Long ago, I was much younger then. However, even now I remembered this word as it has its specialty. My father was the village Majhi, that is, village headman. At present, the status of village Majhi and Godet – a person who acts as the Majhi’s orderly and calls upon the villagers at this command, is not the same as before due to the influence of Panchayat.
At that time, the Majhi and Godet had respect and everyone obeyed them. Although not every day, sometimes five people from the village would sit in the backyard or on the verandah of Majhi in the evening and discuss various issues about the village, the country and the society.
One such evening, in the backyard of our house, in the moonlight, my father and the village head were discussing about the village, the country and the society. My father was sitting in the middle. It is a matter of being a jewel, because my father is a village Majhi.
I was sitting on the verandah and listening to their discussion. Suddenly my father called me,”Hopon Beta (Little Boy) Come here once.” I moved closer. My father had a bidi tucked around his waist. He took it out and handed it to me and said , “Go and illuminate it from the oven.”
I was very annoyed to study. However, I did this kind of work with great love. So, the task would be done as soon as it was said. As the cooking was over a long time ago, I removed the ashes to find out the carbon and somehow I lit up the bidi. But thinking that it could be extinguished, I came to smoke the bidi with my mouth. Seeing this, my father got angry and said, “I told you to lit up the bidi, and you pull the bidi !”
Everyone who was present laughed when they saw my work and heard my father’s words. I pulled the bidi well and gave it to my father. Immediately I said, “Bidi can be extinguished, so I came to pull it.“
Maybe my father got angry when he heard me and looked at me from head to toe with red eyes but the people present in the village laughed a lot. Godet Hapanba encouraged me by praising my intelligence. He said, “Babu, you are a blessed boy, you have intelligence. Your father is a village Majhj, you can be a Dishom Majhi (Headman of Country).“
On hearing Godet Hapanba’s (Uncle’s) words that day, my chest swelled with pride. But now I realized why my father was angry that day. If my father had pulled my ears then, I would not be in such a condition today. Because of that intellect, today I could not become a Dishom Majhi but I have become a vagabond.
‘Vagabond’ is a translation of renowned Santali writer Badal Hembram’s Sahitya Akademi Award winning book Manmi’s (a collection of Santali short stories) short story Dishom Bolto. Translated by Subhajit Murmu,Assitant Editor of Juwan Gatey.