The Prostitute And Other Stories
(A Collection of Short Stories)
Internet Edition: www.menonimus.com
The Prostitute and Other Stories (A Collection of English Short Stories) By Menonim Menonimus.
Published by ———-.
All Rights Reserved
First Edition: 2019
The Tale Told by A Negro Youth
The Tale of A Female Waiter
Flood in Assam
For A Heir
A Cry in the Wilderness
A Pedestrian and the Girl in Race
The End of a Police Commissioner
A Piece of Reminiscence
The Malgudian Boulevard
The Prostitute and Other Stories (Text)
The Tale Told by A Negro Youth
During my tour to Philadelphia, my guide cum driver was a Negro youth. He was about twenty-five and he seemed to be an intelligent, smart and neat boy. He wore an ash colored long pants and a sky-blue shirt. My patron, the Youth Literary Club, Philadelphia had sent two youths to show me the important places around the city. With me, there were other three young members of the club. I had then nothing to be astonished at because seeing the rich, mansion-like high buildings, flowery parks, spacious neat roads, I got lost within the state of trauma. They showed me the man-made wonders of the city and one of the three youths were explaining the history and significance of some spots and monuments to me. But I was more interested to enjoy the uncorrupted natural scenery outside the city and I remained silent enjoying what they showed me. At about two p.m. I was taken to the hotel called ‘Hotel Mornika’ to take our dinner. It was a grand hotel with many storeys. I was provided with a heavy dinner with many items. While taking our food I asked the guides, “Would you not tell me about this grand hotel?” One of the three youths said to me, “We know that it is one of the prestigious hotels of the city and the owner of the hotel is a millionaire. Except this, we know nothing about it.”
The Negro youth, who was silent till then, opened his mouth and said, “I can tell the history of this spot and about the grandfather of the hotel owner.”
I, being curious, asked him to tell. Then he, placing his elbow on the table, looked at me and began to tell:
I have heard from my father that about one hundred and fifty years ago Philadelphia was only a little town and this region of Philadelphia was about four kilometres away from the main town. This region was then called Black Area. It was then almost wild with no habitation. During the last five decades of the nineteenth century, some emancipated Negro families made a Negro village here. They were very poor and took to farming as a means of their livelihood. They grew barley and wheat as their principal crops. The region was a fertile one and by means of farming, the families were getting rise year by year. Then one day some white men came to the place and ordered the Negro heads to quit the place.
I have heard my father say that my grandfather was the head of the village. He was an audacious one and replied authoritatively, “It is our land. We have made this region cultivatable by our sweat. We never quit the land.”
After some days, again some white people with police cortege came to the place and threatened that they must quit the place the villagers to leave to place. Then the entire villagers came out and a quarrel followed. There were only eleven families. They filed a suit in the law court against the demand of the whites but the court remained silent on this matter.
On the third time, some people with armed police came to the region and began to raid the village. The Negro girls became the victim of their brutish desire. The police began firing. Ten were shot dead among whom there was my grandfather, Mr Patric. Then my father was about twelve years old. Along with the survivals, my grandmother, with her only child left the place for the northern frontiers. The white people took hold of the entire region. The piece of land on which the hotel is constructed belonged to my grandfather. It was taken seized by a police officer called Mr Neil. He was popularly known by the term ‘Lion Police’ as he was as fierce as a lion. Later on, about fifty years ago, his son Mr Allen constructed this gorgeous building here.
Saying so, he stopped there. Our meal was already over. Paying our bill we came out of the hotel. It was three p. m. The sun was shining brightly. The sky was spotless, not a speck of cloud was to be found floating therein. But I felt vomiting. The guide asked me, “Sir, would you like to see the skyscraper being constructed recently?”
I replied, “No. Let me visit the huts if there is any.”
The guide said, “No. you will find not a single hut (a house made of bamboo, straw, mud etc.) in entire Philadelphia.”
I said, “Then let me return to my homeland, India.” 0 0 0
The Tale of a Female Waiter
Karl Rogger is a prisoner in the central jail of England. He is an old man above seventy. He has been in prison since his sixties. He is now a decrepit one and waiting for his last day to come. Though he is senile and waned yet his physical structure bears the stamp that he was once a robust angry man. The charge against him was that he was a patron of a gang of pirates and under his behest, more than a thousand people lost their life. He has been sentenced for life-long imprisonment. But with the passing of time, he seems to grow more and more gentle, melancholic and benign. The other prisoners often gather around him and hear him tell his past horrified missions.
One summer evening some prisoners gathered around him under an oak tree which stood proudly for half a century in front of the big Prison Hall. One among them asked him to tell a story of his life which he thought to be a memorable one. Then Mr Rogger turned his eyes to a young prisoner who had come recently in jail and began to tell:
I belonged to the province called Wales which lies on the west coast of England. Along the coast, there is a range of hills and mountains. Naturally, this coastline is very charming and I built my abode in the hilly slopes of the coast. Near my abode, I opened a hotel which was the seeming means of my earning. But in reality the hotel was an appearance only; my sole earning was pirating and my hotel was virtually the parliament of a gang of pirates comprising of about forty cadres. I was the de facto leader of the gang. Every day, after the sun-set, all the cadres gathered at my hotel. We ate, drank, dance and conversed, made plans all night and operated our mission.
In summer the sea became more angry, uneasy and mad and storm wind was almost a daily occurrence. In the storm wind, the cargo ships often met an accident in the coastal hills. In order to save the ships from being got a fatal strike against the coastal hills, a large conflagration was set in and in the light of the fire, the ships would harbour in a safe place. But the pirates did not allow anyone to set fire on the fuel provided for the act by the authority. Instead, the pirates took such measures that the ships could get into peril easily. They sent one from them who did not set fire in the fuel but they took a lantern and roamed about there as a signal of safety. Following the signal of safety, the sailors tried to lead their ships towards the coast and consequently, the ships got struck against the hills and were smashed. After this, the pirates ran to the ships and looted the goods of the ships and if there had been any passenger surviving somehow they threw him into the sea.
In the hotel, there was a page-girl named Liza who was very dutiful and by nature taciturn. I was very cruel to her. She was used to waiting upon the pirates. She never seemed to be wearied of her duties. We used her to carry the lantern up the hills to mislead the sailors in the stormwind. She did not come to know that by means of her task of carrying the lantern many and many people had happened to lose their life.
Near my hotel, there was a church. The priest of the church was an honest and bold one. He came to know our crimes and he often criticized our activities. My waiter Liza sometimes used to go to the church on Sundays. One day, during sermons, the Priest made a reference to our sins and injustice. That day Liza came to know that she was virtually an accomplice of their sinful activities and since then she decided not to help the pirates in misleading the ships.
That very night the pirates congregated in the hotel and criticized the sermons of the priest and decided that they would, by any means, compel the priest to leave the church.
Then suddenly that taciturn girl Liza protested and said, “The priest has not told anything wrong. He is right.”
The unexpected sudden interfere of the girl made the pirates astonished. Then we began to beat her and in anger, I decided to kill her. But one among us interrupted.
One night, after a week, a storm wind began. The sky became dark with the cloud. There was constant lightning. The sea surge became perilous. In short, to say, it was considered a golden chance for the pirates. All the pirates soon gathered in the hotel and began to shout, “A golden chance! A golden chance!”
In the meantime, an associate came running to the hotel and informed, “A ship is coming towards the coast. If they want, they can mislead the ship and loot it.”
Then without delay, we sent the girl with a lantern in her hand and ordered her to do what she was often used to do. The girl without uttering a word walked ahead up the hill. On the way, she crossed the church that reminded her of the sermon of the priest and determined that she would not act upon the order of her host. Instead, she would set fire on the fuels so that the sailors might escape the trick of the pirates.
