Fire under the Mango Tree

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic


This short story is about Lallan a character who is one among many such who come alive from the canvas of my childhood memories and the days when I spent my childhood in a small town which was
still untouched by urbanisation and where human relations were still the foundation of the fragile network of human life. Lallan makes us laugh , makes us giggle and also reflect and marvel at the
simplicity of life.

Submitted: December 01, 2017

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Submitted: December 01, 2017

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Lallan was a simple, poor, hard working man in his early forties who worked as a household aid in the large bungalows situated on the hillock just above the army lake, surrounded by lush green forests in a small town in central part of India. Lallan was not very tall, had an average built and was slightly bald. Though he was always dressed in loosely fitting garments, they were immaculately clean and well_ironed. The most characteristic feature of his personality was his cheerful face which was always lit up with a broad grin. Lallan would grin at almost everything and anything. Tell him a chore and he would respond in his characteristic style of widening his lips and revealing his yellow teeth from within and sometimes they were slightly tinged with red of the betel leaves which he would occasionally chew. Lallan was often caught day dreaming while busy supervising a task. He would be so lost in his thoughts he would forget all about his surroundings.

Lallan had two sons whom he had groomed to take up responsible jobs in the other neighbouring bungalows. To his great satisfaction the threesome , that is, the father and two sons were earning well enough to provide a decent living to the family. Lallan was skilled at chopping, dusting, cleaning, feeding the pets, attending the guests and such similar jobs. He was a perfectionist and would do the task until he was personally convinced that it was done with utmost care and perfection. His favourite task was to maintain the garden. He loved the company of plants, trees, and nature. He would carry the small watering shower and water the plants. When small flowers blossomed in the little mud pots or small chillies hang out of the chilli plant in the kitchen garden he would squeak with joy like a child. Lallan was Lallan! He did not bother much and spent a carefree life. His gardening skills were indeed impressive.The motherly affection with which he tended the plants was probably the secret behind the happy blossom in the bungalow garden.

It was the month of December and the weather was freezing cold. Chilly winds were blowing and thick fog surrounded the hill. Early in the morning, Lallan climbed his bicycle and slowly but steadily started for work. The Sun God had yet chosen to stay asleep and so kept himself hidden behind the thick curtains of white cloud. The earthly natives were once again deprived of the warmth of sunlight and shivered under the ruthless blow of cold winter winds. Lallan could hardly see, the fog blinded his vision, the wind slowed down his ride but he managed to reach the bungalow. Mother made him some ginger tea and he could not but thank her benevolence. He was told to clean two big deep frying utensils, which are an essential part of Indian cooking. We love frying 'pooris', 'samosas', 'kachoris' all delicious snacks that top the list of India's favourite food. Winter afternoons such as these were a perfect time to savour such tempting snacks at tea time and counter the biting cold. Our house like all old fashioned bungalows, built during the British period had a large mud chulha or ancient stove at the backyard. In the backyard there were variety of fruit trees. We had all varieties Guava tree, Banana tree, Mango tree, the Papaya tree and many more. I remember climbing up the mango and guava trees and reading my favourite books sitting on their branches. It was like living on a tree house. Many such experiences helped me in shaping up my sensibilities. Once dad hung up a swing on the guava tree for us. We would keep swinging and enjoy the sunbath during winter afternoons.

Mom had arranged for a small tea party that evening. She asked Lallan to dust the house and clear away the fallen dry twigs and leaves under the fruit trees before cleaning the pans.

Lallan seemed strangely excited about this cleaning affair. Then I saw through my room's window which opened into the backyard that Lallan was carrying the pans to the space near the mud chulha. Quite understandably it was extremely cold and by burning fire he would feel warm and cozy, I thought so and then turned back to my studies without having slightest doubt about his unusually growing excitement. Lallan lit the fire in the mud stove, kept some water to heat on top of it, picked a broom and started sweeping the area under the Mango tree. He was humming and smiling and seemed to be enjoying the warmth of the nearby fireplace. After a while when the area under the Mango tree was cleared, he gathered the leaves, twigs and some old paper and made a fire. First he immersed the big deep frying pans into the water heating on the mud stove, then he poured some soap and rubbed some ash from the fireplace and started cleaning the utensils. Not satisfied with this cleaning ritual, Lallan was struck by an amazing idea to clean the greasy utensils. He threw the iron pans into the pyre lit under the Mango tree. At this auspicious moment he heard the stern voice of Dad calling , Lallan! Lallan! There is someone at the door. Lallan rushed to the front gate and casted a quick fond glance at the fire where the holy cleaning rite was being performed. Lallan disappeared. Mom was cooking lunch when she saw through the kitchen window that the leaves of Mango tree were being hungrily devoured by the fire flames. Behold! In a few minutes the tree was on fire. Everyone rushed to the site amidst loud screams and shouts. Lallan cried in disbelief. He was stoned. Dad grabbed a bucket filled of water and poured water on the tree. He got hold of the water pipe, connected it to the garden tap and somehow extinguished the fire. When Lallan came out of the shock, he could not meet the angry look of the Sahib. Mom asked what had he done? Lallan replied, " The pans were too greasy, I put them into the fire to melt the grease, the dried leaves and twigs were great to light up a good fire, so I used them to make fire." Despite the tension Lallan did not miss his characteristic grin while explaining the whole situation.

Obviously, the tree leaves caught fire from the bon fire right underneath. Mom demanded " Where were the pans?" All eyes looked down and there were smouldering remnants of the melted pieces of two large pans. No sooner did the truth unfold, we all burst into laughter and Lallan was quick to follow.

Tha anger gave way to laughter as everybody couldn't help but laughing at Lallan's simplicity and naivety. The fire had charged the atmosphere and the party time was soon approaching. So we all got busy in making preparations to welcome the guests. First of all father rushed to the market to buy new pans. Lallan was back to work with the unforgettable grin on his face.

This is a test.


© Copyright 2018 Garima Jha. All rights reserved.

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