Adaptability is about the powerful difference between adapting to cope and adapting to win.
- Max McKeown
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A young orphan Kalam Singh came to our house once. He must have been 14 years or so, he was dark but extremely good looking and very healthy. My granny was known to be a philanthropist. She would take in all such emigrants into her folds. She had a small hutment made at the far end of her property where these people were lodged. This way she ensured that they were within reach at the same time they did not interfere in her own work and also the security of her property was maintained.
Kalmu was given his quarter in the far-off hutment. He was given a spare set of clothes, a plate, a pitcher and a spare blanket. The young boy was touched. He became a loyal for granny. In those days a stomach full of food, a shelter on the head and a cloth to cover ones modesty was enough to get a man to be happy and satisfied. Kalmu had gotten the affection of granny, a whole mango orchard to look after and a team of kids to play with. Life was bliss.
Kalmu learnt to make himself useful. He learnt the nitty-gritty of farming. He helped granny in household work. Once he surprised us by making a cowshed on his own. He used local stuff like stones that he carried home from the nearby rivulet, he used mud, cow dung, lime-stone and some leftover lentil paste as cement. For the roof he used haystacks. He brought bamboos from the nearby forest and stacked the roof to place. Granny was more than happy with Kalmu.
The doe-eyed peasant had become the cynosure of all eyes. He would attract with his handsomeness as with his hard-work and skill. When he came of age my granny sent around message that she was looking for a bride for Kalmu. People laughed about it, as those days people were very concerned about the family and heredity before giving their daughter’s hand in wedding. Granny was the chief of the village and she had a lot of influence. Somehow she found a beautiful bride for Kalam Singh and got him married with a lot of fanfare. Everyone in the village was in awe of the beauty of Kalmu’s bride and also at the grandeur of the marriage of a simple peasant. Everyone knew that granny was very fond of Kalmu.
Granny gifted Kalam Singh a separate hutment as a wedding gift. This hut was in the center of the mango grove that Kalmu cared for. Kalmu had made the hut himself. It was small but very neat. There was shade of the mango trees and the blossom of the mangoes issued unmatched fragrance here. Kalmu placed a small cot outside his hut and a grinding stone at one end. He made a small chullah near the grinding stone and set a stack of wood nearby. He put a roof that was held by four strong pillars made of wood. Kalmu was going to have an open kitchen. He planted a few flowering bushes in front of his hut and told us that all houses should have flowering plants so they can offer flowers to God. We loved his idea and his house. We loved the company of his bride Bimmy di the most. She was herself like a little nymph and when she spoke we could hear the tingling of tiny bells. Her white, well aligned teeth were an attraction to us. We would just stare at her and implore her to speak. She was very fair, even her feet were as if made of marble. Every day after breakfast our uncle would call us out and lead us to Kalmu Da’s house. He would sit on the cot outside his hut and we would play all over the place. Bimmi his wife would silently cook on her chullah outside. Kalmu would ask her to prepare tea for uncle and she would quietly comply.
Gradually Kalmu’s honeymoon got over, granny summoned him for work. Bimmi would be alone at home. We would play around her house and uncle would sit on the cot as a routine. Everything was hunky-dory. We were very protective about Bimmy Di. I don’t remember why and how but soon we set ourselves as hunter-gatherers for Bimmy di. We would go around the grove collecting flowers, fruits, herbs or berries for her. Sometimes we would hunt parrots or sparrows for Bimmy di. Once we set out on her task we would get badly involved in it and return only when we were called out for lunch.
One day when we were hunting for eggs, we heard some commotion around Kalmu’s hutment. We left everything else and ran to check. I saw my uncle standing with his head held hung and Kalmu screaming at the top of his lungs. This was unusual. Never before had we seen a worker raise voice at a landlord. My uncle was a true blue-blood, he could not tolerate anyone not taking his instruction; here he was taking all the insult being hurled at him without any argument. I wondered why he did not snatch my brother’s air gun to shoot Kalmu. Our elders joined around and they shooed us off the area. My granny also went to check. One look from granny gave us the message to get scarce. Off we fled.
Next morning Kalmu’s hut was empty. The cot in front of his hut was not there anymore and the chullah that would send forth wisps of smoke was abandoned. Never have I felt a house weep but this day was different. The entire cottage looked desolate. Kalmu and his wife had left with no rhyme or reason and not a word of their where about. The village remained silent. Granny gave shelter to another orphan from an unknown village.