The Fugitive Father and Other Stories

(A  Collection of Short Stories)

 

 

  

Menonim Menonimus

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Internet Edition by

www.menonimus.com

Email:menonimus@menonimus.com

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The Fugitive Father  (A Collection of English Short Stories) By Menonim Menonimus, First Edition: 2019

 

 

All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

 Price:  Rs. ———– Only.

 

 

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A TALK

I think the short story is a fictitious short prose narrative based on reality dealing with some single aspects of human life. So is my short story. But I would like to admit frankly that my short stories are the reflections of my personal experiences that I happen to gather in my day to day life. How far I have succeeded in writing out my experiences in short story form lies in the judgments of my dear readers. I think truth, though naked and coarse, is sweeter than falsehood in decorated royal ropes.

Menonim Menonimus

Santi Kanan                      

Kamalpur, Barpeta.

June  2014.

 

CONTENTS

 

Waiting

At Half Past Twelve

In Search of A Job

The Child Not Loved by His Parents 

The Porter 

The Fugitive Father 

The Pangs of Conscience 

The Reminiscence 

The Confession

The Refugee 

The Sense of Sin

The Street-boy Who Turned Honest

The Portrait of A Venture School Teacher

 

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THE FUGITIVE FATHER (TEXT)

 

Waiting

Half past eleven at night. After the whole busy day, all have taken rest in bed, only a woman about thirty is stirring in her bed.  A kerosene lantern is burning with flickering light. She inclines just at her right side and pushes her right hand under her head and after a few seconds only she turns to her left side and puts her left hand under her head. She tries to go to sleep. But in no way she can go to sleep. The lantern is consuming kerosene. Beside her, there are lying three children. They are in deep sleep. The season is winter. The month is December. The cool is cutting like a knife. But hot sweat is coming out of her forehead. Time is passing on. The nearby church clock strikes twelve. She gets up from her bed of quilt. She comes out of the door silently and goes up to the gate. She stands up still and looks up to the end of the long road as far as her eyes can reach. It is a midnight. All the city buses have taken rest to their respective garages. Only some taxies and Maruti cars are running straight to their destination. The electric bulbs are shedding their silver light. Suddenly she happens to see that a man is coming towards her crossing the over-bridge. She looks at her eagerly and spontaneously a ray of hope rises in her heart and then she says to herself, “That man may be he.” She looks at his hands and shoulders and tries to observe him. “Oh! no, the man is not he,” she sighs out. Already the man crosses her and goes away taking the left turning off the road.  She looks at the sky. No star is seen. She keeps her palms of hand on her breast and goes back to her room. Already the kerosene lantern has put out. She, in the dark, goes to her weary bed and closes her eyes. “O God! grant me sleep,” – saying so she upholds her two hands and prays to God for sleep. But sleep is far away from her. She wants to forget the world- its belongings, its sorrows and joys. But he cannot. The same memory has been striking her heart.”No, I want not to remind of him tonight. I wish to forget him”, she says to herself. But as much as she tries to forget him so much the memory comes to her mind and eyes. She spreads her right hand and manipulates on the heads of her children. “It is Rajen”, she says, ‘when the event happened he was five years old.” The second child who is sleeping on her left is Suresh. He was then three years old and the third child Arisha was on her womb- she remembers. She shakes her heads and tries her best to go to sleep. She shuts her eyes, but the scene of that particular day appears vividly in her mind. Like all the by-gone days she remembers that day from one point to another. She remembers……… and then she tries to come to the probable cause of that event. She thinks whether he has become the victim of any terrorist or whether he has been abducted or whether he has gone away to get rid of the burden of the family or whether he is killed by an enemy. She goes on to think but hardly can she arrive at any definite solution. 

Suddenly a long ‘oki’ strikes her ears. Without any difficulty, she thinks that the oki might be of the Rajdhani Express. “Oh, had he come on that train!”- She thinks. Already the night is about to come to an end. The dawn is near. The eastern sky is about to turn red with the far off sun which would rise up soon.  She again tries to shake off her thoughts from her head and wishes to go to sleep. She falls into drowsiness but all at once a loud but feeble voice calls her, “O sister, Nilima, Nilima.” She without delay gets up from her bed and opens the door.

“O! Arju, you….! Where have you come from?”- She asks.

“From Lukhnow, U. P.”, Arju replies.

She seemed to be very tired with her a child of about nine years. She has carried on a trunk and a long holdall with her.

Arju is Nilima’s far off sister. Her husband and Nilima’s husband were close friends. Where Nilima with her children have been staying was once Arju’s home. Her husband Devashis was a rickshaw driver. After their marriage, Devashis with his family left his home in Guahati to Lukhnow in search of better luck. Since then Nilima with her family have been living in that cottage.

Nilima has already prepared tea for the newcomers. Arju having her face and hand washed sits on the floor on a tool. Suddenly Nilima asks Arju, “Where is your husband? 

Arju making a spontaneous sigh says, “ I have left him in Lukhnow  forever in eternal sleep.”

“Has he died?”- Nilima asks in with wonder.

“Yes”, Arju replies and goes on to say, “Therein Lukhnow we had been living well. He got a job in a mill and had been earning well. Thereafter spending four years, he got attack by black fever and died. I cried much. There we had made some friends and after my husband’s death, I along with this child took shelter on a Bihari family. The head of the family Mr Devrao became my patron. But he had an evil intention and one night he seduced me. With shame and hatred, I left that home instantly and became a beggar. I begged from door to door and thus I earned my livelihood. I found none to assist me in coming back to Assam. After much struggle, I happened to procure some money for my train fare and now after eight years, I have come back to Assam.

Already the tea has been prepared and Nilima serves to Arju and her child with two pieces of bread. Arju lifting up the cup asks Nilima, “O, where are your husband?”

Nilima looking at her face begins to say:

That was an autumn morning. Usually, as I used to do, I got up at six o’ clock in the morning. He also got up as soon as the sun rose up. Washing off my hand and face I prepared tea and had drunk together with him. After that, I had performed my morning household duties and he had his long pants patched.  I hurried to prepare food for him by it is 8 o’clock. But that day it was ten minutes late in preparing our food and bread which he usually carried with him to the shop for dinner. Suddenly, I heard him call me and said, “Nilima I am going to the shop. The hour is running. Have not you yet got my food prepared?”

“Please wait ten minutes”, I replied. And after some time, I gave him his food. He ate and said, “You have used much onion in lentil.” I said nothing. I wrapped up two pieces of bread in a paper and gave it to his hand. He took and walked on to the shop.  But while he got at the outer gate, I called him back and said, “Bring a slate for Papi.” He nodded and walked fast to the shop.

Every day he came back home after 9 o’clock in the evening. But that day nine crossed and then it became ten, then eleven. He did not come back. I remain to await him. But as the hours were passing away, I became weary of waiting. Every night I took my food with him. One by one it became midnight. But I found no returning of him. I went to the gate and threw my eyes as far as it could see.  But I saw no shadow of him, only two or three Maruti were running on swiftly.  I went to my bed but no sleep came to my eyes.

Once the hours of the night passed on to an end and the sun rose up in the east. But he had not returned. I thought he might go to his fellow shopkeeper’s house and would return by 8 o’ clock in the morning. But the hours of my wish have gone over and he did not return. Then I sent a fellow boy to the shop. He went and returned with no hope. 

The day passed. The next day came and passed. I became mad of uncertainty. What might happen to him! Where might he go!

Such a week, two weeks, three weeks and weeks ended in months. And the months to a year and such seven years have passed and till this day he has not returned.

And since then I have been waiting for him.

Arju notices that the eyes of Nilima have turned red as a pair of cheery as if her eyes have had no sleep for a century. 0 0 0 

 

 

At Half Passed Twelve

At half past twelve, he comes back home. All are in sleep. The season is summer. It is too hot. The stars are twinkling in the sky. The glow worms are flying here and there. The crickets are chirruping. The owls are screaming. In such a time Ashad has come back home from rambling. He silently pushes the door and enters his chamber. The lantern is shining dimly. He silently sits on the cot. On the bed, his recently married wife Alaka is sleeping. It seems she is in deep sleep. She is as a woman very charming to be able to allure any youth.  She comes off a poor family. She has lost her parents at an early age. After her parents’ death, she was brought up by his uncle. Ashad has passed B. A. and now he is dealing in grocery. He is about twenty and his wife Alaka is about fifteen. She is amiable but childish. On the other hand, Ashad is matured. Without calling her up, he sleeps beside her and dashes her with his arms. She suddenly wakes up but says nothing. She only turns to her right and sleeps again. Ashad then calls her up and says:

“Alaka, you have taken birth only to sleep. Now wake up. I have a talk with you. I am sure that you will reveal the truth.”

Alaka turns to him and says, “What?”

Ashad begins to say’ “I’ve come to know from one of your nearest relatives that you had a term of love with the youth of your village. He wished you to marry and you were crazy about his love, isn’t it?

“What a rascal?” She says, “Where have you come to know this from?”

‘Rascal’ Ashad whizzes. Suddenly anger grows in him and the anger sour up to his hair. He leaps up from his bed runs to the corner of the room and fetches a piece of wood and began to beat her with.  At the first beating, she utters “Oh, uh…..” and then she faints. In addition to this, he kicks her on the hip and utters, “You have abused me and it is your reward.” She neither stirs nor moans. She is lying motionless in the bed. Ashad standing on the floor begins to babble.

After sometime Ashad notices that Alaka does not move. She is senseless. He goes on to her and lifting her garment he sees that her hips are badly bruised. The red blood is issuing out violently. He then thinks to himself, “What has been done? Oh! What has been…” he picks up the kettle in his hand and begins to pour water on her head. At last, after about an hour she comes to sense. She does not cry but sobs.

Ashad sits on the chair and begins to repent and think. He remembers his past days. He remembers his own love affairs with Miss Manorama. He wished to marry her. But by the trick of luck he could not. Being frustrated he has married Alaka just only a month ago. Alaka is comparatively more charming than Manorama. He just marries her but he can hardly love her from the core of his heart. He only uses her as a source of carnal pleasure and nothing else.  She gives away herself to his desire. But she seems that she is a shy girl. Already during their honeymoon days, she chided her badly.

Now at this deep night after beating her badly Ashad says to himself, “Have I done the right? Does she know about my love affairs with Manorama? If she knew what would she ask me? Or if she knows- will she whip me? A wife has the same right over her husband as a husband has over his wife. He broods over the matter and at last stands up from the chair. He looks at the wall clock but can see nothing as his eyes are full of tears. He only guesses that it might be a late night, around 2’o clock. He very silently sits on the cot, he puts his right hand on her chest and holds her hand and embraces her and calls, “Alaka, A-l-a-k-a-.

She opens up her eyes but replies nothing.

