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Murchana – The Melody of the Hills

I
Murchana was the most silent girl in the engineering college. Hardly anyone could notice her, when she would pass by. Although everyone liked her, but she avoided company and preferred to remain confined to her melancholic world. She was a short innocent girl from a tribal district of Orissa and was fairly average at studies. She was never the subject of discussion in the college or in the hostel, as she was nowhere near the realm of those categories of students who were always the point of discussion, gossip or admiration.
It was only in the 3rd year, she started becoming free. Though it was very rare, to see her face lit up with a smile. But whenever she did, I couldn’t help admiring her beauty. More or less I started secretly liking her and always searched for an opportunity to start a brief talk with her. Every time I approached her for anything, she would welcome me with a smile. By the beginning of 4th year we became very close friends and batch mates tagged us “The Silent Pair”.
It was some times during mid of September, she handed me a paper with designed letters printed in colour and said, “I have specially printed it for you, as we have not printed any invitation card as such, but you town people are very used to it and might not consider it as a proper invitation unless you are given invitation inform of an expensive card. That’s why I have designed it myself and it is especially for you”
I was almost in a shocked state, my face was worth noticeable. As I held the paper in my hand, I asked her, “You are getting married?!!!”
With a broad mischievous smile in her face she said, “Read it.”
And it was written,
“To,
My Dearest Friend Gyanaranjan,
With greatest pleasure in my heart, it makes me feel glad to invite you to my elder Sister, Archana’s marriage at Sohin village, Kandhamal on 1st October, 2006”
As I finished the reading and looked at her cheerfully, she laughed putting her palm in her mouth and said, “You thought, I am getting married………it’s late mister and when it will be, you will be the 1st person to know about it.”

