Charu...the name....a bell rang very far off...did i recall... Ma was smiling at me.. See do you know her... Did i...a shy dark strongly built woman flashing her white pearls at me, an infant rubbing his face on her chest and a toddler tugging at her saree.
They all look the same basically, all the domestic helps ma appoints and disappoints..she should be another of them, hard to know them really, but Charu...was she the one who tagged along as her mom used to work and later tagged along with me...dark, a bunch of unkempt unoiled hair and those mystified eyes...well i was looking into same old Charu , my companion my Guru on those days, well the days which i have the earliest memories of.
A small house extended at various parts without bothering about geometry but a house with a backyard and yes... a pond and wherein me and Charu embarked on our journey of childhood. How aptly she would climb trees and ridiculed me as i struggled with my steps...finally when i would manage she would jump off from the branch with squeals of laughter. She would dive into the pond when the whole house was in siesta...she was not allowed with all the dirt oozing out of her shabby clothes. I remember her having her meals quietly with her mother on the floor outside the kitchen as we finished ours in the dining table.
Did i ever feel there was some sort of lack of parity , i didn,t i guess..i enjoyed looking at her mystified eyes as i was whisked into the car for school and after school would happily join her in running around the house or any silly game she invented. At her insistence would take out extra bit of chocolate bar, or some cookies or pickles and watch her as she licked all bit by bit. But then my world was widening... school ,friends and running after the sturdy unkempt Charu was falling way behind in my list of priorities. During one of those holidays and one of the regular puja performed in our house...lots of cousins around and i was busy playing with them the entire day, Ma, grandma loaded us with goodies from puja in between and i never remember taking note of Charu staring from some corner. It was dusk... we were winding up our evening games, i went to kitchen for some water...and i felt like a wind Charu storm out of the kitchen with rustle of her frock.
I yelled and ran after her some sixth sense striking me, catching her up by her frock.
What are you hiding
Tried to pull open her clenched fists as tears brimmed her eyes.
Let me see
Some sweets of puja offerings crumpled in her fists, her cheeks flooded with tears as she ripped her hand apart from my grip.
Chor ( Thief)... the scream came automatically...i still didn,t understand why i had to do it...
Cousins gathered around me for the fun... as Charu ran for her life before staring at me horrified for a couple of moments.
Guess that was the last of Charu i have seen.
At least till today.
Dadababu how are you
Charu was smiling
Something twisted inside my throat as i cleared it to speak... i could not frame words and put up a smile...twenty years almost i guess would Sorry make a sense.. can i get myself to do it...
I am good Charu
I smiled back.