“Excuse me Alaka, excuse me.” Saying so, he begins to weep. 0 0 0

 

 

 In Search of A Job

When I got off the train it was 9 o’ clock at night. The entire town seemed to be busy in full swing. The colouring bulbs were playing hide and seek in front of the cinema hall. Men and women were walking ahead in their respective duties. The Station Hall was overcrowded. Some were getting on the train and some were getting off the train and some were waiting for the next train to come. The station was small but neat and charming. Only from the southern corner beside the hall foul smell of urine struck at my nose. Standing there I looked around as I was a newcomer to that station. But as I delayed so the night was deepening. Then I asked one standing beside me, “ Please, brother where is the bus station?”

“To the south corner of the town. It will take about twenty minutes if you walk on foot.” I asked him nothing more. I only said, “Thank you.” And came out of the hall and called in a rickshaw and got into it. I gestured him with my finger to drive me to the bus station. Within only about five minutes the rickshaw took me to the bus stand. I got off the rickshaw and paying the fare I looked forward. I saw some minibuses. One was about to leave the station. I ran to it and asked the handyman, “Where would the bus go?” The handyman replied, “To Mathurapur.” 

Then I went to another bus and asked one who was standing near the bus, “Could I get a bus to Chandrapur?” “No”, he looked at his watch and said, “It is 9.30. The last bus to Chandrapur had left the station at 8.30”

“How much distance is it to Chandrapur from here?” I asked.  “About six kilometres. If you walk on foot it will take not more than an hour.” He said.

‘Which is the way that I should walk through to Chandrapur?’ I asked. He held up his index finger and said to me, “Have you seen the main road ahead of us? Go through it to the northward for about five minutes and then you will see that the road has diverged into two. Then take the right turn and walk through straight. It will lead you to Chandrapur.”

After his suggestion, I walked on in a hurry. As I was going ahead, the town lagged behind and the light of the electricity also lagged behind me.  I was walking through a road sunk in darkness.  I saw that two old men with a lady were walking ahead of me. But going ahead for a furlong they entered a home beside the road. I walked on alone. A man riding on a bicycle crossed me and a young boy with a bag in his hand seemed to pass me in a hurry as if he would catch a train at the eleventh hour.  I was walking on. As I walked ahead so the night and darkness also becoming darker and deeper. As it was so dark so was the cool, as if it was the month of December. A light wind was blowing southward. It cut my skin heavily. I was trembling, though I put on boots on my feet, scarf on my throat and a coat upon the woollen shirt. Suddenly I startled and stopped still out of fear and noticed that it was a flock of foxes crossing the road. Then I felt the need for a torch. I said to myself, “How had it been useful if I carried a torch with me!” I made anger with myself and said to myself again, “Why had I come to such a strange place even in such a dreadful night?” But all my anger became futile. I only regretted my untimely visit to such a strange place.  But what is done cannot be made undone. After then I pumped on my spirit and began to walk on as fast as I could. But as I was walking ahead the scene of Shahin and his wife that I met at the Guahati Rail Station came to my mind. 

Shahin was my classmate for six years from class V to class X.  We passed the H. S. L. C. Examination in the same year. I got admission in a college. But as his economic condition was worse he could not continue his studies. He spent a year doing something at home. But the next year his parents left Barpeta for Dibrughar. Along with his parents, he went there and began to live permanently. Then our mutual communication came to an end.  Ten years have passed but I have heard no word from him. Neither had he comes to meet me nor did I go there to meet him. Already during those ten years, he had once come to Barpeta for an urgent cause but he did not meet me. Within these ten years, I have taken my B. A. but got no job.  I have appeared to many interviews but all my interviews fell flat.  One day about six months ago, I went to Guwahati to meet an interview for the post of a clerk in an office. At early 8 o’ clock I got off the train and I was in a hurry to my destination. I was about to cross the corridor of the Ticket Counter. Then all of a sudden I felt that someone had kept his hand on the right shoulder of mine and called, “Masrur.” I looked at his face but hardly could I recognize him.

“Have you not been able to recall me?”  He asked.

O, Shahin!”- I wandered and said, “Are you still alive? I think you have died ever.”

No, friend, I am alive to enjoy life to the lees. Had I died it would have been better enough. Now I wish to live long.” He said with a smiling face. 

With him, by his left side, there was a beautiful woman wearing a rosette saree. At first sight, she seemed to be charming and lovely. Her two chins were like the beak of a parrot. Her two cheeks seemed to be red like a cherry. She was neither robust nor thin. Through the hole of her short veil, the black and long hair lock appeared to me. I asked Shahin, ‘“Who is she?

She is Priti, my partner,” he said.  Shahin introduced me to her.  

At first, I could not recognize Shahin as his physical appearance had changed considerably. He was a lean and thin youth during his school life.  Now he is a stout young man of thirty, with black, dense but short handsome beard and moustache. 

‘What are you doing now, friend?”- I asked. 

“Something like a business.” He said.

After this, he began to say, “After leaving Barpeta, I got admission to a college in Dibrughar and passed my H. S. Examination somehow. I wished to continue my studies further, but poverty stood in front of our family as an impenetrable block and I had to stop there. Fortunately, I took to a business and now through it  we have been leading our life well.” He then lit a cigar and asked me, “What are you?”

“Nothing, I do nothing. I had taken birth with a handful of nothingness. I have passed B. A. five years ago and since then I have appeared in many interviews but nowhere I could meet my luck. Today also I am going to appear to an interview,” I said. 

“Today also! I can assure you that your interview will prove to be futile.” He said. 

He looks at his watch and continued to say, “If you are wise and wish to live like a man then give up the idea of getting a government job and take to business.”

But what business I will do and how I will do where I have nothing- no money, no land, no capital”, I replied. 

For business, no capital is needed but only technique and will power.” He said. 

He again looked at his watch and said, “Friend, I have no time to talk with you. I am going to Delhi. The Rajdhani Express is about to start. I want to leave you here. Please visit my home in Dibrughar. I will show you the path of business. If you like  I will make you my business partner and then you will see yourself a changed man within only six months. Saying so, he took out a piece of paper of his pocket and marked the path of direction leading to his home and handing that piece of paper over my hand he bade goodbye. 

Priti smiled and requested me to visit their home. 

As they were leaving me I thought myself, “How lucky Shahin is!” Certainly, it was lucky to get such an amiable, fascinating wife in life.”

At about ten I reached his home. I became amazed to see his spacious palace-like building full of decorated furniture. I thought what could be his business! Then a woman about twenty gave me food. I devoured gluttonously as I was much hungry. Then I asked him, “Where is your Priti?” He replied, “Priti? She was my temporary partner. I have sent her to Maharashtra. Friend, now go to sleep. We would talk about all in the morning.”

The next morning after having a grand breakfast, we sat face to face in the drawing room and I asked, “What is about your business?”

He began to say, “My business is a simple one. To speak frankly, I do business with women. I have some procurers in the nook and corner of North-east India. They collect women especially the matured girls of poor parents or poor widows and I sent them to Delhi, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Bombay or to some other places of India. Some of them are given in marriage with some Hindu widowers and most of them are sold in the brothels. It is a risky business but there is plenty of money. We earn from fifty thousand to two lacs per. head.”

Then turning to me he resumed, “Now I ask you to join me in my business as my partner. You have to collect one or two such girls and in turn, you will get at least one lac per month. Then you will see that you are no more a poverty-stricken street boy but an oil-rich Arab.” 

I became dumb-stricken and could say nothing. I looked outside through the window and saw that the sky is full of dark clouds. It would rain soon. Then I left his home instantly and said, “I don’t like to get involved in a business like yours.” I came out of his home and felt lonely in the vast universe. 0 0 0

 

 

The Child not Loved by Parents

As soon as the school clock strikes half past twelve, we get leisure time for an hour. The students usually come out of their classes in a hurry to play outdoor games like cricket, some students run about here and there as they are conscious of the benefits of running in the open field and some go to the school canteen for refreshment. The teachers who get regular salary go to the nearby hotel to take their dinner. But the teacher who gets no salary and have been serving honorary for years seem to be in a gloomy mood as they are compelled to remain satisfied with drinking a glass of cold water only. Some of them take only tea and some go to the prayer house to offer the matinee prayer. Usually, during this hour I either go to the prayer house or keep myself busy reading books. But someday, I go to the nearby market called Milan Bazaar. 

One day I went neither to the library nor to the prayer but came out of the Teachers’ Common room and went straight to the market. Going there, I sat on a bench that was laid fixed in front of Neha Cloth House. There I saw a child about nine or ten years old sitting in the pose of an Indian sage. He was handsome with bright eyes, chubby cheeks and seemed calm and quiet. I looked at him and asked, “Boy, who is the manager of the shop?” 

He, in a low tone, replied, “My father.” 

“Where is he?” I asked.

 “He has gone to Barpeta Road in the morning.” He said.

“Then who is running in the shop? I asked again.

He replied looking at my eyes, “When my father is off, I become the manager of it and I myself run on the shop.” 

I thought to myself, “How is it possible? He is only a child.”

Then suddenly he asked me, “Have you taken your food?”

I said, “Yes, I usually take my food in the morning.”

“But I have eaten nothing till now.” He said.

“Why?”

“My mother had not given me food.”

“Why did your mother not give you food?”

“Because my mother doesn’t love me.” He replied looking straight at the far off street.

I became shocked at his words and asked, “Do your father love you?”

“No, he also does not love me.”

“Why?” I asked.

“I don’t know.”

I asked, “How many brother and sister do you have?”

“We are two brothers and a sister.” He said quietly.

“Who is the elder?”

Rasis is the elder, I the younger. We have a little sister also named Lina.”

“How older is your elder brother?” 

“He is two years older than I am”, he said.

I, looking at his hackneyed shirt and pants asked him, “What class do you read in?”

He replied, “Last year I passed class II. But my father would not allow me to go to school more.”

“What is the cause?” I asked.

He said, “I don’t know, but my father beat me if I want to go to school.”

“Doesn’t your mother urge you to go to school?”

“No, my mother also does not allow me to go to school.”

What is your elder brother doing?”

He said, “He is in a Madrassa in Maharashtra.”

“What is he learning there?”

“He is learning the Kuran”, he said.

“Do your parents love him?”

“Yes, they love him something.”

“In which year had he got admitted there?”

“He has been there for the last five years,’ he said.

Do your parents provide him with the monthly expenditure?”

“Yes, they have been sending two thousand rupees monthly.”

The shop was a little one and the clothing items were also scanty. I thought the owner of the shop was a poor one and hence I asked him, “Are you too poor?”

“Yes, we are something poor.”

“Is your father an educated man?”

“Yes, my father is H. S. L. C. passed.”

Is your mother a learned one?”

“No, I heard that she had gone to school for a month only, but read a year in the maktab.”

“Does she offer prayer to God?”

“Yes, my mother offers prayer to God regularly,” he said.

