Monthly Archives: May 2014

Melodrama

“This is going to be the last house.” I decided as I pressed the bell.It was a pathetic summer.The blue and white hawaii chappals seemed to melt under my feet in the heat. There were foot steps approaching the door. I made a quick check of the pamphlets and brochures.I felt so thirsty, even the pan shops had pulled their shutters down.

A groggy eyed man, the owner of the house opened the door.Evidently he was sleeping the air-conditioned comfort of his room.
“the typical petite bourgeoisie swine” I swore, albeit,mentally.
“Yes?” he asked in a perfect polite voice,tempered with a polish of disdain.
I saw him quite a number of times, in various functions, in our locality,but close up,he looked more old.

“I came to campaign for the MP candidate of your locality.If you could give me some time..”
“oh! yes yes, I know him well..come in please”

I could see him get unusually interested! Why! I wondered.

The interior of the house was quite plush and tastefully decorated.There were book cases lining the wall.I could make out the outlines of quite a number of acclaimed  books.Even if he doesn’t read , it’s a nice way to impress people, I caught myself thinking.What made me assume that he did not read?

“The weather is so bad and you must be thirsty”,he pushed me a glass of water as I sat gingerly at the edge of the sofa.It was too costly to be soiled with my sweat. These trimmed surroundings always made me ill-at-ease.

I drank it, still wondering why he was being so polite and generous.

“So, How much?”, he shot his first question.I was startled! Hardly there can be a man so forthright about giving donations to a party which is sure to lose,this time,particularly.Especially,as this man is not one of the sympathizers, as I have been told.I was shocked! I took out the donation book.I had only one with me.No, no, we had other means of getting funds, but mass collection somehow went well with the image we tried to portray.“I am not asking about the chandaa, I am rather asking how much are you going to get for going home to home trying to campaign?”

The question was right out of the blue!.I fumbled and fumbled.No, I wasn’t enraged..Of all the people in the world, this man, caught me unaware!I could feel an anger slowly growing within me, an urge to hit was gradually building up.

I stood up to go, shaping a retort that would accurately vent my hatred against him.I hated him,always.I hated him because he is rich, I hatred him because he is corrupt, I hated him because he could afford to be corrupt.I was honest under compulsion, or was I,as I wanted to believe?I hated him because it was for him, that I needed to walk in the tar-melting heat to canvass for the candidates,because I needed money and party would give me money only if I campaigned.Fallen from power,party has no money to spare, the District Secretary couldn’t have been clearer.

I wanted to go out of the house,to show him that I was engulfed by a righteous anger.But it was a sticky afternoon.The air conditioner had already dried my wet shirt.I hoped,desperately, that he provided me a graceful way to continue the conversation.

My hesitation in stepping out was perhaps too palpable for him to miss.”Oh! Don’t get offended!.Please sit and lets talk”. No, not that respectable a way out but I leaped at it. “I was trying to neutralize an opposition”, the explanation sounded almost good to my ears.”

“Have you ever been to the other end of the town?”. he asked me.
-“Yes, a couple of times.But why do you ask?” I had already sat down.

“There is a hospital you might have seen.If you take right from there, you end up in a dark by-lane. Nah, not many middle-class families live in that lane now,most people have moved out. If you had been there,say, four or five years ago, you would have seen an old man sitting in a rickety tool outside a ramshackle house.Every time there was a wind, we would think that the house might be blown away,but strangely it managed to remain rooted.That man was an employee with the postal dept.An honest,hardworking man,as most self-taught people of that generation were.He grew up in the times when the entire country was being swept in red.Marx, Engels, Lenin, all that you people think to be a compulsory read to be a human, he read all those.Armchair theoretician?Nah, he wasn’t so.He joined the flag-bearers who,what did they call themselves,Ah! the vanguard of proletariat!Big and fancy words, quite catchy, aren’t they?So you know, what did he do, he left job and devoted his entire life to your party.No, not just his own,his entire family’s life was for your party.He did not ask his wife, he didn’t ask his children, but did what he felt to be right.They did not complain.What an honor to be devoted to revolutionary ideas,ideals.They lived for  what you now are doing for money.”

He paused, drained the bottle of water kept on the table and continued.

