The Parting Gift
A Bank manager gets a small boy as a companion during his posting in a rural area of West Bengal. Accustomed to city life, he gets the opportunity to know and enjoy the village life.
The tenure comes to an end but the boy can not take such separation easily and the story ends with a punch line.
I was resting under a mango tree in a remote village in Bankura after doing the Bank’s development jobs on a stifling midsummer day when suddenly a big green mango fell on my head. As I writhed in pain a boy cringing in terror emerged from the tree. My pain and anger seemed to fade away seeing him- a typical innocent country boy with apologetic gesture. First aid over, he took me to his nearby house when his father scolded him and said “We are extremely sorry, sir. Please have some rest here” I took the offer immediately and intimated him that I was in search of a suitable house for my accommodation. “From today you will be residing in my child’s room with him. I hope this will stop his naughtiness.” He declared with a broad grin.
As manager of a nationalized Bank I had been transferred from Kolkata to this village a week ago and in spite of my best efforts I could not find any house before. I had to somehow make do lodging in sundry temporary shelters. Even this man, a cultivator, had earlier turned down my request made through my colleagues. Thanks to the unsavoury incident I found a home away from home in an obscure locality.
The boy aged about 9 years was Tito who literally took charge of me when I was filled with a pang of nostalgia for my home town. For the first few days he was so much fascinated that drove him to the point of speechlessness while he would watch me with large round eyes the unfamiliar ways in which I would browse through the newspapers and magazines or use my cell phone to take snaps or chat. He was found to be lagging quite behind in all subjects which was normal for him as they usually drop out early.
I would sleep at night listening to the child’s rustic stories. At five in the morning when sleep is sweet, I would be aroused by a series of magical sounds like the cuckoo’s cooing or the cock’s crowing followed by his dutiful call. I seemed to strike a chord with the little boy.
His interest covered playing games in abundant areas of delight, swimming which reminded me of my childhood days in North Bengal in the sixties. It would provide him immense pleasure to fetch green mangoes for me since he had noticed that I relished mango pickle. As I gradually got quite familiar with rural life, I came to learn from him farming procedures, manuring, harvesting and walking along ridges in between the plot of tillage lands. His fantastic memory allowed me at times to forget to use the cell phone for reminders. Even in matters relating to the Bank’s business he was of great help in choosing the right potential customers as he knew everyone in my area of operation. On holidays he would take me to important sightseeing places or play grounds and I soon overcame the initial homesickness and Tito in turn proved to gradually improve in all realms which impressed his parents to the hilt much to their embarrassment though, at times as they had initially declined to accommodate me in their house which provided shelter for their cattle and birds. I gifted him picture books on sundry occasions to build his ability to read, think and imagine. Tito in turn would collect eggs hatched by the hens and would invariably set aside one for my consumption. When I would go home he would pack my baggage carefully inserting green mangoes. Slowly we seemed to be bound by ties of kindred.
Time flew by and as my tenure at the branch came to a close, I was transferred to my home town in Kolkata soon. With this turn of events the news reached him since I had intimated the matter to his father well in advance as I would have to vacate the room anon. On the scheduled day of my departure I took leave of every member of the family who fondly recounted the memorable moments of our association but Tito was nowhere to be seen. We frantically looked out and enquired anxiously for him as I had a lurking fear that he would not take such separation easily and despite our best efforts we could not locate him anywhere. But since everything was arranged I had to board the hired car to reach the railway station and came back home with fond memories. I was feeling happy to be reunited with my family members. My luggage was quite heavy and gradually I emptied all my bag and baggage. As I was taking out the clothes and other belongings from my favourite suitcase I noticed something tucked away in a corner. It was a carefully closed packet covering a bottle of mango pickle made from the choicest fruit with a label that read ‘ভালো থেকো’ (Take care).