Nayan looked up from the manuscript and looked at him. Many questions were running into her mind. Continue reading Actually…No Plot At All… Ep 14: Untold Ones
A small crowd of the children had gathered at the garden. At first it was decided the sitting room would be a fine location, but, with time it was found the living room will not be enough. Annapurna, thus, locked the door to her pickle kitchen to bar the trespasser and greet everyone at the garden. The wooden bench under the shades of the singular Arjun tree would serve the role of seat for the man, the storyteller. He was supposed to come at the lunch but he came before that. Annapurna was startled to see him.
After lunch the kids gather at the Arjun tree. The storyteller walked up to the bench and sat down. He was limping at his right leg. His above six-feet stature seems to be giant one amongst the little ones. His face was covered in salt and pepper golden beard and mustache leaving a little area on the space to be clear one and thus showcasing his fair skin. His hair was wavy and disheaveled one—for long they had been trimmed or combed. He was wearing a trouser and a shirt wrapped up for two folds—disclosing his hands to be black from some old burn marks. Despite this vagabond tired look he was not filthy or dirty; rather surprisingly he was clean with nail been cut and teeth being brushed, and being taken bath with soap before coming down.
Annapurna was not at ease still he walks in to her house. It remind her of him all of a sudden; after so many years. She said to herself, many a time, it was not him. He is dead at somewhere near the border in the war eleven years ago. She had received the news of his death from the army doctor, collaborate by other the soldiers. But, nothing could ease her discomfort. After the lunch when she was cleaning the dishes with Ritu she could hear his voice. The window to the house’s kitchen overlooked the Arjun tree. The voice to her seems to be coming from another side of the time, of the memories she had still then forgotten. Ritu finding her most of the time unmindful asked her a few times what the matter was . But, she smiled and said she was getting lost in the stories.
At evening when all the kids returning to their home, the storyteller asked for leave from Annapurna. Anna looked at him for the first time in the day deeply; she said him to stay back for the dinner. Sunayana was excited to have the man till her bedtime. She declared—
“Mama, to-night it’s your holiday…Galpo Kaku will be telling me story, before I sleep…”
The old man was at first reluctant to stay till the dinner but on repeated “please” from Sunayana let him stay till the dinner. But, Sunayana fall asleep before the dinner. Anna carried her in her lap to her bedroom. After few minutes when she was coming down she was expecting he had left silently leaving a note or something to apologize when not bid her personally. She, but, was surprised when she found he was there sitting in the high-back chair and looking at the not-lighted fireplace.
They had a silent dinner. Many questions were skimming in the mind of Anna, but, she could not place them in right order or couldn’t find the starting one.
“This pickle is familiar to me…it seems I had tasted them once…” his sudden praise for the mango pickle gave her the chance to start the talk.
“When…and where…” she asked in normal voice hiding the excitement of her current state.
“I cannot recollect…like I cannot recollect why this house…that garden…this Town…all seems very much warm and familiar to me…” he said while looking around the house.
“Anything else seems uncanny to you…” she asked holding his hand suddenly.
He looked at them and withdrawing his hand towards the plate, he said, “the man in that picture…few of the people…like the stationmaster…they seems to reverberating some conversations…”
She got up from her chair and standing in front of him she asked, “what about me…”
“Yes”, he was startled by the sudden action, “you also seem to be familiar…those eyes I might have seen somewhere…”
“They said you are dead…” she says while sitting down on her knees to look at his face which he had dropped down and gazing at the wooden floor of the kitchen.
“Do you know…who I am…” he asked like a child.
“You’re are Major Kedar Ghosh…” she said.
“No…my lady…I haven’t be to the war…I’m just a vagabond…” he says looking at her, “you might have confused with someone you knew long ago…”
The conversation ended there.
Next morning with the army doctor and the other soldiers she walked up to the storyteller who was sitting under the banyan tree near to school and waiting for his audience. He looked at them with calm eyes and smiled at Anna through his bearded face.
“Sir…it is you…” one of the soldiers shouts looking at him.
“This lady had mistaken me for some Major Ghosh…Kedarnath, right…but I am not that…I am just vagabond…I am a storyteller…” he said in his deep heavy voice.
“Kedar, come on leave this tomfoolery…”, doctor said, “it’s me Doctor Sengupta…we used to play poker…”
“No…I don’t recognize you, Doctor…” he said with disturbance.
“Alright…come with me…to my hospital…” Sengupta said to him.
