Friday, October 5, 2012


She has started to look like a crazy person. Her sarees have given way to striped pajamas that remind him of asylum inmates, or maybe convicts. When did she stop wearing her sarees? He could not remember. She has even stopped wearing her kurta-churidar sets – the ones that she bought after careful scrutiny of the cheap stores at Dakshinapan. Her more expensive sets, bought from the mall, now sit in the darkness of their almirah, never to be worn, unless she decides to go to a party. She does not go out these days. He has stopped asking her if she wants to go with him. Sometimes he feels relieved; her presence beside him on every occasion used to please the people around them, but made him uneasy. At least that is over now. But his arduous journey is not over yet. She is still there, with her strange new likings and tastes. He squints at her from the distance as she combs her freshly shampooed hair. She wears pajamas now – a hundred bucks a set – courtesy Gariahat hawkers. The one she is wearing now is blue and white. He wants to cry out, visualizing a concentration camp. She is still combing, at peace and expressionless.

Tomorrow is Friday. She will ask him to go to the bazaar. He will buy some fish, some vegetables and some masala. She will slip into another set of pajamas after her bath and go about her chores. He can almost remember the colors and patterns of all her pajamas. They are etched in his memory like a scar that refuses to go away.

He does not know why her pajamas bother him so much. He can try to fix the problem. He can ask her to wear her old and normal clothes again. She may rudely decline at first. But he knows that she will wear them if he asks. She knows he is her only source of any opinion or request. But an unseen force holds him back. He sees her move in front of him in quick, agile movements, setting the washing machine to the delicate level. Is it for her soft pajamas? She is pouring in some expensive detergent meant for woolens. It cannot be her pajamas. They are too cheap to demand so much care. He fights off an overwhelming desire to go and investigate. She will get suspicious. Her laundry is not his business. Nothing she does is his business, if he thinks about it. She has changed into her white pajamas – the one with tiny lavender flower motifs. Her full-grown body in that absurd print suddenly reminds him of autism. Slightly nauseated, he turns away and tries to make a mental list of the things he will buy tomorrow.

She is having lunch. He watches intently as her jaws work on her mouthful of rice and cauliflower curry. Her nimble fingers work skillfully to strip the piece of bhetki of its few bones. A drop of curry falls on her pajamas. She makes a barely audible noise to convey her annoyance and keeps eating. He cannot concentrate on his lunch. He wants to strip her of that defiled garment much like she removes the fish’s undesirable parts. She looks like a filthy child. He imagines stains of food on her neat mouth and chin. It becomes difficult to swallow the yellow mess on his plate.

As the afternoon gets hotter, she goes into the bedroom – their bedroom – and turns the AC on. She lies down for a nap. In that claustrophobic setting comprising tasteful furniture and demurely painted walls, she lies like a disfigurement. Yet she looks like she is totally at home. He can almost hear her gentle snoring. Her curry-stained pajamas are nowhere in sight. She has changed into the dull green one. She looks like a mossy block of stone on the pale blue bedsheet.

He slowly walks out, almost on tiptoe. Out of the 22 degree Centigrade air, a wave of 33 hits him like a sandstorm. Beads rising on his forehead, he lights a smoke. Tilting his head towards the window, and looking blankly at the sky outside, he recollects how it all started. He realizes that when she talks to him she is quite animated. She is a happy woman, satisfied with her own life. He knows this, yet it surprises him no end whenever he realizes it. Does she notice what he wears? Maybe his shift to wearing Bermuda shorts had bothered her too. He shakes off that thought. He berates himself from digressing from his original train of thought. He was thinking about how it had started. – It was an ordinary evening, when she had mentioned how hazardous Indian clothes were becoming for her. Sarees needed regular washing and starching, salwar kurtas were too much of a hassle to wear and take off. She had noticed women buying cheap pajamas on the streets – cheaper than her Dakshinapan kurtas. He had nodded perhaps. She had been true to her word…

His cigarette is almost entirely burnt to ashes. His eyes shine madly for a moment. Discarding the butt, he storms into the cold bedroom. The temperature is down to 20. She sleeps in peace, her green pajamas wrapped around her. Her sleep is deep. He does not trouble himself to be quiet. He yanks open the almirah door exposing three levels. The top level holds her expensive garments – he steals a quick glance at her purple kanjeevaram. The level below that displays her kurtas. He fondly eyes her red and white kurta churidar set. At the lowest level, her pajamas lie bundled up in neglect, faded with overuse. He pulls the pajamas out with all his force and carries them out of the room. He finds her discarded pajamas from today’s lunch behind the bathroom door and adds it to the pile. Running to the store cupboard, he pulls out a large polythene bag from Food Bazaar, and puts the abominable pieces of cloth in it. He stops for a moment, trying to think of the best way to get rid of them. Then suddenly he remembers something. He has to get them ALL. Or this will make no sense. Dropping the bag on the floor he takes a deep breath. A sense of calm spreads within him. He walks up to the bedroom and reaches for the door.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Lost in Science Fiction!

