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short story Uncategorized

A few “Happy New Years”

Sona looked at the clock on her desk yet again. It was one of those fancy corporate gifts she had received this year on Diwali.
The clock said that only 5 minutes were left to ring in the New Year. She could hear some joyous chants and sounds of fireworks outside.
She smiled and submerged herself to finish the pending work. In her mind, she was thinking about the car she planned to gift her parents in the next 2 months. The “best employee” award also had to be taken care of again.


Mrittika enjoyed dancing. One day she dreamed of taking the centrestage. One day the world would be her stage, but as of now she had to satisfy herself by being a background dancer. She waited for her act to begin. This was one of those elite parties in the city where the who’s who visited to celebrate the new year.
It was cold outside. Everyone submerged themselves in gallons of alcohol while a few like Mrittika entertained then to make it a party to remember for the who’s who. The skimpy clothes and flashbulbs of lust were their tickets to fame on Page 3 the next day.


“Business has not been good today Raju bhai”
“Yes, hardly any sale in this holiday season too. Everything is available online these days”.
Raju said while counting his day’s earning. His son wanted to buy a new mobile phone. Kamala, his wife wanted to go for the picnic organised by a few of their neighbours. Each person needed to pay 300 rupees for the picnic.
300 Rupees – a figure that his sale of posters and canvases during this entire festive season had failed to achieve. He had set up a small roadside shop near Victoria Memorial. Thousands thronged the place everyday during the winters, but few bought the pictures.
He needed the money. He had promised his family to bring home the money in return of their permission to be absent during this time when the entire city indulged in being happy.
Raju wanted that money to buy a smile for his family.

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bengal short story Uncategorized

Refugee

“Basically, you are a Refugee!”

A huge round of thunderous laughter serenaded Shambo’s living room in Gurgaon.

It was the occasion of the house warming party for the new apartment that Shambo had managed to buy in one of those luxurious apartment blocks in this new city. The EMI will cut a deep hole inside his pocket, but the name plate on the door would more than make up for it.

Shambo’s mother still refers to Gurgaon as “Dilli”. Shambo had failed to explain that Gurgaon was more of an excuse in the name of a city. He went out one day to find a proper book store nearby his house, but had failed to find one. The look of disgust on his face was so palpable that the “autowallah” had to ask – “Kya hua bhaissab, sab thik to hain na?”

Yet, this place was his home now. He has managed to buy his own house here, with his own money. For every single thing that he hated Gurgaon for, he respected the place for giving him a job, an identity and the financial independence that his home town could never give him. Gurgaon valued his hardwork and tenacity.

“What happened, Refugee? Can we have some more beer please?”

Categories
Calcutta nostalgia romance short story Uncategorized

Memory Closet

Piu stopped to look back. He did look familiar.

There was a glint of “recognition” in his eyes too. Did he smile? Was it that same impish grin.

Piu started hurling out those cardboard compartments from the memory closet really fast.

Somewhere deep down, that smile brought about a lot of happy memories. The smile was almost like the touch of her grandmother’s, her thamma‘s, hands which smelled of Boroline. The touch that she yearned for when that long drawn divorce battle drained her off, emotionally and financially.

And now she was back in the city where her thamma once lived, the city which always made her feel at home and at peace.

This time she had a mission. She wanted to get rid of that very house where she had met Ranjeev. That same very old house on Southern Avenue where Ranjeev asked her out for their first date. She remembers that Ranjeev tried hard to impress his father’s ‘Tolly Club’ membership, while she continued being snooty and explained to him why ‘Calcutta Club’ was a class apart.

Ironically, Ranjeev’s father wanted to bring down her thamma’s house and develop the property. That was a decade ago. They fell in love and the house remained to stay on, as per her wish.

Categories
Bong way of life short story Uncategorized

Durga and Uma – 2 stories, 2 faces

(This post was originally written as a part of the “Pujo Voices” competition organised by Wedoria, an initiative actively supported by the ABP Group. I won the Critics’ Choice award for another entry, but this was my personal favourite among the five I submitted. And what better day to revisit it than today- the day everyone is busy celebrating as International Women’s Day – the day marked by heavy discounts on consumer goods and “Happy Women’s Day” messages all over social media. Not that I mind the discounts, but the irony is almost satirical. In case you have time, read, share and leave a comment. We can all go back and fill up our shopping carts afterwards 🙂 )

The row of lights that adorned the streets leading to the Pujo Pandal welcomed ‘Durga’ back home. It was almost a year that she had been here last. Her house back in Greater Kailash had all the trappings of luxury, but none could match the simple joy of seeing the ‘devi’ idol being carried into the pandal from her old and almost bedridden North Kolkata home’s balcony. The conch shells announced the arrival of the festival in the city.

This year was also special. The glitter of her community or ‘Para Pujo’ will stand out in the crowd with the ‘Devi’ idols being adorned with heavy gold and diamond jewellery, sponsored by one of the biggest jewellery retailers of the country. She was so happy that she was the one who sealed the big deal of corporate sponsorship for her ‘Para’. Everyone from the locality gave her a smiling nod of approval in the pandal where the ‘Devi’ was being adorned in all her glory. Suddenly she spotted a ‘known’ face among the bevy of workers busy making the last minute preparations. She called out-

“Rontu Kaku, How are you?”

“Arrey Shonai, Kemon acho? when did you come back?”

Categories
Independence Life Marriage short story Uncategorized

Relinquished

I

Dalia stood at the very end of the balcony that she once called her own. Like this city, this house, the family- this balcony too did not belong to her anymore. She had left the city and this house out of her own will. Customs told her that she had severed all ties with the family that had been her own since birth. Apparently, she had relinquished her own “Gothra” to take up her husband’s one, during her wedding.

All that happened, ties of a lifetime were severed and nobody noticed, not even Dalia. Her one business decision could determine the accountable balance sheet profits and losses, but here she was unable to perform the last rites of her maternal grandmother during her “Shraadh” ceremony as she belonged to a different “Gothra”. The Purohit told Dalia that she could have performed the ceremony along with her mother, who herself had curtailed rights of mourning for her own mother, if she was still unmarried.

And that precisely gave her the freedom to not offer ritualistic holy water to the soul of  one person who had seen her journey from the shy girl in the primary section of her school who felt scared about informing her teacher that she needed to use the toilet to the one who could herald the attention of an entire board room full of people.

Dalia had heard stories that even before she was born, her maternal grandmother had started stitching dresses for her as she was almost sure that Goddess Lakshmi would bless her eldest daughter this time. Dalia had two elder brothers who enjoyed almost as much attention from her grandmother, but it was she who was her ‘Dimma’s’ favourite. She was almost overjoyed when Dalia got through one of the premium B school of the country and fetched a big ticket job. She was even happier when Dalia got married. It was on that fateful day that Dimma had told Dalia that all her wishes had come true and she could die peacefully now – the day Dalia officially relinquished her right to ritualistically mourn Dimma’s death.

II

A few guests had arrived. Dalia’s parents had preferred not calling many guests as her maternal uncle’s family was still in mourning. Some of them asked Dalia about her life. She smiled and they smiled back. From a distance she watched both her brothers and her mother completing the rituals and offering a “Pranaam” towards the departed soul.

She offered a prayer too.

It was that moment when she realised that she could manage mergers and acquisitions at ease, but for her own self a mere “Kanyadaan” is enough. Enough to relinquish her right to mourn her own grandmother’s death whom she was most attached to and probably sometime later in life, her right to mourn her own parents’ death too.

And she still did not understand how can a few mantras change her “Gothra”, her lineage and the very bloodline she belonged to, since her birth.

Categories
short story

Has the love been arranged in this marriage?