“I’m not ill…I take care of myself…there’s no flea or teaks on my body…” the storyteller said in requesting voice.
They never were able to take him to hospital. At the end Doctor Sengupta said to him if he wants he could visit him anytime.
On returning Doctor Sengupta let’s other know that he was the Major Ghosh but he had lost his memory. And they have to try to bring that back.
For next few weeks they tried few more times. But all ended in vain. Anna once asked him directly why he was tolerating so much; any man being getting disturbed so much would had leave the Town or would have shouted at them.
“I cannot shout at you…or them…because whenever you people come I feel I am in the company of my own people…” he said, voice was calm and soft, “this town I had said you make me feel the warmth which I couldn’t find anywhere else…the thought of leaving the town or screaming at you all crossed my mind, but, I couldn’t…the sad thing you are not getting what you all are looking for…and me trying to get accustomed to all your looking and search…”
After that day they never tried to bring his memory back. Sometimes Anna used to come and sit down at a distance to listen to his story. Sometimes she used to invite him to his house which he never denied. And soon he earned the name of Old Grand Storyteller or Galpo Dadu.
“I am going to deliver jars to the Rastogi’s…and on return will visit the bazaar for some ingredients…look after the broth I am leaving on the oven in the Pickle Kitchen…” Annapurna said to Sunayana.
She was reading a story book in her room. She looked up from the pages over her glasses and nodded in approval.
She sat down with the book on the chair, bringing it to the skylight windows so that sunlight could fall on the pages. But, she couldn’t concentrate on the book. Last night beyond this kitchen they had kissed. Mama was asleep and it was midnight.
She leaves the book on the chair. And looked at the broth. It was boiling with bubbles. A beautiful environ had been injected into the environment of the kitchen. She started roaming around the kitchen, brushing her hand on the countertops and shelves.
The jar was thrust into the corner. It was not easy to detect. But it caught the eyes of the seventeen years old Sunayana. At first she resists the urge to take it out. Then she took it out and found it was an old jar sealed with honey-wax. She looked around and broke the wax seal. A pungent but sweet odor enthralled her. She checked again around, and being sure of no one was there, she looked for a spoon or something to scoop the pickle out. But she couldn’t find anything like that; she, so, dipped her index finger deep into the jar, and licked it.
Annapurna moved her head in negative to reply.
Ritu was going to say something when Doctor Khastogir came in. It amused every lady there because no one could recollect was it his first visit or had he visited before. His face was red and grave, and he was biting one end of his mustache—which he does when he was angry or being disturbed by an event.
“Papa, no smoking her…” Anna said neglecting the facial situation; to her it was normal.
Khastogir was smoking a cigar; leaving a dense smoke making most of them there to cough, he said “come out side…we need to talk…”
No one knew what had happened that evening outside the Pickle Room except three individuals. And many days later another one comes to know.
Four years passed away in blink. It was August again. It was monsoon again. A train stopped at a late morning that time. No one board the train; one person came down from the train though.
He looked around, and found the station to be same though less bright than the last time, and the serenity of the station has acquired a little rust through decolorisation. He walked to the stationmaster’s room. Ahmed Siddique had grown older. The curly hair had started turning white; the eyes were covered by a spectacle, and he had grown a mustache over his beetle-colored mouths.
“Yes, what can I do for you…” he asked while looking up from the books of accounts.
The old man was assured he was beyond to be got recognized. He asked a false query and then receiving the right reply he came out and stands for a while at the station till Siddique went back to his work instead of keeping an eye on him.
Then he walked to the exit and boards an ekka—to the Town.
After the alley ends, the road becomes verdant with mountainous tall trees on both the side—at first scattered and then dense. Ruby clutched the hand of Nayan and tried to stop her because the road leads to the graveyard. Ferdouse was also scared; holding hands of Dip he was stumbling then and now, and continuously looking around. The only one who was not scared or it seems was A. He was known for his story and telling them but not for his courage—even a small crackling sound in a silent classroom scared him a lot. But, now, that night he was walking as if he had been out for an evening walk.
The moon, meanwhile, had come out and the mistness of the midnight fog gets more than misty in the bluish light. The apparition couldn’t be seen anymore.
“I think we should leave it here…let’s go back…guy…let’s go back…” Dip says, his voice was shaking.
Ferdouse repeated his words of going back. Not only his voice but his whole body was shaking. Ruby was embracing Nayan; Nayan was also scared. They all had heard of this fog of the Town in the midnight. But, before that day, they had never imagined that could be so dense that it envelopes everything around them. Their dark clothes was blanketed making them smudge of kohl.
