Hello World! – part 6, the last part

Suddenly some changes were noticed by few people who always smell foul in everything around them. Kalu was seen in good clothes, from his face it was realized that he was well fed and his hair looked well combed and beard was trimmed. His brothers who lived in the same large house built by their father had started living in separate quarters after their parents’ death. They had their separate kitchens and separate electric meters and they were not in good terms among themselves. While further probing it was realized that there was competition among his brothers to become closer to Kalu and each and every of his brothers suddenly started talking to him, their wives started feeding him good food, and his nephews and nieces also joined their parents. While probing further it was realized that each brother was trying to get Kalu’s share of the ancestral property in his name, and they were in a race about who could get it first. People in the neighborhood realized that if any of his brother could ever become successful in acquiring Kalu’s share of the property then Kalu would not have any place to sleep at night and the villagers would not only have to provide him food but also to find a room for him to sleep at night. Few of them went to the local police station and informed the officer-in-charge about their suspicion. The very next day the officer visited Kalu’s house, he also called those people who visited the police station the day before and in their presence threatened his brothers about the serious consequences they would face if they ever tried to deprive their brother of his due share. It was a terrible shame for Kalu’s brothers. As it was expected, immediately after receiving the threat from the police his brothers and their families did not see Kalu’s face again. However, how much that mattered to Kalu was unknown.

Everyone started taunting his brothers, their wives and even their children were not spared. His brothers realized that complaining to the police would not help as their evil intention was already exposed and they suddenly realized that since their father did not make any will before his death, their only sister who was married should also receive equal share of the property. When everybody in the neighborhood went against them it became impossible for them to stay any longer in the house and they left the house one after another leaving Kalu alone. Since nobody was there to pay the electricity bills, the power was cut. Soon the large house started looking like a haunted house where Kalu used to sleep alone at night.

Immediately after hearing the suicide attempt by Kalu, Shravanti’s family moved out of the village. People had no complaint against that family as they realized that Kalu had no income and there was no hope that he could do anything in life. But her parents never wanted their daughter to hear about Kalu from anyone in the neighborhood when she would come to visit her mother.

Gradually people forgot how handsome Kalu looked, how pleasant his voice was when he used to sing. Of course they did not know that he was also a poet as he used to write poetry only for one person, the woman he loved.

It was this Kalu whom my friend Tapan greeted with his first ‘hello’.

But in spite of this bizarre first attempt, Tapan still greets others by ‘hello’ every day. Whenever I call him the first word he utters is ‘hello’.
As for me, I do not know whom I first greeted with the word probably it was while talking to somebody on the phone.

Kalu died few years after I graduated. He died from some liver disease, he was even taken to a doctor and some minimal care was also provided but that probably was not enough.

Shravanti’s best friend got married a year after Shravanti’s marriage and she started living in a faraway place with her husband and nobody received any further information about Shravanti or her family.
Shravanti found the love of her life in her husband and immediately after marriage she resumed her education.
Nobody knows if she still hates Phillip Ray, the miller’s only son and if she has forgiven Annie Lee.

************* THE STORY ENDS HERE **************

Hello World! – part 5

Few days after Shravanti and her husband returned from Goa she visited her mother’s house with her husband. He drove his family car while she was sitting beside him. Kalu knew about their visit through her best friend. The physical abuse he had received in the mango orchard was still fresh in his memory and he did not want the same experience to be repeated. He was hiding behind a bush at a safe distance from her house. He was expecting her to look very unhappy and thought she must have pined away thinking about him all the time. He imagined tears rolling down her cheeks, black mark around her eyes &c. As soon as their car arrived he saw the couple got down from the car, she looked gorgeous and extremely happy, her shampooed hair was flying gently in the morning bridge, there was radiant smile all over her face, the golden morning sun made her golden colored skin even more golden, he found her husband very handsome too and looked equally happy, she was explaining something to her husband with a smiling face and he was all ears and nodding his head at regular interval. Kalu realized that there was no hope that she would ever comeback in his arms again and he disappeared immediately. Nobody had seen him for few days and nobody cared to notice him either even Shravanti’s best friend did not bring any message from Shravanti for him.

