Rishi … the other one

The Operation Theatre of the swanky hospital in Gurgaon was reverberating with the cries of just born infant. Outside the OT, the anxious father, Sudhir Roy paced the short corridor, clearly stressed out for this was his first baby. The nurses came out with bundle from which the cries still emanated. Sudhir rushed to the nurses and looked at them enquiringly. The nurses looked at each other and the senior matron announced, “Sorry, Mr. Roy, your wife has delivered a transgender.”

Sudhir looked at the infant and face crinkled with hatred. The parents of Sudhir and Swapna were all present but none ventured to have a look at the baby. In fact both sets of parents excused themselves and left the hospital immediately. The little life was discarded within minutes of its birth.

Swapna has been moved to a single bed room. Sudhir quietly entered and stood by the bed. Swapna was looking at the sky through the room but could sense Sudhir’s presence. She turned towards him and said, “The kid must be feeling hungry, why aren’t they bringing him to me?” Sudhir pressed Swapna’s hand and said, “You will have to forget him. We can’t give the kid our name and that’s final.”

“But what’s his fault? He is still our child.” Swapna persisted.

“May be but we don’t want the child anywhere near us. We shall wait and by God’s grace we will be proud parents to a healthy child.” Sudhir replied with straight face and left to meet Dr. Anjali Bhatnagar, the head of Gynecology in her chamber.

“You are unnecessarily accusing us Mr. Roy. This is a genetic disorder” said Dr. Anjali Bhatnagar as Sudhir sat down.

“So many Ultra Sounds were done and none of the technicians or the doctors could make out?” Sudhir blurted out in frustration.

“I am sorry but it really did not show up.” Dr. Bhatnagar defended.

“Do you realize doctor how humiliated the whole family is feeling? How will we say that we are blessed with a eunuch, sorry transgender?” asked an aggrieved Sudhir.

 “I can understand your discomfort Mr. Roy but we are helpless in the matter.” Dr. Bhatnagar replied.

“No, doctor, you don’t understand. Please don’t get the child anywhere near my wife and as soon as possible send child to its community.” Sudhir stormed out the chamber.

The infant did not realize that it’s birth has created such a discord and confusion but the nurse could sense and in the short duration her motherly instinct had developed a special bond with the baby. She knew what needs to be done. She called up her husband Aabir Chatterjee, professor at prestigious business school in the city.

“Hi, are you free to talk now? I have something important to ask you.” Ankita spoke on the phone.

“I was just getting into the class but tell me what it is” Aabir said from the other end.

“Okay, tell me, do you hate transgender kids?”

“No, why should I hate them? In fact I love all children irrespective of their color, race, and religion.”

“Well, if one such kid calls you Dad, how will you feel?

“Can you elaborate please, Ankita?”

Nurse Ankita Chatterjee briefly explained to her husband. Prof. Aabir Chatterjee said “This is a very bold step, Ankita. I am very much with you. Let’s figure out the legal formalities quickly.”

Prof. Aabir Chatterjee was known as a liberal and forward looking teacher and his students simply adored him. Ankita and Aabir had been trying for long time to have a baby on their own but the tests have proved conclusively that they cannot. Ankita’s love for her husband just went up by few notches as she became the proud mother of the little infant. Within days the legal formalities were completed and little Rishi came home to make Ankita and Aabir’s family complete.

Aabir’s mom from Siliguri called up agitatingly “Babu, what have you guys done? You didn’t think of our status even for once?”

“Ma, I don’t think we have done anything wrong.” Aabir had replied calmly.

Ankita’s parents had come down from Kolkata to put sense in their daughter and son-in-law but the proud parents of Rishi had been adamant. “You could have adopted a healthy child from any of the orphanages. What will you do with it?” exasperated mother of Ankita had reasoned with them.

“Will nurture him and make him a good human being. And who told you that Rishi is not a healthy baby?” retorted an irritated Ankita.

Naturally, both set of parents decided to keep their distance to maintain their dignity in society.

The maid working at their house was excited to take care of the infant but the moment she tried to change the nappy she couldn’t help yelling out “Oh my god, what is this?” And that was enough for Ankita to sack her then and there.

Ankita had seen few transgender at the traffic signal begging, she decided to approach the friendly one. She explained the situation and requested her to find one among them to take care of Rishi. She warned that if other transgender(s) get to know, they will take away Rishi as per the prevailing custom. She promised to look around and within days brought another middle aged transgender named Shanti to Anika who appointed her immediately to look after Rishi. Shanti not only took extreme good care of Rishi while the parents were away at work but protected him from all possible threat from the transgender community.

With time Rishi grew up to be a cute boy with curly hair and bright eyes and spoke in a melodious voice. Ankita took him to the local kindergarten school for admission and was surprised to note that there is no “other” option under the Sex column. After much hassle and threat of legal action, the school admitted Rishi. Thus began the journey of Rishi. In time, he joined the regular school, it wasn’t easy but Ankita was adamant and ensured that the authorities are convinced with her logical arguments. Many a times in her struggle to provide Rishi a loving and secured life, Aabir could not be with her because of academic commitments but Ankita had been relentless in her endeavor. She would never back out from her responsibility towards her son, Rishi. With passage of time Rishi had shown his brilliance in both studies and sports. He is now in the seventh grade.

I am Rishi…

I am now in class ten of a all boys school. I understand that I am different from my classmates, even from other students in the school as well. My father is the Dean of a prestigious business school and my mother is the Chief of Nursing Staff in a big multi specialty hospital. I am very sincere in my studies because I have realized that that’s my only option. Still, I do not have any friends in the class or in the school. In every exam I am always second with difference of just 1 or 2 numbers from the first boy. I don’t understand where and how I lost those numbers. My mother always tell me that it doesn’t matter if you are first or second but one should learn the core of the subject with complete sincereity.

I love playing football. MY performance as a striker in the school team is very impressive but still I am not the captain of the team. I don’t know why but I have been consistently scoring goals to win matches and championship for school.

There is a girl’s school across the road and many of my classmates regularly ‘date’ some of the girls. I too liked one of the girl and told my mother so. My parents looked at each other then my mom said, “Rishi, this is not the time for such frivolous things. You must concentrate on your studies and grow up to be man loved and respected by all, not just one girl.”

I was moved by mom’s words and felt the urge to make her happy… make her proud. In the high school board exams, I did very well. My result was fantastic… I ranked first in the school and third in the NCR region. The first boy of the school was much behind me for a change. Mom was thrilled and so was Dad.

One day, when I was in 12th, while returning from the tuition class, alone, as I never had any friends for company, I suddenly saw the girl I had a crush. She waived at me and I stood still. She came over and said “Aren’t you Rishi? I am Neera.”

“Yes. Do you know me?” I blurted out.

“Yes, how can I not know the brilliant boy that you are?”

“What do you know about me?”

Neera was stumped. She stammered “I don’t know much but have heard few rumors.”

I crossed my hand across my chest and said “All those rumors are actually true. Are you doing the right thing by talking to me in public space?”

“Why are you saying that?” Neera asked in all innocence.

“Neera, in the last 12 years, I have not made a single friend in the school. Every year, I miss out the first position by 1 or 2 numbers. I score goals consistently for my school football team but still I am not the captain. There must be something wrong with me. Isn’t it so?”

“But you are brilliant. And that’s the truth.” Neera persisted.

“May be, but the bigger truth is incomprehensible and unacceptable to the masses. My mom and dad had adopted me. My biological parents had rejected me within minutes of my birth and I don’t know them and have no desire to know as well. I don’t know my grandparents from either side. They have never bothered to see their only grandchild. In fact my parents have been disowned by their parents for the crime of adopting me. Now tell me.. is there any bigger truth that you know of me?”

“But look wise you are no different from other boys.”

“Goodbye Neera. I know the truth. And this truth is irreversible. No one can change it. Yes, I like you but I am not inclined to pursue the matter which is not possible. Still, you talked to me… I will always remember this evening. Take care.”

I had hastily come back home and locked myself in my room. I was choking with emotions. My teenaged heart was aching. I had to strangle my love for Neera forever.

