Green Flowers of the Three Seasons By Dinker Charak
Bhudhu climbed up to the roof of his hut and opened the trapdoor on it. It was a night of puranmashi, the night of the full moon. He took out a small pebble from the pocket and held it high against in the moonlight. The white cold light of the moon reflected off it and showed off the colors of the stone. Having been in the river, it was smooth and round. The colors formed contours on the surface of the pebble like stepped fields of rice along a mountain’s slope. That is why Bhudhu had liked it in the first place. There was no place more beautiful than valleys amidst green hills.
Bhudhu dropped it through the trapdoor and heard a gentle thud as it fell on cushion of the green-flowers-of-the-three-seasons. These flowers were found only his village. After having been cut, they survived for three seasons without losing their fragrance. Instead, as the flower aged, the fragrance grew more pleasant. Women, under its influence softly gave in to their lovers as the fragrance seeped deep into them. As if it crept inside them and gently woke all bud of pleasures. Bud, which when opened, did not know rest till a poet took them in their hands and kissed the flower inside with sweet words of love.
These green-flowers-of-the-three-seasons were a single man’s best friend. Anyone who wanted to get married started collecting these flowers secretly. It was a secret that actually was not meant to be secret. Tempted by the promise of lavish bath in the flowers, single girls could not resist an invitation home on the third season. Third season from the season when the leaves and these flowers fell, the season of spring flowers.
All unmarried men made new huts for themselves when they were ready to marry. Their family and their friends helped them. All unmarried men collected these small flowers that fell from the trees like dead leaves gone brown fall. But these flowers still remained green. The men stored the flowers in the attic of their new huts.
Bhudhu’s brothers were happy to see him go. They helped him make a hut few years earlier than others his age got theirs. And that meant he spent more time with himself in his hut. He was not of much help at the fields. On the behest of his father, they let him do small jobs. He has a small portion of land for himself, which his brothers tilled for him. When he would be old and have young sons, they would hand it over to his sons. Till then they were glad to help him, though not always glad to have him around.
Often Bhudhu used to take small trip in the night to the forest, river or that swamp that lay at the edge of the valley. He would find many beautiful things shining in the light of the moon. Shining like the stars. He used to pick them up and bring them home. Someday when he would have a wife, he’d show her these. Girls like shiny small things that are of no use but look good. And Bhudhu used to spend his nights collecting such things.
Roaming at night had another advantage. He could collect the green-flowers-of-the-three-seasons without being mocked at or having someone trying to take them away. His collection was far larger than anyone else’s.
After he had drooped the stone down the trapdoor on the roof, he turned around and lay on the roof, resting on his back. The stars shone on him like shiny pebbles he used to collect. The shiny pebbles that moon had collected and put on the sky shone with different colors. Bhudhu talked to himself. He narrated to himself how he found the stone he threw in today. How the colors ran along the sides of the stone as if someone had laid colored mud layer by layer over so many years! He like how the account sounded. Satisfied that his future wife too would be happy to hear the account, he climbed down the roof and entered the home.
As he stepped in, he looked above at the ceiling and started at the trapdoor. There was one trapdoor on roof to put things inside the attic. The other trapdoor was on the ceiling to let things out of the attic. The trapdoor on the roof was his and the trapdoor on the ceiling his wife’s. When she would come to his home for the first time, she would pull the string attached to the latch and the green-flowers-of-the-three-seasons would come running down to touch her and make her smell like a flower. Bhudhu reminded himself to remove all other gifts he had collected for his wife from the attic. His brother would often come to his place to check how things were going with him. He did not know how they would react if he kept those beautiful gifts in the open.
And so went Bhudhu’s life for many months till the festival of harvest. This was the season when he would be considered to have matured. During the festival he tried his best to attract attention of all young girls. He showed off his strength at every chance. But few girls in the village were impressed. After all, there was a reason why he was named ‘Bhudhu’. As his name meant, he indeed was a very slow learner. And he had learnt very few things till now.
His mother used to worry a lot for him. Once she took him to the temple priest who mapped his stars. He scolded his mother for giving him wrong time of Bhudhu’s birth. The chart he drew was not of a slow wit, but of a ‘soul with still depth’ and a ‘saintly soul kilned in agony’. His mother did not understand. Then one day she went to priest of a temple in nearby village. She showed him Bhudhu’s chart, never telling him whose it was. She was scared he may get angry with her and he may lay a curse on Bhudhu. Later when the priest told her what the future seemed for Bhudhu she regretted showing the chart. That night she went to bed praying to God he always remain a slow wit and never learn anything.
Girls always know why they wear what they wear. But they never know why they love whom they love. On the last day of the festival, to win a bet, Bhudhu had chewed and then swallowed few large red chillies. Though he won the bet, he still could not enjoy the taste of victory. Water ran from his eyes, nose and mouth. Now he was struggling to reach the old man who sold rice soaked in sweet milk. He caused a small commotion as he ran up to him, asked the old man to hurry up and give him something to cool off his mouth. From his tear filled eyes he saw a small cup emerged. He grabbed it and gobbled up all of it. He spit it out as fast as he had put it in his mouth. It was hot and it burnt his mouth even more. He grunted out a low scream and pulled at his hair.
