"Shesher Kobita" (The Poem last)*
Amit Ray is a barrister. Following English tradition, when he adopted the surname "Roy " and "Ray" , after transforming it considerably, that lost its lustre but that loss was made up by numerical increase.
Amit , pondering over the uniqueness of his name, made a curious way of spelling his name and surname , making it "Amit Raye" , which his friends , both male and female, found easy to spell.
Amit's progenitor was a famous barrister. The amount of wealth he had left, would be enough for at least three generations to pass through with consummate ease. Despite being successor to such amount of wealth, Amit, somehow survived, without much hassles.
Even before getting admitted to B.A. course under the aegis of Calcutta University, Amit got admitted to Oxford; and spent seven years in sitting for examinations there and also refraining from them. Because of his intellect, didn't study much, though there is no sign of his having a serious lacking in education. Amit's father also did not expect something grand from him. His only wish was his only son should have caught the Hues of Oxford to such an extent, that even after coming home, to his native land, he would be able to carry on with that colored self.
I like Amit. Gentlemanly as he is. I am just a writer, new to the field, the number of my readers is also limited and Amit is one of them, though in quality, he is far ahead of any of my readers. He has found something grandiloquent in my writings. He believes those who have some name in the market of literature in our country, have no distinguishable or distinctive style.
Just like camel, with its peculiar hunch, long awkward neck, staggering gait, the writers who have earned name and fame, have walked in the pale desert sands of Bengali literature.
It should not be irrelevant to note here, this opinion is not mine.
Amit says fashion is a mask, style is the beauty of the face. According to him, those who belong to the top notch category of literary world, those who believe in their own mind, style is for them. And those who belong to the category to keeping the Teeming millions happy, belonging to the bureaucratic mindset, catering to business, fashion is for them only. Bankim Chandra in his own style, in 'Bishbrishkkya ', has accommodated himself suitably. Following the style of Bankim Chandra , Nasiram in his "Monomohoner Mohanbaganey", has buried Bankim Chandra. Under the canopy of the entertainments for common folk, one can find the danseuse, catering to Business, but while making that auspicious 'wedding look' , benarasi wrapping is a must. The canopy of entertainment is for fashion and benarasi is the particular style which is needed for a particular purpose, where particular hue and its shadow can be seen and observed. Amit thinks as because we do not dare to go beyond the road made by those who walked on to the road going to the market or haat, there is a great deal of ignorance in our country towards " style". In our old mythological tales, we find explanations of this trait of ours, for example in "the tale of Dakhsya Yagna". Indra, Chandra, Barun, were the savvy Gods, though they received invites in Yagnas. While Lord Shiva, had got Style, which was so original that even those who performed Yagnas by chanting prayers, giving Him praises or eulogies, thought them to be inappropriate.
I like to hear such words from someone like Amit, an Oxford B.A. For I believe I got that " style " , hence only one Edition of my book sells out, no repetition it necessitates, "na punarabartantey" (to use a Sanskrit phrase ).
My brother in law, Nabakrishna, never could stand these words of Amit, he would say, "leave aside all those words of your Oxford B.A.". My brother in law had been the thrilling M.A. in English literature, he had to read a lot, comprehend a little. Just the other day, he told me, " Amit does praise improminent writers with the object to belittle the great writers. He has a tendency to beat the drum of ignorance and you have been turned into his drumstick".
Unfortunately, while we were discussing all these, my better half was there. But, to my pleasure, I found her not liking her brother's words. Found that, she got a taste literary, akin to that of Amit, though she has not studied formally much. Women have got such natural intuition!
Sometimes, I also get a bit confounded when I find Amit belittling many famous English writers without any possible hitch or hiccups. They are those writers , who can be termed as the multinational writers , properly marked by the market; to praise them, there is no need even to read their works, only by praising them keeping eyes closed, one can get 'pass marks'. For Amit, there is no need also to read them, he can easily belittle them, keeping his eyes closed. Actually those who are famous, are for him, very much official, just like that waiting room of Burdwan junction station; and those he himself discovered are very special to him, he has special care for them, just like a special 'coupe' of a compartment.
Amit has a passion for style. Not only in his literary pursuits, but also in his dress codes. He has got a special structure physically. Out of five commoners, he is not one, he is the Fifth. One can easily find him. Without beard and moustache, clean shaven, with a resplendent self gratified face, full of wit, having a restless attitude in his eyes, his smiles and laughter, in his walks and strides, in his prompt answers, having a mind made of such a stone that a little rubbing would create a flash of fire. He wears 'desi' clothes because people belonging to his stature do not care to wear them. He wears white clean dhoti, neatly pleated, for people of his age, do not wear such dhotis. He wears Punjabi, buttons of which run from his left shoulder to his right hand side, upto his waist. The sleeve is half open always upto his arm bends. At his waist, there is a brown lace ornate wrapping his dhoti, from that lace hangs a 'vrindavani' girdle, which has his watch inside. At his feet one would find a white leather "cuttucki slipper", with red leathery artworks. Whenever he goes out, he would definitely carry a folded madrasi chudder over his left shoulder, which reaches his knee almost. When he gets invites to his friends' houses, he would wear a Lucknow cap, white with embroidery works. This dressing sense can never be called " dressing" or 'couture' , it is a big laughter. I can not understand his foreign sense of dressing, but those who understand that, say, somewhat scattered but , what is called, 'very distinguished'. He has no desire to make him beautiful, but he has that tenacity to mock at fashion, to the extreme.
One can find, as per rule books, young people or youth on the streets, but the uniqueness of Amit's youthfulness is absolutely without any calculated sense, vagrant, riding as if the tide, towards outside, flooding everything, coming to its way, nothing remaining in his hands.
On the other side, his two sisters, who are more known to people as Sissy and Lissy, are like straight brought from new market, very recent, contemporary, imported, fully covered by fashionable items of Adornments, a first class packet as if.