Then I put my hand to my pocket and pull out a ten rupee note and offered him and said, “Go to the tea stall and get some refreshment.”

He declined my offer and said, “I don’t take tea.”

“Why?”

“My father has prohibited me to take tea,” he said.

Then I said, “Eat whatever you like.”

“No, I shall not take your money.”

“Why?”

“My father would beat me.”

Are you not hungry?”

“Yes, I have been feeling hunger since the morning. After my father’s return from the town, I will go home and then take food,” he said.

I became uneasy in the thought of this boy and begin to think of- what kind of man his father is!

I said, “If your parents do not love you, then come with me to our home. I shall provide you with food and allow you to go to school.” 

‘No, I don’t go to your home.”

“Why?”

“Because my father would beat me, and my mother would cry for me.”

 I became very curious about his parents and wished to meet them because I think the most wretched and poor is the child who is not loved by his parents. I said to the child, “Would you accompany me to your house?”

He replied, “Why?”

“Because I wish to meet your mother and father.”

He said, “Wait sometime my father is to come now.”

“Yes, I can wait for your father, but I want to meet a mother like yours who does not love her child.

“No, please. You need not go to our home. My mother is a good woman, she only does not love me but it is no matter.”

Already the leisure time for ours was expired and I ran off to my class and all day long, my mind kept on thinking over the child.

After about a month, at leisure time, I went to the shop again. It was a very hot day. The road was dusty. The west wind was blowing spreading the dust over our eyes and face. Going there, I sat on the bench and looked at the boy. He was sitting motionless. I noticed that the boy was weeping; tears were flowing off through his cheeks. I said, “Boy, why are you weeping?”

He remained silent and wiping off his tears with his sleeves he said, “My mother is very ill.”

‘What is a disease?” I asked.

“I don’t know, but she has got emaciated.”

“Where is your father?”

He said, “My father has gone to the hospital with my mother.”

I said, “One day you said that your mother does not love you. Then why are you weeping for her?”

He said, “I weep for her because she is my mother.”  0 0 0

 

 

The Porter

Being failed to catch the last night super to Silchar, I decided to stay at a hotel at Last Gate, Dispur. And hence I was waiting for a city bus in Jalukbari. It was half past eight at night. Buses after buses were coming and going but not a single one to carry me to my destination. The buses that passed were all full of passengers and there was not even a standing seat for me. Already I got exhausted for the day’s journey. Being disappointed, I took a safe turn beside the road. As the night was getting on the city seemed to be busier. On the roadside, there was a big building used to commercial purpose in front of which a heavy truck was being unloaded. Some porters were busy with their respective works. Men in the crowd were coming and going through the footpath. Everybody seemed busy with everybody’s business. Suddenly my eyes fell on one of the porters who were unloading the truck. He looked like one of my university mates named Ashad. He was a brilliant student and stood first in the Post Graduate Examination. I met him last on the day our result came out. I became anxious and kept on looking at him. I gazed at him and became sure that he should be Ashad- as he bears the same physic, walks in the same gait and bears same the enthusiasm in his physical movements. I hesitated and asked myself, “Why would he be a porter? I had heard that he had become the principal of a college.” Already the task of unloading the truck had ended and he turned to go inside the building. Then I approached him and with some hesitation, I asked from behind, “O, please, are you Ashad?” He looked back at me and shrieked out, “O, Rajen! O! Why are you here?” I noticed, he became so cheerful that he would almost embrace me but looking at his hand he said, “I am dirty.” It was so hot. Drops of sweats were flowing down from his body. I said I had to go to Silchar tonight but being failed to catch the last night super, I am here to stay at a hotel.” 

He said, “You need not go to any hotel, come with me and spend the night with me in my chamber.” 

I asked, “Why are you here as a porter? I have heard that you are the principal of H. J. K. College.”

He then put his left hand to his forehead and said, “It is my destiny which put me to this job. But friend, come to my room and then I shall tell you my story.” Saying so, he ushered me to little far off shed house thorough a by-line. He opened the lock of the room and entered into it. I followed him and put my wallet on the little table that was laid on the door side. 

He, pointing to a red plastic chair, said, “Sit on and take rest, I have to take bath.” Saying so, he took the towel in his hand and went out of the room.

I looked at my mobile and found that it was already 10 o’clock. The room was a little one but something clean. There was a bed, a chair, a stove, and some utensils. It was a shed house the walls of which were made of bamboo. Some pieces of clothes were kept hanging on the hooks struck in a post. After about fifteen minutes, he came back rubbing his hand and face with the wet towel. Then he, wearing a lungi and ganjee, said to me, “Rajen, sit down comfortably. I have to prepare for our food.”

He then put out some tomato and potato from a plastic bag began to chop them into pieces and asked me, “Rajen, what are you doing now?”

I said, “I am jobless. Occasionally I write to some paper and magazine and earn my livelihood somehow.”

“Then you have become a writer! O’ how lucky I am that I have found a writer as my guest for the night.” Saying so, he burst out boisterous laughter.

Then he enquired everything of mine and I replied with the fewest possible words and evades some questions skillfully to be answered as I was not interested to make him know my inner sorrow and sufferance which I thought to be my personal property.

At about 11 we finished our supper. Then he prepared some tobacco and putting them into his mouth, he sat down beside me on the bed. As the night was getting deep it was getting hotter. He gave me a hand-made bamboo fan. I took it in my hand and said, “Tell your story about how you have promoted to a porter from the post of a principal!”  

Ashad then made a forced cough and began to recount:

After having passed M.A. in History, I decided that must do something to earn my livelihood as our family was as wretched as a Jewish family under the Farao in Egypt. My father was a cultivator one and he could hardly manage our family. You know that during my student life, I had to do a lot of temporary jobs to meet my schooling expense. Hence to get rid of extreme poverty, I was in dire need of a job. I tell you that I had appeared at least thirty interviews, but I could meet my luck nowhere. At last, after two years of taking my post Graduate, I was informed by one of my friends that a post was lying vacant in a local college. I ran up there and met the President of the Managing Committee. He said, “All our posts were fulfilled but recently Mr K. Kakati, who was in charge of the principal, has resigned from his post for a better chance. You know that in a venture institute, especially in Assam, the Managing Committee is the all in all.  If you hope to get employed to the post of Principal, then you must donate one lac to the fund of the college. It is our final decision.”

Coming home back, I consulted the matter with my parents. My father said, “The two bighas of cultivable land had been sold for your education. Now if you need an amount of one lac to get a job, then I am unable. Do what you like.”

My uncle suggested that Ashad should be married with a dowry of said amount. Subsequently, I married Jenifa, only daughter of good parents. They provided me with a good dowry and I paid the entire money to the president and got my employment as the principal of the College. The president, as well as all the members of the Managing Committee, said that they would do their best to provincialise the college within one or two years.

Months passed by. We began to meet more and more hardship. First few months Jenifa and I were doing well. She was beautiful, smart and amiable. She tried to understand our forlorn plight. But I was suffering from an inferiority complex as I was unable to provide her necessary facilities.

Already six months had passed. One day the President of the Managing Committee declared in a meeting that for the process of provicilization of the college we need an amount of five lacs. So every teacher must donate thirty-five thousand to the fund.

Already my father died of consumption without being gotten proper treatment. I began to see muster’s flowers in my eyes. All the responsibilities of managing the family fell on my head as I was the eldest son of my parents. My wife Jenifa was not accustomed to such hardship of life as she was the daughter of a school teacher. I could understand well how sorry she was with me. In the mean time, all our means were exhausted and we had to spend two days without food. Jenifa went to her parents’ home. After some days, I went to my father-in-law’s house to fetch Jenifa. But she declined my offer and said, “I will not go there to die in hunger.”

My mother- law, in fiery words said, “I can’t see my only daughter die of hunger. Leave my home at once. We need not a son- in- law like yours who is unable to provide food to his wife.”

Feeling ashamed of, I came back home. The next day I went to college with a gloomy heart. The President came to my chamber and declared, “All the teachers, except you, have paid their due.”

I said, “Please, excuse me. I am absolutely unable to pay the money.”

Then the President said, “No excuse will do. You must pay the said amount of money. We give you three days. Otherwise, you must go.”

I tried my best but I could not make up the sum. The President of the Managing Committee, on the fourth day, declared, “Sorry, we are unable to keep you in the post. We have promoted Mr V. Bharman to the post of the Principal and as per our resolution was taken yesterday meeting you are released. You may leave.” 

I lost my job. Some days later I found a letter with an affidavit sent from the district court informing me that Jenifa has divorced me as I was unable to provide her with necessary provisions as per Muslim Women Right Law.

Then I lost all hope in life. The world seemed to be very strange to me. I came out of home at night stealthily and got on a bus to Gauhati. The sky was cloudy. The west wind was blowing and then the rain began to fall heavily. At seven o’clock in the morning, I got down from the bus. I began to wander aimlessly. Not a pie was in my pocket. The heavy rain fell on my head and I got thoroughly wet. The shirt and pantaloons stuck to my skin. The sun turned its head to the west. I began to feel weak and tired.  Already it was getting dark. The thousands and thousands of electric bulbs began to shed light along the roads. I came up to the building where we met yester-night. I was standing in front of the portico.  After an hour a man about fifty years of age, came out of the building and asked me, “I have noticed that you are standing here for more than an hour? What do you want?”

I seemed to come to sense suddenly and replied, “I have come to the city for a job.” 

He asked, “What kind of job do you want to do?”

I said, “Anything, I get.”

He asked, “Do you want to drive a car?”

I said, “No.”

“Do you know the work of masonry?”

“No, Sir.”

“Then, what would you do?”

I thought, he had spoken the truth. I have learned nothing in life except reading and cultivating the land.

Then the man said to me, “You looked strong enough. Here a truck is coming. We have to unload it. If you like you can do it. We pay one rupee per bag.”

I said, “Yes, I shall do.”

Since then I have been doing the job of a porter and earn two to three hundred rupees per day with which I have been maintaining my house well.

I looked at the clock and found that it was half-past twelve. I felt tired and wished to go to bed. But I asked, “If you get chance would you like to take the job of a teacher?”

He said, “No, I shall never take the job of a teacher. I have experienced throughout the years that the venture schools of Assam are the playthings of the government which they keep always in the air and when they just began to fall on the ground they give again a wild kick and send them again up the sky; and in the hand of the departmental officials they are a resource of collecting black money without least goodwill and in the hand of the Managing committee the venture schools are ale houses to keep themselves drunk all the time.”  0 0 0

 

 

The Fugitive Father

All the officials of the Head Office of Linc and Company are in jubilant mood as the new Managing Director has joined today at 9 o’ clock. At the very first day, he has arranged grand feasting for his staff in the canteen. All are invited to share the movement. The name of the new Director is Ranabir Iyer Deka. He is a smart youth of about twenty-five. At first sight, he has bewitched all with his candid and amicable demeanour. He is an M. A. in Economics from Delhi University and got his Ph. D. from Cambridge University, England. Besides, he has a diploma in Business Organization from Chicago, America. All the staff is in the opinion that this new Director would prove more worthy than the previous one.