Every day on my way to the hospital, I see couple of transgender at the traffic signal. They are just like with the difference that they were not lucky enough to find Ankita-Aabir in their life. I took out a hundred rupees currency note and gave it the one and she blessed me saying “God bless you son.” Just like my mom.

Today, I have a surgery to perform. I am neither a man nor a woman but I help give birth to children of man and woman. I am a gynecologist of repute now but today’s surgery is different. The patient is middle-aged woman with a tumor in her uterus. It has been there for some time and now when it has become unbearable, she has come for the surgery. The uterus has to be removed. She doesn’t have any children.

I entered the OT… anesthesia has been administered… I asked for the forceps.

Surgery has been successful. The patient will move to the room for recuperation. The husband of the patient came to my chamber to discuss and understand the post-surgery precautions. As he was leaving, he suddenly stopped and said “You know doctor, when Swapna and I became parent for the first time, I could not accept the little one and forced Swapna to accept my decision. I had thought we will again become parents but look at the nature’s justice… we are childless now.”

“Why couldn’t you accept your first born?”

“I thought the next one will be a healthy baby.”

“What was the problem with your first born?”

“Actually… I mean… he… it was a transgender child. It was born in this hospital only. I don’t know if it is now in some shelter home or may be one of the beggar at the traffic signals.”

“Or perhaps, he has conquered the life’s struggle and reached the pinnacle of his career. That too is possible, isn’t it?”

“How’s that possible?”

“How can I say, Mr.Roy? I am just talking about the possibility. Anyways, it is time for my visiting the patient wards. You can visit your wife once she is shifted to the room but please do not talk much, she needs to take rest. Take care.”

Walking down the corridor of the hospital wearing the doctor’s white apron and stethoscope hanging from my neck… I am Dr. Rishi Chatterjee, the only son of my proud parents – Ankita and Aabir Chatterjee. My life could have been just like what Mr. Sudhir Roy expected but no, I have or rather the life did not allow me to succumb but conquer the adversity and be successful…

Note: I don’t know the author of the Bengali version that I received in WhatsApp Group but it touched a chord in my heart. I hope I have been able to do justice to the nuances of the original story telling.

ডিভোর্স

বিয়ের চার বছর হয়েছে এখনো মা হতে পারিনি।
পারিবারিক ভাবে বিয়ে হয়েছিলো আমাদের।প্রথম প্রথম আমি আর তুষার খুব সুখের সময় কাটিয়েছি। শশুড় শাশুড়ীও খুব আদর করতো আমাকে নিজের মেয়ের মতই ভালবাসে। দুই ননদের তো আমার সাথে খুব ভাব।

কিন্তু গত ছয় মাস ধরে শশুড় শাশুড়ী ননদেরা উঠে পরে লেগেছে কেন আমার বাচ্চা হয়না।তুষারও এতোদিন বাচ্চা না হওয়ায় তেমন কিছুই বলতো না, কিন্তু আজকাল তুষারও ওদের সাথে পাল্লা দিয়ে বলে চার বছর কেটে গেলো এখনো কেন বাচ্চা হয় না, ওর মা বাবা নাতির মুখ দেখতে চায়।

গতকাল রাতে শাশুড়ী এসে বললো আর কত দিন অপেক্ষা করবো, বাড়িতে একটা বাচ্চাও নেই, বাচ্চা টাচ্ছা ছাড়া কি বাড়ি ভাল লাগে, নাকি শান্তি লাগে, পাশের বাড়ির শেফালির ছেলেকে তুষারের এক বছর পরে বিয়ে দিয়েছে, ছয় মাস হয়েছে বাচ্চা হয়েছে আর আমার ছেলের বৌয়ের ঘরে এখনো কোন বাচ্চা হলো না, আমরা কি ঠাকুমা দাদু হবো না…?

আরো অনেক গুলো কথা শুনিয়ে গেলো, বাচ্চা না হলে আমি কি করবো, আমি ও তো চাই আমার একটা সন্তান হোক, যে আমাকে মা মা বলে ডাকবে।

ননদ রিমি এসে বলল, বৌদি এক কাজ করলে কেমন হয় তোমরা বরং ডাক্তারের কাছে যাও, গিয়ে দেখো কারো কোন সমস্যা আছে কিনা।

রাতে তুষারকে রিমি কথাটা বলতেই তুষার বলল ও কোন ডাক্তারের কাছে যাবে না, পারবে না যেতে, অফিসে কাজের অনেক চাপ। অনেক জোরাজুরি করে তুষারকে ডাক্তারের কাছে নিয়ে গেলাম, দুজনেই পরীক্ষা করালাম। যত রকমের টেষ্ট আছে সব গুলোই টেষ্টই করলাম। ডাক্তার বললেন রিপোর্ট আসতে দেরি হবে, দুজনেই অপেক্ষা করছি আর মনে মনে ঈশ্বরকে ডাকছি, যেনো কোন দুর্সংবাদ না শুনতে হয়। আধ ঘন্টা পরেই তুষারের মোবাইলে ফোন আসলো তাড়াতাড়ি অফিসে যাওয়া জন্য, আর্জেন্ট মিটিং আছে। তুষার আমাকে বলল, খুশি তুমি রিপোর্ট দেখে ডাক্তারের সাথে কথা বলে বাড়ি চলে যেও, আমাকে এক্ষুনি অফিসে যেতে হবে, বস ডাকছেন। আমি বাড়িতে এসে রিপোর্ট দেখবো, বলেই হনহন করে হসপিটাল থেকে বেড়িয়ে গেলো।

আমার হাতে ডাক্তারের দেওয়া রিপোর্ট আর সেই রিপোর্টে কিছু কঠিন সত্যি কথা লেখা আছে, যা মেনে নিতে বুকটা ফেটে যাচ্ছে। বাড়িতে আসবার পর থেকে শ্বশুর শাশুড়ী ননদেরা বার বার জিজ্ঞেস করছে রিপোর্টে কি আসছে ডাক্তার কি বলেছে। চোখের জলের জন্য কথা বলতে পারছি না, ওদেরকে কি উত্তর দেবো। শাশুড়ী কঠিন সুরে বলল কি ব্যাপার বলছো না কেন কি হয়েছে।

বললাম ডাক্তার বলেছে সমস্যা টা আমার আমি কোনদিন মা হতে পারবো না, সেই ক্ষমতা নাকি আমার নেই।

কথা টা বলার সাথে সবাই কেমন করে জেনো আমার দিকে তাকাচ্ছিলো। শাশুড়ীতো রীতিমতো কান্নাকাটি শুরু করে দিলো, আমার ছেলে এই জন্মে কি আর সন্তানের মুখ দেখবে না, আমাদের বংশ কি এখানে শেষ হয়ে যাবে, কি কুলাঙ্গার অপয়া মেয়ে এনে সংসারে ঢুকিয়েছে মা হতে পারবে না, শাশুড়ীর সাথে শ্বশুরও সুর মিলিয়ে বকে যাচ্ছে। ননদেরাও যা তা বলছে একটা বন্ধ্যা মেয়ে আমার ভাইয়ের কপালে জুটেছে।
রাতে তুষার বাড়িতে এলে সবাই মিলে ওকে বোঝালো যাতে আমাকে ডিভোর্স দিয়ে দেয়।আমাকে দিয়ে আর সংসার করা হবেনা।

ফল বিহীন গাছ রেখে লাভ কি, উপরে ফেলে দিয়ে সেখানে নতুন গাছ লাগাতে চাই, আরো অনেক কথাই বলে যাচ্ছে। আমি শুধু দেখছি তুষার কি বলে, কিছুক্ষণ পর নীরবতা ভেঙ্গে তুষার বলল তোমরা যা ইচ্ছে তাই করো আমার আর এইসব ভাল লাগে না।

রাতে তুষার আমার সাথে একটা কথাও বলেনি, সারাটা রাত কেঁদে বুক ভাসিয়েছি আর ভাবছি চেনা মানুষগুলো এতো তাড়াতাড়িই অচেনা হয়ে গেলো, আমি এখন ওদের কাছে হয়ে গেলাম অপয়া বন্ধ্যা।