With high heeled shoes, open at Bosom-laced jacket, garland made of amber peeping , saree slightly carving their figures, they are such creatures. They make clicking sounds while they move. When they look up, they smile slight. When they talk, they do so high pitched. When they look or stare they flash that inordinate sense of pride full of grave meanings. They oft wag the pinkish silken fan near their cheeks. They would often sit on the handle or arm rest of their male friend's chair or chouki, slamming their fans artificially upon the male friend's artificial audacity, only to disprove that with artificial alacrity.
Watching Amit's ways into the world of women belonging to his stature or class, will oft cause much envy in the minds of men folk. Amit seems to be not fully careless or ignorant of women, not fully affected towards them, but always carries a sense of Love mixed affection . To sum up, he has no great inclination towards women, but has a great interest in them, to the point of being inspired by them. Amit attends parties,plays card games, looses deliberately. He never fails to request that woman to sing again, who has got the most unholy voice. If someone wears a too gaudy a dress, he will definitely ask from which shop it is brought. When he is conversing with someone, he will always be pretending to be biased to that person, though everyone knows, he is neutral. That person who worships all Gods , always , in concealment, praises on God over another.
Gods , however, know that behavioural trait, but they , become pleased. The mothers of marriageable daughters always expect something from Amit, though the daughters themselves have learnt that Amit, is like that golden horizontal line, always within the grasp, but never to be grasped. His mind , about women, does debate, but never does come to any conclusions. That is why, he has that Fortitude to find conversations leading to paths which are not to be traversed. That is why, he can easily mix and interact with people, even if there is something inflammable , very near, from him, that is always safe, for he keeps that safe distance.
That day, at the picnic, by the river, whence out of the dark cloudy sky of the other side, rose the moon, over that stillness, Lily Ganguly was sitting by his side. He thence, murmured to Lily, "The new moon on that other side of the Ganges, and on this side, we two, you and I, this combination wilt never happen again."
Hearing this, first, Lily's mind got aflutter. But she knew, the only Truth that resided in those words, was that particular style of expressing them. To claim more than that , would be to claim the refraction of light that happens on the upper surface of a bubble. So, pushing away the momentary lapse of one's own self into the magic of words, as spoken to, Lily giggled and said, " Amit, whatever you said, is so True, that it needed not to be uttered. Just now , the frog that has leaped into the water of the river, have you noticed, it will also not happen in Infinite years."
Amit laughing out, almost guffawing, said, "there lies a great difference, almost Infinite difference. That leaping of that frog into the water, this evening, is a clumsy, tornaway, thing. But this you and me and this River side and the Starry evening sky, they all come together in perfect harmony, complete by itself- just like Beethoven's nocturne tune. I got a feel as if in the factory of Viswakarma , there is a great madly heavenly ironsmith, who , whence creates a magical ring of time , by alloying diamond with blue stone and that with emerald, also throws it into the waters of the ocean, so that it can never be found again by anyone".
" that's good Amit, you got no worries then, you will not , then, have to think over paying the bills of that Ironsmith of Viswakarma"
"But, Lily, think, if we are to meet again, after millions of years since today, by some rare providence, just beside a canal at that red planet Mars, under the shade of trees sprouting there and if, that fisherman of that Shakuntala story, somehow manages to bring out, tearing open the belly of the fish, the ring like golden moment of this evening, we will be certainly very much surprised and we will be looking at each other's face, then, what will happen."
Lily , upon hearing this, waving her silken fan towards Amit, said, "then the Golden Moment will fall into the oceanic water, that will never be found again. How many moments such created by that mad Ironsmith, had fallen into the waters, you perhaps have forgotten, so you have no counts of them."
Saying this much, Lily joined her friends suddenly, in a haste.
Amongst many events, this event can be cited.
Sisters of Amit, Sissy-Lissy often would ask him, "Ami, why don't you get married?"
Amit says,"In case of marriage, the most important factor is the bride, just below her, is the groom."
Sisy then retorts,"You surprise us, so many girls are there."
Amit reverts, "In those ancient times, girls did marry, going by calendar. I want a bride, who is to be known by her self, who is unique."
Sissy then replies, saying, " At your home, when she will come, you will be the first one, and she the second, she will be known by you"
Amit then says, "I think of that marriage, quite in Vain, expecting a woman who has got no address of her own. She does never come near the house. She is like that shooting star of the sky, who burns up the moment she reaches the atmosphere, and gets mixed with the ether, never reaching the domestic soil."
Sissy then concludes saying, "That means, she is not like your sisters".
Amit says, " That means, she does never come home only to increase the number of members of the family".
Lissy joins the conversation saying, "Achcha, Sissy, tell me, is it not true that Bimi Bose is almost looking for Amit all day long, waiting for a hint only, why then, Amit does not like her? Ask him and he says , she has got no culture. Why so? She is first in M.A. at botany. Education is what is known as culture."
Amit says,"The stone of diamond, is education and the light which it scatters is culture. The stone got the weight, the light got luminosity. "
Lissy, full of angst then reverts, " Issh! Bimi Bose has got no value before him! Ask him, if he himself is a deserving person or Not! If Ami gets mad at any point of time, to marry Bimi Bose, I will forbid her to do marry him."
Amit replies,"If I don't get mad, why will I think of marrying Bimi Bose? If I ever get that mad, don't think of my marriage, but call a medical practitioner. "
The relatives have given in , almost done away with, the idea of 'marriage' as far as Amit is concerned. They have concluded that Amit has no quality to be 'responsible' enough to get married, so he always speaks of something impossible , just to startle people. His mind is like that light of a mirage or illusion, which can create illusory light in fields of the country, but can never be confined or to be kept at home.
Meanwhile, Amit is just wandering about, going to Firpo's to offer tea to anyone; going out as per his whims, by car, with his friends, quite unnecessarily; buying things as per his wish and giving them away ; buying English books also and leaving them at somebody's house, not going back to retrieve them.
