Since my father used to work in a city, some eight hours far, we got a chance to visit the village only during the summer vacations or when any marriage was organised during other times of the year.
Most of my memories about village are about my mother’s paternal home (our nani-ghar). My dadaji used to live just a few miles from us in the city, so the village house was closed for a major part of the year. Also there was the usual bitterness between the sas and bahu; so nanighar was frequented more often.
We would heave a sigh of relief when the summer vacations were announced. Normally the journey was fixed for a day or two after the vacations started. Papa would buy us new clothes (in those days he could hardly afford more than a pair of clothes for us- we belonged to a middle class family and only recently we have started to enjoy the luxuries of life. but that’s a different story and we will talk about that some other time). We would eagerly share our journey plans with friends, also getting to know where they would be headed.
Finally the day approached. The bus was more often scheduled in the morning, so that we can reach home by the evening. Mother would wake up early to start preparations for the journey. Finally, we were woken off from our bed. Just a call of name was enough to wake me up. My cousin, who used to live with us, however had to be shaken off from bed. It was really tough task for our parents to manage an army of four spoilt brats.
We would dress in our best. In those days, anything other than the school uniform was more than a luxury. Mother was the last to get dressed. She wasn’t like the other women who were forever dressing. Instead, she had all the household chores to complete, to ensure that all dishes were done, to ensure that the cans containing food items were tightly closed, and finally to ensure that no window was open.
The bus stand was about two kilometers from our place. So father dropped us in his Bajaj Chetak scooter in three trips. Lal (eldest of all siblings) and Manish were the first to be dropped. Then Anupam and I was herded to the bus stand. Finally, father would come with mother. He would park his scooter at his office just a few blocks away and we would all be eagerly waiting for the bus.
The bus arrives, usually on time. The bookings were already done. But the usual squabble about the little kids (me and anupam) and their fares was a necessity. The issue more often was settled in our favour.
But the squabble between we siblings was still remaining to be resolved. Who will take the window seat? Anupam and I were the ones who were in the fray. The elder siblings had already learnt that it’s not good manners to fight in the public. Although they wouldn’t mind putting some fuel in the fight. Finally papa would have to interfere and gives us two window seats each, if available. Or else, I was forced to stay with father, which I would dislike the most since he was very fussy with how children must behave.
Now that the issues are resolved and we have all settled on our respective seats, it’s time to do some sightseeing from bus. We pass the Maithon Dam area, the luxury available to us only during the annual picnic.
The bus would generally stop at a few big stands to take in more passengers. Not all are as fortunate to have got a seat. Some tribal women too come aboard and the conductor makes lewd remarks at them, many times in the presence of their men.
The important places are Mihijam (Chittranjan), Dumka, Hasdiha, Godda etc. To cater to the passengers, many roadside stalls and dhabas have come up. These sell sweat meats like rasgulla, gulabjamun, tikri, khaja, kalakand, jalebi etc. Also these store snacks like pakoda, samosa, kachri etc. We very much like a particular preparation made out of muri, pakoda, ghugni, kachri and mustard oil etc (not available in those days in the coalfield area). We would relish it and every time we visit these places we make it a point to have our hand on this spicy dish.
Somewhere at two in the noon we would reach dumka, which has now been given second capital status. It’s a big city and the bus has to wind its way to come to this place, so that the passengers can have some lunch. It’s not like the Delhi to Vaishno Devi Yatra, where the bus-wallah would make it a point to stop at the most expensive restaurant on way.
Papa has a weak stomach, so he prefers to abstain from oily foods. So chawal dal is the best bet. But ma hates this the most. So you want to show how poor you are by eating this even outside. They always get a reason to fight. But they are a lovely couple. Don’t they say “jahan ikrar hota hai wahin pyar hota hai”.
After a half hour break, we finally move from dumka. Dumka can also be called a door to the Ang Pradesh or Manihari Pradesh. From here onwards you slowly leave behind the Bengali influence and more often than not you will come across people speaking Angika, a mixed form of Maithili.
Ma starts recount stories about this place. About relatives living here. About the wrong and right people have done. Many things to speak.
At three in the noon, we reach a place called Nonihat. It is known for the best sonpapri (although of Bengali origin, most dishes come to acquire their own popularity at different places). Ma is sure to purchase a kilogram or two of these delicious sonpapris for the journey and for taking to her relatives.
We have left Nonihat and we are coming closer to the final destination that this bus can take us to. At Godda, we have to drop off the bus. A 6-7 hours journey on bumpy roads of ill kept Jharkhand and Bihar in such hot climate has tired all of us.
But I can see ma’s eyes glowing with excitement. Really women can’t give up the attachment with their maykaas.
From here we will take a local bus to our village. At the bus stand, many people recognise ma. They begin sharing news about the village and the people. More often it’s about someone’s death, marriage, or birth. Really people in the villages have so little to think about.
The bus is a little late today. Then someone talks about news that the bus is stuck at the police station for some offences by the driver. We are frantic. Now I really want to reach home fast. Fortunately the bus comes and the conductor here is biased towards the fairer people, since he too belongs to the upper caste Rajput. The woman we just met has given our introductions and we are promised seats. The bus is packed. Not only are there people inside the bus and clinging to the door, there are also people packed at the roof top.
Winding through many villages and through metalled roads and cart tracks, the bus finally arrives at the village. It’s the last stop for the bus as well. Except for a few lighted shops, it’s all dark by now. Each family has people to recieve them at the bus stop. There are people you will have to stoop down to do the usual Hindu salutation. There are people who would be doing the same to you since you are elder to them. Finally you are escorted to the home where there are the women folk eagerly awaiting your homecoming. Nani is all tears at meeting her daughter after so many months. She loves us too. Father is sitting on an old charpoy laid for the guests in the courtyard. His salas (ma’s younger brothers) have gathered around him to do some bantering. The journey has ended and marks the start of a two months sometimes exciting sometimes boring summer vacation in the village.