As she determined so did she. She went up to the hill and set fire on the fuel and in the light of the fire, the sailors came to see that the coast was not safe and hence they led the ship to another safe place. On the other hand, we became blind with rage and began to rebuke her as much as we could. In addition to rebuking her, I went up to the hill with a heavy bat in my hand and approaching her gave a fatal blow on her head. Her head split into two and she died instantly.
But though we all were the worst of people everybody of us often praised her in secret because of her humanitarian feeling.
After some days, all our crimes came to light. I along with some of our associates were caught by police and since then this prison cell has become my abode. 0 0 0
At about 9 o’clock in the morning, the prison ward police came to Hall No. 3 and called out, “Harbhajan, prisoner no-321, you are summoned to the office of the superintendent.”
The prisoner Harbhajan followed the police silently and thought what the matter could be. Going to the door, he saw that another three prisoners were on the line to meet the superintendent. After a few minutes, he was called in. The superintendent, looking at the captive, said, “Harbhajan, an order has come from the court last evening that the prisoners who were accused of being the accomplices in the attempt of derailing a train in Kanpur on January 11, 1942, will get released. So you should get ready to leave prison. Come here again after about an hour.”
Harbhajan did seem neither to be cheerful nor to be thoughtful, he remained as usual. Then after the guard’s order, he went to the saloon where he got his hair saved. Then he changed his prison uniform and at just 10 o’clock he went to the office of the superintendent. Already another prisoner was there. The superintendent called Harbhajan in and he quietly went in. The superintendent put forward a file and asked him to sign on it. He did accordingly. Then a police warden came in with a pack in which there was Harbhajan’s dress that he was wearing on the day of his arrest. After then the superintendent brought out a bundle of rupees from the drawer and counting one hundred and twenty in ten rupee note kept it on the table. Then he put forward another file of paper and asked Harbhajan to sign on it. After that the superintendent, handing over a bundle of rupees to Harbhajan, said, “Here is one hundred and twenty rupees as your monthly allowance given as per Government law. Take it and purchase for your wife and children whatever you like.” Saying so, the superintendent gave a smooth smile looking at him.
Then two police escorted him to the gate where there was a van and Harbhajan got in. Harbhajan lived in a cosy house that lay on the outskirt of the town of Kanpur. The day was bright and the sky was transparent. The deep blue hue of the sky made the canopy of the earth. The van picked up its speed. The road that he left five years ago seemed to be worn out. The trees beside the road grew taller. He looked ahead. The pedestrians were coming and going. Their eyes were in the front. None seemed to look back. Harbhajan showed no emotion. He looked taciturn. Suddenly the image of his wife Rohini came to his mind. He felt how wretched he left her! After only six months of their marriage, he was imprisoned. During these last five years, he had no news of her. He thought, “Is she well now or is she remains the same as she was five years ago?” How deep her love was to him! Though he was poor yet he was happy with her. In truth, he was proud of such a faithful, simple and charming wife. He reminded of how she looked shy at his first kissing in the bed of roses!
Already the van arrived at the Three Stars Enclave and he got down the van. He thought he would go directly to the shop. He put his hand to his shirt-pocket and felt the swelling of the money. He thought he would first purchase a sari for her wife. He could not give her a new additional sari except what was given at the wedding. She was very desirous of getting a Benarshi sari. He walked ahead noticing the banners of the shops. He found that some new shops had been established during these five years. But he was looking for his known shop called Konark Sari House. He remembered that it lay on the right-hand side just after the turning. After walking ahead for fifteen minutes he found the shop. He went in straight. He was somewhat hesitant as he was wearing almost worn out dress. He thought that at first, he would buy a shirt for himself. But later on, he decided that he would first do marketing for Rohini. He ordered the shopkeeper to show him a Benarashi sari. The shopkeeper took out several pieces of saris from the self and he selected the rose colored one. He thought it would match her well. Then he took a blouse, a petticoat, and a bracier of the same colour. All cost seventy rupees. Still, he had fifty rupees in his pocket. Then he came out of the shop and began to walk on.
Suddenly he felt that the weather was changing. The brightness of the sun fell down. The blue sky became clouded. He thought that soon it would rain. He hurried on. As he was walking on, the image of his charming wife came in his mind again. He thought about what she might be doing now. He imagined how his wife would react seeing him after five years. How would he approach her? He thought if he had not been put to jail he would have been a father of a child by now. Then the image of his old mother came to his mind. While he got arrested his mother was suffering from fever. Her hair was about to turn grey. He thought that within these five years the number of her grey hairs might multiply.
Already he had reached the Chalk Market from where his house was at a ten minutes distance. He tried to walk on quickly. But as much he tried to walk fast so much weak he began to feel. His locality was actually a suburban village. The homes were thickly set up. Then step by step he reached the house no.1 which belonged to one of his far off relatives. Harbhajan’s house no was 5. He felt hard in walking. But somehow he got at the outer courtyard of his house. He looked at the tamarind tree which he planted himself now had grown taller. He felt too weak to walk even a step ahead. Then he sat down on the plank under the tree. He thought that somebody-either his wife or his mother would come out and embrace him with affection. In the meantime, a man about fifty came out of the house and looking at him asked, “Who are you?”
Harbhajan looked at him but did not reply. The man then jerked his towel lightly and put it on his neck and again asked him, “Where have you come from?”
Harbhajan did not answer. Then all of a sudden he saw Devashis coming towards him. Devashis was his cousin living in the same village. During his childhood, they had good intimacy. At the very first sight, he could recognize him and look at him with tearful eyes. Devashis accosted him and uttered, “O! Brother Harbhajan. Are you released? When have you arrived?” Saying so, he sat down on the plank by him.
Then Harbhajan asked him “Where is my mother? Where is my Rohini?”
Devashis gave out a sigh and replied, “Brother, your mother died after six months of your arresting. And after the death of your mother your Rohini had sold out the entire homestead and gone off to her parents’. Then I have heard that she has been remarried off to a wealthy businessman.”
Harbhajan became dumb of emotion. He tried to cry out but no sound came out of his mouth. Devashis found no language to console him. Then after a long pause, Harbhajan asked his cousin, “Do you know where my Rohini had been married off?”
Devashis replied, “I don’t know for certain but heard that she has been married off in the village next to your Father in law’s.”
Then Harbhajan brought out the pack of clothes from the nylon bag and asked, “Would you do me a favour?”
“What favour?” Devashis replied.
“Would you go to my Rohini to give it to her?”
“He has left you then why do you need to send her the things?”
“It is because she was very desirous of getting a Benarashi Sari. Here is a set of Sari, blouse, petticoat and a bracier that would match her well.” Saying so he put his hand to his pocket brought out a note of ten rupees and gave it to the hand of Devashis as travelling allowance.
Devashis took the package in his hand and said, “It would be given to her. Is there anything else to tell her?”
Harbhajan paused and then said, “Yes, tell her that Harbhajan loves you much.”
Then he heard a roaring sound of the cloud followed by sharp lightning and then heavy rain began to fall as if it would deluge the entire world. 0 0 0
Flood in Assam
The flood is in rising. The mighty Brahmaputra has gone mad. The high roads are under water. The rain is pouring down heavily. The night is deep. All the children of Ayesha are in sleep. Her husband Abdulla is in Delhi. He is a labourer, a poor labourer. He works in the chemical industry on the outskirt of Delhi. The wage is comparatively smaller because he is still an irregular labourer. His love for his wife is deep and sweet. Until he went to Delhi he could hardly spend a night without having his wife on his bed. He was unwilling to leave his wife for Delhi but extreme poverty compelled him to leave home. He sends money regularly with which Ayesha is getting managed the house with her children somehow. In the television news, he comes to hear that the mighty Brahmaputra has got full of water. It is rising above the danger line.