It was indeed a special invitation and she knew I will definitely attend it. A week before the ceremony she left for her native and asked me to be there a day before. It was an overnight journey to Phulbani from Bhubaneswar by bus. It was my first time on those parts of Orissa. As I woke up, it was early in the morning, and the bus was descending down a ghat section. I gasped in awe, I had never imagined, such natural scenery. It was half past six, and my bus reached at the small hill town of Phulbani.
As I got down from the bus, a known, but extremely different figure stood before me with a smile. It was Murchana, with traditional attire, looking extremely beautiful. She was wearing a cotton Shari with yellow and black checks and was wearing it in a different style.
“You are looking beautiful!!!” I said her as I greeted her with a smile.
“Is it? Thank you” she said as she looked for someone nearby.
A boy came running with a cycle and she asked him to greet me.
“Juhar Bhaina”, he said mechanically, and took my back pack and loaded it on the cycle carrier.
I smiled and said, “Juhar”
“He is my cousin, Babuna, he is the youngest of all”, she said as we walked out of the bus stand.
“How far is your home from here?”
“It’s 18 Km from here by road, but if we can take the shortcut by the hills, it will be only 5 Km, hope it will be not difficult for you”
“Not at all”
“I know, You Sahari babus, are not used to it”, She said teasingly.
“Hey, who is sahari babu?, and since when you have started talking like this.”
“I, always talk like this” saying thus, she walked behind Babuna’s cycle and I followed her.
She was completely a different character then, this silent sober girl could have a different avatar, was out my imagination. Her gait was rhythmic. At times she was hopping like a little girl and was swinging her both hand highly as she walked ahead.
When she found that I was left behind a little and was struggling to walk up hill, she said, “What dear, Taai taai fissssssssss…..” and started laughing.
As I reached near her, she took my hand in hers’ and said, “Little ahead, a big Peepal tree is there and we shall rest for a while” and walked ahead.
It was a huge tree on the top of the ridge and the scene was incredible. Forest and hills were all around.
As we sat for a while below the tree, she pointed me at a direction below the hill and said; “down there in the valley is my village. I used to walk every day this way to school and later on to government Science College, in the town. It was my favorite rest place. Life was completely different then, and I had never imagined reading at Bhubaneswar. My life was confined to these hills and forest. I had no ambitions, like any other tribal girl, simple and innocent.”
As I listened her with utmost eagerness, Babuna, came running with black berries and handed it to me,
“Bhaina, Khir Koli”
“These are the sweetest berries in the forest”, she said as she took one or two from me and signed me to try one.
I tested one hesitantly and loved it and began to eat rest others. As I did so, she asked me few of them to share with her.
“No way, these are a mine, Babuna brought it for me, Is’nt it Babuna?”
Babuna gave a shy smile.
‘Ok ok, I am not asking…..’
“Let go; now it will be downhill and there will be no problem to walk, and all will be waiting us back in the home”
II
After a walk of 20 minutes down the hill, we finally entered to a small village, hardly of 10 to 12 houses. The houses facing front to front; and a road was there in-between. There was nothing a kind of the showoff in those houses, as generally displayed by the houses in cities or any of high cultured villages of Orissa. Each and every house was alike and uniquely decorated by tribal paintings.
She escorted me to one of the houses, which seemed little lively.
“It’s our house”, she said proudly.
“Great! And it’s very beautiful”, I said as I admired the beauty.
As I said thus, a tall man in his early fifites, approached to me, with a polite gesture and broad smile he said, “Hope you, mightn’t have faced much trouble to be here. I am Murchana’s father.”
I joined my hands, and bowed a little and offered my greetings to him.
“Not at all, it was a great pleasure Sir, to walk down through the hill”, I said with a smile.
Asking me to feel free and comfortable, he left for the arrangements going on in the house.
I did not know what made me to call him as ‘sir’, but there was a different air in his appearance and his face glowed like a saint.
“Baba is the village school teacher, and the most respected person in the village.” She said proudly, discovering my curiosity in my face.
“Let me introduce you to all of our family members”
Like any typical wedding gathering, all of the relatives were there and she happily introduced me to everyone as if I was the most important guest of all. At the end she introduced me to a shy, fair and short lady in her forties, who was then preparing haldi paste at the backyard of the house. She was the exact replica of Murchana or rather in correct way Murchana was her replica. She gave me a very shy smile as I greeted her with Namaskar. She was her mother.
Then she escorted me to a small room in the house which was altogether a different world or rather a small capsule of modernity. It was a neatly decorated room, with small bookshelf with books, a reading table and two wooden chairs and one side of wall was pasted with paper cuttings. There in a corner of the room below the window, four girls were seated on a grass mattress.
Murchana rushed to one among the four girls, encircling her hands around her neck from back and said while kissing her, “mmm mmmhh and this is my sweet sister Archana. You know my didi is masters in English, and pride of our village and Phulbani College of humanities”.
“Stopped taking you stupid girl”, said Archana as she greeted me raising her hands “Hi! Gyanranjan, this chandi talks a lot about you. How she studies in college?”
“Oh, she is good, but Didi……may I call you didi?”
“Offcourse, it will be a pleasure”
“Thanks. Didi leave about studies, I have never expected Murchana to be so outspoken and frank, she is the most silent girl in the college and hardly talks with anyone.”
“Silent!!!” Exclaimed Archana, “God heavens! This girl silent?!!” and started laughing.
“You know, she is the Chandi of our village and countless are her mischievous legends in the village”
“Is it?!!” I exclaimed and teased Murchana, “Then I have to call you Chandi Instead.”
“You are most welcome”, she replied and we all laughed.
As we left the room I handed a small gift to Arachna, and she received it with a very kind and humble gesture and I felt very happy, for being so specially treated by the family.
Archana was marrying Sushant, a post graduate in Science and was an alumnus of Utakal University. He was posted as head teacher in some high school of Kandhamal district. Had it been such type of marriage in Bhubaneswar or in any small or big town of Orissa, it would have been no less than a pomp show. There would have been DJ, fireworks, grand multi cushions feast and many more things. But it was a different picture there. It was nothing to do with limited resources or finance, but what I saw there was culture and traditions, which this small tribal family was abided with.