Days went by and years, the ‘advanced tide of revolution’ was replaced by,what you people as ‘the receding tide’.Heartbreaks and deaths were being common, most of the old brigade had retired from active work.His daughter was growing up in those days.She had the same fiery passion as her Baba,she.Her mother used to chide her telling that such girls are difficult to be married off,the entire family used to laugh then, a hearty and loud laugh. She and her generation would be doing what they had left undone, the father used to say because all the hardships,pain and poverty couldn’t rob him of his dream.Perhaps the dream because dusty,rusty, but it was there, a hope of a future that perhaps they wouldn’t live to see.

What was the year? somewhere around 1970 perhaps.Police came to their house and took the daughter away.No, she wasn’t a Naxalite.Even in those days, the entire family had an unquestionable loyalty towards your party.She had those books, they were in her house for years and years.No one had expected that these could be the cause of catastrophe that happened.He went from door to door and asked for help.You people were in power then.He went to his old friends, his political mentors, he used to camp near your head-quarters and the secretariat for get his daughter released.

A few weeks later, her battered body was found in the hospital dump-yard.

He stopped.“So how did you like it?”

Like a cheap melodrama,I wanted to retort.His story did not affect me .These were common incidents in those days, so many people got killed.What was the use of raking these old issues up?We don’t think of these things any more. Infact now a days who bothers to read those fat and difficult books and theories.We knew nothing, but we weren’t doing bad.We were rewarded by the Party.Yes, there we difficult times like this, but in general, the red garb bought benefits,quite a few to be told the truth.I tried managing a not so sneering smile.I had a meeting to attend in half an hour.The week’s pay would be given there.I was getting late.He caught me glancing at my watch.“You must be getting late, I wont keep you anymore.”, he said as he pulled out a five hundred rupees note from his pocket.

“Keep the change”,I felt him say, even if his lips were immovable in that contemptuous smile.

I stepped out of the door, the sun had set by then.

But there was something not yet finished about the evening. A question lurked in the growing shadows which couldn’t be ignored anymore.

“Why did you tell me this story?”, I blurted out.He turned back, his face washed in that pale light cast by the ornate lampshade in the portico.His eyes wore a strange look.

“So that the next time you come to take my money to abuse me, you remember what you people did to us.”

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Memoirs or Fiction?

Companion

Sometimes, there are people who decide to show more confidence on us than we ourselves can muster and there are some who continue to help and guide us irrespective of what we try to do.So it happened and i dared to translate this poem from ‘Dosor’ movie.Since I couldn’t find the title of the poem, I have named it as Dosor.

I am posting the original poem in roman alphabets for wider readability.

tomar thonth amar thonth chhulo
jodio ei prothombar noi
chumbon to ageo bohubar…
eibar thothe mileche ashroi

jemon shob bhoyer golpe
doitto danob rakkosh r kkhoy
tile tile shukhoi rajkumari
ontomile rajputrer joy

tobuo khub bhitore badhahin
lorai chole shumbo nishumbher
prothom bole, phool ti chire khabo
ditio bole, hath pate shekh

ashole tumi dirgho shalmoli
shobar matha chariye torubor
tomar thonth amar thonth chhulo
r je kichu okinchitkor .

———————————SUGATA GANGOPADHYAY

===========================================================

your lips touch mine,
not the first time, even!
Kisses have been there,always,
This time, it felt haven.

As in those fairy tales,
loom spectre, demon and death,
the princess wanes bit by bit,
but the prince wins at last breath.

But somewhere,deep within,
a fierce duel unbridles,
One says, “Ravage the flower”!
“Entreat!”,the other fiddles.

You are,infact,the lofty Shalmoli,
That towers above us all.
Your lips do touch mine,
Insubstantial, the rest fall.

2 Comments

Filed under poetry and all that

Unishe May, the 19th

Tucked in one forgotten corner of a huge country, lies a sleepy town. No, no, it is not one of those beautifully sculptured, picturesque hill stations. It is a simple place, as simple as you and me. It has a river that resembles an old lady, struggling under the burden of age. It has concrete skeletons that stand naked, choking the frail assam-type houses. There are malls that have come up where ponds once stood, there are pot-holed fields that have been converted to parks which look more gaudy than welcoming.

 

But in the month of May, if one cares to listen, one can hear the faint voice of history calling out to us. Decades ago, in the month of May, the sultry afternoon stillness was shattered as gun shots rang loud and clear. It was a murder.Not one, not two, but eleven people were ‘casualities’ of a fight were only one party had the guns.