সকালে আমাকে ডাকা হলো শ্বশুরের ঘরে, ডেকে নিয়ে বলল তুষারকে যেন ছেড়ে দি, ওরা তুষারকে আবার বিয়ে দিবে, ওদের বংশের প্রদীপ চাই , আর সেটা দেওয়া আমার পক্ষে সম্ভব না, তাই আমি যেনো ডিভোর্সের ব্যপারটা মেনে নিয়ে তুষারকে চিরদিনের জন্য মুক্ত করে দিই।তুষারের ও নাকি তাইই মত।

তুষারের দিকে তাকাতেই ও বলল মা বাবা যা বলবে তাই হবে, তুমি এটা নিয়ে আর বাড়াবাড়ি কোরো না খুশি প্লিজ, আর কোন টেনশন আমি আর নিতে পারছি না

ভাবতেই কষ্টে বুকটা ফেটে যাচ্ছে কি করে মানুষ এতোটা বদলে যায়। আজ আমি সন্তান দিতে পারবো না বলে আমাকে ওরা তাড়িয়ে দিচ্ছে, কতোটা স্বার্থপর মানুষ।

দুই দিন হয়ে গেলো কেউ আমার সাথে তেমন একটা কথা বলে না, সবাই এড়িয়ে এড়িয়ে চলে।খাবারের সময়ও কেউ ডাকে না। সন্ধ্যার পর শ্বশুর শাশুড়ী এসে বলল তুমি কবে আমার ছেলেকে মুক্তি দিচ্ছো বলো, আমি তুষারের জন্য অন্য মেয়ে পছন্দ করেছি।

মেয়ে পছন্দ করেছেন মানে?

হ্যা করেছি তো আমার ছোট বোনের মেয়ে রেশমির সাথে আমি তুষারের বিয়ে দেবো। এখন তুমি বলো তুমি কখন চলে যাচ্ছো। আর আমি তুষারের সাথে এ ব্যাপারে কথা বলেছি ওর কোন আপত্তি নেই, তোমার কাছে আমি আমার ছেলের একটা সুন্দর স্বাভাবিক জীবন চাইছি, আশা করি তুমি এটা নিয়ে কোন রকম ঝামেলা করবে না।তুষারের দিকে তাকায়ে দেখি ও ওর মায়ের কথায় সায় দিচ্ছে, আমার সাথে সংসার করতে চাইছে না।

সবার দিকে কিছুক্ষণ তাকিয়ে থেকে বললাম ঠিক আছে, তাড়িয়ে দিতে চাইছেন চলে যাব, তবে এখন নয় যেদিন তুষারের বিয়ে হবে সেদিনই সবাইকে মুক্ত করে চলে যাব, আর ফিরবো না, কখনো জ্বালাতে আসবো না। তুষার আমার দিকে তাকিয়ে বলল সত্যি তো? হ্যা সত্যি চলে যাব।

আজ তুষারের বিয়ে, মহা ধুমধামে না হলেও বেশ আয়োজনই করেছে, একটু আগে তুষারকে দেখলাম শেরোয়ানি পড়ছে, আমিও বেশ সেজেছি, আমার স্বামীর বিয়ে বলে কথা সেই সাথে আজ যে ওর মুক্তির দিন আর নতুন খুশির দিন। তুষার বরযাত্রীসহ বের হবে আমিও ব্যাগ এ কাপড় গুছিয়ে চলে যাচ্ছি এমন সময় দেখি তুষার বর বেশে সেজেগুজে রেডি হয়ে আছে, খুব হাসিখুশি লাগছে, ওকে ছেড়ে যেতে মন টা মানছিলো না, তবুও যে যেতে হবে। যাবার আগে একবার দুচোখ ভরে তুষারকে দেখে নিলাম, তুষার আমার থেকে মুখটা ফিরিয়ে নিলো।তুষারের কাছে গিয়ে বললাম, তোমার নতুন জীবন অনেক সুখের হোক, বিয়েতে তোমাকে দেবার মত আমার কাছে কিছুই নেই, তবে এই ছোট্ট একটা উপহার তোমার জন্য, নাও। কাগজ টা তুষারের হাতে দিয়ে সবার সামনে দিয়ে বেড়িয়ে পড়লাম, কেউ আটকালো না। চোখ দুটো বাধ মানছে না অশ্রু অঝরে পড়েই যাচ্ছে।

খুশি চলে যাওয়ার পর তুষার ওর দেওয়া উপহারের কাগজটা খুলে যা দেখলো তাতে ওর সারা শরীর কাঁপছে, চোখ দিয়ে জল পড়ছে। ঘরের সবাই উৎসুক হয়ে তাকিয়ে আছে তুষারের মুখের দিকে, কি হয়েছে জানার জন্য। কাগজটা পড়ার পর তুষার দাঁড়ানো থেকে বসে পড়লো, শরীরটা যেনো অবশ নিথর দেহের মত লাগছে।কাগজটা অার কিছু নয়, এটা সেই রিপোর্ট যেটাতে লেখা আছে বন্ধ্যা খুশি নয় বন্ধ্যা তুষার, ওই দিন ডাক্তারের রিপোর্টে রেজাল্ট এসেছিলো তুষার কোন দিন বাবা হতে পারবে না, সেই ক্ষমতা তার নেই, আর খুশি সম্পূর্ণ সুস্থ ওর কোন শারীরিক অক্ষমতা নেই।

রিপোর্টের ভিতরে খুশির একটা চিঠি আছে তাতে লেখা আছেঃ

তুষার,
আমি চাইলেই প্রথম দিনই সত্যিটা বলতে পারতাম, আমি শুধু দেখতে চেয়েছিলাম রিপোর্টে আমার দোষ আছে জানলে তুমি কি বলো, তুমি যদি একবার আমাকে বুকে টেনে নিয়ে বলতে তুমি আমাকে ভালবাসো সন্তান না হওয়ায় তোমার কোন আক্ষেপ নেই, আমার কপাল ছুয়ে একটু শান্তনা দিতে তাহলে আমি সারা জীবন তোমার মুখের দিকে তাকিয়ে জীবনটা পার করে দিতাম, সন্তান সুখ বিসর্জন দিতাম, কিন্তু তুমি তা করো নি, তুমি আমাকে ত্যাগ করেছো, তোমার থেকে আলাদা করেছো, ছিঁড়ে ফেলেছো ভালবাসার বন্ধন। রিপোর্টের ব্যাপারে মিথ্যা কথা বলে তোমাকে পরীক্ষা করতে চাইনি শুধু দেখতে চেয়েছিলাম তুমি আমাকে কতটা ভালাবাসো।তুমি হেরে গেছো।
চলে যাচ্ছি পৃথিবীর যেখানেই থাকি প্রার্থনা করি তুমি ভাল থেকো, সুখী হও।

সংগৃহীত।

কিছু রয়ে গেল…

কিছু রয়ে গেলো ?


ছোট্ট শিশু কে রেখে আয়ার জিম্মায়
অফিসে যাবার জন্য মা পা বাড়ায়
আয়া প্রশ্ন করে , ” দিদি , নিয়েছেন তো সব ?
চাবি , চশমা , মোবাইল আর ল্যাপটপ ?
থমকে যায় মা , ভাবে যাকে সুখী দেখতে,
এত ছোটা , উপার্জন , ছেড়ে যাচ্ছে তাকে !


গোধূলির ম্লান আলো – বিষন্ন বিকাল
মেয়েটির চোখে জল – ওর বিয়ে কাল
অন্য পুরুষের সাথে, এসেছে প্রিয়ের
কাছ থেকে ফিরে নিতে চিঠি অতীতের
প্রেমিক শুধোয়- দেখ, সব ঠিক আছে ?
কোন কিছু রইলো না তো আমার কাছে ?


বর কনে চলে গেছে – কনের পিসিমা
বলে , ” ভাই দেখ – কিছু রয়ে গেলো কি না
একবুক দুঃখ আর অশ্রূকে লুকিয়ে
বাবা দেখে ফুলগুলি গিয়েছে শুকিয়ে
সস্নেহে যে নাম ধরে এত ডাকাডাকি
নামশেষে যে পদবী – রয়ে গেল তা কি ?


