Science Fiction and Fantasy | An Indian Experience

Taramba by Bijoykumar Singh Tayenjam |
Issue 11

Taramba by Bijoykumar Singh Tayenjam

Spread the Love of Sci Fi

The harsh cold days were over. Spring had chased away winter. Holi, the festival of colours had arrived with the message of Love. Melodious chants of Holi Pala singing in chorus filled the air – “Spring, the king of all seasons, has arrived in Vrindaban, at long last … Lord Kriskna splashed colours at Radha and Gopies, her companions. They in turn splashed and showered colours, and painted Him red.” Many emotionally charged devout Hindus often weep openly after listening to the lines describing the anguish of the lovelorn hearts and games of love, Lord Krishna and His consort, Radha played.

Devotees, from all directions, thronged at Govindajee’s temple at Imphal. They had come to fulfil their lifelong wish of presenting His Holiness Shree Shree Govindajee their humble offerings, a few lines recounting His infallible message of Universal and Eternal Love. To them Lord Krishna’s game of love played with Radha and Gopies at Vrindavan signifies the universal bond of love and devotion – Radha and Gopies representing all the living beings on the earth.

To others spring represents a display of myriad colours, not the colours Lord Krishna splashed at Radha but the colours nature has brought to the surroundings. There is no dearth of colour on nature’s palette – the blue colour of the sky, seven colours of the rainbow, the sparkling colours of butterflies, birds and fishes, the changing colours of new shoots sprouting on trees and flowers opening to bloom … a kaleidoscope of colours. Spring not only brings to life the withered buds of plants but also rejuvenates the minds of all, young and old alike.

It was in the afternoon of the second day of Holi. After watching, the performance of a group of Holi Pala, I had sat down for lunch. Just then I heard someone calling, outside.

“Is anyone in? I have come for nakadeng.”

Nakadeng is an important part of the celebration of Holi festival in Manipur. People of all ages go from house to house asking for small sums of money the families can offer. Of course, it is not considered as a form of begging.

The voice seemed to be familiar but I could not place it correctly.

I mused, “Generally, people come for nakadeng in the morning. Who could it be to have come for nakadeng at this odd hour?”

I went out to see who was calling. A great surprise was in store for me. Taramba was standing alone in the porch, in his striking khaki shorts and black and white chequered shirt. I had not seen him for years.

All of a sudden, I spurted out, “Taramba, you’re still alive!”

Only after the words had escaped from my mouth, I realised, it was very rude to tell someone that it was really surprising to see him alive as if I wished him dead. I really did not mean it. But, he seemed not to have noticed the implication of what I had said.

He coolly said, “Yes, I’m still alive.”

After a brief pause he continued as though he had been waiting eagerly for Holi, “Isn’t it great that Holi has come at last! Hurry, Give me my nakadeng.”

I said, “Come inside and have a cup of tea at least. You have come after such a long time. Let’s talk for a while.”

Refusing my invitation, he said, “I can’t sit and talk. I have seen you. It is more than enough. Please give me my nakadeng. I have to rush back.”

His nature amused me and I asked, “Why are you in such a hurry?”

“I have many jobs to complete before Babu comes back. I have sneaked out as soon as he left.”

I gave him a twenty-rupee note. He prostrated before me and accepted the money. His submission touched me. I was overcome with emotion. Before I could utter any more word, he got up and ran away.

An interesting character devoted his life to Babu, his master! I wondered how could he be so attached to his Babu, whom he always described as a ruthless person.

I first met him about ten years ago when he came to our house with his Babu. At that time, his must have crossed fifty-five years of age. Bare-footed, oversized toes bent inwards and chaffed heels – he limped slightly while walking with his body bent forward. It might have been because of his prolonged habit of walking up and down the steep hillsides. A native of the hills who had come to the plains for the first time, he belonged to a small tribe and spoke a different language. Face drawn blank without any expression, it was difficult to grasp what was going on in his mind. However, in the course of a long conversation the only part of his face that gave away his feelings were his narrow eyes. He squinted and laughed with his eyes but no sound would leave his mouth. Illiterate, he spoke Manipuri, our language, with great difficulty. The only language he could speak properly was his mother tongue, which of course I did not know. His unusual name, ‘Taramba’ struck me. I thought it to be a funny name.