The night is deep. It has crossed twelve an hour ago. Since Abdullah’s hearing of the news of flood in Assam, especially in the lower Assam, he is under deep tension. He thinks about his Ayesha and his children. Are they also got affected by the flood? How are they? He is too poor to buy a cell phone. Yet he purchased a handset of mobile phone borrowing one thousand rupees from one of his fellow workers and has sent it to his wife with the hope of keeping communication with her. He often calls her from the nearest P. C. O. He thinks if he could have a talk at this moment with Ayesha! But it is deep night. The P. C. O. is off. Yet there is seven hours to the sun rising. He becomes restless. He must know how Ayesha is. He has been lying on his bed but he could have no sleep. Then he rises up from his bed and goes to the nearby room and calls out A. Ahmed, one of his fellow labourers. With some bitter feeling, Ahmed gets up from his raw sleep and opens the door. Then Abdullah asks for Ahmed’s cell phone. Ahmed says that he has only four rupees balance. “Friend, I’ll put ten rupees balance to your phone in the morning. Let me have it.” Abdullah requests his friend.
Ahmed gives the phone to Abdullah and sleeps again.
Abdullah dials the numbers. The phone begins to ringing, ‘Cring, cring, cring…’
Ayesha almost instantly receives the call and replies, “Hello. Who are you?”
“I am yours, Akram’s father. How are you? What is the news of flood?” Abdullah asks all out of a breath.
From the opposite direction, Ayesha replies, “The water is flowing above the danger level. Our houses are under water. The hens, cocks, cows and the calf are washed away by the flood.”
“Where are you now?”
“Now we are on a raft struggling to reach the compound of the Namghar of the next village. It is raining at random. Almost all the cattle and fowls of surrounding villages are wafted away to the belly of the Brahmaputra. Some school going children are drowned.”
“How are my babies?”
“They are with me on the raft. Now we are caught by a whirlpool. The raft is orbiting itself. Oh! It is…We are…. we are… drowning….”
“Abdullah calls aloud, “Hello, hello, hello….” For a moment he hears a loud hue and cry and then nothing. Abdullah keeps on crying, “Hello, hello…”
But there was no reply. 0 0 0
For An Heir
Narendra was one of my intimate friends during my school going days. He was a sharp student. We passed the H. S. Examination from the same institute. But, because of their poverty, he was compelled to stop pursuing higher education. During his student life, he showed a keen interest in literature and he was accustomed to frequent the district library. Now he is a successful businessman. Nowadays though we are busy with our respective duties, yet we casually come across each other either on the way to my institute or in the market. I like him especially because of his honesty and straightforwardness both in speaking and dealing.
Though he does not come to my house off and on, yet if he ever happens to come to my locality he makes an appearance to me. Likewise, on the last Sunday evening, he came to my house. Then I was busy in my study room. He seemed something tired as if he had just unloaded a heavy sack of rice from his head. He sat on the chair that lay near the door opposite to my writing table. He, inhaling air heavily through his mouth, asked me, “What are you busy with now?”
I replied, “I am busy writing out an article for a magazine.”
He said, “Recently I’ve happened to read a short story by you in the paper. Nowadays, I get a little time to read books because of my business. Besides this, I think the standard of literature has fallen down. Despite these, I had read your story to see only how far you maintain reality in your writing.”
I asked, “What is your opinion on my writing?”
He replied, “If you don’t dislike I would like to suggest you be realistic both in your subject matter and style.” Saying so, he gave a mellow smile and asked me, “Have you not heard the rumour of Sushanta?”
I asked, “Who is Sushanta?”
He replied, Sushanta, the wealthy peasant of the village of Chakla, the next village to that of ours.”
Then I remembered him. He was the only son of well-to-do Kayastha (law caste) parents of the village.
Narendra resumed, “I never heed on any rumour. But I will tell you what is true to him because I know every pore of his hair. Listen to it. It may be a plot of a story.” Saying so, he began to tell:
Sushanta got married when he was twenty. His parents selected a bride out of a hundred for their only affectionate son. His wife, Reshmi was very beautiful like that of a fairy queen. The village girls looked at her with envious eyes. After Sushanta’s marriage, his father died leaving behind him a huge property along with four acres of fertile cultivatable land to him. You know that Sushanta bore a stout, heavy masculine physique. He was also a man of hard working and kept himself busy in increasing his estate. Because of his riches, he was honoured by all the rest of his villagers. His wife also was very attentive to her husband. In brief, to say, he was the happiest one of the locality.
Days passed by. But he began to feel the birth of a child to him. But his wife Reshmi was unable to bear a child for him. Already twenty years passed by. He became disappointed and one day, after the advice of his old mother he went to a quack who gave her wife an amulet to be worn on the waist. She did it but she found herself as barren as she was before. Then he went to a priest who gave a glass of spelt water and said, “Drink it every morning for a month and then you will find yourself to be pregnant. She did it with devotion but found no result. Then one of his neighbours suggested Sushanta go to the Temple of Kamakhaya. The couple followed the advice and sacrificed a pair of doves. Yet they could not get rid of their disappointment. Then his cousin who was a bachelor of science advised him to see an M. B. Bs. Accordingly, they went to the Gauhati Medical College and after examining the two, the doctor declared, “Sushanta has no sexual problem but the problem rests on Reshmi. She cannot give birth to a child because of an internal vaginal disorder which is out of treatment.”
The couple became more disappointed. Sushanta wished to get married for the second time. But the custom of his society does not allow a man to get married for the second time as long as the first wife survives. For want of an heir to his huge property, he began to be more and more worried. Already he trod his fifties. His hair turned to be grey. His masculine desire also got decreasing. Day by day he seemed to be crazy. He decided that he must get a child anyway. He must leave an heir to his estate. With the passing of days, he became indifferent to his duties. He ceased to cultivate his land. Sometimes he thought to divorce his wife and then take another. But he could not do so. He could not imagine a moment without his loyal and charming wife. He thought how divorced women have to suffer in Indian society! He could not see a woman who was his wife to be an object of despise in the eye of society. Some people advised him to take up a child by another couple. But he wished to get a child by his own semen.
One the morning, after having a bath, he stood in front of the looking glass and noticed that his two cheeks had begun to wrinkle. The eyes seemed to go hallow. The hairs have begun to turn grey. Already, for some years, he had been experiencing weakness of the heart. All these meant that he was on the verge of old age. He became more and more despair. His heart broke down. He thought of himself to be the most forlorn person ever living on the mortal earth. The madness in him to get a child began to roar violently. Though it was a winter morning, he began to shed sweat. He felt himself to be the most wretched. Then he came out of his spacious room and sat on the bench of his outer courtyard under the coconut tree and closed his eyes. The world seemed to him to be a great void. How much time he remained closing his eyes, he could not remind. But suddenly he came to sense with the sound of the horn of a taxi which was passing by the road. He looked at the road and without making a wink he kept on looking at aimlessly. All of a sudden, he saw that Roni had been passing by. Roni was a widow of a poor village clergyman. She lost her husband at an earlier age, to say, after only two years of her married life. Since then she had been living alone in an isolated house at the far corner of the village. After the death of her husband, she fell into extreme poverty. Her father died in her childhood. Within the first year of her married life, she lost her mother also. Everybody looked at her with disdainful eyes and called her an unlucky widow. Sushanta heard people utter glib ugly remark on her character. But since some days it became white truth that she earned her livelihood by means of her soft body. It was in a rumour that the young boys frequent her at night.
Sushanta happened to come across Roni many times here and there but she never appeared so much charming as she seemed that day to Sushanta. Her two chins were as bent as those of a parrot. Her eyes were as blue as the sea- water. Her thigh was like a flat heavy plank of a sal tree. Her hair was as long as the tail of a horse. Her two cheeks were like two pieces of a ripe mango. He kept on looking at her. For a moment, he thought to accost her but already she went far off. Sushanta again fell into deep thought and came to the decision that he would go to Roni and would ask for her favour.