 

There was nothing extraordinary about May, 1961.The people of that silent town was gathering courage to fight against the autocratic decree of the state government to discard their mothertongue and get educated in the language of the ‘majority’. How could they do it! They sang in their mother tongue, lauughed in that language, fought and loved in that very language. What was their fault to be robbed of this happiness? Did the mere fact that that part had been appended to Assam legitimized the silencing of their language? Did the fact they spoke a different tongue allowed the rulers to rob them of the language that is a part of existence? Is uniformity more acceptable to peace full co-existence of variety?

 

People didnot think so. They weren’t brought up in a safe haven like us. They knew the taste of sweat and heat, they had lived their lives the hard way. The tales of hardships of life that fueled their work,the songs of marriage that reverberated their dwelling in happier times, the angry words thaty made crows flutter away in a quiet afternoons of their simple lives wore woven in the language they all loved so dearly.They couldnt part with it. They couldn’t condemn their sons and daughters to the nothingness of silence.

 

19th May, 1961.

A peaceful satyagraha had been organized in the Silchar Railway Station. Unarmed protestors, like you and me, may be not so smart and dashing like we can be, but more passionate can we can ever be, gathered there .Some had bunked the school o attend it, some had gone to show their love for Bangla and some just happened to be there when the Police fired the gunshots.The platform turned red as blood gushed out,people ran helter-skelter, shots continued to crumble the silent town as more and more people fell.

 

That is how eleven people laid their lives to make sure that today we speak what we do speak .It wasnt the only instance of language movement in Assam, it happened again in 1986,again people died.It happened again, for Bishnupriya Manipuri. Is there any other place in India where there has been so much of blood-shed in the name of language?

 

Gradually Silchar is turning into a land of old people. Employment opportunities there are meagre. We read, we study, we go out and Silchar, undemanding as she is, slowly fades out of our lives. Her unassuming, rustic picture doesnt fit into the posh and glimmering lives that we crave to create for us.With that, we try forget so many other things. We forget the significance of Unishe May. It becomes another day in the calendar when Silchar has a holiday and a celebration. We look at the aalpana on the streets and read out the slogans without realizing the worth of them. We forget that Unishe May isn’t only for Bangla, Unishe May isn’t a sporadic incident that has no bearing now ; rather with every passing day, its importance becomes more glaring because it is a fight against chauvinism, it was a fight against disrupting the fabric of linguistic variety, it was the fight of the repressed against the autocracy of a majority government.

 

Politically, we cannot claim to be the worthiest inheritors of Unishe May. There is so much left undone, so much yet to achieve, politically. But, thankfully Unish isn’t as ruthless as we are. While she lies uncared for 364 days, she doesnt tug at our conscience. The one day when we turn to her, she gives us enough to sustain our Bengali flag waving for the rest of the year and in that flag waving, happens so many Unish silently in so many places, the big fish continues to devour the smaller ones.

 

Today, when the situation is such that pluralism is endangered, where a shameless attempt is being made at creating a bland blanket of uniformity, where every dissenting voice against the will of majority is threatened, Unish still instills pride in us, it instills the hope of sustaining the beauty of variety,it spins the tale of heroism in face of state’s brutalism.

 

Salute you!

2 Comments

Filed under Memoirs or Fiction?

Final Prose

And they made love.
He put the full stop at the end of the sentence, pressed F5 twice to make sure that he has saved it properly.Damn! Its time he bought a laptop, but where is the money!He tried to fix the wobbly keyboard.Journalism: the name has an aura;freelancer: even more so.But he was a free-lancer hardly by choice.In fact, this entire thing of writing and earning his living disgusts him.No, not because of certain vague ‘philosophical and intellectual reasons’ as to knowledge is universal and free ,that newspapers tow certain political lines decided by the publishing house, and that if he could he would run a free blog to express his ideas,thoughts and get popular but because of the simple and plain reason that he is a lousy writer, fiction or non-fiction, that there can be no takers to his blogs and that till date he couldn’t manage to get a job in any of the existing newspapers. “Then why the hell are you in this field!”, so many people have asked this question when he expressed his distaste for this business of selling stories.He couldn’t tell him that with a simple degree of BA Hons in English from some forgotten provincial college and his lack of resources,both intellectual and financial, he did not have much of an option.He tries to give them a measured smile that,he hopes, has a bit of higher philosophy and enigma attached and concentrates on the glass in hand.

