Three Kids and a Fish Net
It is not a usual day. I don’t know if it is going to be good one, however it feels very pleasant to be here today and I am thinking to stay here until it closes, perhaps at 6 PM. I am sitting on a wooden bench where I had fortune to sit yesterday as well. There is a couple sitting on the other bench close to me, although that beach faces to other way and I don’t try to look at them, I am afraid if I have disturbed them. I hope I have not. There are several other places to sit, even better considering that a couple of ants bit me yesterday on this bench, but I don’t bother to walk even a step away from it. There is something exceptional about this bench, not that it has got better view or better wooden structure, like it whispers me a tale of love, a sense of mortality, as if it makes me who I am. I look at the large tree nearby, not so close maybe 20 steps behind me, which has grown around with its root getting excessively thicker and lots of root ropes dangling down from its thicker bough, and realize that not much has changed. I have carried a book with me. It’s about Abdullah and his little sister Pari who got separated in childhood in a war stuck country Afghanistan. The love between the two had been imagined so beautifully by the author that I want to get more into the book to find how they would have met at the end, if not before. I go through a couple of pages until I keep it aside and marvel at the depth of characters in the book. I think I have liked this book and so much so that it has made my day a little more beautiful.
It was five years ago when I arrived here for the first time. I had come early in the morning, unware of its opening time, and had to wait until it opened at ten. A green board on the main gate mentioned about various kinds of tree, which seemed quite important ones though I knew nothing of them, and I feared if I had come to a wrong place. A kind of nerdy place which was not supposed for anyone other than botany researchers. There was a compact cabin inside the gates, just beside the wooden barricades that blocked the entrance where a young lady guard stood. A guy was busy passing a coin through a small window to a person sitting in the cabin. After him I got to the ticket window and asked — how much? He said five rupees each. I passed a 10 rupees note through the window, and then we walked in.
There is an enclosed region in front of me. I have not seen anyone there during any of my visits in last five years. Not even elders for whom this region is reserved, at least as a board in front of an entrance to this region reads. I wonder if I would ever get in there when I turn older. Certainly, I would love that. Only if god permits. This life is not fair. Who knows what happens next day. However I wish to come here on all my good and bad days till my last breath. It smells so good here. A familiar scent. A scent that spreads a fable of love.
It’s Saturday today and I guess that the reason that a lot more number of people have arrived today as compared to yesterday. Even number of guards are more this morning or maybe they were just not bothered to walk around yesterday. There used to be a couple of shops which sold ice creams, fruit’s juices, pink cotton candies which is also known as- Buddhi ke baal and hot popcorns, but none of them are open today. A horse rider that generally stays in front of food stalls to woo children also have not arrived. Perhaps business is going low. However I am pretty much occupied with myself. And sometimes with the story of my book. Nabi, Abdullah’s uncle is now dreaming about Nila, his owner’s wife. Nila is mostly engaged in talking to Nabi all the day, and laying on her bed for days otherwise. Nabi gets her intentions and proactively tries to be around her. I wonder how it would go. After I complete a section of a chapter which is indicated by a strange symbol, each chapter in this book is very long and I don’t think of completing them in a single go, I look at a kid who is talking to his father. I had noticed them earlier but they did not interest me until then. They both are sitting on the stairs that goes down to a narrow canal. I consider going to another bench closer to the canal, dismissing my attachment to the bench I tell myself — I have memories at other benches as well.
It’s pretty good here. Although sunlight is directly over me, I am deeply immersed into the conversation that the kid is having with his dad on the other side of the canal. He is talking in English, I am not surprised but it seems a bit odd to me, perhaps I should not compare this my native place’s surroundings. I am washing my stick, he tells his father. He is young, probably studying in first or second. He walks close to the canal and swings his little stick around in the water. There is not much water, just sufficient for kids of his age to get scared of its depth. He does it for a minute, although I feel he is making it filthier because water is not very clean and also because he is trying to dig in below the water, and then tell his father about it. I have washed it without soap, he says. Now I will wash my strings, he says and reaches to the top on the stairs where his father is sitting beside strings, a black one and a white one. He walks down and gets into his job. Don’t get into the water, his father tells him. I know dad, he replies. He dips his rope in the water and washes it several times. Stroking the water away from the rope he tells his father how well he has washed it. His father nod in affirmation but he is not satisfied. He leans in and waves his rope as the water flows toward the elder’s reserved enclave where I see my older self someday sneaking into it. I just missed that fish, he says. I don’t think there are any fishes, must be some water insects which he is trying to catch. He waves his rope slowly but this times a few water droplets flies over to his father. Don’t do that, his father tells him. He still does it. Jos…Jos don’t do it, it’s bad, his father continues.
