expensive-Angry River

from the publisher

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In conversation with Ruskin Bond

In the middle of the big river, which started from the mountains and ended in the sea, was a small island. The river flowed around the island, sometimes climbing its banks, but never right above it. It had been more than twenty years since the river flooded the island, and no one lived there at that time. But for the last ten years there was a small hut standing there, a mud-walled hut with thatched sloping roof. The hut was built in a huge rock, so only three walls were of mud, and the fourth was rock.

The goats grazed on the thorny leaves of the short grass and thorny bushes growing on the island. Some chickens followed them. There was a watermelon patch and a vegetable patch.

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A peepal tree stood in the middle of the island. That was the only tree there.

Even during the great deluge, when the island was submerged in water, the tree stood still.

It was an old tree. A seed was carried to the island by a strong wind about fifty years ago, found shelter between two rocks, took root there, and sprouted to provide shade and shelter to a small family; And Indians love peepal trees, especially during the hot summer months when the heart-shaped leaves give the least breath of air and flutter impatiently, fanning the people sitting below.

A sacred tree, Peepal: Abode of souls, good and bad.

‘Don’t yawn when you are sitting under a tree,’ Dadi used to warn Sita.

‘And if you have to yawn, always put your fingers in front of your mouth. If you forget to do so, a spirit may jump down your throat!’

‘And what will happen then?’ asked Sita.

‘It will probably ruin your digestion,’ said Grandfather, who didn’t believe much in spirits.

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Peepal had a beautiful leaf, and the grandmother compared it to the body of the mighty Lord Krishna – wide at the shoulders, then very thin to the waist.

It was an old tree and an old man was sitting under it. He was fixing a fishing net. He had fished in the river for ten years, and he was a good fisherman. He knew where to find the slender silver chilava fish and the singhara with a very beautiful mahseer and a long moustache; He knew where the river was deep and where it was shallow; He knew which bait to use—which fish liked insects and which chicks. He had taught his son to fish, but his son had gone to work in a factory in a town about a hundred miles away. He had no grandchildren; But he had a granddaughter Sita, and she could do everything a boy could, and sometimes she could do them better. She lost her mother when she was very young.

Grandma taught her everything a girl should know, and she could do it like most girls. But none of her grandparents could read or write, and as a result Sita could not read or write either. There was a school in one of the villages across the river, but Sita had never seen it. There was a lot to do on the island. When Grandfather fixed his net, Sita was inside the hut pressing on the forehead of her grandmother, who was burning with fever. Grandmother was sick for three days and could not eat. She was sick before, but she was never that bad. Grandpa brought her some sweet oranges from the nearby town market, and she could suck the juice from the oranges, but she couldn’t eat anything else. She was younger than Grandfather, but because of her illness, she looked much older. She was never very strong. When Sita saw that Dadi was asleep, she came out of the room barefoot and stood outside.

Monsoon clouds covered the sky dark. It had rained all night, and in a few hours it would rain again. Monsoon rains had arrived early in late June. It was now mid-July, and the river was already in spate. Its loud sound sounded closer and more dangerous than usual. Sita went to her grandfather and sat beside him under a peepal tree. ‘When you’re hungry, tell me,’ she said, ‘and I’ll make bread.’ ‘Is your grandmother sleeping?’ ‘She sleeps. But she will wake up soon because she is in a lot of pain. The old man looked across the river, into the dark green, gray sky of the forest, and said, ‘Tomorrow, if he is not better, I will take him to the hospital in Shahganj. There they will know how to fix it. You can be alone for a few days – but you have been alone before…’

Sita nodded seriously; She used to live alone earlier even in the rainy season. Now she wanted Grandma to get well, and she knew only Grandpa had the skills to carry the little dugout boat across the river when the current was so strong. One has to stay behind to take care of his few possessions. Sita was not afraid of being alone, but she did not like the look of the river. In the morning when she went down to get water, she saw that the water level had increased. The rocks that were usually strewn with snipe and droppings of curlew and other waterfowl suddenly disappeared. They disappeared every year—but not so quickly, surely? ‘Grandpa, if the river rises, what shall I do?’ ‘You will be in a high place.’ ‘And if the water reaches high ground?’

“Then take the chickens to the hut, and stay there.” And if water comes into the hut? This is a strong tree. It won’t fall. And the water cannot rise higher than the tree!’

‘And the goats, Grandpa?’ ‘I will take them with me, Sita. I may have to sell them to pay for good food and medicines for your grandmother. As for the chickens, put them on the roof if necessary. But don’t worry too much’ – and he patted Sita’s head – ‘the water will not rise that high. I will be back soon, remember.’ ‘And won’t Grandma come back?’ ‘Yes, of course, but they may keep him in the hospital for a while.’


