The cultural significance of the buffalo and the real fate it suffers.
The buffalo is a culturally very significant animal: it is the vehicle of Death. Death, or Yama as He is known by, is believed to be dark and rides a male bull buffalo. The dream in which one is chased by a buffalo is thus believed to be a significantly bad dream heralding unknown dangers. This story, taken from "Daughter of a Watermill" thus revolves around the buffalo: its cultural significance as well as its fate... The following is an excerpt from the story titled "Nights of the Buffalo Bull".
Sabitri noticed him paying the boy as she walked along the pavement carrying morning meal for him. As the boy darted across the street, he turned, noticed her, and smiled. She felt awkward: he was her husband of years. Why should he smile at her, at this age, as if he was a young man and she a teenager? No doubt, he’s changed again after that eclipse over his brow. ‘(You’ve) Come smiling. What so strange has happened today?’ He flattered her with an unbelievable smile. Yes, unbelievable, of the man muted only yesterday.
‘You know, I saw an insect moult today,’ she replied, ‘and saw it shed a skin.’
‘Is that a good enough reason to smile along? Well, perhaps it is. After all it’s living its life, and life’s a rather precious thing. Don’t mind.’ He sat down on the small mat, his shoes taken off at some distance, towards his back. ‘So you’ve seen an insect moult, aye?’
‘I also noticed a seedling,’ she added, not answering his question of surprise or that of curiosity if that was one. Her husband sometimes asked too many questions like an innocent child as if he knew nothing. And she liked him more for that. He was learned also, and possibly wise too, but not with cunning as was natural to most men. He was her artless husband and she sometimes loved to play with his simplicity even if she hardly knew to read or write her own name.
‘What seedling?’ he asked, startled. ‘I mean, in this cold of winter?’
‘Probably an orange pip has germinated, or a lime seed, in the flower pot. It’s so small, it’s difficult to know which one it is.’
‘It’s orange. I know it’s orange. I’d thrown all the seeds from an orange into that pot last time. Which pot was it?’
How can he be so sure it’s orange. Sabitri questioned to herself. The pots are moved from this side to that side, placed and replaced and exchanged. It all depends upon his moods, the full moon, the no moon... ‘It’s on this side of the doorway—’
‘Which side?’ he quickly asked.
‘This side, ké, this side. The one in which there was aloe before.’
‘Leave it, leave it. Maybe it’s lime, or orange...’ his cheerfulness vanished now that he could not be sure and certain, but it returned once again. ‘So you saw a seedling on the pot? Hhhmmmmm!’ The aloe had already been re-potted in another because the previous pot had looked rather small for its size and now there were few empty pots as well. Empty of any specific plant, that is, and anything could germinate and grow in them. But neither orange nor lime. The pot would be too small for either of them when they grew. Had they germinated in open soil, they would keep growing, produce branches, flower, and fruit. A gift of heaven... Aye, wait! Adhikari had a flash. He hurriedly finished eating and left the empty box for his wife to take back home. ‘Beginning to feel a bit hungry these afternoons,’ he reminded her.
‘In winter it’s always so; one feels more hungry because of the cold.’ She reminded him of the fact.
‘Could you make some rotis and prepare potatoes? Something like the sort?’ he asked.
Sabitri sensed he was up at something again, nodded in affirmation, and left with the empty lunchbox. He couldn’t be dating a damsel at this grey age of his, could he?
Were it a mango... he continued thinking, a banana or a papaya seedling. Anyway, a seed has germinated, sprouted out, pierced the earth and emerged itself into the air, the sky, the light of the heavens. It doesn’t matter what plant or tree it gives rise to, or has the potential. Were it in soil—not in the pot, that is—it would grow, spread branches, produce buds, flower, fruit. And it would cast a shade. Adhikari quickly grabbed a sheet and scribbled lines in it. After finishing, he went through the lines again and again in amazement and chuckled gleefully. Some came so smooth and so easily while others turned you into a different man altogether before they were readable. In ten minutes, for example, this seed-germination-life poem was finished without much effort. In comparison, the buffalo poem had taken three days completely, and disturbed his nights’ sleeps as well. Ah, poetry; poetry! He went through the lines again and satisfied, folded it and shoved it into his pocket; there were now two in it. Adhikari smiled within himself, his gladness visible on his face that has appeared to be brighter. He knew well that there was no end, no finis, to a composition or a creativity of words; the revisions through time could become endless but for the time being two had been done well and they could be filed or trans-written onto his third poetry note-book and read from time to time, to feast himself, to relax his eyes and mind, and for possible improvements. The loose pages and sheets of paper that were now in his pocket could, after they were copied over with dates, then be burnt or shredded, disposed of one way or the other. Adhikari brightened up and became cheerful; he was happy now, at least for the time being.
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There is a love story, two rather strange stories with strange narratives, a story about cigarettes and the Burmese uprising of 1988, and among these, as well as others, also a story of abduction during the violence of the armed insurgency that started in 1966 and lasted for more than a decade. The details are in another post within this blog, if you are interested.