This post was selected as one of the “Tangy Tuesday Picks” by BlogAdda for the 1 July 2014 edition.
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(This is a story written by me long back in 2010 on my old blog. Somehow this post got archived and while I was compiling the short stories written by me on one page, I decided to edit and republish it here.)
I
“But how will I survive this man ma??” Noyonika screamed at the top of her voice, “He loves onions- cooked, boiled and raw- in every other thing. ”
“So?”
“So? what?? you know I hate onions. I can’t even stand the smell of them. They are plain and simple obnoxious!”
“You should have never gone to law school you know. Now you will reject this proposal for an onion right?”
“No! am just saying that the implications will be horrendous if I have to spend the rest of my life with this onion loving fella..”
“No further questions, you add him up on gtalk, talk to him. You guys get that option, remember in 1980 when I got married at the age of 22, we did not even go out for a formal date. We just spoke in front of our elders. Now, you need to know, analyse and then decide if you can marry that person.”
“Ma, it may have worked in your case but imagine this- in case you find that you and your life partner have nothing in common to talk about or may be to even dream about, how will that work out?”
“Not again! you are being given the option right! besides you people have all these online matrimony sites with people listing out their interests and all….our newspaper advertisements never had that much space.”
“I always told you ma, cyber squatting should be made a crime.”
“What’s that?”
“Nothing, give me his gtalk id.”
(From: Here)
Noyonika knew that she had not much of an option other than following her mother’s instruction of adding up this onion fanatic on her gtalk list. Off course not on her regular id, but the matrimonial one that her mother had insisted on. This guy seemed perfect for her. In fact quite the perfect match for her. He had degrees from the best of the schools in India, went for an M.S. abroad on a full scholarship from one of those ivy league colleges, earned quite a bit, had a nice family background, was a bangal and most importantly looked forward to settling down in Calcutta. His pictures also looked pretty normal, though Noyonika knew that a few years abroad and every geek turns in to that F1 lingo spewing hot hunk every mother wants as the prized catch for their daughter.
Noyonika knew she had the option to choose. Her family was not averse to the idea of a ‘love marriage’, though they will prefer an ‘arranged’ one more. She also had been into relationships which her parents always scanned from the marriage angle. But none worked actually and now she was single all over again with a bruised heart to nurse and curse.
On a much more philosophical note, Noyonika hated her life right now. She was twenty-five and had finished her law degree from a very reputed law school, had a decent job which paid her good money, was above average in looks, had some intellectual fervor which Bengali guys in the marriage market termed as “brains” and a very very big mouth. Her parents wanted her to settle down and so did she, but the compatibility quotient held her back. Online matrimony seemed to have worked wonders in her family and so when Mishtumashi asked her mother to post her profile on one of those sites she did not even bother to ask for her permission. When she asked the reason, her mother sounded curt and logical- “If you can have your profile posted on so many of those social networking sites, then why can’t you do this for us?”
Now when your mother asks you that question all teary eyed, you can never refuse. Her latest “perfect match” Mr. Onion hunk was one of such suitors who jumped out of the virtual window to kill all her childhood fantasies about the perfect cross between Mr. Darcy and Amit Ray. Noyonika always presumed they were onion hating people. But her oh so prim and proper Mr. Ganguly does mention his onion eating habits which he describes as, “up for anything with spices and onions in it” in the cuisine column of his profile. How uncivilised, thought Noyonika.
II
“Hey”, Mr. Onion Hunk’s gtalk window popped out. Noyonika had mailed him about “her” being interested in striking up a conversation with him virtually since he is stationed in Vienna right now and when can he catch her online considering the time difference.
“Hi”
“so, we finally meet”
Noyonika’s facial expression darted from a suppressed laughter to irritation. She had been subjected to these cheesy modes of impressing a girl before also, but never expected this literature loving, Chaurasiya listening onion hunk to be in the same league.
“Yeah, virtually actually :-)”
“Right! so what did you like about me?”
Now that was something that Noyonika never expected. she was about to say “nothing actually” but refrained. She felt like blurting out, “Actually, I had a problem with your eating onions”, but said “generally.”
“Lol, you know you are the first girl to tell me that. Interesting!”
“Yeah! very”
“Ok! listen enough of being cheesy and asking what did you like in me questions..in fact am very uncomfortable with all that.”
“Oh!so…as in you understand that right?”
“Yeah, of course! now I know that you will be thinking that why did I begin with that so we finally met line..actually it was my friend’s idea”
Noyonika was on the verge of a nervous breakdown now. Well! almost. First this guy comes up with cheesy opening lines and then puts the blame on his friends! This can’t get worse-She is definitely not marrying this guy and she preferred to keep silent.
“What happened?? did i cause a big turn off?”
“Umm! yes!”
“so, Ms.Guha, you must not be contemplating marriage with me ever..right!”
“Is that even a question to ask?”
“Ha ha ha”
“What?”
“Turn Offs- Cheesy and corny pick up lines, blaming others for your own fault and farting/ burping in public.”
“You know what, you are actually cyber stalking me.”
“Hey chill! I just thought of checking out your profile on Facebook before striking up a conversation.”
“Oh! yeah! and you tried to follow it so hard.”
“actually not..In case you realize, I thought of trying the other way round…”
“Yeah! and am so happy that this conversation is virtual.”
“Right! I don’t have the scope of moving to the 3rd option.”
Noyonika could not resist a chuckle now. She did not know how to respond to that.
“Umm!so I guess we are on track Ms. Guha?”
“Call me Noyonika.”
“Ah! yes! and thanks for the smile (am not being cheesy now)”
“this was kind of weird”
“I know..actually I thought that you must have been bored to death by now by having such numerous conversations with strangers. In fact, that’s the case with me. so I thought, why not just spice it up a bit. At least a little bit of research on your virtual self showed that you will be game for it :-). sorry in case you mind.”
“Absolutely no! In fact this was quite interesting.”
“So do I move on to being Mr Interesting”
“Tch Tch, Now you are being cheesy!”
“Really?”
“Yes! Mr. researcher on virtual selves of prospective brides.”
“Lol. How do you know that?”
“Just the way you know that I will be game for the joke! come one accept it, that you have done that with all your prospective bride like species.”
“ah! yes…”
“so there you go”
“What?”
“checking people online! sheesh! am not going to marry some one who checks other people out.”
“But I am definitely in awe of one of them who just called me a kind of creep.”
“cheesy”
“Presumptuous”
 III
By the end of the conversation that nightNoyonika and his Mr Onion hunk were discovering common interests of photography, travelling, reading and food, albeit minus the onion.The first thing in the morning Noyonika’s mother did was to inquire about last night’s conversation. She was herself awake to take a feedback from her but slept when she understood that they plan to chat for quite sometime.
“I kind of liked him Ma. Let’s see.”
Her mother jumped at the mere thought of her “liking” someone. None of the other conversations lasted this long.
“so let’s fix up a meeting next week when he is coming back to Calcutta. what say?”
“Ma, he is coming back only for 5 days and that too, to attend a cousin’s wedding. Don’t you think it will be too much of an intrusion?”
“whatever.”
But what is predestined is bound to happen. Mr.Ganguly who blinked as Onion Hunk on Noyonika’s regular Gtalk list was now used to being addressed as Neel, his first name. Needless to say Noyonika’s phone often vibrated during office meetings with a distant country code flashing.
so, lets meet up then.”
“Umm! when?”
“Next Sunday may be.”
“But isn’t the Odhibaash scheduled on that day?”
“Well, I can definitely make up an excuse and don’t you think this Calcutta trip this time won’t be worth it without meeting my ms. big mouth. I swear am not being cheesy.”
“shut up Mr Onion hunk.”
So they decided and met. The venue was not the regular Barista or CCD. Noyonika detested them and Neel hated them. The Metro railway seemed to be a wonderful option for both of them. Needless to say Rabindra Sadan was the chosen station.
“Ouch! I think we got down from the same train” Neel smiled.
“Yes! considering we are both very punctual and nothing in this city runs as punctually as the Metro. ” They were both running 15 minutes late.
“Am sorry am late because of all the functions at home.” Neel knew he was making a lame ecuse.
“Its Ok! I just happened to read an old issue of Anandabazar somewhere, where Bipasha Basu advises people to be deliberately and fashionably late for their first dates.”
“So did you try this one on your ex flame…Ronojoy”
“How do you know?”
“You seemed to have told me so much about him… I think I even know which deodorant did he use.”
“Can’t help it, I still have a huge crush on him.”
“I don’t mind actually you know. I like competition”
“Geek! typical geek you are.”
“As you wish!”
“You know, you are so not like Mr.Darcy”
“But am like Amit Ray”
“Please don’t be! I kind of hate him now”
“Why?”
“Generally, I was re reading Shesher Kobita that day. Amit was a loser.”
“Erm, Labonyo was herself being the turn off and pushing him away..he had no other option.”
“Yeah Katie was the most convenient choice for her. I just hope you also don’t turn out to be like that.”
“In case we can have all these random dissection of Tagore’s creation of ultimate female fantasy am not going anywhere.”
“Is that the way you define commitment?”
“Kind of yes! But more so in giving a relationship its time and space.”
Confetti showers would have been a suitable option right then, because Mr. Neel Ganguly had pulled off something right there which many of his counterparts could not. Noyonika just shrieked out a very effeminate and oh! so cheesy “aww!”But moments are shortlived, just like the romance in them. It was just near Mohor Kunjo, that Noyonika discovered her favbourite snack of Ghotigorom (mishmash).
“Hey Neel, you want to have some of those.”
“Oh! yes!”
“Ok Dada, make 2… you want jhaal? and please without onions” she smiled at the vendor.
“Hey, one without onions and one with more of it.”
Tragedy had stuck Noyonika right then. How? how! How on earth could she forget Neel’s fascination for Onions? Also, they had never talked about her onion aversion, the main reason she was not even willing to talk to Neel in the first place.
She looked blank eyed towards Neel.
“Noyon, what happened?”
“Nothing.”
“Something must be the matter..tell me?”
“You really like onions right?”
“Really!, in fact I deliberately mentioned that in my matrimonial profile you know. In case anybody has any objection. I mean i love my food with an extra dash of onions, makes it spicy.”
“Hmm”
“That reminds me! you can cook that very delicious mutton chops you mentioned that day..the ones you make really well.”
“with onions?”
“Yes and green chillies”
“Ohk! Neel, I suppose you should know something about me”
“what? another guy..no! wasn’t ranajoy enough for my boredom?”
“this is serious neel..I hate onions..in fact I hate anything with onions in it..I hate the smell of it..cannot even tolerate it in my vicinity.”
“allergic to it?”
“No..generally hate it.”
A deathly silence enveloped the situation. Both of them returned home taking separate taxis. Nobody was in a mood for a romantic metro rail ride.
IV
“So how did it go?” Noyonika’s mother pounced on her the moment she returned home.
“Ma! please”
“Arey tell, you were so excited to meet him.”
“I wasn’t”
“Don’t lie, I could see that on your face.”
Noyonika hated this. Mothers seem to know everything. she retired to bed. Though the urge of giving Neel a call was all-encompassing, but still she resisted it.
she was getting ready for office the next day when her mother entered the room.
“Noyon, what’s the matter…you don’t seem happy after yesterday’s meeting with that Ganguly boy.”
Noyonika did not want to share, but mothers can be the perfect nest to tell and share everything stupid.
“Ma he loves onions and I dont.”
“Bas! that’s it?”
“What else Ma….I thought that onion thing on his profile is just a joke, but he was pretty serious. In fact he was being honest.”
“That’s very nice actually. But this is a very minor thing noyon. are you sure there isn’t anything else.”
“What else ma? we have so much in common excepting this very fundamental thing. Imagine food, and you know how much a foodie I am and so is Neel, will be the bone of contention. This marriage will not work out anyways.”
“Hey Bhogobaan! Noyon you guys hyperventilate.”
“Ma, don’t start that start that please! I am seriously upset.”
“Come here Noyon. Let me tell you a story. When I got married to your father we hardly knew each other. When we were on our honeymoon, we discovered we had nothing in common. He loved reading books, but only those which related to law…and I loved all the finer things in life..as you people will call it.”
“But that’s not about food…this is fundamental”
“Listen to me Noyon….You guys have so much in common to talk about, discuss about and as you say..conversations are such a big aphrodisiac. think of us 30 years ago. we did not have social networking sites to share our personal interests. We did not know what to talk about. do you understand that.”
“hmmm”
“But we still have a very successful marriage Noyon and you know why? Not because we judged our relationship on the parameters of what’s compatible and what’s not. Your father never even tried to mould himself the way I would have liked my ideal man to be. Nor did I ever take any interest in his law books. But still we survived. Actually we lived through this relationship…ups and downs, decisions- everything..together. When we fought over interest issues like I want a painting up on the drawing room wall and he being dead against anything being put up there…we were reliving the relationship that we entered by the testimony of the fire.”
“Ma..!”
“What? am I sounding cheesy or what do you think..I never had an Amit Ray in mind?”
“Oh! please Ma, Amit was such a loser.”
“Am glad that you realised that Noyon, because Labonyos always suffer. Amit Rays are meant to be part of your fantasy/ dreams…I may sound unromantic to the hilt but that’s true. All of us have to take a decision when we marry, probably the most important decision of your lifetime. There is no gender bias in that. Marriages are decisions of a lifetime. It’s about the space and time you give to a relationship. It’s not a mere coffee-house date.”
“Ma, though you sound like the big granny in the movie who hams and give lectures about marriage..you actually make sense you know….”
“I know that noyon. Marriage is also about adjustment. It’s also about compromise which may be termed as colouring your self as the other person may like it…somebody has to take the first step.”
“So you mean I start having onions?”
“No!, never, that’s you…but you can cook the way he wants..and he also can go without onions once or twice a week.”
V
Noyonika thought over the matter the entire day. she was not sure about calling up Neel right then. It was the day of his cousin’s marriage and he might be preoccupied already. Besides he might not think as she perceived the issue. It was just then that her cellphone beeped. “Hi! I needed to talk, may I call?”
In stead Noyonika herself called.
“You know what? I think I can make those mutton chops.”
“Yeah! and I also can go without having onions on special days..besides there are always mouth fresheners.”
“Yeah..Wait a min..WHAT???”
“Soorryy!! don’t kill me and please don’t change your decision now.”
“Bugger!!!”
“Meet me in 15 minutes near Maidan Metro.”
“You are insane, you have a marriage to attend in half an hour.”
“Please be my perfect wife and suggest what should I wear…erm!I need to buy some clothes you know!”
“You are incorrigible!”
“By the way, who did the brainwashing?”
“Ma..you?”
“My mom…they know everything I suppose….like creasing out basic differences..”
“Yes! and solving fundamental problems…wonder why it is told women can be wonderful world leaders. anyways see you in 15 minutes.”
“Am already there dear. :-)”
Categories
short story

