Note: Use Contact link to submit your stories, poems, recitation (audio) etc. for publication on Washington Bangla Radio.
Dream in a rainly day
Sandip opened his bleary eyes and peered at Bechu closely. His plump cheeks have become ruddy; the checkered necktie matches immaculately with his deep blue shirt that slopes down the pot belly into the cream colored pant, the bald circle at the middle of the head is shining like a mirror. Bechu took out a pack of Chesterfield cigarettes, himself lighted one and offered one to Sandip, and lighted it while Sandip held it to his lip in his shaky fingers and he looked aside to avert the obscenity of the reddish flicker highlighting the boobs and the pussy of the nude female shaped Chinese lighter.
“Don’t worry Sanu, I’m here for you. Now you’re too weak to move. Take a few days’ rest and the doctor would also check up and prescribe treatment. I’m sure you would be fit in a few days and you’ll supervise my construction work.” Bechu’s voice sounded reassuring.
Sandip felt the spongy seat of the Mercedes Benz cozy and reclined on the soft back while smoking the excellent cigarette. Bechu-da is absolutely right. He must have a few days rest. Assurance of the job and a secure place to stay removed his worries. It was good luck that Bechu-da came upon him on the street, just a coincidence. He felt languid from the very beginning but could trudge along for some time but eventually everything became dark before his eyes and his legs gave way. While his consciousness returned he saw a mob around him and someone sprinkling water on his face and forehead. Then he heard a sonorous voice requesting the mob, “Carry him to my car and I’ll take him to hospital. Looks like starving for some days.” Suddenly Sandip could recognize Bechu-da. In spite of sea changes, his eyes through the glasses look the same – bright and inquisitive. He at once mumbled, “Bechu-da!”
It’s nothing unusual, he is a well known person, but this time the voice was intriguingly familiar and it did not take him much time to recognize the voice, “You’re Sandip. Am I right?”
“How famished you have become! And the jungle of beard has made your appearance completely unfamiliar, but I could recognize your voice. What were you doing there?”
“Just walking aimlessly, after release today. I’ve no where to go”
“Oh-ho, I had completely forgotten about you. Yes the government has decided to release the non-violent Naxals and withdraw all cases against them and rehabilitate them. You are a pure theoretician and I should have guessed that you’d be released today, but you know the high pressure of work in promoter’s job. Don’t say again that you’ve no where to go. Stay at my house and supervise my new construction works. I need a reliable person like you for the position. But everything after you’re up and around. I’ll send for the doctor after going home.”
It was simply an accident and Sandip had no intention to commit the mischief. While taking a shortcut through the Baker Labs he noticed the haughty girl Arati in front of him and sped up to bypass the girl whose sarcastic comments and pride because of her results in the Senior Cambridge exam. had always been irritating to him and in haste he stepped on the back of her hawai-chappal which snapped at once. Sandip started preparing himself for the oncoming storm, but nothing happened and the girl looked up with sad eyes as though she would burst into tears and muttered, “How can I go out now?”
Sandip felt guilty and said apologetically, “Come to the College Street market and I’ll buy you a new pair. It’s my fault. Now wear mine for the time being.”
He took out his sandals and placed them near her feet.
She now smiled to the relief of Sandip, “Oh my god, how can I wear these large chappals. You really have demon’s feet.”
“You can do with them somehow for a short while.”
“It does not matter to me. I don’t care what others would think if I move barefooted.”
“O.K., you need not spend your money. This is just an accident and you’ve not done it intentionally I know well. Simply accompany me to the shop.”
She looked different today to his surprise and offered to have tea or coffee. Sandip preferred the coffee house but she told she does not like the noise and moreover, if the friends find them together, they would fabricate stories. So they walked along the M. G. Road and Surya Sen Street, had kachuri from Mouchak restaurant and tea from the footpath tea stall Chhota Amzadia.
They decided to meet the next day. Only first three honors classes are important and they may easily cut the pass classes and for percentage, proxy could be arranged. To avoid curiosity of the batch-mates they would not meet anywhere near the college and they would go separately to esplanade corner at the appointed time.
