Tuesday, May 4, 2010
“Hey auto, stop!”
Tapan is about to press the accelerator when a person almost jumped and slide within the auto in the seat just beside the driver. Tapan took speed and soon like a swinging river overtook two cars and one new Euro-II bus and in joy and bit of unknown ecstasy uttered “Sala..”
It is almost evening. In this month of February all traces of cold has gone now and now its time for the soultry summer, the horrible summer of the tropicals. The road is busy now. Tapan while driving thought that three more up down trip today from Gariahat to Behala and then he would pack up for the day. He again glided his auto through the busy avenues of New Alipore and then has to stop as the signal is red.
He uttered again, the very word, “Sala!”
Just a matter of one second. If he haven’t slowed down for the pedestrian to cross over he would be through..
The red light of the signal along with a looming light of a Levis showroom made the darkness faint within. And in that light Tapan’s hands in the steering got slightly trembled.
The bright light has fallen on the face of the passenger who is sitting just beside him.
“Tapan na?”(Is it Tapan?)
The person asked.
Now there is no doubt.
Indeed it is Premen Sir.
He was the headmaster during his schooldays in Chetla Boys School. His spectacles has changed, his face bear more wrinkles,his hairs all white now and more than anything Premen Sir has got very thin..his health has deteriorated.
‘How long you are here Tapan?’
‘Three years Sir.’
‘Have you passed Higher Secondary..?’
‘I am a graduate Sir..B.A. In 3rd Div.’
Premen Sir stopped.
But Tapan can read his face and the next question. Why..why Tapan then in this line?
‘Sir Father died suddenly..two sisters still unmarried..no pension..’ Tapan while saying found that to describe his situation is just like a Bollywood film of 70’s but alas the storyline has changed now in Bollywood but in real life it still remains.
His hands moved.
As the signal is green now.
Soon he came back in the road of Chetla and in a busy weekday evening of Calcutta..it is the peak hour..this 6-8 P.M. ..all the people have hurry to return home..why people take so much risk in just for the sake of returning home..why?
‘I will drop at Rashbehari’.. Premen Sir said after a while.
‘Sir, you stay at Behala..right?’
‘Yes, but now have to go many places for tution..’
‘You still do tution?’
‘Yes Tapan,..It is two years I retired, the pension is very low.. what else I can do?’
Tapan kept quite.
Then he suddenly remembered and said ‘How is Mashima?’
‘Your Mashima has left me five years ago..’
Tapan stopped. He didn’t expect that.
He gentled the speed. He is driving quite slow.
The passengers in the back..two young girls busy in talking..and another guy..impatient ..often looking at the watch..Tapan thought he must be in a hurry. He felt a bit relieved that may be the conversation between them has been luckily got ignored..
‘Tapan..you remember that..you,in class VI got a prize from me..for your recitation of Rabindranath’s poem “Africa”?
Tapan tried to remember.
‘And do you remember that when one day, you must be in class VIII then and in a day of heavy rain when you are having an off period..I went to your class..and told you the story of “Postmaster”(A Story of Tagore named Postman) and I suddenly found someone was crying..it was you..’
Tapan’s hands again trembled.
What rubbish is Sir going on telling? Who is he speaking about? It looks now as if it is a story of some another birth..some another age.
‘Tapan byas ekhane nambo!( You drop me here Tapan!)
Tapan in his stream of thoughts forgot that he is crossing Rashbehari now.
Premen Sir got down.
Then he handed him the money.
‘No Sir, please!’
‘No, Tapan..you should take..’
‘No, Sir please..’
Premen Sir took the money and pushed inside Tapan’s palms. Then he kept his hands over his shoulder.
‘You have to take this Tapan..toke to banchte hobe baba..Amie je toke manush korte parlam na..bhalo thakis..!’
(You have to survive Tapan and how can I forgot that it was me also who failed to give you a good future..Be well my son!)
The signal is green again.
Premen Sir went and got mixed in the crowd of the pedestrians.
Tapan started the engine again and he doesn’t know how he came to Ballygaunge. He almost has a vacuum in his mind. As he dropped the last passenger he parked his auto in the autostand of Ballygaunge station and walked towards the rail lines.
There over a heap of bricks he sat.
And then he remembered Premen Sir’s words.. Amie je toke manush korte parlam na..bhalo thakis..the memories of the prize..Africa poem..the story of Postmaster..how he dreamt of becoming a Postman then..he laughed now..indeed he has become in a different way..collecting people from different places and dropping them at different destinations..indeed a postman!
Tapan in an undeciphered words shouted suddenly and then he found that he is crying..the eyes have got wet after a long time..and it is indeed a very disturbing and a new experience to Tapan.
Tapan didn’t remember how long he sat there but he can realize that within the signals..the iron rail tracks..the fishplates..the cry of some home lost birds..some Khistis(raw slangs) from the local wine shop thrown at him, “Ki re Bokachoda Magi chai?..(You Bastard need girls?)..the separate talks of the passer by..the whistles of a coming and distant trains..the fight of two dogs..a sharp wind blown from no where..the sky a canopy of flocking roaming white clouds..Tapan felt a surrender to the past..the school days..his friends..his love for knowledge..Premen Sir..but along with that he like Newton’s law of motion .. experienced an opposite force..and in that momentum he found himself back to the present which is horrible..struggling..but indeed the moment which he is still living on..he have to carry on..in some way..some means..his dream of getting still a good job..with his low profile qualifications..Tapan found that surrounding him are images of his own broken fragments..and as he is trying to collect them altogether they are getting again broken away..an irresistible game has been played in front of him of being lost and being found again..
Tapan stood up.
And through the slowly falling shades of night he came back to the auto stand started the engine and after a while shouted in clearly spoken words..