“Auto-Man”

THIS INDIA, ONE INDIA

Despite our varied cultural plurality and many known – unknown sectarian identity, at the core of us we ARE ONE, JUST ONE INDIA. No amount of difference, be it religion, region or language can break our tolerance.  I have planned to pen down a series on this very bondage that makes us  One … ONE INDIA.

This is the second in the series….. “Auto-Man” !


I was still standing at the Reception Counter of Vellore Hospital and trying to explain things. But somehow could not make the person follow of what I was wanting! To my rescue came an elderly gentleman and asked me about my queries. I was those days working in Bangalore. There was a Community Health Training programme organised jointly by CMC and a voluntary organisation. My wife is involved in an NGO, in Calcutta, and they had sent 4 participants for this event. She told me to meet them and greet them. I explained all these to this gentleman. He apparently was aware of this event and vellore temple2directed me to go to the Rural Campus of CMC. He said any auto-rickshaw driver would know the place and take me there.

I came to the auto-rickshaw stand and got hold of one who readily agreed to take me there. He was more enthused when I told him that I would go there for about ten minutes and then return again, which would mean he would have an assured return fare.

With the word ‘go’ my ordeal started. After about five minutes journey our man stopped the Auto-rickshaw, digged in his hands into the dash board, collected some stuff andvelore mosque vanished into oblivion. In about 4 minutes he returned, singing happily, he started driving again. He explained that the Rural Campus is the place where CMC has training premise, and, he assured me that I would like the place for its scenic beauty. I was indeed enjoying the outskirt area. But lo, behold. My amusement was short lived. Our man again stopped his auto-rickshaw, digged his hand into the dashboard again and vanished somewhere. This time he returned after a little more time than his last trip. I, on my  part, did a wrong thing this time. I peeped into his hand and could catch the glimpse of a matchbox! Now I knew what was happening. This man must be a hard core drug addict, could not even stop for more than 15 minutes before he goes for a next puff ! I decided to give him a full lecture on this bad habit once we return to Vellore, no matter even if I am late in returning to Bangalore.

As  promised I could finish my visitation within ten minutes. Those colleagues of my wife were  visibly happy as they were invited to visit Bangalore on their return journey to Calcutta once they complete this training.

vellore churchOn our way back, only once our Auto-rickshaw stopped for a while, this time at a semi urban spot. Once he returned, placed back the matchbox into the dashboard and started his vehicle….. I barged in with my first question, “Since how long are you taking this” ? To this our man wore a very perplexed look and shot back “Sorry, Sir, I could not get you”.  “Okay, okay…. Let me be straight. Taking  drugs can be fun, but you know it would soon ruin you, more over I am sure you must be wasting much of your hard earned money on it. And do not try to cover up…. I saw you taking the matchbox, and, also some packet in your hand”.

Our man got the auto-rickshaw halt to a standstill. Came very near to me and said “No one has told me the things that you are telling. Of course my ways of doing things must have made you to think this way “ ! He quietly walked near the dashboard, took out the things. He handed over me those stuff –  a small pack of agarbattis, a small pack of vermillion, a matchbox.  Then he narrated. “ Sir, I have a small but nice family. My sole earning is from this auto-rickshaw. As you come out of CMC Hospital and take this small road to Rural Campus there is a Mosque. Every evening , without fail, I make a short prayer there. Then further up, there is a temple where I say a small prayer for the happiness of my family. And finally near the CMC there is a very old church. I never fail to pray here at least once in the evening. Believe me Sir it gives me happiness for my entire family. Just think Sir, my family gets happiness showered from all ! Balaji, Allah & Jesus … what else do I need!”

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Around night I took a bus to Bangalore. I had a very guilt feeling. Our man must have returned home, happily eating his night meal and must be telling his wife “You know, today I met a gentleman ….. a good man – but with a very narrow mind !”

 

 

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Sunny Saahib

THIS INDIA, ONE INDIA

Despite our varied cultural plurality and many known – unknown sectarian identity, at the core of us we ARE ONE, JUST ONE INDIA. No amount of difference, be it religion, region or language can  break our tolerance.  I have planned to pen down a series on this very bondage that makes us  One … ONE INDIA.

This is the first in the series….. “Sunny Sahib” !

There was a festive mood in the air, at least till this morning. Since one month every youth in the locality, in this end part of Ballygunge, was engrossed and busy. The reason – “Mahanisha”.  This is the name of the play or drama that the local youth planned to stage. Those days, it was very much in vogue to stage a drama in the locality with a large number of youth participating and there were regular rehearsals in the evenings. The local youth caught hold of Shambhu Uncle, a veteran drama director of the locality and the drama selected was Mahanisha.  Shambhu Uncle also agreed to spare his sitting room for the rehearsals.

