After Kaushik and I experienced our first monsoon thunder, together under this Divine Tree, I knew that home was calling. I was already on an extended journey here in Bengal, but incessant downpour set me up for long at Kaushik’s home in Jhargram. One evening when rain took a brief break, I went out on a short walk towards the local football park where i had played five days ago, where I was welcomed by millions of frogs playing music in the recently grown pond.
During one of those rainy nights Kaushik received a phone, where his friend invited him to his sister’s wedding. I got excited and we decided to leave, with a condition. His friend asked us to reach by the daylight.
We started from here in time, but rain and bad road took all day to reach a place from where we had to wait for the jeep to the village. It was a strange place. There were many people but there was almost no sound. I didn’t see almost anyone talking to the other. People were walking, standing, staring, sitting mainly but it was abnormally quiet. In front of me, across the road I saw three elderly, look a like, and must have been sisters. All sitting outside their big, round door home; they should be over sixty, wore skirts and their seemingly never cut long hair reached their ankles, where their skirts ended. Meanwhile one amongst them stood and started writing something on the outer wall. That whole front was filled with Bengali letters. They didn’t look like normal elderly’s for sure. And I just couldn’t look anywhere else but them. I would have gathered courage may be to walk up to them but,
Kaushik found probably the very last jeep after the last had already gone. It was late. I had forgotten what kaushik’s friend had advised until inside the car, the driver’s help sitting beside cautioned hiding anything expensive in your bags including your watch. There was a particular place in the journey, they talked among themselves, where the so called people used to stop the cars, buses and loot people. In some cases if you come as offensive they might even shoot you. Kaushik took my camera and hid it, and we all in our bodies started waiting for it.
The jeep moved through the darkening jungle alone, inside we were anxious, silent. Throughout the journey, the road had no lights, there were no junctions, stopping points, not even homes or huts; rather the only thing that the locals sitting in the car were most concerned about that there was no vehicle coming from the opposite direction, there must be something going on! Anxiously under our fainting breath, we all waited. And suddenly one spoke it is about to come, see that curve; the other asked the driver to not stop, driver held his pace, faster than average, curved sharply with road turning left and yelled out loud that there is no fallen tree on the road, means no probable blockage, and we might just pass. In utter anxiousness all hell broke lose inside the car when nothing happened and we passed that place. Personally it was a tense time carrying low stomach pangs as I had never imagined such a thing was possible.
At last we reached Kaushik’s friends place. It was late in the night and I preferred to sleep. Kaushik and friend decided to go upstairs, with McDowell, that he really wanted to gulp all down after today’s experience.
Morning arrived early. Even before I could sit up and stretch my arms on my bed sat two pretty ladies with breakfast. It included dry rice dipped in mustard oil, four Rasgulla’s and a full-formed fish. I couldn’t even stare at my breakfast long enough; probably I was still in sleep. I think they felt bad when I told them I cannot eat it, likewise they were astonished to learn that I don’t eat fish; How is it possible? It’s just a fish! It is a water fruit! It’s not even a non-vegetarian dish! Kaushik came to my rescue soon.
Evening arrived, and we left for the wedding. It was further deep in the village. Kaushik took his friend’s bike. I sat behind looking and praising the beauty all over, I was so intrigued that my eyes kept going back only to the red earth. Soil like this, as far as you can see was red, it was unreal. Laal Maat(red clay) as they called it.
We had reached early. The sun was setting, and people have only started to arrive now. The bulbs were set up and soon came into being. As night slowly crawled over the light, night creatures of all sizes and forms in tens, hundreds and thousands started hovering around the yellow bulbs. Some were very creepy, some big and few even could be seen carrying eyes. They were all over, so much so that they seemed to outnumber any other moving being. May be because it was humid as it hadn’t rained for past few days.
Not far, women had started gathering, forming a circle. It was that time when there was no DJ, neither there was any music. Instead women in numbers kept joining the circle, singing, making sounds from their mouth as they do Bengali weddings. They were performing their local dance and with each beat they moved two steps ahead, one step back. And it went on, in between women kept coming and leaving.
Away from the dance, few men carried extra large utensils. Around five large round tubs were placed under five different bulbs. They were half filled with water. Soon two men brought a big piece of cloth, a little bigger than an average towel, positioned themselves and started hitting, bringing down all the insects present, flying around the yellow filament bulbs in such a way that insects started falling into the tub. They went on doing it for an hour till the tub brimmed with all kinds of fruit flies, grasshoppers, ladybugs and the likes; many died on their way, some drowning under the weight of others or with mere water touch, and few may be with the uncalled for torture; still many were moving with a wing or two ripped apart, trying to what they can. I stood far and quiet, looking at this metaphorical dream, cold-blooded mutilation of sorts; of course it was kind of overwhelming to see this happening. Soon two people started squishing-mashing the insects, mixing them well with the liquid. They kept revolving and anti-revolving the water till it changed its color to something close to dark brown. Then they separated, filtered the water away from the insects. Brown water was now kept for boiling. Some potatoes and garlic were added. While insects were put up for drying before they were firmly grinded. I think some spices were added. They were then put on a big frying pan to roast. Looking at the transformation of them into small tiny, grain like particles it strangely started to appear very healthy. With blood water almost ready many people came forward to taste this delicacy, some went back to catch more and I, well I don’t think I ate anything at all in that wedding. My hunger died many deaths.
At last it was time to bid my friend bye. Kaushik came all the way to drop me at the Howrah Junction. And i at last Escaped the remaining rains.
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