In the morning it appeared that every house was on fire, from every single house smoke spewed out. People used coal as fuel for cooking. But there were also many families, lived in one corner of the village in mud houses, used dried plants available everywhere to make fire for cooking; almost all of these families had no regular source of income.
In another corner, few men from Santhal Pargana of Bihar used to live. They worked primarily as unskilled construction workers carrying bricks, breaking stones for making concrete roofs and roads &C. They were also sometimes called by people for digging ponds, cutting large trees etc. In the morning they used to walk towards the city carrying tools like axes, hammers. They looked much stronger than any common villager. Small boys and girls couldn’t understand their language and were very afraid of them because of their different lifestyles and also because fear was inculcated into their minds by their parents that those people would kidnap small children if found alone. They used to make Indian breads having the shape of pancakes from whole wheat flour by creating fire outside their mud huts. For source of fire they also used dry branches of trees. Sometimes they caught live snakes or large rats from jungle with bare hands and chopped the heads instantly and roasted in fire and eat the roasted meat with bread. People used to call them ‘Santhals’. They could not be seen anywhere during monsoon when they visited their native state of Bihar and returned at the end of the rainy season. When Proloy grew up, all of them, except one, whose name was Mahavir, left their village. Mahavir eventually learnt to speak Bengali but with a strange accent. He lived alone till he became very old and then left; nobody knew whether he went back to Bihar or to some other place.
[To be continued]
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