Night fell in. His wife gave him a cup of hot tea. But after the first sip, he put the cup on the table with sound and began to feel tired and weak. He leaned on his bed and then he lay on it. But he could not sleep long. He became restless. He looked at the wall clock. It was half past eight. He came out of the house and took to walk on. The sky was cloudy. He thought it might rain. The cold wind was blowing from west to east. But he felt warm under his ari sadar. The half moon was covered by the black cloud and it became darker. Pace by pace, he arrived at the inner court-yard of Roni. He thought it was nine thirty p.m. He found none on the road. He thought the cold wind had driven people to their respective houses. Standing on the inner courtyard he feigned to make a forced cough and called out, “Roni, Roni.”
“Who are you?” Roni replied from inside the house.
I am, Sushanta, the peasant.” He retorted.
Already Roni opened the door and Sushanta went in. He had never been there earlier. She put forward a mura (a tool made of bamboo) and Sushanta sat on it. He saw that though the house was a small one yet it was very neat and clean. There was a spacious bed, an alna to keep clothes, a little table and some utensils.
“Why have you been here all of a sudden?” Roni asked him.
Sushanta, taking long breathing, replied, “I have come to you with hope. Please do me a favour.”
“What favour?” Roni replied.
Sushanta began to tell, “Roni, you know that I am Childless. My wife Reshmi could not bear me a child till now. All my hopes to get a child by her have been lost. You know I have a huge property. Already I have taken to bending to old age. Now I am mad about getting an heir of my property. Please, would you bear a child for me in your womb?”
Roni seemed to be startled and replied, “Sushanta, have you turned mad? Do you know Who am I? You should not forget that though poor, I am the daughter of a higher caste. You can sleep with me, you can enjoy me but I cannot bear a child of low caste in my womb.” 0 0 0
The last evening, when I was busy with the proof-sheet of my latest book, all of a sudden, I heard my cell phone to be ringing. It was a call from an unknown number. I received it and said, “Hello! Who are you?”
The caller responded, “Hello! I am a reader of yours. I wish to meet you, sir. Please allow me to have the grace of meeting you for a few minutes.”
It was the tone of a woman and I asked, “Where are you speaking from?”
She replied, “I am from Dibrughar. I have come to your locality for a day and if you…”
I said, “You may meet me at any time you like.”
She replied, “Then I would like to meet you at 7 p.m. today evening.”
I said, “O. K.”
I was so busy with my proofreading that I forgot the time of that appointment. At 7’o clock in the evening, I suddenly came to hear a woman voice asking from my doorway, “May I come in, sir?”
I startled and looked up from my proofreading and saw that a woman was standing on the doorway. I replied, “Come in.”
She came in straight. She was a woman of about twenty-five. As she came in I found my room to be enlightened with a bright glow. At my first sight, she appeared to be the highest specimen of feminine beauty that I ever happened to see. She was a woman of average height. She was wearing a rose-coloured sari. Her nose was as sharp as a knife; her two cheeks were chubby and looked like two pieces of a ripe mango. Her two eyes were like that of a rabbit; her hair was as black as a piece of a summer cloud. Her thigh was as fleshy as the back of a butterfish. Her teeth were as white as a piece of smoothly cut coconut. Her face seemed to be slightly smiling like a half bloomed tulip. Her limbs were decorated with costly ornaments. In the sari that she wore showed her not to be a being of this mortal earth but a divine spirit. In brief, to say, she was the very incarnation of a heavenly nymph in human form. It seemed to me that the beauty of Helen would be a poor imitation of her backside only.
She sat down face to face with me on the sofa and said, “Sir, I have come to meet you because I like your stories.”
I asked, “Why do you like my stories?”
She gave a straight answer, “I like your stories because there is a realistic representation of life and a style characterized by simplicity and directness.”
I said, “Thank you for your comment.” And then I asked, “May I know your identity?”
She gave a straight reply, “Why not? I am Mrs Nashiketa Buragohain, a prostitute by profession.”
I became something surprised because as far as I know, prostitution is not a legal business in India and I have never heard any prostitute to be introduced herself as a prostitute. So I, with a little hesitation, asked an explanation for her profession.
Then she said, ‘If you have enough time to hear me I can give a brief explanation for it.”
I replied, “I am free till 8 p. m. You may begin.”
She moved a little to her left, lifted her elbow on the stand of the sofa and began to tell:
Sir, I was the daughter of a primary school teacher. Among the four children of my parents, I was the eldest. My father was able to manage the family with his limited salary. We were happy. My parents brought up us with much restriction and care. We- my other brothers and sisters- were all good students. I obtained the second stand in the H. S. L. C. Examination. I had an along hope of studying the Science stream. But my father, in fear of getting short of fund for my expenditure, compelled me to get admitted to the Arts stream. In my college life, I began to enjoy some freedom. Then I fell in love with a colleague of mine. He was a child of peasant parents. As a student, he was a good one. We became free frank within a few days of my college days. Though I fell in love, I was conscious of my career and continued my studies with attention. In the H. S. Examination I obtained the first stand. But the boy I loved could hardly secure the first division. He began to be worse year by year. And after passing B. A. he put an end to his educational career. On the other hand, I obtained my M. A. from Delhi University. Our mutual love was so deep that we promised to get married after having got my post graduate.
People often praised me to be a good looking, charming girl and many philanderers used to ran after me seeking my favour. But none could approach to me. I loved that boy- the only one.
My parents were anxious to marry me off. Many guardians sent proposals to make me their daughter-in-law. But my parents did not choose them. But once, a proposal came from a high family. The boy was a Director in the Public Service Department. The family was an influential one and it counted rupees neither in thousands nor in lacs but in millions. My parents choose the boy to be my worth groom. I protested and expressed my opinion that I am unwilling to get married to him. I also told my parents that I love a boy. But when I gave an account of the boy I love all of my family got exasperated and seemed to be broken down. They thought that a bachelor belonging to a poor peasant family could never be a worthy match for a girl like Nashiketa. It would be a disgrace upon the family. My parents began to bewail over my choice and became obstinate to give me in marriage with the millionaire. All my protest and persuasion proved futile. Eventually, I got married to a millionaire.
He gives me everything- a palace-like home, foreign car, line of servants, costly robes, and what not! And in turn, I have to surrender my beauty, my flesh and my entity but I cannot take back my heart from the boy whom I have sacrificed my all.
Then she looked at me and said, “Sir, in such a state, am I not a prostitute who in turn of food and lodging gives her flesh to a person whom I don’t love?”
Saying so, she stood up from the seat and went out of my room without giving me a chance to express my opinion. I looked at my watch; it was 8 p. m. I came out up to my gateway and saw that a French-made royal car was waiting for her. She drove into it and the car ran away blowing the dust of the street to my eyes and face. 0 0 0
A Cry in the Wilderness
During my university life, Guahati was like my home city. Though my temporary abode was Jalukbari, I often went to Adabari for marketing. On the right corner of the turning where the police point stood there was a small shop from where I purchased my necessary items as –tobacco, blade, soap, surf, paper etc. The shop keeper was a handicapped youth of fifteen. One of his hands was useless. His name was A. Rahman and he was from Barpeta district. He came from a very poor peasant family. After passing the H. S. L. C. Examination, he came to Guahati in search of a job. First few months he worked as a page-boy in a hotel and then with much difficulty he rented a small shed house where he opened a little shop. Despite the existence of many big and beautiful shops, some of the university students liked to frequent his shop because of his good, amicable behaviour. He lost his mother some five years ago, his father was ill and thus he was compelled to be the only earning person of his family. He said that in opening the shop, one of his friends who was a vegetable seller, assisted him.