They met at esplanade, had coffee and chicken pakora at Chowringhee restaurant and strolled along the side walks of the J. Nehru Road keeping the Metro cinema hall and the gorgeous Grand Hotel to the left, diverted to Park Street and then towards the Raj Bhawan along the Red Road. The esplanade with the arrays of football grounds, the fast flowing cars, the lofty tower of the Victoria Memorial, the race course, the rows of trees of garer maath (Fort William Ground), turned into a dreamland which they leisurely strolled through and keeping the football galleries to the left and tree laden Ranji Stadium to the right they entered into the romantic Eden Garden and talked for hours sitting close to the exquisite Burmese Pagoda. They told each other of their lives at school and family. Sandip’s family with his widowed mother (his father died of cerebral stroke a few years back), his loving brother and sister-in-law and above all, the charming nephew and niece, was a happy one. Their house is close to the Burdwan town. His father’s transport company is now looked after by his elder brother Pradip.
Arati’s life at their Palm Avenue house is not at all happy. Both the parents work in large private concerns. They very often get drunk and quarrel and both are involved in extra-marital affairs. She feels disgusted at home and wants to leave the house at once, but she’ll have to wait till she completes study and gets a job.
During his school life Sandip had visited Calcutta several times, the first time at class four in their jeep with parents and Pradip. It had rained heavily and the driver had to take detours to avert the water-logged roads. They visited the Zoo, the Victoria Memorial, the Museum and many other sites of interest and in the evening they entered the Hog Market. It was still drizzling when they came out of the posh market and the driver stopped the jeep at roadside to buy something from the footpath. Sandip looked out the window of the jeep and was enchanted by the dreamland of drizzling esplanade opening up in the glow of the neon lights. The esplanade in evening lights today unraveled its mystic charms once again and Sandip felt he’s floating across the dreamland with a fairy from the heaven.
They began to meet occasionally and visit various places in and around Calcutta. At times they would seat at the bank of the Ganges in the Botanical Garden at Shibpore and reminisce the nostalgic days at school. They also chalked out their future plans. Both agreed to continue higher studies in the USA after completion of M. A. from Calcutta University and get settled there after marriage.
At times they would quarrel over differences in opinion, e.g. Uttam Kumar vs. Saumitra Chatterjee, Gregory Peck vs. Omar Sheriff, East Bengal vs. Mohun Bagan, Di Stefano vs. Pele, Satyajit Ray vs. Ritwik Ghatak, Bibhutibhusan vs. Manik Banerjee, Hemingway vs. Faulkner etc. Each would argue strongly to establish the supremacy of his favorites but at the end they would come to the conclusion in the Kantian way that likes and dislikes are purely subjective matters and cannot be subjected to reasoning.
It was drizzling from the very morning and Sandip and Arati strolled down the Red Road and sat in a bench in the Victoria Memorial Park. They folded the umbrellas and began to sing in chorus rain-songs while the droplets of rain drenched them. The ambience became mystic; things at distance were dimly visible through the hazy veil. They felt as though they are floating in an uncanny world. They stopped singing and looking at each other’s eyes got submerged in dream, the dream of a blissful future.
Some student leaders were expelled from college because of their violent and unruly behavior in a library run by a foreign institution. The Students’ Union called a students’ strike and blocked the gates of the college preventing entry of the students. They demanded that the expelled students be taken back unconditionally but the college authorities unambiguously expressed their inability. Some of the teachers started taking classes at their residences and Sandip and Arati chalked out their own study plans. Some student leaders were arrested but communist students of all the colleges in Calcutta and the Communist Party of India-Marxist (CPI-M) backed the striking students and the strike continued indefinitely. Virtually no classes could be held for the entire session and the students had to appear at the university examination without attending any classes.
In spite of all these hazards both Sandip and Arati secured first class in B. A. and got admitted to M. A. class. Sandip shifted to the P. G. Hostel at Rani Swarnamoyee Road. Unlike the under graduate hostel, this new hostel had more freedom as the super did not reside in the hostel premises.