Being a free-lancer gave him certain liberties.For example, when he saw that his political analysis always ended up in the waste paper basket, he tried his hand at writing travelogues.Budget wasn’t much, so he went to Meghalaya.He had seen those “Paradise Unexplored” ads on television.The road was like a sleek black snake,crushing the mountain in a tight spiral.The green curtain on one side was disrupted now and then by naked soil, gaping in a grotesque way.His grandmother had a faint relationship with meghalaya.She used to tell how the pine trees created a distinct rustle which could be heard long before one actually reached there.He strained his neck carefully through the window caked with coal dust.Open mining was quite prevalent .Yes, there were pine trees, not less in number, in any way.But they wore a desolate look.They looked uncared for, dirty perhaps.

He was sincere in paying attention to every detail that he came across.He had gone to places frequented by travellers and those that lay deserted.He walked around Jitbhum, peered through the closed wrought iron gates to get a glimpse of the place where Rabindranath stayed.(He wasn’t a fan of the grand old man of indian literature.It was because of him that later Bengali poets never got the attention they deserved,he always argued in his college days).He had to write a good piece that wouldn’t be rejected by any newspapers.Money was short.

He worked sincerely there.Everynight, he used to sit in his room in a hotel in Police Bazaar and go on writing.He wrote about the Khasi culture there, the markets managed by women, the country-side beauty that was slowly being swallowed by the consumerist culture.He sat in his cheap hotel and wrote about the luxuries offered by the Pinewood Resort.Money is a great motivator, he had realized then and it is for money that he spun tales about the place.Left to himself, he would have just enjoyed the europe-ish charm of the place.

So after all the efforts that were put into writing the travelogue, was it published?The answer must be evident by now.Had it been published, he would have got the keyboard fixed.

Yesterday, he was getting ready to go out and meet his friends, keeping up appearances is important till he manages to get some job, even a call centre would do for the time being, he thought as he looked around the shabby room with peeling paint.He made a mental note to get the fan regulator fixed,the wires hung dangerously from the broken case.It was then the call came-short,stern, “We are yet to fill the complete space of this sunday’s paper.Give us a story,anything will do.Just dont write those intellectual bullshit”.The man hung up, before he could even talk of money.Anyway, this paper does pay me if I write,he thought as he went out.

He knew he was bad with words.He cannot imagine things.Everytime he tried imagining things to write, he stumbled.He could be termed as a faithful clerk of daily happenings,nothing more.In early days,when he was yet to give up, he used to strain his eyes and minds to look beyond the things that happened,he never succeeded.He realized he was insensitive perhaps.

The hangout with friends was great, good food, good booze.But he had a story to write.And for that he had to make something happen, anything.Unless anything happens,he will have nothing to write the next day, and he had no money.A fight perhaps, he looked around the room;all guys were his friends.He couldn’t risk a fight with them, he would need their help to get a job later.Should he get drunk and try doing something idiotic?The booze is good, he could have tried that, but then he won’t remember what he did!Some thing has to happen tonite, he was getting desperate.He spotted the girl sitting at the corner,somebody’s girlfriend perhaps?No, No..had she been so, he would have known when they were introduced.What does she do?He tried to think, but he hadn’t paid attention to these details.Anyway, who cares.

He went ahead, struck up an innocuous conversation with her.“I know you. The struggling journalist trying to make ends meet”, she replied,“your friend has already introduced us”.She was still a student, reading in some posh private university.Her dad must be reeking of money.He wasn’t a leftist, his poverty made him hate rich men.But she had a nice scent, expensive perfumes,he was sure.This is my chance, he thought.Nothing else is going to happen but i need to write a story,not anything intellectual, something crass for a crass tabloid.“I have a story to write, but i m yet to create one”, he told her.Did she give him an inviting smile?He didnot know, he was nervous.First time blues?God knows!Hunger washes away morality.

The writing had been just completed,saved,when the phone beeped, pulling him out of these mess of thoughts.It was a text from her . “I know what will you end up writing.Just change the names.” 

He opened and read the story again., yes it was a story to fill space in a paper.He changed the girl’s name to Labanya. His name was already Amit.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Memoirs or Fiction?