Linc and Company is one of the renowned companies of India and to have a job in such a company is a badge of honour for anyone. The company gives comparatively a higher facility to its employees. 

At about twelve o’clock, all the staff has gathered in the canteen for the feasting. Ranabir, the newly appointed Director, standing from his chair addresses to all in general, “My dear colleagues, I am very proud of being appointed to a chair of this esteemed company. I hope you all would help me in leading the company to a more and more prestigious stage in the coming days. Thank you all. Now let us relish the feast.”

All begins to take the delicacies prepared especially for the occasion. In the staff of the office, there is an old clerk. He has been serving in this office since the last twenty-five years. He is a man of few words, gentle, dutiful and all the time seems melancholic. Everybody respects him for his peculiar traits of nature. He is a man of above fifty-five, the oldest of all the members of the office. With the introduction of Ranabir, the new Managing Director, the clerk seems to be more melancholic. He seems to look at the chubby cheeks, reddish face, curly hairs and strong figure that the Director bears in him. All are busy taking their food. But he seems to be dipped in thought and slow in eating. He looks at the Director and then asks himself, “Is that he? He seems just like….” 

After having the lunch ended all the members of the staff get embark to their respective duties.

A month has passed by. Everybody of the staff notices that the old clerk has been becoming more weak, melancholic, grave and indifferent to his entity. But none asks him anything as he is the most aged, honest and humble person of the staff. One day he approaches to the new Director and asks, “Sir, may I know your whereabouts please?”

The director looked up from his chair and replied, “Why not? I belonged to Assam. Gauhati is my home city.”

The old clerk asks him again, “Your father’s name please?”

The Director looked at his face and replies, “I have not seen my father. He had been lost before I was born. From my mother, I have heard that my father’s name was Raghab Iyer.”

The clerk seems to be startled and lowering his head he goes back to his table. It seems that he is overwhelmed in thought. While departing from the office at 5 o’ clock in the evening, he says to one of his colleagues that he feels feverish.

Next day the clerk comes to the office half an hour late and lodges an application to the Director that he is not well and would go to see a doctor. Therefore, he asks for a leave of three days. The Director, looking at him receives the application.

Already three days have passed; there is no presence of the clerk. On the fourth day, the clerk sends a message to the Director informing him that his condition is worse and now he is in Arora Nursing Hall. Then one of his colleagues proposes that they should go to see him in the hospital. 

The next day evening some of the officials have gone to Arora Nursing Hall where the old clerk was admitted for treatment. Going there, they find that the clerk is lying senseless in his bed. The nurse makes them know that his condition is not good. He often loses his sense. His heart is weak. After some time, the nurse declares that he has come to sense and they are allowed to see him. The old man with a feeble voice utters, “I am pleased to see you all. But where is the Director?”

One of his colleagues replies, “He has not come.” 

The clerk says to them that he would like to see the Director. 

Wishing him a quick recovery they come back.

The next day evening the Director, with two other officials of his staff, goes to the hospital to see the old man. The nurse let them know that the patient seems to be slightly better than before and they can meet him. 

The Director, Mr Ranabir Iyer Deka sits beside him and enquires of his condition. The old man says, “I feel slightly better today but I see that my end is near. Saying so, he looks at the Director and says, “Dear Director, I am pleased that you have come to see me. May God bless you with a long life! But that I have to reveal to you a secret which has been killing me days after days, years after years for the last twenty-five years. Would you please listen to?”

The director says, “Yes, I am ready to hear. You may have your say.”

“Please Excuse me if my story gives you pain.” Saying so, he begins to tell:

After passing B. Com. I became an employee in Hervey and Co. But after working as a clerk for three years, the Company sent me to Gauhati, Assam as a Branch Manager of the Marketing Dept. Our Gauhati Office was in Ambari, Gauhati -1. In my staff, there were fifteen employees eleven of which were from the nook and corner of Assam. In our staff, there were two females. One of the two belonged to proper Gauhati. She came from a poor family. She lost her father in her childhood. Her mother gave her a proper education through much hardship. She lived with her only mother near our office that lied opposite to my temporary quarter. Though she came of poor parents yet she was amicable, gentle, smart, dutiful, shy and physically attractive. She was very obedient to the disciplines of the office and gave me full satisfaction with her work. A year passed by. From the very first day, I became bewitched by her comeliness. But I dared not to express my love to her as I belonged to an orthodox Hindu caste. 

She also seemed to be attracted to me. One day, I proposed to her that I was willing to have a private talk with her. She hesitantly agreed to my proposal. Accordingly, that very evening, we went to a hotel and expressed my love to her. That was the beginning. Since then she often used to frequent my quarter. Six months passed by. One day she hesitantly revealed she felt that she is going to a mother of a child by me. I suddenly became dumbfounded. I was not in a position to become the father of a child without being married. I thought it to be a stain upon my social standing. I became embarrassed. I did not find out what to say and what to do. My conscience ceased to work. At last, I decided that I must escape from this scar.

That very night, I wrote my resignation letter to the concerned authority and left Assam bag and baggage. 

I returned home.  I began to spend my days waywardly. My father was a businessman. He urged me to enter his business. But I did not like entering into business. So to keep myself busy I took the job of a clerk in the Head office of Linc and Company, Bombay. Here in the same office, I have been serving for twenty-five years at a stretch. The memory of the girl left in Assam troubled me every moment. It carried away all my peace of mind. But there was no means to overcome the pain and mental sufferance. I could keep up my balance of mind in my work only. I decided not to marry again. Already my parents died. I was the only child of my parents. After their departure, I became the sole inheritor of their vast property. But I had no desire for worldly affairs. Sometimes I thought to leave my job as I had such a good deal of property that I myself give birth to a company. But what is the use of money if there is no peace of mind. So eventually I determined to keep up my job as a clerk so that I can keep my mind busy. 

No, you see where I have arrived. The name of my beloved in Assam was Nilima Deka and I am Raghab Iyer, your lost father but I mean your fugitive father. I have now an acre land in the south region of the city, fifty lacs bank balance along with three five-storied buildings. You are the sole inheritor of all my property.  

Telling so the poor old man tried to stretch out his weak arms to his son and said come to my bosom, my child and for once in life call me, ‘Father.’

Telling so the poor old man tried to stretch out his weak arms to his son and said come to my bosom, my child and for once in life call me, ‘Father.’

Saying so, he gave out a long sigh. The sun was setting. The yellow light of the setting sun entered the floor of the room. The poor clerk became numb and motionless. Ranabir Iyer called out, ‘Father.’ But there was no repose. The doctor came in, examined the pulse and declared, “He is dead.”  0 0 0

 

The Pangs of Conscience

Mr V. P. Buchanan is one of the reputed millionaires of India. It is told that he spends a good deal of his earnings for the cause of the poor and the forlorn. On every 31st December night, he arranges a great feast at his house with great enjoyment where he invites all his business associates, friends, journals, scholars, professors, doctors and so on. He welcomes every New Year with giving away some hundred pieces of dresses to the beggars. Thus he has become a symbol of charity and generosity.

This year also he has invited all his friends. All the invites have arrived on time and gathered in the large hall. Half a dozen waiters have been engaged for serving the guests. First, the guests are served with sweetmeats, fruits, tea and some other light delicacies. Thus the first stage of taking their refreshment has passed. Then they began to discuss a variety of subjects. The journalist begins the conversation with politics. Some have thrown their glib remarks on the possibilities of the rise of leftist in Indian politics on the following election. Some of the guests have commented that Indian democracy is virtually a plutocracy, and the political leaders are the puppets in the hands of fistful millionaires. Then the conversation turns to business matters.  An associate of Mr Buchanan expresses his hope that within the coming five years they would be able to occupy the monopoly in distributing the food grains throughout the country. Then the host orders the waiters to bring the bottles of red wine imported from France for this special occasion. Accordingly, the waiter brings in some dozen of bottles and places them in the round table. The host grasps up one from them and turning his face to his right utters, “Friends, I wish best of luck to you all. By the good grace of God I am one of the happiest and successful persons of the present day world, isn’t it?” Saying so, he begins to laugh boisterously. Some of his friends reply in unison, “Yes, you are.” 

Among the invitees there was a philosopher, he replies, “No, friend, I don’t think you to be so.”

“Why?” the host asks something angrily. “Prior to only ten years, I had been almost nothing and now what not! I have two hundred goods carrying transports. Fifty business branch offices, hundred acres of land, foreign-made personal cars, some thousand employees under me, palace like the premise, lines of women besides Helen-like beautiful wife. Yet am I not a successful person?”

The philosopher, who has his seat face to face with the host, places his right hand on the table and repeats what he said earlier, “No, Friend, I think you are neither a happy nor a successful person. Instead, you are one of the unhappiest and probably the most unsuccessful people of this mortal earth.”

Everybody of the invitees looks at him obliquely. The host seems to be exasperated. One among his associates, who was silent till the time, opens up his mouth and says, “Don’t mind, sir. He is a philosopher and the philosophers are devoid of practical knowledge.” The other one, sitting behind the journalist, says, “Let the matter be left here and go to another topic.”

The professor who was sitting beside the camera-man stands up from his armchair and says, “We demand an explanation from the philosopher for his comment.”

The philosopher, who seems from the very beginning, to be always in a cold mood says, “I am ready to give the explanation for what is commented by me. Please, may I ask our honourable host one or two questions?”

The host replies, “Yes, you may ask me whatever you like.”

The philosopher begins to tell, “You say that you have everything as big business organization, cars, palace-like abode and lines of women. But my question is, ‘How many women do you enjoy in a year?’

The host looks at the philosopher something bitterly and replies, “I have not kept any record of how much women I enjoy in a year but the number would not be less than three hundred a year and I have been enjoying the like for the last twelve years.”

The philosopher looking at the gathering says, “In spite of taking the possible contraceptive devices, is there any possibility of getting pregnant any one or two women among every one hundred who undergo sexual plays?” 

Someone from the invitees replies, “Yes, according to a reliable survey led by the  U. K. there is a possibility of getting pregnant at least ten women out of a hundred in spite of taking every possible contraceptive measure.”

The philosopher resumes, “If it is true then at least three hundred sixty women have got pregnant by you within the last twelve years. Isn’t it?” 

Many of the gatherings cast their eyes downwards and nod their heads in affirmative. 

The philosopher says, “Majority of the women that become the victim of the lust of the happy and rich people, like our honourable host, belong to the classes of society who are generally poor, afflicted and wretched or out caste or who have no any social standing. And some of the children given birth to by such women through debauchery are killed after their birth and some are kept to be living. But do we know how are they brought up? We see that the male children often become thieves, drunkards, beggars, often happen to be accomplices of big crimes and some of them happen to work in the hotel or happen to live on the sympathy of the strangers. If the child is a female one, then she happens, in most time, to take up the profession of a prostitute.”

