Thoughts & Ideas

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Kursela Days 9 – My House & Landlord

Within a month of being posted to Kursela, I took the decision to start living there instead of commuting daily from Purnea. Very few people built houses in those areas with the intention of giving it out for rent and so it was difficult finding accommodation. With some help from local friends and bank officials, I finally managed to coax a retired school teacher to give one room in his house to me for a princely rent of Rs.150 a month. And that was home for the next 1 ½ years.

Diwali at the House I Lived in Kursela 
The Bench and long chair was used to given tutions to kids. 
The room behind the closed window is where I lived.
It was a nice house, well built and airy but living in it had some minor constraints. There was a verandah in front of the house and just behind it was the room in which I stayed. Mandalji, my landlord, used to give tuitions in English, Mathematics, Geography, and Sanskrit simultaneously to about 10 kids from 5 in the morning till about 9 am. So my alarm clock used to be the chattering of kids every day. Now since the kids were supposed to be studying, I was forbidden to play music in the mornings. The second round of tuitions used to held between 5 pm to 8 pm. So, on my return from office, I used to be again greeted with a bunch of chattering, screaming kids and, naturally, I was not expected to play the small transistor or portable cassette player as it would disturb the children’s studies. By 8.30 pm my landlord used to retire for the night therefore, once again, I was expected not to disturb him by playing my transistor or cassette player. Those were the days when the no one had heard of the Taliban. But I, the lucky chosen one, was given a preview.

For bathing, there was a hand pump in front of the house. The water from the pump was refreshingly cool in summers and warm in winters. So lucky me, had round-the-clock running water! However, pumping water was another matter altogether. It involved quite some exercise and, initially, I found it irksome. Later, I got a boy-help who used to keep pumping water while I had a leisurely bath.  I would now call the arrangement feudalistic and feel ashamed, but at that point of my life it was one of my few luxuries and my mind never had any such thoughts.

Govind Singh Rawat having a bath at the hand pump 
where I used to bath and wash my clothes everyday.

There was a toilet in the back of the house which was not available to me from about 8.30 pm (when my landlord went off to sleep) to next morning 5 am, since I was effectively locked out of the house . So if I needed to go to the toilet during those hours, I had to go out into the fields.

Food was the next major necessity, a problem and an opportunity. There were no restaurants in Kursela apart from a small shack where labourers and other itinerant workers ate. The food available here was very basic. Thick rotis made out of coarsely ground wheat or maize along with either some vegetables or daal. The vegetables used to be often just boiled and then mashed along with a seasoning of raw mustard oil, salt, and green chillis. The next alternative, which was much better, was to cycle a couple of kilometers down the highway to a fairly decent Dhaba, known colloquially as a “Line Hotel”. It was geared to provide meals to the truck drivers and others traveling down the Highway. I soon became friends with the owner by helping him open a SB account with the bank and thereafter received VIP treatment with fresh rotis and lots of ghee in my daal every time I went there.

Going to the Line Hotel was not a very practical affair on a regular basis, especially if it was too hot or cold or if was raining. I therefore got myself a kerosene stove, and started my experiments in cooking and was soon able to manage quite well. Sometimes I used to get lucky and be invited for a meal by my local friends and acquaintances – though this was rare.

There was a broad gauge railway line running about 20 meters away from the house where I lived. Whenever, heavy goods trains passed that way, the ground used to shake. It so happened that early one morning, I got up with a start since my bed was shaking. In my dreams I imagined that it must be some particularly major goods train. But it suddenly occurred to my sleep befuddled brain that there was none of the accompanying noise of the train. With a start I realized that my bed was shaking due to an earthquake and I rushed out of the house. There was a lot of loud cries coming from the village, “trah bhagwan, trah bhagwan”, but after a few minutes the shaking stopped and I went off to sleep. It was just about dawn and it was a Sunday. Later, I picked up my motorcycle and went off to Purnea to catch up with friends and spent the day chatting. In the evening, someone had the bright idea of checking the news. It was then we realized that the entire area had been struck by a major earthquake, and there had been a lot of damages and loss of life, though thankfully not in the immediate vicinity. Next morning I left Purnea early to be back at the branch before it opened for business and life continued as usual. Three days later I got a telegram inquiring about my welfare from home. My folks had no news of me and they were worried and I had not even bothered to inform them. Even if I had wanted to get in touch, it would have taken at least 7 – 10 days for a letter to reach Banaras or Patna.


  • At 11:09 AM , Blogger basant mallick said...

    I was at Thakurgunj during earthquake and it was raining heavily.I had to stand outside in the rain taking my position to avoid the branch water tank in case of falling.Next morning it was found that strong room door jammed.


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