SONAJHURI Chapter 3: Fiasz - A Novel by Santwana Chatterjee | WBRi Online Magazine

"Sonajhuri" is a serialized English novel by Santwana Chatterjee published in WBRi Online Magazine section. Each episode has links to previous and next episodes.

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A Novel by Santwana Chatterjee



As I mentioned Bumba liked playing with me more than with other boys. May be because we did not mix much with the neighboring children.  Park circus, where we used to stay was a predominantly Muslim area and there were more Muslims and white people living than ordinary and middleclass Bengali Hindus Those days there was a sharp division between the Hindus and the Muslims because of the partition of India by the British and the riot following that. As children we were not conscious of the religion bias but our elders would scold us if we mixed with them and vice versa. Still then Bumba and I were extremely fond of an elderly Muslim gentleman living two houses apart. He was very rich and his name was Fiats . He was a widower and he was extremely affectionate. He spent a lot of time with the two of us .Though he was even much older than our father but we called him by his name. Fiaz was very rich and many people visited his home among whom there was an extremely beautiful and fair young lady named sheereen. Sheereen was not like other guests in the sense that while others came for the day or may be two and always left for their own home, Sheereen stayed on with her mother since she came there .Bumba and I thought that she was Fiasz's niece or some such relative. I used sit in her room and watch her putting nail polish on her pinkish white and beautiful finger nails. Most of the time she wore the bright red colour on her nails as well as on her lips and I always wondered why should she put on so much make up even while staying at home.  I  used to sit staring at her wide eyed, so stunning she appeared to me, with white marble like skin, reddish henna colour long hair done into a bun or plait with white jasmine gajra tied around it . She seemed to be much more beautiful than the film actresses of our time.  But there was  something out of place in her that I could not understand or identify.  The more I tried the more confused I would be. I tried desperately to find out what it was it and as I matured I thought I had understood what it was. It was a streak of wildness in her smile, a hint evil in her eyes and something rude and arrogant in her ways and body language.

Fiasz was tall and grey haired. He had no beard like others who came to his place. We saw him mostly in Pathan suits. He very rarely wore shirt and pants. He seemed very lonely and could not stay without a lot of people around him.  He used to pray many times a day and would close the room of his door and ask us, if we were there to wait for him and not make noise.  He seemed to be stinking rich. What was his source of income we never knew? Fiaz was very fond of us as he was a widower and having lost the children of his own in an accident, which he confided to our father much later. He would often invite two of us to their dining table. In the lunch and dinner table there used to be so many dishes that we two always gaped at them. There would be at least two     to three kinds of meat preparations; prawn was a must, and polau or rich fried rice with ghee. Apart from that there would      be fries and sweet dishes. Everything tasted gorgeous and ravishing. Fiasz would also take us two for evening ride in horse drawn carts or buy expensive dresses. Once father objected to his buying dresses for us and told us to return them. But Fiasz got extremely sentimental and he came and talked to our father for a while and we were ordered out of the room. But after the talk father never again objected on such counts. We gather that Fiaz told him about his wife and his two children who died in a road accident that left him stunned and inconsolable. Fiaz was at the driving with his wife in the front seat and his children sitting in the back, while they were traveling on high way from Patna to Muzaffarpur.  He had put his foot on the accelerator just to humour his children and kept on increasing speed, though his wife tried to desist him for a number of times. As the road took a sharp turn he did not anticipate a jeep coming their way in a breakneck speed from the opposite direction and his small car was smashed beyond recognition. Miraculously Fiaz except with minor injuries, but the other three lost their lives on the spot. Fiaz never took the wheel again in his life. He found the shadow of his children in me and Bumba and he requested father not to prevent us from visiting him. Father could not but relent.

We were regular visitors at Fiaz till he married Sheereen. Serene was quite young much younger than Fiaz but one day we learned that Fiaz had married Sheereen. Sheereen never really liked that we should take up so much affection, time and gifts from Fiaz. Gradually there were fewer visitors at his place, including us. We realized that Sheereen did not like us and that Fiaz also would prefer to spend time with his young and new wife than with us and quietly we stopped going.

We really missed going to Fiaz as he was a very jovial and affectionate man. We liked him a lot and he entertained us immensely. But it was also true that we never really felt at home in there, with so many people around, who seemed different from us in some vague way.  Their dresses, their askance look at me and Bumba, their beard, their food and their language, everything  somehow alienated them from us, but being young we were still adaptable to different cultures and customs with an unbiased and fresh mind and it was a vague feeling only and not very apparent to us.

I often think of Fiaz even now may be because he had left a very deep impression on my young mind. The man was so affectionate , so benevolent, as we had seen how he tried to help all who came to him for money or any other distressed condition, without grudge, how decent a person he was in dealing with people below his rank and how jovial. But the same man after he met Sheereen and took her as his wife changed drastically for the worst.  He became unsocial, did not entertain any one who might come to him for support and help. He became decidedly rude and glum. If marrying some one makes you so different and unhappy, so glum and rude, Bumba and I vowed we would never marry in future, which promise Bumba kept religiously but not I; for I realized at a later date that love makes you expand, makes you happy and benevolent; when you are in love, you love everybody and everything around you and not the opposite. So I guess Fiaz must have not been in love.  What drove him to marry some one young enough to be his daughter is still a mystery to me.

After we stopped going to Fiaz we were befriended by two children who became our new next door neighbour and later one of them became my life partner. On the right side of our house there was a three storied yellow building with a big cemented compound and grill gate where a guard was always stationed. The ground floor and the second floor were rented to two foreign families and the first floor was vacant till then. One Sunday morning I saw a truck with furniture and a comparatively young couple and two children, a boy and girl, about our age group.  We stood on the balcony watching them with renewed interest.  The girl who appeared younger than the boy was about my age and her mother called her “mean” and we laughed out loud. The girl looked up at us and we observed that she had a very bad squint on the left eye. Later we came to know that she was ironically given the name Menaces, meaning one with beautiful eyes as the shape of a fish. Meenakhi also confided that some people openly taunted her when they came to know her name and how humiliating it  was  for her.

She often begged of her parents to change her name but they assured her that they would definitely cure her squint and for that they had consulted a number of eye doctors but till then no doctor had been able to achieve success.  A few years later she advised to were powered glasses and it almost cured her of the squint. Her brother was older to Bumba by may be one/two years and was called Ramesh. Meenakshi was slightly built, a little on the darker side, with thin straight hair tied tightly in a plait with a green  ribbon and wore a nice little green frock with small yellow polka dots, a black ballerina and a pair of green bordered socks, which again looked out of place with a ballerina. Later I discovered that she had the sweetest smile in the world , a very bright little girl with a heart of gold. Her brother was tall for his age, slim but well built. He had a wheatish  complexion, a somewhat sharp and high nose a little hooked at the top , a pair of laughing eyes, square jaws and head full of course curly hair. I found him extremely attractive on the first glance and became attached to him instantaneously. I sort of admired him and as the years passed a kind of calf love grew between us . I sensed he too was fond of me in a special way, but what exactly it was, I could not even discern. He was wearing a light blue shirt well tucked into his black full pants. A pair of shining black shoes said all that could be said about his fastidiousness about his clothe sense and bearing. Bumba looked at him jealously, for Bumba did not have a single full pant till then. The Mukherjees  came as the new tenants to the building’s first floor flat.

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Santwana Chatterjee is a creative writer and blogger from Kolkata and is a member of the Tagore family. She is a prolific contributer to Washington Bangla Radio - her other writings can be found by using her name to search this web site. Her own blog is at Santwana can be reached by e-mail at santwanastar [at] gmail [dot] com.