Saturday, June 2, 2012
Haunted Memory by Jamuna Devi Advani
Haunted Memory. Jiribam, Manipur, India June,1942 (North East India) It was the scorching sun which made my grandmother hold her umbrella with her left hand while she held my little hand in her right. The sun was not in a hurry to go down toward west and seemed to be busy torching us on this side of planet. As a seven year old I did not bother much about hot weather. Bubbling with enthusiasm and anticipation of getting sweet rice balls at the Friday Market I walked chattering with never ending questions which kept my grandmother occupied with answers. An unexpected sight caught my attention and I pulled my grandmother’s hand. We stood for few seconds and saw the teen aged boy with slightly protruding belly sitting on the rock, his sack placed on the dirt road and eyes closed. His hands crossed on his chest as if trying to protect himself from the cold. It was a hot day but he was shivering. My grandma pulled me and walked ahead leaving the boy alone without saying anything. I became inquisitive, “Grandma, what has happened to him? Why is he shivering?” “He will be okay, once his shivering is gone he will walk to his destination.” she replied. She also mentioned that she had seen before some of the villagers doing the same thing while the attack of malarial fever came over to them. But I kept thinking about that boy. His faded loin cloth and his facial feature indicated he was from a tribal community and most probably a poor farmer’s son from the hills. My grandmother being from a higher caste would avoid touching any one like him The caste system was predominant factor during my grandmother’s time in the 1940s. Along with the struggle for independence from Britain, Mahatma Gandhi was a strong advocate against the caste system. Hence after independence the caste system was abolished completely. But the memory of this incident haunts me till this day. Did any one help him get to the hospital and receive treatment? I wonder if that boy survived till he reached his adulthood.