III
It was evening by then; cool wind was blowing from the small window, as I laid on the bed in the room, allotted specially for me, Murchana came running and said,
“Hey Sahari Babu, come outside they are preparing for the dance”
“Stop calling in that name, else I will kill you”, I warned her as I got up from the bed.
“What! Kill me?.........let see, how can you kill me”
Saying thus she looked straight to my eyes and bent over my face.
For a moment I felt an urge, to drag her in my arms and kiss her tender lips, but resisted. Wish! It had been anywhere else other than her house.
Her presence so near was irresistible. A very different & mesmerizing fragrance was emanating from her body. We both looked each other for a while. There was strange devotion in her eyes, which became moist for in a moment. Wiping up her eyes she said with a smile, “See you can’t kill me, can you?”
I said nothing but smiled.
“Let’s go”, she said.
She was about to leave, but I held her left hand tight.
She looked back strangely. Her face was all red. Both of us had no clue at all, what would follow next.
As nothing happened, she attempted to get loosen, but I held tight.
“Leave please! Please leave!!” she requested.
I let her loose but she still stood at the door facing her back to me and said nothing.
I went out of the room.
It was the strangest encounter with Murchana, we both were out of clue, what exactly happen back in the room. Indeed she was “Murchana”, the one who is capable of letting a person loose his sense and I would happily loose it for her every time.
Outside, they were preparing for the dance. The whole village was gathering to enjoy the dance. They formed three groups, the men’s group, the women’s group and the Drummers.
The men’s and women’s group encircled the drummer’s team and began to sing a song in the local tribal language.
Murchana stood beside me as we both watched the dance. I asked her the meaning of the song the dancers were singing.
She said that the song was in praise of the certain heavenly nymph, who strolled in those forests, heard singing with a sweet melody in the evenings. Once a young tribal boy enchanted by the melody, went inside the dense forest in search of her. The boy went missing for five years, his parents were grief stricken. On an auspicious day, he returned with a stone in his hands and said the heavenly nymph has turned into that stone. Since then villagers worship her as the singing goddess and she is the village deity.
The dancers were preparing for a second round and we both joined in our respective teams. The rhythmic steps, one step forward, one backward, one step left side and next on right side was no less difficult or rather inferior than the royal “Ball” of the Europeans.
The family arranged a grand feast after the dance and I was served all varieties of dishes and enjoyed the dinner till I stuff myself up to the throat.
IV
It was late in the night and most of them were asleep. I was about to sleep, I heared a silent knock at the door.
“Hey Awake? It’s Murchana. Coming for a walk?”
I slowly opened the door. Everyone in the house was in deep sleep. As we got out of the house, I found the whole village was engulfed in deep silence of night. The clear night sky was lit up with a half moon.
“Where are we going?” I asked.
“Just near to the Devi temple” she replied.
“Is that the Devi’s temple, of which the dancing song was about?” I asked as we walk side by side in a faintly visible path.
“Yes, it is the same temple. And there the marriage ceremony is also going to be held tomorrow.” She replied.
After about 10 mins of walk we reached near the spot and a stream was also heard to be flowing nearby. A small temple was clearly visible in the moon light. As we reached near the temple entrance, Murchana joined her hands and bowed with devotion, I also did the same with equal devotion. Then she took me to a small clearing from where the stream was fairly visible in the moon light.
It was late hours of the night, I was feeling little fearful and out of it asked her, “How often wild animals come here.”
“Yes they do. But don’t be afraid, they don’t do on this side of the stream but they do on the other side, as the forest is dense on the other side.”
We both became silent for some time. Then she spoke.
She said, “You know why I am silent in college.”
She paused for moment and said,
“Because, I am scared of the system there. I am sacred of competition. I am scared of showoff. I fear, I will also become the part of the horse race, unknowingly and forget my real existence. In the hostel, I feel alone, although they all invite me in their company, but I fear, I don’t know of what.”
I was all silent and listening her eagerly. I was about say her something, but all of sudden she asked
“Do you love me?”
I was not at all expecting the question at that moment and even not denying the fact that I was in love with her.
After long pause I replied, “Yes, I do.”
Both of us knew the question was neither asked from the heart nor it was replied from the heart. But it had little effects on both of us. We both decided to get back to the rooms. On our way back none of us uttered a single word.
Next morning the groom’s party arrived. The marriage was held at the Devi’s Temple. It was altogether a different experience. I had a very brief talk with Sushant, whom I found to be a very nice, gentle and knowledgeable person. He was then the family’s numero uno guest. At a moment I felt little neglected, and envy upon the nice groom for the special treatment he was receiving by then, which was showered on me the day before.
I packed up my bag, and began to leave for the bus stand.
Babuna, the little cousin of Murchana showed up and said,
“Bhaina, choto nani is calling you”
Murchana was standing near the same room where she introduced me to her sister, the day before. Her eyes were tearful.
She asked me to get inside the room. Her sister seated alone there on the floor mattress. As she saw me, she stood up. Her eyes were also tearful. Placing her hand on my shoulder she said, “Gyanaranjan, be a nice friend to her forever”
“Yes I will” Saying thus I bade farewell to both the sisters.
Babuna helped me up to the road and I got back to Bhubaneswar.
Epilogue
Murchana and I both graduated as Engineers and She with flying colours. I went for M.Tech at IIT and she was selected for a foreign scholarship and flew to Germany. Now our relation is confined to occasional phone calls and emails.
Last year she mailed me that she met somebody and He is an Indian. And she likes her new nickname “Mrich.”
At times I remember of the story which Murchana said that evening, I feel like I am that tribal boy who wanted to be with the singing heavenly nymph but returned with a lifeless stone.
Glossaries
Sahari Babu – Gentleman from the city.
Koli – Berry
Bhaina – Elder brother
Nani or Didi - Elder Sister
Chandi - Generally referred to fearless mischivious types of girls.
Devi - Goddess