দীর্ঘ কর্ম জীবনের আজ শেষ দিন
পিওন বাবুকে বলে , ” সব দেখে নিন
অফিসে নেই তো পড়ে কিছু আপনার ?”
বাবু ভাবে – চলে যাওয়া দিনগুলি কার ?
জীবনের সিংহভাগ কেটেছে কোথায় ?
আদৌ কি সব কিছু নিয়ে যাওয়া যায় ?


মানুষ করেছে ছেলে অনেক আশায়
সুপ্রতিষ্ঠিত আজ সে আমেরিকায়
অতি প্রিয় পৌত্রীর মুখেভাত শেষে
দাদু আর ঠাকুরমা ফিরে যাবে দেশে
ছেলে প্রশ্ন করে, ” কিছু গেল নাতো রয়ে?”
সবটাই — বাবা ভাবে নিরুত্তর হয়ে


শেষকৃত্য সারা প্রায় – বহ্নিমান চিতা
“রয়ে গেল নাতো কিছু ?” প্রশ্ন করে মিতা
পিছু ফিরে দেখে ছেলে -আকুল চেষ্টায়
শেষবার পিতৃমুখ যদি দেখা যায় !
মুখ থাকে বাক্যহীন , জানে শুধু মন
যা রইলো তা সঙ্গে তার ই রবে আজীবন


একেবারে কিছু যদি না ই রয়ে থাকে
যাবার সময় কেন এত পিছু ডাকে?
সবাইকে যেতে হবে – তাও খালি হাতে
অধিকার বোধ কেন তবু সবটাতে ?
এইটুকু মনে রেখো, যাবার সময়
পিছু থেকে ডাকবার কিছু যেন রয় !

Poet unknown but it is a brilliant work…

Friends

The septuagenarian gentleman sitting across me on the lower berth of 2-AC in the Kolkata-Bhubneshwar Express train has been engrossed in his smart mobile phone right from the beginning. In fact he had taken out the phone as soon as the train rolled out of the Howrah station. He was frantically typing out in between light laughter, smile and muffled guffaw. His dress of kurta-pyjama and a sleeveless jacket with the blanket loosely spread over his legs suggested that he is the quintessential Bong Bhodrolok. I guessed, by his demeanor that he must have been a teacher in a college or university. I also thought he must be going on a vacation unlike me who has to attend a boring seminar in the morning as soon as I reach Bhubneshwar.

The gentleman kept glancing at me intermittently as if trying to figure out if a conversation could be struck. The train for some unknown reason has been relatively less crowded and that made the air conditioning work with double efficiency and I was feeling little chilly. I spread the blanket over myself and made myself comfortable in a half lying up position before taking out my phone to check mails and messages.

Finally, the gentleman asked me, “Are you feeling cold, my son?” Now, hearing “my son” I was convinced that the person on the opposite berth surely have been a professor. I said, “Yes, a little bit.” He continued, “The last coffee vendor will come in few minutes, have a hot cup, it will comfy you up.”  Soon the coffee vendor appeared and we took two cups and then the chit-chat started with usual question-answer that any Bong on first acquaintance would like “Where do you live? What do you do? Are you married and how many kids? What are they doing etc?” He also revealed, as I had guessed, that he was the professor of Bengali Literature in Calcutta University. Thereafter there was silence and I wondered what to say! But the professor broke the silence and asked, “How is life treating you? Are you able to spend time with your loved ones?” As I was figuring out what to say, he again said, “I mean are you finding the life sweet or bitter?” I smiled and said, “It is sweet, sour and spicy, all at the same time.” I reflected upon the everyday scene… leaving for office at 9am only to return around 8pm, completely exhausted not just with office chores but driving through ever increasing traffic on the road. Then, having crossed the honeymoon period long ago, there would be some sort of losing argument with my wife or she would be having a fight with Piyali, our daughter on issues like “Why do you get up so late in the morning? Have you done your homework? Why haven’t you finished your food? Have you packed your school bag? Why haven’t you made your bed? Why are these books scattered all over the place? Why are you watching television instead of studying?” The list is endless… sometimes I would lose my cool and scold both.

Professor, took a deep breath and said, “My son, this is the best period in the life… don’t ignore and let it pass by, enjoy this lovely sweet-sour-spicy time with full enthusiasm, give it all your attention and love. There will come a time when only the silence will greet as you reach home, the bed is perfectly made, by some ominous magic the arguments of mother-daughter has been resolved forever. You will have the urge to undo the bed, scatter the books all over just to break the deafening silence with their arguments. The urge to sit with your little one as she attempts to solve that mathematical problem will be immense. You will realize that everything is in its place but the solitude will engulf you, overwhelm you, perhaps, you will search the familiar sweet smell of your little one, your ears would yearn for her constant chatter. No one to say bye as you leave and no one to snatch the TV remote, no one to take the egg yolk from your plate, it will simply dry up on your plate. The daily shrill voice on the other side of your mobile will become weekly then monthly to finally occasionally. She will come for two days and will take back the sweet dreams that you have painstakingly building now. The power of your eyeglass will increase; there will be more medicine to consume than food. The sleep will elude you as well.”

Every word, the professor said, hit me hard as I started visualizing the future… I asked, “So, what and how do you suggest the life should be lived?”

Professor thought for a while and then said, “No one will look back at you if fall like the winter leaves, you will be gone looking at the greenery at the top of the tree. You will have to reinvent, renew yourself like the new leaf on the tree. Locate your old friends wherever they may be, renew that warmth of the friendship. The warmth of the bonfire on a chilly wintery night can only come from the friends through uninhibited laughter, stupid jokes and all that bonhomie. That is why, I keep fiddling with my mobile phone… the old childhood friends keep sending jokes and tidbits that light up my world, keep me alive. Keep up the friendship that you developed long ago in your childhood; do not lose the camaraderie in today’s rat race. I am going to a gathering of my friends which we have every three months… we call it G2G, acronym for Get Together!! We have music, jokes and uninhibited laughter; we relive our youth for two days… take in the pure oxygen of friendship, extend our live every three months through this G2G.”

Next day, early morning, when I got down, there were around 15 young septuagenarians talking animatedly with the Professor and laughing like teenagers at some of their jokes, perhaps. The professor turned around and shouted, “My son, these are my little green leaves, my oxygen.”

I do not know what will happen 20 years hence? Will I have the strength in my fingers to type on the mobile? Will the eyesight be gone completely? I know for sure the cacophony of the G2G will go on but perhaps I may not hear a single word, I may not even remember any of them as my memory gets consumed by the dreaded Alzheimer’s. But the show must go on… the camaraderie of the friendship must continue…

 

Note: Received the Bong story without any reference to the original author. I decided to repost this beautiful realistic piece in English and dedicate it my own group of friends… the friendship developed many moons ago in the classroom, in the football field of Raisina Bengali School; we fondly call it Mastans of RBHS 80.

The Relocation

Two weeks before the Durga Puja (2017), on a Friday evening, Deepika announced that her company is closing down the training vertical, that she has been managing as senior leader. She has to choose a different role within the organization or look outside. We decided to take it in stride and take a call based on options within the organization. On the following Monday she called up from office and said that there exist two options, one is in Jaipur and the other in Hyderabad in Business Operations vertical. It was paradigm shift for her from training to operation and a difficult call. The Hyderabad option was more suited to her profile, so she took up the offer without any delay.

Once decided, we started the process of getting mentally ready for the move. It was not easy being born, brought up and work life spent in Delhi. The next step was to hunt for a place in Hyderabad. I had never been to the city and had absolutely no idea about the demography/ geography except some names like Banjara Hills, Jubillee Hills etc. So, I started my research on the internet and came up with names like Kondapur, Madhapur and Gachibowli. Having theoretically acquainted myself with Hyderabad landscape, we decided to go to the ground zero and look for a house. Deepika being there already, I booked myself on a Vistara flight for 28th morning for two day house hunting mission.

