DISCOVERY OF A MANUSCRIPT & ITS FIRST FEW LINES
15th January, ’17
I’m struggling with a writer block for last seven days. Words and thoughts are just getting juxtaposed with each other creating a mess and increasing, in consequence, my suffering for not-writing. I was skimming through my old manuscripts which are assembled in a folder name “Store” when I came upon an old manuscript. The language was childish and the grammar was erroneous on the first page–as I read it absent-mindedly. An inner voice beckoned me to pick it up and read the full incomplete manuscript. So, I should go now and read my first attempt to write s’thing big…
From Author’s Desk
28th November 2014
After sitting for prolonged hours in front of the mirror and talking with my reflection most of the times; after taking lots of walks around the city; after emptying lots of cigarette pack I got the starting point of my story. But the hardships don’t end here.
Another round of aforesaid actions has gone to arrange the scattered and wandering memoirs and ideas.
I don’t know how to write memoirs but know how to write. So, if sometimes the fable becomes sluggish, which will happen at some points, forgive me because capturing time through writing is not always exciting and of the first pace.
I am going to stop now. And will let you delve in the Fable of Time.
DISCOVERY OF TWO MANUSCRIPTS: START OF A JOURNEY
23rd January 2016
For last seven days, two more manuscripts for the Fable was discovered. Stashed and cornered at my Dump name folder where the idea I had rejected or had written in other words are stored.
The two manuscripts are incomplete as the first one. The second one was near to complete but never completed; the third one was written less while full of jotted down points, dialogues, and scenes.
I had gone through three manuscripts and found they need lots of working to do on. So, I’ll stop now and start writing the Fable of Time before I told you.
It was a mid-April morning, a couple of days after the Naboborsho (Bengali New Year), the Mitra family, renting at the first floor of Bhattacharjee brothers’ three-storey building, was busy more than usual, more than other days.
“Ma, (I) don’t want to go to this school…” Sangbad pleaded as Aparajita, his mother, was combing his hair for the third time. She doesn’t revert back; instead, tighten her grip of fingers that were holding her son’s cheek in an attempt to halt his head impromptu movements due to repeated plea.
“Please…there are Suman, Utsab, Tina…they are my friends….please Ma…” his pleading continuing.
Aparajita put the comb in her bun and started tucking his shirt inside his half pant. Sangbad holds his mother’s hand and pleaded again in a broken voice now.
“There will be a lot of friends waiting for you there…” Aparajita, at last, replied while adjusting the collar of his shirt.
“Ma, I don’t want new friends…the old friends were best…” he replied back instantly. He was reluctant to make his Ma accept his pleading.
Aparajita again took up the comb as he had untidy his hair as the protest and said softly “you will like them also…”
He holds her hand and said, “Ma, I do not want a new friend…”
“Ma I do not want to go to school.” It was Sraboni, his elder sister, who was teasing him by mocking him. She enters the room through the door that was beside the mirror.
Sraboni was a lady in her late teen. She was of medium height and strong stature. She had passed Higher Secondary that year with distinction. She was studying Zoology honors at Charuchandra College.
She had inherited her glowing beauty from her mother. It was getting redefined by the radiant opulent light of the young morning that was getting reflected by yellow-white mixed floral sheet of the king size bed.
He looked at her and says “Didi you also…I do not want to talk with you…”
She threw her towel on the dressing table and after snatching the comb from her mother she said, while combing her brother’s hair, “I will be at home, before you, to listen to your story of your first day…”
Aparajita looked at the brother-sister in their reflection in the mirror. She surpassed the water in her eyes and walked hastily to the dining room cum kitchen. She had to serve the boiled rice on a plate smeared with ghee and had to put it in front of the noisy table fan to cool it down.
“Now, hurry up…go, have your meal… we’ll be late otherwise…in the meanwhile let me get ready….” Srabani said while pushing the cane stool he was standing on. He gave a little jump and walk dragging his legs towards the dining. He was disheartened to have his plea being turned down.
“Now, you shall pranam your father and grandfather,” Aparajita said after tying the knot of his shoes and combing his hair with her fingers.
His father had passed away when he was five–six years back from then. Then his grandfather had passed away within two years–he was seven then. He pranam their framed picture and touched his Ma’s feet as he saw his Didi doing that. Sraboni gave smile looking at the portraits.
“Is our king going to school…” said Pradip, owner of the tea shop at the corner of the alley.