I have been shamelessly, perpetually, brutally and insanely addicted to certain series and sitcoms that come too late on Indian TV, yet are available on my desktop before you can blink and say "finale"! And the list has been long - Friends, Desperate Housewives, Sex and the City (oh for shame!), The Big Bang Theory, 30 Rock, How I Met Your Mother, Modern Family, Make It or Break It, The Simpsons, Family Guy... I watch EVERYTHING, like a maniac, sometimes 10 episodes at one go! Yet I have tried to rationalize my very mundane addiction as limited to soaps about your daily bits and pieces... nothing over the top, nothing your average viewer would fail to like and love with some practice. But all hell broke loose when a friend suggested I watch Lost.

Frankly, I did catch a glimpse of one of its brilliant ads on TV, and did not feel myself inclined to watch a disaster series! Disaster movies are OK, two hours of adrenalin rush at the most, and then some rumination. But a series about death and destruction? NO SIR! But it had ONLY 6 seasons! I was coaxed into getting my hands on the first season, and I was cautious, procuring only 2 episodes till I was sure I could sit through the ordeal. And then I watched the pilot, and then I was doomed! Doomed for the next fortnight, and doomed for good!

Honestly, I have seen too many pilots of too many series, but none I remember as vividly as this one! Well maybe Friends, but anyway! There was something sexy about the whole thing. A bunch of oh-so-attractive people caught in a death trap island after a supposed-to-be-fatal air crash! Bizarre, yet romantic in its own unique way...I have always been able to wring out drops of heartache-inducing romanticism amidst adversity, but this was way beyond that - this was a romantic thriller, where you had too many questions, too many people, and distinct directions toward the answers. At one point I wondered whether the magically mixed crowd (in ethnicity AND temperament) was going to provide the tried-and-tested method of multiple points of view. To some extent it did, but then again, it was nothing different from your normal disaster flick with a few secrets and mysteries! WHAT, then would make viewers sit through six seasons worth of 45 minute episodes with the same bunch of people in the same damn place? Weirdly, I never asked this question as I glided through the seasons in a daze. The critical questions come to mind when you are done with it... and you wonder what the unique formula within the common formula is.

In a desperate attempt to discover the reasons behind its charm, one may talk about the fascinating visual effects, and not in vain. The views were fantastic - the beaches were a treat, the fashion was impeccable (never mind the SOS-status, good clothes always win), the action sequences added major oomph (for people like me who love their firearms, human arms, and strong men and women), and the supernatural effects were the best that you can do on TV! Having said all that, I feel that there have been many forgettable action-supernatural thrillers that escape one's mind in minutes. Lost, therefore had something more, or something less, which made it transcend its strangely unbelievable storyline.

For someone who watches stuff without a preliminary skimming of Wikipedia, the first three seasons of Lost would seem to be a very thrilling yet normal narrative, and the process of falling in love will begin. The advantage with a host of attractive (physically and figuratively) characters is that every viewer will get someone to fantasize about and support. I personally fell in love with the hottest man and the strongest woman, but never mind! With each episode, a little bit would be revealed about each character, and curiosity mixed with hormones would keep you going, sometimes half a season a day! To make things better, new characters and storylines would be conveniently added at regular intervals, so there would be NO scope of delving into the depths of boredom and low TRP! It is pure genius I tell you! And it has got everything - evil genius, good Samaritan, selfish crook, old fool, helpful junkie, sexy felon, cute soldier with sad story, hot bad boy, helpless pregnant lady, conservative lovers, sex, attraction, jealousy, murder, infidelity, scientific experiments, YOU NAME IT!

Finally when you are helplessly hooked, the episodes suddenly do a back-flip and turn fantastic, and I MEAN fantastic! It is like a normal disaster narrative suddenly gone completely sci-fi! Agreed that this may be disappointing for the low-tech, low-imagination section of the audience, who may find the shift from survival-of-the-fittest to time-travel a little difficult to follow/swallow, but I guess sci-fi was the plan to begin with! Like every amateur critic, I cannot breathe until I can find something negative, which could have been remedied, and the last leg of the series provided me with the scope of exercising my critical voice and index finger. While the juxtaposition of black and white, and the co-existence or death of both was a great theme to work on, I felt that some of the supernatural aspects were forced... just for the heck of it, or maybe to roll out the dough into some more episodes. The cut scenes from a possible alternative reality were admiringly thought-provoking, but the repeated attempts at escape and the same circumstances of survival and death made it look hackneyed at best towards the end. And the grand finale could not match up to the pilot... it wasn't even close. It seemed to be a mere closure of the events in the ONLY possible way that was available to the creators of this promising saga. Despite this, however, one is compelled to watch it till the end, driven by the love I was talking about. Attachment with the characters/story is unavoidable, and that is what counts amidst the cocktail of sheer brilliance with the occasional drag!

So, a whirlwind of six seasons later, I sit, utterly satisfied and happy. Lost is one of the rare series that give you a sense of completion when it ends - you do not want a Season 7, or a Lost:The Movie, but you feel completely satisfied and at peace with your experience, with almost all questions answered and some left to your imagination. Finally, another cool thing about it is, you seldom forget a few specific scenes that had made you fall hopelessly for the series, and you can always go back to it time and again. ME? I could watch the pilot again!... and also the scene where the raft leaves... and the ones with my hot boy!... Why don't you give it a try and make a list of yours? ;)

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Before I Turn to Stone...