Saying so, the philosopher addresses the congregation and asks, “Have I not told the truth?”

Many of them remain silent but some nod their head and reply, “Yes, you have told the truth.”

The philosopher resumes, “Then our honourable host is the father of at least three hundred and sixty such boys and girls who are either beggars or drunkards, either thieves or mentally crazy, either waiter in a hotel or charwoman in the household of the well-to-do where they often become the victim of lust of their masters or become public prostitutes.”

The philosopher pauses a little and resumes again, “Whereas some of the children of our honourable host are beggars, some are thieves, some are mentally crazy for want of proper upbringing, some are prostitutes who have been devouring the curse, kicks, blows of many and becoming the object of disparage, then in such a state, how can a living man with sound conscience claim himself to be happy and successful in life?” 

Saying so, he looks at the congregation. Then it is seen that one of the business associates of Mr Buchanan stands up in anger and pointing to the philosopher, speaks out, “It is the philosopher that has ruined our enjoyment.” And then turning to his other mates, he resumes, “We have gathered here neither to hear the lesson of philosophy nor to develop our conscience but to enjoy the night as we like. I think the philosopher should leave us. 

The other one besides him commented, “I think the philosopher should be driven out.”

The doctor who was all the time silent now opens his mouth and says, “Let all these things go,” and calling up the waiter resumes, “Let a glass of water be fetched and pour down upon the head of the philosopher.”

The philosopher standing from his seat utters, “No need to drive me out. I am going out willingly. If anyone of you bears a sound conscience then think whether I am right or wrong.” Saying so, he deserts the party.

The host seems to be immersed in deep thought. He suddenly turns gloomy and melancholic. It seems that something has begun to disturb his mind.

Afterwards, they take their super and about 1 o’clock the party comes to an end and all have departed.

Hundred of scenes come to his mind. He remembers how much debauchery he has committed. There are certainly some cases which he can’t forget in life. How some women happen to suffer for becoming pregnant by him, how many of them implored him to get rid of his cruel crutches! Among many, particularly the scene of a Bengali maid appears to his mind incessantly. It begins to chase him. The remembrance of the case carries away his sleep. He begins to be sweat out of it. He goes to his bed late but he can’t get sleep. He tries to forget the scene but the more he tries to forget, the more it wraps him up.

The next day morning he notices himself that he has grown tall and feeble. The pang of conscience begins to kill him bit by bit, inch by inch. By the end of the week, he falls ill.

Then he is admitted to a hospital. The reputed doctors are called in for his treatment. They examined him with much care and declare, “We have found nothing in him to be called disease. But his heart is very weak. Perhaps he has been suffering from some mental shock. However, we are trying our best to cure him.”

The next day he is shifted to the Psychiatric Dept where Dr Bhargav, the renowned Indian psychiatric doctor takes the charge of treating him. He sticks to him all the time. Then he says to the patient, “Think of me to be your best friend. I am your well-wisher one. I hope you must be a cure to your problem very soon. I need your co-operation only. Please friend, would you not tell me about your secret that has been causing a disturbance in your mind?”

Mr Buchanan looks at him and gives a smile. He seems that he is eager to tell something. The doctor sits by him as if he is ready to hear something interesting from his dearest friend. Then Mr Buchanan says to him that he is suffering from a mental agony pertaining to a maid named Miss Nashiketa. The doctor says, “Tell me, friend, I am eager to know your affairs but believe me- I shall never disclose it to anyone because you are one of my best friends.”

“Is it?” 

“Yes.”

“Then I can tell you.” Saying so Mr Buchanan begins:

I embarked on my business about twelve years ago. My first business office was set up in my home city, Haryana. Then within a year, I progressed so much in the business that I wished to expand my business to Calcutta and afterwards I opened a branch at Lake Street. Then it was almost outside the main city but I foresaw that in the near future it would turn into an advantageous business place for that kind of mine. It was naturally a charming place where people frequented less, but more safe place for manufacturing my goods. Labours were found almost at a cheap rate. I had to frequent there though I employed a manager to it. Then I was a stout youth of twenty-five. As my business progressed I became more and more addicted to the satisfaction of lust. I could not spend a single night without the company of a charming maid in my bed. For one or two hundred I began to enjoy the flesh of virgin women. But one day I happened to see a girl about fourteen. She was so bewitching that if one’s eyes ever fell on her buxom body it would have been impossible to remove the eyes from hers. I began to be desirous for her at least for a night.

The next day at nine o’clock in the morning, I saw her again going towards the market. I sent my ward boy to call in her. He ran to her and said, “Madam you are asked to come in by our host.” 

She hesitantly drew up to me and looking downwards asked, “Why have you called in me, sir?”

I said, “Lass where are you going?”

She upheld her hand to the market side and replied, “I work there.”

I took the change and asked, “Would you work for me here in the office?”

“No, I am engaged in a household as a charwoman.” She replied. 

I have to get my room cleaned if you come in the evening it would also do.” I said.

She said, “O. K. then I shall come while returning home.”

I was awaiting her anxiously. At about 5 o’clock she arrived and I took straight to my bedchamber. She followed me and I silently bolted the door behind. In the outside, it was getting dark but my room was shining with the electric bulbs. Then I approached her and asked, “What is your name?”

She gave a straight answer, “My name is Nashiketa but my employer calls me by the name of Daisy. What is to do, sir? I must return home soon. “ 

“You need not do anything. I want to enjoy you, hope that you would not refuse.” Saying so, I grasped her.

“Please sir, what do you do me? I am not a spoiled girl.”

Already I hold her tight unto my chest and said, “Don’t try to get free. I shall pay you well.

She tried her utmost to get free from my clutches. “But what is a girl to a corpulent youth like me?”

She began to shriek out. Already the sun had gone down and the darkness fell on the lap of the sea. Anger came on me and I gave her a heavy blow on her head. She fell down senseless. And I began to enjoy her. After half an hour she came to sense and began to weep. After an hour I released her and offer a handsome payment of five hundred rupees to her. But she did not take and being dumbstruck she ran out of my room and disappeared in the darkness. While she did not accept the payment I thought that she might take legal action against me. But I had nothing to be afraid of the law. For some days she was not seen in the street. I thought she had shifted her working place.

But one autumn evening, after three months of the event, she came in voluntarily direct to my chamber. I looked at her and found that she had got a drastic change within these three months. She had grown tall and seemed melancholic.

I asked, “Are you, Daisy?”

She did not answer but remained silent standing on the doorway. I asked her to sit down. She turned left and approaching to me said, “Sir, what had you done me? Now I think I am pregnant. What shall I do now? We are poor? How shall I live?” saying so, she burst into weeping.

I said, “No thought. I shall do the needful.” Saying so, I instantly put out ten notes of hundred rupees and said, “Take them, go to any nursing home and get an abortion. Then all will turn o.k.”

Her weeping grew louder and said, “I will never do that.”

“Then what do you like to do?” I asked.

She kept silent and then she began to strike her head against the wall.  Anger got on me but being cool down, I began to admonish her saying that the abortion was the only means to get rid of this blemish.

She, in loud voice, began to yell and said, “No I will never do that. If you can enjoy me why can’t you marry me?”

Anger rose up to my head. I began to see darkness in my eyes. “Why should I need to marry a street girl? You prostitute.”

She kept demanding, “You must marry me.”

I thought if she would keep on demanding so then the matter would go against my status. So I called out two of my guards and ordered them to strangle her to death. Already I had put my towel to her mouth to stop her shrieking. The two guards seemed to be hesitant to act upon my order and one of them said to me, “Murder is a big crime. Please find out other means to get rid of her.”

I asked, “What can be the other means?” 

He said, “First send her away anyway and then we will think out what to do.’’

The guards interrupted me to pursue the action and took the towel out of her mouth. She was already moribund but after some time, she began to take long breath. I went out of the room ordering the two guards to do what they like to be good and safe. They said, “Keep yourself away, we will manage somehow.” 

At midnight they managed her to leave the place somehow and one of the guards suggested to me that I should stop coming to the office and the office should be shifted to another far off place instantly. Then a poor girl like her would not be able to find you out as the girl is uneducated, uncultured and naive.

Accordingly, I left the place at down and ordered my employees to shift the office with all its belonging within twenty-four hours. They shifted the office with a warlike prompt to the far off northern east of Calcutta where there was no possibility for a girl like Daisy to find out.

And the case of Daisy was left there. Already twelve years have passed. Since some days the pangs of conscience have been disturbing me incessantly. I don’t know what had happened to Daisy. Had she given birth to a child? If she did what the child was- whether the child was a male one or a female one. If he was a male one- what is he doing? Has he been provided with necessary nourishment and proper education? Or has he been left to be a street boy? Or if the child was a girl – what has she been doing? Has she been forsaken to be a prostitute? All these thoughts have been killing me bit by bit. 

The doctor asks him, “Have your story got an end here?”

The patient replied, “Yes, the story of Daisy has come to an end here. But I have about a hundred such stories to be told.”

“If it is so, then I think it is better for a man like you to die than be living.” Saying so, the doctor takes his pad and pen in hand and writes down something on it and says, “You are released. Leave the hospital promptly.”

Mr Buchanan gets on a special Maruti van with his attendants. On the midway home, he gives a loud shriek and falls swoon. Then he is taken to a nearby Nursing Home. The doctor came in and after proper examination declares, “Sorry, he is no more.” 0 0 0

 

 

The Reminiscence

On the first December evening, Pradip, one of my school days mates, suddenly arrived at my residence without any previous information. Then I was busy with my thesis entitled “Woman Psychology in Shakespeare.” I was startled at his sudden entrance.  He looked like a stout youth though he had passed the thirty anniversary of his life some ten years ago. Giving a sweet smile he asked, “Friend, how are you?”

I replied, “I am getting somehow by the good grace of the Almighty God. But what is the matter with you that you have appeared all of a sudden?”

He replied directly, “I have come to you with a proposal. Hope that you will not refuse.”

What is your proposal? Have you got a mind to get married in such a declining age?” I asked him a little humorously.

“Not so. I want to go to Sonar Ghat. I hope that you would be my company.”

“When?” I asked.

He replied, “On the 7th December.

I have a great weakness for sightseeing and hence, in spite of my engagement, I could not but complied with his proposal.

He resumed, “We must set out very early, at about 4 o’clock in the morning as it would take about six hours to reach there.”

“And who will else accompany us?” I asked.

“None else except you with me.” He replied.

Then he stood up and said, “Friend I have to go to market. So I want to leave you here. But don’t forget to get prepared early in the morning that day. I will pick you up in my car.”

I said, “O. K. But remind me by a call just before a day.”

