It Happened to a Wobbly-legged Boy

October 12, 2012

Short Stories

Painting by Shriya Das

Many years ago, when time had still not shriveled my mother, and I was still a shy little boy, I was struck by a bout of measles. The only memory of my suffering that has survived the quicksand of consciousness is the quarantine imposed upon me. It was pretty close to being jailed with a pair of comics to be read again and again. The sleep was fitful and erratic and for strange reasons I kept visiting a temple with blue-green bars behind which a Goddess sat on a lion in my dreams.

A guardian of many rebellious kids ranging from toddlers to teens, my mother was permanently at her wits ends. She had already settled down to her terminally dour mood by then and I have more memories of finding ways to escape her ire than receiving words dipped in honey. Somehow poxes and measles qualified as divine illnesses in the community and a child recuperating from these was allowed a few indulgences. The lottery was a sweetener that befell my luck towards the end of the painful illness and I had sworn to enjoy it to the hilt. Mother was a devout woman and was quite awestruck when told about my quaint dreamy visits. It was naturally taken as a divine mandate and I managed to extract promises of many loaves of buns, cakes, comics and storybooks, aptly striking the iron hot.

One morning after the older ones left for their schools, mother deposited the younger ones with a neighbourhood aunt. We went to a book stall as promised and bought the month’s supply of Champak and Indrajal Comics featuring Mandrake and Phantom and I kept them carefully in a sky-blue tote bag I had thoughtfully carried. We walked down to the bus stand close by and took a bus for Godowlia which was the closest the transport would take to the warren of temple complexes by the bank of Ganges.

My mother was sure the temple that my living soul had repeatedly strayed to was tucked deep into the bowels of the alleys near some holy Ghat I have forgotten the name of. The pair of mother and son strutted along in unison for half a kilometer before we entered the mouth of the labyrinth. The flash sickness had left my legs weak and wobbly and I started withering out rapidly. I was past the age that would allow comfortable snuggling into one’s mother’s lap but my mother pulled me up like a leaf.

Off we went then, from alley to alley, I riding the hip of my mother to one side, my legs dangling, and mother leaning a little to the other way to balance the weight. I kept clinging to my bag and mother had her own carrying stuff for the ritual. As we trundled past temple after temple, mother would swiftly bow her head with a jerk, her eyes briefly closed with a hurried whisper, separate for each temple. Her saree was a deep shade of green with yellow squares and borders and it smelled of detergent and talcum powder. She was walking firmly, her slippers making a flapping sound at perfect intervals. She had a pleased, determined look and I wondered what had made me dream about the temple and how wonderful it must be. I encircled her neck with my arms and laid my head on her shoulder.

The alley rose and fell, swelled and thinned, cut sharp corners and went into extended slopes to be followed by steep inclines. Apart from the occasional cyclist who kept ringing the bell irritatingly at the throng of people rushing both ways, everyone was walking endlessly ahead. Cows stood still here and there frozen except for their dully masticating mouths and everyone had to move around them.

Eventually, we came to an uneven rectangle where another alley came up slantingly. There were steep narrow stairs between two rows of tall houses, dipping quickly probably for the riverbank. It stood in a recess, the long narrow temple, a white structure with a gold-tipped spire, its yellow crown glistening in the sun. Its flank parallel to the road was a wall of blue-green bars and there she was, the heavily decorated Goddess sitting on a lion. It was probably not the temple I’d kept floating to in my sleep but the Goddess looked eerily similar.  She had a sword in one of her hands and a chopped off human head in the other, the severed neck painted red with blood. A beggar with a stump of a leg sat close to the door of the temple to the right holding on to a stick. Bells of varying sizes hung in a row their clappers waiting to be pushed.

Removing our footwear at the entrance we entered the little sanctum. There was no priest in sight and we had to deal with the Goddess without the luxury of a bailiff. Mother bowed deeply and so did I and we sat down on our haunches. She opened up the small nylon bag and fished out a wick, an earthen lamp and a small vial containing mustard oil. Together we filled up the lamp carefully soaking the cotton wick but leaving its one end jutting out. Mother lighted up the wick with one stroke of a matchstick; she was an expert at lighting up lamps. We put the lamp gingerly near the feet of the lion, its nails painted with blood, and mother asked me to kneel on the ground and touch my forehead to the floor of the temple to express my gratefulness. Mother did it too.