After passing M. A., I took my engagement in a venture school as a teacher. But with the passing of time, my financial condition began to be worse day by day, year by year. Though sometimes I felt some necessity of going to Guahati, yet I could not go because hardly could I manage the travelling expense. Hence after about a dozen years, I could not but had to go to Guahati for an official purpose.
When I reached Adabari, it was ten in the morning. I felt hunger but suddenly I thought that first I should meet A. Rahman the shopkeeper and hence I turned my feet to the police point and then cast my eyes to the spot where his shop was. It appeared to me that all had made a drastic change within these twelve years. And to my surprise, I found his shop nowhere. On that spot, I found a new concrete building used as a godown. Then being disheartened, I went to a nearby tea stall and drinking a cup of hot tea I went to my rendezvous.
Going to the university, I found that the university employee staff was in a strike and hence I had to delay a day to get my purpose fulfilled. I decided to stay in a hotel for the night. I had hardly enough money, so I looked for a cheaper hotel and went to Beltala where I met one of my cousins who were working in a garage. He offered me to stay the night with him. I accepted the offer and spent the night in a shed house.
The next day at eight o’clock I left my cousin to the university. At Beltala Chariali I was waiting for the city bus. No sooner a few minutes passed than I happened to meet A. Rahman the shopkeeper whom I looked for at Adabari. He was carrying a sack of rice on his head to a nearby godown. To my surprise he saw me first and unloading the sack from his head he accosted me with a smiling face, “Sir, where have you been from so early in the morning?”
I replied, “I came here yesterday for an official purpose. Yesterday I searched for you at Adabari but I could find you nowhere. What is the matter, friend?”
Then he drove to the veranda of a nearby building. We sat face to face on the concrete bench. He began to say, “Sir, I have lost my shop about ten years ago after only two years of opening the shop.”
“How have you lost your shop?” I asked.
He then gave out a sigh gaping up his mouth and began to tell:
“Sir, you knew that I came of a very poor peasant family. And after passing the H. S. L. C. Examination I came to Guahati and within a year I opened that shop with the financial assistance of one of my cousins. By means of the shop, I could manage my family somehow. Step by step my business seemed to be rising up. Hardly could I spent two years then one day a group of terrorists came to my shop at night and gave me a letter and left me with the warning that they would come a week later. In the letter, they wrote”
You are asked to contribute five lacs of rupees to our revolutionary organization within seven days. Hope that you would co-operate with us without any excuse.’
Next week they came again to accept the subscription. I was not in a position to collect even ten thousand rupees. I told how forlorn and poverty-stricken I was and entreated them to save me. But they did not listen to any word of mine.
They threatened me saying, ‘No excuse will be done. You must pay the said sum of money; otherwise, you must leave your soul. You have been given a second chance. We will come next week either to take the said amount of money or your soul.’
I became dumbstruck and could not find out what to do. After the suggestion of one of my well-wisher, I sold the shop along with my other belongings and paid them the sum. How destitute I became then! I thought had I died it would have been better!
Then being destitute of everything I took up the job of a porter and since then I have been doing the job and making my livelihood.”
In the meantime, the city bus arrived at the nearby stoppage. I said to him, “Friend, it is ten o’clock. I must leave you here.” Saying so, I ran to the bus. After getting into the bus I peeped through the window and saw that he was weaving his hand and was crying out, “Sir, come again. 0 0 0
Rafif puts on the newly made yellow pyjama long maolavi shirt an Islamic turban on the head and wearing a garland around his neck becomes a perfect groom. Amid din and bustle, he along with his attendants gets into the hired bus. Many of his kith and kids follow him and take the seats on the bus. Some fireworks have been busted to inform all that the marriage party is about to set out. Rafif shakes off his hands with some of his recently arrived friends and then the bus starts to move. Everybody looks at Rafif. He looks like a Sultan of an Islamic kingdom. Out of joy, some have begun to sing. Rafif looks at his watch; it is 7 o’clock in the evening. But he can think and feel nothing. He remains silent and calm as a stranger. His attendants are sitting around him with a jolly heart. Rafif also seems jubilant as if he is the king for the day. But suddenly as the bus is running on he seems to lose within him. All the bulbs of the bus are on. But Rafif is seen to be more and more indifferent. He is reminding the face of his bride whom he is going to marry. The name of the bride is Kamala the only daughter of Mr Rakib, a school teacher. Rakib has borne a reputation as a good ideal teacher. Everybody honour him as a man of an honest heart. The bus is going on. It will take about two hours to reach the destination. As the bus is running on Rafif reminds of the day on which he had an interview with Miss Kamala, now his bride. Every scene of the interview with his would-be wife comes to his mind vividly.
It was Friday, only two weeks ago. He along with his close friend Ashis had visited Mr Rakib’s home. When they reached their home it was 10 o’ clock in the morning. None of them had seen Miss Kamala before. Only they had heard that Kamala was a chaste and amiable girl. She has passed the H. S. L. C. Examination last year and has got admitted in a nearby higher secondary school. But her father Mr Rakib wishes to give his daughter in marriage. By giving her in marriage he wishes to clear off his debt as a father. Rashid is a student of Mr Rakib. He knows him very well as he had been his student for a year. None of them had gone to his home before but only heard that Mr Rakib’s home is at Nandipur near the Chariali. They faced no much difficulty to find out his residence as every boy of the locality knows him. And when they asked a play-boy reaching Chariali (corner where two roads meet) he ushered them to Rakib’s home. Entering the outer courtyard Rashid calls, “Sir, sir”. For a minute they heard no reply and then again Rashid calls out, “Sir”.
Then they saw that a man about forty was coming to them rubbing his chest with a towel and asks, “Who are you?’’ saying so he opened the door of the outer room and called them to come in.
They entered the room and sat on the sofas. “Where have you come from?’’-the man asked them. Rashid replied, “We have come from Rangapara. I am Rashid.” Shaking off the towel, the man said, “Your ‘sir’ is not at home. He has gone to the bazaar. Saying so, he went off the room and return after some time wearing a ganjee and sat again with them. Suddenly Ashis said to the man, “If sir has to return soon, we will wait some time.”
“Wait, wait, sit and have rest, your ‘sir’ must come back soon”, the man said. His name was Taleb, the younger brother of Mr Rakib. Rafif looked around the room and saw that though the room is narrow yet everything was well arranged. The entire home seemed to be neat and clean, though there was nothing excessive. Rafif thought and said within him, “The home suits my mind. It will be good for me to have a bride from a family like it.”
Already half an hour has passed. Mr Taleb kept the time warm by talking with them. Suddenly a girl came in with a tray of tea. She kept the tray on the tea-table and served some bondas, fruits and tea. Rafif looked at her with hesitation. At first sight, she appeared to his eyes to be fascinating, charming and very alluring. Seeing her, his heart swelled up with joy and then said to him, “She will be enough for me. I must marry her.” He then looked at her head -half veiled- but her hair seemed long and black enough to allure a youth. She was wearing a black saree with potted flowers. She with the saree seemed to be not of human born but of heavenly. Keeping the tray on the table and serving the cups of tea she went out of the room. They began to eat and drink. As they were eating and drinking Ashis and Rashid wink at each other. Rafif said nothing, only nodded silently. After some time the girl came in again with a try of betel nut and keeping the tray on the table took the cups and plates and exited. They then took the nut and betel into their mouths and then Rashid said to Mr Taleb, “We want to return now. Please, convey our visit to sir.” Saying so, they stood up to leave.
Why? Wait he might come soon”, Taleb said.
No, it will be very late. It is 11 o’ clock. We must return home by 12. Rashid replied and went out.
Since then Rafif has been dreaming of the girl. At first sight, he has chosen her and decided to marry her. Rafif is an orphan. He lost his father when he was eight years and he lost his mother while he was nine. After his parents’ death, he was taken up by his uncle who brought him up with care. After passing the H. S. Examination he has opened up a shop and has been running it with success.