“Kalu has committed suicide”, there was a clamour all over the neighborhood. It was about a week after Shravanti had visited her mother after returning from Goa. Everybody started running towards Kalu’s house where he tried to kill himself locking his bedroom from inside.
In the morning when his father could not get any response even after repeatedly calling him, his brothers broke open the door and found his body lying on the floor of his bedroom. There was dry blood all over the floor. A rope was tied around his neck. It was soon realized that Kalu tried to hang himself from a ceiling fan hook in his bedroom but the rope broke and he fell but while falling his head banged against a wooden furniture and it started bleeding. He became unconscious due to excessive bleeding from severe head injury. But nobody was sure for how long he remained lying unconscious. He was rushed to a nearby hospital.

Kalu survived after struggling with life for almost two weeks. But the head injury caused a permanent damage on him, he could not recognize anybody whom he knew before and he was not able to communicate with anyone in a meaningful manner. Every person, whether an adult male or a female he saw he started calling the person by Shravanti and his immediate and only question was – Shravanti when did you come? The incident acted like a terrible shock to his parents. His father died after few months and his mother followed her husband immediately after. His brothers, who were married and had children and lived in the same house moved on with their lives. Kalu roamed around during the day and at night slept in the same room where he tried to commit suicide. His brothers ignored him completely and people in the neighborhood used to provide him food, twice a day, sometimes people used to offer him a cup of tea or some tiffin and when he started stinking people used to give him a bath in a lake. When his clothes looked tattered people offered him some used clothes which were still in good condition.

Hello World! – part 4

The day after her marriage when she first stepped into her in-laws’ house, she was surprised to see that every man in the house was handsome and healthy and every woman was breathtakingly beautiful, just like her own parents’ family.

She had to first seek blessings from her husband’s grandmother, a widow in her eighties and the oldest member in the family. She was a very beautiful old woman but what surprised her most was the serenity in her face. When everybody else had left her room she asked the bride to sit in front of her. As soon as the old lady looked into her eyes, tears started rolling down Shravanti’s cheeks. The old woman held her tightly in her arms. That immediately reminded Shravanti of her mother. Whenever she was in a pensive mood her mother would understand immediately by looking into her eyes, she would stop whatever she was doing and held her in her arms and let her cry till she felt good. In the arms of the ‘just met’ old woman she felt the same comfort as her mother and she could not control her tears. As her grandmother-in-law started rubbing her hand against her back and pressed her cheek against the bride’s head the rate of flow of tears only increased. But after sometime she realized that she was able to think again, after a very long time she was able to think with her heart as well as her mind. “Who is this old woman to me? Still how much she is caring for me? How could she be so selfish to hurt this old woman’s feelings and causing shame to the family? How much her younger sister loved her? Whenever she missed any class in the university her sister used to copy her class notes always with a smile and without a complaint. When she would go to her mother’s house she would definitely help her sister in her studies”. She remembered how much her younger brothers loved her, always wanted to see her happy. How much hard work is needed to get a Ph. D., she started thinking again, probably her husband had sacrificed many hours of sleep and worked very hard to get his Ph. D. Probably she should also continue with her education as suggested by her husband when she came to meet her before marriage. How much her father and mother loved her and how much she made them cry. How is her mother now? How is her father? Are they worried about her now? She wanted to run to her parents for once and tell them not to worry about anything, being their daughter she could not be selfish. She wished she could have two wings so that she could fly to them and tell them not to cry anymore for her.

“Ma-er katha mone portache?” (Are you thinking of your mother?), her chain of thoughts were interrupted by her grandmother-in-law’s words and she started sobbing again. But soon her intelligence got hold of her emotions.

“Thakurma apne kemon achen?” (Grandma, how are you?), she asked with her natural smile. She realized that she had shed so much tears that the old woman would need to change her blouse immediately. “amar chokher jole apner blouse ekdom bhijja utche” (Your blouse got wet in my tears), she said in an apologetic tone.