I landed around 9:35 am and after collecting my bag reached the Lemontree Hotel at Nanakramguda, Financial District within 45 minutes, courtesy the beautiful ORR (Nehru Outer Ring Road). After breakfast, accompanied by Mr. Jain, the property consultant, we went for the hunt. We started with an apartment block in Madhapur; it was right on the main road but very quiet and peaceful once you are inside the complex. This was followed by few houses in the neighborhood of Banjara Hills. After having seen a dozen places in the surroundings of Hitex, we moved towards Gachibowli. The Ramkey Towers – apartment block, right next to the Deloitte building. The apartment was on the 6th floor overlooking the swimming pool and clubhouse. The security arrangements and the sincerity of the staff were impressionable. We liked the apartment which was kind of semi-furnished ensuring we have to move very minimal household items from Delhi. The owners were Punjabis staying in another apartment in the same complex and were keen to lease it out to us.

In the evening, we met my friends Swathi & Sanjay Reddy at their house in Financial District, just a kilometer away from the Lemontree Hotel. It was a beautiful abode for the beautiful couple. We had couple of drinks before coming back to our hotel.

Next day again after breakfast, we started our house hunt, this time with another property agent that a friend had recommended. He showed us some really decent and nice apartments but all unfurnished and needed either shifting complete household things from Delhi or purchasing new at Hyderabad.

In the morning, Deepika had messaged three of her local colleagues about the Ramkey apartment. All of them warned us of water shortages in the peak summer months which can double our maintenance charges. One of her colleague suggested that we look at NCC Urban where he too is located, just behind Ramkey, a few blocks away. We asked the property agent as well as Mr. Jain (of the previous day), if they have any property in NCC Urban listed with them. Both said they will look in their data base and revert. Meanwhile, Deepika got a call from a lady from NCC who was interested in leasing out her apartment. This call was courtesy Deepika’s colleague who had posted a query for availability of apartments for leasing in the NCC Urban Society App called ADDA, and we fixed up an appointment with lady for that evening.

The first look of the apartment was so pleasing that we almost unanimously decided to take it up immediately. The lady, Ms. Jayasree Gujja had got transferred to Philadelphia, USA and was leaving in a fortnight’s time. She offered us the fully furnished house where we needed just to get our clothes from Delhi. The rental cost was slightly above our limit but since it was a ready to move in place, we decided it was worth it. The following day I came back to Delhi having accomplished the mission. Deepika signed up the Lease Agreement the following Thursday before leaving for Delhi.

The final relocation date was dependent on my sister’s impending visit to Delhi (India) after almost 10 years. So, once she confirmed her schedule, we too finalized the dates – Deepika along with our housekeeper, Savita will leave on 28th Dec and I will start my road journey on 29th Dec with my 4-legged son, Rolf and Guddu, the trusted driver.

Deepika carried 7 suitcases and 3 handbags on the flight (paying for extra baggage) and left a lot more for me to carry in Toyota Altis. Our driver, Guddu was itching for this long drive of almost 1600km. Google Maps showed the fastest route through Taj Expressway but my friend Robin insisted that we take the Mathura Road even if it means an extra hour. I am glad that I heeded to his advice as it was practically fog-free at a time when there was news everyday of mishaps due to fog on Taj Expressway.

Guddu & I loaded up the car in the evening itself and realized, there were too many stuff to take along, but these were all essential items that has to go. Rolf, used to having the entire back seat to him whenever he travelled in the car got really squeezed to less than half the space. We planned for 4am departure to avoid traffic as much as possible. My niece and her fiancé dropped in for a drink and to bid me goodbye and by the time they left, it was almost 11pm. It was time to shut down all systems and lock-up all entry points barring the main exit and cover up the sofas and other stuff that would remain in Delhi. All these activities took up considerable time and I could finally hit the bed around 1 am after confirmation of Deepika’s safe landing in Hyderabad. I got up with the alarm at 3 am and got ready within the hour but there was no sign of Guddu till 4:30 am!! When I called him, the usual reply came that he is reaching in 10 minutes which actually worked out to 30 minutes. We finally started around 5:15 am for our 1600 km journey to Hyderabad after getting the petrol filled to full tank capacity.

The route was NH2/ NH19 (Mathura Road) – NH33(Agra By-pass) – NH43/44, pretty straight forward and simple route which Google said would take 26 hours non-stop, crossing 7 states – Delhi-Haryana-Uttar Pradesh-Rajasthan-Uttar Pradesh(again)-Madhya Pradesh- Maharashtra-Telengana State. We decided to take the night halt at a resort in Pench which was right on the highway and begin fresh the next day for rest of the journey.

del-hyd route

The Mathura Road is currently being upgraded and there were sections which were closed and diversions marked, so the smooth cruising kept interrupting periodically. In a way it was good as I realized, Guddu Kumar was getting over enthusiastic about driving and in the process was applying some real hard breaking which was neither good the vehicle nor for Rolf, sitting at the back. By the time we hit the Agra By-pass (NH33), dawn started breaking on the horizon. It was good two hours of driving and Rolf as well as we needed to stretch our legs. I walked Rolf for 500 meters up the highway hoping he would do his job but the chap is so selective that he refused to do anything other than leaking his tank.

We started again moving towards Dholpur (Rajasthan) and then to Morena – Gwalior (MP) and then getting into UP again at Jhansi. We were actually bypassing all these cities as the highway was mostly away or on the outskirts of these cities. This also meant that unlike the other NH that pass through the city this was always skirting away from the city and therefore very few eating options existed on the entire stretch. There were no mid-way food courts like in NH8 or NH24/NH9, only few Dhabas where the trucks would lay by during the afternoon. We stopped at one such Highway Dhaba for breakfast. It was 100% vegetarian outlet and served different kinds of stuffed Paranthas. We ordered for Aloo-Parantha and tea. The food quality was nothing to talk about except it being very hot & spicy.

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As you approach each city, there were signs to take the bypass or go to the city. We diligently took the bypasses but just before Jhansi, we stopped at Petrol Pump to tank-up again. After filling up and getting Rolf to stretch his legs a little, we started again but missed out the Jhansi by-pass and entered the city. Luckily for us it was still early winter morning so the town was yet to come alive fully. We hastened our departure from the city using the Google Map and soon rejoined the NH44. Guddu has been driving since morning and I felt he needed some rest, so I took over the steering from him and asked him to take a nap. The road ahead was absolutely straight and very little traffic, I let the speedometer touch 140kmph and we soon crossed over to Madhya Pradesh once again. Guddu had taken a 15 minute nap and had been very restless. I asked him if would like to stop for toilet or tea but his response was “Sir, let me drive, I am feeling sleepy sitting on the passenger side”.  The effect of air-conditioning inside the car and the sunny warmth from outside was making me sleepy too, so once more I let Guddu take the wheel but told him to stop at the Pathway Retreat for lunch. Google showed it was some 2 hours away from our location.

I had dozed off for good an hour and half as we sped through the NH44. I enquired of Guddu if we had crossed Sagar and the Pathway Retreat and he said “Yes, about 30 minutes back.” I said, “Why didn’t you stop there?” He replied, “Sir, you were sleeping and so was Rolf, so didn’t want to disturb either of you. And moreover after the morning Aloo Parantha, I am not hungry at all, will stop for tea after some time.” I agreed with him and moreover, we were at least 3 hours ahead of Google’s predictions and stood a good chance of reaching our night halt station at Pench well before 9pm. We drove for next 2 hours without any incident except that there were huge line-up of trucks and tractor-trailers with sugarcane, practically closing one side of the highway. We negotiated the default single carriageway for about 3-5km and then moved back to the main carriageway. We stopped at Mowgli Street Food, just before Seoni for tea and let out Rolf for much needed break. He drank almost one litre of water but refused to eat anything. After a 15 minute stoppage, we rolled on towards our first destination – Go Flamingo Resort, Pench National Park. As we started, Google showed the destination to be 4:30 hour’s away meaning we will reach around 9:30pm. I had been to Pench National Park around 4 years back and knew the roads to be bad and narrow, typical forest roads. As we moved closer to our destination, the Google started re-estimating our arrival and confirmed that we will reach by 8:30pm, saving a clear one hour. The sun was setting over the horizon when we were still on the 4-lane highway and as the dusk gave way to darkness we encountered our first bad road, courtesy the frenzied expansion and construction of highways happening, which continued for about 6-8 km but seemed much more, eventually opening up to 2-lane jungle road. This was the hilly track or Ghat section that takes you to Pench. After a grueling one hour drive through the under-construction highway, which seemed like more than 2 hours, we finally made it to Go Flamingo Resort, Pench National Park.