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This roughly is the spot for stage… Shambhu uncle’s house at the backdrp

Everything was going on as per schedule. That evening was the show ! The day before the tent-wallahs brought in a lot of bamboo poles, tarpaulins, bundle of ropes, and, they promised to put up the tent this morning…. And…. Then…. There was this thick black cloud visible on the sky since morning.

Everyone said it is just a matter of minutes….. there would be heavy down pour of rain and it would surely ruin the drama show ! Everyone wore a gloomy look, and, at this juncture someone suggested “How about asking Jhantuda for some kind of  err….. way out?”. Jhantuda was the local thakurmoshai (priest) for all puja functions.

When approached, Jhantuda thought for a while and suggested a way out. “ There is a way out…. That is if you all have faith ….. and I am sure we will have the blessings of Devimaa”.  What Jhantuda suggested was this “ We must find out a person in the locality who is the only child – a son. He should dig a deep hole, all by himself, and then place a small metal bowl in the hole…  then fill up the hole with sand and lose soil..”. And now there was some cheer in the gloomy faces – every one went on different directions to fetch someone as per order…. Only child….. Only son.  But the cheer was short lived… they could come up with some names, but most of them had one or two sisters….and none was the only son.

At this juncture some one yelled “Jhantu da, there is one, at the very next door. But if   I spell the name you may not agree…. He is Sunny Sahib, our anglo-Indian neighbour.I mean after all he is not an  er…er..”. At this point Jhantuda rebuked him quite loudly “Shut up.You are talking non-sense….. what is important is how sincere the person is in seeking from the heart that rain must not ruin our drama show”.

When the youth group reached Sunny Sahib’s house, he was busy in doing push up. He was a fitness freak,a good horse rider ! He was all thrilled at the idea of digging and came out in no time with his own sets of crow-bar and shovel . Soon he dug up quite a large hole -more than what was needed. Someone brought in an old aluminium bowl.Sunny Sahib neatly placed it in the middle of the hole and in no time replaced the loose soil to fill-up the hole….. all along he wore his signature cap on his head.

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That evening there was a full house show of Mahanisha – a large number of people from neighbourhood gathered, under the clear sky.They said some of the local youth performed very well, much like the professional actors. I, for one, remember a bit. Our neighbour Kumar Uncle was in the lead role! He was a good looking hero. But perhaps, the actual hero of the day was Sunny Sahib – an anglo-Indian Christian who gave all his time and might to please Devi Maa!

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Sunny Saahib’s Bungalow still stands tall in the locality !

Tears of Baby Tree

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এক গাছ-শিশুর কান্না  

কারা যেন পয়সা দিয়ে কিনে নিল মাকে, কাক ভোরে কারা যেন কেটে নিল তাকে,

আমার মা, আমার মা গো, কেউ কি পয়সা দিয়ে আবার মা কিনে নেয়,

কেউ কি পয়সা দিয়ে কারো মা কিনে দেয় |

 

মা যখন ছিল পাশে কত পাখি আসতো  উড়ে একটু বাসার আশে,

বাতাস এসে ভিড় জমাতো মায়ের সবুজ আঁচলে

কেউ কি পয়সা দিয়ে আবার মা কিনে নেয়,

কেউ কি পয়সা দিয়ে কারো মা কিনে দেয় |

 

কত পথিক বসতো এসে মায়ের মধুর মিষ্টি ছায়া ঘেঁষে

আগাছা ঘাসেরা শুতো  মায়ের বিশাল কোলে

কেউ কি পয়সা দিয়ে আবার মা কিনে নেয়,

কেউ কি পয়সা দিয়ে কারো মা কিনে দেয় |

 

বড় হবো আমিও যখন, ওরা আবার আসবে

আমার দুখে তোমরা কি কেউ চোখের জলে ভাসবে ?

বল ভাই, বল ভাই,

কেউ কি পয়সা দিয়ে আবার বোন কিনে নেয় !

