Saturday, 2 March 2013
Love Aaj Kaal - a short story
“Ki holo? Tomake je kaaj-ta korte bolechilam, sheta hoyeche?” (What happened? Did you complete the task that I had asked you to do?).
Subroto, a member of the indomitable Bengali male species, married to Chandrani, a member of the dominating Bengali female species, just two springs back, stood speechless at the doorway of his south Kolkata flat. Of the 52 different muscles that lined his face, Subroto could not dare to flex a single one of them and resorted to turn statue instead. Two years into his marriage, he has gained a significant insight that no excuse would pacify his marital mate more than seeing him stand there speechless in a pose to suggest, ‘Yes, my lady, I agree that I have failed to complete your assigned task and I am ready to be punished the way you desire the most!’ The anger subsides, eventually.
Standing stone cold, Subroto recalled his first interaction with Chandrani. It was during his third year at college, some 5 years back. He was studying to complete his honors in Physics from a college in South Kolkata. Subroto Bagchi had been quite studious all through his school and college days, but he lacked the basic skills of interaction – a hallmark of youth-hood - that most of his friends possessed in wooing the Bipashas-Sumitas-Rupalis at the college canteen. Subroto was an introvert – a non-believer and a non-practitioner of free mixing and to many, a loser! But quite recently, to challenge his social handicap in the real world, he has dived into the virtual world of Facebook and online friendship. Within a month, quite secretively, he managed to build an envious friend list of 4 girls and 2 boys (that included 4 cousins and a distant kaku)! The only odd person in this list was an unexpected acceptance of ‘friend request’ by a college student from Siliguri in North Bengal, from among hundred odd friend requests sent to girls across the age group of 18 to 25 years. This was Chandrani Mukherjee, a first year humanities student, with a dimpled smile, who liked Shahrukh Khan’s DDLJ, loved music and enjoyed ‘eating luchi and aloo dum’.
There was no looking back for Subroto, as he started spending over 5 hours a day, following and liking every activity of Chandrani and commenting to everything that she had to say. There used to be days, when to a one liner comment of Chandrani – Wow! What a day today! – Subroto used to write upto 15 comments describing the day, the weather, sharing the news headlines and even explaining his physics practicals – to the bewilderment of Chandrani and her friends, reading the posts. Subroto never realized when cupid struck him and so didn’t Chandrani, who though a bit irritated at the beginning at her new friend’s head-over-heels comments, soon took a fascination for his childish innocence and started liking all his multiple comments to her one-liners. Very soon they started sharing personalized messages and one day, Chandrani, took the initiative to express her feelings for Subroto, online.
“Arre, ki holo? Kathar jabab na diye, ha kore dariye acho keno?” (What the heck? Why are you standing there without responding to my query?). Subroto looked dazed as he tried to push away the images from his past, like the flick of a finger used to shift images on the new Samsung Note that he has recently purchased on his birthday. His conscious mind gave him no instructions to react to this question either and he continued to stand motionless and speechless. His subconscious mind nudged him once again and took him back to his first meeting with Chandrani.
It was perhaps the happiest day in Subroto’s life, till then. Some 2 weeks have passed after his University exams, which he somehow managed to complete in an unusually intoxicated-by-love, state of mind. He knew he could have faired better, had he concentrated more, but he was struck badly by cupid’s arrow and the wound was fresh! After exams, he persuaded his parents to send him to Malda to spend a week with his cousins. His parents promptly agreed and he was soon on his way to Malda, which was just four and a half hours away from Siliguri, further North and his desired destination over the past 6 months! Thanks to Facebook, Subroto had planned in advance a day-long excursion to Siliguri with his cousin Jayanta, who was a year older to him and the only one aware of his online romance. Someone else also knew about the plan and was waiting impatiently for 21st June and that was Chandrani.
As planned, Subroto and Jayanta reached Siliguri bus terminus around 10 in the morning and headed straight for Ghoshpara, a southern suburb, known for its Kalibari. As the rickshaw that they were traveling in, turned the corner towards the Kalibari, Subroto’s throat dried, knowing not what to say when he would meet Chandrani. Commenting on Facebook posts and messaging “I love you my sweet pie” were very different from expressing the same face-to-face. Subroto gulped anxiously, as the rickshaw came to a sudden halt at the Kalibari gate.
“Babu, eshe geche!” (Sir, we have reached!)
“Haan, kato holo?” (Yes, how much?) Jayanta got off to settle the fare. Subroto was stuck to his seat, still thinking what he should say. “Ai, ki holo? Niche naab-na?” (What happened? Get off.) Subroto alighted obediently.
After seeing the rickshaw away, Jayanta excused himself from the scene, before promising to be back by 1 pm, leaving his cousin over two and a half hour of privacy to meet his lady love, Chandrani.