His sisters are also getting a bit irritated by his habit of telling them the opposite. For example, in societal gatherings, Amit is speaking against what is actually accepted by all as norms or normative standards.
Once, an expert on polity and governance, was delivering a lecture on the nicer aspects of Democracy. Amit suddenly breaks the serenity of the environment by saying , " Whence Bishnu tore apart the holy corpse of Sati, thence all over the country the pieces got scattered and more than one hundred Holy spots were created. Democracy , today, has created pieces of Lands where places or spots of worship of autocracy have been created. Tiny little autocrats have grown all over the world-some of them are in politics, some in literature, some in society. None of them carry that gravity, because they do not believe in their own selves."
Once, someone, a social reformer of sorts, castigated the men folk, for their general tendency to dominate over women and for their oppressive mindset. Amit, as abruptly as he always does passing commentaries, had remarked then, taking the cigarette he was smoking, off his mouth, "once the male dominance would not be there, the female dominance would take over. The dominance of the weaker sections could be very dangerous".
Those who were present at that discussion, got very agitated. They asked in unison, " What does that mean?"
Amit said, " That section who got the chains, use that to tie the bird up, using force. Those who got no chains in hands, use opium to tie others up, meaning the string of illusion. Those who have got chains, they tie up people, but there is no illusion in their acts. Those who use opium, they not only tie people up, they also provide illusionment. Women have containers filled with opium, nature provide them the Evil ideas."
Oneday, at a literary interactive session at Ballygunge, the poems of Rabindranath Thakur, was the moot point of discussion. For the first time, Amit had then condescended to become the president of the session. He went there with a mind filled with rage, that of a warring soldier, almost. There, a man, genteel in every sense, was speaking to prove that the poems by Rabindranath Thakur, were the only poems. Barring one or two professors, every one present there conceded that the speaker had proved his idea satisfactorily.
The President, i.e; Amit stood up and said, " Poets should do Poetry only for five years, from twenty five years of age to thirty. I should not say that I want from the coming generation something good and nice, but would say, I want something different. If the fazli variety of mango is depleted, will not say, want something better than fazli mango, but will say bring the big castard apple from the new market. Green coconuts have lesser life than brown ones, but brown ones do not have the water of the green ones. Poets have lesser lives than philosophers... The most blatant accusation against Rabi Thakur is that he is living by imitating Wordsworth. The Yamaraj is sending messengers to him, but he is standing by somehow clutching the arms of the chowki. If he does not leave , we have the duty to get away from his shadow. Who will come next, will also claim likewise, thinking his rule will never end. Amravati will be stringed to his door. For some days the devotees will throng at his gate, lie down before his feet, garland him, and then afterwards will come the day to put him to the Great sacrifice. From the bondage of devotion as performed by the devotees so called, they will set themselves free, on an auspicious day. In Africa , people do the same way while worshipping the four legged God. Why only four legged God, twolegged, three legged, four legged , fourteen legged, all Gods are worshipped in the same manner. There can never be anything more monotonous than making worship itself unsanctified by irreligious mind. Loving and liking have got evolution. Likings of the past, say of five years ago, if stay the same after five years, then, will have to think over it. One who does that, actually fails to make out that he or she has died. If pushed a bit, it will be discovered that those sentimental relatives of his or her, deliberately delayed in his or her funeral rites, only to befool the proper inheritor. I have vowed to make it known to the public those people who are illegally trying to conspire against Rabi Thakur's inheritance."
Hearing this Monibhushan, peering out of his glasses asked,"So you want to remove loyalty from literature?"
"Absolutely. From now on, there will be the age of the termination of the Poet-President . I have also got the thought that the writings of Rabi Thakur, is very much akin to his own handwriting, either rounded or wavy, cursive and pinkish like a rose or like the face of a woman or like the moon. That is primitive, like something made by nature, only primitivism in alphabetical order. From the new president want something taut, straight up, erect, bold , writings-just like arrows, the head of Spears, like thorns. Not like flowers, but like lightning. Just like that pain that is evoked by neuralgia.
Something like that Gothic structure of the church, not like that of a mandir or temple. Even if the structure resembles that of jute factory, or the secretariat building , no issues, whatsoever with that. Now on, leave aside, all those illusory things, bring in that which takes away the mind, blows it off, like Ravana took away Sita. Even if the mind starts weeping and tries to rein in, it will be let go. Even if the old Jatayu comes to stop the progress of the mind, he will be killed. After that, after some time lapse, Kishkindhya will rise, one Hanuman will surely make a leap huge and burn the Lanka, thereby igniting the mind and rehabilitating it to its former position. Then we will be reunited with Tennyson, will then we wrap around Byron's neck and cry profusely, will then tell Dickens, forgive us, only to get rid of illusions, we have cursed you. If one prolific artist and sculptor had made beautiful architectural marvels at every nook and corner of the country, then, that sculptor and artist, after spending twenty years only would have taken leave from all works. In order to live Taj Mahal more, we need to get rid of the addiction to Taj Mahal's Beauty and splendour. "
(Here, it should be noted that the reporters who had gathered at the literary meet failing to grasp what Amit had spelt out, at one go almost, wrote reports which became more esoteric than what Amit had actually talked about. Whatever tits bits have I retrieved from the report, we have just tried to assemble here.)
With regard to the Taj Mahal and its reinstitution, one of Rabi Thakur's true patron and devotee, with an agonised reddened face declared , "The thing that is good, if becomes better, it is always better."
Amit then said, " On the contrary, in the world of Almighty, the good things are rare, that's why they are good, otherwise they would have been lost in the crowd of the mediocre. Those poets who are not ashamed to live for sixty or seventy years, they actually punish them by making them cheap. Finally what happens, the group of imitators surround them and make grimaces at them. Their art of writing gets muddled, they start stealing from earlier writings , making a reversal of stolen property. At that juncture, for the common good, the readers got the responsibility of not allowing those too old writers to live- am not talking of physical living, am talking about poetic living. Let the old professors, old politicians and old critics stay and live, thriving upon those old writers."