Uncertain

“It is not Rono”.

Sheila’s words momentarily comforted Rajita. But in her heart she knew that the unrest was yet to die down. It was almost 1:00 AM in the night and Rono, better known as Ronojoy Gupta among his colleagues, was missing for the last 72 hours.

This was he second day in a stretch that Rajita was hopping around from one hospital to another along with a bunch of friends in this unknown city. And in this unprecedented hour of terror, it appeared more and more unknown.She had been here for the past 5 years, but every time she crossed the CR PArk Kalibari, she longed to be home. In her mind home was always a city a few thousand kilometres away, a city which was already discarded as trash.

Rajita was not cynical, in fact, she had started liking Delhi over the past couple of years. She had no other option.This city meant business and had granted many of her wishes. She had wished to reach the zenith of success and she is already on her way to do so. She also met Rono here. And her life changed. Sometimes she thinks Rono was the best thing to happen to her and sometimes the gory allusion of her relationship with Rono becomes alive…the worst living crisis she could go through. Or she thought so until day before yesterday.

“Hello, Shruti….Shruti this is Ronojoy’s girlfriend Rajita. Sorry for bugging, but is Ronojoy still in office?
“Hi Rajita! No, I think he left an hour back”
“Oh! actually it is almost 12:30 AM and he is never this late…so I was just wondering”
“He might be still stuck in traffic you know…the infamous Gurgaon traffic”
“Yes might be. But traffic at this hour! Anyways, Thanks”

Rajita had disconnected the call and decided to wait for sometime before informing anyone. Shruti worked late along with Rono in his office. Or so she had heard. Earlier it was the chap called Vinay. But the unusually attractive Malayalee bombshell had slowly been mentioned more frequently by Rono. It was not that a hint of suspicion never engulfed Rajita’s mind. But she did not confront Rono. His perceived distance  while answering questions related to Shruti was palpable.

She waited till 3:00 AM when she decided Sheila and her husband Rahul, her first friends in the city. Sheila was her classmate in JNU. And since then it was a battle against time. The time when she apprehended that she might hear that she had lost Rono forever.Surprisingly, even her parents were concerned. They did not like Rono at all. There were plenty of reasons of not liking him. Sometimes they were so real that even she thought of breaking up with him.

