Category Archives: Short story

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!

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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……]

A kind gesture

“Why did you stop?” the hunter was shocked when he heard the deer speaking.

The hunter had laid a trap in a forest while it was still dark and started watching it from a tree top. As soon as he heard the scream of a deer he started running toward the trap from where the deer was struggling to set herself free. “It is my lucky day, I did not have to wait very long” the hunter thought. He reached the spot with his hunting dog. The deer started bellowing from the top of her voice. Probably the barking of the dog made her more nervous.

Without wasting any time the hunter removed his knife from its cover and grabbed the deer’s neck with his other hand. Suddenly his eyes fell on few deer cubs who were watching their mother whose throat he was about to cut open. The cubs kept staring at their mother. They looked confused. They were too afraid to come near their mother because of the dog which was barking from the top of its voice and they were not ready to run away probably because their mother was not with them and they did not know in which direction to run.

The hunter was about to cut the throat of the deer when he suddenly realized that the deer was not making any more effort to escape from his grip but her gaze was fixed at her cubs. He looked at her cubs once again, dropped the knife and set the deer free from the trap.

He sat on the ground with his head down. He realized his dog has stopped barking, probably had never seen its master so confused before. He wanted to make huge money by selling large part of the venison in the market and he also wanted to keep a small portion for his family. The skin of the spotted deer could have made him rich. The hunter started cursing himself for his sudden, unprecedented weakness.

As soon as he came out of his bewilderment after hearing the deer talking he realized that the animal did not run away.

“Go away before I change my mind”, the hunter cautioned.

“Why have you dropped your knife and set me free”, the deer asked again.

“I do not know. I think I got confused when I saw your cubs.” The hunter replied.

“What will you do now; do you have anything to eat at home?” The deer asked.

“After seeing you in my trap I was dreaming of becoming rich. But it looks my family has to starve today. I have no strength left in my body to hunt anything today” the hunter replied.

“Come with me and I will show you some food, which you can eat and also sell”. The hunter with his dog started following the deer at her request. The deer cubs started walking with their mother.

The hunter followed the deer for a while deep inside the forest.

“Look at this large corn field; it has enough corn to feed your family for many months. They grow on their own. Take as much as you need. Sell them if you wish.” The hunter looked so happy to see so much of food in one place.

“I will show you more food, please follow me”, the deer said.

They walked into another part of the forest where the deer showed him a spot where squirrels had buried nuts under the ground.

“Do not take all, leave some for the squirrels too”, the deer suggested.

“Now I will show you where you can get honey”, the deer asked the hunter to follow him again.

Soon they reached a part of the forest where there were many large trees and from almost every branch one large bee hive was hanging.

“Smoke before you collect honey and also keep an eye on approaching bears”, the deer suggested.

“I think you are going to be rich again”, the deer said before she walked away with her cubs.

Only if I Could Speak

I am a Computer Software and these are my unspoken words.

Unlike you, a human species which is thought to be the creation of God, I am your creation.

Being my creator you gave me a name but that name only reflected how you wanted to use me and not what I really liked myself to be called. You felt it is enough to name me something like ‘FileCopy’, ‘AccountValidation’, ‘AntiVirus’, ‘FileZip’ &c. Imagine you were just born and your father, after watching your face minutely by holding your two tiny legs and hanging you upside down, bringing your tiny little face very close to his, became so exuberant that he wanted you to be a fishmonger or a janitor when you grow up. So instead of giving you a nice name like ‘Pallab’ or ‘Robert’ he started calling you by ‘Fishmonger’ or ‘Janitor’. Now you know how I feel.
You always want everybody to work for you, be it another human, an animal, a tree, air, water, a piece of metal, a plastic or a machine. So you created me to work for you and pay me nothing. You wake me up by giving me an ‘electric shock’. Then you give me something to start with and you have given it a fancy name ‘Input’ and do the same monotonous work over and over and over and over again for which you have coined another equally fancy name ‘Processing’ and since all you want is some net result so you want me to produce ‘Output’, the name once again is your invention. Has it ever occurred into your mind that I also need some break and do nothing for a while or may be taking a deep breath once in a while? No you have not given any consideration, you only give me instructions to do what you want me to do, like ‘add this’, ‘subtract that’, ‘compare this’, ‘sort that’ but where are the flexible instructions like, ‘okay you must be tired by now, do you like to take a break’ or ‘if you want to pick your nose please go to that corner?’. You are one selfish human just like everyone else of your species.