In the mean time State Assembly Elections were held and the Congress party was defeated and the United Front (UF) Government came to power in West Bengal. The CPI-M was an important constituent of the U. F. Government and after coming to power they went back on their promises to the students and directed them to immediately call off the strike unconditionally but the adamant Students’ Union ignored the directive and severed connection with the party. Then like a bolt from the blue the Naxalbari uprising overwhelmed the UF government. It was led by a section of the CPI-M but they severed connection with the party while the police ministry controlled by the latter took ruthless action to repress the uprising. The revolutionists formed a new party called Communist Party of India-Marxist Leninist (CPI-ML) and the striking students joined the new party. At the very beginning, the Naxalite Kanai Chatterjee differed with the CPI-ML Supremo Charu Majumdar (CM) and formed a Naxalite faction called Maoist Communist Center (MCC). Soon there were other splits. Tarimala Nagi Reddy, Kondapalli Seetharamaiah, Satyanarayan Singh, Nagbhusan Patnaik, Vinod Mishra etc. formed their own factions. These factions went on splitting up into sub-factions and there were eventually dozens of extremist factions. But CM’s CPI-ML became the dominant faction and soon unleashed havoc in entire West Bengal and other parts of India.
The P. G. hostel was a den of the Naxalite students. Sandip was at first skeptical about the Naxalite movement but he liked the Naxalite boys in the hostel for their dedication and amiable behavior, but he always showed disinterest whenever they tried to discuss politics with him. One day while Sandip was taking tea from Balaram’s canteen, Tridib, a Naxalite, handed him a made-easy Bengali book on Marxism but Sandip declined to read it. He said, “You better give me the original works.” Tridib replied, “I don’t have any such books. Better I’ll introduce you to Bechuda who reads the originals. Are you free tomorrow afternoon?”
“Yes.” Sandip said, “I know Bechuda, your bespectacled leader who always wears a brown khaddar punjabi and a white pajama.”
“So tomorrow afternoon I’ll take you from your room to Bechuda’s mess.”
“O.K., I’ll be ready.
At the mess at Creek Row, Sandip talked with Bechu for hours and he was highly impressed by the fiery arguments of the latter. Bechu too was impressed at Sandip’s willingness to read the originals which very few Naxalite boys read and very few of those who read understand. Bechu introduced Sandip to a footpath bookstall owner at College Street and Sandip bought three books of Engels which were then available at the stall and these books published from Moscow were very cheap. For the next few days he read Frederick Engels’ ‘Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State’, ‘Dialectics of Nature’ and ‘Socialism: Utopian and Scientific’. The books were pleasant reading and impressed him deeply and he resolved to read all the Marxian literature. Gradually he bought and read all the works of Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin, Mao Tse-tung (Mao Zedong) and a few books by Anwar Hojja and Lin Piao (Lin Biao) and the diary of Ernesto Che Guevara. He occasionally discussed these books with Bechu who was astonished at Sandip’s tenacity and quest of knowledge. He himself had read only a few books and opted for having Marxian lessons from Sandip. These books brought about a thorough change in the thought process of Sandip. It dawned on him that his careerism in a world replete with human sufferings is but narrow selfishness and he resolved to give up his self-centered pursuits and offer himself to the service of suffering mankind and his proposal to join the Naxalites made Bechu highly elated. He introduced Sandip to higher party leaders who readily inducted him to their party.
He joined the fellow Naxalites in processions, pasting of the party’s mouthpiece Deshabrati on a board at roadside and writing on the walls of the city Slogans of Mao like:
‘Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun’
‘Imperialism and all reactionaries are paper tigers’
‘A single spark can start a prairie fire’
Slogans of Lin like:
‘We want to tell the US imperialists once again that if they impose war on us, the vast ocean of several hundred million Chinese people would submerge their few million aggressor troops’
Slogans of CM like:
‘China’s chairman is our chairman and China’s path is our path’
This and most other violent slogans of CM and ones relating to murder of the landlords and other ‘class enemies’ that included the members of other political parties and other Naxalite factions, beheading of the statues of distinguished personalities, burning of educational institutions etc. were dubbed eccentric by the other Naxalite factions. Sandip was most impressed by the slogan of CM:
“Make the Decade of the Seventies the Decade of Liberation” and the gospel of Mao for the youths:
“The world is yours as well as ours but in the ultimate analysis it is yours. You young people, full of vigor and vitality, are in the bloom of life like the sun of eight or nine in the morning. Our hope is placed on you.”