“Certainly, I will ring you.” Saying so, he took his departure with a faint smile.

Days passed by and on the 6th December evening he reminded me with a call of our travelling and I get a little mental preparation so that I could enjoy the moments without any previous occupation. 

At about four a. m. he arrived at my house and picked me up in his new Maruti car. He himself was the driver. The car started to run on in full swing. I had never been there before so I asked him, “Where does the place fall?” He replied, “It falls about twenty kilometres northwards from the National Highway, No. 31.

At about eight a. m. we crossed the National High Way and the car turned its way northwards. As soon as we crossed the N. H. Way, the natural environment seemed to be changing minute by minute. The road runs by the side of the Sonali River. The Sonali River seemed to me to be an extraordinary river. Though the river is a natural resource of the beauty of my own land yet so far I was not acquainted with its bewitching charms. It is a river about thirty feet in a breath. The waters are sea-like blue but transparent. Its torrent is high that marks that the river is not so deep. 

The sun was shining brightly. And I felt some warmth. The road was not plastered, only some rough concrete was laid down that gave the road a craggy shape and the speed of running the car came down. The road seemed to serve as the embankment for the river. On both sides of the river, there were lines of plane trees. All seemed to be matured. Thanks to our provincial government for taking such a scheme of foresting the wild lands. As we advanced we seemed to be gone away from human society. We met no pedestrians on the way but we encountered few vans.

At about ten o’ clock my friend Pradip said, “We have reached our destination.” 

We parked our car under a banyan tree beside the road. I felt something hunger and Pradip brought out some fruits, which we purchased from a roadside shop before we crossed the N. H. Way, from the plastic bag and we ate them as our fast food of the day.

First, my eyes fell on the water of the river and saw that the sun rays had been playing hide and seek with the waves of the river. Then Pradip took my hand in his and pointing to a nearby Peepal tree said, “Let us go under that.” We walked together and reached the tree. Then Pradip said, “About fifteen years ago I came here with my parents and Padumi.”

I asked, “Who was Padumi?”

He replied, “Padumi was the only daughter of Mr Nilamani Barkakati who worked as a colleague of my father in The Public Works Departments. He happened to be our neighbour as they took to live in a rented house nears ours. We had good terms with the family. I was reading in B. Baruah College and Padumi was reading in Sandikai Girls College. We, (Padumi and I) read in the same class but in two different colleges.”

He seemed to be lost in reminiscence and I asked him, “Have you any affairs with Padumi?”

He seemed to give out a sigh and said, “Though we were neighbours, yet I had little acquaintance with Padumi till we came to this place. We came here for a picnic. Though we started early in the morning, yet we were late on the road for some unavoidable reason and we reached here at about twelve o’clock and we all felt tired and hungry. Hence, arriving here my mother and that of Padumi started to cook our food on the bank of the river under the tree. 

We began to walk ahead enjoying the wild natural scenery of the region. We walked for about half an hour by the bank of the river and enjoyed the wild garden of Nature. After a furlong ahead there was a garden of daffodils fluttering and dancing in the breeze. Enjoying them all we kept on walking ahead until we reached a hillock which rose like a cone. Beyond the hillock, the Himalayan range of mountains begins. My father and Padumi’s father wished to climb up a mountain. But Padumi and I dared not to climb that. Hence my father said, ‘You need not come with us. Return to your mothers enjoying the nearby forest. We shall come back soon.’

When they left us, we began to walk hand in hand by the river. On our way, we noticed a small lake beyond the hillock. Padumi said, “Let us go to the lake.” It was about a hundred feet way beyond the hillock. The lake was surrounded by teak trees. We sat under one. Its water was as transparent as a piece of crystal. The shoal of curve fishes were dancing and running in the water as freely as the wild fawns. Padumi suddenly said that she felt tired of walking and leaned on my chest. I, for the first time in my life, began to be thrilled with romance. I became conscious of an agitation which people call ‘love’. She shut up her eyes as if she went to sleep.  My eyes began to scrutinize her comely charms. She bore a rosy skin, buxom body, chubby cheeks, and a pair of chins like that of a peacock. Her hairs were as black as pitch. Her eyes were like that of a wild reindeer. Her nose was as sharp as the pinpoint of an arrow. Then my eyes fell on her breast, but I could not keep on my eyes on them as they seemed to be fully bloomed like red rose attracting even the most indifferent bees. I lost myself in her beauty. After some time, she opened up her eyes and said, “Pradip, let us leave the spot. There may have, in such a mid-day, some evil spirit.”

I tried to laugh away her fear. She seemed to smile looking at my eyes. Then we turned to the road to return to our mothers who were busy in preparing our food. Already two hours had passed. Both the sides of the river bore the lines of plain trees growing wildly. We happened to enjoy some wild beasts in play, and herds of deers that were grazing. Pointing to them Padumi said, “There may have tigers or lions in the forest.”

I replied, “You need not fear because in the forest of Assam there is not a single tiger except some in the Manah Sanctuary.”

Then we walked on. On her every pace she seemed to be staggering and was leaning her head on my shoulder. Her black hairs flew on my face. I felt the warmth of her breath. In her attitude, it seemed that she would give away everything if asked for. But I dared not to ask her anything about. I hesitated. In the mean time, we saw that on the other bank of the river some tribal boys were preying wild birds with catapults and stones. They seemed to be as a part of nature, wearing some rags.  We heard them be singing but we did not know what they sang as their language was not known to us. Already it was three o’ clock. We felt too much hunger. Suddenly we saw that our parents were returning and they met over us on the way. We soon walked on to the spot where we left our mothers. Reaching there, we took our feast and at about four o’clock we took to leave the place for home.”

All the more I was listening to his story and when he stopped I asked, “Did you fall in love with her?”

He replied, “Yes, I fell in love with her since then. She also loved me. We often used to meet on Sundays. But after six months, her father was transferred to Dibrughar and hence they left us bag and baggage. On the day of their departure, Padumi met me and with tearful eyes, asked me not to forget her. After a week of their shifting to Dibrughar, I received a letter from her. Then in response, I sent a letter to her. But found no reply. Then I sent another one, yet there was no answer. Then hesitantly I sent a third one. Then I received a letter, not from her, but from her mother. In that letter her mother wrote:

“Dear Pradip,

Thank you for your letters. We have received all the three letters sent by you but we regret that Padumi is not alive to reply to your letter. She had died of typhoid.” 

On hearing the sad news I wept much. Already fifteen years have passed. During these fifteen years I’ve been trying much to forget her but as much as I try to forget her so much her image becomes visible to my mind and every moment I feel that her memory is haunting me day and night. The day we came here was 7th December. And hence on every 7th of December, every year, I come to this place to commemorate her.”

Saying so, Pradip gave out a long sigh. I noticed that the sun was about to sink down on the western horizon. The cold wind was blowing. The birds in flocks were returning to their nest. 

I said to Pradip, “Look at the sky, the clouds are wandering about here and there. I think it may rain. Let us hurry up and return home.” 0 0 0

 

 

The Confession

It is almost midnight. The Rosy House is replete with kith and kin, friends and neighbours. All are in a busy and jubilant mood. The electric bulbs are shining brightly giving rise to a poetic environment. Subash has arrived with his bride followed by his attendants. After observing ritual formalities, the newly married couple i.e. Subash and his wife Arunima have entered the specially decorated room. It is the first night of their marriage, a night of poetry, emotion, and romance. The bride, entering the room, becomes much charmed that she forgets everything and falls in a dilemma about what to do. The multi-coloured electric bulbs are glimmering. In such a state Subash holds Arunima tenderly and takes her to the bed of roses. Arunima seems to be coy and hesitant. It was a spring night- neither cool nor hot. Subash looks at the Swing Clock. It was half-past one a. m. Then he, lifting the curtain, goes in and says to his wife, “Come in, Arunima. It is our first bed of roses. Let us enjoy it as we like.”

Arunima, with a little hesitation, goes to the bed and sits on a corner. Subash takes her by the arms and hugs her and says, “Arunima, we wish our married life to be a happier one and to be happier in conjugal life there are two conditions: first we must remain frank to each other and the second we must maintain honesty in all our life.”

Saying so, he looks at the shy eyes of Arunima and begins to kiss her and then addressing to her he resumes to say, “I wish to remind you that our human life is composed of some instincts: some of which are strong and some of which are weak – some are worth praised and some are worth condemned. I am also a man. I have also some weak points with some strong points. I hope that we would acknowledge our weak points without any hesitation. But among my weak points, I have the worst one. Would you like to hear? I think that you should hear it so that if you, in future happen to know them by way, you would not be sorry for all that.”

Arunima remains silent but seemed to be eager to know. Then he again coddles her, takes in a heavy breath and resumes, “Arunima, you know that I am a something successful businessman. But before I got to business I was a newspaper hawker. I did it in the Calcutta Railway Stations. Then I was an agile and shrewd youth and my hobby was to seduce the smart girls. I confess to you that I seduced as much as twelve girls in my life. But for about a year I have given up all my wickedness and adultery and since I have been expatiating for all that sins and crimes. Now I would remain only yours and yours. Hope that you would excuse my past sins.” 

Saying so, he looked at his wife and asked, “If you have any such or any love affairs, as it seems to be common to almost all the girls and boys, I wish to hear this very night from you to get rid of any future anxiety.”

Arunima, leaning towards her husband begins to tell, “Yes I have one. If you don’t mind, I would like to confess that I am a seduced bride.”

Saying so, she makes a pause and gives out a long sigh. Subash with something eagerness, asks her to continue how she happened to be seduced.

Then she resumes, “You know that I was an employee in a multinational company for five years. One day three members of our stuff- two females and a male had to go to Delhi for special training. For that, we had to reach the station at 4 o’clock in the morning. After proper arrangement, I took an auto-rickshaw that picked me up from home at 3. 30 a. m. and within thirty minutes it dropped me at the station. Then it was still night and dark. Reaching the platform, I felt safe but going there I found none except some railway officials at their office. The electric bulbs were shining well. I felt somewhat cold. My ticket was booked previously. I was waiting for the train to come. Going there, I came to know that the train was fifty minutes late and it would arrive at the station at about 5 a.m. I thought to spend minutes sitting on the stone bench near the ticket counter.  Then all of a sudden, the electric bulbs got off. All became dark. I began to be afraid of the darkness. Then I felt someone approaching me. He, all of a sudden, grabbed hold of me and wrapped up my nose with a piece of cloth. I began to lose my conscience. I tried to cry out, but I could not. Then what happened to me I did not. When I got my sense, I found myself lain in the corner of a toilet. I was bleeding. I lost my chastity. I cried much.”

Saying so, Arunima becomes silent. Subash asks her, “Did you recognize who the seducer was?”

Arunima replied, “No.”

Then Subash says, “If I tell you who he was, how would you feel?”

She seems to be askance and said, “How is it possible? How can you know him?”