“But, where does she go away?” A could not be seen; his voice which was excited and clear—there were no sign of fear.
“Don’t be a foolish…where are you…Dip…Ferdouse…where are you all people…” Nayan asked.
“We are here…but we couldn’t see you…” Dip replied.
A gust from the mountain disturbed the fog making each of them to each other a hazed figure.
“I can see you guy…see I am waving my–” A was going to say something but he could not completed it.
A tall shadowy figure was approaching them. He was coming forward slowly; extra limb of it could be seen hanging from its waist. The mist around it was dense, and it was carrying the wave of the fog with its movement. There was no hurry or hastiness in this six-limb creature from the graveyard in its movement.
A was silent in the shock; other four shrieked out. They knew they should run away, but, they couldn’t. The extremeness of the shock had mimed them in their movement.
“What all are you doing here…” the creature asked.
They knew the voice but cannot remember the owner of it.
“Hey children…what all are you doing here…at this time of the night…”
Another voice they heard from their side. They recognized it at once. It was of Samuel DeCosta, their English teacher.
“Where have you been…something has to be done with this falling asleep suddenly…” the man with the extra limbs said.
“Apology Bakshi…they are scared…let them come with us…come on children…we will talk on this over hot chocolate…” DeCosta said.
“The extra limbs…” Ruby asked.
A replied in this response, “don’t you see…it was Bakshi Uncle carrying her…”
Everyone was surprised to see the spirit in the laps of Bakshi.
“She is asleep…let’s go now…I am going to explain you all…over hot chocolate…” Bakshi replied in a low voice.
DeCosta prod some woods into the fire. The room was warm. The children had been sitted in near to the fire on a small cushioned low bench. On the high back chair sits Pickle Granny. Her wrinkled face was grave and remorseful. Bakshi was sitting on the arm chair opposite her.
Bakshi after sipping on his hot chocolate a little clears his voice, then “I arrived Town this morning after solving a case in the city…my stock of pickle had finished so I decided to visit Granma as soon as her shop opens…
“She asked me to wait after my purchase…the counter was full then…after a few minutes when the counter was empty…she called me closer and holding my hand requested to me solve a case…then she told me how a spirit was haunting her for last one month…I was away from Town for two months…so I thought I had been missing something out…
“I agreed to solve the case…as I was returning I met Rakshit…on scolding him for scaring the Town specially old Granma…he screamed at me at first denying all my allegation…then he said, in riddle, mango comes out of jar in the mid-night and goes back after flying into jar…I asked him what he wants to say…he smiled wryly… it was his habit of teasing me like this…with riddle…he was the most jovial person the Town could have…
“I went up to the police station and meet up with Gauranga…he said there were few such reports of haunting spirits…he was ordered not to take any step until and unless a menace happen…in past there were such visits and they have not harm us…once…though it happened…from him I gather the spirits were roaming between the Town clock and the road to the graveyard…I am saying spirits because it was reported there were more than one spirit…from the lodged complaints I deduce that the visit was happening at every third or fourth night…the last report was a week old…
“I came back to this area and started asking others on the some suspicious visit…few admit the visit…the last visit I found out was three days ago…as I was returning from my investigation planning to be here in the mid-night I met DeCosta…his house as you all know is in the mid of the path to the graveyard…so I asked him…and he says he had watched it and that too every third night mostly…but being a believer in God he believes this ghosts and all so he never tried to follow it instead he chosen to pray…
“I am not teasing you DeCosta…but if you had followed it, the truth had been revealed so long ago…he on reluctant agreed to accompany me this night…
“I will not delve much into details or my views…but, I will skip to the portion when I was waiting behind a chinar tree hundred meters from the graveyard…the fog in the December mid-night in the Town sometimes become a dangerous scary thing…as we had all seen..I was not able to see anything like you all also couldn’t…but I could hear…at first it was a wild owl followed by imitation of that call in bad way…then I could heard the wail of a cat…then come some footsteps…and some voices…begging and to halt someone or just going back…I will not deny I was little bit of scared like the courageous Ferdouse when all your voice reached me…they just seems to coming from everywhere…
“At that moment there was a gust…and in the clearing I saw her coming in little steps…I was shocked to see her…it is what six or seven months to that train accident…she had dies there…then I realized it was not she…it was not Sunayana at forty but at eleven…it was her daughter whom Granma had mentioned in the noon…it was Nayanika…
“Looking her brings back an old memory when I was of your age, children…Sunayana had this habit of walking in sleep when she was of her daughter’s age…with time it had stopped…but we were scared by her…sometimes she would had walked up to the swamp…and next morning she could be found there in a cottage sleeping soundly as she would in her own room…that time my father was the police in-charge…he had solved that…Granma had to put a payal on her legs…so that the chime of it can alert her…”
Grandma was calm. DeCosta was surprised. The children looked at each other understanding the revelation. A was going to say something when Nayanika enter the room rubbing her eyes and yawning.
