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Distant Silhouette Chapter-6

by Tanuja Chatterjee
(Kolkata, India)

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Chapter 6

A Pocket Full of Stories

As the evening sun began to dye the blue mountains and the green fields in a red hue, it was time for the girls to wind up.

"Uncle Todd, Please tell us a story," came the sharp cry of the children from the garden, outside.
"They must be through with their outdoor fun. Before they eat my head out, I better make up one!" said Todd smiling at their invisible presence.

The three sisters almost wriggled their way in. The older ones caught hold of both his hands and began to pull him towards themselves and that too in two different directions. Poor Ramilla, tiniest of the lot, didn't know what to do, so, she came forward, looked at Todd, and just hugged him, who by now had lost his balance due to the tug of war between the two sisters and had safely landed himself on the sofa but with a thud. They knew by now that Uncle Todd was a great story teller.

"Story! What story?" asked Todd.
"Any story!" said Apu.
"No, Tell me about that tiger at the Green Gate story. Did you kill him? Could he eat the goat?" interrupted Iti.
"What story do you want to hear Ramilla?"said Todd freeing himself from the clutches of the girls.
"Why will you always tell her story? Why are you partial Uncle Todd?" said Apu sulking.
"Stop sulking Apes!" said Todd brushing the tip of her nose with his index finger."I've got many stories. My pockets are full of them. Just put in your hands and see for yourself how deeply I preserve them," added Todd giggling at the girls.
Hearing so, Iti puts her small hands into one of Uncle Todd's many pocket, and says with big rounded eyes,full of amazement" Hmm... Apu ! It's very deep! There is no end in it!"
"O.K Uncle Todd, tell us the story which Ramy wants to hear." said Apu calling for truce.

To get absorbed in the story, Iti always needed a comfortable posture. So, she hurriedly began to pull her hand out of side pocket of Uncle Todd's shirt, when all of a sudden Todd said," Stop! stop! Be careful! You are spilling my stories all around. See how many of them got lost! Just allow me little lady to take your soft little slender arms out of my pocket." Todd was very good with theatrics.

Just when the four of them were engrossed in their merry making a woman knocked at the door which was kept ajar.
"Who is it?' asked Todd in a loud voice
"It's me sir! Kanta!" came the reply from outside.
The girls were back with their grilled manners and sat down quietly for the moment and watched Uncle Todd arise to answer the lady outside.

By now the sun had set and from absolute darkness Todd saw a figure appear holding a small bundle in front of her.

"I am Kanta sir!" she reiterated.
"Whom do you want to see?" asked Todd again
"Bibiji" was her reply.
"Who?" Todd asked again for in his dictionary there wasn't any such word.
"Mamma! Uncle Todd! Mamma!" replied Iti from where she sat grinning at him.
"Oh Anya! Please come in I'll call her right away" answered Todd gently.
"You don't go Uncle Todd, Ramy has gone to fetch mamma," said Iti making place for him to sit beside her.

Todd felt heavenly by the warmth, the little girls had showered on him. He obliged and sat between Apu and Iti on the sofa, while the lady stood still with her humble belonging, all waiting for Anya to emerge from the kitchen.
"You know Uncle Todd, Mamma is making chicken roast tonight! ooommm! She makes it very tasty!" said Iti making all sorts of clucking sounds with her little tongue.

"I know! She is making it for me,"said he teasing Iti. "You all will be eating toast and soup....oh I mean chicken soup."

The girls did not resent instead Apu remarked,"If we eat that will you tell us a long story tonight after dinner Uncle Todd!"
"Chi Apu! Toast and soup is horrible food. I don't want to eat that!" said Iti in a fit of tantrum.
" she comes. Stop all that Iti or Mamma will be unhappy." minded the older one.
"Yes, what is it?" asked Anya as she walked past the girls and uncle Todd carrying Ramy in her arms "Why do you want to see me?" she asked the lady.

The lady dropped her bundle and fell at Anya's feet and began to cry. With one corner of her "Dhattu" - the head scarf, she wiped her tears. The girls went absolutely silent and got engrossed in the scene.

"Is she in pain?" asked Apu.
"As per good manners Apes, when elders converse children must learn to excuse themselves out from the scene," replied Todd. "Come then! We'll change the room and anyway our own amusement stopped with the coming of the lady, isn't it?" spoke Todd gently.

After the children were gone from the room with Uncle Todd, Anya learnt in great details the sad tale of the lady and sent in a word for Nirmal at the hospital.

"Shanti!" called Anya and as Shanti approached. she said "Go to the children's room and wait. Help them to change into night dress and send Col. Saheb here."

"Just when we thought all was over, look here, she sheds the remains!" said Anya with frustration as Nirmal stepped in.
"Now what?" asked Nirmal.
"She'll tell all by herself," answered Anya, but the lady refused to speak. "He can sort out your problem, not me. So tell him." she added. While walking away she turned towards Nirmal and said,
"Listen to her carefully and see if we can help her at all. Remember, Ramy's all ours. I'll just check through the kitchen." and so saying she went into the kitchen. By now Todd had returned to the room and the woman with red scarf began to speak.

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