After having the interview with the girl, the daughter of Rakib, he declares that he has chosen her and if his uncle wants him to get married, he will marry her. Knowing his opinion his uncle communicated with Rakib and after mutual understanding, the guardians of both parties agreed to the proposal.
Arrangement for the marriage ceremony has been done well and now Rafif is on the way to marry the girl he chose. One by one the seconds have passed to minutes and the minutes have passed to hours and with the passing of two hours and some minutes, the bus arrives at the courtyard of Mr Rakib. Then Rafif comes back to reality from the state of reminiscence. He along with his attendants gets off the bus very gravely and received a warm welcome. After having hand and face washed as custom, he with his followers, take seats in the vast pandel. After the formal tumultuous conversation, the Kaji (Muslim priest) comes in and calls up the verses from the Koran and performs the marriage rites. Then all come out of the pandel. The groom is taken to the inner court to offer the bride to the groom. He sits on the chair. His followers also sit with him. All are looking at him and eagerly waiting to see the bride. After some time the bride is taken out. All who were here and there come and gather on the courtyard to have a look at the couple. Rafif thinks, “From now onwards, Kamala is mine and mine forever. I shall be seeing her for my whole life.” He hesitates to look at her. But as a custom, the groom should look at the bride while the bride is offered to the hand of the groom. So he looks at her face. But alas! He suddenly becomes dumb and numb. He rubs his eyes and looks again at her face and shouts out, “No, no, she is not she!” His followers and friends Rashid, Ashis and others looked at her and get surprised to see that the bride is not the very girl whom they had seen on that day. They also shout out, “No, no, she is not the girl with whom we had an interview on that day.”
The uproar begins. Everybody stands up and begins to ask, “What is the matter? What has happened?”
Ashis stands up and begins to shout, “She is not the girl who served tea that day.”
Someone of the groom’s party shouts out with anger, “We would not take her. What a deceit, trick, fraud!”
Then Mr Taleb runs on to the spot and begins to say, “Please be quiet. The woman who served tea that day was not the bride, but the bride’s mother.” 0 0 0
A Pedestrian and the Girl in Race
A pedestrian is walking ahead through the hilly gorge. His head is bent toward his front. He carries a wallet on his back. Where he is going none knows. But his gait of walking indicates that he would go up the town that lies on the top of the hill.
The time is late at noon. The sun is shining dimly. The hill is craggy. The plane trees are growing exuberantly here and there. The season is winter. The gorge is roundabout. Suddenly he faced a girl who is running down the hill. It seems that she is running for a long while. She looked tired, yet she is running downwards. A young boy of about twenty is chasing after her.
The pedestrian questions himself, “Why is the girl running? Why is the boy chasing after her? What is the relation between the two? Are they not brother and sister?”
Then he turns his eyes towards his back and sees that the girl is still running down. Then he begins to think over it again. Maybe the girl is the boy’s younger sister and the girl for playing a truant from school, her brother is chasing after her either to chide or to beat her. Maybe, the girl is an orphan working in a bar and for being negligent to her duty, the host in anger running after her to teach her a lesson. Or maybe the girl, being born a bastard, is forsaken by her mother and in extreme hunger, she has stolen a loaf from a household and hence she has been chased after. The piece of cloth that the girl is wearing bears the testimony that she is so. Or they may be in a race competition organized by a voluntary organization. Or it may be that they are practising the art of running through the hilly gorge. Perhaps the girl being wearied of the town-life has been coming down the plain in order to get some comfort and the boy is sent by her parents to take her back home. Or maybe the boy proposed to her to sleep and spend the night with him and the girl is reluctant and hence she is being chased.
Then the pedestrian takes a pause for a while and again takes to thinking about the girl. He thinks if a foot of the girl gets slipped down and gets her foot broken- then what would happen to her? Who would take care of her? Or if the girl, being tired of running who will comfort her? Or if the girl becomes thirsty who will provide her with a glass of cold water?
The pedestrian becomes tired of thinking about the girl. He falls in a dilemma- what may be the right cause of the girl’s running and the boy’s chasing after the girl? What may be the right cause?
The pedestrian sits down under a huge plane tree. The sun is falling down. The cold wind is being blown cutting the flesh like a knife. The pedestrian thinks that he would cease to think about her and closes his eyes to refresh his mind.
Then again a series of anxiety rounding the running of the girl occurs to his mind. Now he begins to be sweating for being too much anxious and curious to search out the truth.
The sun sets down the ditch beyond the hill. Suddenly a shower of angry cloud begins to rain heavily. The pedestrian again looks at his back but neither the girl nor the boy is seen. They have gone out his span of sight. 0 0 0
Enjoying the encaged snake, birds, monkey’s deers, hippopotamus, gorilla and other animals with wild and slimy scenery we have arrived at the over-bridge and standing on it at Guahati zoo, my friend Alakesh asks me, pointing to a tiger under the bridge, “Have you seen the tiger? I then cast my melancholic eyes lower to the over-bridge say, “Yes, I have seen. It is a leopard.” Suddenly Alakesh seems to be emotional and says to me, “It is a man-eater. Taking heed of our presence, the tiger walks up to the down post of the bridge and begins to growl surly.
“How it becomes a man-eater?” I asked and walk on. Then he pulls me back and says, “Don’t be afraid of it. It cannot eat you.” My curiosities increase and ask again, “How it becomes a man-eater?” He then begins to tell:
I was then a student of Guwahati Commerce College. In our college, there was a girl student who had been reading in H. S. first year. Her name was Miss Gitika. She was a mediocre student. Physically she was charming, alluring and amicable. Her father was a businessman staying at Paltan Bazar. She was a very lively girl who liked to fly with the wind. Almost all the students knew her. Many boy students philandered after her to win her love. But none succeeded. But the sense of love to the opposite sex is not only a mental feeling but also a physical need. Once she came to close contact of a very handsome smart boy of the college whose name was Babul Chaudhary. She fell in love with him. Their intimacy deepened and they began to love each other wildly. Babul Chaudhary was the son of a big businessman. He had come from upper Assam. He was very fond of fashion and comforts. Later on, we came to know that he was addicted to the drug also. Babul promised to marry her after passing B. Com. Boys are seemed more to be interested to the girls to have physical contact. Babul was not an exception. He did not take patience. But girls are the toys in the hands of boys. They become the victims of the boys’ lust easily. They generally hesitate to repudiate the offer of the boy whom a girl loves. Many times she denied to have physical contact with him but at last one day she could not but gave her away under his arms. Since then they began to grow indifferent to their studies and began to ramble to and fro together keeping themselves absence from their classes. They walked hand in hand in the less frequented spots of Guahati. They also visited the zoo and spent hours after hours not enjoying the zoo but enjoying walking hand in hand. In other words, to say, they became like wild birds. Thus some months passed. One day Gitika came to college with a gloomy mood and calling on Babul aside, she sorrowfully declared that she had got pregnant by him. As soon as he heard the news, he choked up, but after some time he said, “Don’t mind, I will be the father and you will be the mother of the child.”
Would our society support us? – Gitika said.
“We will be married soon. I shall take you as my dearest life partner.” Babul Chaudhary saying so showed a light of hope in the darkness. Then they left for their respective classes.
Next day Gitika coming to the college searched for Babul. But Babul was not at the college. She secretly searched after him here and there, but she saw him nowhere.
Babul had been staying at Pan Bazar with his two classmates. Miss Gitika being anxious about Babul, she ran to his mess and enquired of him. But there he had not found him. Asking a boy who had been Babul’s friend she came to know that Babul had left the mess yesternight paying off all his dues. The cook of the mess happened to come and said that Babul had left Assam for south India by plane yesternight.
