In standard four, when I first started going to school, I had morning school.
In our family, like in many other families, students were not permitted to sleep during the day, only exception was during fever or other serious illnesses. For me having fever was a really good experience, I did not have to study when I had fever, my mother and my father used to talk with extra kindness during that time.
But the joy of falling sick was completely overshadowed when I imagined the taste of barley soup, the only food that was allowed during illness. My father used to keep few cans of Purity Indian Barley at home because we, my brothers and me, used to fall sick several times during a year. It was available in yellow colored containers of different sizes. On the surface of the cylindrical container there was a picture of a baby smiling in his mother’s arm. I was sure that the baby had never tasted barley soup because after tasting it nobody would be able to smile again. Barley soup was prepared by boiling white barley powder in plain water for almost half an hour. Before drinking a pinch of salt was added to it. I suffered more due to the barley than the fever causing viruses. I am sure that the viruses also suffered with me and that is why they had left me and attacked the next person.
Every day at noon, immediately after having lunch, I started doing my homework. My favorite subject during those days was Bengali poetry. We had to memorize the entire poem. During examination we had to write lines from those poems, not the entire poem but either the first eight lines or the last eight lines and sometime we had to fill in the blanks in a poem, where few words would be missing and we had to write those missing words. Memorizing poems gave me a great pleasure.
My brothers had day school so I used to read alone at home, sitting on the floor while my mother used to take little rest. We had a cat and she used to sit next to me while I remained busy with my homework. She used to sit in a right angled triangular posture. Her two hind legs, laid flat on the floor, formed the base of the triangle, two front legs formed the perpendicular line, supporting the upper part of her body and her entire body formed the hypotenuse of the triangle. As long as I studied she remained seated there. Every day I shared little bit of my food, mostly milk and bread with her.
Every year during monsoon the cat used to give birth to kittens. It happened almost every year, due to sudden rise in water level in the middle of the night she was separated from her kittens. In the middle of the night while she was visiting our neighbors’ houses, the entire area got flooded. Her kittens, still unable to see, were in our house, crying for their mother but their mother could not be seen anywhere. If she had to come back to her kittens she had to swim but cats do not like to go near water, so she remained separated for few days. During her absence we tried to feed cow milk to the kittens using a dropper. After the water had receded and the cat returned she would not be able to recognize the kittens immediately. It would take almost a day for her to accept those kittens as her own and after she had started feeding them again the kittens would die due to over eating after a long starvation.
I do not know how long she could remember her losses.
Author: Mintu Ghoshal.
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