Subash looked at her eyes and drawing her towards him begins to say, “Don’t think badly of me from onwards as I have confessed my sins. I make you know that the youth who seduced you were none but I myself.”

Arunima seems to be surprised. Subash resumes telling, “Arunima, you were my last victim. Though I seduced about twelve girls in life it was you in whom I got full satisfaction and since then the sense of repentance came in me and I began to dream of you. I wanted to be expiated by marrying you.”

Then Subash casting some warm kisses asks her, “Would not you forgive me?”

Arunima replied, “If you were the seducer of mine then I will like to be seduced by you all my life.”   0 0 0

 

 

The Refugee

The other night I was very late to go to bed and no sooner had I lie on the bed than I heard a female voice in my gateway calling pathetically, “O father, we are fugitive from the Utter Anchal (North region of Assam). Please show us mercy.” I was somewhat agitated as I got tired of hard labour throughout the night for my research work. I could not but opened the door of the house and was about to come out. In the meantime, we heard the same pathetic calling. Then my wife got up from the bed and asked me angrily, “Why are you going out? 

I replied, “Have you not heard? Someone is calling at the gateway.”

 My wife said, “Let us see”

Going to the gateway, we came to encounter a woman about forty with two little girl children. It was the month of January. The children were trembling bitterly in the cold weather. The woman was wearing a piece of shabby clothes. The children were almost in rags. Seeing us, the woman burst into crying. We asked them to be in. They followed us. We gave them some stale food. Though they were hungry, they could not eat. They were fear-stricken. The two children were looked aghast. The woman said, “The tribal terrorists have killed their father. None but only Bhagavan has saved us. We don’t know how we reached here. At least five villages are in ruin. Only God knows how many people have got killed.” Saying so, she again burst into tears. I asked her to be quiet. My wife ushered them to the next room and asked them to take rest. The night was advancing towards dawn.

The next morning they got up late from sleep. In the morning news, we came to know all about what had happened to the north region of Assam. A neighbour had come to my house and informed us that some other people had taken shelter in the house of the village head.

When the woman got up from sleep it was eight o’clock. I asked my wife to take care of them with whatever they needed and set out for my office.

When I came back home it was about eight o’clock. All had already taken their super. The woman seemed to be somewhat quiet. I asked her, “How many members are there in your family?”

She said, “We were five- my husband, I and three daughters. The elder was Maria.” No sooner did she pronounce the name of her elder daughter she seemed to be choked and could not continue talking.

Then after some time, she resumed, “We are all born poor. We have nothing except a piece of land used as our abode. My husband was a labourer. He though turned weak, earned hour living by carrying goods for the shopkeepers. We have been living there for about twenty-five years. My elder daughter was about sixteen years of age. She was, though poor born, fair looking. But…”

Saying so, she gave out a deep sigh and resumed, “One night, all of a sudden, some terrorists in the dress of Central Reserved Police Force appeared in our courtyard fully armed with rifles on their shoulders. We all choked at. They asked for my husband who had just returned from his work.  Then the leader offered a letter to my husband and said, ‘You are our tenant. You must pay us twenty thousand rupees as tax. After a week we will come again to take the said amount. My husband with a trembling voice said, “Please save us. We are poor.” But without wasting a word they departed.’

After a week, about ten o, clock at night they came again. The leader of the band asked for the said amount. My husband fell on their feet and said, ‘Please leave us. We are very poor. We hardly can manage…’ He could hardly finish his saying that the leader gave a violent kick on the back of my husband. He fell down senseless. They rushed towards me and ordered, ‘You must pay by any means.’ I said, ‘We have nothing except this piece of land. Take hold of this and save us.’ But they began to roar like lion and caught hold of my elder daughter, Maria and said, ‘You must pay the said amount of money otherwise you would lose your daughter.’  Ordering so, they rode on their car and departed. I could hear the loud shriek of my daughter form the courtyard.

We tried our best to collect the said amount of money as ransom for Maria but could not.  After three months of this event, they suddenly attacked not only a family but all the neighbouring villages, perpetrated massacre and set fire on our houses. O, my poor Maria…” saying so, she fell into a swoon. 

Then it was half past ten. I came out and looked up and saw that not a single star was in the sky, the heaps of black clouds were roaring with frequent lightning.  0 0 0

 

 

The Sense of Sin

The time is evening. The morning sun is about to take rest beyond the western sky. The evening yellow light of the sun has fallen faintly in the courtyard of the old man named Harsha Dev. He is a septuagenarian widower. The sound of loud coughing can be heard outside from the street which comes out through the throat of the old man repeatedly at short intervals. He is lying on his bed- once leaning towards his left and then to his right. It seems that he is stirring out either of physical illness or for some mental anxiety. Since some days he has been troubled in his mind but he is unable to find out the exact cause of it. He always feels feverish and often gives out deep warm sighs. In his family, there are only three members. One is he and the others are Nilim and Juli. Nilim is his only son, now aged about thirty. But he is not at home. After being married he has left home for the town where he earns his living by means of driving a rickshaw. Juli is a girl of about twenty. She lost her mother while she was about two years of age. She was born to Harsh Dev at his fifties. She is still a spinster. Juli is the only attendant to the old man. 

Night falls on. The poor old man becomes more restless. He keeps on lying on the bed stirring to and fro. His daughter, Juli brings him a plate of sago soup and a cup of milk and says to his father, “Take them, father.”

He replied, “No, I’ll not eat anything. I feel no hunger.”

Juli said, “You must eat something as long as your end does not come.”

He, leaning on the pillow, begins to ruminate his past and tries to search out the cause of his mental anxiety. He remembers his childhood, his adulthood and his youthhood and all the scenes come visible in the mirror of his mind. He remembers how he was forced by his father to leave school and how he was sent to the house of Mr Nripen to work as a page boy. Nripen was a school inspector who came from a well-to-do family. He was happy working in the house of the inspector and the host was also satisfied with his works. He was good and dutiful and did his duty with much care and attention. Later on, he was upgraded to the position of a steward. He served the household of Nripen for about thirty years at a stretch. He tries to jog every memorable moment of his life. Once, his master presented him with a new pair of dress, wearing which he got the most satisfaction. In the year of the great flood, his master gave him a bonus of five rupees for taking special care of the fish pond. Thus, one after the other, many memorable events come to his mind. But among them, recollecting a certain one, he suddenly gets startled and again his mental agitation gets increased. He then comes to realize that the cause of his agitation is his sense of sin that he compelled to commit about thirty years ago. With the remembrance of it, he becomes more unsteady and restless. Then he determines that he must confess his sin to his master to get rid of his anxiety. He calls out his daughter and says, “Juli, take me to Mr Nripen. I want to meet him.”

Juli replies, “Father, how is it possible? You are too weak to walk.”

The poor old man says, “I’ll be able to if you help me.” Saying so, he tries to stand up. But his whole body begins to tremble. His daughter says, “Father, it is night now. Wait till the morning.”

The old man gives out a deep, warm sigh and asks his daughter to give him a glass of water. Juli gave him the cup of milk which she kept on the tool earlier. He drinks to the last drops and seems to be a little calm. Already it was midnight. Juli said, “Father, try to have some sleep now. We will set out for the house of Mr Nripen early tomorrow morning.” Saying so, she goes to her bed and sleeps. 

The next morning the old man gets up early and prepares to visit the house of Mr Nripen in order to meet him. He takes his sal stick in his hand and his daughter takes him by the arms and thus they walk on. The house of Mr Nripen was about two kilometres away, about twenty minutes path from their house. But it takes about two hours, as at the end of every furlong the old man takes rest for fifteen minutes. At about eight o’clock in the morning, they reach the house. Going there they meet Mr Nripen on the veranda. He is sitting on an armchair with a stick beside him. He looks senile, weak and decrepit. His eyesight has almost gone. Entering the gate Harsha gives out a cough and approaches Mr Nripen, who looks up and asks, “Who is?”

The old man replied, “I am, your Harsha, sir.”

Mr Nripen gets no problem in recognizing him from his voice and he seems to be glad meeting him in such a time and in such a state. Then he calls out Misi, the household maid, to bring in two chairs and asks addressing to Harsha, “How are you.”

“Sir, I am well.” 

Then they talk about their household affairs. They talk of their earlier days when both were active and strong enough to fight the world. They talk of their sons and daughters and so on. After that Harsha begins, “Sir, my condition has been deteriorating day by day. All the hope for life has left me. The only thing that I have been aspiring for is death. But when the Angel of Death would show his hand none but only God knows. For some years I have been suffering from whooping cough and dyspepsia.”

“Why, have you not taken treatment?”

“No. Why should I need to take treatment in such a decrepit age?” Saying so, he opens up his mouth and takes up a long breath and resumes, “Sir, for some days I have been suffering from mental anxiety. At first, I could not find out the main cause of that anxiety. But at last, I have found out that it is the sense of sin that I committed while I was in your house.”

Being anxious Mr Nripen asks, “What was it that leads you to sufferance?”

The old man resumes, “Sir, Have you remember the year in which a riot arose in our land between the natives and the migrators?”

“Yes, it was about thirty years ago.”

In that year a she-child was born to me. She was my elder child. When she became three months old, she was affected by pneumonia. I was not in a position to give her proper treatment. The wage you gave me could hardly enough to manage my family. I did not dare to ask some more from you. But I felt so affectionate to my child that in any way I wanted to get her treated. In the mean time, one day I happened to see a bundle of rupees on your table. Then, despite my unwillingness, I was compelled to take away a ten rupee note in order to treat my child. But God was not willing to save her. After suffering some days she died.”

Then he breaks into tears and resumes again, “Sir, had I known that she would not get well, then I would never steal that note. Sir, for some days I have been suffering extremely from the sense of sin. Please, sir, forgive me and bless me so that I can have a peaceful death.” Saying so, he breaks forth into weeping again and stands up with labour, goes a step towards Mr Nripen and bows his head downs to the feet of his master.

Then Mr Nripen takes him up by the arm and replies, “No, Harsha, you need not do so. Bhagavan would forgive you, I have no grudge against you, nor do I think badly of you. You were my most trustworthy person. You gave me full satisfaction with your work. I am also sorry that I had not helped you in such a calamity. Please forgive me too.”

Then Misi serves them tea with banana. After that Harsha takes leave of Mr Nripen with tearful eyes. On the way, he feels hot as the sun shines brightly but he is calm now.  0 0 0

 

 

The Street Boy Who Turned Honest

It was about 9 a. m. I was standing under the Poinciana tree beside the bus stoppage and was in wait for my van to arrive which was to carry me to my institute. Suddenly a boy about fourteen approached to me. He was wearing an almost worn out long pants and a blue-spotted shirt and was looked shabby. His complexion was dark. His hair was black but entangled. It was a day of summer. The sun was shining heavily and the people who were standing on the bus stoppage for their destined carriage seemed to be unsteady because of the humid heat of the sun. The boy effacing the drops of sweat from his forehead with the forefinger of his right hand came close to me and accosted, “Sir, please do you need a page boy for your household work?”