Sandip wrote an article.
“If any thoughtful person observes with insight the global human scenario, he cannot but be bewildered by the striking contrast in the juxtaposition of dazzling riches and loathsome poverty, posh dwellings houses and stinking slums, and the fine blending of gorgeously attired patricians and bare bodied, semi-naked or shabbily dressed commoners; the merriment in the well lighted cosmopolis and the abject miseries of the gloomy hinterlands; the scintillating opulence and suffocating indigence in eternal contrast and he might even be overwhelmed by the sudden zooming in of the ghastly reality (as though in a Hitchcock horror film), the inner story of our glorious civilization, the haunting shadows of poverty, deprivation and oppression lurking behind the hallmarks of human civilization – the lofty Pyramids, the invincible Chinese Wall, the exquisite Tajmahal, the magnificent architectures and technological marvels.
The Marxian theory of the historical process of development of human civilization gives an excellent account of the genesis of poverty, inequality, ruthless oppression and exploitation of one group of men by the other and the despicable deprivation of the majority of global population. Marx divides the process of the development of human society till his time into four stages – primitive communism, slave society, feudalism and capitalism. He predicts that capitalism would be replaced by socialism, which after a long tortuous process would ultimately dissolve into Communism – the classless, stateless blissful society.
At the first stage, during primitive communism, poverty in the modern sense did not exist (in the modern sense poverty is meaningful only when its opposite, viz. opulence exists). It was simply limitation of amenities applicable to all members of a clan, because of limited knowledge to explore natural resources to meet human requirements. These clan societies were characterized by equality.
Man-Nature conflict gradually led to improvement in methods of production – man gradually having more and more command over Nature with his increasing scientific knowledge. With the acceleration if this process, by increasing the intensity of social division of labor, surplus over and above consumption requirements started emerging and at the same time, human values pertaining to fellow feeling and equality started degenerating into slavery – oppression of one class of people by another.
With the mergence of money, the most convenient medium of exchange and the parasitic merchant class, the process of property ownership and accumulation of wealth by a few and the consequent poverty and inequality were further crystallized.
Continued material progress, made possible by man’s increasing command over Nature, ultimately paved the way for the Industrial Revolution, which ushered in the capitalistic or bourgeois society. Capitalism enhanced the pace of materialistic development but at the same time it facilitated more ruthless exploitation of the labor class turning them into proletariats.
As regards the cause of oppression, exploitation and inequality along with material progress, Marx and Engels held class society and the institution of private property responsible and considered the existing State Machinery to be the protector of private property perpetuating the consequent maladies. So they insisted on overthrowing it with the help of the weapon of ‘class struggle’, and replacing it by the Socialist State ruled by and protecting the interests of the proletariats and all the oppressed classes.
Even after establishment of the Socialist State, class struggle would continue and pave the way for gradual weakening and ultimate complete withering away of the State Machinery ushering in Communism – the classless society without private property and its concomitants, the family, competition and division of labor – a stage of supreme bliss.
Regarding the transition from socialism to communism the initial process was devised first by Mao Tse-tung. He wrote many articles on the process of the Cultural Revolution through which minds of people would be refined and the hang-over of class society would gradually be erased from the minds of people. His spectacular contribution was that of New Democracy for the Semi-feudal Semi-colonial countries like China, India and the other Third-World countries where capitalism could not complete its process – the colonial rulers have initiated capitalism only to the extent needed for colonial exploitation. In these countries the proletariat labor class should join hands with the petit bourgeois peasant class (the majority of the exploited people) to bring about ‘bourgeois democratic revolution’ under the leadership of the Communist Party led by the ‘advanced detachment’ of the proletariats. Then the direct transition to socialism (without recourse to capitalism) is to be brought about through ‘great leaps’, completion of the process of capitalistic development under the control of the Socialistic State.”
