Monday Morning

These days I am terribly afraid of Monday morning, I would think of any excuse to convince myself that it isn’t absolutely necessary to go to work. But it wasn’t always like that, not at least when I was in school.

I am not sure now if I hated school, I hated tuitions for sure. But Monday morning was different. “Get up early, listen whatever Ma’ says, No fighting, pocket some money, run to school, hide in the bathroom-avoid prayer class, do ‘yes sir, present sir'” that was the routine. Fully disciplined.

But when the recess bell rang, I would break-free to the Bus-stop. On that auspicious day of week, it hosted a book-shop, initially the only one in our village. The shop opened under the cool shade of the pipal tree (The sacred fig), spread over a sheet of polythene. Books were arranged like the scales on a big fish, revealing the titles. At one end of the squarish and humble shop sat the owner, a more humble and simple shopkeeper. I would buy whatever he got for me, if it were the first Mondays the monthly children magazines- Chandamama, Mana pabana, Champak, Wisdom, Biyoya and so on, if not any fiction that sounded right. Walking down from there to my home, I always wished, took a fraction of second.

The Monday market was too close to our house, and the bustling crowd would swarm into our compound from both the gates causing enough chaos to derail our lunch schedule. That and weekly grocery shopping would make Ma’ totally forget us. Besides she had usual work as a farmer. I would withdraw to our study and devour whatever seemed most interesting in my new acquisitions. That was necessary because my siblings especially my elder sisters would take those away, after they return from school. And I would have to wait for my turn. About afternoon when the crowd was waning along with the sun, Ma’ would bid from her unwanted yet demanding guests goodbye and check up on me at the study.

“You bunked school half-day again”

I would not listen. “You should at least have had your lunch.” She would drag me out somehow. Sitting at the dinning table, I would be reading the book as intently as before, and while she would labour to raise my chin up enough each time, push a ball of rice/curry dipped in dal in my mouth and eat her food too. For my Ma’, if you ate well you are a good child no matter what. Sometimes I won’t and digest some admonishment instead.

If my Bapa(Papa) was at home, it didnt go that easy. When I came home with the books, he would like to have a look. Mostly a dismissive look. I knew his taste, he read non-fiction political, religious, social stuff- heavy books with cardboard cover and smooth elegant papers, always in English. I knew because, we would try and read them too, sometimes just pretending to be matured and older, sometimes enjoying the stories about the big world but mostly picking up words and issues to ask Bapa some interesting stories. Probably he didnt like I rooted for the vernacular, fictional world. He always encouraged us to write to him in English and he always did. If there were pictures of girls he would smile, and his company would pass some funny comments. He always had company, usually a bunch of people, whenever he was home.

But before this arragement there was a problem, a huge one.

It started very unpleasantly. One Monday, I didn’t have enough money for the lot I would buy. I asked the book-shop owner to give me a rebate and he won’t. He was a short, bald man who wore an extra-loose white pajama and sat on that polythene sheets was a good mannered man but businessman nonetheless. So I asked my friend, who claimed a reputation for bargain, slain the satan. The shop owner- his name was Bishwa, I guess- asked my friend Lalu when he bargained hard,

“Are u buying these books for that guy”

“Yes”, said Lalu closing the deal.

“send him over”

And he handed over the those books and magazines to me. From that day, every monday during lunch hour he would hand me over a stack of books/magazines he kept aside for me and anything I could spot spending a considerable time inspecting his shop and I would pay him whatever I could get from my Ma’ that day. It went on on and one day he said, I needed to clear up the account. I dont remember the exact amount but I was pretty sure I could not convince my Ma’ to give me that kind of money. When I reached home, she needed a hand to get the groceries. We were walking between the rows of make-shift shops buying something here, something there, chatting up with people and ourselves and she probably had already noticed my uneasiness. When we were back home, I fumbled to explain the budget deficit I was in.

” Are you sure he isn’t cheating you”

“I dont think so”

“Okay, how much again ?” and she counted out the notes, sparing a look at the relief-ed me. “And get something for me, if you could”

When she told Bapa in passing later sometime, he thought it would be better to size me up with a look, than saying anything. It worked. I have not borrowed anything till now in my life. But I bought from Biswa’s every Monday, fully paid till I left village for college. Sometimes when Bapa would read one or two stories out of ’em, we all would celebrate.

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