Sangbad said in a failed heavy voice “yes, Silver Star School…”
“Go quickly or you’ll be late…we’ll hear your story once you’re back from school…”, said Shambhu Kaku while sipping his morning tea sitting on the bench of the shop. He was the elder of the five Mondal brothers who own the steel workshop Bhavani Engineering Shop at opposite the tea shop.
Sraboni said, “yes, we’ll be late…bid them goodbye…”
“Can I drop him…you’ll be late for college…” Samir, another Mondal brother–the fourth one, said as he stopped before entering the workshop.
“No…it’s okay…it’s his first day there…so, let me drop him for today…you can drop him from tomorrow…okay, we should move on, otherwise, he’ll be late on the first day…” she said after looking at her wrist watch.
Sangbad was going to accept the proposal of the cycle ride, but, he senses Didi want to drop him at school. So he remains quiet. Roaming around on Samir Kaku’s cycle was the one thing he loved most.
“Okay…if I’m not full of hand, I’ll pick him up after school…” Samir Kaku said after rubbing his cheek and passing him a lozenge–the mango one–he loved most.
Didi looked at them scornfully ’cause a few weeks ago one of his teeth had to be plucked off for getting germed and the doctor had warned to keep him away from all sorts of excessively contaminated sweets like this mango flavored logenze. He bid them goodbye and hold his sister hand tightly. He was scared of car crowded street.
Sraboni looked for an empty rickshaw but finding one was hard during the rush hour. So the brother and sister kept on walking. The school was about eight or so minute from their home.
The Silver Star School was then only a year old. It was founded by a group of teachers from some of the South Kolkata prominent schools. The school was set up on the first floor of a run-out-of-business metal workshop at one side of the Kasba Rathtala Minibus stand. The school then had class one to six and had a plan to extend more in next one year from then. The school became a popular one when the news spread of the teachers being from prominent schools of Southern Kolkata; along with it join the low fee structure that goes well with the economic stature of the area–middle class and lower-middle class.
Sangbad had been admitted because Aparajita can’t afford the fee of the renowned school he was studying from Nursery till class four.
After the Operation Sunshine1 approximately four years had passed then. She had tried hard for the last couple of years. But, college fee and the increasing expenses related to studies of Sraboni let her take the decision of changing school of Sangbad.
When Sraboni and her brother reached the school, five minutes was left to ten. The class would be commencing from ten. She stopped in front of the paan shop opposite the school and bought a hefty quantity of Eclairs. She took one from the lot and passed the remaining to her brother.
“These are for you…” She said while putting the thonga2 in his bag.
He asked, “what are this for…”
She after crossing the road, replied, “if you make new friends, give it to them…now go otherwise you will be late for the first class…”
He smiles at her and leaves her hand. She pushed him softly and soon he was one of the crowds of the little fellow. She leaves a sigh. Her brother was not so smart to compare to other boys of his age. He was introvert and shy, but, once he gets acquainted or gets accustomed he was an extrovert boy.
As Sangbad enter the gate, she turned around and walked a little towards the road to board the public bus that’ll en route to her college. The Minibus there doesn’t match her route.
Sangbad entered the school and found him to be lost. The new faces of students, teachers, and staffs made him felt to cry. But, Didi says, boys don’t cry. So, he felt he should scream aloud. He holds his step and looked back. The gate was few pace back. He decided to turn around in intention to run to his Didi who might be still waiting for him; if not him, then for her bus.
“Are you not Sangbad…” a heavy female voice jerked him back to the unacquainted crowd.
It was the voice of Mrs. Sushmita Sen, the Head Mistress of Silver Star School. She was a woman in his late thirties with a compressed skin color and a tall strong stature. The most striking features of her were two—her voice which was female-baritone and her eyes—sharp and pacific all the time, but, once she got agitated or angry the eyes were the most fearful feature of her that used to get highlighted sending a chill down the spine.
Sangbad looked at her with aloof teary eyes. He couldn’t reply due to choking in his voice.
“You’ll get adjust soon…now, don’t cry…boys don’t cry…” she said.
She was standing at the small landing near the gate. There was a door behind her. The door leads to the classes.
As, it was said, Silver Star was a year old. So, at that time the class used to get held at one side of the first floor of the building. The classes that were operative during that time was four to ten. The side that the door leads to was divided by plywood partition to segment two big rooms into four and thus serving spaces for four classes—four to eight. The remaining classes were held at two separated mid-sized rooms on the other side of this side.