Bechu made several hand-written copies of the article and sent to the leaders at the higher echelon. The article got high acclaim from the Naxalite leaders and Sandip was given a high position in the Naxalite Party as a teacher and theoretician of Marxism and Maoism.
Sandip did not disclose anything to Arati but she could guess from the change of his behavior as he started avoiding her under various excuses. She wanted to warn him against the dangerous path he’s chosen but he did not give her any such opportunity.
Sandip decided to give up ‘bourgeois-education’ and join the Red Guards. He was sent by the party to Sagar dwip for the propagation of Maoist doctrine among the masses and to prepare them for revolutionary upsurge. He was directed not to discuss with the illiterate masses difficult theories but to read out from only the Red Book of Mao and articles of CM published in Deshabrati.
It was a three hours’ journey by train from Sealdah to Kandwip. The boy accompanying him took him to the bank of the Ganges by an open van; then they hired a boat for Sagar dwip. The jolting journey by the van was new experience and the vast Ganges looking like an ocean enchanted Sandip. Here the Ganges has split up into two vast branches both of which fall into the Bay of Bengal, keeping the Sagar Island at the middle. The eastern branch is called Muriganga and the western branch retains the name Hooghly, the name of the River Ganges by the city of Calcutta.
In ancient times this was the site for the mythological Ashram of the great sage Kapil Muni and is, from time immemorial, a place of pilgrimage of the devout Hindus who every year, on the sankranti (last day) of the Bengali month of Paus, take sacred baths in the Bay of Bengal at the southern end of the island near the temple of the Muni. During the last two millennia or more the shores of the island had been devoured by the sea several times and new temples had to be constructed at safer places. Hindus believe that a single bath here on the auspicious day removes all sins committed during present and past lives. Sagarmela, a great fare, is held here around Paus sankranti and millions of Hindus from all over India and from abroad congregate to take sacred baths.
According to Hindu mythology, the impudent sixty thousand sons of the king Sagar of Audh had reached this place in quest of the sacrificial horse of the Horse-Yajna and found the horse tied to a pole near the place where the Muni was in deep meditation and they thought he had stolen the horse. In fact, with a view to punishing the sons of Sagar and spoil his yajna (which could have enhanced his prowess and become a threat to the kingdom of Indra) Indra, the king of the gods, had stolen the horse and tied it near the meditating Muni. The angry sons roused the Muni and called him thief and at this fire emanating from the eyes of the enraged Muni burnt all the sons of Sagar and their souls got entrapped in the ashes.
After a few generations of futile efforst, Bhagirath (so called because of his birth out of lesbian sex of two queens of the male-less royal family), a male descendant of the Sagar family, was advised by the sages to invite by prayer the river goddess Gangadevi to earth for the salvation of the entrapped souls of his ancestors.
Gangadevi, according to mythology, emerged from Lord Vishnu’s feet which had melted at the cosmic song of Lord Shiva. To save the heavens from the vast water, Lord Brahma got her entrapped in his vessel called kamandalu. Bhagirath’s prayer satisfied both Brahma and Gangadevi and the Devi agreed to flow down the Earth to Bay of Bengal and salvage the entrapped souls. Lord Shiva agreed to hold her in his matted hair to save the earth from the thrust of her falling down from heaven. By painstaking efforts and prayers Bhagirath could ultimately overcome all the hazards on the way and bring the river-goddess to the island and the souls of his ancestors were salvaged.
Till the nineteenth century this island was uninhabited, was a part of the Sunder ban forest and was infested with Royal Bengal Tigers and other ferocious beasts. Transportation was hazardous and many pilgrims were killed by tigers and snakes and died of epidemics.
