By Moutushi Ghoshdeysarkar

He just loved the little hamlet along the stream which came trickling down the hills that lined the skies. With little savings, Sharan had set out to find a place where he could spend some quality time. Peace he sought, and that is what he got, in this lonesome quite corner of the earth.

Walking around the little village he found a hut in a patch of land where the wind was caressing the plants. It was love at first sight. The hut was a little distance away from the hutment that seemed to house the dwellers of the beautiful place.

After some searching around Sharan met the owner of the hut he had chosen for himself and took it on rent for a month, with an assurance, that he would stay on if it suits his fancy.

Sharan had never felt better, everyday seemed like a dream, with only a little angst, that he was not able to get a domestic help of his choice. Many came from far and near villages but none made an impression on Sharan.

To begin with, he wanted a male servant and most of the aspirants were women. Then, he wanted someone who was both quick and efficient, but in such places where peace prevails, pace of life is relaxed and so are most people. Sharan was a very expeditious man.

Much ado about this trivial yet essential issue was created in the village but finally after 15 days Sharan and his village mates gave up the search and people were told that the position has been filled to avoid the frequent walk-ins.

Yet on the 16th day arrived an old man, from whence he came was not known, somewhere on the far side of the hills was his abode, he wished to serve and hence in front of Sharan he stood.

Sharan was sceptical about the capabilities of this old man but something made him agree to the employment.

A month went by and the old man proved to be very efficient. Sharan extended his stay, from another month to two more and more and more and soon he had lived in his hut with the old man for a year.

Sharan was surprised that the old man never took any leave, but he kept the wonder to himself, lest the old man starts getting ideas and was gone.

He planned to start a school and soon did. Slowly with his contacts in the so called civilized world, he started getting aids and the school was a success. Children and their parents were happy and Sharan would spend most of his time in the school.

The old man was not needed any more, yet Sharan liked him to be around and had no plans to let him go.

A young lady arrived at the school one day, she was very interested to work for the people and the children. She settled in soon and shouldered much of Sharan’s work.

One evening he invited her for tea and told her all about his old domestic help on the way. She listened intently and seemed very astounded. But at home, to Sharan’s surprise, the old man was not to be found.

The young lady offered to make tea but Sharan declined it. He came back with an aromatic tea in a jiffy. A friend from Darjeeling had sent him the second flush lately and this was exactly the occasion he had been saving it for.

Sharan was a little taken aback when the young lady expressed awe at his speed. He had noticed that from the very beginning she had been overtly polite and respectful, which was very agreeable considering his efforts for the school. Yet it felt a little over the top.

He wanted to walk the young lady home but she was more apprehensive about his safety and though embarrassing, her tone had so much warmth and concern that he could not carry on his insistence.

Late at night, the old man was back, he had just been to the market he told Sharan, and seemed a little annoyed at being questioned.

A year followed another and the hut had somehow become Sharan’s own. The owner had stopped collecting rent long back, as he and the whole village felt proud to have Sharan amongst them.

One afternoon the young lady who was had aged a bit since, yet not too much, came calling to Sharan’s hut. He was as punctual as the Sun and a no-show at the school was implausible.

She pushed hard on the door, having received no answer to her shout outs. Sharan was lying on his bed.

The lady rushed out to inform the villagers and all came running dropping whatever they were at. Sharan was lying peacefully as if deep in sleep. He looked so tranquil and heavenly in his white beard.

The doctor came after a while and confirmed the passing away.

After the cremation ceremony, people still lingered on and talked about him. He was a great man to them, who had come to their village one fine day like a boon.

Apart from that little bit of an eccentricity when Sharan solemnly declined any help offered by anybody, speaking of his domestic help, who was supposedly a very dexterous old man with a white beard and whom none had ever seen, the villagers never had anything to complain about him.

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