Unlike her classy convent educated, JNU polished educational credentials, Rono had nothing. He was merely a small town boy with a Bachelors degree trying to find a foothold in the city. He managed to do an MBA from one of the mushrooming institutes in the city and found a job. A job that was much less paying and prestigious than Rajita’s glamorous corporate affair. But that did not stop him from being assertive to the point of being oppressive, egoistic, insecure and chauvinistic. He could never handle Rajita’s success or academic ventures with ease. He could never fathom or understand the cultural circle that Rajita was a part of. He was not well read and there were often instances that Rajita was left red faced because of Rono’s careless comments or deliberate attempts to demean her friends. She vividly remembers an incident even today when 4 years back, just after they had started dating, she had made a half cooked attempt of introducing him to her family. Her parents were visiting her. They met at Rajita’s aunt’s place in Greater Kailash I which was quite the home of the rich and some famous ones in Delhi. Rono had come all the way from Karolbagh where he was staying in a rented accommodation and travelling all the way to Connought Place. After the lunch was served, everyone started eating with the cutlery. Rono did not even pay heed to anybody around and started managing the chicken leg piece with his hands. If that was not enough, while her uncle played a soft Farida Khannum number when everyone had sat down to indulge in some Bengali adda, Rono audaciously told him to stop the song- “Arey! what sleepy bogus numbers are you playing on a Sunday? Play some nice Hindi song…arrrey what is the name of that new Kareena Kapoor movie? Have you heard?” He asked Rajita’s cousin, someone he did not even know 2 hours back, while patting his back and humming the song.

Rajita’s professor father was completely appalled. He could not fathom what mistake they had done while bringing up Rajita that she could make such an error of decision. Probably the most important decision in her life. They never like Rono again and the feeling was mutual. Rajita’s parents try to dissuade her from pursing the relationship till date. Everytime she visits her home, her mother always try to persuade her to meet a very eligible suitor- the kind they would like for Rajita. Rajita understood their issue.

She often tried to make Rono understand that even if he did not like her parents or her family, he could at least try to be civil around them. But he was always stubborn. He called them foolish and started speaking in harsh language which hurt Rajita’s understanding of being patient in a relationship. She gave up at last knowing taht Rono would not change. He was violent with Rajita often and even shouted at her nowadays. He often accused her of being too friendly with her male colleagues for grabbing the much desired promotion last year.

“You licked Malik’s ass too well! Did you make a trip to his farmhouse also?” stated Rono laughing his guts out. His first reaction after hearing the news of her promotion. He knew very well how much she had worked for her success. Rajita was hurt. She was even more surprised at Rono’s sense of competition when he returned home drunk next day evening and told her – “You earn more than me? I will work more and earn more than you”.

Rajita often wondered why did he stick around with Rono? She was not helpless. She could do that long before but she chose to move in with him instead. A decision which hurt her parents the most. They did not talk to their only daughter for a long long time. It was Rajita’s last ditch attempt to save the relationship. She thougt probably the increased proximity would make Rono understand her better. But the proximity killed even those hopes.

Sheila always asked her what was she waiting for. For Rono to abuse her physically? She did not know. Rajita’s did not see any hope in the relationship. She did not want to hurt her parents but she did not want to hurt Rono also. She loved him and deep inside she hoped that the free spirited self of Rono, the one that she fell in love with, loved her too. Otherwise what would explain his anxiety and perfect nursing when Rajita was at home for a month when she had a fractured ankle. Sometimes she could not understand the twos ides of the Rono. She did not know both.

(Image courtesy: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/68/Feeding-on-Robinia_pseudoacacia-uncertain-0411.jpg)

“Rajita, Rajita…..I think you should go home….I don’t think we can make any more headway today”

Sheila told her while lighting up a cigarette in front of the hospital they were visiting. There was an unidentified dead body whose description matched that of Rono. She had put all her resources in Delhi to use- informed the police, publicised the matte rin the social media, took help of Rono’s colleagues and friends, but nobody was able to shed any light till now.

“Sheila please, we should just go and check the body kept at the Ram Manohar Lohia…Please!!!”
“But that is not even close Rajita…..Rono did not wear a blue shirt that day..you told, remember? Besides, the guy had a tattoo. Rono did not have one”
“Sheila please, I know that how helpful you guys have been..but there should be a limit…I am so sorry..last one…I have a hunch!”
“Rajita, that guy was admitted to the hospital by an unknown sex worker. He was found in a brothel…..Even after knowing Rono, I would not buy that”
“Neither do I….but that guy had a heart attack no? may be he was found by the sex worker….anything…please, please, please….Sheila. He was alive for a day…may be he told something.”

“Sheila, I think we should go.” Sheila’s husband Rahul who was their silent companion through these two days spoke out. Rajita thought she and Sheila would be fine but Rahul had insisted. He did not want his wife and her friend to roam around alone in the city notorious for its misogynist fervour. Rajita did not find the city unsafe…but it was not the right time to argue.

“Okay if you guys say so”.  Sheila gave in and Rahul started driving towards their destination.

Rajita sat in the back of the car. It was almost 2:00 AM now. The city was fast asleep. Yet in someways, the underbelly of the city was awake-completely. Rajita had never seen this side of Delhi. They crossed a nightclub and it seemed that the youth nowadays preferred to submerge themselves in a world of their own..only with the help of alcohol and drugs. But deep inside, Rajita did not register any of these. One  part of her hoped that it was not Rono. Another part of her was sure that it was him..even though the description did not match. That part of her sought certainity. an answer that she has been searching for long. May be n answer for future? But how could he get the tattoo? Was it a new thing? She should have known atleast. She again hoped it was not him. She uttered a silent prayer. This time she felt more confident that it was not him.

The car halted to stop near the hospital. Sheila and Rahul got down and hurriedly went inside. May be it was the early November chill outside which did not make them realise that Rajita was still inside the car. She was thinking of the future. What if it was Rono? Did he actually visit the brothel? Where did it place their relationship? Was he actually dead?

Sometimes uncertainty in life is a much more comfortable place than a dead end.  

Categories
bangla Calcutta short story

টুকরো ছবি

টুকরো ছবি
 
 
“তাহলে প্রিয়গোপাল বিষয়ী থেকেই কিনছিস তো বেনারসীটা?”
সেক্টর ফাইভ লাগোয়া সিসিডী তে বসে দুই বান্ধবির কথোপকথন তা অনেকক্ষন ধরে শুনছিল অনিন্দ্য। পথচলতি পিএনপিসি, আসছে অগ্রহায়ণে বিয়ের শপিং, সোনার বাজার দরের ওঠানামা, কোন বান্ধবী সবছেয়ে জম্পেশ বর পাকড়াও করেছে থেকে কোথায় হানিমুনে যাওয়া যায়- সবই সেই আলচোনার অংশ। কাছাকাছি কোন বহুজাতিক তথ্যপ্রযুক্তি সংস্থার কর্মী দুজনেই সেটা ট্যাশপনা দেখলেই বোঝা জায়। সদ্য চাকুরিতে ঢুকেছে বোধহয়, এখনও দাস্বত্বের রঙিন স্বপ্নের ঘোর লেগে আছে কথাবার্তায় বোঝা যায়।   
অনেক ক্ষন ধরেই অদের কথায় আড়ি পাতছিল অনিন্দ্য। মাঝে মাঝে করে সে এরকম। কিছুটা একঘেয়েমি কাটানোর জন্য শুরু করেছিল অভ্যেস টা।।এখন অনেক টাই নেশা হয়ে দাঁড়িয়েছে। প্রথম প্রথম যখন বর্ধমানের বাড়ি ছেড়া কলকাতায় পড়তে এল, যাদবপুরের কাছেই একটা মেসবাড়ি ভাড়া করে থাকতো তারা কয়েকজন বন্ধু মিলে। তখন এত একঘেয়েমি ছিল না জীবনটায়…এই শহরটাকে এতটা অপরিচিত কিউবিকল সর্বস্বও মনে হত না। এখন তার কাছে বড়সর মাপের একটা চাকরী আছে। পরিচিতের পরিধি টা অনেক বেরেছে কিন্তু বন্ধুর সংখ্যা ক্রম হ্রাস্যমান। তাদের কেউ কেউ চলে গেছে গুড়্গাওন, কেউ মুম্বাই…কেউ বা সুদূর বিদেশ। কেউ কেউ হয়তো আছে এখনও এই শহরে কিন্তু সবাই প্রচন্ড ব্যস্ত।
খবরে কাগজে কলকাতার সম্বন্ধে মাঝেই যারা ভিক্টোরিয়ার ছবি লাগিয়ে এক্তা আদ্যন্ত কর্ম বিমুখ শহরের ছবি তৈরি করেয় তাদের সাথে দেখা করা অনিন্দ্যর মাঝে মাঝে এই ডেডলাইন মুখর দ্বীপের একটা গাইডেড ট্যুর দিতে ইচ্ছে করে।
মেয়ে দুটো উঠবে উঠবে করছে। ঘড়ির দিকে তাকালো অনিন্দ্য। ঈশ! আজ অনেক দেরী হয়ে গেল। প্রত্যেকদিনের আধন্টার অবসর কখন যে দেড় ঘন্টা অতিক্রম করেছে খেয়াল ই নেই তার।
মেয়ে দুটো বেশ। রোজকার আশেপাশের টেবিলের প্রোমোশন, বসের গসিপ এর থেকে একটা অন্যরকম আলোচোনা উপহার দিল তাকে। অনিন্দ্য কুবি নয়।।নয়ত কিছু লিখতো হয়ত। একবার ভাব্ল আলাপ করবে ওদের সাথে।।কিন্তু পর মুহূর্তেই ভাবল কি বলবে তারপর? তাদের কথায় আড়িপাততে প্রায় মাঝবয়সি অনিন্দ্য রায়ের ভাল লেগেছে?

