like a bride 2 days before his final departure. The place was lit with multi-colored neon lights and the lawns were trimmed … The house smelt of fresh paint and the surroundings spotless … Ramu kaka wanted to capture its beauty in his eyes and hoped his eyes could act like camera. This bungalow was the most beautiful place in the world. Ramu was sure that no other place on earth could be this picturesque …
Ramu kaka with a heavy heart began taking his first few steps towards the big iron gate which had never looked this foreboding. It visibly looked sinister. One last glance and he would never look back … He slowly tip-toed carefully on the gardens to reach the trees which had lost their mossy look. The trees were stripped off their wilderness … He held the bark of his favourite neem tree which he called “Nimba” with love.
As he held on to Nimba, he took a trip down the memory lane … His son Sahu had once climbed on top of Nimba and had challenged Principal Mohanty’s son to do the same … Power cuts meant taking shelter under Nimba’s shade … His teeth were in perfect condition courtesy Nimba’s branches and it was Nimba’s juice which had cured his wife off her skin rashes … Nimba was Ramu kaka’s best friend. Ramu kaka couldnt help but feel as if his soul is leaving his body … Bungalow Number 14 became the abode of Ramu kaka’s soul.
With a heavy sigh, Ramu kaka walked slowly towards the parking space where his children once played. He looked around and found his intestines squirming … He felt as if he had been punched in his stomach. Ramu kaka hadnt eaten all day and he could feel acidity and bile rising in him. It was as if entire being was protesting.
As he decided to take one last look at the wall which he had once climbed to chase a thief away, he saw a sudden spark near the generator which was plugged in a socket near the car. Upon seeing the spark he ran towards the generator to switch it off …
Unfortunately, it was too late and when he reached close to the generator, the blast caused due to the short circuit had blows Ramu kaka apart.
The sound of the blast and fumes engulfing the parking space alarmed those in the house. Mrs. Sarma came running to the parking space and found Ramu kaka prostrate and burnt. The brown had turned black and all she could see was defiance in his eyes … His refusal to leave Bungalow Number 14 during his lifetime … His protest had finally prevailed …
With love … Sugarsatchet
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