Having finished the prayer I stood up with a strange light feeling at my side. It took me a few seconds to realize that the small bag hanging to my shoulder was missing. I cast swift eyes in every direction in sharp panic and alarm. Where could the bag have gone? It was there with me only a few breaths ago! I clearly remembered putting it next to me before concentrating on the lamp. Mother asked me sharply if I had dropped it on our way to the temple. As we were taking stock of the vanished bag with the newly purchased comics, the priest entered through the door in a huff with an annoyed look at his face. He hesitated for a moment as he saw us but he seemed to have sensed our bewilderment and linked it to something he had seen a short while ago.

“Did you have a sky-blue bag?” he asked tentatively.

“Of course, I had!” I cried, “Where is it, please?”

“Oh, no!” He sighed. “I just saw the leper limping away with it at a great speed.” He paused thoughtfully. “It is his third strike within a week. I will have to speak to the local police outpost. Did you lose valuables?

“Not at all, Pundit-ji,” my mother said in a faltering voice, adjusting the saree over her head. “Just a couple of children’s magazines. Can we get it back?”

Just a couple of children’s magazines? Petty stuff, indeed! I wanted to explode into tears.

“I don’t think so! Children’s books, did you say? Be careful next time. You could have lost a lot more. The other day a man lost four thousand rupees that he was carrying for the treatment of his ailing wife.” Pandit-ji intoned.

Now that the priest had come, he tried to offer us Prasad from a pot. My mind was battling twisters. Crestfallen, I turned to begin the journey home without the bag of comics.  Mother seemed unflustered by the loss. Her face seemed serene as if a burden had been lifted, having fulfilled the divine mandate.  I could sense her vague annoyance though and the peculiar twist of her mouth was a signal of the sourness lurking close, waiting to take over. She asked me softly if I could walk along till we met a rickshaw. I was only half seeing the pavement because of the tears that had welled up in my eyes but I shook my head in yes. I started following her brisk gait as we walked down a slope where the bricks seemed to have been dug out and loosely shoved back into a large patch of the road. I was trying hard to remember how the cursed beggar had looked, installed at the gate of the temple, imagining alternate punishments for him as a Mandrake or a Phantom would deem fit for the sinner. I bitterly imagined delivering the Phantom’s blow to his face, the one that left the unmistakable imprint of the skull on the foreheads of the villains, and my arm jerked as I did so, but I found myself sprawled on my belly on the jagged road instead. It happened so fast that I never realized when I was going to fall. One moment I was strutting along the road and the other I was tasting the filthy bricks on the ground. I had a stung taste in mouth, partly salty, and I knew I had cut open something inside.

I heard several raised voices and saw many feet approaching me. Suddenly, my mother was picking me up with one hand and brushing off the soot and grime wildly with the other and I knew she was frustrated now. She was muttering under her breath partly in encouragement and partly in admonishment but I found my eyes glued to a gray and white square piece of paper on the ground instead.  I jerked myself free and quickly picked the enticing stuff. It turned out to be a ten rupee note folded over and over into a small square! My mother stopped in the middle of her gushing and exclaimed, ‘Oh!’

“Let’s go!” I looked up at her and she nodded and we started moving quickly.

“Is it a real one?” She said prying it out carefully from my closed fist. She examined it briefly and returned it to me. “Lucky! Put it in your pocket!”

I slipped it in the front pocket of my shirt putting both the buttons firmly in place quickly. A rickshaw pulled to our side and the man looked askance at mother.

Cantt?”She asked.

“Three rupees!” He declared through his brown-yellow teeth.

“Two and a half!” My mother told him curtly. He stopped pedaling and nodded us to climb over.

Soon we were standing at the same book stall ordering a fresh set of Champak, Phantom, and Mandrake Comics from the startled stall-owner. I also got two shining new coins back in change. But just as I was about to put them away safely, a black curled palm appeared under my face out of nowhere! I found a half-naked boy about the same age as mine in dirty oversized knickers standing next to me, his hand stretched out for alms. There was a bulbous snot dangling out of his nose and mucus stuck out of his eyes. He appeared soot black but that was apparently not his complexion as his chest was fair in places. A small girl stood next to him in a dirty frock, her eyes swollen with dry tears. I never knew when my hand retracted itself from the pocket and placed the coins, one in each of their palms. The boy spun and ran away and the girl followed him bellowing hard.

