Thursday, 2 January 2014

The Happy Prince and other short stories....

“Aren’t you feeling cold?”
“I guess, I am used to it”, he smiled. 

I looked at his frail structure. The tall, lean, bearded man stood right in front of me, his long mane touching his shoulders, his body wrapped in a light cotton shawl and a very modest dhoti.

The moon-clad starry sky, the dazzling street lights and the rattling bells of the horse-carts driving past, infused so much life into the huge white building facing us, that one would mistake it for a lovely lady, wearing a white evening gown, flaunting the hair accessory adorning her bun and bestowing upon the surroundings all her gorgeousness.

“It must be the lady’s charm keeping you warm”, I joked.
He nodded in denial. “It is the warmth of this city, I suppose”, he added.

I left. I wished I had woollens to wrap him with. It was a cold December evening.

In the midst of the sound of the hooves, his figure emerged. The man on a galloping horse. “Ah! You make a warm happy sight, unlike your friend whom I just met. Atleast, you have a proper shawl around you and a horse to rest your butt on. Noile ei sheetey thhaye dnariye thaka.....”, I muttered. And, I know that I totally sounded like a true blue-blooded Bong whose most-used sentence throughout the winter is: “Thhanda lege jabe” (You’ll catch cold).

As I took the road on my right, I realised that the two men I just met one after another had a strong, bomb-astic connection.  : )

From the next signal, I headed straight towards office. (In Calcutta, we prefer calling crossings ‘signals’.)
The strong sturdy bespectacled man stood right in front of me. “He should have been somewhere close to the High Court”, I told myself, given the fact that he was the chief architect of the gospel of Indian law.

His neighbour sported a funny turban and a funnier moustache. Not many people know that he was a lawyer too.

I moved forward.
When I first saw him, I was a little girl. Ma told me that he was the founder member of the college she went to. I asked her if he was a Bengali. He wore a turban like non-Bengalis do. 

Ma always spoke very highly of him while Joydeep often joked that it is because of people like him, “toder eto baar bereche...”.  (This roughly translated means: The man showed the path, you followed it and went too far....beyond control).

“Same for you. I always thought you were not a Bengali. The beard, the way you dress are so not Bong”, I told him. “We have non-Bengali actors who share similar surnames.” The statement sounded so juvenile and stupid that we both laughed.

“You write well”, I told him. (He was waiting all his life for this one certificate from me!!) The genius flashed a smile.

“Aren’t you lucky? I mean, a human born to a Royal Bengal Tiger! You are one of a kind, do you realise that? ”I said and ran away.

Who would dare to joke with a tiger cub? Not me.

And then, I saw her. I see her every day. Every time, I see her, my head bows down in veneration. The lady reminds me of my maternal grand mom....a school teacher from East Bengal who was an epitome of strength, courage and knowledge. If my Dimma was born a few decades ago, she could have also fought for the country’s independence. I am so sure about that.

I just stared at her in awe for some time. (I have a dream. Someday, we two will have a of the very few, where I won’t talk. I will sit and listen and she will tell me about her childhood, of her growing up and everything it took in the making of the very brave women that she is.)

It is by sheer coincidence, that the only other woman standing in the crowd also reminded me of my grandmother. My paternal grand mom.  They both hail from a small town called Tamluk in Medinipur.

Strangely, the two women I met had one thing in common. They embodied fire, nurtured it and spread it here, there, everywhere. I was almost going to ask her if she was feeling cold (given that she is old and clad in a crinkled Khadi saree) when I remembered that it is she who lights fire in the branches of the Krishnochura trees on either side of the Red Road and fills my journeys to the office with hues of blood, oranges and sunshine.... every single summer-morning. Every.

While I was leaving I whispered to her, “Vande, Materam are two of my favourite words too. They are music to the ears.”

Every time I meet these men and women, my heart is filled with an apprehension that they remain unguarded. Some of them are old. They need to be safe and secure. Then, I see the two soldiers with huge guns, standing at the end of the road and I am assured that they are in safe hands.

I took a few steps forward and I was greeted by a whirlpool of energy. I knew of him since I was a child. Whenever someone accused my paternal grandfather for his untainted loyalty towards Mohanbagan club, given that he was from East Bengal, Dadai used to give example of this gentleman. Like my Dadai, he had his roots in East Bengal (Bangladesh) but his claim to fame was through a football club of West Bengal. Dadai was a huge fan and I vaguely remember some “Great Wall of China” simile being drawn when spoken of this man. I was also told that he played football bare feet against the Inrej and won. Some Lagaan-type story, which I haven’t judged the truth of!

Could my grandfather ever guess that the grand daughter would get to meet him everyday?

The husband is a staunch atheist. Had it not been for this man, I would have accepted his claim of being a non-believer.

My father isn’t an atheist. His reliance that this man was God, reaffirms my belief in the preceding paragraph.