Towards evening, it started to rain again – large pellets of rain scorching the surface of the river. But it was raining hot, and Sita could roam in it. She was not afraid to get wet, but rather liked it. In the last month, when the first monsoon rains came, washing away the dusty leaves of the tree and smelling the good earth, she was delighted at it, ran screaming for joy. She was used to it now, and was actually a little tired of the rain, but she didn’t feel like getting wet. It was steamy inside the house, and her thin dress would soon dry up in the heat from the kitchen fire.

She walked barefoot, barefoot. She was very confident on her feet; His toes had become accustomed to grasping all kinds of rocks, slippery or sharp. And despite being thin, she was surprisingly strong.

Dark hair, streaming down his face. Black eyes. Thin brown sides. a mark on her thigh – when she was young, visiting her mother’s village, a hyena had entered the house where she was sleeping, clutched at her leg and tried to drag her, but her scream woke the villagers And the hyena run away.

Chasing the chickens to a shelter behind the hut, she moved around in the torrential rain. A harmless brown snake, drifting from its hole, was roaming in the open field. Sita picked up a stick, picked up the snake and dropped it between a group of rocks. He had no quarrel with snakes. They put down rats and frogs. He wondered how rats had come to the island in the first place—perhaps in someone’s boat, or a sack of grain. Now the task was to keep their numbers down.

When Sita finally went inside the house, she was hungry. He ate some dried peas and heated some goat’s milk. Grandma once got up and asked for water, and Grandpa held the brass glass to his lips. It rained all night. The roof was leaking, and a small puddle had formed on the floor. He had lit a kerosene lamp. They didn’t need the light, but somehow it made them feel safe.

The sound of the river always accompanied them, though they were seldom aware of it; But that night he noticed a change in its voice. There was something like a groan, like a wind in the tops of tall trees and a loud hiss as the water swept around the rocks and carried the pebbles. And sometimes there was thunder, as loose earth fell into the water.

Sita could not sleep.

She had a rag doll, which was made from pieces of old clothes with Grandma’s help. She kept him with her every night. She was the doll to talk to when the nights were long and she couldn’t sleep. Her grandparents were often willing to talk—and Grandma, when she was fine, was a good storyteller—but sometimes Sita wanted to keep secrets, and although there were no special secrets in her life, she made some. Took it because it was fun to get them. And if you have secrets, you should have a friend, a partner of your age, to share them. Since there were no other children on the island, Sita shares her secrets with the rag doll named Mumta. Grandfather and Grandmother were asleep, although the sound of Grandma’s labored breathing was almost as continuous as the sound of the river. ‘Mumta’ begins a private conversation of hers, whispering to Sita in the dark. ‘Do you think Grandma will be fine again?’ Mumta always answered Sita’s questions, even though only Sita could hear the answers. Mumta said, ‘She is very old. ‘Do you think the river will reach the hut?’ asked Sita. ‘If it continues to rain like this, and the river continues to rise, it will reach the hut.’

‘I am a little scared of the river, Mumta. Aren’t you afraid?’ ‘do not fear. The river has always been good for us. ‘What will we do if it comes to the hut?’ ‘We’ll climb on the roof.’ ‘And if it reaches the ceiling?’ ‘We will climb the Peepal tree. The river never went above the peepal tree. ‘As soon as the first light appeared from the small skylight, Sita got up and went out. It was not raining heavily, it was drizzling, but it was a kind of drizzle that could continue for several days, and probably meant that it was raining heavily in the hills from which the river originated was.

Sita got down on the water’s edge. She could not find her favorite rock, on which she often sat, hanging her feet in the water, watching the little chilefish swim by. It was still there, no doubt, but the river had passed over it. She was standing on the sand, and she could feel the water leaking and bubbling under her feet.

The river was no longer green and blue and white, but of a muddy complexion.

She went back to the hut. Grandpa was up now. He was preparing his boat.

Sita gave milk to the goat. Maybe it was the last time she would feed him. The sun was setting when Grandpa pushed the boat. Grandmother lay down in the groom. She was staring at Sita, trying to speak, but words could not come. He raised his hand in blessing.

Asin : 8129119846
Publisher: Roopa & Co. (1 January 2012)
language English
Paperback : 60 pages
ISBN-10 : 9788129119841
ISBN-13 : 978-8129119841
Item Weight : 95.2 g
Dimensions : 12.85 x 0.48 x 19.84 cm


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