I thanked the Goddess that sat on the lion for the books when I reached home. And I thanked her for the measles too, and the trip with mother to the temple, and the fall on the road that bruised my elbows but gave me the ten rupee note with which I repurchased the comics and put those coins on the palms of the boy with snot all over his face and his whimpering beggar sister.

,

About umashankar

The question then is, am I a writer? It is true I wriggle a pen to colour my notepad, or tap at a keyboard to darken the pixels of my desktop screen. If the strings I weave paint a canvas to my readers, borrowing the hues of their own vision, maybe I am.

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96 Comments on “It Happened to a Wobbly-legged Boy”

  1. The Fool Says:

    Nice to see you also taking nostalgia posts. Interesting experience, 10 Rs meant so much those days. You could satisfy your dreams as well as do some charity..

    • umashankar Says:

      Yes, TF. Something triggered the memory hard and I couldn’t stop myself. I still remember the gray and white of the tenner that meant so much that day!

  2. Bikramjit Singh Mann Says:

    So you been a good soul bachpan se hi, I dont have any such stories to share mine were more of how spoilt i was and what all i did to be a nuisance to my parents , I still wonder how come they kept me and not just got rid of me ..

    the phantom comics now thats nostalgia , I had a big jute box in which i use to put them , hundreds of them , I am sure If i go back home and locate the box if its still there , it will be worth a lot of money now , since people go crazy at old long lost stuffs…

    and 10rs was like the saturday lotto nowadays , when you had it you were the kinggg..

    • umashankar Says:

      I was a funny boy, Bikram. But yes, I couldn’t stand the child beggars, I stiil can’t. It is nice to learn about your naughty days -I knew a few boys like you back then for sure – and I am almost tempted to lunge for your jute box of Phantom! And Rs 10 was surely a Saturday Lotto just as you say.

  3. rajnisinharajni sinha Says:

    Beautiful and vivid narration Umashankar ji—–childhood is nostalgia and yes those Indrajal comics and Champak together with Parag and Chandamama were every child’s prized possesion .

    • umashankar Says:

      Thank you Rajni. The childhood is like a world lost forever. Nothing can beat the joy of turning over the crisp pages of a Champak, a Parag or a Chandamama, in a childhood.

  4. mradula Says:

    Such an intricate description of all elements-right from the characters to the setting. Indeed a very warm post from the child in you :)

  5. Amit Agarwal Says:

    It touched me deeply, Uma bhai, I have a limp in my throat! Not that I don’t see beggar boys now or not pity them…but seeing the whole incident through your graphical narration was like recollecting my own childhood when I used to be moved by them tragically…

  6. manju Says:

    What a heart-warming post! Through your graphic narration, we can clearly visualise the events that took place on that distant day!

    • umashankar Says:

      Glad you liked it so, Manju! I find some of my earliest memories sparkling clean in my mind even as I can’t seem to recall many things that happened in the recent past. Many thanks to you.

  7. Zephyr Says:

    That was such wonderfully told tale of dreams, wishes and reality — woven in an exquisite tapestry of words. I could taste the earth in my mouth just as I could extend my hand to give away those coins. Lovely hark back to childhood, Uma.

    • umashankar Says:

      Zephyr, I thought of you the moment I wrote this post. I am glad the sensitivities of childhood appealed to you. Thank you for the encouragement!

  8. Rachna Parmar Says:

    Ah, I have been missing these posts of yours because you weave your words beautifully. I could sort of visualize the boy in the narrative. You know I just realized that I was never taken to a temple ever in my growing up years. We were not temple going folks. And really you took the money and gave to the boy and his sister. That is so beautiful. I never remember doing that either. And losing you Champak and Mandrake, I can recognize the pain. I was so possessive of my books too. And, I remember when I got measles, mom was at her loving best. I was quarantined all right, but I got to eat and drink what I wanted. I hate those days with only neem leaves for company.

    • umashankar Says:

      So, there you are, Rachna! I am happy to have struck a chord with you in Champak and Mandrake. Everyone has own unique experiences of childhood. Maybe you went to many other memorable places that I didn’t go to. And now that you remind of the Neem thing! It was the only other thing that kept me company during the illness. Thanks for sharing your feelings.

