The Tree of Life...contd
by Pragati Bakshi
(Ranchi, Jharkhand, India)
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The next twelve days very smooth cordial and I especially enjoyed the learning session at this prestigious place. On tenth day of our Course, I saw Dr Dikshit gazing at me ,sitting in the lounge of cafeteria. Before I prepared to quit, he occupied the adjacent chair of the same table. “Mrs Singhdev, were you born with these set of eyes?” The question was too cryptic for me to answer. I was blessed with large almond shaped eyes with thick eye lashes that curled upside at their own whims. Pupils were dark brown with a golden hue. Indeed my eyes are beautiful and I knew that their charm are hard to resist by any man. But this question was far from what I would ever expect from a gentleman.” Sir, finding my voice, I said, “I belong to erstwhile royal family, perhaps eyes a part my inheritances”. Dikshit laughed and said, “Madam, I come from erstwhile priestly family, perhaps my domineering nature is part of my inheritances”. His gaze was getting intense for me to bear. I rose to my knee and ran out of cafeteria. My cheeks were scalding, palms wet with perspiration. It was so kind of a sweeper who came to my rescue. She gave me water and sat beside me. Never in my life, I had been so submissive or frightful. It was something sinister about that Dikshit which robbed my life force. Sitting in shade Bargad* tree I was trying to regain my composure. The sweeper sympathetically asked, did I confront Dr Dikshit? I was astonished at her question. Mala Didi, the sweeper asked me not to cross his path. Despite his academic brilliance he was despised almost by everyone in the campus. Mala said “Madam, Dikshit Sahab is called as Brahm Rakshak by all of us. He dwells in a lonely cottage near Baobab tree. One can find him awake even at darkest hour of night. There is a rumor floating in air that Dikshit Sahib has killed his wife. He allures women into relationships, either to destroy them or to kill them. Few years back an Australian scholar was his trap. The poor lady drowned herself into the well nearby Baobab tree”. The whole conversation lasted for few minutes, but I felt it as if the time has stopped. The air was heavy again, and I felt some unfathomable code looming in horizon. The Baobab tree., Dr Dikshit and the killer well all were connected in a mysterious knot.
Heaving with sigh of satisfaction at the completion of Orientation Course, we were too happy to leave the most prestigious Centre of Economic Research in India. The Valedictory Program was held in same conference room. All of us were asked to assemble at 12.30 PM. I was particularly happy to leave. I wore a resplendent saffron silk Katha saree for the occasion. I along with my fellow participants sat on one of the chairs kept in front row. Director of the Institute along with a clerical staff, who carried our Certificates entered the hall. Director was kind gentleman who was aware of our predicament at the hand of esteemed Dr Dikshit. So the course coordinator absences was not that conspicuous. I among all the five was particularly under his piercing gaze and more insults were hurled towards me. I ought not to have given a mind to his existence, yet my eyes were looking for him fervently. This unprecedented and totally a strange outburst of a feeling for yearning his presence knocked me down. I felt as if some strong force is drawing me towards him. As if an unidentified force of a intoxicating black hole dragging me towards its centre. I held Sutapas hand tightly. Sutapa asked if I am alright? But I could not answer. Director of the Institute sensed my precarious condition, came over and handed me my certificate, mumbling some kind words. I asked permission to leave to calm my nerves. Promising to meet my friends in evening, I hurried toward the guest house. I got my things packed neatly along with the certificates. Tomorrow’s tickets were meticulously kept in hand bag and I was all set to leave this eerie place. My lunch was sent into my room along with bunch blue Aparjita* flowers and a letter neatly folded above it. After gobbling the lunch I unfolded the letter. “Mrs Singhdev, meet me at 3.30 PM near Baobab tree”. I can’t understand what I felt that moment. Yes, I wanted to meet him simultaneously, I wanted to run away even from Dr Dikshit’s faint memory! My royal lineage was too powerful to let me surrender to a mortal being. I remembered my Kuldevi and decided to meet Dr Dikshit.
