Sitting on the lawns adjoining my hostel, a tall and stout woman, with her sari hitched half way up her legs, holding on to the hosepipe as if her life depended on it, suddenly appeared from nowhere. I blinked and she was gone.
The cool winds and the lush green lawns did nothing to soothe my cranky nerves. Having passed with average marks in my SSC boards, I was pushing myself to score above average in my HSC boards. To save myself from the odious comparisons of studious and more bright roomies, I had taken to studying in the lawns adjoining my hostel.
I pored over my books, frowned, scowled, walked up and down remembering, recalling and then going blank. My rather feeble and reluctant smiles were reserved only for the surly, gruff head gardener or Kaka as I called him. He was the one who called the shots in the lawns, shooing away students at will.
Seeing that I posed no hindrance when he watered the lawns lavishly, trimmed the hedges, or cleaned the marble statue of our founder-Principal, he let me study there.
When I got tired of worrying and he was taking a break from watering the plants, we would chat a bit. He praised the founder-Principal, who had ensured that only girl students could make use of the lawns.
“Girls are more vulnerable. I am glad that they have a place where they can relax and be safe from the prying eyes,” Kaka would say.
His another favourite topic was “lack of helpers”.
“I am getting old now,” he said pointing to his snow-white hair. “I can't be around forever to take care of the lawns. Summer is approaching. Trees and plants need water, more water,” he sighed.
I would click my tongue in sympathy, but my thoughts were pre-occupied with the approaching exams.
One day I was worrying as usual... “another 10 days and I would be penning my future on the ruled sheets.” Suddenly a peal of laughter intruded my worries. It couldn't be Kaka and it certainly wasn't me.
A tall, stout woman with her sari hitched half way up her legs was holding on to the hosepipe as if her life depended on it turned around to look at me.
Soon the lawn was ringing with laughter, and loud arguments between Kaka and the lady.
“This plant here needs more water...and that patch over there needs to be weeded out. This and that...” the lady continued bullying Kaka, who finally fell in line with her instructions.
As days flew, I could sense a change in Kaka. He smiled a lot, was easy to talk to and his lawns... yes they looked different to, brimming with life and colour.
Exams finally got over...I was smiling readily and widely. I happily packed my bags to go back home – to sleep and to hog.
After two months of hogging, sleeping and gaining a few pounds I returned for another year at the hostel. My results were not as I expected them to be...but I was past worrying now.
I went to check my new accommodation. It overlooked the lawns which looked a nice, happy shade of green. I spotted Kaka at his usual post and went down to meet him.
He smiled and asked, “When is your mother coming again? She was a great help during the summers. I have got the gavathi gulab (wild roses) varieties she wanted. Take them along when you go home next.”
I nodded in agreement.
|This's how the lawn (March 18, 2012) looks like. Don't want to believe my eyes|