Later on some benevolent land lords from Calcutta took lease of the land from the government and undertook development works. Jungles were cleared into fertile cultivable land, a large number of settlers– cultivators, craftsmen, transport operators and small businessmen – from the Midnapore district to the west of the Hooghly River started pouring in. In course of time, villages were founded; schools, a college, hospitals, dharmashalas of religious institutions and hotels were established and the island became a highly populated locality with transport, education and many other amenities and the government came forward to arrange for special transport and medical facilities during Paus sankranti.
Sandip went with a fellow party cadre to a party-supporter’s house and was ostensibly assigned the job of the manager of his small food shop serving tea, breakfast, lunch and dinner to the tourists. The man drove his own trekker and his wife cooked food for the customers of the shop and their adolescent son ran the cigarette and pan shop adjacent to the food shop. Sandip was offered a room to stay in the house of the man in a nearby village.
Sandip started liking the rustic men around, learnt to speak their Midnapore dialect and had friendship with many of them. Contact with the villagers soon made him realize that villagers are not what the theoreticians from the towns think about them. Instead of giving them lessons he started taking lessons from them and the foundation of his conviction got a serious jolt. He was to conspire with them to murder landlords and money lenders, but he could not find any opportunity to instigate them, nor did he find acquiescence from his conscience to indulge in such heinous crime. He even failed to answer convincingly their queries about the vandalism and murders committed by the Naxalites, nor could he convince them about the purpose of the movement. Doubts gradually started blossoming in his inner mind.
One day he visited the Bharat Sevashram Sangha opposite the food shop, and met a saffron-clad Swamiji who took Sandip to his room. The Swamiji heard with patience Sandip’s life-story and the present disquiet of his mind owing to doubts about his creed. Swamiji talked on the ideals of Swami Pranabananda Maharaj and read out his gospels and Sandip visualized a new world of peace and harmony.
In the mean time, Naxalite movement had degenerated into sheer anarchy and wanton violence. Hooligans in large numbers had infiltrated the ranks of the CPI-ML in West Bengal and Calcutta experienced the unprecedented violence with murder of the members of not only other parties or Naxalite factions but also the dissidents in their own party. Criminals took advantage of the chaotic situation unleashing violence, murder, arson and looting; educational institutions were burnt with slogans, ‘down with bourgeois education’; personal enemies were murdered and passed on in the name of Naxalite action. Some Marwari businessmen of Burrabazar of Calcutta made enormous money by selling smuggled foreign arms, weapons and explosives to the Naxalites and the goons. A head clerk of a school defalcated funds and hoodlums hired by him invaded the school at night, burnt the relevant documents in the school office uttering Naxalite slogans and hoisted a red flag. A few urchins had stolen green cocoanut from a tree and while the owner with some neighbors tried to chase them, the boys shrieked out, “Long live Chairman Mao, long live CM.” and the men fled in panic. Terror reigned in West Bengal. People did not dare being out of home after evening, no body dared to go to other places or houses of friends and relatives, even known friends could not be trusted. Life in the State became unbearable.
The situation was aggravated by the infighting among the recognized political parties, CPI-M being the most aggressive and successful among them, to capture one another’s area of influence. In the district of Burdwan, a gang of criminals invaded a house of a Congress supporter, murdered him brutally and forced her mother to gulp wads of rice dipped in her son’s blood.
International scenario too looked ominous for the communists. In China the fact could no longer be hushed up that more than thirty million people had died in the abortive ‘Great Leap Forward’ and the ‘Cultural Revolution’ initiated by Mao had degenerated into a power tussle between Lin Piao (Lin Biao), the defense minister of China and Chiang Ching (Jiang Qing), the third wife of Mao, leading to complete anarchy and digging the grave for Maoism in its homeland and paving the way for capitalistic revival under Deng Xiaoping. The clouds of freedom started gathering in the skies of the USSR, East Europe, Cuba, Vietnam and other authoritarian countries scorched by the summer heat of State Capitalism under the guise of socialism.
