The Figurine

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Historical Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
The story is set during the Hool Revolution in Bengal,India in the early 1850s prior to the Revolt of 1857. Gives a glimpse at the life of the native people at that time and what led to such a revolution.

Submitted: June 16, 2016

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Submitted: June 16, 2016

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THE FIGURINE Soumyadeep Kundu Evening approached as the sun tilted west getting ready to go its slumber. Kanai watched from the courtyard of their little mud house as the sun disappeared behind the trees that surrounded his village. It was the end of a long day, Kanu quietly made his way through the narrow winding path that led to his village carrying a bundle of firewood on his head and the earnings from his day tucked in his loin cloth. The bruises from yesterday still pained but he had no choice, he had to work. The zamindar was getting worse than ever, yesterday he was thrashed hard, whipped in front of everyone, no one said a word, no one! What had he done, just looked up at the zamindar when he was supposed to bow down to him. The zamindar didn’t take this well and had him thrashed. The land where he works was once part of the forest, their land which this fiend had seized and no one had said a word. Kanu hadn’t realized when he had got back to his village, it was only when the smell of rice cooking in the pots reached him that he realized. The men were getting back from work and the women were busy getting the meals ready , smoke rose from the huts and a faint aroma spread about. Kanu got back to his hut at the end of the village, his eight year old son played with his clay figurines as his wife got the meal ready. Kanu put the firewood near the chullah. His wife Savitri said to him,” We are almost out of rice, I have only got enough to last for a few days”. “I will get some tomorrow”. Saying so Kanu went to the mucky little pond at the back of his hut to wash himself. Coming back he sat on the courtyard and called to his son,” Kanai, come here son!” Kanai clutched a little clay figurines in his hand and came to his father. His father clutched him and put him on to his lap. Savitri smiled at them, “Your son is becoming naughty day by day”, she said. “Never mind that, he is supposed to beta kis ka hai dekho, I too was naughty probably even more than he is”. Kanai kept playing with the figurine in his hand as his parents talked. “What is that baba”, asked Kanai on seeing the nasty little bruises on his father’s back.” That’s nothing beta, the Zamindar gave it to me”. “Why?” asked Kanai,” Because I didn’t bow to him,” answered Kanu.” The zamindar is bad, isn’t it baba?” asked the innocent boy. “Yes son”, “Why is he like this baba?” the boy asked. “I don’t know, forget about all that, get some clay and let’s make you a new figurine”. Kanai ran off to get some clay. He got a lump of clay. Kanu started work. The lump of clay started taking shape as Kanu started making a little man out of it.” Can you say who this is” asked the father. Kanai looked for some time and said,” It’s a man”,” No that’s you when you get older”, said Kanu as he shaped the figurine further. “I will become small like this when I get older”, asked the innocent boy. Kanu laughed, “No son you will grow bigger, bigger and stronger than any other man in this village.” The boy’s face lit up, “Really?” he asked.” Yes,” answered the father,” you will become the strongest and bravest person in this village and bring glory for all of us”. Kanu picked up a little twig and made it into a shape of a bow and arrow.” That will be you one day leading all of us into battle and doing something everyone will remember you for”. The boy watched in amazement as his father shaped a little man shooting an arrow. Kanu gave it in the hands of Kanai. Kanai held the little piece in his palm and looked at it. Kanu smiled at him, “Now go and keep it beside the chullah to dry it.” Kanu watched him hobbling off to the chullah and smiled, a tear came to his eyes, he didn’t know why. The village council gathered around the big fire lit up in the centre. All the men of the village had gathered there. The Chief sat on a raised seat listening to the views of the men. The men talked of their problems, the shortage of grain, the shortage of animals to hunt in the forest, how some of their children have fallen sick suddenly and said that the Gods needed to be appeased. Kanu sat a little away from the chief and he talked with Subu about yesterday when he had been whipped. Only Subu had dared to raise a protest and he too joined Kanu. “Something needs to be done about this zamindar, he is too nasty, always looking for ways to beat us,” said Subu. More people joined into the discussion and it soon reached the chief’s ears. “What are you all talking about so much,” asked the chief, Kanu and Subu explained to the chief what had happened. The chief listened.” This isn’t right what you are doing, the zamindar is like a father to us….” Kanu cut off the chief,” He has been beating all of us every day, today he whipped Paltu for no good reason, I say we do something about it, the zamindar needs to be taught a lesson”. A roar rose from all the men gathered there, all agreeing. The Chief however wasn’t pleased ,”This will be too dangerous he will kill all of us”, “That will be better than what he does to us every day”, someone said from the crowd. “ He is now getting too close with the firangis now, those firangis are of no good, only yesterday one of them beat Mahim and he almost died.,” said someone else. “They raided the neighbouring village a few days ago and took some women away with them.” This raised an even louder cry. “These firangis and this tyrant will be a lot of trouble for us, “said Kanu,”I say we raid his house once and he will get the message”. The cheers from the crowd said it was a much welcomed propositioned. The chief was getting tensed from within, Kanu was getting popular and the way he was inciting the men wasn’t very favourable for him nor the village. The chief hurriedly broke the gathering saying this will be discussed tomorrow. The Chief went back to his hut engrossed in a deep thought, a new crisis was developing and he would have to stop it. It was the dead of night. The village was asleep, the smoke from the chullahs still hung about. In this darkness and silence, a man left the village without any notice, wrapped in a shawl. He silently made his way through the village. Next morning, the sun rose waking up the village and life resumed again. The women went about their work while the men got ready for the day’s labor. Kanu was eating his morning meal of rice and some vegetables seated in the courtyard. The clay figurine had dried up and Kanai was now playing with it. “Kanu hain”. Kanu looked up. A huge man dressed in red with a huge moustache and a spear in his hand stood gaunt a few feet away. “I am Kanu,” he answered.” Get yourself ready, RajaMashai has called for you.” Kanu got ready. As he was about to leave Kanai asked,” Baba when will you come back, I want another figurine like this one.” Kanu smiled at him and went to the back of the hut and got some clay in his palm. Giving it to him he said, “You’ll have to make this yourself son, make it even better.” Kanu disappeared into the forest path as Kanai and Savitri watched. Evening approached, the sun in all its grandeur was setting. The mosquitoes stung them but no one muttered a word. Kanai waited in the forest with his men, all ready with their poison dipped arrows, waiting for the troops to arrive. Kanai held two clay figurines in his palm. He closed his eyes, when he opened them again they had fire burning in them. The signal came. The firangis could be seen coming with their troops. Kanai gave the signal to his men. All got ready to pounce on their prey. He put the two clay figurines in his waist cloth.” For you baba,” he said softly,” for you. “ The prey came closer, the hunter twitched with excitement, ready to pounce. The sky was lit up red by the setting sun. The drums sounded and the war cry of six hundred men shook the universe. Out came six hundred men and preceding them were their poisoned arrows. It was as if nature herself was taken by surprise let alone the troops. It was all over in a few minutes. Kanai returned home. His eight year old son played with his clay figurines while his wife prepared the evening meal. Kanai kept his weapons inside. Sitting in the courtyard he called for his son. He came and stood in front of him. His hands reached inside his waist cloth, but then he stopped. A lump of clay lay from him within arm’s reach. “Come here son let’s make you a new figurine,” he said reaching out for the lump of clay.


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