As the evening draws towards night, the sight in the western skies always haunts me. The big red ball of sun sinking slowly down the skyline turning the sky, clouds and ambience red brings back the vivid memories of my childhood. When I was a little kid, every item in the neigbourhood was a mystery for me and I searched reasons behind its existence
Every morning, the bamboo twigs were my tooth brush and I used to gulp down the juices from chewing the twig. The height of bamboos always was a wonder to me and I used to think how the bamboos became so tall.
The daytime was bliss to me. With the hawkers coming in the village to sell the hard boiled red sweets and ice cream sticks. As I heard the tinkling of the small bells that they had, I used to run with a handful of rice from the barn and savor the taste of success – eating the sweets stealthily. I always imagined of installing a machine to manufacture those goodies at my backyard
Another big crowdpuller was the bioscope man. At the time when there were no cinema halls and theatres, they were the entertainers in the villages. A two minutes trip with the bioscope man would take you around Delhi, Mumbai, Kathmandu, and London. To watch the magnificence of the cities through the binocular vision with the background singing of the bioscope man was the much coveted yearning I had in those days. I would wait weeks for the bioscope man with crumpled two rupee note hidden between the pages of my shabby notebook. I wondered how the bioscope man was able to get such big cities inside a little tinderbox!
As I returned from the village school and had my lunch, I used to wait for the man I adored – a man from Bakal – a village in the far north eastern reaches of the district. I thought Bakal was in another part of the world and this poor man took so many days to walk down to our village. His feet were torn to shreds with the walking. He usually brought the needles, sewing strings, ayurvedic medicines, rock salts and saffron. At the end of his deal with my grandmother, he always used to give me a lump of rock salt. That piece of rock used to be my special possession for the weeks to come – exchanging a pinch of it with other goodies from my friends used to be a real exchange for me.
As a little kid, sitting on my grandmother’s lap, I used to listen to the fairy tales and the stories of kings, gods and witches. The world of kings, gods and witches seemed real to me and the characters in the stories came live every night in my dreams.
When the man from Bakal didn’t turn up for few months I asked everyone about him. And to my despair, my grandmother turned to the evening sky and asked me why the colour of the sky was red. I was speechless when she said that the man had died on his journey and the saffron in his jute bag had scattered throughout the western skies.
To this day the red sky in the west brings back the memories of the bioscope, the man from Bakal and his scattered saffron in the western skies!