১৯৯৪                          – দীপ্তেন্দু মুখোপাধ্যায়

* কচি কাঁচাদের “পরিবেশ শিক্ষা”র কাজে বিভিন্ন গ্রামে এটি ব্যবহৃত হয় |

গানটি শোনার জন্য ক্লিক করুনCLICK

 

Green  Gate, Punya Maali and Gautam Ghose

I returned home from office around seven in the evening. I saw my daughter and son were glued to the small t.v.set. Those days we had a black and white one,  and one of them shouted “Dad join us, this is a good tele-film, about a village doctor.. its by Gautam Ghose” . I just glanced and said appreciatively “oh it is by Gautam… my personal friend !” To this both of them gazed at me for a while and then together they burst into a loud laughter ! “Dad, what is a ‘personal friend’….”. I lost my words trying to utter something “ well… it is like…. I mean”. At this juncture my wife came to my rescue and said “why not come to the dining room …. I will get you a hot cup of tea “. I simply followed her and almost ran out from the spot.

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We were studying at a missionary school in south Calcutta. It was quite an old school run by the Anglican Missionary, located on a main street complete with quite a big church. We had two entrance gates…. Green ornamentaly iron-cast. The one leading to the cathedral 3church portico was the main entrance. This was managed by Punya Mali. As the name suggests, Punya was basically a gardener… the school  indeed had some scattered garden….. but he also doubled as the gate-keeper. We also had another identically designed large gate at another side of the school, behind the church, beside the small grave-yard. Yes, this too was coloured green. This gate was always kept locked… and it was at a secluded place.

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That day four of us assembled behind the church. Ataul explained that he will stand just at the corner end of the church, I am to stand a bit far on the passage… my job was to warn if anyone is seen coming this way. The mission was to arrange a safe passage to Niloo and Gautam, so that they can scale the tall green gate .. jump and escape…. . As

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Thanks to Facebook ! I found the exact spot, after so many decades ! I was behind the bush !

planned both Niloo and Gautam reached near the gate. Niloo first climbed the gate. Half-way through he threw the leather sandals onto the road outside. And then he jumped on the road with ease . It was then the turn of Gautam.  Gautam always wore black heavy shoes-  he was almost on top of the gate. And then the inevitable happened ! I saw Punya Mali coming to this side. I got nervous and signaled  “Ata… Punya !” On his turn Ata warned the duo about ensuing Punya’s arrival on the site !. But, Punya suddenly halted and made an about turn . And vanished  into some class room somewhere !

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There was a popular cinema hall in Colootola named Moonlight. It was popular among student film-lovers because of its convenient show timings…. it had a noon show…. From 12 noon to 2.30 p.m. Which meant that students could attend school , mark their attendance around 10, and , even  go through an entire 45 minutes first period. And could still watch a movie and return home, at times even return back to the school to attend the last period !

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cathedral 2 (2)We were about 7 or 8 of us, most of us studying  in the eighth standard. It was tiffin break and we would all assemble at the dark class room near the stair case. Niloo and Gautam would tell us about the film they watched the previous day. It was normally a narration on rotation. Both of them were good story tellers. It was in one of those sessions we heard the entire story of of Devdas – complete with Gautam’s role play of Dilip Kumar’s last scene…. I can still remember him showing how to tremble the lips.. and almost whisper “Paro” .

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It was on a session like this that we heard the story of  Hum Dono – complete with  the song  “Mai Zindagi Ka Saath Nibhataa Chala Gaya” rendered by Gautam. Gautam had a deep voice with good resonance. He was a perfectionist who would get upset if you pronounced “Zindagi” as “Jindagi”…. And often he would reprimand Niloo about his awful  hindi or urdu pronunciation, on narrating a film dialogue !

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When we reached at the crossing of Rustamjee Street it was evening . The occasion was a cultural show.  A stage was built, even if it was an open air show. Chairs were laid on all three sides of the narrow street junction. (It is the lane next to Mukti World now, near Ballygunge Phari) . Soon the play “Thana Theke Aschi” started. As usual Gautam and Niloo were in the lead roles. Niloo looked awful  wearing an over sized attire of a polce inspector. It was a good show, both of them acted well, full house… and the audience often applauded with clap.  So, this can be termed as Gautam’s first public directorial venture !

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I was intently watching the meat seller so that he should not  fool me on the correctness of the weight of the meat when there was a heavy pounding on my shoulder “Hi, I did not know you come to this Park Circus meat market too”! It was Niloo. Both of us were now with changed looks.  After we hugged for a while Niloo said “Guess who was at my home last week ?  Ha, ha.. it was Gautam” ! What he explained was like this. Niloo has married a Christian girl. He has two daughters. They are quite grown up…. college goers.  As usual Niloo used to tell his children about the good old school days. And somehow  had mentioned to them that Gautam was his close friend. His daughters never believed him .And then suddenly one Sunday Gautam appeared in flesh at their home and spent the whole day- including having a family lunch ! .

