The missing Krishnamani*



As modern sources of transport, communication and entertainment were yet to arrive, in retrospect, I feel, we who are senior citizens now, enjoyed our childhood better. Social relationships, mutual help and celebrations were all interlinked in such a way that individual, family, neighborhood, village and community were smooth and seamless progressions from one to the other and everyone experienced the joy of existence as society respected and took care of each of its members. Social customs ensured resources mobilization and linkages for every event from delivery of a child to a funeral, sowing to reaping crops and daily offerings to annual festivals in places of worship.

There were not many picnics arranged by schools or visits to tourist spots for enjoying vacations.

Our outings during my school days were limited to more frequent visits to relatives who stayed within short distances (any distance reachable by starting early morning and walking till twilight with short breaks during the day for snacks and rest was considered short distance those days) and occasional travel by train to some other places for attending weddings or a funeral when some close relative dies. For us children many such occasions, irrespective of whether they were celebrations or mourning, turned out to be chances to come together and play. Even the pressure of need for attending school did not come in the way, once elder members decided to attend a local function or to move out on a trip.

One such visit was to my great grand aunt. By the time me and my mother reached the place, it was late in the evening. In the joint family, of which my great grant aunt was the senior-most female member, had several members staying in the same house and children in the neighborhood too came to that house to play in the evenings. Soon on arrival, I joined the gang of four or five kids of my age group. All of us had just started going to school or were in second or third standard. On earlier occasions when I had been there, I had seen my grand aunt talking continuously, as if a crowd was around her even if no one was listening to her. My mother used to ask me not to go near her, as she always held a knife which was used to peal and cut areca nut for using with pan. Aunt never did any harm to us children and we were perplexed by the instruction not to go near her.

It was almost dark, when our group of kids was summoned by our grand aunt. She asked us whether all of us loved her. We answered in the affirmative. Then, she very seriously started talking to us as if she was telling a story. Now, in her words:

“ Kids, I am very old now. For the last few days I am almost laid up. People are coming to see me saying that I am sick. I am not able to see them. You people, because you love me should help me in restoring my eye sight. Here, the toilet is far off in the compound. They have tied a rope from tree to tree from that pillar (she raised her finger in some direction, but we could locate the pillar from which the rope started!) up to the toilet to help me reach her. The other day, when I was returning from toilet, my krishnamani (pupil of the eye) fell own on the way. I have been searching and searching, but could not locate it as you cannot see anything without krishnamani. Here, these people are not helping me. It will be very easy for you kids to find it out and help me restore my eye sight. Move fast before it gets dark!”

We didn’t have any second thought. Five of us started searching for the krishnamani under the rope-way from the pillar of the house to the toilet far off in the compound. Each one of us could locate more than one shining objects, some pebbles, some glass pieces or even grains of sand. Every time one of us got something, all of us surrounded aunt asking her to check whether that was the krishnamani she lost. She promptly rejected everything, saying that it was smaller, round in shape and has more shine than the objects we located.

The search went on till dark when other elders who had engaged in busy chat and plans to take aunt next day to hospital for eye examination came to know that we were not really playing, but walking up and down searching for something. It took sometime for five of us to convince them that we were not searching for an earring or chain lost while running about, but for the krishnamani dropped by grand aunt. The entire group of young and old present there had a loud laugh when one of the elder members of the family was seriously explaining to us that the aunt was senile and talks unconnected things and she genuinely believed that she has become blind thanks to the dropped krishnamani while the real villain was a bad cataract for the treatment of which she is being taken to the hospital next day.

* Pupil of the eye

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