They both ran inside the bungalow and as they enter the sitting room they saw three living figures; one being breathing his last with blood oozing out profusely.
The two figures were of Mayor and his wife. Mayor was still holding his gun up pointing it in front of him; the smoke was swirling up from the mouth of the gun and the room smelled of the explosive. His wife was standing at the threshold of the room; she was white in shocked and as soon as the two men enter the room she shrieks out and fainted down there.
Hero was lying on the floor. He was the one who was having his last breaths. The tiger skin on his body was dull than it was and it was red from the bullet hitting its belly.
The shriek woke Major up from his blank moment. He looked around and seeing Haricharan questioned “when the Town did started having tiger…where is Hero…he could have sensed from miles apart…”
Mrs. Rakshit didn’t survive the shock. She was taken to bed that night, and after fighting for three days and two nights she passed away in the late noon. Satyakam Rakshit when discovered next morning the nuisance of his decade old butler Haricharan, he threw his away and said him not to show his face again to him.
That was the last time anyone heard the thunderous voice of Mr. Rakshit. After his wife passed away he started to drink heavily and started locking away in his bungalow. He resigned from the post of Mayor one month after his wife passed away. This was the first step to his insanity. Few weeks later everyone started spotting him at the entrance to the Town near the peepal tree. Whenever he saw someone he asked the question “when did the tiger started visiting the Town…and where is my Hero…” That too stopped after a while and he resigned to talk and going back to his bungalow. On asking he would show the cause of being haunted by a tiger and spirit of his deceased wife.
Haricharan after being banished decided to leave the Town for the city. He neither apologies for his act nor did he regret for it. He stand firm on his explanation of making fun of his master. He was killed after a week of the evening when his train to the city got hit by a landslide. The mountain crashed down on the rail track smashing the train and destroying the track.
Sitadulal left the town and moved to the village of his in-laws crossing the mountain. He became a successful sugar cane factory owner and fathered five children.
If you ever had came to the Town by train, another mode was car and nothing else, while you riding on a carriage—some are driven by horses and some by motors, choice would be yours, you would have found him standing or procrastinating by squatting on the dais in the shade of peepal tree as you cross the Welcome To… board. If the day was a disturbed one like raining or harsh cold winter morning, you would have found him at the foot of his statues which used to have a roof over its head to save it from all types of droppings—from rain to birds’. I’ll not delve into his the then current physical description because that’s how I don’t remember him or that’s how I don’t want to recollect of him or his appearance. The becoming of him like this was a result of an evening-mosquitoes killing session.
At evening, especially after the spring bid and summer arriving in small steps and at the time of monsoon, when more than one person gather or meet and sit down at a place, they talk of varied topics—it ranges from socio-political to the neighbors’ household. This all happen while they were slapping and killing the mosquitoes minced with bugs like cricket. At first this assault was to save them from the bites which soon turn to to continue the on-going conversation or debate. At first few minutes the united army of mosquitoes and bugs can boast in their victories but soon they had to find a way to retreat. When an individual lost interest in the ongoing conversation or find him to be getting defeated in a debate, he would curse the army and will slap few times mostly false to declare that he would fall sick or the army was becoming intolerable, and, thus concluding the evening session.
It was such an evening, a rainy summer evening. The heat of the summer eve was submissive to the early evening short spell; the weather though was a breathless sultry one with a red sky. It would rain early at the night.
Haricharan and Sitadulal were slapping and assassinating the mosquitoes sitting on the stairs of the cottage of Satyakam Rakshit. Haricharan was the main butler of Mr. Rakshit while Sitadulal was just a farmer who to saved himself from his wife’s sexual desires come to the cottage and chat with Haricharan. He had gotten married then six months ago, and already he was scared of his wife, not the scream but the urge of having sex not making love. Sitadulal was timid man who doesn’t have so much of the energy to fulfill the urge especially at that time of the year when his farm lands need his utmost attention all the day. Haricharan was a married man for couple of years then, and had fathered two children—one boy and a girl. He had been under service of Mr. Rakshit for near to a decade.
