Walking along the bank Ganesh had come far off. He turned and looked back. Now he was not able to see Madhurani or other women. In between, along the curves of the village stream, tall trees had grown. At one place Ganesh emptied the water in his mug.
What a fool he was to carry this burden all along….
This burden could have been lightened long back…. Enjoying the murmuring of the village stream and glancing at the green fields that stretched beyond Ganesh walked along.
Its enough now… don’t have to go any further…
Now I must return…
Much time has already elapsed…
As such, no one would doubt that he had not come to answer nature’s call but for some other purpose. When Ganesh was thinking of turning back he saw two men doing something far away in the shallow water of the stream.
What must they be doing?...
Let me go and see…
As it is there was nothing much work to be done even if he went to the office…
Instead of turning back he began to walk towards the two persons. After going a little nearer he realised that…
One of them had played cricket with him…
And who is the other one?...
Right.. the lad always lingers before Madhurani’s shop…
But what is his name?….
The lads, squatting on the sand, were doing something.
What would they be doing?....
One could not tell about these lads as to what they would do and what not….
By now Ganesh had reached them. As soon as Mahadya saw him he got up and asked, “Ganeshrao.. how come you are here?”…
Then he saw the mug in Ganesh’s hand and said..”For toilet… so far away….”
“What are you people doing here?,,.” Ganesh tried to find out what they were doing sitting amidst the sand and the rocks.
“We are catching fish.. what else..” he replied.
Catching fish?... how…” Ganesh looked at the stream of water that was diverted so as to flow in the sand and asked..”
“Look here. We have prepared a trench…along with water fish flow into it… once a huge lot of fish enter it, the trench is to be closed from the other end… so that the fish get trapped in this trench…”
Ganesh looked carefully at the trench they had made by redirecting the flow of stream on one side. He saw that some fish had entered along with water. But they were not going back. Perhaps they were not realising that the water there was blocked.
“But how would you catch them?”.... Ganesh asked with great curiosity. “Once the trench is closed from the other end, water here would seep into the sand. And the fish without water would struggle to live and die in the end….”
“What a good idea…” Ganesh found the method of their catching fish interesting.
Ganesh now sat on a rock near a trench and curiously watched the fish.
After a while Ganesh noticed two persons doing something on the bank of the stream further ahead.
Ganesh asked Mahadya, “What are they doing?”
“They?..They are taking out jute ’” Mahadya said blocking water coming out of the trench.
“ jute ?” his curiosity aroused, Ganesh stood up.
Ganesh began to walk towards them. Mahadya also blocked the water completely and joined Ganesh. The other lad waited near the trench.
“Do they take out jute like this?” Ganesh exclaimed in wonder.
“Then, what did you think…” Mahadya commented.
Ganesh went near the persons and had a look. They were pulling out thin reeds of some plants from the still water of the stream.
“What reeds are these?” Ganesh asked.
“What do you mean by what reeds?... They are jute plants.
They were removing the skin of the reeds and were cleaning them in water. After cleaning the skin it came to be knows as jute.
“But the skin is coming off very easily,” Ganesh observed.
“It would because the reeds have remained in water for the last eight days.”
“Oh, so they must be kept in the water to rot…”
“Otherwise how would they remove the tag?”.. Mahadya asked.
After cleaning the jute, he had silk like threads of jute in his hand and then they both laid the jute on the sand to dry under the sun. Ganesh found the entire procedure quite interesting. While studying he remembered to have read that jute mostly occured inWest Bengal. But he had not known it earlier and had never bothered to know how jute was made.
Ganesh got so engrossed in seeing the procedure of removing jute and of catching fish that he forgot the reason why he had come that side. Then he suddenly remembered why he had come there.
Oh, he must now turn back.
He had never realised how the time had flown.
Come, Madhurani would not have yet gone away.
He hurriedly began to return.
When the bank of the stream where Madhurani was washing clothes came to his view Ganesh looked over with great expectation.
He was quite late…
Madhurani wasn’t there. Ganesh’s pace of walking suddenly slowed down.
Let it be…
If not here, she would definitely meet him after some time in the shop.
But not in such mesmerising looks.
By now Ganesh had come to the stone where Madhurani was washing clothes.
This was the stone where Madhurani washed her clothes.
He automatically threw a loving glance at the stone. Around the stone the sand carried Madhurani’s foot prints. He began to look at the footprints.
Madhurani’s feet also were so beautifully shaped.
The one who made her must have done in utmost leisure.
Suddenly Ganesh realised that beside the foot prints something was sketched in the wet sand.
Surely she must have drawn it.
He began to look at it carefully.
It was a woman’s sketch. Keeping a hand on her cheek, she was waiting for someone, looking impatiently at the road.
So, Madhurani had waited for him for a long time.
(to be contd.)
Original Novel by Sunil Doiphode
English Version by Anil Ekbote