মেয়েগুলো হয়তো তার পদমর্যাদার কদর করে “ঠিক আছে” গোছের উত্তর দেবে হাসিমুখে। এরকম স্তাবকতায় সে অভ্যস্ত। হয়তো বা পরে সে সদ্য বিবাহবিচ্ছিন্ন  শুনে তার গায়েপড়ে আলাপ টাকে “আলুর দোষ” বলবে। এ এক আচ্ছা মুশকিল। আগে জনমত নির্বিশেষে অফিসের সবার সাথে আড্ডা মারত অনিন্দ্য। পরে দেখল নতুন জয়েন করা কিছু মেয়ে একটু বেশীই কদর করছে তার পথচলতি ছবি আঁকার। কয়েকজন আবার বলতে আরম্ভ করল সে নাকি বিশাল ফ্লারট।

মাঝখান থেকে তার অফিসের লাগোয়া কফিশপ টায় যাওয়াই বন্ধ করে দিল সে। বেশী মেলামেশাও। এখন এখানে আসে সে। বেশী দূরে না, আবার কাছেও না। হাটাপথে মিনিট দশেক।
প্রত্যেকদিনের আধঘন্টার অবসর।
বিলটা মিটিয়ে বেড়িয়ে গেল অনিন্দ্য। অতিলোভ করে সোম থেকে শুক্রর এই আধঘন্টা টা হারাতে পারবে না সে। এই একঘেয়েমি, কর্মব্যস্ততার শহরে তো একেবারেই না।
 
 
“দেখো এই বাড়ির মেনটেনেন্সের যা খরচ তা আমাদের পক্ষে চালানো অসম্ভব বৌদি। বেকার সেন্টিমেন্টাল না হয়ে আমার প্রস্তাব টা ভেবে দেখো। আমাদের বাড়ির দারুন লোকেশন টা দেখেই কিন্তু মিঃ মুরারকা বাজার চলতি দরের থেকে অনেকটায় বেশী অফার দিচ্ছেন।”
একনাগারে নিজের কৌশিকের কথাগুল শুনছিল কাজরী। দেশপ্রিয় পার্কের বাসিন্দা, এই একদা বিত্তবান সেনগুপ্ত পরিবারের বধূ হয়ে যখন কাজরীর এই বাড়িতে প্রবেশ তখন কৌশিক সদ্য কলেজে ঢকেছে। মনে আছে ওর বিয়েটা কায়স্থ বাড়ির মেয়ে পরমার সাথে ঠিক করার পেছনে কাজরীর ভূমিকা অনেকটাই।
আর আজ সেই কৌশিক ই কিনা একেবারে গারজিয়ানের ঢঙে তাকে আদেশ করছে এই বাড়িটা বিক্রি করে দিতে সম্মত হতে। আদেশ ঠিক নয়, তবে হ্যা, যবে থেকে তার বৈধব্য সত্ত্বা তাকে গ্রাস করেছে, সে লক্ষ্য করেছে এ বাড়ির সবাই তার সব সিদ্ধান্তে নিজেদের অগ্রাধিকার দেখাতে চেয়েছে। তা সে তার মেয়ে টুয়া কি নিয়ে পড়বেই হোক বা তার নিজের কতটা অর্থসাহায্য চাই তা নিয়েই হোক।
টুয়ার বাবা মারা যাওয়ার পর কাজরীর পাশে সবাই এসে দাড়াতে চেয়েছিল। একদিক দিয়ে তো ভালই। সবাই বলল “বাবা! আজকাল কার দিনেও এরকম দেখা যায় নাকি?”। কাজরীর তো খুশী হওারি কথা।
কিন্তু কোথাও যেন তার এই মহানুভবতার পেছনে একটা করুনার গন্ধ লেগেছিল। সারাজীবন যা প্রত্যাখান করে এসেছে কাজরী। সেইবার সবার সামনে একবার বলেছিল যে সে একটা চাকরীর চেষ্টা করবে ভাবছে…ওমনি সবাই রে রে করে উঠেছিল। ছোট ননদ বুকাই তো বলেই ফেলল- “ছি! বৌদি, এরকম বলতে পারলে তুমি? আমরা কি তোমার পর?”
“বৌদি ভেবে দেখ কিন্তু কথাটা”
কৌশিকের কথায় আবার সম্বিত ফিরল কাজরীর।
“হ্যা, ভাবছি।।কবের মধ্যে জানাতে হবে বললে?”
“যত তাড়াতাড়ি সম্ভব” চাটা শেষ করচে করচে বলল কৌশিক “আসলে ডিলটা এত ভাল পাচ্ছি, বুঝতেই পারছো তো। ভয় লাগছে যে দেরি হয়ে গেলে হাতছাড়া না হয়ে জায়”
“হ্যা সে তো ঠিকি। আসলে তোমায় সেদিন ও তো বললাম না…তোমার দাদার এত স্মৃতি এই বাড়িতে…তাই ঠিক…” আমতা আমতা করে বলল আবার কাজরী।
“আহ! দাদার স্মৃতি কি একার তোমার বৌদি? এ বাড়িতে আমার শৈশব কেটেছে। বাবা মার স্মৃতি আছে…এই পাড়া…এখানে ডাংগুলি খেলেয় বড় হলাম…।সেই বাড়ি ভেঙে একটা বাহারি শপিং মল হয়ে যাবে, আমাদের ঠাকুরদালান কৌলিন্য হারিয়ে সবার কাছে আরেকটা বিনোদনের জায়গা হয়ে যাবে, সেটা কি আমার ভাল লাগছে বৌদি? তবে একগুয়ে হয়ে তো লাভ নেই……এই বাড়ির খরচ বা মেনটেন করা আমাদের আর পোশাবে না। যা দিনকাল দাড়াচ্ছে, আমাদের কতটুকুনি বা পুঁজি বলোতো?”
“হু!”
“তাছাড়া, এমন কিছু বাজে হচ্ছে না… গড়িয়ার কাছে মিঃ মুরারকার যে নতুন আবাসন তৈরি হচ্ছে তাতে নতুন ফ্ল্যাট, আর বেশ অনেক টাই টাকা। তোমারো তো ভবিষ্যৎ আছে একটা বৌদি…টুয়ার বিয়ে আছে…আর আমরা তো কাছেই থাকব সবাই। একি কমপ্লেক্সে। একদম ঝা চক চকে সবকিছু। আজকাল যেরকম হয় সব। আমাই একদিন দেখে এসেছি…ইয়া বড় বড় ৬ টা টাওয়ার। দেখবে টুয়ার দারুন লাগবে।”
“হ্যা…তবে গড়িয়া এখান থেকে বেশি দূর হয়ে যাবে না?”
“আরে গড়িয়া তো এখন শহরের মধ্যেই বলে… আমরাই যা ভাবি এরকম। টুয়া র ও কলেজ কাছে হয়ে যাবে অনেক। বেশী ভেবো না আর…আমি পরশূ আসব আবার ফাইনাল শুনতে। টুয়ার সাথে কথা বলে রেখোখন।”
বেরোবে বলে তৈরি হল কৌশিক।
“আচ্ছা, আমরা ছাড়াও তো আর বাকি অংশিদার আছে তাদের কি মতামত?”
“আরে সবাই রাজি…এতোভাল অফার টা…নন্তুদারা তো ক্যালিফোর্নিয়া থেকে আমায় পাওয়ার অফ এটর্নি দিয়ে দিয়েছে। ওরা কমপ্লেক্সের ফ্ল্যাট টা নিয়ে খুবি খুশি। নন্তুদা না কি এরমি একটা প্রোপার্টি তে ইনভেস্ট করতে চাইছিল। আর বাকি বোনেরাও যা ক্যাশ পাচ্ছে তাতেয় খুশি।”
“ওঃ তাই…ভালো তো”
“হু! ডিল টা হয়ে জাক…তুমিও আমায় ধন্যবাদ দেবে দেখো…আসি তাহলে…পরশু ফাইনাল করে রেখ সবকিছু…তুমি হ্যা বলার পর রাজ্যের কাজ আছে।।জমি বাড়ির ব্যাপার তো”
কৌশিক চলে যাওয়ার পর তার অংশের সুদর দরজাটা বন্ধ করে দিল কাজরী। টুয়া কলাজ থেকে ফিরতে এখন অনেক দেরী। এখন তার অখন্ড অবসর। অনান্য দিন এই সময় টুকুর দিকে মুখিয়ে থাকে কাজরী। গান শোনে। শখের কবিতা লেখে, বই পড়ে। টুয়ার বাবার স্মৃতি চারনা করে মাঝে মাঝে হয়ত।।কিন্তু আজকাল খুবি কম হয় সেগুলও।।হয়ত অভ্যেস। টুয়ার যখন চার বছর বয়শ তখন হারিয়েছে মানুষ টাকে। আজ টুয়াও নয় নয় করে ২০ তে পা দিয়েছে প্রায় সাড়ে চার মাস।
কিন্তু কি আশ্ছরজ আজ তার আর কিছু ভাল লাগছে না…সমানে টানছে ওই সামনের গাড়ি বারান্দাটা। কি জানি কি পিছুটান থেকে সেখানে গিয়ে দাঁড়ালো কাজরী। আর মুহূর্তে তের বয়শ কমেয় গেল প্রায় ২২ টা বছর। জীবন সংগ্রামে ক্লান্ত বিধ্বস্ত এক প্রৌড়া কাজরী নয়…সে তখন সদ্য একুশের পরশ মাখে লাল শাড়ি আর শাখা পলার সাজে মায়াবি এক কাজরী। তখন এ বাড়িটায় এক্সাথেয় হাড়ি চরতো প্রায় ৪০ জন লোকের। সদ্যবিবাহিতরা আজ যে স্পেস পেয়ে অভ্যস্ত, তার কিছুই ছিল না তাদের জীবনে। রাত ১১ টা পর্যন্ত তাদের শোবার ঘরে তখন আসর জমাতো একপাল ননদ দেওর রা।
কিন্তু ভাগ্যিস ছিল না…নয়ত কি আর ২২ বছর পর এক দুপুরে তার মনে পড়তো যে এই গাড়ি বারান্দা তে বসেই একদিন মাঝরাতে তাকে তাদের দাম্পত্য জীবনের প্রথম আদরের আশ্লেষে জড়িয়ে ধরেছিল ধ্রিতিমান…স্মৃতির চিলেকোঠায় যার নাম কাজরীর জীবনে টুয়ার বাবা হিসেবেই থেকে গেছে।
বাড়িটা হয়ত ভেঙে জাবে…অন্যসবাইয়ের মতো কাজরীর ও হয়ত মেনে নেওয়া ছাড়া রাস্তা থাকবে না..কিন্ত এই স্মৃতির অবসর টুকু কি তার গড়িয়ায় তৈরি হওয়া দু কামড়ার ফ্ল্যাট দিতে পারবে?
Categories
love short story

