SONAJHURI Chapter 5: Ramesh - 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



It did not take much long for us to get acquainted with the Mukherjee children but it seemed their parents were not too keen about it. Four of us used to play on their compound in the afternoon after school for an hour. Some children of the foreigners also played among themselves but they did not make friends with us, may be because the division between the ruler and the ruled still lingered in their mind. Any way Meenakshi and Ramesh would play with us only for an hour and till their father came back from office. As soon as Mr Mukherjee returned in the evening they would follow him meekly upstairs. We felt they were afraid of their father. Mr and Mrs Mukherjee were characters out of a cinema. Both were tall, fair , handsome and always well dressed. They seemed made for each other. Mrs Mukherjee never really looked like a mother but more like a society lady. She used to wear dark coloured chiffon and georgettes most often or zari bordered heavy silk sarees. She wore make up and always looked ready to go out. We felt uneasy in their presence and to be frank they never made us welcome in their home either. On the other hand Meenakshi and Ramesh were very much welcome in our house as our friends. Daima would make snacks for them and father smiled affectionate and stroked them on their head lightly in a welcome gesture, whenever they came to our place. It was odd that we never referred to Mr and Mrs Mukherjee informally as Uncle and Aunty I don’t know why.

Their parents often went out in the evening and they would come over to our place and we made merry making as much noise as we wished, nobody censoring us. We would lock the ‘choto ghar’ and would play ‘dark room’ . I remember one afternoon they called us upstairs to their flat. We were hesitating and asked “won’t your parents get angry”. They are not home and would be back late today, so please come. There flat was very spacious ; the main entrance led us to a wide and well decorated living room with heavy curtains draping the windows and beautiful wall hangings and a wine coloured glass vessel on the centre table in which a bunch of red roses was emanating faint fragrance. The hall led to the front balcony. Two doors on in right side lead to two rooms; but we could not see what was inside as heavy curtains hung from pelmets . Ramesh led us to the left side of the hall and we entered a comparatively small room, which apparently belonged to the brother, sister duo. Every thing in their flat was just right and adequate, it seemed, not a bit overdone or out of place. I took in the details without making an conscious effort , but the effect remained with me to help decorate my own house years later.

And four of us trouped inside. We were discussing among ourselves what play to select, while a bright idea hit me and I said ,” come lets play picnic party.” “ and what is that!” “Why let’s make a small fire and cook some rice and vegetable imagining we have come to a picnic spot.” Nobody among us could thing how disastrous the result could be.

But how can we make an oven” Meenakshi was skeptical. I pointed to some bricks that were lying in a corner of the staircase and we brought them to their room. The room was somewhat small with two cots on opposite walls. The same symmetry and sophistication was in the decoration of the children’s room also impressed me a lot . However, thankfully there was no floor carpet in their room as I noticed in the hall.

We put the bricks in the passage between the two beds and put some broken branches and some cardboard papers and lit them with the match box that Ramesh found from his father’s desk. Ramesh tried to light the fire by striking a matchstick but failed a number of time and ultimately Bumba could light a matchstick successfully and threw it on the papers and branches. The fire started very slowly and reluctantly but once we could see smoke, we put a pan on the bricks from the kitchen with some water and two potatos in it. The water took so much time to even become moderately warm, forget about boiling that we were almost thinking of quitting, when I took a exercise book and started to fan, like I had watched our cook doing many a time. Fanning enhanced the fire and flames started coming out from under the pan and we all screamed and jumped back in panic. Ramesh ran inside and came in with a mug full of water and poured it on the bricks. The fire was eventually put out but the floor was a mess. We never looked at the watch, but we had spent almost two hours making and then putting out the fire and we heard a car screech to a halt down the portico. Ramesh ran to the balcony and came back panting, quick they have come back, Rina, Bumba go out and hide behind the pillar outside and he pushed us out of their flat. We ran and hid ourselves behind the pillar holding our breath. We heard Mr and Mrs Mukherjee come up the stairs and rang the door bell. They could smell the fire and ashes from outside and panicked calling for Ramesh and Meenakshi repeatedly.

Once they were gone inside and the door closed on them, we two ran like hares and kept on running till we reached our room. Even inside the room we shut the door and sat huddled in a corner , our heart pounding violently inside.

Bumba do you think they will tell their parents that it was my idea”

I hope not”

Will they come to our place report us to father?”

I hope not”

Oh Bumba, why can’t you be more precise?

But how can I, you silly girl, always asking silly questions, how do I know what they would say to their parents.

Next day we went to play as usual and Meenakshi also came to play. Bumba and I asked her about it and were surprised and thankful to learn that Ramesh took all the blame on himself and was scolded and also punished and he had to skip dinner for his crime. He was also barred from coming down to play for two successive days. Later Ramesh confided that unless he took the blame on himself and in case his parents came to know about us, they would never let Ramesh and Meenakshi even to talk to us, forget about playing together. Gradually our friendship grew stronger and the four of us were almost inseparable and our parents also accepted it as it was. Ramesh was a strong boy, both mentally and physically. Bumba was shy and soft and harmless and he was often bullied by other local boys. But with Ramesh on his side, he could dare to ignore them. The local boys never had the guts to disturb Ramesh. I don’t know why, as Ramesh never shouted nor did he fight with them, still they regarded him with respect. Quite a few years went by and our bondage grew stronger. I had always been a fan of Ramesh but was not of aware of the true colour of my feelings for him, as I was too young to know of the girl loves boy kind of feeling then. We were so close that during one summer holiday Ramesh was allowed even to accompany us to Sonajhuri. Poor Meenakshi was not allowed and was taken by their parents to Mumbai where their maternal uncle lived. That particular holiday at SONAJHURI was the most memorable one till date.

Years later when Ramesh came back after finishing his engineering degree and visited our place, a look at his eyes and I was floored by his charm, by the irresistible pull on the heartstring, a soft and pure, innocent and deep love which had grown silently but steadily inside me like a budding yellow champak filling my whole being with its glow and unmistakable heady smell. It seemed that a happy tune was ringing in the air, as if there was a rainbow on the sky, as if the sky would rain petals all over. It was kind of a maddening feeling and I wanted to tell the whole world that I was in Love,

How we expressed our love for each other and how we tied the knot is another story

Ramesh came to our place to visit us as the Mukherjees had, in the meantime left their flat and shifted to some other part of Calcutta. We had not met Meenakshi for a long time and we wanted to know about her, what she was doing, how was she, and why Ramesh did not bring her along. That day we learned a lot about our brave friend Meenakshi.

Next: Chapter 6 >

Previous: Chapter 4 >

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.