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Go Flamingo Resort is the regular kind of Jungle Retreat, nothing fancy or luxury around this place. The rooms were extremely spacious and well-lit; the hotel staff extremely courteous and efficient. The room allocated to us had one double-bed, large enough for two people to sleep comfortably but Guddu refused to share it so I requested the hotel guys to provide an extra bed for him. I ordered food for us and laid out Rolf’s (dog) food and water. He ate half of it and the full bowl of water. I had forgotten that I was carrying boiled eggs from Delhi; there were 4 of them, so I gave 2 to Rolf and rest shared with Guddu along with the Elixir of Life which Guddu simply gulped down. The dinner was simple – dal, egg curry, salad and chapatti, which we devoured in double quick time, we were starving!! After dinner, Guddu went out, probably to have a cigarette because when he came in, I could smell the tobacco. We, including Rolf had a sound sleep and I woke up around 5:30 am (my body clock has got tuned to this hour of wake-up). After the morning rituals, I took Rolf for a walk and to my relief and his satisfaction Rolf pooped on the jungle path of Pench Tiger Reserve and marked his territory at various spots!!

We had a quick breakfast – Rolf: 2 boiled eggs & plain lassi, Guddu: 2 aloo parantha & tea and I had bread-omelet & coffee. I settled the hotel outstanding and started for the last leg of approx. 550km to Hyderabad. We got the car tank refilled at a petrol pump on the highway about 20km from the resort. I opened the Google Map and fed the destination and kept waiting for it to respond but what can GM do if it can’t get the fodder (network) from Vodafone!! Meanwhile, Guddu Kumar had stepped on the accelerator to reach Hyderabad on time for lunch. There were road signage’s directing us to our destination so I was not worried about the map. We crossed Gurmeet Dhaba but it was too early for tea-break and came to a fork where the right side road looked more lucrative and before I could respond, Guddu had taken the elevated newly constructed road and I could fleetingly see a signage on the left abandoned road saying “Towards Hyderabad”. This wrong turn not only cost us almost 170km but we lost crucial 3/3.5 hours.

fiasco-at-nagpur

Anyways, the lucrative good road lasted only about 10-12km and soon became completely potholed pathetic road. We were doing 100-120kmph earlier but the road ensured we keep it down to less than 30kmph. In the absence of the map navigation, we were completely unaware where we were heading towards. We kept going and reached a T-junction where it said Amravati on the left and Kolkata on the right. The obvious choice was Amravati but I was having a nagging doubt, in my numerous checks about the route map, I have never come across Amravati anywhere near my route. I rebooted my phone in the hope for getting the connectivity but it wasn’t to be and the most frustrating was that all other apps like WhatsApp, Facebook, etc were working with regularity. Using MyVodafone App, I upgraded my plan to the latest one but still no luck. Then I realized Guddu was carrying a smartphone, I asked him if it was Airtel connection but it was Vodaphone too. Guddu unlocked the phone and tried the Google Map and Wallah Habibi, it was working. The Google Map commanded us to take the U-turn in next 2.5km and proceed straight for next 67km before turning right. We have lost the early morning advantage as the road became crowded with vehicular traffic. It took us almost 2 hours to cover the estimated 70km and we turned right as directed by the map. As we kept moving, we realized we are going back to the point from where we took the wrong road and frankly did not want to go through that terrible patch of almost 20-25km again. We reached a crossing where few trucks were parked and I decided to check with their drivers for alternate road to reach NH44. One of the drivers speaking Maharashtrian Hindi directed us to a road and said we should take the right turn under the flyover at Buti-Bori. The road wasn’t showing up in the Google Map and it kept commanding us to take its suggested road which we finally took and reached the Nagpur Outer Ring Road and travelled another 34km before we could meet NH44. We had lost over 3 precious hours. I called up Deepika and told her that we are terribly behind schedule and would now reach only around 8/8:30pm as per Google Map.

The NH44 that lies in Maharashtra needs urgent relaying, most of the surface having gone from bad to worse. Our average speed came down to a mere 40-45kmph as every 5km of good double carriageway was complimented with 10km of potholed single carriageway. This continued till we crossed over to Telengana around 3pm. The car had consumed lot of gas and we were again down to 25% limit. We haven’t come across any gas station in the last 50 odd km which was really odd.

As agreed, once we hit the Telengana State, Guddu handed over the steering to me and we cruised on at a sedate speed, keeping an eye for a gas station. It would have been a nightmare to get stranded on the highway without petrol. We were cruising around 90-100kmph when Guddu shouted that a Gas Station is just ahead of us in less than 250mtr. I immediately slowed down and the car behind us narrowly missed hitting us, this was my first and only blemish in the entire journey. We tanked up at Sri Ambica Filling Station (HP) between Dollara (behind us) and Sekapur (ahead of us) and clock said 3:45pm, the Google Map still estimating 8:30 as ETA Hyderabad. I had decided to hand over steering to Guddu once it gets dark as he is more tuned to negotiating the traffic through the dark as seen the previous evening. But before that I wanted to enjoy the drive through the beautiful highway and reach my new home as early as possible not only for us but Rolf too as he was getting restless in the cramped rear seat.

We zoomed past Adilabad on our left and Nirmal on the right and the signage said Kamareddy some 92km ahead. I gunned the engine and the speedometer touched 140kmph and stayed there till we crossed the exit to Kamareddy and headed towards Ramyapet, 27km ahead.  The sun was setting in the distant horizon, I decided to look for a dhaba or tea stall and found one about 5km before Ramyapet exit. The tea was nothing but sugar and milk syrup but it provided much needed energy. Rolf also was able to stretch his legs, peed and drank a liter of water.

Guddu took over from me for the last stretch of our journey as I recalibrated the destination to NCC Urban, Gachibowli, Hyderabad.  The clock said 5:35pm and Google estimated ETA at 8:09pm. Being a Saturday, the traffic was low on the highway and soon we were cruising at 120kmph and reached the outskirts of Hyderabad around 6:15pm. There were some traffic as we approached Nehru Outer Ring Road (ORR) but once we were on it, the traffic became smooth and Guddu stepped on to take the needle to touch 140kmph and I had to restrain him and slowed down to 100-110kmph. Guided by the Google Map we finally reached NCC, Urban precisely at 7:13pm, beating Google ETA by almost one hour.

Deepika was at the gate to receive us and guide us to the underground parking bay. I let out Rolf to relieving himself before getting into our new home for some years to come.

Guru Dakshina

When the announcer called his name, Dr. Ashesh Sanyal got up with a smile on his face to give his acceptance speech, carefully placing the flower bouquet, the plaque and the award cheque on the table in front of him and walked up to the podium slowly.

In his career as a talented and accomplished professor of mathematics, he has delivered many a speech with élan. The spotlight, the podium, the vast audience in the semi-darkness of the auditorium doesn’t make him nervous at all now. He has said ‘thank you’ so many times that it flows like water, the moment he takes to the podium. But today was different, Dr. Ashesh Sanyal stood at the podium contemplating what to say, perhaps overwhelmed at the honor and the award cheque, both were large enough to make him speechless. It seemed that he was looking for words to express himself. The audience meanwhile started to get restless and the cacophony of noise from the auditorium broke his reverie and started to speak with a shy smile…

You must have realized that today standing in the midst of you all and receiving such honor, I was lost in thoughts for a few moments. Some of you may even felt that I was overwhelmed in receiving such appreciation and perhaps I would say that I do not deserve such accolades, as is customary in many such speeches.

I would say, you have guessed it right, I was overwhelmed and an emotional storm started brewing inside me. Yes again, I truly do not deserve all this accolade and awards and this is not any hollow acceptance speech but I am speaking from the depth of my heart.

