Introduction:- Childhood is the most magical period of a person's life . This story is a trip down memory lane into my childhood. I would like to add here that there is difference between imagination and telling lies.
" when God sends his children to earth he makes sure they don't have to live alone. He arranges for every child to have parents, family and friends. " My grandma used to say that. She was a simple person and I was only seven years old then. I wouldn't have understood the complexities of life . Why some children loose their parents like my little cousin, whose father died before she was born. Why some children don't have siblings like my daughter. Why some children don't have friends. Why some people never get married.
Grandmother used to say, " God makes a boy for every girl and a girl for every boy. Such was our private conversations .
I used to spend my holidays with grandparents, aunts and uncles in Kolkata, called Calcatta in those days.
Aunt used to supervise my bath . One day she drapped me in a red cotton towel after bath, just like a saree and I was filled with joy. I felt like
I went and stood before the mirror to see how I looked and smiled at myself. Two of my front teeth were missing. I stopped smiling.
" nobody is going to marry me . I look like an old Nanny" , I said.
" your teeth are going to come back" said my Aunt.
I didn't believe my aunt. I had found out that the white ghost behind the kitchen door making frightening noises at dinner time the previous night , was non other than the house maid because Menny,
my grandpa's pet cat, went and stood beside her, purring and meowing. Menny loved the house maid. The maid gave her food.
I had read many phantom comics and I knew cats don't like ghosts.
So, I didn't believe Aunt.
" how will my teeth come back ", I thought crossly.
Aloud I said " I lost them while playing and Gobindo's mother was telling she had herself seen the Rat taking away my teeth to feed her family with it ".
Gobindo's mother was an old woman who came to collect garbage from our house everyday and grandma gave her chapattis and tea.
" The Rat is going to return your teeth" my Aunt consoled.
" I don't want a rat teeth. Rats are disgusting and those who get rat teeth become quarrelsome. I want the teeth God gave me ", I told my Aunt.
I sat under the huge Shiuli tree and fought with God, angry with the Rat for taking my teeth and angry with God for letting it happen.
" Grandma I'm not going to marry . I will bring a baby from the hospital ", I announced at dinner time.
" What will you do with a baby ?" My uncle asked.
" I need somebody to play with my toys when I'm grown up and can't play with them anymore ", I explained to him.
" You can always give your toys to your younger brother or cousins " uncle suggested.
" I don't want to give my toys to my brother. He always breaks them ", I said.
Every evening aunt gave me a snack made puffed rice, boiled potatoes, green peas, roasted peanuts , shredded coconut mixed with mustard oil, salt and lemon juice.
I went out and sat in a small seat made in the wall below my grandpa's window and played make believe games and talked with imaginary friends. The place was shaded by a big fig tree. Parrots , in large number, came and ate figs and I watched them.
I had several doll. Some were bought from stores, some given to me as birthday presents, and a handmade pair of puppets by Aunt like the ones she used to play with when she was a child.
None of my toys could talk and there were no other children to play with .
I imagined I was rowing a boat in the middle of a sea , amidst a storm with winds howling and big waves turning into large fountains of froth rushing towards my boat and smashing on its sides making a roaring noise as if angry and soaking me wet.
I kept on rowing with all my strength my eyes trying to locate the Land of Puchkundis.
The water current seemed to happily conspire with the wind in my favour and the boat was almost pulled on its own towards the land of Puchkundis.
I alighted on the land and bound the boat to a tree with ropes.
I had taken a sack with me. My plan was to bring home some Puchkundis who could play with me like real children.
When I reached the palace of Puchkundis I came to know that the king of Puchkundis had thrown a ball and all Puchkundis were invited. The Puchkundis were having a long War with the kiskindas and though the Kiskindas had fought bravely the Puchkundis had won. The kiskindas were also invited because the cunning King of Puchkundis did not like being enemies with neighbours. The kiskinda king had given lots of sea shells and coconut to the Puchkundis and they were happy with the booty.
I was not interested in their wars and entertainments. I was looking for an opportunity to catch some Puchkundis.
Their palace was too small for me to enter. It was as small as a rabbit's hole. I sat cross-legged outside and watched them make merry and eat.
I had had my evening snack. I was not hungry.
The Puchkundis didnot have to share their food with me so they were friendly towards me. They didnot know my plans.