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I hurriedly returned from the market and narrated the whole story of meeting Niloo to my Children. Both of them smiled and started pulling my leg “So the moral of the story is ‘mera number kab ayega’ !

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“Gautam, izzat bacha le yaar, kabhi toh mera bhi ghar aya kar …..”

 

 

 

A Wristwatch Named Sona !

Today is a very special day for Deep. The School Final Board Exam starts today. The exam centre is a bit far away, and, he has to catch a public bus which is normally crowded. Hence he has to set out a bit early, so that he can afford to avoid boarding on a crowded one, and try the next one. It is at that moment someone asked “do you have a  wristwatch to carry ?”  Deep did not have one, and everyone agreed that he needed to carry one. There are two exam-papers to appear today. Each of two  hours  duration. One has to calculate judiciously time allocation for attempting each of the six long questions on every session ! Those days the fashion was to write long exam papers, especially on the literature subjects.  Deep’s dad said “ My elder sister had an old watch, let me check if it still works”. Soon he took out the same from a tin trunk. He wound the spring key till the end, and after a bit shaking it started rolling. It was a square dialled wrist watch…. she was a health nurse and Deep did not have any hesitation to wear it. After all the exams were over, about a week later, Deep returned the watch to his father…. after all it is a memory item for his father, and, it was placed back to the tin trunk.

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Deep is now in college doing his university studies. He still did not manage to have a watch on his own….. and yes, bringing out the same-old watch during exam days continued during university exams too during next 3 Years. During this period Deep DSCN2682got interested to own a wrist watch….. an Indian brand called HMT. There was a small outlet of this brand on the Park Street in Calcutta, at a departmental store called Hall & Anderson. One has to stand in a queue early in the morning, and, the limited number of pieces was always got exhausted within an hour and a large number of people never got a chance to procure the watches…. they always came back the next day a bit earlier to try their luck again.

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Deep’s first job, right after his university education was  in Bangalore. His office was at a tall building called Unity Building, and, lo behold there was an outlet of HMT watches. Deep never missed to spend time peeping through the show-windows on the various watches. Kamat Restaurant was  on the same building…. so this is how the rest of the lunch break was spent! He was very encouraged to note that there was not much crowd, and, they had enough stock. On the first salary  day he decided to buy a watch.  The salary he got was 265/-. In fact the salary was 300/- ,but, 35/- was deducted as p.f. During that after noon very boldly he entered the show-room and  he was happy that the salesman in the counter very  sincerely showed him various models. Two models he liked, one named Janata…. it was the cheapest available… Rs. 99/-.  Then there was this model  called Sona  costing Rs. 125/-.Deep felt it was a bit costly one, but so what… after all it is his hard earned money any way !

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It is a regular jouney now, to and fro Bangalore. Deep always preferred to have a long bath at the Madras station  on his way from Bangalore to Calcutta. Madras was the change over station.  This trip was not an exception. By the time he came out of the washroom, it was already time to catch the connecting train to Calcutta. He was literally running on the platform…. it was at the time he had a feeling that some one was shouting and was trying to catch up with him behind…. he too was almost running. Deep stopped, and looked behind… and he realised that this gentle man was indeed waiving at him from behind. He came near Deep. He was a dhoti clad middle aged man and spoke good English “ I was at the next wash basin when you were washing your face…. I saw you placing your watch at one corner of your wash basin. And then you hurriedly turned back , started running towards the platform without taking your watch ! Since then I was chasing you…. but I was no match for you…. you were too fast !”  Deep profusely thanked the gentleman, and,  Sona was back to its rightful owner !

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It was a long flight from Bangalore. I was again working at this city after a gap of about 15 years. I always felt  very cold during  a flight and always carried a heavy sweater.  I always put the sweater on before boarding at the craft and seldom took it out.  The flight almost reached Calcutta when I took out the sweater, folded them neatly, stashed it in the carry bag before landing.  When I reached home it was already late night. I took out the coins, a few rupee notes  ( I do not carry a money purse !) from the trouser’s pocket…. it was at this point Pakhi, my wife,  noticed that I have the watch but only the disc ! All the golden dial needles…. even the glass cover vanished…. it is a good for nothing piece now !  Was it at the Bangaloe guest house, that it got broke.. that I must have dashed with the door or something ? No, it could not be…. I checked my watch several times when the  flight had a delayed departure.  “Don’t bother, it was any way an old one…. it is not a great issue to be upset about”- my wife was trying to console me.  Frankly, I felt sorry….. I was sure even if I wanted,  I could not get it renovated……HMT never made those models any more !