Comments

sareeta said…
A very lively and intriguing story. Had Mruchana married to Sahri Babu then it would have turned out to be a simple happy-ending story. But this is very different.

The story also reflects defference in human values with geographical variance. Most of the people of this generation think that people from villages have no "Class", "Style", "Elegance"...etc etc.......but given a chance, these village folk can reach the highset summits of success that we have ever imagined.

It throws light on the significance of our core values, belief systems, human emotions, desires......

Mruchana and Sahri Babu also make us learn that true love is not only manifested in locking eachother in the midst of physical boundaries alone.........it is something very pure, Divine and no matter if they go world aparts still the emotion of praying for eachother, wishing the best for each other and loving each other would still persist.

Love is truly Divine and has a miraculous effect........sometimes it is like a mirage in the desert and sometimes it is also the life's best celebration !!!!!!

Thank you for sharing these wonderful words and moments with us Gyan....The best work of all.

To me the end part was the most fascinating aspect. Turned my mind into a 360 degree rotation :) Awesome work. Keep it up
i m speechless gyan bhai.......!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
praveen said…
its really superb gyan....really heart touching story....
Rajib said…
Nice story Gyan-da. Keep on. :)
nrusingh said…
Its really a beautiful creation by you. I just broke into tears while reading, but i don't know why. May be i was jealous of Gyaan as he is the lead. Any way i loved it very much. It refreshed my past. Hats up for you Gyaan (Sahari Babu). I wish Murchana would be mine......
first when i read the story i said to my self"shit man !!!not another love story"......but again i dont know why i continued reading.....after i finished the story i cant believe myself.....my eyes were wet....n if my calculation n memory is perfect i was seeing my tears after 5 long years......cant believe how gyan bhai put those words to express the essence of soul.....coz never before i read a story that is so short n yet so emotional......it truely proves small is beautiful.....the detailing and the emotions are awesum n very heart touching....hats off to u bhai......ny heartfelt best wishes for u n ur creationz



regards
devil
Mamata said…
Such a great story.Thanks for linking up. Keep it up.
haan bhai pehle din hi aapko dekhte he samajah gaya tha ke...... Ye koi badaa " TAKKAR KHAYA HUA ASHIQ HAI" at last u proved it dude......... But story just awesome...... per thoda action bhi hota to aur maza aatha.............

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