A sunny day; the building, the footpath, the Neem plant standing behind the fence, everything blazed out. Everywhere reigned a bizarre silence as if the earth had stopped rotating to match the situation. Yet a faint sound was coming from within some mango tree in distance; that of a cuckoo. That sound did appear to me as an unpleasant yelling of a miserable soul. I could hardly find the paltry difference between my anxiety and the cuckoo’s peculiar yell. I cried, could anyone tell the cuckoo, how peculiar his voice seems in the dreary piece of earth! With a tiny bolster of breeze, his voice became more prominent to my unwilling ears. Is the cuckoo scoffing at me or at the daunting mute envelop of my frugal perceptibility! Yet I was in doubt.
I could remember the summer noons’ in my childhood, when my mother after wrapping up her daily drudgeries of kitchen used to fall flat unconscious in the cozy veranda beneath the shades of voluminous mango and jackfruit trees after failing in all her attempts to make me sleep. Neither her visibly serene condition nor my brother’s relatively luxurious status on the mat of occupying three giant pillows could allure me to succumb before the deity of slumber. I rather preferred to heed to every bit of sound that entered tardily into the dense domain of my imagination. The cuckoo then was the messenger of blue fairy. She sometimes would come to my tiny wonderland where beams of light passing though the dense bed of leaves, used to play with one another the game of run and chase. Ants with their red attire would march in a big procession; a tiny spider like a little sprite would swing with her silvery swinger!
Now! I am not able to find these little players. Ain’t it possible, I get that pleasure alone; that virgin pleasure! Ah could it happen over and again! It’s not that I didn’t try. I tried but failed miserably. When I notice these creatures now, the first thing coming to mind is- “hapless, nasty insects…. I would rather enjoy those in my T.V screen than getting close to them”. The hot blaze of summer then was a treasure box of secret exploration for some fairy land; a quintessential prerequisite for harbringing the freezy breeze which through the shivering body hair touched the core of the soul widening the blooming smile. And now, the sun is igniting everywhere and the fire rushing straight towards me and crawling all over my body like a venomous snake! The cuckoo no more is the messenger of blue fairy; he is a treacherous fellow; a fanatic deceit. How come I endure his stabbing arrogance! Were I a ghastly demon for the moment to drive out the cuckoo or to force it to stop yelling!
But who am I to behave so? Who am I ! Am I a frantic maniac? No never, I simmered. I cried, I would close my ears altogether. Yes that’s certainly a good idea. I have also been closing my ears and eyes to so many things for years. I have been pretending to be deaf, dumb and blind for all the lurking miseries around me. I too had my share of miseries to fight with; was not that enough? I fought and won. I have everything that I wanted; wealth, fame, family….. Yet why am I feeling so helpless, miserable and lonely? I am in sheer dilemma… is my fifteen years’ incessant toil rewarded with only a big three storied building, a handsome bank account, luxurious vehicles and security for my family. But something I have lost very precious, I am yet to find it…. Even I can’t tell if it is the yell of the cuckoo or call of my thirsty soul… I can’t tell who is the real deceit- I or the poor cuckoo!
The hot noon is stinging more and more matching to my burning self. On the concrete footpath adjacent to my house the raged sun is pouring fire. There is not a single person or stray visible. Yet I am waiting for someone or something… May be someone or something to promise me that soul satiating cooling breeze… Who would dare to come out in this imbibing heat! O’ to my utter surprise, milkman “Nira” is walking forward holding two giant cans in his hands! I doubt if his wretched thin pair of slippers protecting his foot from touching the hot earth. And I doubt if the damp loosely hanging terylene shirt and half pant acts as a cooling machine for him! I am suffering from a power cut on a holiday when I were supposed to take rest in my air conditioned bed room. How Nira is able to walk in this summer carrying two giant cans! He must be returning home after distributing milk in his customers’ houses. Earlier he was coming to my house when my son ‘Som’ required it. Now he is big enough to hate cow’s milk. So our choice shifted from Nira to packaged milk. I remember how Nira was dutiful. There was not a single day when he didn’t come with his milk cans. He came even when a big cyclone was showing its acts of devastation all around the city. He came when river Mahanadi was infuriated with devastating flood! I often see him near my office which is five kilometers away from here. I feel pity on this poor chap. “Why don’t he get a cycle for him?” this question I have asked him several times; but his reply never could reach my ears. Either a phone call or my son would be there to distract me from listening him fully. Even my laptop or rambling thoughts would make his narrow speech trivial. I felt nagging myself. I decided to meet Nira in the evening at his home and to give some money as a reward for his past record of sincerity and humility.
The raging day passed on. Slowly the dusk dispersed its magic wings on the earth. My quetching mood also went down. The cuckoo went to sleep and I smiled. Late in the evening I went towards Nira’s hut at the end of the footpath- He has a neat and cozy mud hut well polished with cow dung and mud. Near the hut there stood three cows and a calf in their safe home, a little cow barn. From within his hut a little girl came out and asked me about the purpose of my coming. I expressed my desire to meet his father. In no time he appeared and greeted me with his folded hands. His eyes were sparkling in the dim light as if he had a grand occasion to explore me in his hut… Eagerly he asked me about my son Som’s and my wife’s (kunibaabu and Maa’s) well being. I assured him of being everything good by my side. While taking the glass of buttermilk from his wife, I began asking him-
“Nira, I wanted to know from you, are you a happy person?” Being surprised with my question he starred at me. After sometime he replied “Sir, moreover I am a happy person.” I exclaimed- “Moreover, what does it mean, yes or no?” He with an utter calm voice said- “Sir, life is a mixture of happiness and sorrows, we can’t expect happiness alone. We have to accept the present situation- happy or sad; and what I am doing is not doing for myself, I am only a medium to perform certain tasks given by God. Being happy as well as surprised at the maturity of his thought again I asked “Has God told you not to ride a cycle and walk up and down ten kilometers on regular basis?” Again with a little surprise and shyness in his voice, he said, “Sir my daughter is going to English medium school, unlike me or her mother, she will study very well, I have big dreams for her. I am saving whatever money I am left with after meeting our routine expenses for her future only. How can I spend money for purchasing a cycle when God has gifted me two sturdy legs!”
With a voice chocked with emotions I offered him the five thousand rupees I wanted to give him to purchase a cycle. His eyes suddenly were filled with tears. He denied to take the grant from me. Again I requested him to accept the money as a gratitude for his sincerity and humility. With much reluctance he agreed to keep the money for purchasing a cycle.
Cool breeze was blowing touching deep down my heart. I felt as if I was transformed into ten years old boy who used to search a wonderland within every bit of ignorable things coming across. While standing on my terrace whenever I see the milkman, Nira riding his new bicycle, from a mango plant somewhere in distance a voice of a cuckoo would reach my eager ears... And I learnt exploring joy by attending those aspects of life which had been neglected by me for over a long period, with my little love and care and with a little giving...