Out of curiosity, I asked his Babu how he came to work for him. He mischievously said, “I found him lying on the road.” When I asked him to elaborate, he said, “One day, I saw him loitering aimlessly on the road. I observed him for a while and then asked him what he was doing. He replied that he had nothing to do and nowhere to go. I brought him home and gave him the name, Taramba.” It was shortened from ‘Sorokta Taramba’ literally meaning ‘Something that was found lying on the road’.

After that, Taramba kept coming to our house on errands. I looked forward to his visits very eagerly. Whenever he came to our house, I had a brief chat with him over a cup of tea. His free and frank talk in his broken speech was very interesting. He told me about the odd jobs he did around the house.

Once his Babu had asked him to clean the garden. He laboriously uprooted every exotic flower plant and cleaned the whole garden. By the time his Babu returned not even a single blade of grass was left in the garden, the soil turned over and beds prepared nicely. Taramba was very pleased with the work he had done and thought that his Babu would also be satisfied and praise him. But, his Babu was angry and gave him a good thrashing.

Taramba said, “I can’t understand why Babu was furious. After all, I had simply done what I was told to do. Babu is a very bad man – he does not know how to appreciate one’s hard labour.”

He continued with a heavy heart, “It is very difficult to please him.”

On several occasions, he complained that he had been beaten blue for doing what he thought was the best. But, when I told him once, his Babu was a merciless man he suddenly turned defensive. He said, “It was my fault, I deserve the thrashing.” After that I became wiser and never said anything about his Babu.

When inquired about his family, Taramba said, “My wife had expired a long time ago. I have two sons and three daughters. All of them are married.” He even boasted, “I have twelve grandchildren. My two sons are rich men. They can provide me whatever I need. Both of them want me to stay with them but I want to lead an independent life. It is the reason why I have left my village.” I wondered if he ever knew the meaning of independence! If he considered working like a slave was the meaning of independence, then I have nothing to add.

On one occasion, I told his Babu that it was wrong to beat an innocent man like Taramba. He replied that it was the only language Taramba understood. I was at my wits’ end. I did not argue any further.

About two years after I first met Taramba, he stopped coming to our house. After a long gap, he reappeared again like a bolt from the blue. He told me that he had gone home to meet his family. All his grandchildren had grown very big. Many of his contemporaries in his village had expired. He spent his time playing with his grandchildren. His family persuaded him to stay back. That was why he had stayed at his village for along time. All the while, he could never forget his Babu. He left his house without informing anyone. He sent a message home only after reaching his Babu’s house. His love for his Babu had brought him back!

Soon, he started coming to our house regularly like before with his tales of woes – his Babu had beaten him for no fault of his. But, my earlier experience taught me not to talk ill of his Babu and said nothing.

Taramba’s Babu expanded his business. He started going to the neighbouring states on business. At times, he had to stay away form home for days together at a stretch. Both of them gradually reduced the frequency of their visits to our house. However, I often met Taramba on the road. He was always seemed to be running against time.

After some time, he completely stopped coming to our house. I had not seen him on the road also. His Babu told me that he was seriously ill. It was almost five years ago. That was the last I had heard of him.

I had seen neither Taramba nor his Babu for so many years. In my mind, I made the conclusion that Taramba might have succumbed to his illness. I had almost forgotten him when he suddenly came asking for nakadeng.

Taramba left hastily after collecting his nakadeng, and left me in the lurch. He had opened a floodgate of thoughts in my mind.

In this complicated modern world where everyone thinks only for himself, it is hard to believe that a simple and innocent man like Taramba does exist. Had I not met him, I would never have believed if someone told me that there are persons like him.

A flower,
a petite starry white flower

smiled at me once

in the mellow light of dawn

and fell on the ground

at the slightest blow of a gentle breeze.

But the fragrance lingered on and on.

Its smile taunted me again and again.

The smile keeps telling me,

whispering in my ears,

“I haven’t withered away in vain.

I’ve done my duty,

nature has entrusted.

Have you done yours?”

Taramba, a wild flower, his innocence will continue to taunt me forever.

Cover pic is provided by the author.

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Spread the Love of Sci Fi
Born in 1957, Bijoykumar Singh Tayenjam is an Electrical Engineer. He writes short story and poetry in English & Manipuri and translates short stories and poems from Manipuri into English and vice versa.