The alchemist

Previous EpisodeThe three charmers..

The farm fields of our village were light, sandy and rich in soil. There were various crops cultivated by the village farmers. They were never seemed to go on vacation or stay off from the fields. They worked all through the year with a little or no exemption from their work yet they would return home without showing a sign of grief.  There were only few families in our village who worked in a service. The farmers were kind and polite. They often offered a share of various root vegetables, fruits and additionally raw pulses,  from the seasonal crops to these few families who worked as a govt representatives such as – school & post office staff.  It made me to held in esteem for them to the courtesy they made for every season. There were these special occasions where the villagers would share a big bowl full of junnu – a milk pudding made from the colostrum milk when a calf was born.  It was one of the most delicious dairy products that I ever had.

Our friend Cnu’s family owned huge land properties where they cultivated groundnuts along with other cash crops although they had the mango and cashew gardens as well. I often accompanied him to their fields as he carried a lunch box for his father.  We would talk about bees and butterflies to bears and bulls on our way. We would pick the wild berries to our pockets full as we go, that would frequently made his father angry as we spent much time at it. So far I learnt that fruits grew naturally in the same spot once the flowers fade and wither. The peanut plants were ruled out my knowledge.  The orange-veined, yellow-petaled flower of the peanut plant would grow in axillary clusters above the ground and hides its fruits several inches in the ground. I would ask myself several questions each time I see the bushy plants of groundnuts in the disapproval of the placement of its flowers and fruits. Cnu and I would sit together to watch the workers separate the peanut plants from the ground. His father would quickly make a fire with dried palm leaves to boil the raw peanuts on the roots. The mud covered peanuts would get boiled to a perfect state without the need of a vessel. It was a joy for us during our visits to open the shells out to have the peanut snack.

We had our classes shorten to last till noon prior to the summer holidays in our school. It gave us a half day more to spend away from school and explore our new games. I thought our village would be pleasant during the summers, but it wasn’t true.  The hot weather even made farmers to stay home during the noon to evenings. It was usually quite in our neighborhood though, one major entertainment device that all of us treated precious was – radio, kept our streets away from silence. I could hear the same radio station tuned in the locality during the afternoons as the melodious songs played under a program called  Chitra Malika – a series of audio songs from the movies, in a chorus around the street. There was one particular program on radio meant for farmers where the hosts talked about various good cultivation practices. Apparently, many farmers were already aware of all those methods. They would simply turn off the radio as soon as the music program was over.

It was such a hot summer, people would rest home and children would put to sleep during the mid days as it was too hot to perform outdoor activities. In the evening my friends and I would gather as usually to have our play time.  We had a dais in the centre of our village where politicians would use it as a stage to deliver a speech or the messengers would make important announcements from there. In the evenings it would turn into multiple small divisions where children would play different games and men would sit together on one side to exchange ideas. The elderly women from our village were not fashionable but wore various silver jewellery such as thick anklets and necklaces. I wondered how rich they were as silver is considered to be one of the precious metals. Occasionally they appeared in gold jewellery when there were wedding ceremonies.

On one evening I saw a small group of women and children were gathered on one side where a  middle-aged man sat on the dais with his old set of laboratory equipment. He detailed about how he could make the jewellery glitter as good as a new one.  As a part of demonstration, he took a copper plate that was stained and almost appeared as old as ancient. He showed a glass jar filled with a colorless liquid and took a sample from it to mix a powder to make a paste out of it. He cleaned the copper plate with that paste and rubbed it with a cloth to make it shiny. He showed the final result to the crowd and made them take a look at the plate to believe his efforts. In addition, he announced the audience a price against each solution that were made by him and explained the usage. The interested people were bought as it wasn’t very expensive.

Finally, he showed how he could  clean the jewellery as well.  He took a silver anklets set from a young girl from the crowd as he promised that he would make them glow as just made by a silversmith. The alchemist assured that nothing wrong would happen as the girl looked at him worried as he dumped the anklets set into a beaker.  After a while he took out the anklets set, cleaned them up and handed it over to the girl as her eyes glittered with a charm same as the anklets. He concluded that he would charge for the rest of the requests as the crowd slowly started to believe and came up with their articles. The women were curious and surprised to see their jewellery glint as brand new. Hence, continued to bring their valuables in a hope to get them cleaned up and paid him for his efforts. It appeared the price was negligible to the women compare to the result he brought to their jewellery. The alchemist would adjust his spectacles each time he handled a new article and compliment the woman how pretty they would look in  that shining jewellery.

The alchemist

The alchemist wrapped up his stuff and walked away as the evening got darker. The news spread a bit late that a clever woman went to a smith in our village to get her jewellery weighed to make sure there was no loss. It resulted, to make her doubts come true, there was a minor deviation in the actual weight. The villagers made their own conclusions, some said the difference was due to the occasional usage of the jewellery and the majority believed the alchemist mysteriously succeeded to steal. There were rumours spread around about how the similar incidents took place in the neighbor villages as well. The women cursed the alchemist almost at every opportunity they met each other at the pond or in the farm fields. The topic remained top on the charts of the exhaustive list of public and private news of the village for few days. However, irrespective to the fact of being deceived the women were happy about their sparkle jewellery and the way they glittered on them.

Next Episode..Rest In Peace

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