I am going to tell you something that I have not shared with anyone till date. You may find it difficult to digest after the reading of my citation by the chairman of the organizers here but the truth is I was very weak in mathematics in my childhood. And not just weak but really scared of the subject. I used feel feverish just thinking about it, the subject class used feel like a concentration camp. I remember, till the sixth standard, I have failed in the subject in many term exams. Once I got just 5 marks out of 100! Yes, you heard it right 5 out of 100.

To make me capable if not strong, my parents appointed a private tutor to teach me mathematics. This particular tutor had the fame of making the weakest pupil score good marks in the exams. His appearance was very intimidating to his students with a thick mustache and joint eyebrows and the eyes that were always red in anger; moreover he carried bamboo cane for disciplining his errant students. And his booming voice was enough to make my heart jump out of my mouth!! He used come twice a week for two hours a day and would grind me in an invisible machine called mathematics. I used consider him only next to Satan and hated him from the bottom of my heart.

His teaching style was really scary. He would himself solve problems after problems in a notebook reading out the steps to solve them without bothering to check if I have understood or not. Thereafter, he would ask me to solve the same set of questions in my notebook and if I missed one step or the answer was wrong, his cane came handy too easily. So, I tried rote learning of the answers but the problem with rote learning is if you forget one step then that’s the end of it, the question will never get the right answer. I think the amount of caning that I received at that time was proportional to the reducing marks in my mathematics paper.

When the half-yearly exams result were declared, I received Zero out of Hundred.

My uncle (father’s elder brother) finally got rid of the monster of a tutor and told my father “There is a guy who knows mathematics: he is quite poor, let us try him out and see if he can make the boy understand mathematics.”

I was nervous again, a new tutor! It was like jumping into fire from the frying pan. I kept praying that at least the new tutor should have a pleasant personality and temper unlike the previous monster. Somehow, I felt all mathematics teachers were like the previous tutor, always angry and ready to punish the hapless students like me.

Anyways, the new tutor came with my uncle and all my premonitions evaporated instantly. Instead of being scared of my new tutor, I was amused to the hilt. There was this lean man carrying a bunch of notebooks and papers that overflowed from his bag. He was anything but scary and I rather felt pity for him. I had gotten over my fear in him, so I smartly guided him to my study room.

The new tutor in a timid way patted my back and asked “Are you weak in mathematics? Are you scared of the subject?” then in a conspiratorial voice said “I am scared too about mathematics but please do not tell your uncle or father otherwise I will lose this job, my only earnings.”

I was taken aback. He came closer to me and said again “I don’t know much about mathematics but if I didn’t take up this tuition, I would have starved to death. Now, you are my savior, if we both try, perhaps we can help each other.”

“H-h-how ca-a-n I help you” I started stammering. Sir just caught hold of my hand and said, “I might get stuck at some point while solving, you must help me in solving the sums. You are young with fresh brain; you will surely be able to solve it. And please don’t tell anyone that you are helping me, I will get into huge trouble.”

I was dumbstruck looking at my new tutor. He was most apologetic in his demeanor and almost pleading with me in a tearful manner. Something snapped inside me, suddenly I felt empowered and decided that I cannot fail this person, I must put my whole energy in saving my new tutor. You know, when you see a person drowning, you too jump into the water to save him even if you are not a swimmer. That was the moment from where mathematics became my obsession. I decided to do the sums on my own, use logic to solve them and more importantly, do well in the exams. If I could show improvement in my results, then only my new Sir can save his job. It was for him that I transformed myself.

I don’t know if you all will believe it or not but the very next day onwards, the fear of mathematics simply vanished, evaporated from my consciousness. I started spending hours on mathematics trying to solve the problems and if I got stuck, I would put all my energy till it would get solved. Slowly I realized that problems that I once thought unsolvable are really very easy. The logical steps that used elude me earlier were now very clear. I started enjoying mathematics and would feel elated after solving a difficult question.

My new tutor also tried very hard but would often get stuck at some point and would request me to help him. Soon our role reversed, we would try to solve the same question separately and I would always come up with solution before him. He would say, “Oh, you have solved it already, I got stuck at this point, can you please explain the process to me?” I would then explain him the process as if I am his tutor. He would say “Okay, it’s that easy!” thereafter just to hide his own embarrassment he would give a tough question and say “I am sure, even you can’t solve this.” I would get even more determined and find the right process to solve it. Sir would smile innocently and say “You are really very brainy. Will you be able to solve the questions during the exams? Please ensure that my job remains otherwise you know I will starve to death.” By this time I had developed immense self confidence and would assure him “Sir, you just wait n watch, I will get full marks.”

Sometimes he would get some very difficult ones and tell me “Just see these questions if you can solve, I can’t make a head or tail of these. I think even you can’t solve them.” I would get very annoyed and leave everything till I could solve them. He would sit by me and give some tips as if asking me if they were the right ways. As I would solve them I would shout “Eureka” and explain him the process like a teacher. He would gratefully say “Thank God, you’re there to solve these tricky ones.”

Meanwhile, even in school, my teachers could see the transformation within me and would often exclaim “Your brain has opened up magically, it is unbelievable!”

I would instantly remind them “You won’t believe it when you mark my paper in the exams.”

My tutor would reprimand me saying “You shouldn’t boast like that, if you make silly mistakes or forget the steps during the exams, you will not get the desired result.”

“I will never forget the steps; mathematics is now securely embedded inside my brain. And if not for any other reasons, I have to secure good marks just for you. I can’t fail you Sir.” I would assure him sincerely.

That was the first time I saw sparks in his eyes but couldn’t make out if it was out of excitement or something else.

Doctor Sanyal took a sip of water from the glass kept on the podium and took a deep breath before starting again.

I won’t take much of your time, you have been very patient with me but my story is nearing its end now.

When the result was declared in the school, my teachers were literally taken aback. They kept saying, it is a miracle that the boy who rarely got double figure marks all these times has secured 100% marks in mathematics. My mathematics teacher had checked my paper thrice but could not deduct even half a mark, it was 100/100.

I rushed home in a euphoric state with my result and urged my father, “Please take me to my tuition Sir, and I want to share my result with him just now.” I could feel that I won’t be able to rest till I tell him that “We have succeeded”.

My father’s face was quite grave not showing any joy at my brilliant result. He said at length “Yes, I have been waiting to take you to your Sir. Let’s go.” And then as an afterthought said “Even he wants to meet you urgently.”

I was surprised to see our car getting inside the hospital instead of a house. I asked my father “Why are you taking me to the hospital?”

“Your tutor is very ill. Two days back he fell down in an unconscious state and when we got to know, we admitted him here. An hour ago he regained his senses and has been asking for you since then.” My father said solemnly.

My mouth became dry and I anxiously walked with my father through the long corridors of the hospital. My tutor was lying in a ward bed at the corner of a large room. He was thin but now it seemed that he has lost few more kilos in the last two days, dark circles have formed under his eyes. He was visibly in pain but when I showed him my mark sheet, his face lighted up for an instant. He took my hands in his and kept smiling as tears rolled out of his eyes.

The nurse urged us to leave as his condition started to deteriorate. With great difficulty, Sir spoke to my father “Please see to it… what I told you.”

“Yes, you be rest assured, I will do what I have to do.” My father assured him.

Dr Ashesh Sanyal stopped for a while covering the microphone mouthpiece with his hand, took a few sips of water and then composing himself started again.

That was the last time I saw him. He passed away that very night. My father and uncle cremated his body without telling me. Next evening my father called me and said “Your Sir had left this for you.”

There was an old file folder roughly tied with blue ribbon. Inside were three notebooks and some loose sheets of paper. All covered with blue ink depicting strange mathematical figures.

I had absolutely no clue about the texts but the handwriting including the crisscross was very familiar.

“All of it are higher mathematics, research oriented. He was such a brilliant brain, we could hardly figure out.” My father sighed and then continued “He couldn’t finish his research. These are beyond the comprehension of most people but he was confident that you will be able to take this research to a logical conclusion when you grow up. He has given his blessings for your success.”