Then , that speaker of the meet, with whom the session got started asked, "May we know whom do you actually want to be the President then? Name him."
"Nibaran Chakraborty" , Pat came Amit's reply.
Soon there was a furor at different corners of the room, "Nibaran Chakraborty? Who is that fellow?"
"Today what we find a bud of a question, tomorrow from that will rise the Tree of an answer"
"We want a sample of his writings"
Saying this Amit brought out from his pocket, a thin copy wrapped by cotton cloth, bound , and started reading:
Brought the name
Of the unknown
To the known audience,
I am the people's curiosity impersonate
Open thy door,
You the message
From thy Lord,
The Lord of Time
Had sent forth
Who have got that dare,
Putting my death
As bait, give you my answer,
Those army men of the imbeclie
Block roads, O You vile,
Vain goes in thy cries,
The touch not the sky,
They just die,
Failing at the icy cold beach
Calling suicidal attempts;
Got no flowery garland, bereft of Love,
Deserted bosom, got no arms
Void is the fate ,
Lines where meet,
Poor words where
Wear the dress of the destitute,
Am here, you hear,
To gobble up your treasure,
Open thy door,
Suddenly had extended
Give you, to me,
Whatever you wish to give,
If thy heart wrecks, if thy voice trembles,
The earth , see, how shivers,
How there runs the quake;
Out of fear,
Cries the poor,
Rending the horizon,
"Go away , you the restless,
Beggar if Thou Art,
Thy voice keeps evoking
Knives , breaking apart sweet nightly dreams;
Bring thy weapons,
Hit with them hard on Bosom mine,
Death will calm death,
Wilt give away this Soul
At thy shrine,
Chain me up,
Chain me up,
That will also be unchained
By freedom mine;
Bring out scriptures,
Hurt me with them,
We will debate
And out shine them
By thy glorious signs,
Know I, I know,
All debates will get faded,
Once upon us,
Thy light You will shed;
Light the fire ,
What today is Illumined
Tomorrow it might be dark,
Tomorrow if they turn ashes,
By thy sparks,
Let it be, let it be;
Let the fire sacrifice
Bring the Illumined me;
Bringing me esoteric
Words will hit upon them
Those who are pedantic
Calling thy glorious name;
The madly rhyme mine
Will confuse all,
From those who seek Peace
To those who are ridden
By Poverty, those who are meek;
Thence there wilt be
The triumph of the Unknown,
Putting hands on thy head,
Will I keep the seeds sown,
Triumph will be then,
The triumph of the Unknown;
Whence in Baisakh, the storm will rage,
The lightning will thence strike,
Breaking free all maze
All from clutches of slavery,
Making the whole world
Go , go , by thy name, go merry."
That day, those who were professing their love for Rabi Thakur, did not alternate much, only while leaving they said they would reply through writings. Making everyone bamboozled, when Amit was returning home, by car, Sissy told him,"You must have made a Nibaran Chakraborty beforehand and brought it carrying in your pockets, only to befool those gentlemen".
Amit answered, "When that unwelcome Guest comes forward, he is called the Lord.I am so. If Nibaran Chakraborty comes to this earth today, no one will be able to stop him".
Sissy has felt then a sense of pride in her about Amit. " Achcha, Amit, do you , upon waking up in the morning, create words for the day that you will deliver?" She asked.
Amit reverted saying , "Being prepared for every possibility is being civilised. Barbarism is always unprepared for everything in this world. This thing is also duly noted in my notebook."
"But you got no real opinion of yourself, you always speak what suits you."
"My mind is like a mirror,if I have always put everything covered by my own thoughts , then that mirror would not have reflected the happenings of the world."
"Then with that reflection, you will pass your time ".
Amit has chosen to go to the Hills at Shillong, primarily because no one of his class goes there. There is another reason, there, at least, people are not so much burdened with the worries of getting their daughters married. That God who resides in Amit's heart, His permanent occupation lies in fashionable vistas of life. All those beautiful places that are there in the country, at theose hills and valleys, Shillong is probably the place least likely to be frequented by Love drenched souls and their Gods. His sisters nodded their heads in vehement declination to the choice of the tour, and the place in particular, saying, " If you want to go, go alone, we are not going".
Carrying fashionable umbrellas in left hand, tennis racket in the right, wearing fake Persian cloaks, the sisters went away to Darjeeling. Bimi Bose had gotten there early. When without the brother, the sisters gathered, then the realisation descended upon them that at Darjeeling there might be a lot of crowd, but no man.
Amit had told everyone that he would be going to Shillong to enjoy the solitude, but after two days being spent, he realised without people there is no taste savoury in solitude. He has no passion for clicking photos wielding camera. He says he is not a tourist. He loves to see things using the camera of the mind, not the camera of the eyes. He dies not like to devour things up.
Some days he spent reading books, lying under the shade of deodar trees, at the slope of the hills. He does not touch those story books for reading story books on holidays is a pretty common affair. He starts reading a book by Suniti Chatterjee on the Bengali linguistics, with the hope that the reading will provide him with enough points to debate on the issues pertaining to Bengali linguistics. Sometimes the beauty of the milieu appears too lovely to him, amidst his idling away of times reading linguistics, but that beauty does never becomes too dense in his mind. It appears like a tune beautiful but monotonous, having no harmonious splendour to sweep his mind, meaning it has many things but not that unity of one whole, so it scatters about , without condensing. The sorrow of not finding that unified whole in betwixt his eyes, is there always with Amit, as it is there when he is in the city. But while whiling away time in the city, he can at least spend that restlessness by doing something, here, at Shillong, the restlessness is getting accumulated, much like the stream , upon being hindered by boundaries solid, turns into a lake. so when Amit is thinking of escaping down the hills, through the small towns of Shilet, or Shilchar, going where his mind may take him, the monsoon season , the Ashar month came in full swing , drenching everything. News reached that those mountain ranges of Cheerapunji, upon its very Bosom had held the rain bearing heavy clouds; now heavy downpour would make those apparently harmless streams of the hills, go wrecking every thing. So Amit thought to create at least for few days, upon staying at a bungalow at Cheerapunji, another Meghdootam, that the heroine Alaka herself would descend right therethere, like an apparition, with her smiling lightning flashes. His mind has that moment that sense of wonder working, which has no name no address.