Some 15 minutes must have passed; Subroto by now has memorised a short extempore on love and togetherness, when he heard her voice for the first time. It was musical, to say the least, it was mystical, “Sorry, ektu deri hoye gelo.” (Sorry, I am a little late). Subroto raised his eyes to see the most beautiful face on the earth, staring at him through the kohl-lined eyes and with a dimpled smile. It was Chandrani, no doubt, but wasn’t she too beautiful to be an earthling – thought Subroto, still speechless. A light pink chikan salwar-suit clung onto her body, the dupatta swaying merrily in the breeze like Kajol’s when she ran towards Shahrukh in Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge, reminisced Subroto.
“Ish, tumi toh akdom gham-e bhije gecho! Esho chayay esho.” (Uh! You are completely drenched in sweat. Come into the shade.) Subroto could not speak, but just followed her into the shade, under the old peepul tree, next to the marble platform with a tulsi plant, in front of the garva-griha of the temple. “Ki holo? Tumi toh lajjabati lata hoye gele? Kichu bolo? Naki tumi rag korecho?” (What happened? Are you feeling shy? Say something. Or, are you angry?) Subroto had forgotten the lines that he had memorized so painstakingly. He was trying to absorb every passing second of their togetherness. He managed a dry smile on his face, knowing very well he was looking like a dumb scarecrow with a clay pot as its head and an uneven curve for a smile.
“Jano, aajker ai meeting-er katha ami amar maa-ke bolechi. Maa shune ektu regey gechilo, kintu permission diye dilo. Amar dujon bandhu-o janey. Tara toh ashar jonno moriya, kintu ami bolini kothay tomar shathey meet korchi. Bapi ektu ragi, noyto tomay bari-te daktam. Maa tomar chobi dekheche facebook-e.” (I have shared with my mother about today’s meeting. Although a little annoyed, but she eventually permitted me. Two of my friends also know about this and they were too keen to come, but I did not share with them where am I meeting you. Dad is an angry man, or else I would have invited you home. My mom has seen your picture on Facebook). After a pause, she continued, “Na na, bhebo na jeno ami maa-ke tomar comments gulo poriechi!! Tobey haan, amar bondhura poreche. Tadero tomake khub pachando hoyeche, karon, tomar friend list shotti irshoniyo.” (Don’t think I have made my mom read your Facebook comments, but my friends have read your comments and they all have liked you very much, as you have an envious friend list). She chuckled innocently. Subroto kept on staring at her face, studying closely her eyes, her nose, her cheeks, without knowing not what to say to her. Suddenly, Chandrani held his right hand in hers and pressing it tightly said, “Tumi ki go, atokhon dhorey ami katha bole jachi aar tumi kichu bolcho na! Ki holo?” (I have been speaking all through and you have not spoken anything. What happened?) Subroto smiled and said, “Kichu na, amar tomar katha shunte bhalo lagche. Tumi bolo.” (Nothing. You continue. I like the way you speak).
“Ki bol-le, amar katha bhalo lagche? Haan tai toh lagbe. Ami pagol-er moton chechiye chechiye morbo aar uni bolben amar katha bhalo lagche. Maa-go, ami aar parchi na.” (What did you say, you are liking what I spoke? Well, here I have been shouting mad and he has been enjoying it all. I just can’t stand this anymore).
Subroto got back to his self and realized that it was no flashback. He was standing right there infront of Chandrani at the doorway of his Kolkata flat, trying to play statue – the only trick he knew very well, to cool down an angry wife. Seeing that the situation was getting out of control and that too because of his own foolishness, he took a step closer to Chandrani and remarked, “Tumi dekho, kalke ami taratari bari eshe, plumber ke diye kaaj ta koriye debo. Please regey jeyo na shona.” (Tomorrow I will get home from office early and get the plumber to do the task. Don’t get angry sweet heart).
“Haan haan, ami toh emni emni rege jai, sharadin amar moton ghar bari shamliey dekhte. Akhon jao, aar pirit koro na!” (Yes, I get angry just like that. Try taking care of the household like me. Now go away). Subroto came closer to Chandrani and softly took her right hand in his own, and fell on his left knee in front of her, pulling her hand closer. Swiftly he pulled out a ring from his breast-pocket and slid it right through Chandrani’s ring finger, saying, “Happy Anniversary. It was 5 years back that you had expressed your love for me online and today I do the same, offline.” Chandrani was too bemused to say anything. She stared at the 2 carat diamond solitaire sparkling on the ring, and was speechless for almost a minute while involuntary drops of tear flowed down her cheeks.
“Tumi mone rekhecho? Subroto…”
“Na. Please aar kichu bolo na. What matters most to me is that you are mine and I love you.”
Chandrani got down next to Subroto and putting her hands around Subroto’s neck, embraced him passionately. “I love you for just being my very own Subroto. Thank you.”