The city municipality had appointed me to beautify the Bindusagar lake,near theLingaraj temple in Bhubaneswar.My ride was a noisy goernment vehicle driven by blabbermouth driver Shambhu.
I started by surveying the eastern stone wall on the lake.’Bublu’s corner’,read a rough inscription.I was examining it when I heard Shambhu ramble,”This place goes back hundreds of years and tells thousands of stories.This one is Bublu’s story.”
I tried to ignore him.I had no time for folklore.
But Shambhu was persistent.”It was 25 years back.Prafulla and his wife Sumati,ran a flower shop here.Their five-year old son Bublu liked to draw sir,…and draw he could !While his parents sold flowers,he drew pictures.Of men,women,of the temple,the lake,the sun and the moon, and everything else.He would draw on the walls and the floor with chalk. He was blessed sir”.
Once a gentleman was purchasing flowers when he saw the drawings of the child and he was mesmerized.
“So the boy impressed one person”,hoping my sarcasm threw him off the narrative.
“This person was special,sir.He was a professor in Germany.Each winter he would come to Bhubaneswar to spend a month with his mother.He decided to nourish Bublu’s talent. So the following day he returned with chart paper,pencils,crayons and colours”.
“So did ‘Boy wonder’ upgrade?”,I asked.
“Yes sir, and people started purchasing his paper drawings.He sold them 2 rupees each.Parents got happy .Extra income sir.It was profrssor sahab who engraved ‘Bublu’s corner’ here”.
“defacing a protected monument”,I was annoyed at vandalism being glorified.
Shambhu continued unfazed.”and Bublu kept drawing till that fateful day”.
“What day?”,I gave in.Shambhu had captured my attention now.
“That cruel day,when that red lorry ran over Bublu’s parents, and took everything away from him, the flowers soaked in their blood”, the storyteller looked away for dramatic effect.
“What happened to Bublu?”,I asked intrigued.
“His uncle sir.He took the poor chap to his village to work in the fields”,Shambhu shook his head sympathetically.
“Did Bubblu ever draw again?”,I asked in a resigned tone,fearing the worst.
“That winter,the professor retuned.Having learnt of Bublu’s misery,he went to meet the uncle.”Let me take Bublu”,the professor offered uncle.
“Some money was also involved sir”,whispered Shambhu,letting me in on the secret.
“Bublu went with him to Germany.He makes millions now- very big artist Sir.”Shambhu’s paan stained teeth shone at the abrupt happy ending.
Skeptical about the fairy tale ending,I wished to validate the story.
“What was the professor’s name?”,I rnquired.
“Where does he live in Germany?”,I probed further.
“He taught in Kalasur collegr”,Shambhu offered.
“Karlsruhe Univetsity”,I verified.
“Yes sir,Kalasur”,Shambhu confirmed.
That evening,Google would guide me to the truth about Shambhu’s story.
paan -betel leaf
photo Sam Haddad.