He wore that day warm highlanders socks, rude and rugged leather boots, Norfolk coat, upto knee extended a jacket and a fitting hat to withstand rains, made of thermocol. He does not look exactly like that 'Yakshya' drawn by Aban Thakur, but it seemed that he resembled that district engineer who had gone out to inspect the roads of the terrain. He carried in his pockets, however, five or six thin paper backs containing Poetry printed in different languages.
The winding road ran through the hills, like serpentine paths, with steep ups and downs on both sides. Forest looked thick and mossy. The road which lead to Amit's Stay, had that thrill of being a wonderous climb, up the hill.At the end of the road, a bungalow could be found, where he had decided to stay. As because there was no tourists lingering around , Amit was cruising along the road by his car, with certain amount of caution.
He was then thinking, in modern times, for that far away love, it was quite commensurate to take the roadway, though the road had that thrill of being perilous,"dhumjyotisalila-marutang sannipat", to put in Sanskrit phraseology. If per chance a letter of Love falls into the driver's hands, then nothing will remain unclear. He even made a decision that next year, at the onset of monsoons, on the very first day of Ashar Month , he would take that road uphill by car, and even imagined that while traveling by that road he might, meet an Abantika or Malabika or someone of a village girl who would be coming onto him, right on theroado itself, drifting away from the forest and that could lead to a tryst .Just then he noticed at a bend, a car turned turtle, waiting for him. He coud not pass by. He put the leg on the brake paddle, the car screeched to a halt, but not before hitting the upturned car.
Luckily that did not create any damage to him or anyone. The other car just rolled a few paces till it got stuck at the hills. A girl came forward, from the car, it seemed. The looming shadow of death was just behind her, still she appeared like a lightning flash , clear as day light, unique and worthy. It seemed as if from the hill out came a Lakhsmi, out odthe tremble that created waves down to the sea even. Amit just looked at her, like one looks at a rare spectacle at very rare moments of bewilderment. At any drawing room this girl will appear as someone different. Often we come across beauties in this world, but rarely do we find suitable places to find a Beauty. The girl was wearing a white saree with thin borders, a white jacket, and her feet adorned a desi pair of shoes, white were they too. She had a figure of an hourglass, shiny was her face, resplendent like a fairy's , her forehead was board, her hair tied backwards made her forehead even broader. Her face was oval and beautifully carved, like a not so ripe fruit. The sleeve of the jacket that she wore was upto her arm bends. Her hands had two simple bangles. She had put the anchaal of her saree over her head, though was no broach. The anchaal was pinned by silvery ornate hair pin with her bun.
Amit got down from the car and taking his hat off, went forward , as if to get a deserving punishment. Seeing this, the girl seemingly felt pity, perhaps she was also having fun, within.
Amit murmured, "Sorry, committed a guilt".
The girl laughed and said, " Not guilt, just a mistake. That mistake of course, began with me".
The girl's ringing voice had that vivacity of a mountain stream, yet it was soft like that voice of a youth, smooth and broad. That day, upon returning to the bungalow, Amit thought how to describe that beautiful enchanting voice, which touched him. Bringing out his notebook, he wrote , "Her voice had that tonal quality of tobacco pipe, having a nascent smoke without the pungent feel of tobacco, much like the smoothness of rose water flowing".
The girl had explained Amit why she had been there, " Hearing the news of the arrival of a friend of mine, went out. After driving down a few miles, the chauffeur said that this road was not that was to be taken by friend mind. But then , had no way to return without going up to the end of the road. So was riding uphill, just then the incident happened, by the grace of Almighty. "
Amit had said, "There is someone even up there who is beyond the grasp of The Almighty.This world is a nasty shrewd place, this accident is the work of that".
The driver informed , " Though the damage is not very much still it will take time to put the car back running".
Amit offered a ride by his car saying, "If you forgive the mishap and also my car, I can drop you anywhere you want to go".
" There's no need for that, I have the habit of walking up and down these roads".
"No , the need is purely mine, it will show that you've forgiven me"
The girl remained silent for a while, hesitant.
Amit said, "I got another thing to tell you, though I drive the car myself, and that is not at all any great work to do, for no one can reach posterity by driving, still, in conclusion all I can say that I am not at all a bad driver. The initial introduction you got, of me and my driving skill, is Sheer bad luck. But I can claim that I am a better driver than your chauffeur."
Usually , if at the very first encounter, a woman feels insecure about a stranger, she takes a lot of time to rub off that feeling.
But the incident, strangely and curiously, as if providentially , broadened the scope of two strangers meeting each other and interacting so candidly. That silent place, that spot surrounded by hillls, brought the strangers close. Something between them was noticed, which can only be seen , rarely, like a lightning, which keeps away all the darkness by its sudden flash. That flash made a deep impression upon the minds of the two, like the impression is oft made upon the sky by the stars like the sun , fiery.
The girl said nothing .She got into the car. As per her direction, Amit drove and reached the destination without any hassle. The girl after getting down from the car said, "If you got no works tomorrow and got a little time in hands then come here, I will introduce you to my Master".
Amit felt like saying, " I got no works, I can go there today , itself", but he could not say that, feeling shy.