  9. Jennwith2ns Says:

    I was captivated. I’ve been to India before, but naturally never experienced it “from the inside.” Your writing is wonderful.

  10. Akshay Kumar G Says:

    You remember every intricate detail of that journey, made me think how much that ordeal has made an impact on you. It was a beautiful story, the dream, visit to the temples, comic books, beggar thief, 10 Rupee note, the charity, the good heart. :)

    Put a smile on my face. Lovely read. :)

    • umashankar Says:

      Akshay, that day did mean a lot to me and I still remember it vividly. Glad to have put a smile on your face! :) How are you doing? Thanks for appreciating my work as always. I seem to be missing your input often.

      • Akshay Kumar G Says:

        Getting much better now, Sir. Thanks for your concern. I did read few of your review posts but refrained from commenting at the risk of sounding monotonous. (My comments, I mean). I was waiting for a classic Umashankar post, such as this one. :)

  11. Personal Concerns Says:

    Loved each single bit of this fondly remembered walk through the lanes of Benaras. The locale came truly to life.

    Don’t have much to write as a comment here. Just that childhood is a very very special time in the otherwise dreary expanse of life that we all wade across. Everything associated with that zone of our memory is more deeply etched in our being than any other thing. The olfactory, the auditory , the visual and the tactile (“The alley rose and fell, swelled and thinned, cut sharp corners and went into extended slopes to be followed by steep inclines” for instance) is registered in its most original form in such anecdotes that hover around in the alleys of the mind…isn’t it??

    And yes…reading of the measles, just saw the bitter smell n taste of Neem return to my tongue ! Food tasted so bland then!!

    • umashankar Says:

      You have correctly identified the city, my friend! I agree wholeheartedly with your feeling that childhood is a very very special time in the otherwise dreary expanse of life that we all wade across. And those alleys are indeed so and just as you say, they remain deeply etched in my mind in its most original form. And I did forget to mention the Neem but fortunately, it was not a part of that glorious day!

  12. Alka Gurha Says:

    Bylanes of Benaras…Godolia is still the same….crowded, filthy and yet brimming with life. I could feel for the child who lost his comics. And weren’t they special….mandrake, chacha chaudhary, champak, nandan. Such an evocative nostalgic post.

    • umashankar Says:

      Benaras, All right! And not just Godowlia but the entire city has become filthy and overcrowded. Thanks for recognising the city. Yes, those comics were special and I suspect children don’t have any such affiliations anymore, thanks to the television and Internet.

  13. Latha Says:

    Oh! How I longed to read a post like this from you? Too nostalgic. This must have been one special day in your life I suppose. The way you remembered things and the intricate details. The way your mom lifted you like a leaf reminds me of one thing I felt recently. One of our friends has the chubbiest of kids and they are pretty heavy to carry. If I lift one of them, I literally droop to a side. I would think, OMG, how does she carry them? That’s when I felt, a child is never too heavy for a mom. I remembered reading champak too :) For us, we had Chandamama and BalaMitra.. And how lucky you were able to get your books back! It was a wonderful gesture to give away the two coins..the only memory I have of measles is the neem bath on the last day.. :) Simply loved reading it.

    • umashankar Says:

      I am glad to be of use, Latha! You are correct: it was my lucky day! We all seem to be united by the measles -and the neem bath- and the storybooks! It is sad today’s children are more smitten by the dazzling electronic media. Many thanks for loving it!

  14. coralsandcrimsons Says:

    Umashankar ji you write exceptionally well. This one is just outstanding, your narration made it so alive that I felt a ting of nostalgia.
    My parents are from villages of western UP and I have seen those alleys and small temples a thousand times, so I can relate to it a big time

  15. sharmila Says:

    Godawlia , Lanka,BHU campus Mankarnika ghat ,Dashashwamegh ghat ..childhood memories revisited through your eyes and brought alive by your beautiful narration. I remember the crowded Vishwanath temple gulli and the quaint shops lining it.I visualized dad guiding and protecting me as a precious jewel all through our stay in Benaras as it was so unsafe and unruly then. A moonlit night ,a boat cruise and a dead body surfacing from nowhere, freezing us in our seats….all this just off the famous Mankarnika ghat !!
    Thank you so much for this nostalgic post USP !!

