Thursday, August 22, 2013

Adventure of Little Babu: Temple

The temple was in the middle, dividing the elitist section of officers and the one belonging to JCOs. In army this divide is pretty sharp and dehumanizing. The temple was a bland construction, a hall on one end and an acute pyramid like ‘garbhgrih’ at the other end painted most likely in white, saffron and azure. Tropical trees stood like sentinels around it but not exactly obscuring its view. It was the place for occasional hangout and nocturnal adventure in festival times. Every now and then little Babu and other kids would volunteer to sit in the hall and make those decorative strings with colored papers. They would have wads of yellow, crimson and green or some other colored paper and a ball of jute string called ‘sutli’. They would paste on the string these triangularly cut colored papers in systematic order till all the papers were exhausted. It was a tedious and boring job, the only reward being a sense of accomplishment and noble purpose behind it. The temple priest had two sons the elder Devidutt was stern looking reserved type but the younger one Gokulanand for some reason reminded him of monkey god Hanuman, perhaps he was as energetic and frivolous as a monkey. These two fellows were buddies of his much older brothers. They would occasionally organize ‘Ramayan paath’, a twenty four hours nonstop relay reciting of Tulsidas’ Ramayana. They would set up a ‘chowkie’ at one side of the hall, decorate it with four banana trunks and trinkets, setup the holy book and install a bulb above it. A large ‘dari’ would be taken out from the storeroom and spread on the hall for the audience which mostly was a bunch of kids like little Babu. Little Babu was not allowed to sit on the podium and recite even though his one year older brighter sibling was. He would still accompany them to the temple and stay over the night. But for the sense of adventure of spending night outside the home, it wasn’t really fun. At night all kinds of insect would collect and hover around the glowing bulb. The reciter of ‘paath’ would constantly scratch his exposed limbs or shoo away the moths, meanwhile someone will be busy making dark maroon tea from a make shift ‘chullah’. Little Babu would make effort to stay awake as long as possible then fall asleep on the ‘dari’ oblivious to insects all around there. 

A little distance from the temple straight in line of its hall was a small abandoned pool. Its tiled walls were dark with green algae, plaster ripped at places and tiles broken all over. The pool would fill up in the monsoon with clean water. Frogs would float and jump out of the tank along with the bunch of kids. This pool was considered dangerous therefore kids were told not to jump in it. A sentry was on constant duty to see that nobody enters the pool. However this sentry combined other duties so the children would get opportunity to jump into the pool when the sentry went away on some errand and as soon as this sentry was sighted again they would jump out of it and run home. Tired of the constant harassment, the sentry decided to teach the kids some lesson. One day he deliberately went away for a long time so that everyone would be in the pool then he quietly and stealthily came to the pool collected their clothes and went to his officer to complain. Little Babu too was in the pool clinging to its wall not too far away from a swollen frog. Everybody had something on except him. He was stark naked. As the commotion rose suddenly he was overwhelmed with the realization that not only he has come out of pool naked but walk all the way home naked. It was one long walk home in utter embarrassment never to be forgotten. 

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