“It is all right. Take some rest tonight, tomorrow guests will start coming from early morning and it will be a very hectic day”, the old lady told with a smile in her face.

The next day in the late evening after the guests had left she met her newly-wed husband in their bedroom. He could realize for the first time the sadness in her eyes. “Tomare khub dukhi lagtase, ami ki na buijha kichu koia phelaichi” (You look sad, did I say something wrong unwittingly), he wanted to know.
“na seirokom kichu hoi nai” (It is nothing like that), she said with her head down as she was trying to avoid eye contact with him.

“tomare ek khan kotha kohoner chilo” (I wanted to ask you something), her husband’s words suddenly turned her stiff. She had no clue what he would ask. Does he know about his past affair, she wondered. The affair had become past for her, and all she could pray that nobody should know about her past. She remained seated with her head down and struggling to remain calm even though she realized that she had almost stopped breathing.

“tumi amare nam dhoira daiko” (please call me by my first name), she thanked thirty three million gods and goddesses for hearing something so benign and so sweet from him instead of anything unpleasant. Her tension was suddenly released but she was still able remain calm and to hide the sudden joy. “Oma swami re keu nam dhoira dake naki?” (Oh my God, why should a woman call her husband by his first name?), she said while realizing that hiding anxiety and fear is difficult but what is far more difficult is to hide the joy which is the result of sudden annihilation of fear and anxiety.

“Tomar mukhe amar nam sunte khub bhalo lagbo, parbana tumi amar nam dhoira dakte?” (I would really like to hear my name from your mouth. Do you think you can call me by my name), he again tried to persuade her.

“Nischoi parmu” (sure I can), she looked straight at his eyes, tears of joy were rolling down her cheeks and she made no effort to hide her happiness anymore.

The next day the couple started for their honeymoon to Goa. But they had their first stopover at Bombay. They visited Elephanta caves, Film City, Bombay Museum and many other interesting places. Since her husband was familiar with the city he became her guide. It took her no time to realize that the actual Bombay had no resemblance with the city she had imagined. The crowd of the city looked terrifying to her.

Hello World! – part 3

In a weeks’ time from the incidence her marriage was fixed. Her parents explained to her repeatedly why she should forget Kalu who had no future. Her mother explained to her that if she had eloped with Kalu to Bombay it would have created a bad name for their family and as its consequence they would not be able to find a suitable groom for her younger sister when she would finish her education. Shravanti felt that she had never hated her younger sister more than before. When her father told that the proposed groom is having a Ph. D. in science and working as a professor at a reputed university, she decided that for the rest of her life she would hate anybody having a Ph. D. She threatened to commit suicide but when her mother started wailing she did not dare to utter the word again. She threatened that she would tell the proposed groom when he would come to meet her in person about her affair with another man and that she was being forced into the marriage and therefore he should not even consider marrying her. Again her mother’s bitter cry prevented her from thinking about it again. Finally she wrote a letter for Kalu asking him to wait for her at the Howrah railway station, the date and time she would inform immediately after her marriage. From the Howrah station they would take the train to Bombay where he would work in Film Industry and they would live happily forever. Her best friend delivered the letter to Kalu.

The proposed groom came to see her with one of his university colleague, who was also a bachelor. Her mother and aunt helped her to dress for the occasion. The boy was mesmerized with her beauty and her eyes, which were clearly sending a signal of extreme sorrow was interpreted as ‘extremely beautiful’ by the proposed groom and his friend. The man decided to marry her and he also requested if she could continue her studies after the marriage. Her father’s face was lightened up because he never wanted any interruption in his daughter’s education but her mother considered that as ‘not a good idea’. “Biar par maiagor ar poroner ki prayojan?” (Why does a girl need to study further after her marriage?), her mother discouraged the idea as soon as it was proposed. Like her husband she was also in favor of her daughter’s education but she feared that Kalu might try seeing her in the university campus and spoil her married life and causing shame to both the families.

The proposed groom left without further argument. The date of marriage was fixed.