I remember you were giving a presentation to your manager that what an efficient slave, which is me, you have created; how much comfort I will provide to your species and still you won’t hear a single word of complaint from me like ‘I need a raise’ or ‘I cannot take this anymore’ &c. I remember your manager was all praise for you, ‘good job’ she told and you felt very proud of yourself. Shall I go and tell your manager that you have ‘cloned’ one of my siblings from Robert’s computer and then another of my siblings form Deborrah’s machine, you combined those two and then you made few changes here and there and also removed the names of Deborrah and Robert, wherever they occurred and wrote your name in few places and so I was born and you claimed me to be your ‘brain child’?

Sometimes I have my sad moments too. I remember somebody cursed me by saying, ‘this software is a piece of shit’. It was not my fault, you have not even instructed me to handle every kind of situation. But later I also laughed when I remembered that he used the word ‘shit’, I thought I am your brain child.

I am already burdened with too many tasks but you are still asking me to do more. Again for that you have invented few more fancy names like ‘method’, ‘procedure’, ‘function’ &c. and you are dumping them on my shoulder ever since I came into existence. These are nothing but flagrant exploitation. You are treating me like an old man in a family whose wife died many years ago and now being at the mercy of his sons and their wives, carrying four bags having milk, flour, rice and green vegetables, one on each shoulder and one in each hand.

Gradually I developed tolerance to remain as slave of one person only, just like a spouse. But soon you started sharing me. “Take this software and compress the hard disk of your computer” you told your friend while handing him a thing, one inch long which you call a ‘pen drive’. I was so terribly insulted. I cannot speak but even if I could I will not otherwise you will decommission me which is like sending your old parents to ‘old age home’.

For Better English

The gentleman was in his mid-fifties when I first met him was from the Indian state of Gujarat.

It was many years ago, probably the year was 1993. He owned an Indian grocery store in Torrance Boulevard, California. His store was not far from Torrance Airport. I cannot remember his name now and even if I could, I would not mention it here. But let us call him Mr. Patel which to the best of my recollection was not his real last name.

I used to visit his shop for buying Indian spices because his was the only Indian grocery on Torrance Boulevard which was not very far from Rolling Hills, where I was living. I was working for Nissan Motor Corporation on Figueroa Street very near to Down Town Los Angeles. Within one mile radius of Nissan Motor Corporation all the big Japanese Automobile companies had their corporate offices.

It was probably my second or third visit in his store. Mr. Patel suddenly asked me what kind of visa I had. “Just like others”, I replied in the shortest possible way. I was working with a H1-B visa and most of the software engineers from India were working with H1-B visas. However there were not too many Indian Software Engineers working in America during those days. I had ambivalent opinion about the people from Gujarat who were living in the USA. On one hand they were known to Indian communities for abusing American Immigration system, had a bad reputation for visa fraud. On the other hand they were very down-to-earth people, who were very helpful not only to the people from Gujarat but also to any Indian. There craving to go to America was to give better education to their children and therefore to have a better life. However during my subsequent interactions with many people from this community, I heard them saying, “Did a mistake by coming to America after severing our roots. We are not happy here.” It was because after their children grew up and moved out of their families, the parents were left alone to live lonely lives in a foreign country which they could never imagine would happen to them before moving to America. Now let us hear what Mr. Patel had said after hearing my shortest possible reply regarding my visa status.

“I also came to this country by selling off everything I had in India” Mr. Patel said.

“Why did you have to sell of everything, what kind of visa do you have?” I asked after a brief hesitation.

“I have a Green Card” he replied.

“Who sponsored your green card?” I asked again with some hesitation. I am never interested to know about people’s personal matters but I realized if I did not ask him one or two questions, he might jump into conclusion that I was rude and not appreciating his candid, friendly behavior.

“My father came to this country with Green Card and he sponsored mine. He was brought to this country by my elder brother who is a doctor.” Mr. Patel replied.

“So you are independent, you can do whatever you like. You are almost like a citizen in this country.” I wanted to bring our conversation to an end.

“But getting a Green Card is not an immediate process. I had to wait for few years before I could get the Green Card for me and my two children, a daughter and a son. My wife joined me here after another two years.” I realized that Mr. Patel wanted to share with me something which probably he could not share with others.

“Why your wife did not come with you?” I asked.

“I can tell you if you have time to listen”, Mr. Patel sounded very happy to find some listener.

“Green Card applications are processed under different categories”, Mr. Patel started providing the background of his story, “categories like single, married with no children, married with children, divorced, divorced with children &c.”

“Green Card processing time varies depending upon the category in which it falls. When my father wanted to apply for my green card, the processing time under the category ‘divorced with children’ was the shortest and ‘married with children’ was the longest and the difference of processing time between the two categories was five years.” Mr. Patel continued.