A girl’s hand shook his arm. He did not respond. She shook his arm again. Only this time more gently. Bhudhu thought she must have been worried if he would hit her and maybe that is why she shook it gently the next time. No wonder she thought so given his condition. He could not move. He stood still. But his muscles were highly strung. Her hand lingered on his arm. Bhudhu felt blood rush to his face. Suddenly his mouth was not hurting anymore. He still was very still. And felt the hand on him that lingered on.
The initial panic of burning chillies had subsided and Bhudhu was now in more control of his pain and the response to it. As the pain became bearable, he heard a voice grow.
“-and things hurt in the beginning only. Bear it or scream. But after some time the pain becomes tolerable.”
It was the girl. He realized the hand was no longer there. He looked at the direction where the voice came from. As the tears from his eyes drained out, her image became clearer. The old man selling rice soaked in sweet milk was not there. Instead it was she. It was not surprising that Bhudhu feel in love with her at that instant. But more surprising was the emotions the girl felt surfing inside her.
A girl should be told these things before she is in love. She should have known about Bhudhu before she met him. Now that she was in love with her, every thing about him was sweet and nice. She liked his innocence and the way he had a simple outlook towards everything. She may have called him a fool in other circumstances. But in her present reality, she was in love with the most honest lover in the village. Each day she spent with Bhudhu she realized how clean a sheet his mind was. No blotches or words of ignominy on it and she dreamed of writing words on love and valor on it. She would be like an artist painting the image of hero for all times.
All while they revered each other, others talked. She was daughter of a poor man and had beauty of a princess. That not only made her a great prize, but a great prize that could be won. All the village rich had eyes on her. They dreamed of using her father’s poverty to tempt her into their lusty back rooms and have her till their content. Others with nicer intentions planned to win her heart by making their riches accessible to her poverty. And those insecure about their own poverty hoped her ignorance of luxuries of riches would make her suit attainable. But Bhudhu made away with their dreams, riding on clouds of red chillies and foolishness. His family was happy though. They were making plans to let Bhudhu, accompanied by such a nice girl, back into their life. What he lacked, she seemed to make up. He was getting better at learning about things like never before.
But in the heart of her hearts, his mother cried. For she knew, what kind of prices Bhudhu would have to pay every time he learned something new. Each time, through out his life.
Bhudhu himself had lost touch with real world. His dreams had come true and he was relishing each moment of it. In few days, he would bring her to his hut. He spent each day with brothers, learning ways of the farmers. And in the night, he sat on a tree over-looking her yard, keeping a guard. Staying as close as they would let him in the night. Watching the shiny stars the moon had collected.
On the night of puranmashi, the night of the full moon, he led his newly wed wife to his hut. She trembled with anticipation of something she had been dreaming of all her life. The rumors about Bhudhu’s habit of collecting green-flowers-of-the-three-seasons ticked sensuously as she realized how many the flowers would fall on her. As she walked, she melted more and more in his arms. He opened the door and they stepped in together.
She looked up. She saw the trapdoor. She shuddered at the thought of fragrances of so many flowers aging for three seasons falling on her and their fragrance soaking into her and make the love inside her ooze out. With shaky hands she tugged at the rope.
The rope did not budge. Already nervous, the wait was making her weak. Bhudhu wondered why the rope did not budge. His eyes followed the rope as it went to side of the wall, climbed it and ran to the latch of the door. A tug on it should have shifted the latch out of the hook and door should have opened. But it did not. He moved and followed the rope to the wall. He held the rope at the point where it started to climb and gave a tug. The latch gave in to his strength. The door began to open.
-as a crack appeared, the fragrance moved out of the attic into the room and rushed towards her. A small whiff reached her nose. Her mouth fell open and she gasped-
“Stop!” Bhudhu’s father screamed at him. His voice reached Bhudhu across many years. He heard his father scream at him for having watered the flowerbed too much. “Bhudhu, there is a limit to everything. More than a limit, even water can be a poison.”
Bhudhu heard him now. And he understood what he had meant then when he had said that. Now, when it was too late as he watched the stones he had collected over the many months raced down, with the ripened green-flowers-of-the-three-seasons, towards her.
Her gasp changed in a scream as she stones falling on her started to hurt her. She collapsed under them. Bhudhu stood there, unable to move.
“How does one know what the limit is unless it has been reached? And then it is already late!” His words mingled with he tears that flowed from his eyes. He held onto the rope as he slid down and sat crying.
The shiny stones he had collected with so much love and with a tale strung to each of them now looked so dull in daylight. Gone were the contours of color that made them look as if some one had made them layer-by-layer. Gone were the shiny glitters on them that made look like starts in moonlight. Denied their moonlight, they looked as gray as overcast sky. Now the only color they had on them was a blood’s red.
Cover pic by Thomas Quine.