Hello world – part 2

Kalu did not know how to start working in the Bombay film industry but he thought he would go to Bombay and as soon as he would reach the railway station he would ask for the direction to the Film City. He was confident that he would be very successful because of his handsome look, great voice and his ability to sing. When he shared his plan with Shravanti she thought that was a great idea and she started dreaming that they would live in a small house in Bombay, Kalu would work in the Film Industry either as a singer or as an actor, in the evening when her husband would return home she would recite her all-time favorite poem ‘Enoch Arden’ to him while in his arms and he would listen to her recitation while slowly smoking a cigarette and making perfect rings of smoke. She had started dreaming herself as Annie Lee of Alfred Tennyson’s poem and Kalu as Enoch Arden and decided that she would not tolerate any injustice to her Kalu. Since the time she had read the poem she openly hated Philip, the other character of the poem, always considered Philip as an opportunist, a person with no courage, and a kind of scavenger. She also secretly hated Annie and decided that she would set things right with her own life otherwise she would not be able forgive herself. Of all the great qualities that Kalu possessed, the thing she admired the most was the rings of smoke he used to make while smoking a cigarette. She imagined each ring of smoke being metamorphosed into a garland of flower and slowly coming down towards her.

Both of them tried to keep their affair a watertight secret. Every day in the afternoon when she met Kalu in a large mango orchard little far from her house he read a new poem which he had composed just for her the night before. She always admired his God gifted voice when he sang in her ears. It did not matter to her whether he would be successful in Bombay Film Industry or not because she knew she could spend the rest of her life happy and satisfied listening to his poems and songs, she did not want anything more in her life.

It was one such late afternoon, she had already finished listening to his latest poem, listened few romantic songs and after having endless chatter she was about to leave for her home and as a last ritual for the day he was kissing her, lifting her face a little by holding gently with his both hands while her eyes remained closed; even at the moment of euphoria her ears could send a signal of heavy footsteps and before she could completely open her eyes she felt her one hand was tightly held by a strong man. She recognized it was her maternal uncle, her mother’s youngest brother, an amateur boxer but otherwise known to be a kind person, who always cared for his sister, his brother-in-law and their children. With his other strong hand he was holding the neck of Kalu. As soon as he separated both of them apart, he kicked Kalu with such an enormous force that he fell at a distance. “Mama ore mairona, ore chara ami bachumna” (Uncle please do not beat him, I cannot live without him) she started begging to her uncle not to be cruel. “Tui chup kar, ei shuar ta re ami thiik koirai charum” (You shut up. I will teach this swine a good lesson today) her uncle scolded her while still holding her with one hand so that she could not stand in between her uncle and Kalu.

As soon as Kalu came out of the terrible shock he stood up and started running as fast as he could. “Shuarer pola amar bhagnir dike ar ekbar chokh tuila takaibi to tor hath ar pa kaitta janto kabor dia thumu” (Son of a swine if you ever dare to look at my niece again I will cut your limbs and bury you alive) her uncle shouted from behind while Kalu was running for life.

[to be continued…….]

Hello World!

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The above two words became very popular among computer programmers when the programming language ‘C’ (pronounced as ‘see’) became popular in the mid-eighties.

I first came to know about ‘C’ from my friend Amitavo Datto who even presented to me his personal copy of the book written by Kernighan and Ritchie.

As an example to demonstrate the syntax of the programming language the authors explained one simple program in which the two words ‘hello world’ was written on the computer screen. Since then many other computer programming languages used the same two words to demonstrate how their programming language syntax works.

But the first word of the title of this story was a real nightmare during the final year of my high school days when my friend Tapan and I started realizing that immediately after high school we would have to go to college where the medium of instruction would be English and there would be occasions where at least few greeting words like ‘hello’, ‘how are you’, ‘good morning’ &c should come out of our mouths.