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It is winter again ! Time for the warm clothing to show their faces again. Since morning Pakhi  is busy washing sweaters of varied colours and sizes for all the family members. Suddenly she rushed to me in the front room and said “tell me if I give you something very dear to you, what prize would you give me !”  “Well, well may be a dinner in the nearby Chinese Restaurant for all ……. but tell me what it is “ ?  She opened her palm… lo behold…. here they are…..  the  needles of my Sona….. the second-needle…. the minute-needle…. the hour-needle. They look more glittery now with a gentle soap wash.  “They were all stuck in your sweater…… and next time you take out your sweater please remove your wrist watch first”.

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With the advent of mobile phones none of us use watches any more. Not even Sona makes any guest appearance any more, except for photo-shoot for a blog write-up like this !

 

The era of wrist watch is gone. Mobile phone  has replaced it. But Sona lives on…….

Storage !

Rijul is a high school student in his last year of schooling, and all busy these days preparing for his final exam. Computer is his favourite subject. He was very enthusiastically teaching his grandpa about storage.

“You see, first it was kb.  Then mb… that is megabyte,   then gb… and now it is tb…. you can virtually store anything….. for many many years …do you get anything ” ?

Me, the grandfather was not sure was able to grasp all that he was telling…

dadu1My  mind went far far away. Yes, we too had a storage-system….. a brown all leather briefcase ! This was the all important Storage System for us.  My father was very meticulously keeping things here….. a large variety of things…. our house ownership documents,  school and university certificates of all his four children, their exam marksheets, bank pass books (hand written!), a small red plastic case for smaller but vvip items like a few gold bangles of my mother .. my passport, pension nomination papers… Wow !And any other things which he thought should be stored safely.

dadu2Those were before the xerox age. Thus often we asked him for school certificates or marksheets and we would neatly copy-write them with blue ink pen on plain paper and get it attested by a Govt. Officer, for all our practical purposes. He would several time give us reminder to get the original returned. Once he got them back he will again store them in the Storage Box.

Well, listening up to this point, our Rijul was all perplexed and amused !

dadu4After a  little while I called him again and handed over to him the Real Storage.  He was indeed baffled to find some items still lying safe in the Storage  …. a bank pass book – hand calcuted ,  the “red box” … it had a few blades which he did not believe were used for actual shaving,  a cloth-made money purse with a few 10paise coins (he never knew that such coins existed !)

Sindoor

Pakhi, my wife was from a small town near our city of Calcutta. It was just a few days after our marriage, and, we were setting out to a relative’s house. It was a part of the usual invitation which normally follows the marriage ceremony. She took a quick

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Mother’s Sindoor Pot. Sandal Wood work from Bangalore

bath, wore a saree and it was then that we realised that there was no Sindoor-Pot! ( Every married Bengali woman prefers to apply a streak of vermillion or sindoor to the parting of her hair. This vermillion or sindoor is kept in a special pot). Very shyly she asked whether my mother would have any sindoor-pot ! It was a legitimate query as on those days, putting on sindoor for Christian women were not very common. But my mother used to always put on sindoor, every day after bath. I assured her that my mother had one and I brought the sindoor-pot for Pakhi for that day.

 

It was then I realised that for Pakhi putting on sindoor was very important, and, that she does not have any sindoor-pot. I assured her that I would buy her a sindur-pot.

I was on touring job then ( and even now, of course the number of tours is less now for obvious reason) and on return from a trip I brought for her a nice sindoor-pot. I picked

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Hyderabad near charminar,

it up from Hyderabad near Charminar.

 

During the next tour I asked her what I should bring for her ! She just smiled and said “You bring whatever you think best”. When I returned from this trip I opened a small packet and asked her “Guess what gift I brought for you?”

She said “ You show me what it is”. Lo behold…. it was a sindoor pot ! We both burst into a loud laughter !

Thereafter for several years, it almost became a ritual to bring a sindoor-pot from various parts of the land of varied designs, until our children were big enoughto do a bit of leg-pulling for this blunt gift idea !

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Soft Stone work from Khurdah, Odhisa

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Designed on real konch-shell . Puri Sea Beach, Odhisa

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Nicely crafted with sea-shells. Kanya Kumari , Tamil Nadu

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Mirron crafts from Jaipur, Rajasthan

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Brass work of Uttar Pradesh. Lucknow

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Wood work. Chennai, Tamil Nadu

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White Stone-Carving : Agra, Uttar Pradesh

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Coloured Stone. Cuttack, Odhisa

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Pix: Srichandra V