It is amazing how a totally unrelated thread conjures up a trail of memory and thoughts. I was reading Amartya Sen's "An uncertain glory" where he mentions the 2012 power outage in India which is one of the largest blackouts in history. It instantly brought back some memories from my childhood. My ancestral home is a small place called Nanoor which is about 22 kms from Shantiniketan (Rabindranath Tagore's base camp/ coincidentally Amartya Sen's birthplace). I used to spend my vacations here.Though officially electricity had reached these areas decades back but even till about 15 years back long and frequent blackouts were extremely common. When one has blackouts in cities it is in phases and very local to particular areas and one usually sees shimmering lights in the distance, hears a lot of traffic and activities continue over lit up candles after a brief sigh of disappointment from everyone. And the electricity is restored quite quickly which again only briefly blinds the eyes and brings about an orchestrated cry of relief while the television comes to life. The ceiling fan whizzes around clearing up the air of the waxy smell of blown out candle smoke dispersing away after their seductive wavy dance.
A blackout in the village is pitch dark. One hears voices from neighbouring homes while the moon shines on the pond in the backyard with frogs croaking in unison.If one listen's carefully one can hear the occasional prayer song and the tinkering beats of the accompanying khanjani from the vaishnav singers trailing down from the terracotta temples across the pond. The earthen lamp lit up as a daily ritual at the tiny alcove near the tulsi plant, shines brighter in the darkness. While these images are vivid in my mind there are some which are getting washed away by the years. Like the many stories which my uncle narrated from his readings. We kids heard him in rapt attention - stories of heroic pursuits and fairy tales and most fascinating horror and detective stories. He was a seasoned story teller who created an aura of suspense befitting the surrounding darkness and quiet. We bunch of restless children were entranced much to the relief of our mothers.
I returned to the page I was reading realizing that I was fixated on it for quarter of an hour. I shut down the book and closed my eyes tight shut to remember some of the stories. The trouble is I am not well versed in bengali literature and therefore mapping stories to books/novels is a very difficult option for me. But one word suddenly echoed in my mind - "Kalo Bhramar". I googled up the word and it instantly threw me the book of the same name by author Nihar Ranjan Gupta. I looked him up and came to know that he met Agatha Christie while in England and deeply inspired by her books wrote a four part series creating a detective of his own called "Kiriti Roy". One of the books in the series is called "Kalo Bhramar".
My uncle passed away a couple of years back leaving behind a legacy of pleasant memories on otherwise dark summer months.
"Khanjani" - A musical instrument made up of metal plates which are struck to create a tinkering beat.
"Kalo Bhramar" - literal translation - Black bumble bee
"tulsi" - basil plant