Eventually, the Central Government under the Prime Minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi was compelled to dissolve the UF Ministry and promulgate President’s Rule in West Bengal under Article 356 of the Indian Constitution. Strong measures were taken against the Naxalites and the latter, already disintegrated out of confusion, desertion and infighting, crumbled. Many leaders and thousands of cadres were arrested; some were killed in encounter with the police and the others absconded. The violent actionists the CPI-M went underground. Bechu’s maternal uncle, an influential barrister, had already sent him to London with a job in a British firm and through his connections with the police chiefs all cases and allegations against him were withdrawn.
After fall of a few make-shift governments, fresh assembly elections were held and the faction of the Congress Party in power at the Center, came out with resounding victory, a new Indira Congress government was formed and peace returned to West Bengal after five years of terror and turmoil, but it was a peace of grave, all hopes and aspirations of the Bengalis shattered and frustration reigning supreme having a deleterious effect on the rich Bengali Culture – their literature, music, film and academic excellence. The new race that emerged out of the ruins did not bear an iota of semblance with the Great Bengali race. One of the most glorious races on the globe was lost for ever in the quicksand of history.
CM dreamt of making the decade one of liberation, but ironically, it turned out to be the decade of defeat, ignominy, frustration and eternal enslavement to greed, jealousy and hatred.
Sandip met Swamiji and decided to join the Sevashram and Swamiji advised him to return home first and meet his suffering mother, resume studies and meet their chief at Ballygunge.
Sandip came back to their house at Burdwan and his mother, who had been bed ridden since her son joined the Naxalite movement, could not keep her joy to get back her lost son. Pradip was busy at business office. Sandip’s sister-in-law and the nephew and niece were happy at the return of Sandip. The kids remained clung to him and started pouring in hundreds of questions about the places their uncle had visited during the last few years. Sandip, tired of tedious journey and feeling drowsy, decided to have dinner early. His sister-in-law had prepared polao of basmati rice and rich chicken curry. The two women and the children gathered around the dining table. Halfway through the dinner, all of them were startled at the heavy thuds of boots and Pradip rushed into the room with a police inspector and a few constables. They did not give Sandip opportunity to finish dinner, not even to wash mouth and hands and arrested him ignoring the entreaties of the wailing women and the shrieks of the children. His mother fell unconscious and died that night of heart failure. Pradip tried to convince his wife that he had done this for Sandip’s safety as the Naxalites would have killed the renegade had he been out of jail. But she did not utter a word and left with the children to her parents’ house at Durgapur and never returned. Real design of Pradip to appropriate Sandip’s share of paternal property was crystal clear to her. Later on they divorced and Pradip married again. Sandip had learnt about the happenings in his family after his arrest from a kind police constable at the jail. After moving from jail to jail he was finally taken to the Central Jail at Alipore of Calcutta.
After thorough check up, the doctor did not find any serious problem with Sandip’s health except mildly low blood pressure, hemoglobin deficiency and some bronchial congestion. Proper food, medication and rest would soon remove the troubles the doctor assured. Unlike many Naxalites in the jail or police custody, Sandip was lucky not being subjected to the horrible Third Degree. He was a pure theoretician and the police could not find any evidence of violence on his part. Moreover the Swamiji at Balligunge had produced before a high level police officer, one of his disciples, a letter of Sandip in which he had denounced the violent activities of the Naxalites and opted to quit and return to normal life.
Bechu’s wife was a simple and cordial lady and treated Sandip like her own brother. Her three year old son soon won the heart of Sandip. After considerable recovery Bechu took him to the site of construction at Brahmapur at the southern outskirts of the city, instructed him what to do and introduced him to the contractors. It was a large housing complex for the middle class families and surrounded by rural areas. The spot was beautiful and Sandip liked the job. Every morning a Japanese-make Datsun-120Y car would take him to the spot and he would return home after day’s work of supervision. The work was very simple and he got plenty of time to roam around in the car, have lunch from a restaurant at Garia and gossip with different classes of people – the contractors, masons, laborers and customers visiting the complex.