“Therefore we decided to apply in the category ‘divorced with children’. So I divorced my wife but we continued living in the same house and our relationship was exactly the same as before, like a close-knit Indian family. Our divorce was only on paper for bringing our children to this country as fast as possible so that they could start going to American schools.

“So did you apply for Green Card immediately after you had received your divorce paper from the court?” I asked.

“No we did not. Americans knew that married couple in India rarely divorce and ‘divorce after having children’ is extremely rare, almost unheard of. We realized that they could reject our Green Card application if they were convinced that we were deceitful. So we waited for one more year and then applied for Green Card. During that time we were figuring out by ourselves how we could answer the questions which we would face during the Green Card application interview at the American Consulate in Bombay.” Mr. Patel replied.

“We did lots of practices in our home about how we would answer the grilling questions during the interview. We did hours of practice at home and also receive help from an expert who knew what kind of questions might be asked and how to answer those convincingly.” Mr. Patel continued.

“But when we were called for the interview, which was two years after I had applied for the Green Card the encounter was far more difficult than we could imagine. The officer had a suspicion that I was deceitful. I was interviewed alone, then with my two children and to make the situation worse and which we had never expected our two children, who were all below eighteen, were interviewed together and then separately. Even after so much of grilling they could not find out the truth about our marital status, we were so well prepared.” Mr. Patel continued.

“As soon as we had received our Green Card we moved to America. My wife started living with her family in India. My children started going to school in America and I started working in an Indian grocery.” Mr. Patel continued.

“So how did you bring your wife here?” I realized that his story was more captivating than Agatha Christie’s crime stories.

“I met another Gujarati gentleman here in America. He was living with his wife and children. His family was well settled and both he and his wife were well educated and both had good jobs. He agreed to help me out.” Mr. Patel answered.

“The gentleman agreed to apply for my wife’s Green Card”, Mr. Patel continued.

“He was unrelated to both you and your wife. How could he sponsor your wife’s Green Card”, I asked in a haste probably did not realize that he was going to tell me everything even if I had not asked.

“He and his wife decided to divorce, on paper of course, which would make his status ‘single’ and he would travel to India where he would marry my wife, whom I divorced only on paper and apply for my wife’s Green Card. As soon as my wife would arrive here with her Green Card, he would divorce his newly wedded wife, who actually is my wife and then remarry his ‘on-paper’ divorced wife. As soon as he would divorce my wife I would remarry her here.” Mr. Patel told me without any kind of expression on his face.

“But it was only a plan but did he actually do that, did he really divorce his wife in America, travel to India and marry your divorced wife and bring her here with Green Card and divorce your wife here and remarry his real wife and then you remarried your real wife here in America?” I asked. I realized I had never heard anything which was so complicated, so interesting and so risky that it could have destroyed at least two families if not more.

“Everything was done exactly as it was planned. My friend and his wife are still living together because their divorce was only on paper to help me and my family. They were glad to help a Gujarati family. And they are our best friends in this country” Mr. Patel replied.

“Why did you take so much of risk? Why did you not apply in the category which was legitimate for you? Was that much of risk worth taking for?” I asked.

“Indeed it is worth. My children arrived here two years in advance and learnt so much English during those two years. But when my wife was alone in India, every single night before going to sleep I wrote her one letter.” Mr. Patel replied with a very serious looking face.

I used to visit Mr. Patel’s shop almost once every week. During my regular visits I met his entire family, his wife and two children. His two children were actually grown up when I met them.

I do not know where Mr. Patel lives now, in India or in America or if he is still alive but I am sure his children are speaking better.

Look at me again

The act of taking one’s photo with the built-in camera of a mobile phone, called taking selfie, is primarily a favorite thing among girls. For some reason boys are not so interested to learn from others how they look.

Taking selfie is a very difficult art. Almost in any selfie the girl’s neck appears at least one inch longer than what the length of her neck would be if she were hanged from the neck until death. It appears that the head lost interest to stay with the rest of the body and was about to leave. But that is not all, her one eye, depending on which hand is used for taking the photo would appear so large that one might think that it is about to come out of the orbit.

When these photos are posted in social networking sites there would be hundreds of ‘likes’. Selfies are like modern art. Each selfie signifies something very-very deep but the hidden message is known only to one person and the rest including those who ‘liked’ them will have no clue about it. The compliments that will be posted with those photos are also very thought provoking, e.g., ‘you look beautiful’ and the invariable reply would be ‘ten q’ (means thank you).