    • umashankar Says:

      O God! I seem to have triggered the memories all those ghats and gullys in all their hurly burly splendour! I can understand your Dad’s discomfort and I am sure I’d feel equally alarmed if my daughters were to move in those labyrinths. Manikarnika Ghat triggers tragic thoughts in my mind. I have had the misfortune of using its services twice this year and I can assure you, it has been heart-rending to say the least. I am happy you could relate so deeply to the post. A million thanks to you!

  16. magiceye Says:

    The fluidity in your narration is so pleasing to read as you weave the tale to keep the reader enthralled by evoking fascinating imagery! Loved it!

  17. suranga date (@ugich) Says:

    USP, I was waiting for a post like this , given the onslaught of book reviews that this blog recently witnessed. Took me back to my childhood days. I could actually sense the restlessness of the little boy , the hot midday indo-gangetic sun, and the chaotic labrynth gullies leading up to the temple, the paths known only to those with absolute devotion and no questions.The wide eyed boy finally observing the goddess in wonder, but no fear, and the supreme concern about the comics. But the goddesses in their own way, teach…

    Some Goddess
    astride a lion’s hips,
    the kohl eyes stretched
    way to the side of her temples,
    red smeared forehead,
    a powerful visage
    triumphant in victory
    leaving no face
    for some troublesome bodies,
    dripping blood.

    He would envision her
    in his mind’s eye,
    through
    the blue green
    temple bars
    as his body
    burned and scratched,
    his mind afire with stories.

    And another goddess
    with
    a junior god
    with a blue bag of dreams
    astride her hips,
    easing his fatigue
    cheek to her shoulder
    as they move through an unholy maze
    amidst intersecting and turning
    stone pathways
    resonating to cycle bells,
    and rising walls,
    un-lion like cows
    masticating
    and
    unmoving in the heat and dust.

    Both the Godesses
    conspire with fate
    to ensure,
    that the one who stumbled upon
    and retrieved
    his lost dreams
    met some,
    who tearfully asked ,
    but simply couldn’t afford
    an iota of theirs.

    • umashankar Says:

      Suranga, I have returned to books with a vengeance and books are all that I find myself thinking of these days and it is only natural that I’d wish to speak about them.

      Thinking of your profound poems and the poetic replies to my fortunate posts, I have become certain of the inevitability of the phenomenon you are. Without doubt, you are up there with the best in the trade, sung and unsung.

      I remain indebted for the honour.

  18. Bhagyashree Says:

    Thats such a brilliant post. Nostalgic and so very touching!!

  19. Sangeeta Reghu Nair (@Sangrywords) Says:

    US – I agree with with Rachna I too had been missing these lovely soulful posts that you write. This what I really love to read !! Your mother must have been a wonderful woman for having passed on a wonderful upbringing !! These days I am teaching Smera to share and it’s a very difficult task to teach. It was such a wonderful gesture deep from your heart !!

    • umashankar Says:

      Sangeeta, I am truly grateful to both you and Rachna for finding favourites out of my posts. After all, there are millions of blogs out there. Nonetheless, I cannot imagine myself writing any of my posts with lesser fervour and passion. And I cannot imagine myself cutting corners, ever. As a creator of my works, whatever little value they may have in the interminable ocean of words, I harbour similar love and esteem for each and every one of them: poems, stories, memoirs, rants and book reviews. Thank you, so much.

  20. Sangeeta Reghu Nair (@Sangrywords) Says:

    I’ve told you before US you go ahead and publish ur book I will pre-order it !!

  21. sajanrajagopal Says:

    Excellent! This is a very refined piece you have written, Uma Shankar. As always, the pedigree of language greatly enhances the simple yet emotionally powerful bond you share with your mother! I especially love the way you have managed, as always to not succumb to the temptation of going overboard with emotions. Crisp and neat, this truly is a special post! Kudos.

    • umashankar Says:

      Sajanrajgopal, readers like you are like the lighthouse in the endlessness of the sea: you keep me sailing. And it makes it special that you are such a powerful writer yourself. Many, many thanks.

  22. Anu Says:

    lovely post!! what we intend to remember and what we do remember are so different sometimes! but its always a pleasure to go back down memory lane.. and this post brought back so many memories of my own too!

  23. Roshan Radhakrishnan Says:

    dont you think its amazing… just a few decades ago, 10 rs was a magical thing, a delight… now it barely covers the VAT tax in a restaurant.
    What the comments say above are true – your style of writing is simply brilliant.

