Tag Archives: Short story

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.

Special English

Whenever I read anything written by Salman Rushdie who reached the zenith of popularity almost overnight for his book The Satanic Verses, I always notice that he uses too many semi-colons and too few full-stops. I have noticed that on an average in a paragraph he sometimes uses one or could be two full-stops. The ratio of semi-colons to full-stops in an average paragraph would be around five to one or could be even more.

While reading any of his books I remember my M. Sc. classmate Amitava Chakravarty (during those days he was more popular by the name Aashish). One day he drew our attention on a welcome note written by the Head of the Department of Biochemistry Prof. Gora Chad Chatterjee (G. C. Chatterjee). I think it was a welcome address for one of our department functions. None of us had noticed till Amitava drew our attention that in each paragraph there was only one full-stop and our professor was also highly charitable with semi-colons. We were fortunate to see one full-stop in each paragraph because the language does not allow any sentence to be broken into two or more paragraphs.

Salman Rushdie’s writing has another unique feature – events are generally not in chronological order.

One day I was browsing his book The Satanic Verses at a bookstore in Melbourne.

A gentleman, who was standing beside me and was apparently browsing a book suddenly asked, “Is this book not banned in your country?”

From his accent I could make out that probably he was a Canadian or an American and not an Australian. At the end of our conversation when he did not wish me a good death I became sure again that he was not an Australian. (When an Australian greets other by saying ‘good day’ it sounds like ‘good die’.)

“Yes it is. I think India is the first country to ban the book” I replied with an intention not to discuss any further on the subject.

“But why, India is not a Muslim majority country”, he asked again. He sounded very curious.

“No it is not”, I replied and pretended to read something from the book in order to avoid any further question on the subject.

“But yours is a democratic country where people vote”, he again asked. It appeared that he was so curious that he did not care to notice that I was trying to read something.

“Yes we vote every five years”, I replied.

“Then” and he kept looking at me in such a way that I had to give some reply to him.

“Because our democracy is still at its infancy, at least it is not mature enough like countries in Europe or North America”. Then I narrated to him my first voting experience.

I was a student of M. Sc. when I first voted. During those days voting was done using ballot papers instead of electronic voting machines.

When I was just few meters away from the election booth I heard an old lady, whom I had never seen before calling me from behind, “Baba-ektu-sono-to” (my son I want to talk to you). When I walked near her she asked me without the slightest hesitation, “Please tell me whom should I vote for.” I could realize that either she did not ask the question to any one in her home or in her home everybody was like her. While walking towards the election center she surely had met multiple election agents belonging to different political parties and each agent asked her to vote for the agent’s party and at the end she was totally confused and asked me for which party she should vote. I realized that voting right should not be conferred to her or anybody like her.
But in any democratic country voting is considered as a right and not a privilege.
In India every political party is allowed to use a unique symbol for election. Examples of few such symbols are cow, tractor, motor car etc. A voter needs to know the symbol of the political party he or she would like to vote for. In the election booth the voter needed to stamp on that symbol in the printed ballot paper and drop the stamped ballot paper in a box. If any voter stamped on more than one symbol or did not stamp on any symbol his or her vote was not counted.
I told the old lady to stamp on the first two symbols on the ballot paper and not to tell others for whom she had voted.

Even after so many years during the time of every election I still think about the old lady and wonder how many such people are still taking part in the largest democracy of the blue planet.

May be next time

I was travelling from Penn Station, New York to South Orange, New Jersey by NJ Transit.

It was a weekday evening and the train was full of office passengers returning from work. As soon as I stepped into the platform I noticed many people were standing in the waiting room of the South Orange Rail Station. To go to the parking area from the platform a passenger has to walk across the waiting room. The waiting room is very useful for office goers during winter mornings, where they can wait for a New York or a Hoboken train to arrive. Hoboken is in New Jersey and Penn Station is in New York and there is river Hudson in between. During cold weather, waiting on the platform at subzero temperature is extremely uncomfortable. But I had never seen any passenger to wait in the waiting room in the afternoon.