We two decided to start with the simple word ‘hello’. We started saying ‘hello’ to each other every time we met and we felt no difficulty at all but when each one of us tried to say ‘hello’ to a stranger each one of us felt that the tongue has become too heavy. It is worth mentioning here that saying even a single English word with a Bengali was considered as ‘showing off’ during those days. However between the two of us it was my friend Tapan who could say ‘hello’ to a stranger much before I could.
It was a windy winter evening in the month of January. Tapan was coming back from a local grocery store. His upper body including his head and the most part of his face was covered with a woolen shawl. He suddenly found another person, also covered in a cloth like him was coming from the opposite direction. He immediately made up his mind to say ‘hello’ to the approaching stranger which he thought would help him to come out of his English speaking phobia.

As soon as the stranger had just crossed him Tapan muttered ‘hello’ and started walking faster to avoid any further conversation. He realized that he had started sweating.

The stranger stopped, turned his head towards my friend and said,”shravanti, kobe ele ekhane?” (Shravanti, when did you come here?).

My friend realized that the receiver of the greeting was an insane person which everybody called by ‘pagla kalu’ (the insane Kalu). Pagla Kalu who could be either in his late 40s or early 50s lived all alone in a large, ramshackle house. He roamed around everywhere in the village with tattered and dirty clothes, with unkempt hair and untrimmed beard, and his skin was dark and dirty. People used to provide him food regularly out of kindness and when he looked very dirty and started stinking they gave him a bath in a lake. Tapan had heard from others that during his late teens or early twenties Kalu was a very handsome person. His official name was Gagandeep Chatterjee. His father became very rich from his wooden log business and built a very large house. He was a student of Bengali literature but failed to become a graduate even after trying several times and for his repeated failure he had never failed to blame the university for not able to recognize his talent. Kalu could also speak Hindi, a very rare quality among the villagers and he also had a very good voice and could sing well. After repeated failure in his university examination Kalu decided to go to Bombay and work in the Bombay film industry. It was during this time he also fell in love with a very beautiful girl named Shravanti. Shravanti was a postgraduate student of English literature and had done well in all her exams.

[to be continued……]

Still Ready to Help

After completing my post-graduation in Biochemistry I decided to bring some radical change in my life. I had a long desire to learn some musical instrument. But I had to wait till I could earn some money to realize my dream. I could find only one musical instrument teacher, a retired professional violinist, in his seventies, at a walking distance from my home.

When I asked he agreed to become my instructor. He used to play violin in theaters. He had three daughters, who were all married and a son who was also married and had a small boy, only few years old.

I used to practice violin seriously, morning and evening, every day and he used to appreciate a lot for my effort. I had never felt so happy in my life before. One day, probably after a month since I had started learning he introduced me to a ‘Raga’ called ‘Yaman Kalyan’. It was like a dream come true for me. I realized that if anything I wanted to be in my life it was a musician and not a biochemist.

I used to take lessons from him on Sundays. It was a Sunday evening, almost three months after I had started taking lessons from him.

When I visited I saw he had some guests in his house. He introduced me to his son-in-law, his daughter and his daughter’s son and asked the grandson to be with me till he could make himself free.

His grandson who was few years younger asked me to play whatever I was learning. I played the Raga ‘Yaman Kalyan’ which I had played few times before my instructor and heard him saying I was playing well.

After listening to my play for a while he started playing the same Raga using my violin. I was surprised to hear how nice he was playing. On being asked he mentioned that he had learnt violin from his mother who had learnt the same from her father.
Then he asked me to play all the seven notes (like ‘Sa’, ‘Re’ &c.). After hearing me play for a while he started playing the same using my violin and I realized that the notes played by him sounded different and that should not happen because they were produced by the same musical instrument. I realized that from the very beginning I was playing everything incorrectly but was never corrected. The young man sensed my thought and told me that almost seven to eight years before his grandfather lost his hearing, to a great extent, because of a bomb explosion which had exploded few meters away from him. The explosion did not cause him any physical injury though. People at home always talked to him standing close and he could make out what the speaker said partly from the sound he could perceive and partly from the lip movement of the speaker.

I never went back to him and never played violin again. It was lying idle in our home for few years. One fine day I gave it to another young man who wanted to learn the instrument.

Short Story about human being