Returning home, he opened his notebook and started writing, " the road has brought me today to such foolishness.Two people from two different places are torn away and brought together down a single road. the astronomer had said it all wrong. From the unknown sky fell the moon onto the earth's orbit, their motor cars collided, after that these two planets are moving together. The light of each other falls on each's face. There is no way that this movement can be stopped, this bond can be snapped. My mind says that the joined movement has started. We will string together, the moments that we will gather, the moments which are Luminous. There is no way we will be limited by wages , we will clear all debts and borrowings by the impestous nature of moments"
It wasthen raining outside. Amit was walking up and down the verandah. His mind made a silent call to Nibaran Chakraborty.
"Where are you, Nibaran Chakraborty. Now come onto me , give me thy words, thy alphabets!"
Out came that thin copy,
And Nibaran Chakraborty doth spake:
The Road has bound us by stringless poesy
We two are the travelers blown away by the breeze,
We are colored by the dust and grains
Of time, by colors we do shine,
Our veils are being so made to flutter,
By the monsoon clouds rain bearing,
As they dance , upon us, forbearing,
The sudden light, the flash,
That upon us , suddenly come,
Come as a titanic clash;
Got not we any bush or hedge
Of flowers blooming,
Blossoms quiet are not there,
But then , all of a sudden,
How upon us descend,
Singing the beauty of Evening,
Nameless flowers wild
Carried so by the air mild,
How do we them also make free
In the morning, by the rising sun's glee,
Touching those heads of trees,
Pinkish red, Rhododendrons,
How by them we remain torn;
Nor have we got wealth, preserved,
Stored have We not, cared not we,
Diamonds and jewels, in us, back at home,
For we have seen how by the Road,
Birds do dance in pure joy,
We have never made them captive,
For we have seen the music , deep
Erupting, how us they keep gratified,
How we by the flash of Love, bright,
Hold thy lovely, love drenched light.
(Now, we need to turn back a little, otherwise the story will not move forward.)
At the advent of English education in Bangladesh, there had been a clash between the education that had been delivered at Chandimandaps and modern schools and colleges which in turn gave rise to a curious breeze of societal revolt. Gyanadashankar got swept by that breeze. By age he belonged to the old school, but somehow he very much belonged to the modern age, as if his date of birth was tampered with. He was born in advance , not keeping with perhaps his age. By his intellect and usage of words he was not fitting to those who were his contemporaries. Just like those birds which love to take the waves of the Sea on their Bosom, he had that acute sense of happiness in embracing people's oblique opinion and even their castigation.
Grandchildren of such persons usually try to start reading the almanac from the last page, almost reversing it. In case of Gyanadashankar, same thing happened. His grandson Baradashankar, after his father's demise, became almost the progenitor of hisfather and grandfather, at least in attitude. He prayed to both Manasa and Shitala. He started drinking from shells, wrote name of Ma Durga thousand times a day.
Those merchants who lived in the estate tried to rise their heads, fell to the ground by his steadfastness. In order to save Hindutva from scientific observations, he printed pamphlets and distributed them, causing much disdain and dismay to those who harboured modern thoughts. Within a few months, by prayers, incense sticks, worships, by asanas, dhyanas, etc he created a fortress. Finally by giving away cows and buffaloes, gold, lands, saving people from all kinds of distress by helping them out, arranging marriages for those daughters whose parents could not afford the expenses of Hindu marriages, when he went away of people's sight, he was only twenty seven then. Baradashankar , however got married to Jogamaya, the daughter of Ramlochan Banerjee. Ramlochan Banerjee, had been his father's college mate. Jogamaya was born in such a family where women were given certain liberty. They could go out, to attend colleges, to study, even some of them had taken to writing travelogues in magazines.
Baradashankar, started observing all religious customs with great amount of steadfastness. Jogamaya was kept on tenterhooks also. Every move of Jogamaya was monitored. Veils were made to be Worn not only over her eyes but also over her mind. Even Devi Saraswati had to go through serious scrutiny before entering the household of Baradashankar. All English books were confiscated at the door. Pre Bankim Bengali literature was allowed. Any literature belonging to the later era had to be controlled. The hard bound copy of Ramayana, had been lying on Jogamaya's book shelf for long. The people of the house thought that in order to be entertained , she would use that Ramayana. It had been very difficult for Jogamaya to keep herself confined like a valuable safe deposit certificate to an old iron safe. Still she put reins upon her revolting mind
She had only one refuge, so to say, amidst this mental disquiet, Dinsharan Bedantaratna - the sabha pandit. Jogamaya's natural ability to decipher things, was likened by Dinsharan Bedantaratna. He used to say , "Ma, all these ritualistic gibberish are not for you. Those who are imbeciles they not only get fooled by themselves, the whole world fools them. Do you think that we believe in hhose rituals? Haven't you noticed how we alter as per our needs, the grammar of scriptures without being repented for our such acts?
That means we don't believe in scriptures even, we act like imbeciles to cater to imbeciles. When you are not ready to accept these, I can no way change your mind. When you will wish, call me, what I know as truth, from scriptures I will let you know."
Sometimes, Dinsharan Bedantaratna would come to explain to Jogamaya certain passages from Bhagwad Gita or from Brahmanyabhashya. Jogamaya would ask him so many queries filled with her natural ability of thinking deep , that Bedantaratna would get thrilled. He felt all the more interested to explain her the subtle tenets of those texts. All those gurus who hovering around Baradashankar, were by and large treated with certain disdain by Bedantaratna.
He used to say, "Ma, in the whole village ony at your home can I get some satisfaction while talking. You have saved me from self-castigation." This way, Jogamaya spent her days amidst her 'bratas' and 'upavasas' ( Holy fasting) and other bounds of almanacs. Her life became, what newspapers often call 'mandatory'. After the demise of Baradashankar, she ventured out to see the lands Unseen with her son Jyotishankar and Surama. During winter, she used to stay at Kolkata, during summer she would go to the hills.
Jyotishankar now is studying at college; but Jogamaya has so far failed to find a suitable school where Surama can be enlisted to. Luckily , she has found, after a great search, Labanyalata who is assigned with the task of teaching Surama.