Dr Ashesh Sanyal took off his specs and started cleaning the glasses with his handkerchief. He kept on rubbing the glasses, his eyes filling up with tears. There was pin drop silence in the whole auditorium. He was trying desperately to control his pent up emotions. Then he said …

You would have realized that I am trying to control my emotions. Yes, I wanted to stop my tears but they are not listening to me anymore and there’s a tsunami building up inside me. I have nothing more to say but I am sure you have guessed it rightly that I owe everything that I have today to my Sir. He acted as if he didn’t know mathematics and ignited the passion inside me to succeed. He let go of his ego just to ensure his pupil would be successful. Yes, he changed my life, my destiny. In fact, he has given me this life. He made me what I am today. This award, the citation and the prize money, all are rightfully his only.

This research breakthrough of Prime Number for which I have received this huge award, has been possible only because my poor, unknown Sir had written down the basic approach for the research work. I have followed his path diligently and that is my only contribution.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I have decided to set up a Trust Fund with the money that I have received today for the benefit of the exceptionally talented but economically weak students of mathematics; they will receive monthly stipend from the Trust – Shibnath Sarkar Memorial Scholarship.

Yes, Shri Shibnath Sarkar was my mathematics tutor. He made me what I am today. This Trust Fund is my Guru Dakshina to him.

 

Note: The original story is in Bengali called WRIN by Sourav Mukhopadhyay. It created a huge impact on me and I couldn’t resist re-writing it in English with minimal changes. I offer my sincere apologies to Mr. Sourav Mukhopadhyay, if I have erred in bringing out the true emotions and nuances of his original craft.

My Father’s Wedding – 2

This is the story of Sunny’s father.

When I joined the school in Jamalpur, one of the first guys I befriended was Sunny. He was a bit unusual from the others; he had a thick beard and mustache, very unlike the other students of class nine. So I called him Uncle Sunny and in reply he landed a uppercut precisely on my nose sending me to the floor five feet away, senseless.

I regained consciousness after a good half hour and saw Sunny sprinkling water on me to bring me back to my senses. The moment I opened my eyes he started apologizing profusely. Thereafter we became very good friends.

One day Sunny confessed that he really likes a girl called Ruksana and if I could help him write a romantic love letter to Ruksana. I asked Sunny to get nice writing paper, the ones that girls usually liked and come over to my uncle’s home in the evening. When Sunny came over to my uncle’s home, my cousin Rubina called me aside and asked, “Where did you find this sample piece?” I said, “What do you mean? He is my classmate and good friend.”

“He was in the same class with my elder brother, then with me and now he is in your class.” Rubina said in a matter of fact manner.

I was shocked because my cousin brother was in the final years of college and Rubina in her first year of college. Any ways, I did not tell Sunny or any of my other friends about my new found knowledge about Sunny. In fact our friendship became stronger over the months in school. However, I noticed that he never invited me or any of his classmates to his home.

Many of my classmates used call him Bastard’s Son behind his back. I did not like it and one day confronted Saiful, “Why do you people call him Bastard’s Son?”

“His father looks like a drunkard, chews tobacco all the time and drinks local wines in the evening. He can always be found in the red light area of the town. Not only that, he is a habitual molester of women” replied Saiful in disgust.

“Doesn’t anybody complain against him?” I asked.

Saiful spat out before answering, “Those who are sitting in judges’ bench are all scoundrels and bribe takers. Every time the guy was caught and brought to the court, he would bribe them and the matter is dusted under the carpet.”

“What about Sunny’s mother? How is she tolerating all these nonsense?” I asked again.

“Sunny doesn’t have a mother. She passed away many years ago” replied Saiful.

Now, I could understand why Sunny avoided calling his friends over to his home.

One day we got the news that Sunny’s father has got into trouble once more. This time he had misbehaved with Magistrate’s wife and his men have tied him up with a tree in their bunglow lawn. Deep inside me, I was happy that the bribe taking magistrate has become the victim now but knew that the old man needs to be rescued too. So, went to the magistrate’s home to plead with him and after much plodding he agreed to let him go against transfer of ten acres of land in his name.

Next day, I found Sunny sitting in the school lawns under the mango tree, all alone. He seemed depressed for some reason. I asked him, “What happened, what’s bothering you?”

“I am worried about the old bastard” replied Sunny.

“Who is the old bastard?” I wanted him to clarify.

“Who else but my father” replied an agitated Sunny.

“You too call him a bastard?” I asked in shock.

“I only have given him that title” shouted Sunny.

“Why don’t you get him married again?” I asked him. Sunny seemed to like the idea and calmed down.

The following day after school, I along with Sunny and Saiful presented our proposal to Sunny’s father. The old bastard seemed to like the idea and blushed like a teenager.

After much searching around, we found a woman marriage counselor who agreed to search for a suitable bride for the old bastard in exchange of five hundred rupees as her fees. She confirmed the following Friday for meeting with the would-be bride and her family.

The household seemed well-to-do but the bride to be was just 15 years old and had 7 more siblings, perhaps, all a year younger to the previous ones. It seemed that man of the house has no other job but procreation as per God’s will and in the process the health of the mother has become miserable. The four of us along with the marriage counselor sat on one side of the room while the bride-to-be all decked up sat on the other side along with her mother and siblings. The marriage counselor introduced me and Saiful as groom’s nephew but kept quiet about Sunny. She actually stopped Sunny when he started to say something and instead asked his father, if he liked the girl.

The shy smile of the bastard confirmed that he liked the girl. The bride’s family too was willing for the match. While paying the bride’s money, Sunny said to the bride “You are going to be my mother, please don’t treat me as a stepson and consider me as your own son.”

The bride’s mother flared up hearing that and said “What do you mean by stepson? Is this guy your father? We were not told that he has a grown up son?” then she attacked the marriage counselor. We came out running and did not stop till we reached the safety of Sunny’s home.

We were indomitable in our endeavor to find a bride for the bastard and soon found another marriage counselor. This time we gave her clear instructions that she should not hide the fact that the bastard has a grown up son. Two days later the counselor got back with a proposal and we decided to check it out.

Once again, the four of us went to see the bride-to-be along with the marriage counselor. We were seated in the long verandah of the house, the bride-to-be sat opposite to us with her parents on either side. The bride’s father looked handsome with toned up body that was all muscle while the mother though a little plump, still exuded beauty.

“Do you like the girl, Abba? Sunny asked his father.

“I liked the one standing by the little girl” replied Sunny’s father with a shy smile.

Everyone around was shocked that the bastard liked the mother of the bride. “Let’s get out of here before anything goes wrong.” I told Sunny. But before we could do anything, the bastard had caught hold of the woman’s hand and pleading her to marry him. We tried pulling him away but the husband of the woman started beating him up and as the commotion reached the neighbors,they too joined in the beating, even we were not spared and got beaten up badly.

Somehow in tattered clothes and injured body, we reached Sunny’s home. Sunny was most affected and warned his father “If you do not get married in one week, I will never set foot in this house.” Saying this he came out with me to my uncle’s home.

Though the guy was a confirmed bastard in his behavior, he really loved his son, so this time, he on his own found a marriage counselor and actually got married within the week. He sent Saiful to give the good news to Sunny and me and asked us to join him.

Sunny and I were sitting in my room with some books on poetry to copy the lines for the love letter to Ruksana when Saiful burst into the room and said excitedly, “Sunny, I have two surprises for you.”

Sunny and I asked in unison, “What?”

“First one is that your father has got married finally.” Saiful said with a mystic smile on his face.

Sunny and I jumped up in joy and asked “What’s the second one?”

“You need to go to your home to see the second surprise.” Saiful started laughing as he said this.

We hurried towards Sunny’s home without wasting further time. We found the couple in the kitchen where Sunny’s new mother was making Rice Pudding and his father was standing next her chewing betel leaf with tobacco. Seeing us he said, “Darling, serve up the pudding, your son and his friends have come.”

Sunny’s new mother turned towards us and immediately Sunny blurted out, “Ruksana, it is you!”

“I am your mother now, don’t call me by name. You can call me Ammu.” Ruksana reprimanded her son.

Suiful started laughing aloud and said, “How did you like the Second Surprise?”