I go through a dozen more pages. Nabi was the one behind Abdullah and Pari’s separation. I hated him for this. However he was soon compensated by the loss of Nila’s attention to him. I wonder if his Karma was really doing this to him. When I look back at the kid he is joined by his two elder brothers who were wandering here and there before, from swings to sliding and then to circular rides and then elsewhere. His father has tied strings on two ends of a white polybag. He is now trying to attach stick on other ends of stings. Take this, he offer to Jos as he finishes. Jos does not listen. He does not leave his stick with which he is trying to dig in the waterbeds. The two elder brother take the polybag. Put it the water and catch the fishes, he says. Daddy we are going the other side, the elder one says perhaps because Jos is creating disturbance in water which is deterrent for fishes to come there. They come to my side thought a bridge nearby and walks down to the lowest in the stairs. They both hold one stick each in their hands and try to dip the polybag in the water. It does not get it. It stays over the water. They do not give up, however, polybag keeps swimming over the water. Keep it little more down, their father guides. Spread the sticks, okay, okay, let the water collect, okay, keep it like that for some time now, he says as both of elder kids the maneuver to follow their father. After sometime, when water fills in the polybag, they pull polybag and check if they have caught any fishes. No Fishes dad, one of the kid says. They try a couple of more times but with no luck. One of them notices more fishes near the bridge, which is very close, perhaps ten steps right to my bench, and then they start their mission at a better location. Jos is still busy catching fishes with his rope and sticks, or maybe he has no intention to catch any and just want to play with water and fishes. Jos…Jos…stay back, don’t get into the water, if you touch water I am not going to drive you back to home, his father says. Why such a restriction, I wonder. Jos listens but do not respond, although I can see he is little more cautious now. Jos… are you getting me? This water is very dirty, father continues. I am not going in there dad, Jos says without moving his eyes away from the water.
I remember those beautiful days, my legs dipped in the canal and the passing of cold but sensual breeze as it brought excitement and happiness in my otherwise very dull and very boring life. I have lots of pictures of mine sitting on the stairs to the canal. It about those days when there were hardly any selfie phones, at least not in my knowledge, and we used to take hundreds of shots from the only back camera on my phone, smiling for an extended period until we captured a dozen pictures in one pose, finally for one or two pictures to be captured which we regarded as good. But there was a thing about those smiles. They were very natural. I remember how happy I was when I first presented those pictures to my friends. I still have them. A thousands of them. They are safe with me.
Nila left her husband when he was ill. She flied to Paris. Not with Nabi. He was still there with his owner although disheartened but loyal. He wanted to leave too, but couldn’t do so thinking about his owner’s illness. After another section I have a look at the kids. Jos has come to my side of the canal. The elder brothers are over the bridge with their sticks going down to the polybag in the water. They have leant to fill the water in the bag but getting a fish is still a distant dream.
Suddenly there is a boom. A new kid has come. He walks into the water which is otherwise a restrictive zone for other kids of similar age as his. His father is also here. He is sitting beside me on the same bench and currently busy on his smartphone. The new kid has got two nets, a bigger one which is blue colored and a smaller one which looks like a spoon. He drags his bigger net from one end of the bridge to the other. Lots of fishes, he grins. He walk to bridge and pours fishes into a small white box. Jos and his brothers are looking at this new kid. Perhaps wondering about restrictions that their father has made for them.
It afternoon now. I am feeling hungry. I look at the old shop on the other side of elder’s place where I have eaten a dozen times. I remember egg and bread that we ordered two plates every time we ate there. I never ate breads apart from a few small pieces that I was forced to eat. I liked those persuasions, that stubbornness for me. Yet, I am happy today thinking about my own food. Perhaps I should have been like this all the time, attentive of my heath.
The new kid is still dragging his net in water and has already caught a lot of fish, which I can see in the transparent box kept near the bridge. What will you do with so many fishes? somebody asks. I am not going to let them away from their home. I will put them back in water when I go, the kid says. I will come again to catch them, he adds.
It is 2 o clock now and I think of my wish to have food in timely manner with my own will power. I will come again I tell this beautiful place walk towards the exit. To catch my beautiful memories and with a net next time.