I was standing near the Baobab tree at 3.30 PM. The tree was very distinct from trees in my State of Tripura. Twisted branches with inflated pouts at the joints of two branches, no leaves as such; attracted me even more than ever. The inflated pouts carried water inside for mankind to survive in arid regions of Africa. But why I am thinking all nonsenses when I had nerve to
meet a devil. Dr Dikshit clad in pink shirt and black trousers was standing in fact leaning against the tree.” Dr Singhdev, thanks for coming”. I turned my eyes towards him. The classical definition of handsomeness did not incorporated his personality, but yes he was attractive, and his masculine aura dominated the surrounding. “Tilotama”, I was taken aback by his addressing me by my first name. Again I rolled my eyes in disbelief. But he was oblivion of my thoughts or my gesture towards him. "Please sit”, He said pointing at old wooden bench. “You know Tilotama, why I wanted to meet you?”, I could not mumble anything. “You remind me of someone; same golden copper skin, large almond eyes and the air of arrogance”. He said nonchalantly.” Perhaps you might be full of stories about me. And yes many of these are true. I had several women in my life”. I always had passion for beautiful women. Let me put more accurately, my longing for women are same as your desire for blue flowers.” Blue Flowers! It started ringing inside my head. I was delivered the bunch of Aprajita by Dr Dikshit! I lifted my eyes towards him. He nodded affirmative. With small pause he said” Yes, where were we…… my longing for women was not just a manifestation of carnal desire. I tried in each of relation to find something that I had deliberately lost. Tilotama, I am eldest son of very prestigious priestly family of Konkan region. We are Gaur Brahmins, known as preservers of ancient texts. I was married at the age of 18. My bride was 17 year old girl, daughter of another priestly family. She shared the same name as your’s. But I called her Tillo. My Tillo was precarious teenager. She always wore red nine yard saree draped in Maharastrian way. The golden translucent skin dominated the red color and she looked so ethereal. Tillo learned ancient Sanskrit just by listening to the men of extended family reciting during worshipping of our Kuldevi. “I was very attentively listening contemplating, why am I fed with an “Autobiography of Sinner”. And I to my utter dismay listening his blabbering! But Dr Dikshit continued “It was last Monday of Shravan and a heavy downpour, I looked for Tillo everywhere in our palatial house. Enquired each servant about her where about. But she was no where to be found. The backyard of house was an abandoned place with a very old cursed step well. To my utter shock I found her standing on very edge of well. Fully drenched, in red saree, Tillo was not her usual self. She was holding the an old book wrapped in red cloth.
Suddenly I realised the book wrapped in red cloth was not meant to be read by anyone, leave alone a girl! How could she managed the possession of this book?, I was aghast! I went near and snatch that book, which seemed most precious to me at that point of time. And accidently pushed Tillo into the well. She was falling and staring at me with impenetrable emotion. I saved an archaic book or rather the tradition and vanity of a clan and killed my life. Did I optimised my trade off? I leave it to you Dr Singh Dev to contemplate.” Dr Dikshit stopped. I opened my lips to say something, but was abruptly intervened by same sonorous voice. “Since then I looked for same expression in almond shaped eyes of many women. And ended in destroying them.” Again air became very still, silence was deafening. We three, Dr Dikshit, I and Baobob tree stood a like painting in the canvass of eternity.
“Tilotama, you will be having a transit halt at Guwahati. Take this and put in the Brahmaputra near Kamakhya Temple.” He handed over me a small copper pitcher, uttering “My Tilotama!”. “Dr Dikshit”, I tried to say something, but he forbade me to say anything. He took an envelope and handed me. I looked at in surprise, “This is 10000 in INR, Please organise a Brahm bhoj * of my Shradh* at Kamakhya Temple”. I could not stand with the blow of his final words. I clutch the Baobab tree to stand erect. “Sir, what are you saying”? I lifted my eyes to see him. He was looking at me with intense gaze. But his eyes were not same that I saw the first day. He was very sad man, his soul was wriggling in pain and begging for emancipation. I took money and pitcher filled with mortal remains of Tilo. “Dr Dikshit, I will do as you have asked me to do”. He came very near, “Call me Krishn, Tilotama”. He pleaded. I looked at him. He and Baobab tree both are harbinger of life at stake of their existence, Dr Dikshit killed his soul to save his clan. This tree replenishes water to parched land without using for it’s own survival. "Goodbye Krishn”. I said. He touched my cheek bidding me goodbye with these words ” Always be invincible like blue Aprajita*, Ma!”.
*Ritual conducted after death of loved one.
*Blue flowers in evergreen creeper plant*****