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The gentle giant who bonded with kids

The gentle giant who bonded with kids

Photo for representational purpose only. - iStock file photo



Buddhadev Nandi

I was a student of Class IV when I first read Oscar Wilde’s popular story The Selfish Giant. The protagonist reminded me of a solemn old man who owned an orchard. He had a six-foot frame and sported a handlebar moustache. His rarely heard baritone summed up the portrait of the giant in the classic fable. We had heard that he had returned from England after completing higher studies and retired as a Colonel in the Indian Army.

The orchard comprised a sprawling garden surrounded by a lofty wall. It had a variety of fruit trees, including mango, guava, orange, custard apple, wood-apple, pear, chickoo, jamun, jackfruit, litchi and what-not. Located beside our school, the garden was the main attraction for the children during the recess.

The owner ran a small handicraft workshop inside the garden. About a dozen craftsmen worked there. They were the self-appointed caretakers of the garden. If we were caught red-handed after creeping inside the place to steal juicy fruits, they would punish us and even complain to the headmaster. But they could not deter us from taking the risk of grabbing the delectable fruits.

One day, a gang of mischief-mongers, including me, entered the garden stealthily. We targeted the jamun trees as we knew that they were richly laden with fruit. One of us, an expert in climbing trees, reached the topmost branch of a big tree. All of a sudden, the owner of the garden turned up near the tree. We took to our heels and hid behind a nearby bush. The boy atop the tree was so scared to see the giant that he fell to the ground with a thud.

The Brobdingnagian figure hastily approached the boy and called out his workers for help. The boy had broken a leg. We came out of our hideout. He got to know from the craftsmen that we had trespassed on his garden to steal fruits. To our utter astonishment, he reprimanded his workers for preventing us from entering the garden through the front gate.

He then made arrangements to take the wounded boy to an orthopaedic surgeon. Thereafter, he patted our heads and backs with his huge palms and declared: ‘All the fruits of the garden are yours.’ From then on, we would fearlessly march into the garden through the front gate. We would often implore the owner to narrate accounts of his adventures from his military days. He never failed to oblige us.

He was no doubt a giant, but definitely not a selfish one. Every time I remember him, I also recall what the giant said in the story when he had a change of heart: ‘I have many beautiful flowers (in my garden), but the children are the most beautiful flowers of all.’


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