They thought I was only there as a tourist and would tell wonderful stories about them when I went back home.
The Puchkundis looked like oblong eggs with a convex disc attached to their bottoms instead of legs. They made a sound like 'kach kach' as they moved. All Puchkundis were in pair. One male and one female made a pair . Every pair wore same dress and same colour. All women had long hair tied to the back and all men were bald.
Kiskindas were also a bit like Puchkundis but they looked more like cylinders with a detachable ball for a head. All kiskindas were either three-in-one or four-in-one.
The men carried their women and children inside their body and the women carried their men and children inside their body. Kiskindas didnot have legs. They jumped like frogs.
When kiskinda family needed to come out the man cut himself in half and out came the woman. When child needed to come out the women cut themselves in half and child came out. When younger child needed to come out the older child was cut in half and the child could come out.
When the Puchkundi Queen saw my legs she started cracking jokes. My friends at school had always praised my legs . They said my legs looked like that of a ballerina and I had stood tiptoe in front of mirror when I was alone and had practiced some dance steps. I felt insulted.
I made up my mind that I will catch her and bring her home to play with as I liked.
The party continued for long hours because at the start of the party the horse had gone to cross the land and the party would continue until the horse returned.
This was the rule of Puchkundis because they did not have clocks and they did not know how to see the time.
I felt drowsy and would have fallen asleep but without my side pillows I could not sleep.
When all the Puchkundis fell asleep I put my hand inside the palace and caught some Puchkundis and put them inside my sack. I didn't catch any kiskindas because they were all threesomes and foursomes and heavy looking like overstuffed Maharaja.
I bound the end of the sack with my ribbon and proceeded towards the boat. One of the kiskinda child shouted from inside his father's body and I had to turn around. The father kiskinda was fast asleep and the child could not get out unless the father woke up and cut himself in two but the child could awaken all the kiskindas and puchkundis. In order to silence him I put that kiskinda family inside my sack.
I came back home and put the sack behind the Shiuli tree and went to sleep. I was certain nobody would go near the Shiuli tree at night because aunt said a female ghost lived in it.
Later on when I grew up I found that the ground near the Shiuli tree was full of ants. Aunt must have made up the story of ghost to keep me away from the Shiuli tree.
Next morning when the grown ups were having their tea and busy talking among themselves I went behind the Shiuli tree and took the sack to a secluded corner of the house and loosened the ribbon.
Out came all the Puchkundis and Kiskindas and started shouting,crying and fighting with me. I gave them sugar cubes and water on flower petal. They ate to their hearts content.
I sang a chant which had no meaning and logic in it and clapped my hands three times.
All Puchkundis and Kiskindas turned into wooden toys. I put them on the sideboard . It was only me who could turn them real with my magic. Everyday I turned them into Puchkundis and Kiskindas with magic and again changed them into toys after I finished playing.
" where did you get those toys? They look very real" enquired my Aunt.
" Baba brought them for me from barabazar" I said.
I knew aunt would never ask baba about the toys and I told baba not to tell anyone. I knew he would listen and keep his promise as he always kept his promise when I was a child. He did not tell anyone.
When school reopened my toys went inside baba'so almirah and remained there forgotten. Once in a while I would clean the almirah and look at them.
Neighbourhood children came and admired my toys. I never gave them my toys to play.
In my heart they were not toys. They were playmates of my childhood.
When my daughter came I showed her the toys.
She didn't show any interest in them.
She was not mesmerised as I was when baba first brought them for me.
Some Puchkundis had lost their pair and some had lost their hair.Some were broken with dresses torn in places. The kiskinda king had lost his head. The Queen's body was broken. Some of their children were lost.
My grandpa's house is no more. It only remains alive in old pictures. The Shiuli tree has been cut and the wood given to the lumber yard.
My daughter of ten came up to me and said, " when I will build a house of my own you can keep your toys there".
I smiled and nodded my head.
I didn't tell my daughter the real story behind the toys'origin.
Some secrets are better not shared.
The Puchkundis and Kiskindas are useless items like garbage and broken furnitures.
With a last look of nostalia I put them away.
My memories remain in my heart and my daughter has real friends to play and talk.
Someday in near future, I plan to tell my grandchildren the tales of Puchkundis and Kiskindas.