A decade ago he had never imagined his evening could have been like this. A decade ago his evening used to got spend in assisting his master cleaning the gun, readying the bait and cooking for his master. His master Satyakam Parikshit was a hunter, a renowned one. He was born and brought up in the Town; he had learned the art of hunting and all from his father; people sometimes opined he was more superior than his father when it comes to the hunting. This got proved right when one enters his bungalow. Except the bedroom, each room was decorated by the stuffed head and sometimes full scale body of hunted victim. The trophy room was full of guns, from hunting rifles to revolver, to knives and daggers. There were medals and cups also he had received over his active years. A safe there contains some of the precious jewelry and stones he had received from Government and Maharajas during that active period. His stories, little boasted and full of ornamental adjectives and adverbs, were told by the old storyteller who used to live in a cave in the mountain.
Couple of years ago the government of the country passed the Act of Not Killing Animals (Prohibiting the Hunting and Hunter); great renowned hunter Satyakam Parikshit had to put up his rifles and all, and have to settle down in his hometown as a Mayor. In this bungalow Mayor lives with his wife and his golden retriever Hero and his butler Haricharan.
“This…army of mosquitoes…I hate them…” Sitadulal expressed his anger.
Haricharan while scratching his hand says, “don’t blame them…”
“Then…who should be blame…whom should I accused…”
“Yourself…brother…yourself…just six months…and you are already running away…that too not in fear of getting hit by a broom or wood…but in fear of performing sex…”
“You don’t get it…I can’t satiate her…she is witch I think…in times it seems she had arrived from the bank of the swamp…”
Haricharan was going to revert back when he and Sitadulal heard the thundering voice of the Mayor. He was drunk and cursing his wife. This was his daily evening chore; getting drunk and screaming at his wife. Sometimes he cursed the government for banning hunting. This used to continue until Mrs. Rakshit able to run away from his husband clutch and locked his room. In the morning they were a perfect couple, laughing and loving. The couples in the Town sometimes after a fight or quarrel sat down to thought how they could achieve this capability of acting or perform the adjustment act by forgiving and forgetting everything.
Hero came out that evening and sat down beside the two men.
Sitadulal laughed and remarked, “see Hero also cannot tolerate this anymore…hey Hero…want to hit some flies…here…knock your paws…like this…”
Hero was looking at Sitadulal as he was talking. Seeing him gesturing his hand and hitting the ground, he looked at Haricharan.
Haricharan was thinking something deeply. The noise on the wooden staircase by Sitadulal breaks his chain of thoughts. He looked at his both side. A smile passed over his mouth.
In a calm and compose tone he said, “would you like to play a prank…”
“What are you saying…” Sitadulal stopped his act of being dog.
“I am saying…” he slapped his calf killing some of the mosquitoes, “let’s have some fun…”
“Wait here…” he went inside the bungalow and came out after five minutes or so.
The shouting of Mr. Rakshit the Mayor had stopped; Mrs. Rakshit had slammed the door to her room. Everything was though not silent due to chirping of cricket in the bushes and trees, and the unitone of the mosquitoes at ears. Hero had lain down on the wooden platform keeping his head on his paws. He was blinking then and now while waving his tail to keep the winged adversaries at the bay.
Haricharan was carrying a tiger skin in his hand—folded and aged. Sitadulal was going to asked something but he was hushed by his friend. He, so, watched silently the act pulled by his friend.
It takes him ten to fifteen minute to decorate the act. When he completed Sitadulal was confused by finding a justified reason to the tomfoolery of his friend. He was going to asked Haricharan when the voice of Mr. Rakshit clapped like a thunder from inside. He was calling Hero.
Hero ran inside and within a minute the two men were startled by hearing a shot of a gun.
Haricharan was more shocked than Sitadulal. He knew that when his Sir sat down to he never carry a gun or firearm.
Let us sit down at the bank
of the dawn.
It never snow in our city Kolkata;
The fog thus will hide us,
The dew from twilight will wet–
The platform where we’ll sit.
The shrouded shy sun-bathed breeze–
Will sing the morning raga
As we will weave silence between us.
No kiss. No hand in hand.
Only constructing a time that’ll be–
The lips, yours, tasted pages
Of a new unread book;
The breath, yours, flapping of pages
Beckoning to explore