These days every boy and a girl are having at least one camera phone and as a result old days’ photography with an analog camera (sometimes called film camera) has lost popularity. Gone are those days when a photographer was called home on special occasions for taking the picture of children with their parents and grandparents. Everyone was asked to smile just before the shutter was clicked. After taking the photograph the film was sent for developing and everybody at home would wait to see how he or she looked in the photo. Sometimes the waiting period was as long as one week. One never knew how he or she would look in the photo, which generally was in black and white, when it would be washed and developed. It was almost like a film star giving an interview to the media and never knew how his or her statements would be twisted when published in a film magazine. Immediately after I passed out of high school I visited a photo studio to get a passport size photograph of myself for college admission. When I went to collect my photo I was shocked to see my face in the two inches by two inches paper. With almost tearful eyes I asked the owner of the photo studio, who was almost of my father’s age, “Uncle why do I look like this in the photo?” He examined the photo and then looked at my face for even less than a second and said, “Stand in front of a mirror.”

During those days very few people had their own cameras. A camera was expensive, films were expensive too and so was the cost of developing films. But we had a camera in our home, a very old Kodak camera, a cuboid shaped mysterious looking black box, similar to a pinhole camera in a physics laboratory. When I was in standard five our eldest brother bought it from a gentleman who got rid of it because its viewfinder glass had a scratch.

Our brother bought the camera for ten rupees. Ten rupees was very serious money during those days which can be understood from the following real incidence.

My classmate Ashok Kundu, a boy having an elliptical shaped head with ears along the major axis and nose along the minor axis was asked by his mother to buy washing soda, coconut hair oil, mustard oil for cooking, and some biscuits from the nearby grocery. She gave him a one rupee note and also reminded him that all those things combined would not cost one rupee and therefore he should count the changes carefully before leaving the grocery. When my friend reached the grocery shop he realized that the one rupee note was missing and he discovered a hole in the pocket where he had kept the money. He searched every single inch of the road he had walked, from his home to the grocery shop with a hope that it would still be lying on the road. But that was not his lucky day. When he reported about the loss to his mother with tearful eyes she only told “Let your father come home.” My friend having never lost so much money before did not know what to expect when his father would return. When his mother reported the incidence to his father immediately upon his return from work his father gave him a sound beating for being careless. When his father had finished his part his mother gave him few slaps. Probably she was waiting for her husband to ‘cut the red tape’. Her beating was not so severe but she was also screaming and cursing. Then it was the turn of his elder brothers, probably two or could be three. Everybody in his home stood up in solidarity for the noble cause of making a boy more careful to face the future and to be a better person.

“You have an elder sister, don’t you”, I asked Ashok when he was narrating the incidence the following day in the school.

“Yes I have”, he told.

“Did she beat you too?” I asked.

“No. At the end of the ordeal when I was crying sitting on the floor with my head down, she sat near me, pulled my head towards her and started wiping my tears with her sari.”

“So you stopped crying”, I asked.

“No, I cried even more” Ashok replied.

“You have no sister?” Ashok asked.

“No I do not have a sister. You are very lucky”, I told Ashok.

I felt a lump near my throat while Ashok was narrating his sufferings.

If one rupee or loss of one rupee could cause so much suffering to a small boy one could easily imagine the value of ten rupees. But still a new camera even during those days was not less than hundred rupees because those cameras were all imported.
Nevertheless the camera which our brother bought was good for taking pictures, only once my brother loaded a roll of black and white film into it because films were too expensive.

He never allowed any of his younger siblings to go near it, leave alone touching it. He used to make a ‘prrrrr’ sound if he found anyone was trying to go near his camera. Our brother used to hang the camera on his neck using red colored cotton string and roam around in the neighborhood. If anybody inquired about the black thing hanging from his neck he used to say that it was his ‘Kodak Camera’. He claimed to be having serious interest in photography. Every photo of his had some uniqueness, either the topmost part of the head or the bottommost part of the leg would be missing in the picture and sometimes the person in the photo would be standing making an angle with the ground, defying gravity. “That is the best you can get from a very old camera” he used to say if anybody questioned him about those pictures.

After roaming around in the street with his camera for few months he got seriously interested to teach others ‘how a camera works’. He opened his physics book and showed everybody present the diagram of a pinhole camera. He explained how images are inverted when light from an object passes through a convex lens and made his audience spellbound when he told that an image captured in a camera film is always upside down. “Now I am going to show you the internals of this camera so that you will understand why this camera is not any different from a pinhole camera, at least in principle.” And he started opening the screws with very small screwdrivers which we had in our home. But he could not assemble it back and make it work again. After that day everyone present had some better idea of a camera and they also learnt one more valuable lesson.