    • umashankar Says:

      It is amazing indeed, Roshan, the value that a Rs 10/- commanded three decades ago. Moreover, even if I were to stumble upon Rs 1,00,000/- today, I am not sure it will be able to impart similar power or joy! Thank you for reading the post and appreciating it.

  24. AB Says:

    What an interesting and colorful childhood you had ! And your excellent narrative skills vividly brought to life those bygone days of innocence and simple joy. As I have said many times before, you are a master story teller !

    • umashankar Says:

      Most childhoods are interesting in their own ways. Thank you for the warm reassurance. I know I can count on you for an impartial assessment.

  25. Giribala Says:

    Very well! So many people benefited from the trip to the temple. If the comics and Champak were in Hindi, the poor leper might have had a few good moments while reading the stories amid his otherwise wretched life.

    • umashankar Says:

      Well, Giribala, there was this leper-beggar who had fallen on bad days. In fact, he was a teacher of English language whose post was usurped by his enemies. He used to shock the foreigners by his chaste English at the Ghats of Benaras!

  26. dNambiar Says:

    That was another superb piece from the master storyteller. Such a vivid description of that day and all its events. I felt like I was an eye-witness to that walk up down the hills and those visits to the temples. I can imagine how painful it was to lose those books. I was so happy for the little boy who ultimately did get to take home some comics.
    So engaging, USP. Didn’t want this story to end.

    • umashankar Says:

      Thank you so much for your reassuring input, Divya. I am happy it had the desired effect. To tell you the truth, I also did not want the story to end but we have our limitations!

  27. pchandra Says:

    Mr Pandey, I have forgotten how many times I have read about the wobbly-legged boy since it has appeared on your website and every time I have found the mother and the son standing vividly in front of my mind’s eyes. I do not feel any qualms in taking your name along with the likes of Guy de Maupassant, Edgar Allen Poe, Alexander Pushkin and R K Narayan!

    • umashankar Says:

      Dear sir, I am not even a speck of dust in the footprints of the mighty names you have invoked. Nevertheless, I owe a trillion thanks to you for the fuel you bestow upon this sagging vessel here! May God bless you!

  28. Ruchira Says:

    You are a master story teller ! You captivate your audience and when the story finishes you leave us begging for more ! I haven’t been reading blogs much due to pressure of work but I am so glad I didn’t miss this gem !

  29. Ghazala Hossain Says:

    This touched a cord in me. Those were the days when measles made prisoners out of you and phantom, Mandrek and flash gordon comics..! You were a good soul and guess you still are but what I would like you to know, you write very different. Have not read many people write like you :)

    • umashankar Says:

      Ghazala, I am truly happy to have struck chords with so many of my friends. Where have they all gone, Mandrake and Phantom? Thank you, so much, for your kind words. Do keep coming back! :)

  30. sudhagee Says:

    The wobbly-legged boy may longer be wobbly today but the memories recalled seem so fresh that I could almost feel them, touch them. I like everything that you write, but posts like these are my favourite. Thank you for a great read.

  31. dilipnaidu Says:

    Beautiful narration. Loaded with nostalgia.
    Thanks.

  32. Amit Says:

    Your post reminded me that there was a time when we were happy with less than what we have nowadays and it was blissful. I remember saving coins to buy my favourite comics and the joy that gave me was unparalleled. Good old days.

  33. ddeepa Says:

    Beautiful narration USP. The vivid descriptions of the alleys, the temples, the way your mother would bow your head and pray every time you walked across a temple, the color of the saree etc brought all that to life. Felt like I was reading a classic. Are there Indian classics by the way? :) I do not honestly have memories of that far back, but then whatever you’ve written is making me recollect stuff too! :)

  34. Jyo Aadarsh Says:

    Enjoyed reading! Captivating narration Umashankar! Beautiful portait from your artist! I look forward to reading more in your blog site. And congratulations on a loyal following! All the best, Love you! Jyo

    • umashankar Says:

      Many thanks to you, Jyo, and welcome to the blog; your footfalls will be awaited. The beautiful painting is created by and copyrighted to Shriya Das and she is not my artist!

