I have always been fascinated with the strength that will power can give to an individual. It’s amazing to see a standing, all supported by its sheer willpower. But gods forbid, if that standing, that foundation collapses by any chance, it brings down a structure, a framework and creates the most painful void. And that brings me to my story of Kaka.
Kaka is a 60-61 years old man in a village named Saarangpur, in eastern UP. Though it was economically a backward region, the small village was a cluster of upward Brahmin houses. And on top of that Kaka was a retired Sanskrit government school teacher, who had been living in the same village and probably the same house since the start of humanity. Hence he was a significant figure in Saarangpur and nearby villages. Everyone knew him and as a village tradition, almost everyone greeted/saluted him on his way from anywhere to anywhere.
Kaka had an elder brother, Badke Babu, who lived with him. Badke Babu, for some unknown reason, took up bramhacharya when he was in his teens. Their parents died young hence Kaka was the only one who looked after everything and everyone since a young age. And in villages where its only manpower for all work, Kaka worked like a machine, believing in being completely self-sufficient. Even at this age, he worked to shy the cumulative work of two men in their twenties. His only vices were his severe consumption of paan and tobacco or at times just tobacco, which has transformed his teeth from white to mahogany red to almost black.
He’ll get up as early as the sun and will start the day by sweeping the entire courtyard and the Baagh attached to the courtyard, which was like a quarter acre land. And then would sit with his Lota full of chai, lost in the orange dawn sky. The mystical touch by the rising kitchen smoke, in swirling clouds, from almost every house in the morning village, captivated Kaka and guided him to get lost in his musings. Though Kaka had seen enough of all this since his childhood, it’s in recent years that he had started appreciating and dissolving in the beauty as a habit.
The greenery, the mist, the expanse of vision till horizon, the smell, the temperature, the tea and the tobacco made Kaka have the best way to start the day.
But with time, even the leaves of Peepal tree in his courtyard changed color and with that Kaka’s all the three kids left him and migrated to cities, in search of employment and in hope of ‘better’ means of living. His all three sons left him one by one.
With the first two, Kaka didn’t feel much worse, but when the third one departed, Kaka’s heart broke for some selfish reasons, maybe. In fact, his departure was a huge topic of discussion.
In villages, nobody even dares to speak up against the elders, even when they are wrong or unreasonable. But this time, for that very topic, the third son’s wife came out in the open and argued on behalf of his husband. Still, Kaka denied. The argument turned into a cold war which went for a month when finally the son called for a family meeting in Holi holidays and informed everyone that he has to leave for his kid’s future.
Though Badke Babu still resented to the idea, Kaka couldn’t say anything to that. I think being a school teacher played a role in that silence. Though he still didn’t completely agree with him, contemplating on what future will the cities might provide the kids that they can’t provide in here. But owing to his limited exposure to cities and its lifestyle, Kaka consoled himself halfheartedly by the unknown prospects cities might offer to his grandkids.
Finally, the third son left with his wife, leaving Ammaji, Kaka and Badke Babu home alone in their palatial village house.
And within a year his third son left, the Neem tree in the center of the courtyard started dying. That tree had been there before Kaka’s birth and probably it was time.