The right side of the landing leads to another portion which was closed and not in used. The left side was a sort of courtyard with a wide cemented pathway leading to another building—another extended separated portion of the mill which was there. Between the two brother-building, there was a small field.
Sangbad looked around once more and took a little step towards Mrs. Sen. He had to peak his head to look at the face of the headmistress.
“Dipanwita, take him to his class…which class are you in…” she asked leaning down a little. She had a photographic memory. The reason for the asking was to ease the shaken Sangbad.
Sangbad looked at the teacher whom Mrs. Sen had beckoned. He found she was a fat and short height lady with a serious face and she wore a spectacle—a golden round frame as his mother wore.
“Class Five…” was his replied as he was scared by the new teacher. She is a very angry woman you know…he heard s’one saying him from inside his head.
“Okay…come quickly…the prayer will start in a minute…Sushmitadi is we going to start the prayer at 10 or later… ” she had a narrow shrill voice, unmatched to her heavy body.
Mrs. Sen looked at her wristwatch and said “it’s almost 10…let’s wait for five minutes more…and that’ll continue for this week only…’til we all get accustomed to this morning routine…now take him…there’re two more new admissions…they haven’t come yet…sent Ratnadi… I need to visit the field to see e’thing is going accordingly…”
Dipanwita replied in monotone and turned around silently saying follow me now.
They enter the big room. Few students were still there—putting down their bags and drinking water—lazily and slowly. As they saw Dipanwita a shade of being frightened passed on their faces. See, I say you, she is a very angry Auntie, Sangbad heard the voice again. She took him on the other side of the plywood wall. It was at one corner of the big room.
Sangbad saw there were two windows and a door. It was smaller than a class of his last school. He felt sick at the stomach. He looked around. The walls were damped one like the walls of the big room of his home with various abstract shape etching out different shapes similar to that of continents and countries in the Atlas.
He also smelled a strong pungent smell. He recognizes the odor. It was of burnishing, Samir Kaku had said after he asked of the odor that had filled their workshop a few days back after an order of windows grills was dispatched.
“Hurry up…the prayer will start soon…” Dipanwita said in a mellowed voice with a smile on her pouted lips.
Sangbad put down his bag in the first bench as it was empty with one bag at one side. He took a sip from his water bottle and ran beyond Dipanwita as she was walking first towards the field through another room.
Why she doesn’t take this door…a flash of thought passed Sangbad’s mind as he followed the angry Aunty to the field.
As the Dipanwita ran with him in tow, Sangbad got the answer to his thought. She was actually checking out in the way whether a’one had been left out or just loitering around. He found the group of student he had seen a few moments back was following them along with few more.
As they came out on the balcony through the door of the adjacent room, running parallel to the other three big rooms, Sangbad saw the field was not rectangular, but, it was like that of alphabet L. He had seen the head before and now he was seeing the leg. The field was tiny, a bit of land between the brother-buildings and the sides were decorated with big cornered leafed trees and few more decorative trees. The most striking feature was a guava tree, standing at one side adjacent to the balcony.
“Pawan…come here…” Dipanwita called out in a high voice.
Sangbad was seeing around the field and thinking he knew well; he was actually recollecting the vast field, and the time he had spent there playing hide and seek, treasure hunt and many more games, from his last school. The call of the name brought him back to the field. His eyes first went to the guava tree.
“Yes…Miss…” a heavy frail voice disturbed his thought.
He looked at the boy. He was a tall and lean boy; he was elder than him it can be deduced easily. Sangbad attention got caught by the eyes of the boy. They look like the one of that dinosaur from Jurassic Park…Sangbad heard the voice again.
“He’s new entrant…see, where he can stand…Mrs. Sen is already here…do it quick…” Dipanwita said quickly before going away to the other side of the field—at the leg.
Sangbad saw queue had been formed for the Morning Prayer. There were four at the stretch while three more at the breath of the L-shaped field.
“Hi, I’m Pawan…and you…” the boy reintroduced self after he signaled Sangbad to follow him.
Sangbad replied in the first name only.
Pawan doesn’t reply back. He rather started checking a queue standing at the extreme left on the length of the field. His action reminded Sangbad of his Didi who perform the same action of checking; the only difference she does that with her assorted small collection of books and he was doing that with students to find where Sangbad can fit in properly. After three tries, checking height by shoulder with two boys, he got a place ‘fore a tall boy with a baby face.