After his return the child would hang around him insisting Sandip to play with him. He had plenty of toys, picture books and devices for children’s games. The child would often make Sandip crawl and he would ride on his back making Sandip a horse. The mood of the child changed off and on and Sandip had to struggle hard to keep pace with his changing moods as non compliance would make the child shriek and cry. At times the child would ride his lap and entwining Sandip’s neck entreat in a sweet voice, “Tatu atta gappo ba-o” (soft ‘t’ as in French la table) [uncle tell me a story; adults would say, ‘kaku akta galpo balo’] and Sandip would tell him stories of ghosts, goblins, kings and animals and the child would laugh aloud, raise eye brows in surprise, embrace Sandip in fear and become sad according to the nuances of the stories. Sometimes he would make his own stories and lisp them out in his charming half uttered language.
How happy he felt after long suffering and enslavement! It was good luck that Bechuda came upon him, unconscious on the roadside. Coming out of the jail after release he had no where to go. He could not return to his brother who had invited the police to get him arrested in order to appropriate paternal property. Friends and other relatives would never entertain an ex-Naxalite and political detainee. Still the fresh air, the views of the outside world and the sense of freedom after years of confinement revived his spirits. He trudged along ignoring the languor, looked with keen delight at the National Library, the zoo, the stream of busy pedestrians and the fast moving lines of cars and while he reached near the race course, the panoramic view that opened up exhilarated his heart. He wanted to cross the road and walk towards Victoria Memorial but the fast moving cars along the road prevented him from taking risk with his weak legs. So he started tottering along the sidewalk eastward. He wobbled along notwithstanding dizziness but while he reached the junction of the J. Nehru Road he felt the world undulating, everything swaying before his eyes and a dark cloud engulfed him.
On his way back from the site Sandip got out the car at Gariahata to buy a toy for the child and a boy on the footpath handed him a leaflet of a Democratic Rights Organization. The organization has alleged the government and the police for ill-treating the political detainees, inhuman tortures of the Naxalites in jail and police custody, crippling and killing many of them. There’s a long list of young boys, some brilliant students with bright future in the two categories many of whom were known to Sandip.
Sandip could not sleep at night. Once Bechuda had instigated many such unfortunate youths to join the extremist movement and now he himself is in perfect safely, lolling in luxury. As soon as the Left Front Government, dominated by the CPI-M, returned to power in 1977, Bechu returned from London and joined the CPI-M and soon he got a high position in the party. He started the construction business and by means of party connections became a big promoter in no time.
Sandip felt a prick of conscience that he is trying to return to safe and prosperous life with the assistance of this heinous betrayer who is responsible for the ruin of so many bright students. He resolved to leave his house and the job at once and dedicate himself to the philanthropic programs of the Sevashram, but his deep love and attachment to the child prevented him from leaving and he began swaying between two minds.
It started raining heavily and construction works had to be stopped for the day. Sandip directed the driver of his car to go back and he took a taxi for the Victoria Memorial and sat on a bench close to the bush of multi-colored kalabati flowers lining a small beautiful pond. It was now drizzling and in the haze the esplanade unraveled the mystic fairyland again. He closed his eyes and felt on his face the coolness of the droplets of rain and started reciting from a poem of Boris Pasternak:
“I have allowed my family to scatter
All my dear ones are dispersed
A lifelong loneliness
Fills nature and my heart”
He felt a sharp pain at the left of his chest. Arati extended her hand and they wafted across the sky into the clouds and beyond to the dreamland of bliss.
Ratan Lal Basu, Ph.D. (Economics) is an ex-Reader in Economics and Teacher-in-Charge, Bhairab Ganguly College, Kolkata, India. Dr. Basu has written & edited several books on Economics.
Apart from his passion for the field of Economics, Dr. Basu's other interests are Boxing & Small Game Hunting (gave up the nasty games during college life); Swimming in Turbulent Rivers (physically impossible now); Himalayan Treks, Adventure in Dense Forests, Singing Tagore Songs and also writing travelogues and fiction in Bengali and English.
Dr. Ratan Lal Basu can be reached at rlbasu [at] rediffmail.com.
DREAM IN A RAINY DAY - Ratan Lal Basu | A short story by Dr Ratan Lal Basu is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Based on a work at www.washingtonbanglaradio.com.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available at http://www.washingtonbanglaradio.com/contact.