Gitika went home with a heavier heart. She felt that the world was full of darkness. Nothing seemed visible to her eyes. Wherever she looked at she saw only the dark spirit of the Devil. She began to shock after her own existence. Going home she lied long on her bed and closed the eyes. She did not take her meal and spoke lie to her mother that she was ill. The whole night she spent vigilant stirring to and fro on her bed.
Next day though she felt nervous, yet she went to college but did not attend the class. She entered the college compound and searched for Babul in vain. Then coming out of the college she went to a nearby friend’s home. Namita was the name of her friend. She was one of her faithful girl-friends. Going to her home she revealed all her secrets. First, her friend shocked at her case but eventually, she advised her to take abortion and then encouraged her to begin life anew.
Days began to pass and the embryo in her womb had begun to grow. Soon her parents became aware of her uneasiness. Her father became blind in anger and fury. The blood of his feet soared up to his head. In shame and insult her father rushed at her and began to chide her. A noisy uproar suddenly broke forth in that house. His neighbour ran to their home and consequently, the news reached every ear of that locality.
She could not make out what to do. The morning sun reclined to noon. Already Gitika’s weeping and sobbing had ceased outwardly. Because she had already lost all her spirit even to weep. Only tears have been coming out of her eyes. Being closed up in her room she prayed to God for death. But death does not come to anyone after his will.
Next day morning she got up from her sleepless bed and stealthily came out of her home. At about ten o’ clock in the morning she entered the zoo and stopping at nowhere she came straight to this overbridge and threw a piece of stone at this tiger which was lying at the corner of the den. The tiger jumped up in anger and began to howl. Then she held up her two arms and jumped down suddenly. The tiger first seemed to be startled but soon attacked her and tore her into limbs and ate up her flesh greedily. Thus the tiger became a man-eater. 0 0 0
The End of a Police Commissioner
Ashif is one of my best friends. We met each other on the first day of my college life and since then we have been friends for the last twenty-five years. Their home lies on the outskirt of Barpeta Road town. He was a smart and intelligent student and we had been classmates until the end of our educational career. They are four brothers without having a sister. Ashif is the youngest. I am also well acquainted to his two senior brothers: Aqil and Bablu. But I have not met their elder brother, Arshad. About him, I have only heard that he is an I. C. S. officer and he is in his job somewhere in India. Ashif after taking post graduate in History takes to business and now he has a large establishment in the town.
One day Ashif said to me, “Friend would please like to accompany me to Khenmung, Shillong?”
I asked, “Why?”
He replied, “Our elder brother Arshad has been staying there. Last night we received a message that he is seriously ill.”
I have a weakness for the hilly area and instantly accepted his offer.”
The very evening at 7.30 p.m. we got into a night super. We took our seats comfortably and our journey began. It was my third-time journey to the hilly state of Meghalaya. The scenery of endless lines of pine trees with attractive natural charm revives in my mind’s eye. I thought there was not a single state in India except Meghalaya which was given shape not by Nature but by God Himself.
There were not enough passengers on the bus. But most of them were dealers in vegetables. Suddenly, being curious, I asked Ashif, “Friend, if your brother is ill then why he does not come home on a leave?”
Ashif replied, “He retired about three years ago and since then he has been there in a rented house?”
Being something surprised, I asked, “Why is he in a rented house? Why does he not get a piece of land in a city like Guwahati or any other places of Assam?”
He replied, “He likes to stay in Shillong.”
I asked, “How many children does he have?”
He replied, “He does have neither wife nor children.”
I being surprised asked again, “Why? Is he a eunuch?”
Ashif laughed a little and replied, “No, he is as masculine as we are and even stronger.”
“Then why he is a bachelor?”
Ashif then said, “There is a story.”
I being curious, asked him, “Is the story a tragic one?”
He said, “Perhaps something like so.”
“Then tell me.”
Ashif began to tell:
You know that he was the first I.C.S. holder Police Commissioner from the Bengali Community of our district. He got his employment in Rajasthan. After five years of his job he came home on a leave of two months and desired to get married. We began to search for a worthy bride for him. First, we saw a first-class M. A. holder Bengali girl of charming beauty and we choose her for Arshad. But our mother said, “I must see my daughter-in-law.”
Then we sent our mother to see her. She, with a critic’s eyes, began to scrutinize the girl and found out a fault of being short in height and said, “I can’t allow a girl like her to be my daughter-in-law.”
Then we found out another girl who was as charming and virtuous as the Sita of the Ramayana. We almost came to the final decision that she would match our brother well and in the meantime, our mother seemed to be grumbled and said, “I must see my would-be daughter-in-law with my own eyes.”
Then we sent our mother and she observed with a researcher’s eye and commented, “No, she is not worthy of being my son’s match. Her heel is high and the cheeks are flat.”
For the third time, we found a clue of a very intelligent girl who was a first class Master degree holder in English with a job in a college. This time we sent our mother only to have an interview with her. Our mother went to see her and commented, “She is a good girl in structure but her nose is like that of an owl. It would be a disgrace upon our dynasty to have a girl like hers as our daughter-in-law.”
Then our heart broke down. We could not get our brother married. Already the period of our brother’s leave was expired and he returned to his appointment.
After a year, he again came home on a leave of two months and expressed his strong desire to get married within a month. Again we began to look for a bride for him. We choose a graduate girl as charming as a water nymph. But our mother could not be satisfied with her hair as her hair was cut short. Then we looked as much as four girls for him but our mother did choose none of them.
Then my brother, being enraged, left home and since then he has not come back home. Now he is about sixty-five and all the hopes of getting married have vanished from his heart.
Already it was seven a. m. and the bus reached its destination and we got down the bus and taking a Maruti car went to the hospital where Arshad was admitted by some of his friends for treatment.
Going there, we saw that Arshad was lying senseless on his bed. The nurse came in and said, “His heart is weak. When he gets his heart totally failed is uncertain. But it is true that his end is imminent. After half an hour he came to sense.
Ashif sat near him and called, “Brother, I am Ashif, your dear younger brother.”
Arshad looked at him and uttered in a broken voice, “Why have you came here. Let me die unknown, unwept, unsung, unremembered.”
Ashif said, “Brother I have come to take you home.”
Arshad replied, “No, never. Let me be buried here under the yellow sands of Meghalaya.” Saying so, he became silent.
Ashis called him aloud, “Brother!”
But there was no response.
Coming out of the hospital chamber I saw that the sun had stopped shining. The black clouds heaped upon clouds and heavy rain followed. 0 0 0
A Piece of Reminiscence
Mrinalini is accustomed to getting up early in the morning and performing the morning prayer, she gets busy in household routine-like duties as- bathing, washing the utensils, sweeping the rooms and courtyards, preparing breakfast and tiffin for the children and so on. At eight o’clock the three children go to school and about 9 a. m. her husband leaves home for his work. And from then till three o’clock in the evening, she feels utter lonely. Mrinalini with her children and husband live in a rented house in the city leaving her mother and fathers-in-law in the village estate. Sometimes she spends hours reading books though she does not like it. She only turns the pages and reads the headings and closes up the books without being gone between the lines. Sometimes she watches the television but soon it makes her monotonous. Then she lies on the bed but she can’t get sleep. It only increases her boredom.
She is the second wife of her present husband. Her husband took her in marriage after the death of his first wife who met her end in childbirth leaving behind her two children- both are girls. Mrinalini was married formerly to a venture school teacher who was engaged in a senior college.