To say or not to say is the question!

“Have you seen the Taj before?” Amit asked Deboshree while staring at the white monument termed as the symbol of eternal love by everyone alike.
                                                                             I
Amit could never recall being in love. He was not flamboyant, rather shy by nature. His small town upbringing did not give him a chance to be suitably equipped for a lengthy conversation with a lady. Probably this was the first time in 26 years since his birth when he was alone for so long with a lady, the daintily made Deboshree, his newly married wife of 14 days.

Amit’s father worked in Jamshedpur. Throughout his childhood days, he was always taught to study hard and be suitable enough to fetch a job in the company which defined the future of iron and steel industry in India and needless to say, Amit was very successful in his endeavour.  He bagged a job in the company as Graduate Trainee after completing his engineering from IIT Kharagpur.

On the other hand Deboshree hailed from the big city that troubled Amit all the time- Calcutta. He visited the city during every school holidays since his grandparents still stayed over there, but the sight of the the monstrous Howrah Bridge made him feel uneasy. The crowds on the streets, the ‘phuchka’ vendor who served his mother’s favourite flour balls with tamarind laced water, the tram ride from his Kalighat home to Dalhousie- every thing reminded him of how his world had the peace and vanity of silence where nobody intruded. He sometimes wondered whether he was a loner…whether he disliked Calcutta. He durely did not because he loved his breakfasts at Flurys and the pending birthday treats from his grandfather at Mocambo. But his heart was set out in the peaceful haven of his Bistupur home.

In fact, Amit was stunned by the opulence and grandeur of Deboshree’s Shyambazar home when he first went to see Deboshree. He wondered how she managed to stay in such a big house alone with her parents, whether she would be able to stay in that 3 bedroom company provided accomodation in Jamshedpur. He truly had the luxury of a small custom made garden, but it was no match for Deboshree’s house which was at a stone’s throw distance from the famous eatery which serve Calcutta’s most favourite mutton curry. However, 15 minutes in the drawing room of the Mukherjee household he understood that Deboshree had company, a rather large one including her cousins, uncle an aunts who were rather excited with the prospect of Deboshree getting married off to an engineer.

He was scared, very very scared to meet the Loreto Convent educated girl shortlisted from the bunch of photos by Mr. and Mrs. Banerjee becuase she was pretty, had a degree from Shantiniketan, was apparently well read, cooked, sewed, had a good family lineage and to say the least- could be the ideal companion for their son.

Amit was not a part of this decision making process. He had left the choice on his parents. But he could not deny that there was something in that one photograph of Deboshree that he had seen, that made him agree to make a very short visit to Calcutta in the scorching April heat. The match was finalised soon enough. The families talked, Deboshree was asked to sing by his mother. The customary questions later Amit’s mother had asked her whether she would be able to adjust in Jamshedpur, since it would not have all the amenities of  a big city.

Deboshree’s ‘jethima’ (aunt) had replied – “Parbe, Parbe! sob parbe- Of Course! she can, girls can adjust to anything didi…..consider me, when I got married I was just 16 and I did not know how to cook dal even…from there on, I have been cooking every day for this entire family of 34 members. You don’t need to worry at all.”

Amit had tried to steal a glance at Deboshree, to understand what she would have told in answer to his mother’s question but the conversation had by then moved to the ideal marriage dates. A monsoon wedding and the customary “Oshtomongola” (visit to the bride’s house after 8 days) later, Amit and Deboshree were off to their honeymoon to Delhi and Agra.

Amit had long planned for this vacation and she had once called up Deboshree on her family’s telephone- the only time before their wedding, to ask for her permission. He could overhear the hushed tones of excitement in the background surrounding his call. Even on the day after Oshtomongola, when they were scheduled to catch their train for Delhi from Calcutta, he could feel the palpable excitement in the Mukherjee household for their daughter travelling on a honeymoon vacation.

