Neil as a Divine Blessing
An unknown Boy arrives
When my mother passed away rather untimely we were left in the lurch, for there was no female member in the family comprising three brothers to do the household chores. After much persuasion we could engage a boy to help us somehow manage the situation while doing his own studies.
He was Neil who came from a poor family. He had an innocent look and attractive features and was in his early teens. When he first came I was skeptical since I had feared induction of such an unknown boy might cause more harm than bring benefits. But my elder brother, an engineer by profession, who alone had already been in a good job preferred to give him a chance since he had found in him a ray of hope, which could be groomed to our mutual advantage.
Our initial fears were belied gradually as Neil slipped into our daily routine much to our relief and astonishment. He was initiated into the kitchen with a good measure of assistance. His day would start very early in the morning preparing tea and keeping the cups by our bedside. "Dadas, wake up. Bring me some vegetables and fish from the market” was his usual address every morning. That would signal preparation for another of our day’s routine. After he had picked up cooking with much gusto we gradually found him making breakfast ready on time, which we would savour eagerly. Lunch and dinner menu were, however, kept simple to enable him to study properly.
We got him admitted to a local school for the dual purpose of educating him as also to provide him with some company as our house had to be locked at that time. He would return home from school in the afternoon and stay in the neighbouring houses till such time we returned. "You do not know how much impatient he becomes when you are late in coming home”-neighbours would tell us frequently indicating how much he loved and cared for us.
He was spared some time in the evening to prepare his school lessons. He picked up a lot from us and gradually became quite good in vernacular, Arithmetic, and even acquired a smattering of English. He would often draw our attention to English newspaper articles pointing to his favourite topics. His joy would be more pronounced with his typical East Bengal (now Bangladesh) dialect which we enjoyed heartily. We had kept with him a tiny writing pad to prepare memo slips which he used without mistakes. On Sundays and holidays he would definitely take us to playgrounds for playing cricket or football. We used to buy him picture and story books as we knew stories always play a vital role in the growth and development of a child. The books they read and the characters they get to know can help a lot.
Turns down offers
In keeping with his culinary talents he later proved to be quite at ease in other household chores as well. He began to keep our house tidy. ”You need not marry. Your house is so neatly maintained that even your wives will fail to match” we heard off and on from our relations and neighbours. Once a neighbour tried to lure away Neil by offering substantial tips which he declined much to our relief.
Boy leaves & Absence Conspicuous
As the worst time of our bereavement was gradually over one day suddenly his mother appeared to take her son back. The news of his father's death had already reached us and she decided not to part with him now much changed with education and discipline we could instil during his stay with us for four long formative years. Besides bearing his expenses we used to pay him his wages separately by credit to his account opened with a Bank. With time the figure had swelled to a considerable amount for a family he came from. She took the money with her.
As Neil disappeared from our family his absence became conspicuous as life was found not to be the same again. But then the marriage of my elder brother had already been settled and with the arrival of the long awaited benign feminine face in the family the gloom and untidiness of the so called Bachelor’s den faded away. Neil also began to slowly pale from our memory and we became more and more engaged in family lives.
Neil retraced/ Treading Memory lane
After that three decades passed by and a few years back while on a visit to a Government office in another state on deputation I was pacing up and down the corridor since the concerned person was not available. A middle aged man came by my side, touched my feet in respect and said “don’t you remember me? How are my other brothers?” I was totally taken aback by long lost Neil's surprising presence.
I gathered from him that he had secured a job there becoming the first in his family to be educated and blessed with a government service. He was full of praise for us for giving him the opportunity to be established in life. Needless to say that I had my much needed job done through him shortly.
The incident submerged me in a search down memory lane. I was suddenly jolted out of my reverie and conceived the idea that I should invite Neil to my residence to introduce him to my family members to let them know his contribution during our adversity. But I could immediately realise that like a short story such unforgettable episode had an incomplete ending and that my closest relations would never perhaps relate to such an emotional attachment.I preferred to treasure such fond memories in my heart only.
As Neil was talking about his indebtedness to us I wondered how much did we owe to him. He could not perhaps realise it as he had served us so well during our hard times by his pleasant company. We still consider this as a divine blessing.
Copyright –RESERVED BY THE AUTHOR
© 2012 ARUN KANTI CHATTERJEE