A small crowd of the children had gathered at the garden. At first it was decided the sitting room would be a fine location, but, with time it was found the living room will not be enough. Annapurna, thus, locked the door to her pickle kitchen to bar the trespasser and greet everyone at the garden. The wooden bench under the shades of the singular Arjun tree would serve the role of seat for the man, the storyteller. He was supposed to come at the lunch but he came before that. Annapurna was startled to see him.
After lunch the kids gather at the Arjun tree. The storyteller walked up to the bench and sat down. He was limping at his right leg. His above six-feet stature seems to be giant one amongst the little ones. His face was covered in salt and pepper golden beard and mustache leaving a little area on the space to be clear one and thus showcasing his fair skin. His hair was wavy and disheaveled one—for long they had been trimmed or combed. He was wearing a trouser and a shirt wrapped up for two folds—disclosing his hands to be black from some old burn marks. Despite this vagabond tired look he was not filthy or dirty; rather surprisingly he was clean with nail been cut and teeth being brushed, and being taken bath with soap before coming down.
Annapurna was not at ease still he walks in to her house. It remind her of him all of a sudden; after so many years. She said to herself, many a time, it was not him. He is dead at somewhere near the border in the war eleven years ago. She had received the news of his death from the army doctor, collaborate by other the soldiers. But, nothing could ease her discomfort. After the lunch when she was cleaning the dishes with Ritu she could hear his voice. The window to the house’s kitchen overlooked the Arjun tree. The voice to her seems to be coming from another side of the time, of the memories she had still then forgotten. Ritu finding her most of the time unmindful asked her a few times what the matter was . But, she smiled and said she was getting lost in the stories.
At evening when all the kids returning to their home, the storyteller asked for leave from Annapurna. Anna looked at him for the first time in the day deeply; she said him to stay back for the dinner. Sunayana was excited to have the man till her bedtime. She declared—
“Mama, to-night it’s your holiday…Galpo Kaku will be telling me story, before I sleep…”
The old man was at first reluctant to stay till the dinner but on repeated “please” from Sunayana let him stay till the dinner. But, Sunayana fall asleep before the dinner. Anna carried her in her lap to her bedroom. After few minutes when she was coming down she was expecting he had left silently leaving a note or something to apologize when not bid her personally. She, but, was surprised when she found he was there sitting in the high-back chair and looking at the not-lighted fireplace.
They had a silent dinner. Many questions were skimming in the mind of Anna, but, she could not place them in right order or couldn’t find the starting one.
“This pickle is familiar to me…it seems I had tasted them once…” his sudden praise for the mango pickle gave her the chance to start the talk.
“When…and where…” she asked in normal voice hiding the excitement of her current state.
“I cannot recollect…like I cannot recollect why this house…that garden…this Town…all seems very much warm and familiar to me…” he said while looking around the house.
“Anything else seems uncanny to you…” she asked holding his hand suddenly.
He looked at them and withdrawing his hand towards the plate, he said, “the man in that picture…few of the people…like the stationmaster…they seems to reverberating some conversations…”
She got up from her chair and standing in front of him she asked, “what about me…”
“Yes”, he was startled by the sudden action, “you also seem to be familiar…those eyes I might have seen somewhere…”
“They said you are dead…” she says while sitting down on her knees to look at his face which he had dropped down and gazing at the wooden floor of the kitchen.
“Do you know…who I am…” he asked like a child.
“You’re are Major Kedar Ghosh…” she said.
“No…my lady…I haven’t be to the war…I’m just a vagabond…” he says looking at her, “you might have confused with someone you knew long ago…”
The conversation ended there.
Next morning with the army doctor and the other soldiers she walked up to the storyteller who was sitting under the banyan tree near to school and waiting for his audience. He looked at them with calm eyes and smiled at Anna through his bearded face.
“Sir…it is you…” one of the soldiers shouts looking at him.
“This lady had mistaken me for some Major Ghosh…Kedarnath, right…but I am not that…I am just vagabond…I am a storyteller…” he said in his deep heavy voice.
“Kedar, come on leave this tomfoolery…”, doctor said, “it’s me Doctor Sengupta…we used to play poker…”
“No…I don’t recognize you, Doctor…” he said with disturbance.
“Alright…come with me…to my hospital…” Sengupta said to him.
“I’m not ill…I take care of myself…there’s no flea or teaks on my body…” the storyteller said in requesting voice.
They never were able to take him to hospital. At the end Doctor Sengupta said to him if he wants he could visit him anytime.
On returning Doctor Sengupta let’s other know that he was the Major Ghosh but he had lost his memory. And they have to try to bring that back.
For next few weeks they tried few more times. But all ended in vain. Anna once asked him directly why he was tolerating so much; any man being getting disturbed so much would had leave the Town or would have shouted at them.
“I cannot shout at you…or them…because whenever you people come I feel I am in the company of my own people…” he said, voice was calm and soft, “this town I had said you make me feel the warmth which I couldn’t find anywhere else…the thought of leaving the town or screaming at you all crossed my mind, but, I couldn’t…the sad thing you are not getting what you all are looking for…and me trying to get accustomed to all your looking and search…”
After that day they never tried to bring his memory back. Sometimes Anna used to come and sit down at a distance to listen to his story. Sometimes she used to invite him to his house which he never denied. And soon he earned the name of Old Grand Storyteller or Galpo Dadu.
“I am going to deliver jars to the Rastogi’s…and on return will visit the bazaar for some ingredients…look after the broth I am leaving on the oven in the Pickle Kitchen…” Annapurna said to Sunayana.
She was reading a story book in her room. She looked up from the pages over her glasses and nodded in approval.
She sat down with the book on the chair, bringing it to the skylight windows so that sunlight could fall on the pages. But, she couldn’t concentrate on the book. Last night beyond this kitchen they had kissed. Mama was asleep and it was midnight.
She leaves the book on the chair. And looked at the broth. It was boiling with bubbles. A beautiful environ had been injected into the environment of the kitchen. She started roaming around the kitchen, brushing her hand on the countertops and shelves.
The jar was thrust into the corner. It was not easy to detect. But it caught the eyes of the seventeen years old Sunayana. At first she resists the urge to take it out. Then she took it out and found it was an old jar sealed with honey-wax. She looked around and broke the wax seal. A pungent but sweet odor enthralled her. She checked again around, and being sure of no one was there, she looked for a spoon or something to scoop the pickle out. But she couldn’t find anything like that; she, so, dipped her index finger deep into the jar, and licked it.