Misry Craves Friends
“Ma! Why does everybody call me MESSY? I don’t like it! ” Misry complained.
Madhavi was performing her evening prayers sitting on the floor. She blew the conch shell and continued chanting with her eyes closed. On hearing Misry’s words she gestured to her to wait.
Misry stood waiting by the door of the small puja room, watching her mother.
In a couple of minutes, Madhavi, with folded hands, bowed down to the deity and finished her evening prayers. She got up and turned to look at the child.
Misry stood with a scowl on her face. Her long curls danced when she spoke, doing very little to hide the expression on her small round face. Her lacy green frock was anything but tidy while her hands and feet were smeared with soil as usual. The strap of one of her sandals was hanging by a thin thread and she looked messy. Her inquisitive brown eyes, which she inherited from her father, flashed with anger as she breathed heavily.
Madhavi was sure Misry had fought again with the village kids. Naughty as she was, Misry always befriended children older than her age and that too boys. She was just five years old but acted like a nine year old and invited trouble for herself. However, Madhavi knew how to soothe the child.
“Come here, shona. Tell me what is bothering you?” Madhavi replied stretching out her arms.
Misry didn’t waste a minute. She ran into her mother’s arms and hugged her.
“Ma, Raju keeps calling me MESSY. Now the others too have started calling me the same. I am warning you, I will kill Raju.” Misry cried.
Madhavi kissed her on the cheek and said, “Okay, I will tell him not to bother you anymore. But promise me that you will listen to him. After all, he is your cousin and much older to you.”
“But he plays with me and rides my bicycle too.” Misry nagged.
“Just to give you company, sweetheart. And that too, all the way from Calcutta. If he had not come, what would you do? You’d be alone all the time. As it is there are no other children in this camp. If Raju had not come here, you’d be bored, my child. ” Madhavi reminded her.
Misry thought for a while then replied, “Phulwa and Bheeru are my friends. I can play with them.” She lifted her chin and looked very convinced.
“Of course, you can. But they are civilians. So they are not allowed inside the camp premises and I cannot allow you to go out either. So you see, Raju is really taking good care of you,” Madhavi replied.
But Misry was adamant. “Ma. I don’t want to be at home all the time just because my friends are not allowed in the camp. Bheeru’s house isn’t very far and I can go there. Moreover, I have seen Bheeru’s father in the camp many times. If he can come inside, why can’t Bheeru? Raju does not like playing outdoors; he only loves to read comic books.”
“Reading comic book is very entertaining, Shona. And as far as Bheeru’s father is concerned, he is the village headman and is invited by your father for office work,” answered Madhavi.
“But I want to go to his house tomorrow!” Misry begged. “Bheeru’s goat has given birth to three kids. I want to see them.”
Madhavi knew it would be too hard to stop her little daughter when it came to animals. She had inherited her love for animals from her Dadu, Madhavi’s father, who owned a big farm- house full of animals, in a sleepy town, Ashoknagar, on the outskirts of Howrah. That is where Misry was born and remained till she was two.
Misry missed her friends. Madhavi could see that she craved the company of children. Since Bheeru’s father was the headman of the village Madhavi allowed Misry to visit their house.
“Fine. You can go to Bheeru’s house tomorrow, in the morning,” Madhavi said, finally.
Misry giggled in delight.
“But I want you to clean up before Daddy comes home,” Madhavi said, reminding Misry that it was time for Anurag to come home and she didn’t want him to see Misry in this condition. Taking Misry’s hand in her own, Madhavi led her to the bathroom to wash up and change.
Life was very different since they shifted to this border outpost ( B.O.P). Misry was missing both her friends and school while Madhavi missed her life too as an officer’s wife. Earlier she used to be very busy with the welfare association, ladies club, kitty parties and all but here she was devoid of everything including electricity.
The comfort of electricity was limited to only an hour or two in the evening and that too by a generator for the residence. For the rest of the evening, the rooms were illuminated with lanterns and oil lamps. The radio was their only means of entertainment.
Misry’s father, Anurag, was an officer in the Border Security Force ( B.S.F) and work kept him away from family for a long time. After all, keeping vigil against any intrusion on the international land borders of the country was not an easy job. Several times he was stationed at insurgent zones and had to leave his family behind.
When Anurag and Madhavi were getting ready to welcome Misry into this world, Anurag was transferred to an interior location in Assam where the families were not allowed. Since he didn’t want Madhavi to be unattended while he was gone, he had sent her to her parent’s house in Ashoknagar where Misry was born after a month.
Misry grew up surrounded by her cousins, aunts and uncles and not to mention the animals for company. Anurag used to visit them quite often.
When Misry was three years old, Anurag was stationed in the Battalion Head Quarter (HQ) and Madhavi was finally able to move in with her husband. Anurag got the opportunity to spend time with his little daughter whose growing years he had missed terribly all those months. He was very excited about his newfound fatherhood and spent most of his spare time with Misry. He would even take her along to his workplace on several occasions and loved boasting about his new status of life.
The Jawans too loved to have the naughty little girl around. Misry would never stop her crazy questions and they never failed to answer her. In fact, the name, Misry, which meant sugar candy, was suggested by the Jawans themselves. And Anurag and Madhavi had no hesitation in re-naming their little daughter after it.
After two years, Anurag was posted in the BOP again. This time he was stationed in a small village near the Indo-Bangladesh border in West Bengal. He was allowed to bring along his family so Madhavi and Misry shifted in with him. However, the situation was very different from staying in the HQ. Anurag’s family was the only one staying in the BOP camp along with the Junior Commissioned Officers (JCOs) and Jawans. Misry had no friends to play with and Madhavi too had nobody to talk to.
Anurag quite often had night duty.. He would go unannounced sometimes and return early in the morning. Madhavi was very skeptical about spending the nights alone in the bungalow with a child. Although there were sentries on duty outside and also Jawans who would fall in whenever she needed help but that never satisfied Madhavi. She needed company inside the house in the absence of Anurag. So she had invited her younger sister Pallavi, who had just finished college, to stay over until her marriage was fixed by her parents. Pallavi readily agreed and was escorted by her nephew Raju.
Raju was Madhavi’s elder sister’s younger son. He was a special child. Although he was ten years old yet he behaved like a six year old. He didn’t have much interest in school and was switched to homeschooling. But that too didn’t benefit him much and hence was taking a short break from studies. So he immediately agreed to come along with Pallavi Mashi to stay over for few months.
Misry loved their company in the house and so did her parents. However, her craving for children of her age, to play with, was not fulfilled with the presence of her aunt and cousin.
After Pallavi’s arrival, Misry got a new set of clothes for her doll from her. She also got other lovely goodies which Pallavi was expert at making out of waste material. She was the one who taught Misry dance steps to popular Bengali folk songs that Misry then loved to flaunt to her father during their evening gatherings.
The family usually sat together around the lanterns and spent time chatting with each other or listen to the plays on the radio. Singing folk songs or movie songs together was also one of the means of recreation. And there was plenty of time to watch the night sky. It was the activity Misry enjoyed the most. She would lie beside her father on a cot in the backyard and spend her time counting the stars or listening to stories from him while her mother cooked the dinner. Sometimes she also wore her half saree and danced to the music on the record player.