With Labanyalata, has Amit met, quite 'accidentally' , today.
Labanya's father, Abanish Dutta, is the Principal of a college in the west. He has brought his motherless daughter in such a way that even after many hardships and tussles, she had not lost an iota of her passion towards learning and studies. Abanish Dutta had only one passion and that was reading books and studying. That passion had been duly transmitted to Labanya. He used to love her , more than his own library. He had the belief that by pursuing knowledge, the mind of one becomes so hardened that no flashy passionate ideas get a breeding there and all cracks through which passion can come in, are plastered. Such a person feels no urgency to get married. He felt that the fertile land of passion in a woman where the seeds of serving the husband is usually sown, gets so much hardened by practice of pursuing knowledge of mathematics, of history, that it gets matured enough not to allow scratches external upon it to make any impression. He even thought it out that if Labanya did not get married, so what, she had already taken to the fields of knowledge, of learning and attaining wisdom.
Abanish had an affection to another person. His name was Shovanlal. Very rarely one could see such a talented young man with serious inclination to learning. He had an attractive face with broad forehead, candid smiles, small yet charming lips. He was however a bit shy, but if anyone shows any interest to him, he will speak his heart out.
Being a descendant of a poor family, he has passed through difficult stages with the help of hard works and perseverance, attaining scholarships. There was a sense of pride already working in Abanish's mind regarding this boy, for he was sure that Shovanlal would in future make his name and when thatwould happen he would definitely put Abanish's name in the list of architects who had supported him. Shovanlal used to come to Abanish's house to study. He had free access to his library. Whenever he would come across Labanya, he would keep hishead bowed, more out of his inordinate shyness. This in turn, created in Labanya a sense of superiority. Labanya never cared to look at Shovanlal, because to her, he was not a man enough to express his male chauvinistic mind.
Oneday Shovanlal's father Nanigopal arrived out if nowhere and started accusing Abanish of trapping his son by means of books and studies and free access to his library. He accused Abanish of trying to satisfy his passion for social reforms by thinking if marrying his daughter Labanyalata with Shovankal. As a oproof, he even brought out a pencil sketch of Labanya covered with rose petals, which he allegedly discovered from a tin trunk if Shovanlal. Nanigopal was certain that the sketch was a testimony of the love blooming between Labanyalata and Shovanlal. As a groom Nanigopal was certain that Shovanlal had a value in the market and that value would increase soon. If Abanish had secretly planned to get hold if that valuable thing without oaying a single oenny, then it should be called a bkatant act if burglary. There us no difference between such an act and theft if money.
Labanyalata had no idea that behind the scenes, some oeoole had placed her to such an altar of goddess and such amount if idolatry was being pursued by people who had actually no respect for women. Shovanlal actually got hold photograph of Labanyalata in the heaps of old papers and documents in the library of Abanish. Having found that he took it to an artist friend of his, who made tgat oencil sketch of the same. He returned the original photo to its former place after the sketch was done. Those roses also bloomed with that amount if shyness in a friend's garden, which Shovanlal had in his heart. There was no audacity in them or their blooming. But Shovanlal had to get the punishment. He went away with a bowed head, reddened face, wiping his tears. From a distance,he tried to say something in his defense, which was only heard by his soul
In B.A. exam he secured first position while Labanya got the third position. This pained Labanyalata much. There were two reasons behind it. First of all, Abanish had an unwavering faith upon Shovanlal's intellect. Secondly, Abanish's faith was mixed with his affection for Shovanlal. Somehow Labanya had that feeling that her father took much care of Shovanlal's studies which resulted in his success, though Shovanlal rarely went to Abanish's house to study. For sometime, Labanya would turn her face away, seeing Shovanlal. In M.A. exam also there was little chance of Labanya's defeating SShovanlal. But still Labanya won. Even Abanish was surprised. If Shovanlal had been a poet, he would have written poems all over the answer scripts. Instead he sacrificed marks in the exam.
Thus their student life passed. One day, Abanish while suffering from slight illness, discovered that even if one builds a fortress around oneself with books, passion of heart has own way to make space. Abanish was only forty seven then. At that hapless age, a widow got into the inner sanctum of his heart, breaking all the barriers of books of his library, his pedantry even. There was apparently no hindrance to his marriage, barring his affection for his daughter Labanya. A serious conflict started. Abanish tried hard to concentrate on studies, but the harder he tried, the mightier became those fantastical thoughts. He received an interesting book on the ruins of Buddhism and its relics from Modern Review. He was supposed to do a critique on that. But he just sat before that book, unopened, like a piece of ruins himself with hundred years of silence. The Editor was getting curious, but if once the knowkedge of the knowledgeable man topples, his state becomes such that no one can do anything about that. If the elephant falls into the quicksand , who can save him?
After many years, for the first time Abanish felt a deep sense of regret. He felt as he never looked around, from those pages of books, he had failed to ascertain the fact that his daughter had fallen in love with Shovanlal. It was really difficult not to love him. He felt a grudge against fathers-against himself, against Nanigopal.
At this juncture, Shovanlal received a letter. He had applied for Premchand Raychand Scholarship and for that he had thought of writing an essay on the history of Gupta Dynasty. He needed some books, so he wrote a letter to Abanish. Abanish wrote back saying , "You can, like earlier times, work sitting at my library, without any sense of embarrassment".
Shovanlal's mind felt an unrest. He thought that behind such indulgence, there might be some hands of Labanya. She might hsve given an indirect consent. He started turning up to the library. Sometimes, quite coincidentally, he meets Labanya. Then he slows down. He has that latent wish that Labanya talks to him, say a few words to him, at least asks him how he is going on, what essay he is so eagerly writing on , etc;
He was actually very much eager and earnest to knowLabanya's opinions about his thoughts on the essay he had been trying to write. But not a single word was exchanged between the two. He had no courage to start any cconversation with Labanya without being invited to do so.
Days passedthat way.
