Sign Up    /    Login

A Woodcutter

A Woodcutter

I think I started writing the story about him many times but I can’t find anything in the old files. But it is filed there in my mind with indelible ink. It won’t go unless I lose my mind to Alzheimer’s. Dementia is setting in in my old brain. I forget things or should I say their number is increasing. It will be more suitable to my disposition, a better description of my personality. If I don’t be truthful, the people who know me will stop trusting me. Well, let me not go deeper in to it because the person who is supposed to trust me the most, doesn’t trust me at all. She thinks I am a liar. This, though is a compliment to a writer, it is only of some worth if one is a good writer, which I am not.

Timber was used for starting a fire in the angithee, a traditional brazier that was the mainstay of cooking in the kitchen during my childhood. Though hot gas kerosene stoves had come in the market they worked as standbys. Kerosene supply as always was strictly controlled based on assigned quota for a family. But in any case, a stove is not what Angheethi is.

In a cold hilly place like Shimla, dry wood for starting a fire wasn’t easily available. There were jungles abound and the land sharks hadn’t arrived on the scene yet. Hardly any construction activity could be seen around in the town, though the old buildings were regularly burning down to ashes even with uncanny regularity in all cases electrical short-circuit was found to be the cause. Whether it was the Plan A of the land mafia being implemented or not is beyond me to say with certitude but it was unmistakably there.

Though there was some kind of regulatory mechanism in place it consisted by and large of self-serving inept and corrupt people. Thwack, thwack..far at a distance every day after sunset, the sound of ax falling on the wood could be heard. It would be another woodcutter, sweating it out in the jungle, chopping wood for eking out a living. An unpaved path running uphill passed by our house. The extended plinth on which our majestic lodge stood had about four square meters of flat land in front of the entrance to our house. This flat part being a meter above the adjacent path acted as an ideal platform for resting the heavy load. There were two stone steps for coming on a level with the platform and there was a tree with sparse leaves on the left edge right where the steps broke from the path. This tree, the only one of its kind perhaps in Shimla that has a rich variety of foliage, offered a refreshing shade for the tired vendors, porters, and Khans (Hatos) who walked this way. The morning sun rising above a high mountain topped with thick tall trees would make the whole platform dappled with shade and light.

The image of Sadhu Ram a woodcutter carrying his load day after day and calling “Lakadi lelo” has stayed fresh on my mind for half a century. There was nothing unique in that gaunt, pale and emaciated young man to have left an indelible impression on my mind except for one incident involving him. Winter was setting in and mother had started stocking chopped wood. The wood these woodcutters brought was not dry. It needed to be sunned. A huge wooden box which we called “peyti” lay in our veranda that got sunshine the whole afternoon every day. The box contained the stock of coal while its top was used for stocking wood. It lay there drying up in the sun till it was used. Mother always bought his load of wood and she never bargained for price with him.

“He is studying in the college”, she said.

“He sells wood for earning money for paying his fees.”

“Buying wood from him is my way of helping him.”

Dad’s younger brother who was in the army had come to Shimla on transfer. He hadn’t yet got accommodation and so he was staying with us. Mother was busy with the morning routines when this boy came with a fresh load of chopped wood. Our uncle was outside enjoying the cool breeze and brushing his teeth with a ‘datun’. I was also out there, welcoming the sun.

Parjhayee, lakkad te nayin laini? He called

(Sis- in-law, you need wood, do you?)

Buy it, she called from inside.

‘Kitne ki deni hai bhayee?’

How much for this?

‘Ek Rupaya mein le lo Sir

Take it for a rupee Sir

Ek Rupaya, tera dimagh theek hai?

One rupee for this? Are you out of your mind?

Lelo Sir, chalo chaudha aane de do ( One rupee in old currency denomination comprised of sixteen annas.)

Ok, Take it for fourteen annas Sir

‘Bahut mehnat karani padhati hai.’

‘Really, have to work very hard for it.’

Mehnat, Hmm,

Work Hard? Hmmm.

‘Chori ke liye bhi mehnat hi karani padhati hai.’

‘For stealing too, one has to work hard.’

‘Ye chori ki nahin hai Sir.’

This not a stolen stuff Sir.

‘Jo ped van vibhag wale khsatigrast ghoshit kar ke bech dete hain, ham khareed lete hain, ye lakadi unki hai.’

‘We buy the trees that are sold when the people working in the forest department declare them damaged and discard them.’

‘Mujhe ulloo banate ho? Kshatigrast..Hahaha- wo bhi chor aur tum bhi chor.’

Are you fooling me? Damaged, Hahaha- Thieves they are and so are you.

‘Chhe aanne lene hain to le le, nahin to ise yahan chhod de aur nikal le.’

Six annas? Take it, if you want- otherwise, just leave it here and get lost.

‘Main police lines mein khada hoon.’

I am standing in the Police Lines

‘Main tujhe andar bhi karwa doonga.’

I will get you locked up.

The young man got terrified. He had tears in his eyes.

‘Nahin Sir, mujh par reham karo.’

No, Sir, take pity on me.

‘Daya? Hahaha- Choron par koyi daya nahin karta’

‘Nobody takes pity on thieves.’

Uncle laughed out loud and told him to get lost.

Do you want six annas or not, I am asking you for one last time?

Sadhu Ram didn’t say anything. I saw he was crying. He folded the blanket that he was using as a cushion between the load and his back. He put it on his shoulder and went down the path. He didn’t take the money my uncle offered to him.

Uncle went to the police lines to chat, share cigarettes, and have tea with policemen in the barracks he had befriended. Maybe, there he spoke about his shenanigans with his friends.

I came in and narrated the whole incident to the Mom and I saw that she was crying.

I too started crying and I said.

‘Mummy, ab wo lakkad hara apane college ki fees kaise dega?’

