In the faraway village, stood a Jamun tree standing tall and alone facing the dusty road where a rare vehicle spluttering past the muddy terrain brought alive the sleepy crowd flocking to trail in numbers. The villagers walked miles on their tired feet to sit under the shade of the tree during the tribulations of daily life and it provided the only luxury to the battered faces sprinkled with mud and sweat as if water fell from the sky on this dry land.
An old petrol lantern was dimly lit inside the square room smeared with cow dung on the hut roof and erected on the unpolished, decrepit wall. Little Gotiya squatted on the floor and at times changed his position to sit cross-legged while holding his second standard book to study but his little head decked on the floor. The seven-year-old rubbed his eyes and was dreaming about running with his tiny legs and naked feet in the mud to sit under the shade of his favorite jamun tree. It was too late to flee home in the night and after all, Maa told him about the doktar unngkle( Doctor uncle) who preys on young children to give them injections before throwing them to the wolves. Poor Doktar, he died but his bhoot (ghost) roamed around in the quest for small children like Gotiya who shy away from being a good boy at school and doesn’t memorize lessons at home.
The spanking at school and holding his ear on the floor sitting on the knee like a monkey, being mocked at by teachers and friends was still ringing in his mind. He recited a small prayer, “Dear God! I will give you ladoo. Please kill my teacher.” He suddenly bobbed his head and fell asleep on the floor. A tight slap hit him hard on the head which suddenly woke him up. Ouch! It hurts. He stood straight and sat cross-legged. “Don’t you dare doze off like that. Now, recite the table,” Maa gave him a stern look and snatched the book from his hand. Poor boy mumbled and slurred like a drunkard with fear in his eyes. He stammered.
Gotiya was distracted by the perfume of daal and aloo sabzi wafting on the petrol stove inside the tiny room as the cool breeze flew inside. His eyes furtively traveled towards the wooden window to get a peek of the Jamun tree slowly waning away in the fleeting distance. He had no choice but to recite the table by closing his eyes but couldn’t buckle his mind. There were too much of distractions, thinking about his friends in the village, food and the shade he craves for.
The hazy morning complicated little Gotiya’s life when he was pulled brutally from his sleep on the floor and a bucket of cold water poured on his skinny body, hair combed with force and blue school uniform thrust on him. “I don’t want to go to school,” he cried his lungs out. In a flash of anger, he bit his mom’s hand and ran with all his might towards the paddy field outside and crossed the river. The tiny soles pained and wore bruise but nothing would stop him from running with force.
He stood in front of the Jamoon tree as if it was his best friend and a revered God, “Oh! my friend. Everybody is mean. The school is bad. Mom is also wicked. No one understands me like you do. Hide me if you love me.” He fell asleep under the tree’s shade that mothered and protected him like its own child.
He was fast asleep and felt a tickle inside his belly, inching his tiny body on the grass from left to right. A bright smile flashed on his face and was carried in a dream pocked with games and moon walking to enter the perfect world of adventure, where his favorite candy that he always longed for by standing in front of the shop across the road popped inside his mouth. A loud whistle pierced his ear and it grew louder by the minute like a melody. He slowly opened his eye and got up on his knee. A bright smile appeared in front of him and a tender hand pulled open the wrapper of his favorite candy. He grabbed it with both hands and whistled on top of the candy. It wasn’t a dream but real. His mother stood and smiled at him, gently whistling on the candy. Gotiya’s eyes sparkled and ran to grab his mother’s pallu. There was no fear of school or lessons. Only him and the favorite whistling candy under the shade of the Jamun. He winked at Maa, ‘My angel.’