As soon as I walked in I saw a boy, who could be fifteen or sixteen was playing guitar. The guitar case was left open beside him expecting to receive some dollar bills from people if they liked his music. I had never seen anyone so young playing any musical instrument so well. I, like everybody else in the room was mesmerized. I moved as close as possible and stood there. Not a single person could leave the room. I also noticed a young, married Indian couple was standing there and enjoying the music.

People started clapping as soon as his play came to end and everybody started putting dollar bills in the guitar case. I also noticed few twenty dollar bills there. Even after paying him they remained standing and looking with great admiration at that very young talent.

I heard the Indian gentleman asking his wife in Hindi, “Shall I give him a dollar.”
“No need, he already got lot of money”, the wife replied in Hindi.

 

Author:  Mintu Ghoshal

Follow him on facebook: mintu.ghoshal.9

Medicine Man

The nearest railway station from my ancestral house in Calcutta was Brace Bridge.

While I was studying M. Sc., I used to travel little more than two kilometers in my bicycle to the rail station from my house and take a train to Ballygunge, where the university campus was.

In late afternoon, almost every day, there used to be some show near the station on a vacant land owned by the rail company. The most common was the monkey show. The trainer used to give verbal instructions to the monkey and the monkey used to follow those instructions, like dancing with drum beats, acting &C. Sometimes the trainer used to lie on the ground, pretending to be dead and the monkey used to pretend as if crying by rubbing eyes with hands but there used to be no tears in its eyes. And sometimes the monkey used to pretend as if it had died and the trainer used to cry, again no tears.
The next common thing was magic show. One interesting item in the magic show was floating mattress in which a small boy used to sit on a small mattress, when the magician had started to spell magic words, the mattress started rising up from the ground, very slowly, it used to rise up to about two to three feet high and then stopped. However the ground below the mattress could never be seen because it remained covered with long black cloth.

Another common show was tightrope walk. A boy, or a girl, or sometimes both used to perform gymnastics on a rope with its one end tied to a lamp post and the other end to a wooden pole.

At the end of the show people used to clap and many people used to give some money.

One day, while I was walking out of the station I saw something which I had never seen before; there was something very long hanging from the upper most end of the lamp post, which was commonly used for tying rope during tightrope walk. When I approached closer I found that few long chains of plastic pouches were tied to the top of the lamp post, the height of the lamp post was not less than 25 feet. I wondered who took all the pain to climb so high and hang those chains from there. Each single pouch contained about 10 to 12 small tablets, which looked herbal.
When I reached at the spot it was already crowded, I had to stand behind many people. I realized that a salesman was selling a product, which he claimed to be the most effective and safe medicine for worm infestation, which was very common among small boys and girls in India during those days.

A large drawing of human digestive system was hanging beside him, with the help of a long stick, like the one commonly used by a teacher in anatomy class, he began the approximately 25 feet long journey starting from the esophagus. He started explaining how food gets digested in human body, how and where it is absorbed, and how the worms could affect the health of its victims by eating the digested food and thus depriving the host of essential nutritional ingredients. His choice of words, power of articulation, appropriate gesture of hands, and loud but clear voice was so perfect that whoever listened to him for a minute got attracted by his speech and could not leave. While explaining the several symptoms of worm infestation he mentioned that victims developed several symptoms like becoming weak, losing weight, not performing well in sports and other physical activities, feeling tired even after rest, and even failing in exams because victims would develop such conditions which would appear like malnutrition and which in turn would create a condition called attention deficiency syndrome and would make it difficult for a victim to memorize what they have studied which eventually would result into failure in exams.

Worm infestation and failing in exam could be distantly related but due to his power of speech it seemed that they were intimately associated as if two sides of the same coin.

At the end of his long discourse, people, mostly those who were returning home from work, started buying the product. I did not count but I was sure he sold not less than 100 pouches, which was a very good number.
During the entire episode, a middle aged man, about five feet tall, having pale look was standing next to me and was listening with undivided attention.
When the crowd thinned out, he walked closer to the salesman and asked “Will my son pass his exam if he takes these tablets”.
“Absolutely” the salesman replied.

 

Author: Mintu Ghoshal

email: mintughoshal@gmail.com

Follow him on facebook: mintu.ghoshal.9