“Oh! chordi, you are so lucky….he is a man of exquisite taste” Deboshree’s cousin Nita had commented.
“Aha! how do you know?” Deboshree replied with a flirting gesture.
“Arrey baba! he is taking you to Delhi and Agra…..imagine you are the first girl from our family to go on a honeymoon…..last year my friend Piyul had got married and she was so prouf that she was going on a trip after marriage…..and that too, she was going to Puri…where everybody goes…but you are going to see the Taj Mahal in Agra…please get us replicas Chordi”
“Okay baba! I will” Amit could well sense the hint of pride in Deboshree’s voice when she replied. Amit thought she was happy and that made him happy since he wanted to know about the person that Deboshree was.

“Acha! chordin.” Nita had further enquired, “I heard that Amit da would be traveling to America for a training for 3 months…are you also going with him”

“Let’s see, it’s not decided yet re…but high chances”

Though Amit was eavesdropping into the conversation, he could see Nita’s face turn a shade greener with jealousy. Of course! she was a year younger than Deboshree and was yet to complete her graduation. But she was dark and not as well mannered as Deboshree…rather coquettish to say the least, a fact which made her and her parents aware that she would not be as lucky as Deboshree in her quest for the perfect husband.

Amit and Deboshree had talked during the train journey. They had reached Delhi around the noon and she was excited to see the Red Fort from a passing distance on the very first day of their travel. amit had planned to visit Agra on the very next day and stay there for a night. So the very next morning they were off to Agra. Deboshree was initially not happy and wanted to visit the shopping arcade Karolbagh hat she had researched so much about. Amit had to pacify her that they were staying in Delhi for 2 more days while returning back. The conversation had led to breaking of ice between the two and Amit was happy about it. He wanted their visit to the Taj Mahal to be perfect, just the way he had planned.
                                                                               II
“I haven’t. You?” Deboshree replied ” In fact I have not visited any place other than Puri, Darjeeling and my college in Shantiketan”. She giggled with a flirtatious wink in her eyes. Amit tried to concentrate in her eyes. In stead it was the big red bindi on her forehead, the shankha pola, the never ending vermillion streak and her crisp cotton sari that drew her attraction. She was the perfect bangali bou. The way he saw Ma Durga. The moment they entered the Taj, Deboshree was overwhelmed by the gigantic architechtural wonder….her hand quickly sought refuge in Amit’s hands…and that very moment he felt happy.

“Yes, I have been here..with a few of my college friends”.
“You are so well travelled na Am…err”
“You can call me Amit, I won’t mind”
“But I am not supposed to na…after marriage you are not supposed to take you husband’s name…..your mother can mind”
“As you wish…but in my college many of my friends had girlfriends and they used to call them by their first names”
“Pagol! they had a a love marriage na!”
Amit laughed. He was scared to tell that his college was reputed to have one of the scariest gender ratios in India…and besides the one or two love stories that he knew never ever matured till the wedding platform. He just wanted to be friendly with Deboshree. Besides he would be travelling to America with her in a few days time…he had read that there even the wives addressed their husbands by their first names.

“You didn’t sya where else have you traveled” Deboshree interrupted his chain of thoughts”
“Me? well some parts of Bengal, Darjeeling, Delhi, Agra, Varanasi and Palamau in Bihar…you know Palamau?”
“Palamau’s jungle? where Aranyer Dinratri* was shot?”
“Yes! have you seen the movie?”
“Of Course! it released 2 years back na?”
“Yes! a few of my friends…we were all very influenced an wanted to make a trip to Palamau”
“So very exciting…..even I want to go there”
“We may…”

The conversation was interrupted by a photographer who wanted to convince the honeymoon couple to take a picture in front of the Taj Mahal. Deboshree was eager and Amit had to relent. He was keen…he has been advised to tell the three golden words to Deboshree in front of the Taj Mahal..the perfect romantic setting by his friend Shyamal. His trip to Taj Mahal was planned accordingly.

“Ei…come here…let’s go in….acha! can we see the original sones that were fitted inside or have they already been lotted away by the English before leaving the country.” Deboshree asked. She talked a lot. Amit was not used to the sounds of lady’s constant giggle and chatter. But here he was admiring a girl who had the child like char intact inside her crisp red cotton sari. And the bindi which made him fall in love with her again. Deboshree stole shy glances the very first time they had met in the drawing room of her Shyambazar home. She was too scared to look at Amit during their “Shubho drishti”, a ritual were the bride and groom were supposed to look in to each other eyes’s before being tied up within the knots of holy matrimony…but here she was free, thousands of kilometres away from the prying eyes of her cousins, her parents, her newly found strict mother in law….she was herself, the Deboshree Amit wanted to know. But Amit wanted to tell her that she looked extremely beautiful that day.

He could not. He was tongue tied.

The guide was explaining the history of Taj Mahal while they stood with the Yamuna river at their back. A few minutes later they were instructed to be back in the tourist bus after 20 minutes.

Image Courtesy:  http://rajivawijesinha.files.wordpress.com/2010/08/taj-mahal.jpg

Amit was busy wondering at what must have struck Shahjahan to build a mausoleum so huge, only to commemorate some body’s death. and the poetic injustice that surrounded the walls of the Taj….a symbol of love built over the agony of so many..their pain and humiliation. He was lost for aminute when his blood rushed up to his cheek turning it a few shades red. Deboshree had just done the unthinkable. In the few moments that he had been lost, Deboshree had managed to whisper “Aami tomake bhalobash” (I love you) in his ears.

                                                                               III

Today is the 41st wedding anniversary of Amit and Deboshree and she still maintains that the moment which defined a lifetime of their relationship was absolutely spontaneous. Amit had tried to extract the secret about how many times had she carefully planned to say the golden words in front of the world’s most romantic monument, but the answer had always remained the same.

*Aranyer Dinratri ( Days and Nights in the forest) is a Bengali film released in 1970 and directed by Satyajit Ray.

[This story is set in the mid 1970’s when the world was a far more romantic place to live in, far removed from the cacophony of cell phones and social media websites (well! a necessary evil)]

Categories
bengal love short story

A few springs in between….

                                                                                   I

“So, Mamoni! all set?”