Yes, I get to greet Him six days a week. But I don’t. Because, the greatest attribute of this man, apart from his Godliness is: He is one of the very very very few men in the entire Universe so huge, who leaves me speechless. Every time. Always.

With the decreasing distance between my workplace and me, I met three more gentlemen.

The first among them and I belong to the same profession. You remember the first two men I spoke about in this writing? This gentleman too, has a bomb-bastic connection with the two of them.

My earliest memory of this man is a conversation I had with Baba ages back. I was a kid. We were crossing the Kalighat Bridge in an auto on our way to Rashbehari. I folded my hands in prayer when I saw a huge temple on the right. Baba told me that this is the Keoratola Burning Ghat and not the Kalighat temple. “If there is no Kali thakur in this temple, what have they made this temple for?” I asked Baba, in utter surprise. What Baba told me filled me with unfathomable awe. He said that this temple was built in the memory of a Bengali gentleman. The then-Chief Minister of Bengal sold photographs of this man with two lines written on them by a Noble Prize winner for one Rupee and the temple was built entirely from public funds collected in the process. 

I still vividly remember the two lines...”Enechile sathe kore mrityuheen pran, morone tahai tumi kore gele daan”. I had goose bumps hearing the story. I had goose bumps while writing about it.

I finished some pending assignment in office and headed towards home. I took the road which leads to Babughat. He stood near the front gate of the Calcutta High Court. I have friends and relatives from the same province in Bangladesh where he was born. Almost seventeen years before India was actually independent, this man and his men conquered their hometown and declared it independent for an entire day! Isn't that cool? 

There are innumerable stories of his valour and gallantry. Every time I see him and his neighbour I wonder why people brand Bengalis as fainthearted.

His neighbour stood a few miles apart. I think that the young man is the strongest exception to a Bengali’s so-called nervous, cowering image. He is also one of the very few Bengali men (and perhaps the youngest also) who has an entire song written after him.

He reminds me of the “Happy Prince” whose Swallow, I secretly wish to become....some day, so that, when God asks his Angel to bring for him the two most precious things from this city, we two could be the chosen ones. 

The epilogue:

As little children, we used to play “Goooo Statue”. I was a very talkative child and friends and cousins often played this game to make me freeze at one place. They would “statue” me and not say “over” for a long long time. In those speechless, motionless moments, I almost felt breathless.

I wonder how these men and women manage their eternal “Goooo Statue” act. I gaze at them in awe and love. We have developed a bond very strong in all these years of my office-journeys.

Once someone asked me, “Which is that one thing in your city with which you identify yourself the most?” There was a Tsunami of answers in my mind. In the end, I told him, “The statues on my way to office.” Kolkata is the only place in the world, where I can “goooo statue” myself for an eternity.....speechless, motionless.



  1. Replies
    1. Thank you. Well written kina jani na. But definitely one of the "closest-to-my-heart" posts.

  2. You always manage to bring a smile on my face. You live Kolkata for me..everything about her :)

    1. Thank you for saying this. One of the nicest compliments one can receive :) *feeling flattered*

  3. can you please solve the statue puzzle for me.

    1. Of course, I would love to you. (However please note that the blog post is not a puzzle at all.) Do you live in Kolkata? If yes, you should have known by yourself. Anyways, here it is:

      (In their order of appearance):
      Aurobindo Ghosh (supporting cast: Victoria Memorial)
      Jatindranath Mukherjee (aka Bagha Jatin)
      B. R. Ambedkar
      Bal Gangadhar Tilak
      Raja Rammohan Roy
      Michael Madhusudan Dutt
      Shyama Prasad Mukherjee
      Pritilata Waddedar
      Matangini Hazra
      The anonymous soldiers near the Police Memorial (at the end of Red Road)
      Gostho Pal
      Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose
      Deshbondhu Chittaranjan Das
      Hemanta Kumar Bose, Sarat Chandra Bose.
      Masterda Surja Sen
      Khudiram Bose.


  4. Thanks. Though I do not live in Kolkata, I have all my relatives there. Also I visit almost twice a year.

  5. Replies
    1. Thank you so much. Apnar blog o dekhlam. Ki shundor slate er opor chalk er anki buki typer ekta effect. dekhei bhalo lege gelo. shomay niye porbo. apna ke toh cultivate krte hobe moshai!

  6. dhonyobad :)
    nischoi, porar amontron roilo :)

    1. :D ekta mean kotha na bole parchina. chalkboard dekhe jarpor nai anondo peye apnake bahoba dilam. tokhono blog er sesh obdhi jaini. pore dekhlam ota chalkboard theme!! mane ami agey bhebechilam apni nije erom baniyechen. Oi compliment ta pherot nilam :D

  7. heh, ami nije orom banate parle to hoyei jeto.....;)

  8. Spellbound.......Thank you for sending me your beautiful creative writing.......I want to read more......