Makara: The Dhobi’s Son & My Buddy

( I had written this sometime back and shared with my friends on FB. I was reminded of Makara early his morning, when the little son of my washerman here, came to collect clothes after almost 10 days, instead of his father. I found out that his father is unwell and he is chipping in.He was carrying a huge load of clothes. So I gave him a lift in my car with all his clothes bundles ( my house was the last) that he dropped off with his mother for the ironing, and then left him in his school. The little chap, I suspect, had been a tad happy to have bunked school!But he soon got over his dejection with the Rs 20/- I gave him for eating a choco-bar from the ice-cream wallah.Confidently,, he told me that after Ranbir Kapoor , he likes me. I flinched with this strange compliment, but accepted it with the required humility 😀

Just thought then, that connections such as these are what makes life beautiful.One can spend a  a brief time with someone and they will change your life, or one can spend a lifetime with a person and remain unchanged. Makara was one person who changed my life. In the brief period that I knew him, he taught me what  friendship is all about and that your friend need not necessarily be from  those in your corner of the forest. I also learned that  “It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn’t use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like “What about lunch?”   ( Winnie the Pooh)

I hope you will like and understand the depth of the beautiful friendship I had with Makara )

“Makara Sankranti” has just passed by. And somehow I remembered my childhood buddy ‘Makara’, the police line dhobi’s ( washerman) son. Perhaps, my memory got jogged with my recent travel in Coorg with its brilliant “flame creeper’ flowers- in clusters, golden –orange and breathtakingly beautiful. When I was a kid, this used to grow in all its wild glory in our bungalow in Cuttack where my Dad was posted as Superintendent of Police. Makara would bring me these flowers everyday, sometimes threaded into a garland. He was the dhobis’ son, a couple of years senior to me in age and my best buddy. Why ? Because he treated me at par with the guys… and called me “chua babu” (i.e ‘kid sir’, if literally translated from Oriya). Not “didi”, as girls are normally addressed, mind you! And this endeared him to me, for as long as I can remember I wanted to be born a guy. Makara made me a ‘gulel’( sling-shot) and taught me to use it as good as him. We went fishing together in the Mahanadi river; and since I cried when he threaded earthworms as bait, and said it was cruel, he gallantly switched to using ‘atta’( flour). My mother despaired that the nice, well brought –up children of the other officers were not my friends. And each time I came back in the evening-grubby, grimy, knees/elbows scraped etc- she would yell at Makara, while also giving him the mandatory huge glass of milk (UGH!) that I had to drink! Although my mother paid for his schooling, the guy would regularly bunk classes and generally hang around our bungalow, playing with my dogs, taking care of my mother’s treasured garden…waiting for me to return from school. Years passed by and we moved all over Orissa with my Dad’s transfers and gradually Makara faded into the background of my mind.

One day when I was doing my Bachelor of Arts, my Ma asked me to give clothes to the dhobi, saying crisply “Count them’ .I walked out to find this tall guy standing very humbly along with the Reserve Inspector (RI as he is known in policia lingo and responsible for administration in the barracks etc ).When he looked up and gave a very hesitant smile, I screamed in recognition ‘Makara’! His face split in a wide grin and I was four years old again, running along the river side with him. A very strident and authoritative voice penetrated my reminiscences. The RI’s voice..who looked aghast that the Sahib’s daughter was grinning so happily at the dhobi. ‘Touch chotti didi’s feet’, thundered the RI. And by way of explanation the RI told me that it was Makara’s first day in the job and that he had been given compassionate appointment in lieu of his father’s death. As my childhood buddy touched my feet, tears pricked my eye lids. A moment of deep poignancy. Of a glorious childhood gone by. Never again will there be a return to innocence. I had read somewhere these beautiful lines- now I forget by whom- ‘There is a weeping in my heart, like the rain falling on the city. What is this strange languor that pierces my heart?”

The incident affected me deeply and I felt strangely let down. And one fine morning I decided to inform my buddy that he is still dear to me. How? By gifting him one of my German Shepherd pups. Now I NEVER part with my dogs and there have been times when 9 GSDs roamed in our house! Makara was thrilled! ‘Give him an English name’, he told me. ‘Jimi’, I said, adding, ‘Jimi Hendrix is God to me’. He didn’t understand that obviously but grinned .Jimi grew upto into one the most fabulous GSDs I have ever seen! He would have won in all the dog shows held in the district. But I guess Makara was wise enough not to register Jimi in the shows..imagine the deep consternation of the IG/DIG sahibs, and especially their memsahibs’, had the dhobis’s dog won over their pooches!

RIP Makara. He died of cirrhosis of the liver in April, 2007.

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