“All ready…silent now…” Mrs. Sushmita Sen voice was heard.
The field became quiet. Boys like Pawan who were in charge quickly took their place. Sangbad saw Pawan stand in their queue immediate after the boy behind him.
“Where’s you diary…” the boy standing behind him asked in low voice.
“What…diary…” Sangbad turned his head to understand what he had just said. There was no such thing like this in his last school. So all this were new to him like the school and its students were.
“Hush…Madam is coming…” Pawan said from behind alarmingly.
After a round of walking among the queues, Mrs. Sen took her position in the mid of two queues.
“Take mine…and hold it little high, so, that I can read it…” the boy from behind passed him his diary to Sangbad with a page already opened.
“And read the words…nothing el–”
“Will you two shut up…” Pawan again said as Mrs. Sen looked around suddenly ‘fore starting “Our Father…” in her Madam Baritone.
Sangbad at first couldn’t get what was happening. He just kept looking at the words and tried to chant the Prayer, but, as everyone said Amen he was at ease. He was feeling hot and he was perspiring profusely. His fair face had gone red and the face was full of beads of sweats. The 10 AM summer sun was acting harshly on him.
“Now, put the diary in your pocket and gather your fingers and put it up on your mouth…from today we’re going to pray another Prayer…in Bengali…your Ratna Miss will lead the chore…” Mrs. Sen announced before changing her position and going among the other teachers standing at the joint of the L-shaped field—at the junction of the length and the breath.
Ratna Miss starts singing “Asado Ma Sadgamaya…”
“Can I sit beside you…” Sangbad asked the tall boy, his guide in the Prayer queue.
“Sure…why not…” the boy took up the bag and made a space for him. He was sitting at the last bench.
“I’m Priyotosh…and you…” the boy introduces self after Sangbad gave back his diary and took out a pink towel kerchief to wipe his face.
Sangbad introduces self and had a sip from his bottle.
“So…what was your last school…” Priyotosh asked.
“Who’s this towel boy…” A girl had come up.
Sangbad looked at her. She was pretty looking. Her hair was plaited in two tied with a rubber band.
“Am Sangbad…and you…” Sangbad replied while taking his seat.
Another boy came up. He was very much lean and looked ill.
“Am Anushka…” the girl replied and was going to say more when a teacher enters the classroom.
“Will you like to have lunch with us…” Sangbad asked the boy who was with Anushka in the morning and sitting beside her.
He didn’t get a chance to came up and introduce self to the boy ‘cause the aunties were coming up as soon as one class ended. It was another new to him. In his last school, it was ritual to call teacher aunty and there was only one aunty who used to take two to three periods—back to back.
As the recess started, Sangbad finding Anushka nowhere around walked to the third bench to get acquaintance with the boy. He somehow disliked Anushka. It reminds him of Sree from his previous school.
“No..actually…” the boy stammered a little showcasing his discomfort.
“Am Sangbad…and if you want to enjoy the lunch, you can come to our bench…” Sangbad didn’t give him a chance to speak and walked away to his bench.
Priyotosh had taken out his Tiffin box and was waiting for Sangbad. He had found hard to understand Sangbad. He was talkative but at the same time serious while studying; he spoke lots of his last school especially of s’one name Suman. At the same time, he remains lost often—thinking nothing, but, seeing around blankly as if he was searching s’thing.
“Will he come…am hungry…” Priyotosh asked.
“Let’s see..” Sangbad replied shortly.
He takes out his lunch box—a plastic blue one. Priyotosh looked at his unknowingly which was long and slender aluminum box.
“You know that Abhirup was my classmate at my last school…” Priyotosh said to start a conversation.
Sangbad sat up on the high bench and keeping his lunch box on his lap, “so, why didn’t he came up…”
“He is like that…” Priyotosh replied while adjusting his position as Sangbad hanging leg had touched once or twice his knee and Sangbad was unaware of that.
“Do I call–” Sangbad was going to offer a proposal to call Abhirup up when he was interrupted by an “excuse me” in a narrow voice.
It was the boy from the third bench whom he had offered their company.
“Wait…Priyo could you sit aside…’cause am loving this position of mine on the high bench…”
Priyotosh moves aside a little more and was surprised as Sangbad came down and let the boy sat while he again sat down on the high bench at one corner.
“He’s Priyotosh…you two should know each other ‘cause the class had started two days ago…” Sangbad asked while wiping his sweat off the forehead with his kerchief.
