‘Babu bhalo achen?’
I am sitting along with a friend in a roadside stall on Outram Ghat. Afternoon slowly slipped away and changed colour to evening and now after sunset the sky reflecting vibrant colours of wonder. In front of us is the Ganges river, the orange sky with its purple shades reflecting in the moving waves of the water and presenting before us almost a naturalism masterpiece of Abanindranath Tagore. And at that time, the question came.
‘Babu Bhalo achen?’( How are you Babu?’)
Again the question and now I turned and saw that a boy is standing wearing a button less shirt and half pant standing before us.
His face holding a smile, his face appearing dark as he is standing back to light.
‘Babu, nouka chorben?’ (Will you like a boat ride?’)
‘No’, I said. At this moment I am busy talking with my long-lost friend Abhi and no mood in disturbing our trip down memory lane.
‘Babu, aj saradin kno rojgar hyni, babu..’
(He again asked me for the ride and said that today he hardly earned anything as there are no customers.)
Now Abhi speak out.
‘Ai bollo to lagbe na, bhag..’! ( Abhi, almost scolded and asked the boy to go!’)
The boy again looked at me, and then with a more dark face went away.
We chatted for almost an hour and then Abhi got up, he had an appointment.
I looked at the watch.
Twenty past six.
I thought for a walk along the Ganges.
I started walking.
Walking alongside a river is always a pleasure. I remember that in childhood, my father used to bring me often here..the scent of the river..the trees..the gentle drop of a scattered leaf from the trees..the flying birds..their clattering for homes around evening..the different types of people who gather around..the jump of some naked children in the water..the anchored boats rocking gently over the waves..the sounds of a Steamer bisecting the air..
Again a sound from a moving Steamer or locally called ‘Launch’ surprised me and make me back to reality.
And I noticed that in these twenty years many things changed, but the atmosphere around the Ganges still remained more or less same.
Far across I can see the light of the ice cream parlour ‘Scoop’ shinning bright.
I walked on.
As I came towards the Ferighat where the boats are anchored I noticed the boy.
Over an anchored boat that boy is sitting and dipping his feet inside the water.
I walked towards him.
And as I approached him, I found that at the side of the boat written with an unprofessional artist and bold letters ‘Harankheya’.
The name itself again made me nostalgic and at once I recognized that boat belong to Majhi named Haran, and not only that from childhood, I knew that person..
I went back twenty years and saw that a boy holding his father’s hand came in one early morning..the day was Mahalaya( An auspicious day marking the arrival of Devi Durga on the earth)..my father came to take a dip in the holy Ganges and utter sacred hymns in memory of our ancestors, a custom locally called ‘Tarpan’..father went to the Ganges and I unable to see the incident among the crowd and jumped over the deck of a small boat..as I stood there I suddenly found that the boat is sailing away..I turned back and saw that the boat was moving and a person wearing loincloth holding the baitha in hand sailing the boat smiling and saying, ‘Chalo Khokababu tomay aktu ghuriye ani..’and he really took me for a tour around the Ganges for ten minutes and when we are back my father smiling offered him money but that boatman with dark brown body and hands as if made of steel said, ‘Na Babu, amni Khokababuke ghuriye anlam!’(No need for money Babu, I just took your son for a fun tour!)..before we leave we came to know that his name is Haranmajhi..from then on each month my father brought me here twice a month..not only because my father himself liked him but also because I now come to know that he wanted to sow in his son..fragrance of some other world..where real teachings of life begins..I can remember those days clearly..sun setting around the Ganges, far across the tower of the Fort William can be seen as then there was no Vidyasagar Setu..Haranmajhi went on speaking on his own..about his ancestral land in Barisal..his land..Padma river..how they were thrown out of their own land after independence..his fight with a crocodile once near the Sundarban delta..once how he almost got caught in the hand of the decoits..how much he love to spend nights in open river..sometimes he sings..one of his common Bhatiali song was..
‘O Paran amr kon kul theke kon kule niye jas re more..’
sometimes while sailing how he mixes Khaini in his two hands and place it delicately within his Biri rotten lips..often he use to say me, ‘Khokababu jabe amar sange..anek dure tomay niye jabo..jabe..chalo beriye pori..;no doubt I was absolutely ready to move but as usual it is an invitation to a new world and it never occurred really..then I grew up..got busy in study and I still can remember about dreams where I saw Haranmajhi saying..’Khokababu..jabe amar sange?’ Then days passed..time passed..Haranmajhi gradually got lost within my daily busy schedule..
Haranmajhi to me is not only a boatman or ‘Majhi’ but he was once my childhood hero..who sailed away miles after miles in waters..in new lands..in new places..meeting different interesting people of whom one can dream of..Haranmajhi may be was a very simple man and maybe he have never sailed away anywhere else except the limited corners of the Ganges around the Outram Ghat..but he was according to me..just like some Voyager like Vasco Da Gama or Columbus..
Haranmajhi was my childhood.
And I never wanted to lose it.
As the evening sky slowly gathered all colours of heaven I started walking.
My Childhood is not lost.
Only it is now within covers.
As I am carrying my childhood within me ..similarly my dreams of Haranmajhi would also go on sailing..sailing far..far..
into a land of eternal Romance!..