I asked, “Who are you? How do you know me?”

He replied, “I am Larry. I know you, sir. You are a teacher.”

I retorted, “How have you come to know that I am a teacher?”

He replied, “I have come to know you to be a teacher from the facts that I see you every day, except the Sundays, here in the bus stoppage, waiting for your school van to come. It is a time when the teachers usually go to their schools as routine work. Secondly, you carry a pen in your shirt- pocket as the teachers accustomed to doing. Thirdly, some days I have heard you be addressed as ‘sir’ by some students.” 

I looked at the boy and from his talk, I come to the conclusion that the boy might be a shrewd boy with some intelligence. I asked him, “Where is your whereabouts?”

He, holding his right hand up towards the north, replied, “I live in a shed house there at the back of the temple.”

I asked, “Where is your present engagement?”

He gave a plain answer, “Nowhere.”

I asked again, “What are the works you can do?”

He replied, “If you instruct me, maybe, I would be able to do any household work such as- shoe polishing, sweeping, washing, sentry, marketing, gardening etc.”

“Have you any previous experience?”

‘Something, sir.”

“What are your parents?” I asked.

He, lowering his head down, replied, “I have neither mother nor father. Both are dead.”

I asked, “Then who is your guardian?”

He answered, “One of my far off aunts is my guardian. I have heard from my aunt that my father was a Panjabi driver who left my mother when I was in my mother’s womb. And my mother died just a week after my birth. Then I was adopted by a woman whom I call ‘aunt’.”

I asked, “Do you go to school?”

He replied, “No, sir.”

“What do you do at home?”

He gave a direct answer, “I do nothing at home. But my aunt sends me to roam over the town in order to pilfer the trifling.” All day along I steal something from the market and submit them to my aunt at night and then she gives me food. If a day I fail to steal, she deprives me of taking food.”

“Then you are a professional thief, isn’t it? I asked’

He replied, “Just not so. I am compelled to do so.”

I retorted, “If you are a professional thief then why do you want to work for me?”

I want to work for you for just two reasons. First, I hate stealing. Second, Jennie gets angry with me for my acts of stealing.”

I asked, “Who is Jennie?”

He told, “Jennie is an orphan like me. She has lost both his father and mother in her childhood. She is taken up by one of her aunt from her mother side. They live to the south corner of the town. She is about ten years old.”

I asked, “What is your relation with her?”

He said, “We have no blood relation with each other. I just like her.”

“Do you love her?”

“Yes, I love her. But she has been getting angry with me since last month when she came to know that I am pilferer and she repudiated to receive my Christmas Present that I offered her. And she said that she would not love me if I don’t give up stealing.”

I was astonished at his frank and straightforward answer. Already the school van arrived and I asked him to meet me tomorrow evening at 4’ o clock.

The next day I got down from the school van at about 4.15 p. m. and found that he was waiting for me. When I looked at him he gave a most appealing smile and approached to me. 

I asked him direct, “Do you truly like to work?”

“Yes, sir. I want to do honest work.”

I asked, “Would your aunt allow you to leave her for me?”

“She may object but I would not hear her because I want to be a good boy.”

I thought if he had a guardian it would not see good to take him without his guardian’s permission. Hence I wished to visit his aunt. But he said, “It would not be possible to meet her now as she works at people’s house or roams over here and there and returns home after nine o’ clock at night.”

Then I said, “Go home and seek her permission and then if she allows you to go with me then I shall take you tomorrow to my home.”

When I said so he suddenly turned gloomy and became silent. I was about to leave him then he said, “Please sir…”

But I did not hear him and left him instantly because I had to go to the bank.

The next day, I took him to my home and allowed him to sleep in the guest room. My family is a small one. We are four in our family-I the host, my wife the hostess and two children- one boy about ten and a daughter about eight. We are self-dependent. We do our household works ourselves. I have taught my children to be so. Hence generally we don’t need a servant for household works. First, my wife expressed her unwillingness to keep Larry as a page boy. But when I said that he is an orphan then my wife seemed not to be obstinate.

Days passed by and Larry proved to be utterly ignorant of the ways of life. He did not know how to eat, drink, and sleep; not how to dress or how to maintain cleanliness. I put him to work in the garden for removing the grasses and for tending the saplings. But he worked waywardly and very clumsily.

Then I realized that to get good service form him I must give him basic teachings of life. Then I used to devote an hour every day for him. First I taught him the importance of observing cleanliness, the importance of healthy eating, sleeping and honest ways of life. I bought him two pairs of dresses and instructed him how to wear them, how to wash them and how to like them. Then I taught him why to sleep and how to get sound sleep. Thus step by step he turned into a fine, good and healthy boy. Then I began to teach him the alphabets and within three months he became able to read the simple sentences.

Already ten months passed by. One morning, while I was about to leave home for school, he came to me and said, “Please, sir…” he seemed to be hesitant and resumed, “Sir, would you give me fifty rupees, Please?” 

I asked, “Why?”

He said hesitantly, “Sir tomorrow is Christmas Day. I would like to buy a present for my Jennie.”

I smiled within myself and asked, “What would you like to buy for Jennie with fifty rupees?”

He said, “Something like a chemise or a gown.” 

I said, “You would not get a chemise for such a price. You need not be bothering with it. I shall just buy something for your Jennie, would it not be?”

“It would be, sir.” He replied.

The next morning, he seemed to get up earlier than usual. At the time of taking breakfast, he came to me. Then I declared to him, “From the following January you will be given a regular salary of one thousand rupees per month.”

He looked to be astonished and said, “Would it, Sir?”

I said, “Yes.” Saying so, I drew out two packages from the drawer and offering one to him said, “Here is a pair of shirt and long pants for you.”

And then offering the second package I said, “Here is a pair of dresses for your Jennie worth rupees six hundred.”

Larry took them in hand and gave a sweet smile and begged leave for the day.

Then he, wearing the new pair of a dress with satisfaction, ran off to Jennie and on the way, he thought he would call on Jennie under the Banyan tree at the back of the temple and offer the present and tell her, “Jennie don’t be angry with me. Here is a present for you bought with my honest earning. Receive it and love me.” 0 0 0

 

 

 The Portrait of A Venture School Teacher

The term ‘Venture School Teacher’ is a queer phrase made up of three known words. You will find the term in no dictionary-neither in English nor in any other Indian languages nor in other standard or vernacular world languages, nor do you find the use of this term in any other states of India except in the official documents of Assam. It is a peculiar invention of the some broad-minded, long-handed, highly intelligent, higher educated, far-sighted, well-experienced, big-headed, powerful aristocratic Government officials of Assam, a north-eastern state of greater India and this strange phrase prove how fertile and creative the Assamese Government officials are who have been holding tight the mechanism of governing the naive people of the land since the time of independence! The term ‘Venture School’ is invented to refer to a class of schools which have been established by the general public at their own expenses, feeling the dire necessity of educating the age-long illiterate nation, after the permission of the Government. Initially, the government gives cheerful opening permission and then remains, indifferent and blind to them. This class of schools is deprived of any government aid, land grant, building and other facilities; the children are denied to provide with a mid-day meal and the teachers are pathetically deprived of their salary years after years. There are about two thousand such venture schools in Assam. About half of the total children of the state take their education in such schools. 

Ashad is such a venture school teacher. He is born to poor peasant parents living in a village. He is an M. A. in English. And after passing the Post Graduate Examination he devoted himself to the mission of educating the poor village children and hence he has been teaching in J. K. Higher Secondary School since 1997. By the by one decade and seven years have passed. Within this period of seventeen years, he has suffered a lot. His school is about eighteen kilometres away from his home. Every day he has to spend fifty rupees as bus fare. The first two years he could manage the fare somehow. But from his third year, he could not. Since then he takes to walk on foot to his school. It takes about two hours to reach his school on foot and another two hours for his return journey. His financial condition is so forlorn that despite his much endeavour he fails to purchase a bicycle. Every year he hopes that the government would come to sense and appreciate the plight of the venture school teachers. But his hopes get dry within his heart. Just before the constituency election, the existing government promises to provincialize these schools after the election and when the election is over the government forgets the existence of those schools. Thus months after months, years after years the venture school teachers have been becoming the victim of the false promises of the government.

Ashad is an early riser as he is the only working person of his family. His family is comprised of two children- Asha and Nisha, his old mother and Ashad himself. His wife Munami has left him after the birth of his two children. Munami is the only daughter of a high school teacher. Until her marriage, she was unacquainted to poverty. First three years of their conjugal life, she remained with her poor husband biting her teeth. But in the fourth year, after giving birth to two children, she lost all her hope to be happy with poverty-stricken Ashad and left her husband leaving the two children behind with their father. Since then all the burdens, including the burden of the two children, fell solely on Ashad himself. Already fourteen years have passed. His wife had remarried off with a wealthy widower. Since then Ashad has been living like a bachelor. His two daughters have got maturity. For want of means, they have been deprived of giving proper education. Every day he imagines of his wife and gets disappointed. Sometimes he thinks that if his school gets provincialised, then his poverty would come to an end and then he would provide his children with adequate education, he would get remarried and live a happy life. As the skylark keeps gaping up her mouth for the rain to quench her thirst so he keeps waiting to get his school provincialised.

Ashad, on a Monday morning, after performing household duties, makes hurry to get ready to go to School. He holds his long pants and shirt in his hand from the hooks and is about to wear them. But he finds that the chain of his pants has got stuck. Moreover, the thigh of the pants has worn out. Such is the condition of his shirt. This pair of dress was bought from a second-hand garment shop about seven years ago. Every day, when he goes on wearing the dress, he feels the urgency of replacing this pair of dress. But the chance has never turned up. He falls in a dilemma and thinks what to do. Then he takes a needle in his hand and tries to patch the pants but he fails. Already he hears a loud roaring and thundering of the cloud and it begins to rain heavily. He feels the need for an umbrella. But how can an umbrella be had by him whereas he can hardly buy food? His mind ceases to work. He lies long on his pallet. He closes his eyes and he sees that he is in the sea of darkness and he has no strength left to swim across the sea. Then from the other room his elder daughter calls out, “Father, it is ten o’clock. Will you not go to School today?” But there was no reply. Then she goes on to her father’s room and finds that he is lying headlong on his bed. She calls her father again in a loud voice but still, there was no reply. Then she touches her father, gives a jerk on his arm. But neither does he seem to move nor stir. He is already dead. 

His two daughters along with the old mother begin to make a loud outcry. The neighbouring people come. Among them, an old man turns the head of the deceased, throws his eyes over the visage and utters, “Miserable venture school teacher, you deserve such a death.”  0 0 0

 

The End

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Short Story.