It would not be the veerikulen hund baamun or fraskulen hund fambh that would announce the arrival of spring in Malmoh. It would be something else.
Saebtathen sky blue shirt. Washed-out mercurial. But incisively creased.
Girls’ uniform of the Women’s College. Tailored to taste. Exotically stylish. Or so it seemed to us.
Katij – the swallow trying to sneak into our manzimi pohruk kuth – this room on the middle floor.
And Chandajigri hund dobb – the puddle. With keenlachi – the tiny tadpoles jostling to line themselves up in a military formation.
As the puddle would shrink by the day, tadpoles would gasp for their survival. “Hyo, Rajana”, Billoo, meun yaar – my friend, would tell me, “Yim maran waen – they will all die now”. He would sigh. I won’t.
But he won’t, and I would, as I would begin to miss winter and hunt for the last mound of snow, left untouched by the spring sunbeams, on an obscure corner of Kishkaken doss – the compound wall, so strong that it would crumble with one weak tho’ul – a head kick.
Mom and her yarbal vesse – the riverfront companions would ask for akh – one last sheen thoss – pile to roll over their tongues. They would be the happiest mothers. So contented in little that they would appear possessing much.
They would relish it like village elders would relish tamaek dhaama – a drag on tobacco.
Elsewhere, Billoo and I would pick up our masheks – the writing slates for a mohra fasha – smoothening to make them glisten.
Sometimes not happy with the chamak – the shine, we would give it soot treatment from a lashi budur – the lac stick. We wanted to see the happiness on Masterji’s face the first day of the school – The Primary School, Malmoh.
More than a Tyndale Biscoe for us.
It was above Balkak’s dukaan – the shop, where he sold kappur – the cloth, some noon chai – tea and salt, and also meel chaet – the ink pellets. We normally bought meel chaet, and once I even stole one.
When dad came to know of it, it became his yaztuk sawaal – the question of honor, and he tendered an apology to him in person. “Shur mahra chu, galti gayes – he is a child and has erred”, he told him. I was overhearing. The next day he gifted me another meel chaet. “Ratsa gobra – take it son”, he said. I blushed.
It is just in front of Balkak’s dukaan was the stop for Sherabad-Srinagar service. Spring would come to life here – Saebtathen sky blue shirt, girls’ uniform, Botji’s finely-creased black colored pants and orange shirt. Glamorous black. Ancient striped.
Plus many ichak daga sweaters, mostly home than readymade, dazzling in the morning sun – each carrying signature skill of a mother or a sister.
Saebtoth was the younger brother of dad’s best friend, Kanthji uncle. As he would walk towards Balkak’s dukaan, mom would match her mental clock with his emergence. “Aeth ha bhajaeyy – it is 8 AM”, she would say.
The huge house that we had, had everything except a wall clock. But there was an alarm clock, which we also called time-piece. More often than not it showed the incorrect time.
We would adjust needles at the correct one when guests were expected. “Yi chu angrezen hendi waktuk – this belongs to British Raj”, dad would often boast.
“Tamei chu Londnuk time hawaan – that is why it is showing London time”, mom would quip, only to make dad grin.
Dad would look wozul trael hue – like a red apple when angry. “Tscha sa wozlyakh – you turned red”, mom would taunt again. “Adka bhe gochus policesas manz asun, banyas mashter – yes, I should have been a policeman, but became a teacher”, he would reply, wearing an unwilling smile.
Oops, did I drift? Sorry. Well.
Sherabad bus would pick up the village tulips from the stop, and if we had a school day, we would be curious to flaunt our enviable masheks.
If not, Billoo and I would go mushroom picking. Over a time we came to be known as Malmoh’s best mushroom pickers – quiet familiar with mushroom hotspots. All three types – hendd, kanpapper, and kanghitch. At times we felt mushrooms knew us as much as we knew them. We talked to them. “Boya, boya, boya”, was our call to them, and they would never let us down.
More we spent time looking for them more would mothers be assured that kitchens would waft with a different odor for lunch.
However, when two expert hunters would return with no catch, the futility would be difficult to explain.
We would come across something else in the paddy fields, and apple orchards – a sight that would distract the attention of even the royal hunters.
A boy and a girl secretly sneaked out of their homes – least recognizable distantly and hardly audible – probably murmuring sweet nothings to each other.
Until the autumn, which would reveal more and conceal less, several pairs would etch themselves on our minds. Each of them would sense our naughtiness when they would cross our paths. We would turn our eyes away.
But wished to grow faster.
Billoo, who had a greater eye for such detail than me, would spot such lovely escapes through the corner of his eye. Soon he would abort hunting, and whisper to me:
“Rajana, ba’tur, ba’tur, ba’tur”.
Ba’tur came from the village thesaurus for such pairs, though the founder remained mysteriously unknown.
I would feel shy.
Mushrooms would disappear – probably feeling shy too.