  35. raju070 Says:

    That was a heart wrenching story. A wonderful page out of your childhood and a peep into your noble heart! Every little detail, every little emotion etched out to perfection! Right from describing every little feeling inside you to depicting the alley in excruciating detail, your magic with words is unparalleled. Your descriptions of the comics and those indulgences during your bout of measles brought back memories of my childhood. And tears came to my eyes when I was reading the last 2 paragraphs. This endearing chapter of your childhood made my heart smile. You are a wonderful man Uma.

  36. Ritika Says:

    That was such a heart warming story ! You really have a way with words
    Looking forward to read more :)

  37. Sabyasachi Patra Says:

    Amazingly well written. You have described the scene lucidly. I can visualise the scene like a film.

  38. sangeetakhanna Says:

    Beautiful post. It made me revisit my childhood as well. And did I read Godowlia and the gullies ? You grew up in Banaras?

  39. debajyoti Says:

    it’s an experience reading your posts!! i don’t remember visiting any temple with my mother during childhood but many a times i visited the bookstore with my mother, and you don’t return home from a bookstore without few comics.

    a lovely lovely post!!! i relived my childhood for a brief period.

  40. Jas Says:

    Don’t know how I missed this one and to my bad it is such a beautiful post. A nostalgic trip with some really eerie details like the dream.

  41. manjulikapramod Says:

    When you mentioned the blue bag that was carried thoughtfully.. it grabbed my attention instantly.. n I am sad it got lost..
    A great one n definitely brings back memories.. related to comics and those little attachments we had in childhood.. Thanx Sir!

  42. Nomad Says:

    A beautifully nostalgic story, that many of us can relate to with bittersweet memories getting stirred. I remember what it was to read Amar chitra katha, Parag, Champak, and Chandamama. What it was to be sick and feel maa’s gentle hand suddenly on my forehead, and her soft cheek busily planting itself on my cheek, when she would check in on my fever amid her hectic housework. The part I loved most in your story is, of course, your ride on your mother’s hip. I read that part many times, perhaps to relive some long-forgotten memory of my own.

  43. nothingprofound Says:

    Uma, what a clever little child you were, milking your illness for all it was worth. I love this tale of your pilgrimage with your mother to the holy of holies of your dreams, that “temple with its blue-green bars behind which a goddess sat on a lion. ” I especially loved the ending, the accident that restored all your losses, and culminated in a magnificent gesture of kindness and generosity.

    • umashankar Says:

      NP, we were many siblings and competition does that to kids! I still can’t forget the sights of the goddess, the manifolded note and the kid-beggars. Thanks a ton!

  44. Helena Fortissima Says:

    Uma, your mom sounds a lot like mine. She was so busy with all us kids that sometimes, the only time I felt I really got her undivided attention was when I was sick…which wasn’t very often. I could really identify with the boy-you in this enchanting story of nostalgia, dreams, and redemption.

    • umashankar Says:

      Helena, it was typical of her generation and as you confirm, it was the same across the oceans. I get nostalgic more and more as she recedes in form and spirit.

  45. iancochrane Says:

    Not sure if it was mentioned above. Was the goddess Kali?
    Loved the heartfelt reminiscences & related to the comics US. The details were quite touching, especially those memories of `detergent and talcum powder’…powerful recall pushing all the right buttons.
    Lovely story.
    Cheers, ic

    • umashankar Says:

      Ian, Kali is one of the several avatars of Durga. The variant we visited sat on a lion but also had the severed head of a demon in one of her hands, which is rare.

      Thank you for your continued support; glad you enjoyed it!

  46. jerseylil Says:

    Uma, you had me from the first line. Your love for your mother and the regard with which you hold these memories dear clearly shines through in your writing. I smiled thinking about how you managed to extract promises of goodies and storybooks telling her about your “quaint dreamy visits.” And what wonderfully colorful dreams they were. From your rich descriptions, I could so easily imagine the scene of you dangling off the hip of your mother, clinging to your bag. I could so easily picture the Goddess sitting on a lion, the beggar nearby, and prayers at the foot of the lion with blood-red painted nails. Amazing tale, especially the way you found the ten rupee note and were able to purchase the comics again, and the kindness you showed to the children asking for alms, when you were only a child yourself. You were given a gift and in turn, you gave a gift to the children. Beautiful story. That painting by Shriya Das is just lovely, too!

    • umashankar Says:

      Thank you for your priceless input, Jersey. I am happy it worked so well for you and I cannot stop thanking you for your kind assessment. That painting is a beauty for sure.

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