Then one Sunday, when Shovanlal was busy jotting down notes from a book, suddenly the door was opened with a bang. He was very much frightened. That afternoon no one was there in the hoyse barring he and Labanya. Abanush had earlier informed him of his going to someone's house. Abanish had also informed that he would not be returning to have afternoon tea. Shovanlal got up and turned to see Labanya. Labanya entered the room. Her face looked angst ridden."Why do you come to our house?" She asked. Shovankal was so surprised tgat he couldn't answer.
"Do you know what my father thinks about your coming to our house? You dont have that minimum sense, you leave no pages unturned to cause insults to me?"Shovanlal stood cowed. He only said,"Forgive me, I am going away right now"
He could have said that Labanya's father actually invited him. But he said nothing about that. He started taking his copies and books. His hands were shaking. A muted pain was trying to come out into the open through the ribs of his bosom. He went away bearing that pain.
If one fails to love one , then that thwarted love ddoes not turn into mere disenchantment but hatred which is blind. Oneday Labanya sat waiting for Shovanlal but Shovanlal did not pay any heed to that. After that whatever happened went against him. The hurt that came at last was the most unbearable hurt. Labanya out of her angst, did injustice to her father. She thought in order to get his own ulterior motive of marriage fulfilled he had invited Shovanlal to their house. Labanya, almost working with her own angst, with a sense of obstinacy, arranged for Abanish's marriage. Abanish had saved some money for his daughter, separately. After Abanish's marriage Labanya declared that she was not going to take a singke penny from his father, she eould go all by her own means. Abanish getting dismayed inly said,"I did not want to marry, you yourself arranged that marriage, so, why are you leaving me?"
Labanya said, "I did that only to ensure that relationship stays , dont you be worried father! Keep your blessings upon me so that the path which keeps me happy, will remain with me."
Labanya got a work soon. She got to teach Surama. Jyoti could have also been taught by Labanya, but he felt it to be a bit dishonourable to be taught by a female teacher.
Every day went by the same routine. Labanya spent her leisure in studying english literature. From ancient times to Bernard Shaw, from Greek and Roman history to Gibbons and Gilbert Murray. Sometimes the breeze of restlessness did came and stirred her soul a bit, but there was no room for that breeze to create a major striking up her mind and heart.
Only theother day, the actual hassle came driving down a motor car, without any forewarning, almost noiselesly. Suddenly the big and huge histiry of Greece and Rome lightened. Sweeping aside everything, a dense present tense came, asking her soul to wake up. Labanya, upon waking, after so many years, found herself realistically, not in the pool of knowledge but in agonies.
From the ruins of the past, let's now come back to the present of new creation.
Labanya , keeping Amitin the study went out to inform Jogamaya of his arrival. Amit sat in the room like a bee sits at the center of a lotus. Ehichever way he looks, he finds things touched by someone or something. His mind becomes indifferent . On the table, on the book shelf, he saw books on english literature. Those books appeared lively. All those books were read or being read by Labanya. All those books got the touch of her fingers. Thise books bear witness to her absentmindedness, her thoughts of day in and day out. He was surprised to see an anthology of Donne on the table. When he was in Oxford, those lyrics of Donne and his contemporaries were his prime focus of all creative and pedantic endeavours. The book seemed to align two minds.
All these years, his indifference to life made everything blurred, like a text book's cover gets faded by ths touch of a school teacher everyday. There was no curiosity about the future. There was no eagerness either to welcome the present day for that eagerness seemed so unnecessary. Now, it seened, he has landed on a new planet, where the weight is lesser than the actual, as if , his feet, if stretched on the ground, will go upwards, as if he is very much eagerly moving towards the unimaginable, as if he is getting a soft breeze onto his soul, as if his whole being is turning into a magical flute. He felt the lught of tge sky entering his blood and inciting a strange restless excitement in him. He felt that dusty cover over his mind is upturned and everything looked extraordinary. So whem Jogamaya entered the room slowly, that simple occurance also stirred Amit. He thought it was not a common thing, it might be something extraordinary.
Jogamaya had neared forty, but age had not demurred her, only brought a grave whiteness. Her face looked fresh and resplendent. As per the custom, her hair was cut short, befitting a widow. Her face has that motherly touch, has got a benign smile. A handwoven saree has kept her head and body wrapped. She has not worn sny shoes or slippers, leaving bare her gracious feet. When Amit bent down and touched her feet, he felt as if he got blessings from no other than a goddess.
After the initial introductory exchanges, Jogamaya said,"Your uncle Amaresh had been the greatest lawyer in our district. Once we were about to be made bankrupt by a perilous lawsuit, whrn he saved us. He used to call me as Boudidi."
Amit replied,"I am an undeserving nephew of his. Uncle saved from losses, I caused losses. You were his Boudidi of profit, but with me, you would be the aunt of losses. "
Jogamaya asked," You got your mother?"
Amit said,"She had been, an aunt should also have been there."
"Why do you have so much regret about Aunt?"
"Just think, if today broke mother's car, would've got the scolding of life, she should have surely called this a mischief. If the car had been owned by aunt, she would've laughed at my inefficiency and called this mere childishness."Jogamaya laughed out saying, "Then the car is aunt's."
Amit almost jumped and touched Jogamaya's feet and said," because of this one should believe in the karma of past life. Was born out of mother's womb, never prayed for any aunt- of course, crashing a car can't be termed as good karma, but when within a moment, like a boon from God, if an aunt descends, just think, how many years of karma had gone behind that."
"Whose karma is it , boy! Yours or mine or those eho repair cars?" Jogamaya asked smiling.
Hearing this, Amit ran his fingers through his hair andreplied, "Tough question. Karma is not one's, it is of the universe. It has flien from one star to another, for years, till on one friday, exactly at nine past forty eight, it made a strike. Then what?"
(* Note: the above is a transliteration of "Shesher Kobita" , being done by me, as a humble tribute to Tagore.
To be continued...)