“No…actually…by the way I’m Saibal…” the boy replied abruptly.
“I’m hungry…can we have our lunch…” Priyotosh interrupted as he started opening his box.
“What do you have…” Sangbad asked.
Priyotosh opened his box and screamed, “not again…roti and curry…”
Sangbad smiled and looked towards Saibal.
Saibal opened his box—enamel Tiffin Box, then “I’ve Maggi…”
Sangbad looked at his box and saw the hot Maggi had turned to a cake being under compression.
He was going to say s’thing where Anushka showed saying “you boys are so rude and mean…”
“Why…what happen…” Sangbad asked.
“Can I be among you…”
“Sure…sure…actually you were…”
“It’s okay…I have roti and dry potato curry…what all you’ve…” Anushka said while opening his plastic Tiffin Box being standing there.
Sangbad came down, then, said “Saibal, get up here…let her sit there…”
“Why…am going to sit here…” Anushka said while putting her box on top of Sangbad’s who was holding his box in his hand.
She sat up and open the box in her lap after taking up her box.
“What you have…” Saibal asked Sangbad who was standing and finding words to say to Anushka.
“Cake…what’s that…” he replied incompletely as s’thing at Anushka’s Tiffin Box had caught his attention.
“Nothing…it is nothing…” Anushka said while hiding s’thing.
But, before she could hide what she wanted to hide Sangbad snatched her box, dropping his on the lap of Saibal, and took out a small compressed rectangular box.
Before Anushka could protest, Sangbad opened the box and cried out “rasogolla3…”
He put in his mouth one and then the second one.
Anushka face became red. Saibal was thinking what to do. Priyotosh had torn a piece of roti and put it in his mouth forgetting to smear it with curry.
“I love them very much…” Sangbad said while chewing the sweet, he felt a tinge at the plucked teeth area. There was still stitch that will be cut off that week. But, it doesn’t stopped him to have the sweets.
He while chewing, in interim, said “you can have the cake…it’s of Vanilla flavor and I hate that flavor…and if you want more…Saibal you’re eating with spoon, so, there’s my bag…inside that…yes in that pocket…you’ll find a thonga…take it…it’s full of Éclairs…oh…if I can have one more of this…is it not from Dey Brothers…”
Priyotosh was surprised again. Sangbad was a ten-year boy, as he had said in the second or third period, but acting like six or five; Saibal was thinking what a funny boy he is though he looked much older than his age—he might be twelve or s’thing like that…
The thing they all missed was Anushka’s fair cheek had got a shade of pink as Sangbad through Saibal passed her the Éclairs. She looked at Sangbad who was chewing hard the two sweets in his mouth in élan with closing his eyes in satisfaction.
She took the Éclairs and asked him “when’s you birthday…”
Sangbad took a sip of water from his bottle and after gulping down the water replied “twentieth of April…three days from now…now take the cake and let me have a roti ‘cause the curry smells good…Priyo, do not try to hide yours…am going to have that also…and Saibal keeps a slice of the Maggi cake, though it’s salty, for me as dessert…”
Those beautiful days
And our naughty hearts
How I miss today
Our Juicy talks
Our nonstop chatting
While lazy walks
Outburst of giggles
Without any cause
Those were years
Of You n Me
That innocent age
Was so carefree!
Those sweet memories
And juicy we!
An Ode to Golden Days–Meenakshi Sethi
- Operation Sunshine was launched by the Calcutta Municipal Corporation in 1996. It was the first sustained campaign to clear some of the city’s crowded pavements of hawkers from the populated area like Gariahat.
- Small packet made from old newspaper or scraped papers from copies, books, etc.
- Rasogolla—popularly known as Rasgulla is famous Indian sweets. These are dumplings balls made from chhana (a sort of Indian cottage cheese) dipped in sugary or s’thing sweet equal to that. These are popular mostly among the Bengalis of West Bengal.
From Author’s Desk:
Thank you to all of you for your reviews and comments. Here the story so far of Once (the first part of The Fable of Time). I generally post the repeat on Thursday at 11 AM, but, as it is a story so far, so, I’m posting this tonight so that you can read it in rest in next two days before the new episode posted on Saturday.
Those who are reading this first feel free to comment (read review). And those who had already my fan following and admirers, you can also re-review it. Will be waiting for the Reviews more than Like.
23rd February 2017