Back to the roots

‘Auntie? Auntie?' - I jerked my head towards the direction from which the call came. Being so accustomed to being called ‘ajji’ by one and all, this new mode of address took me by surprise. I looked around to see whether there was any ‘auntie’ sort of lady in sight, but finding none, proceeded to locate the owner of that voice. ‘Why auntie, have you forgotten me?’

Seeing my blank expression the smart ly-dressed boy laughed before introducing himself- ‘I am Ramakrishna.’ Seeing it did not click, a pained look crossed his face- ‘Have you forgotten me already? Your ‘Benne Krishna?' It was then that recognition set in; Of course it was he...but not the same! Where had that cherubic face with that charming bubbly smile that had endeared him to all of us gone? Not bothering to know his name, we had christened him as ‘BenneKrishna’ ,and he had accepted that name as rightfully his. He had become a man now no doubt, with the small clipped moustache, but that was no reason for that hard look in lieu of the former warmth in expression -voice?

'I am no longer with your provision-stores, but working in a mall -–that big mall which has risen up over there’-He explained. Did I notice a hint of regret in his voice? 'I bring our boys from the village, give shelter and good food-clothing, and train them up;I help their family over there also in times of distress by sending major portion of the salaries, but the boys change after tasting city-life.

Lured by temptations they give us the slip all of a sudden by joining the big malls sprouting like mushrooms all over our Bangalore; Getting good pay, they squander it in all ways-junk food, flashy clothes etc. Bad company also plays a major factor in changing the raw boys susceptible to alien exposures. I remember the owner of our provision stores venting his grievances- And amma,the funny part is their elders at home feel elated atfrst imagining their son to be on the road of becoming a sahib, then gradually become disillusioned when the money stops coming, and the boys drift away; Imagine, I am being made the scapegoat ! Hence I have decided not to go in for anybody in our village, but scout for local ones with their parents to guide them.'

‘Are you happy now,Krishna?’— Remembering all that, I could not help asking the boy –’I hope you are sending money to your parents?’ 'I am trying to, auntie, but it is difficult, after being on my own. Rent of the room, food taken outside, all cut a big slice in my income. And I have to dress well, otherwise the owners of malls throw us out. And there is nobody to speak to, turn to, in times of need!’

Loneliness and insecurity, two terrible banes of modern life were writ on his face. “Why don’t you go back, and help your father to look after your land?”- I advised him- 'Go back before it is too late...He must have considered my advice, for very soon he packed up and left for good. I still remember his parting words- ‘ There are so many people at home to look after me if I fall ill, auntie plus good food-milk-curds !
Unable to toil alone, my father was thinking of selling his land s for the big price he was being offered by city-industrialists, but now that I am there to help him he won’t.; Bhoomitayi is our real mother, it is she who gives food to all of us, we should not betray her trust in us.’

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