Dr. Rajat Mukherjee was all smiles today. A glint of pain showed up now and then but he hid it well enough. He was proud, very proud of his only daughter Debolina. Getting one’s PhD application accepted in one of the world’s most revered universities is not an easy ask. Debolina had done it and how!
Debolina was happy. Relieved to the core. For years in to her graduate and post graduate studies in Jadavpur University, Debolina was always taunted by her relatives- for studying Literature. She was glared upon when her father’s friends from medical school asked- “So what are you studying now?” and she answered back in a wimpish tone- “Literature, Comparative Literature.” The presumption was always in favour of Medicine, Engineering or for that matter Sciences. But Literature came as rude shock to all.
And now she was going to Harvard. What an answer to all! A country where “Made in Vietnam” but “Marketed from USA” still sells like hot cakes, this was an achievement, nonethless. Dr. Mukherjee had arranged for a family get together before the day Debolina was scheduled to leave for foreign shores. Mrs. Mukherjee was busy attending to all. 
“Taposhi Di, take one more bhteki fry, please!”
“Laltu Da, one more, one more chom chom…this for Tukun”
Bits and pieces of conversation strewn across the roof followed Debolina, Tukun to her immediate family. She was ready to leave this place of her own, the only place she called home in her twenty two years of existence. She was excited about all that was awaiting her. But she felt remorse too. Boney mashi, the one who had trashed her future prospects as- “Useless!” a few years back came with a bouquet to congratulate her.
“Daroooon Khobor!! Congratulations! So very proud of you :)”
“Why are you so late Boney di?”
“Arey the traffic….so Tukun when is your flight tomorrow? Are you carrying woollens?”
“Take a few spices also….for immediate need”- Rani dida jutted in the conversation.
Tukun smiled. She smiled a lot, until she boarded her flight. May be that was the only way she could console Ma. Her mother who always took a backseat in every decision made in the household. Her mother who loved playing second fiddle to the awe inspiring personality of Dr. Mukherjee, her father. Her mother who did not cry a bit before she vanished beyond the point of security check and immigration cues in the airport.
Tukun looked up. The Air Hostess was here to ask for her meal preferences. She had a long flight ahead….and a longer journey.
                                                                                   II
“Are you looking for this?”
Debolina was startled! She was so engrossed in her search for her cell phone that she failed to notice that someone was standing right next. The Library still felt jolted to be waken up by the shrill sound of the cell phone ring. 
“Thank you so much! I just couldn’t place it.”
“Happens! Happens more in case you read Jhumpa Lahiri too much”
“Hey! you like her?”
“Well, being a Bengali, and that too a graduate student in an American University, if I claim that I don’t like her works of Bengal, Boston and Beyond…I will surely be lying.”
“You are a  Bengali?” Debolina exclaimed with joy!
“Yes Madam, 100% pure breed Bengali….I swear by my Robi Thakur.”
Kabir had already extended his hand for friendship and Debolina couldn’t refuse the easy going charm. Kabir, as she later learnt was a Bangladeshi. Debolina had first mistaken her for a Calcutta bong. To which Kabir had joked- “Snobbish Calcuttan, It seems you think all the bengalis you know hail from Calcutta and read in your convent schools. Huh!”
In stead Kabir Siddiqui hailed from Dhaka. A bright young Statistics scholar from Dhaka University, Kabir was also here on a full scholarship. Their area of research was way different, and the cities varied, but poetry and rhyme found them. And the language. Debolina had spotted almost thirty desis in and around her apartment and Department but none of them spoke her mother tongue. 
Language, what an amazing creation was it. Debolina sometimes wondered whether she would have taken that instant liking for Kabir, if not for Bengali language, a language they both communicated in. There were days when Kabir stayed back in her apartment for an extra cup of tea while they both hummed their favourite Rabindrasangeet. 
“Bujhley Debolina, This tea is a wonderful boon to us…the ‘still’ colonized souls from the British. This Starbucks fed nation doe snot know how much are they missing out because of coffee.”
Laughter and a Joy Goswami later, Kabir would stood up to go and finish his assignment due next week.
Debolina, would wave her goodbye.
Two months had passed on since the day Debolina had left Calcutta. Her mother now knew how to use Skype and communicate. She wrote her emails. There were emails from her dad too. He spoke to her at length on the weekends. Today was one such day. Her parents were pestering her to come back home during the winter break. Debolina was disapproving. She and Kabir had made plans to visit New York around that time. A plan her parents would never approve of. She tried to divert the topic of the conversation.
“Bapi, you always told that our ancestors were from Dhaka”
“Yes, from erstwhile East Bengal. Why?”
“No generally. Where in Dhaka Bapi?”
“Bikrampur. but that was long back….why are you suddenly interested Mamoni? I say you come back this winter. Don’t think about funds. You won the scholarship and am mighty proud of that. But I can fund your travel expenses.”
“It’s not that Bapi. I have lots of work pending here”
“Can’t you come for two weeks?” Mrs. Mukherjee jutted in between the video call on Skype.
“Aha! can’t you see she is telling that she has important work. you will never understand. But still Mamoni, try to come.”
“I will try Bapi”
“Ok! Maoni I have to go now. I have an appointment with you siddhesh Kaku today. He is coming for a routine check up.You remember him right? His son is now working with Microsoft in New York. You can meet him during the winter break. He was thinking of visiting Boston too.”
“I do Bapi and I have told you many times that I don’t want to meet his son. I don’t find him good.”
“Ha Ha Ha, take your time. Signing off! Mamoni”
The window on her laptop disappeared. Sometimes she felt that her loving father was indeed very cruel. Very, Very cruel. He did not even let ma talk properly. She could not even say a bye. 
“Madam, busy?”
“No Kabir Da, come…look what I got…a brand new collection of Suchitra Bhattacharya stories. It’s available on Amazon!”
“Aha! don’t call me Kabir Da…how many times should I tell you that it doesn’t sound good when a beautiful girl calls you as her brother. Btw, I am only 25 and quite eligible”
“You and your flirting.”
“Madam, what will you understand of flirting. In this land of foreign beauties, nobody apart from you understands Rabindranath and Kadambari Debi.”
“Aha!He was wrong. Kadambari was his sister in law.”
“Debolina, when did you start thinking in the box full of black and white? Isn’t there something called grey? Kadambari Debi was his inspiration.”
Days Passed. The frolic and tinkle grew. Kabir was a year senior to Debolina. He had introduced him to many other Bengalis in and around Boston. Some were here for work. Some studied in the University. ! few were part of the IT crowd. Whenever they assembled, Kabir was always in the centre stage. Debolina’s stolen glances caught Kabir busily distributing luchi aloordum to one and all during Saraswati pujo. The meet for Tagore’s Birthday celebration found him hogging all the limelight for singing multilingual renditions of “Ekla Cholo re”. He was the star. Debolina was his happy shadow.
“Your parents must be a big fan of Anjan Dutta right?”
“What?”
“Jah! You are from Calcutta and never heard of Anjan Dutta?” 
“Of course I have…but why?”
“Arey they named you Debolina after his favourite song, right?”
It was Ina di’s house one summer evening where they had all gathered to watch the fresh off the rack DVD screening of the very popular and award winning Bengali movie of the year. ‘Antaheen’ as it was called. Rajeev Khemka, Kabir’s batchmate had nervously followed him to this full of fishhead eating bong gathering. It so happened that Kabir had suddenly visited his apartment to find him doing nothing and being the strang head that he was, forced Rajeev into this. The Gujarati in him was very scared of being served non vegetarian food. It took a lot of coaxing from Ina di   to make him have the vegetarian pulao. A few minutes into the screening, Debolina was serving as Rajeev’s official translator.
“What does Antaheen mean?”
“Endless wait” Debolina answered, only to be momentarily clouded by her thoughts of the wait that she was put into. Kabir was a Muslim. He was a Bangladeshi. Her father being the high caste Bengali Hindu Brahmin would never approve of the match. 
Was there a match? 
Kabir was flirting with Ina Di’s sister who was visiting her from India in the other corner of the room. He was humming a famous bengali song to her. “I need you”. Yes! that’s what it was called.
So from Debolina to another songwriter’s dream, it didn’t take much of Kabir’s time. Debolina often wondered whether Kabir even had a hint how since the New York trip of theirs, the stupid whispering of “Aami tomake bhalobashi” (I love you in Bengali) in the Central Park, her entire world revolves around Kabir?
Kabir obviously broke into a peal of laughter when Debolina turned a tinge red while being whispered those three magical words in Bengali. 
“Pagli!! scared you! Don’t take it seriously. Actually the weather, the surroundings….can you not be in love right now?”
That was Kabir. Whimsical. He could make such fun of people. Debolina did not talk to him for the remaining two days of the trip. But she had to eventually give in.
“Madam, seems like you are day dreaming….what’s the matter?”
Debolina was startled by Kabir’s booming voice yet again. He was driving on the way back from Ina Di’s house. They had dropped Rajeev in his apartment. There was a joke going around in today’s gathering. 
“Odol bodol”. They were obviously referring to Kabir paying more attention to Ina Di’s cousin and Debolina sticking around with Rajeev for the entire evening.
“Seems like some one is turning green with envy.”
“Why should I be?” Debolina reeacted
“Who told it’s you? But, you may say whatever you like but Rajeev will take a million years to understand the pains behind Bhindeshi Taara (the distant star) in translation.” Kabir winked.
“So who will understand Kabir Da?”
“Arrey, I was just saying that it has been beautifully sung by Anindya. The reworked version by Shantanu Moitra in the movie is quite good too.”
“Don’t divert the topic Kabir Da. You always do. Tell me who can be my distant star? ? My bhindeshi taara?” tears welled up Debolina’s eyes while she spoke.
“Crazy woman” Kabir laughed. “Have you been possessed or something at this hour of the night? Ki bolchish? Go back home and sleep.”
“You know how much courage did it take for me to ask you the question. You know it right Kabir Da? Who will under stand my language? that distant star”
“I do”.
                                                                           III
That winter Kabir went back home. He returned with his wife Sakina. Kabir never spoke much about his family in Dhaka but whatever Debolina could make out from bits and pieces was that he belonged to a very wealthy political family. Sakina, who took an instant liking for Debolina, had later told her that she was the only daugfhter of one of the richest industrialists of Dhaka. Kabir and she were family friends. Theirs was a ‘love marriage’. They had met at a party thrown that December in honour of Kabir. Their parents approved of the match and it didn’t take much time for them to get hooked.
Debolina returned to India to teach languages at JNU. She later married a colleague of hers there. she lives in Delhi with her two kids.
(P.S.- All characters mentioned in the story are purely fictional. Any resemblance with anybody, dead or living, is purely coincidental)