I don’t know who lived there but the hut was neatly thatched and it looked inviting. It stood at the edge of a mud track in the midst of fields by the road to the Yamuna. It was built of reeds and supported by the trunks of old trees that had cracked with age. Brilliantly coloured insects ran up and down the cracks and fed on the mould. The walls were made of mud that was packed closely. They turned the colour of Khaki in the late evening sunlight. Inside the hut there was just enough space for a man to get in and feel cosy.
I don’t know who lived there but the door of the hut was always open. It was thick and strong. It was made of wood that was old and smooth; in fact you could see the grains on it, over which you felt like running your hand. Sometimes a ladybird would settle on the door and spread its wings in a blur, or often one could see a woodpecker testing her skills on it. When the wind blew, the door flapped loosely and creaked.
The wind came from every direction. Every now and then it would sing through the trees and occasionally it would whistle through the cornfields. At intervals, it came in a rush and then the thatch in the hut would rustle as it filtered the wind. From whichever direction it came, it always seemed to carry the smell of roses from the garden.
I don’t know who looked after the rose garden; but there were roses of every shade and colour. There were pink roses and white roses, and even a yellow one. And there were many more between these shades. The flowers stood out bright in the early afternoon sunshine, opening their petals to the sky. Bees would buzz past them, sucking the honey, now from one and now from another.
The roses were laid out in a neat rectangular patch. The earth in the rose patch was rich, the colour of chocolate. It was always wet with the water that was drawn from the well.
Next to the rose patch were trees of every kind. There were mango trees, Jamun trees, Seesham, and Neem trees, and trees one couldn’t name. Some had large green leaves, and some had leaves that were yellow and small. Some trees were short and some reached for the sky. Some just spread outwards, like the mango tree.
I don’t know who looked after it but the mango tree was always waxy and green. Its great big branches spread out across the back of the hut, and there was shade enough for a dozen men to sit under it. In summer the branches were heavy with mangoes. There were no naughty schoolboys here to pluck them, or knock them off with carefully aimed stones from catapults. Occasionally, a squirrel would shin up the tree and eat a ripe mango, and the seed would then drop with a soft thud onto the ground. Or a bird would tuck into the juicy sides of a mango and leave the rest of the fruit hanging. The birds always knew the best fruits.
I don’t know why but the owner of the hut never plucked the mangoes. Perhaps he had left them for the birds. There were many birds. They lived in the nests on the trees in front of the house. There were large nests, small nests and really tiny nests. These nests were at every level on the tree. There was one on the upper level that was home to a pair of cattle egrets. You saw them only as they left the nests and glided ethereally into the fields below, their heads tucked into their chests and their legs held together neatly, like chopsticks. Below the egrets, lived a pair of parakeets. They had rich plum coloured heads and bluish collars, and bills as orange as a papaya. At the lowest level was a pair of spotted owlets. They would doze all day in the leafy branches but kept a sharp eye on the proceedings below. If you looked up you could see them with their large circular golden eyes looking at you. They could see the entrance and the courtyard of the hut, and if you attempted to approach it, they would hoot you away.
I don’t know who lived there but the courtyard was always spotlessly clean. It was swept with cow dung and because of this the mud had caked into a hard mould. You could see the sweep of the broom on the floor as it ran evenly one way. Ants would often march across the courtyard in long disciplined lines. There were black ants that scurried along quickly and there were red ants that relayed information as they passed each other. I guess they told each other about the location of that last piece of grain at the edge of the courtyard, the one the birds had left behind.
I don’t know who scattered the grains, but there was always some lying on the courtyard for the birds. The birds would fly down from their nests, feed, sing at the entrance to the hut and fly back to their nests. At times you could see their ghostly silhouettes in the moonlight.
The moon would appear directly above the hut and flood it, and the courtyard with her light, turning the mud floor into a bright gold. Some of this light would also get into the hut through the chinks in the thatch. It tempted you to look inside. Inside there was a glow, perhaps the glow of the moonlight, or perhaps…
I know HE lived there but I never saw HIM.
This was first published in the November 2013 issue of Complete Wellbeing.
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