Friday, 8 June 2012

The Distant Relations


Fiction
RK Rishikesh Sinha

[1] “Postman!” — came a voice from the gate of our house.

I have never seen a postman visiting our house after we have shifted in our own house.

Eagerly I received the packet which was looking more of a wedding card. As soon as the postman handed over the packet, I opened it and found it was a wedding card indeed.

It was an invitation to a marriage. I checked where the packet has come from. It came from Tripura. I read the invitation

I solicit your presence along with the family on the occasion of marriage of my daughter Purabi Sinha with Prasanjit Sinha.    
                                                                  With Thanks
                                                                  B Sinha (Father)
                                                                  Miloti Sinha (Mother)
                                                                  Biplab Sinha (Brother)

I kept the wedding card as it was received for my father to have a look at it later.

In the evening, I handed over the wedding card to my father.

My father said to my mother,

“Listen! Daughter of Babudon is getting married.”

With inquisitiveness I asked, “Who is Babudon?”

My father said, “He was with us in Bikaner and You have met them in Siliguri.”  

“Going to Tripura to attend a marriage. — It is impossible!” said my mother.

I knew my mother wouldn’t agree with the cost of journey to attend the marriage. Whatsoever, Babudon is not our relative. And we don’t have close-knit relatives in Tripura. So, there was not an iota of chance visiting Tripura and that is for a marriage!

“Bikaner”

I heard innumerable times the name of the place Bikaner from many stories that my mother had told. I have grown up listening to these stories about the places my mother had visited with my father in his long tenure central job.

In every story, we have tales of families with whom my mother shared memorable relationship. Some stories were sweet memories of togetherness, and some were bitter experiences of hardship that she had to face in different cities and towns.

The city of Bikaner had a special place in my mother’s life. Immediately after her marriage and after my birth, it was the first place for her to visit outside her native place. She told that in Bikaner, Babudon was the only person of our language who used to visit our house regularly at evening. He was then a Bachelor. He never forgot to bring chocolate or biscuit for me on his every visit in our house.

During our stay in Bikaner, Babudon got married and brought along with him her newly-wed wife. The couple stayed with us until they arranged a new house for them. My mother found a new companion with Babudon’s wife.

After we left Bikaner, we were out of touch with them and the two families haven’t met since then.

This is the story about Babudon and Bikaner that I have heard from my mother.
****

[2] Looking at the wedding card, I asked my father, “Is it Babudon of Siliguri?”

I asked this question to confirm about the family whom I knew.

“Yes,” said my father.

My father’s answer confirmed my association with the family.

It has been more than a decade of my stay in Siliguri.

After the completion of my schooling, my father brought me to Siliguri to do college. Our arrival at Siliguri began with staying 3-days or so in Babudon’s house.

I still remember as soon as we get into his house, her wife welcomed us warmly with tea and snacks.

“You have grown up big. You were a child when I first saw you in Bikaner,” said Babudon’s wife.

I responded her with a smile.

After an hour or so, when we were completely relaxed, Babudon’s daughter came to the drawing room where we were sitting. Till then, listening to the conversation between my father and Babudon, I had come to know that her name is Purabi. She has recently passed Class 10 and she is now in Class XI (Science) in a nearby Kendriya Vidyalaya School.

“Nameste Uncle,” she greeted my father.   

She looked at me.as if she wishes to greet me. I asked her, “How is your school?”

She said, “It is good — but we don’t have good Chemistry teacher”.

“Isn’t syllabus of Chemistry completely different and — very tough?” I asked her.
“I am failing to understand anything in Chemistry,” she said.

In a compassionate gesture, our conversation ended and she got busy to help her mother for our dinner.
****

[3] My father arranged me a room near to Babudon’s house and left immediately to the place of his posting. 

Still I don’t know why I did my college from Siliguri. What had brought me to the place which was nowhere in the list of likeable places to start a new life away from home. I don’t find any answer, except — when you change your place, you change your destiny. Yes, destiny!

For a week or two, I remained closed to my room since college admission hadn’t started. My breakfast, lunch and dinner were arranged in Babudon’s house. Meal came as an only occasion to visit the house. The conversations which were long and vivid earlier had become short and customary.

One day Babudon’s wife introduced me to a boy of my age staying in her neighbourhood. His name was Amardeep Stavin, living alone in a rented house. I gelled with him very well and started spending more time in his room than in my room. He revealed a secret to me that boys are falling one over another to have a glimpse of Babudon’s daughter.

Time went on. Gradually, I had started cooking in my own room and no more I was visiting Babudon’s house for food. I had taken admission in Siliguri College of Commerce. I had started living in my own world away from the watchful eyes of my parents and from Babudon. Soon, I left that room and rented a new room near my college.

The day I was leaving my room, Babudon’s wife, his daughter and son came to visit me.

“Do visit us whenever you like. And don’t forget us,” said Babudon’s wife.
**** 

[4] Well settled in my new room in a new locality, I didn’t go to visit Babudon’s house. They almost fell from my memory. I started spending time with my friends in their hostel. I witnessed the intensity of students’ politics in the college campus and in the hostel. I learnt college politics had its impact in the whole town. 

It was my first Diwali in Siliguri. I had never felt the pain of staying alone more than this day. I was missing my parent, my brothers and my sister. I was missing my home. I felt as if a vacuum has been created around me. At that moment of solitude, I remember visiting my guardian whom I have forgotten long back. But I dropped the idea of visiting them thinking my presence might splash water on their Diwali preparation. I remained inside my room whole day. In this way, I spent my first Diwali in Siliguri.

Next day, I don’t know what changed my mind, after taking lunch I took a bus to meet them. I slept in the whole one-and-half hour journey. When I got down from the bus, it was already evening and darkness has completely engulfed the whole surrounding. There was something in the air; I was feeling light as feather and happy as a child.  

Soon, I found myself in front of the door. I knocked the door. My heart was pumping hard, not with fear — but with happiness. Not hearing steps of anybody, I knocked hard twice on the door. I heard someone coming to open the wooden door. The door opened, and with it a voice reverberated the whole house and the sound of the voice still echoes in my ear whenever I remember the moment.

“Mom! — Brother!” yelled Purabi.

Her welcoming voice was full of sisterly warmth. Her mirthful gesture spoke more than she could say by speaking.  

“Brother! Why didn’t you come yesterday? On Diwali,” she complained.

Finding no answer to her question, I remained silent. And after few minutes, her mother came and asked the same question.

“Have dinner with us.  Your uncle would be coming. We would all have dinner together,” she said to me.

This was my last meeting with Babudon’s family — with his wife, daughter and son. I didn't know when they left Siliguri until I met accidentally Amardeep Stavin after many months at the busy Hong Kong Market. He said that aunty had a wish to meet me, and many times she told him to contact me to give the message that they have been posted, and they are leaving Siliguri.

Staying in the same room, I completed my B.Com. In my 3-year stay, Durga Puja and Diwali never excited me when the whole Siliguri town gave a new look. I missed them a lot.
*****  

[5] “What important are you writing at this midnight,” said my wife. She read the story that I am writing at the odd hours. With a change in tone, she asked me, “Are you attending Purabi’s marriage?” — “Yes”, I said. “Mother is not going. A week back, we have come from home,” she said. “Don’t worry about it! Sleep now. We will talk in morning.”

And the day came; my whole family — father, mother, my wife, and I — began our journey to attend Purabi’s marriage in Tripura.  
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