Today it is ten o’clock. She lies on the bed and suddenly her eyes fall on an old suitcase. She thinks herself, “Why does she not cleanse it?” And she sees that a layer of deep dust had coagulated on it. Then she rises up from her bed and lifts up the suitcase from the rack. First, she sweeps it off with a piece of rags and then unlocks it. She found a heap of old clothes which she wore during the first few months of her remarried life. Already twelve years have passed. The clothes have given out a rusty smell. She unfolds them and thinks that it would be better to expose them in the sun. Hence she brings out all the pieces of clothes and beneath all she finds a piece of the cotton sari in rags. She remembers that it was a sari given by her first husband just after the few months of her marriage. She pulls it out and takes it in her right hand and thinks, “How did it happen to come here?” She reminds, as far as she can, that all the things that bore the memory of her first husband had been spoiled by her own hand as she wanted to erase the memory of the man from her mind. But the more she tried to erase the memory of her first husband, the more his image came to her mind vividly, at least ten thousand times a day.
She remembers that her former husband was a thin, tall youth near thirty. Reading was his hobby and he occasionally seemed to practise poetry. He was a man with a peculiar whim and qualities that made him distinct from the rest of people of his age. But he seemed to love her deep which she was then unable to appreciate. He was taciturn in nature and he smiled less, did his duty with speechless attention. He did not seem to be angry but if he got angry he seemed to tremble within. He was, to say in a word, a good man.
But he had two weak points which she hated from the core of her heart and that was- first, he was almost a pauper- he had neither much land nor any other source of income. But if he wished he could earn as the other unemployed educated people did. He seemed to be indifferent to a better off lifestyle. But all the time he kept busy in studying new and new books which she could hardly like.
His second weakness was that he was in love with a girl until Mrinalini was married to him. She happened to know that he had even physical attraction to the girl and sometimes they had had carnal relation also. She could not bear this in mind. And she thought that he did not love her though he was generous in giving her love and affection. She remembers when he kissed her he made her mad and when he embraced her he was very enthusiastic and warm without the least pretence. She could understand his love but the thought of his premarital love affairs with that girl disappointed her.
Mrinalini had also a premarital love affair with a young boy. She loved him deeply but her parents could hardly approve it as the boy was below the standard of theirs. Their love affairs ceased after her marriage.
And these two were the main causes for which she sought a divorce from her husband and consequently they were separated.
Twelve years have passed since her separation from her first husband. Every day and even all the moments, despite her conscious unwillingness, the image of her first husband comes to her mind. She sees him often in dreams also. But she never lets anyone know that her mind is preoccupied with the imageries of her first husband. She keeps it secret. She often becomes a philosopher and gets her mind lost within herself.
As the days pass, her love to her first husband keeps on increasing and now the two causes for which she took divorce from her first husband become minor cases and in turn, all the peculiar qualities of him come to be counted.
And nowadays in these solitude hours of the day, she becomes almost mad of the thought of her first husband. But she can neither tell anyone about it nor can bear it. She feels that had she got back her former husband! But it is impossible.
Already the sun turns into evening. She looks at the wall clock; it is three; a time when her children usually come back home from school. She, in a hurry, rises up from her bed and thinks that she must preserve that piece of cloth as a token of love of her former husband and then she grasps it with both the hands and raises it up to her nose and sniffs it and feels how dearer this piece of cloth is! 0 0 0
The Malgudian Boulevard
Malgudi is a south Indian sub-urban city with all the characteristics both of a city and a village. It is a region where people of all castes and creeds live making a visible existence of their respective ethos. There are Vedic Hindus, Muslims, Sikhs, Jains, Christians, Persians, Buddhists etc. But the majority of its inhabitants are comprised of Vedic Hindus. Among all the communities there is an instinctive spirit of national harmony as well as traditional high and law discrimination. R. K. Narayan, a celebrated twentieth-century Indian English short story-teller and novelist had written many stories and novels keeping Malgudi on their background.
It is a vast region with its own whims and gravity, with its own geographical variety and political solidarity. The Administrative Head Quarter lies at the centre of the region. The city is as chaotically built as any other Indian city which began to take concrete form at the nick end of the nineteenth century during the reign of the English. Nowadays it owns two rail stations, one airport, a university and several colleges. The rail station lies at the southern outskirt of the city and its airport lies in the northernmost boundaries. There is a maze of lanes and sub-lanes in the city. It is neither as clean as Mumbai nor as dirty as Kolkata. The National High Way runs through the belly of the city. The office of its Municipality is attached to its Tax Office. Its climate is neither hot nor cold but mediocre. Though in summer it gets good rains and grows a variety of crops. In the city, there is a museum also which has been established late in the twentieth century. Agriculture is the principal means of its economic resources but the city people have taken up a business as their main occupation. Till the first half of the twentieth century the region was poor in industrialization but recently some light, as well as heavy industries, have been introduced with success.
The vast west side of the region was almost full of the jungle until the advent of the twentieth century. But during the first decade of the century, the English constructed a road up to the seacoast for commercial purpose and a British governor planted many saplings of plain trees on both sides of the road. And with the passing of time, the road became a source of natural beauty. It is now called a Malgudian Boulevard. On both sides of the road, there are some small hills which were then full of prairies. But now this portion of the region has turned almost into a forest as the local government has declared it as a reserved region. On the right side of the boulevard, there is a lake the water of which is as blue as the cloudless autumn sky. The road is not as spacious as a modern High Road as it was not constructed as a public road. The portion of the region was almost void of human habitation though there was a government forest office. People rarely frequented the boulevard. But now many peasant families have been installed there by the government. Yet this area seems to be less busy than the rest of the region.
One of my far off relatives happened to migrate there in search of a job and for an unavoidable reason, I had to be a guest of him for a span of three years. He became a permanent citizen of Malgudi and he made his establishment on the westernmost outskirt of the city of Malgudi.
Every evening, during my staying there, I used to have a leisurely walk on the boulevard. On the very first day that I took to walking on the road in the evening, I met an old man near seventy wearing powerful spectacles on his eyes and with a supporting stick in his right hand. He walked with a slow pace up to the west end of the blue lake and return when the sun sank in the sea.
He was seen once a week especially on the Sundays. Then I began to think within myself, “Why is the old man seen only in the Sundays? If he takes to perambulate as a means of physical exercise, then why is he not seen on other days of the week?”
One day, being curious, I accosted him with a humble salute and asked, “Uncle, may I know your whereabouts?”
He lifted his head pressing on his stick and looking at me, asked me, “Who are you?”
I answered, “I belong to Assam. Here I am for a temporary stay at the house of Mr Akalesh, the Civil engineer.”
Oh! I know him. He is working in the Public Department.”
“Yes, uncle. But may I know sir, why are you seen on Sundays only?”
He gave a deep sigh and answered, “You see, I am too weak to walk yet I take to walking every Sunday neither for physical exercise nor for enjoying the natural beauty of this boulevard but for hope only.”
I asked, “What is the hope?”
He said, “It is a story now.”
I became more curious and asked again, “May I know, sir?”
He took a move to the edge of the road. I also followed him and stood under a plain tree. Then he began to tell:
“You may think of me as one of the aboriginals of this land. When our forefathers came to this land I know not. They used to live working hard in the field. There was peace. But as soon as the English grasped the charge of administration, hardship on our socio-political life began to arise. The inhabitants of the land began to be overburdened by excessive taxes and the tenants began to be exploited by the landlords. Some peasants gave up working in the field and compelled to be wage-earning labourers. I also turned into a labourer and took to earning my livelihood by working in an English office as a wardsman. Poverty never left us. I got married at the age of twenty and became a father of five children whom I could hardly provide with food. Hence my children were forced to earn some extra money by means of gleaning firewood from the jungle.
One day my third child, who was a girl of twelve, was sent to the jungle for gleaning the fuels and she went up to the west end of the lake beyond which was a Forest office. That was Sunday. She went but she did not return. We searched her all night incessantly but she was found nowhere. With the passing of time, everybody has forgotten her but I have never forgotten her. I think, if she is alive, one day I must find her in the street and with this hope I take to walking in search of her in the Sundays. I have been doing this for the last forty years.”
Saying so, he turned to leave me as it was getting dark. 0 0 0