Table of Contents
|Book Name||Rusty Comes Home|
|Story Name||The Crooked Tree (Story 4/19)|
The Crooked Tree – Introduction
The Crooked Tree is the fourth chapter of the fifth volume in the series of Rusty Stories i.e. “Rusty Comes home“.
Rusty was itching to make a move again. He wanted to breathe the countryside air. He wanted to be surrounded by the beauties and joy of the natural world, not by the crowds and concrete jungles of the city. So, he moved to a district near Shahganj – a town in Uttar Pradesh.
His room in Shahganj was very small. The rent was nominal and the window had a view of the bus stop and rickshaw stand.
Rusty was happy with his present environment. Rusty was a morning person so he wakes up early and takes a walk in the fields beyond the railroad tracks.
Read the third chapter: Bhabhiji’s House
One morning while Rusty was walking in the fields, he noticed someone lying across the pathway. The person was unconscious and could not answer any of Rusty’s questions. Rusty stood there and helped the boy to regain his consciousness. The boy opened his eyes and stared at Rusty. Rusty said he had bitten his tongue and said he is staying with him until he feels better.
The boy stood up and thanked Rusty for his help. And said this often happens to him. He said he went to the hospital at the beginning. The doctor gave him some pills. but the pills made him so tired and sleepy that he couldn’t work properly. So he stopped taking them. Now, this happens once or twice to him.
He got to his feet, dusting his clothes and smiling at Rusty. He was slim, long-limbed, and bony. And on his introduction, he said “I don’t live anywhere. Sometimes, I sleep in the temple, sometimes in the Gurdwara. And in Summer months I sleep in the municipal gardens.”
The name of the boy was Ketan. And he studied at the Shahganj High School And he hoped to pass his examination in few months. He was studying hard. If he failed, there was only the prospect of continuing to live in the municipal gardens. He worked as a salesman in one of the clothes shops in the town. Ketan was an orphan and a refugee.
During the communal holocaust of 1947, Thousands of homes had been broken up, and women and children had been killed.
The next morning, when Rusty opened the door, he found Kitten asleep at the top of the steps. His school bag laying a few feet away. Rusty gently wake him up and asked someone could have stolen his bag while he slept. Kitten replied that he sleeps quite lightly. Khetan told, he will live with Rusty and cook him food.
Story of Ketan
Ketan didn’t know if his parents were alive or dead. He had lost them when he was three. It happened at the Amritsar railroad station, where Trains coming across the borders disgorged thousands of refugees. Ketan and his parents were lucky to escape the massacre. Had they traveled on an earlier train, they might well have been killed; But circumstances favored them.
Ketan was clinging to his mother’s saree, while she remained close to her husband, who was elbowing his way through the frightened, bewildered throng of refugees. Ketan colloid with a burly Sikh and lost his grip on his mother’s saree. The Sikh had a long curved sword at his waist. The Sikh pushed him out of the way and when Ketan looked around for his mother, she was not to be seen.
She was hidden from him by a mass of restless bodies, Pushed in different directions. He could hear her calling, ‘Ketan, where are you, Ketan?’ he tried to make his way through the crowd, in the direction of the voice, but he was too small and got carried the other way.
at night, when the platform was empty, he was still searching for his mother. Eventually, some soldiers took him away. They looked for his parents, but without success, and, finally, they sent Ketan to a refugee camp. From there he went to an orphanage. But when he was 8 and felt himself a man, he ran away.
Ketan Worked at a tea shop. but soon the owner asked him to leave. He begged for a year, moving from one town to another, and ending up finally at Shahganj. When Ketan was 12, he had saved some money, and with it, he bought some new clothes and enrolled himself in the only school in town. Soon, he began to work in the clothes shop to pay for his expenses.
Rusty puts it this way “Ketan Combine the bloom of youth with the beauty of the short-lived. It made me sad even to look at his pale, slim body. It hurt me to look into his eyes. Life and death were always struggling in their depths.”
The Crooked Tree
Rusty promised to wait for Ketan until he is done with his examination. They both saved some money so that they can go to Delhi and make them survive until they get a living.
One morning, Ketan and Rusty rode out of Shahganj. after cycling for about two miles, they pushed the cycle of the road, taking a path through a Paddy field and then through a field of young maize. In a distance they saw a Crooked Tree, growing beside an old well. The name of the tree was not known to either of them. It had a crooked trunk and crooked branches and was clothed in thick, broad, crooked leaves, like the leaves on which the food is served in the bazaar.
In the trunk of the tree, there was a whole. Rusty and Ketan sat in the shade of the crooked tree and had their food. When they had eaten, they stretched their selves out on the grass. The cloud was on the horizon. Rusty and Ketan began cycling homeward. But they were still some way out of Shahganj when it starts to rain. Somehow they managed to get to the village. Ketan and Rusty Walked back to the room without talking much. Ketan looked depressed and weak.
Some wise words
The next day Shahganj was fresh, clean, and alive again. Rusty spoke out “One day I will write a book. A real book, about real people. perhaps it will be about you and me and Shahganj.” Ketan spoke out “First I must pass my exams. otherwise, I can do nothing, go nowhere.”
Rusty gave to give some kind words “Don’t take exams too seriously. I know that in India they are the passport to any kind of job and that you cannot become a clerk unless you have a degree. But do not forget that you are studying for the sake of acquiring knowledge, and not for the sake of becoming a clerk.”
Sometimes at night, Ketan used to play the flute when Rusty was asleep. The flute would play in Rusty’s dream. sometimes Ketan brought it to the crooked tree and played it for the benefit of the birds, but the parrots only made harsh noise and flew away.
Ketan’s Examinations were nearing, and he was working hard. But as he has to work in the shop and study late at night he was going through a rough time. after two weeks it was all over, and they return to a normal life again. Rusty wrote a short story.
On the morning the results of the examinations were due, Rusty rose early, before Ketan, and went down to the news agency. It was five o’clock and the newspaper had just arrived. Rusty Went through the columns relating to Shahganj, but he could not find Ketan’s roll number on the list of successful candidates. Ketan Had failed the exam.
When Rusty returned to the room, Ketan was sitting on the doorstep. by the look on Rusty’s face, Ketan figured out his result. Rusty sat down beside him, and they said nothing for some time.
‘Never mind, Ketan said. ‘I will pass next year.’ Rusty realize that he was more depressed than Ketan’s voice and that he was trying to console Rusty. Rusty decided to stay in Shahganj for one more year. And then, turning to Rusty, Ketan said “yesterday I was sad, and tomorrow I may be sad again, but today I know that I’m happy. I want to live on and on. I feel that life isn’t long enough to satisfy me. ” He stood up. I am going to shop now. got to make some money, Ketan said left.
At the bottom of the steps Ketan turned and smiled at Rusty, and Rusty knew then that he had written his next story.