Mummy, how will that woodcutter pay his fees?

I thought for a while and then spoke again

Mummy, Kya who lakkdhara chor hai?

Mummy, is that woodcutter, a thief?

Mother didn’t say anything but the incident left a lasting impression on my mind.

What do you think dear friends?

Was that woodcutter a thief?

Share with:


0 0 votes
Article Rating

Navneet Bakshi

4 Comments
Newest
Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Prasad Ganti
Prasad Ganti
9 months ago

Navneet saheb, certainly a sensitive episode. I dont think the woodcutter is a thief.

Namita Sunder
Namita Sunder
9 months ago

I know, such incidents and characters from our childhood always stay in our mind. Did you never meet him after the incident? I know how your mother must have felt but in those days she could not have said anything to your uncle. May be she purchased woods from the boy once your uncle left.

Ushasurya
Ushasurya
10 months ago

I know I should not be saying this to you Navneet…but the Uncle was the REAL CHOR…for stealing the liveliheed of a hardwork9ing helpless boy !!
One thin I learned from my parents – and thank God, ny kids and hubby are like that too— I never BARGAIN !!!
A touching narration :))

Placeholder Image 90

Thewriterfriends.com is an experiment to bring the creative people together on one platform. It is a free platform for creativity. While there are hundreds, perhaps thousands of platforms that provide space for expression around the world, the feeling of being a part of fraternity is often lacking. If you have a creative urge, then this is the right place for you. You are welcome here to be one of us.

Random Posts

Lessons for Humanity

By Prasad Ganti | July 12, 2020

This is my fourth blog on this topic of Coronavirus. The virus is still ruling the world even after four months. Lot is being written about it in the media, including social media.  This is the single most important milestone not only in our lives today but in the history of mankind. Clearly the most…

Share with:


Read More

The Red Dragon

By Prasad Ganti | November 21, 2021

China, the Red Dragon, has arrived on the global stage as a superpower. It is sitting on foreign currency reserves of trillions of dollars. Manufacturing prowess makes it a major exporter in the world. Infrastructure is well developed. It is a nuclear power with a massive conventional army and firepower. It could not have been…

Share with:


Read More

Why We Should Write Daily?

By Rcay | February 13, 2022

  Why We Should Write Daily? Writing is a skill that we can develop as it is a part of communication in everyday life. We communicate with ourselves, whether we are communicating with others or making a shopping list. Writing can do wonders, as we all have something to say about something.  At the same…

Share with:


Read More

Slippery Carpet or Tight Rope Walk?

By Suresh Rao | May 15, 2022

Anand Mishra, writes in DHNS, New Delhi, MAY 15 2022, 22:42 IST  UPDATED: MAY 15 2022, 22:48 IST (pic) Credit: PTI Photo SENIOR COGRESS LEADERS GREET SONIA GANDHI (Congress President)  Facing the twin challenge of arresting Congress’s decline in most states and the need to recapture power at the Centre, Udaipur Nav Sankalp Declaration. Read more…

Share with:


Read More

Unique Remembrance

By Sabita Paintal | March 26, 2021

I was stunned to hear on phone about the sudden demise of my daughters pet dog ( mac) . He was 9 years old and of pug breed , hail and hearty, small structured and lovable. He poured too much attachment to his both doctor owners and made their lives lively . He was very…

Share with:


Read More

यादों की पोटलियां

By Alka Kansra | August 3, 2020

This poem bagged the second position in an event conducted by Pen and Writers यादों की पोटलियां जाने वाले चले जाते हैं पर छोड़ जाते हैं अपने पीछे यादों की पोटलियां खुल जाती हैं यहाँ वहाँ हर जगह कभी भी कहीं भी वक़्त बेवक्त और तैरने लगती हैं यादों की परछाइयाँ किसी अपने की डबडबाई…

Share with:


Read More

How my 60th birthday was celebrated in Aa Me Ri Ca

By Suresh Rao | October 1, 2020

I went back in time to mull over the shocker of a birthday I had to encounter when a nephew of mine organized it without telling me, in my own home! This enterprising nephew who was pursuing a PhD program in electrical engineering at a nearby University campus, would occasionally drop by late at night…

Share with:


Read More

LOVE IN TOKYO!

By Suresh Rao | April 29, 2022

Chidanand Rajghatta writes in the Times of India dated 29-04-22, on this. ‘The relentless US effort to cajole New Delhi into its sphere of influence will continue with yet another meeting between President Joe Biden and India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the Quad summit in Tokyo in May. The White House confirmed on Wednesday…

Share with:


Read More

वड़वानल – 56

By Charumati Ramdas | August 26, 2020

लेखक: राजगुरू द. आगरकर अनुवाद: आ. चारुमति रामदास ‘‘कल से हम गलतियाँ ही किये जा रहे हैं, ’’ खान के स्वर में उद्विग्नता थी। ‘‘हमने राष्ट्रीय पार्टियों के, विशेषत: कांग्रेस के नेताओं पर भरोसा किया और उनसे नेतृत्व करने की गुज़ारिश की – यह पहली ग़लती थी; और आज गॉडफ़्रे से मिले यह दूसरी गलती…

Share with:


Read More

वड़वानल – 50

By Charumati Ramdas | August 21, 2020

लेखक: राजगुरू द. आगरकर अनुवाद: आ. चारुमति रामदास     सरदार पटेल ने मौलाना आज़ाद के सुझाव के अनुसार अरुणा आसफ़ अली से सम्पर्क स्थापित किया । ‘‘आज के अख़बारों में छपी ख़बर के अनुसार आप नौदल के विद्रोह का नेतृत्व करने वाली हैं  ऐसा ज्ञात हुआ है । क्या यह सच है ?’’   पटेल…

Share with:


Read More