Love causes no tears to come
Over the storm of my iris,
Which takes in dark light.
“Don't cry for your love, cry tears of joy”?
But I only see beyond the happy blur...
I see you – my last resort
As I slowly turn to stone,
Your flesh the last live thing
Before I die on my own...
“I’ll never be alone”?

Don’t walk as life crumbles to dust
Run! Run fast!
Run to me! My cold body pleads
Are you running away instead?
I cannot move an inch,
Yet you think I glide!

“You’re alive”, you said?
Yet my room is draped in walls,
Into which I shall blend, unmoving.
My love’s vaporizing
Does it reach you and make you warm?
You sent a song…
Turn yourself to me, now!
Touch me out of this trance...
Run to me, my cold soul pleads,
Before I turn to stone...
Don’t let us be on our own.

( Quotes are from "Cradled in Love" - PoTF )

Saturday, June 23, 2012

I could change the status message twice a day
Till you get tired of asking what is wrong
Or what it means,
And yet you will do.
Maybe it is your idea of being comforting,
Or better still, being close.
But how long will you care?
I was sorry the day I found out we could count days...
Our lives could be counted away on pages of calenders!
So your "forever" is but a few rotations and revolutions of the planet.

When every slow song seems to say what I feel
And fail to tell me why,
I slowly make my way to the computer.
Did I not want it to be private?
I could have easily used a paper and a pen...
I want you to find me; if you do I turn illusive.
You keep asking and guessing.
"Try and understand me", I think, even when I do not know what it is,
And then I ask you to offer me some solitude and peace.
Yet I feel sorry when you leave - puzzled, or maybe not caring at all.

Friday, June 15, 2012

The Inheritance

Such an advertisement had seldom appeared in any newspaper. In fact, I doubt whether anything of the kind had ever been spotted by a reader looking for jobs.
“Money and a house for my brains and personality, and nothing else… WOW!” Abhishek turned the page over his morning teacup. “Man is nuts. Some weirdo playing games. Weirder newspaper people to print that nonsense!”
In another part of the city, Rupam’s wife had brought his attention to the article. A consultant in a multinational, he had no current necessity to job-hunt, but Soma, the epitome of bored rich housewives who dreamt of financial independence to go with their dependent’s affluence, had discovered the peculiar ad during her usual search for vacancies. Rupam laughed “Personality, maybe, but you don’t have the brains to satisfy this man my dear!” Used to such jeers and taunts, Soma cleared her throat and added in an undertone “I wanted you to call him! But come to think of it, you may not have the personality” Rupam was aghast for a second “You’re kidding, right?”
Komolika had quite a different reaction. “Man is brilliant! Probably no kids. It’s like adopting an adult”. Shreya laughed “You should go for it didi. Attractive literature student with a dream to start a school. He’ll lap it up. He seems quite artistic if you ask me, only a true artist can devise such a plan.” “Very funny, ha ha!. But seriously, maybe I will call him.” With a twinkle in her eye Komolika shut the door behind her as she left for her usual Saturday tuitions. Shreya re-read the ad.
“67 year old retired engineer based in Kolkata is looking for a bright and smart youngster who can inherit his property and monetary assets. If you are between 18 and 30, and think you have the brains and personality to be an eligible contender, call Mr R Choudhury at **********.”
The words in boldfaced large font, surrounded by normal-looking advertisements for vacancies, looked truly bizarre. Little did three young people in Kolkata know that their lives were going to change only because they paid an ever-so-little amount of attention to the strange ad.
Abhishek came out of his boss’ chamber and swore under his breath.  Salim, his colleague, patted his back “Relax buddy. Verma is an asshole. Screw him.” But he could not quite shrug off the continued insults like the others.” “Stupid guy from a third-grade university has become my boss, and I must take his crap day in and day out”.
Only last year he had been a bright class XII student. His HS marks were brilliant, and his JEE rank was good enough to land him in a respectable engineering college. But he wanted to be a doctor. And his medical rank had just been a few short of the required one. There was a huge showdown at his Golepark residence. His parents, aunts, uncles, cousins, family friends, even distant relatives and acquaintances took turns and failed to comprehend why their brilliant wonder-boy Abhi would not enroll himself in the prestigious engineering courses that he had been offered. “You cleared the JEE with flying colours and now you must go to college. Doctor, engineer, what’s the difference? It’s all science isn’t it?” said his favourite uncle, Gopu Mama. His mother shed very many tears, and finally his father let him know that it’s either engineering or financial independence. Knowing that engineering meant saying farewell to medical colleges forever, Abhi chose the latter. He got a call-centre job and prepared to move out from posh Golepark to a cheaper locality. But his typical Bengali mother prevented that. So he stayed, but paid for his upkeep and started preparing for JEE next year. New trouble, however, surfaced in the figure of Verma, his supervisor at the call centre, whose expertise was in the field of wielding his authority by insulting entry-level people. Nothing made Verma happy, and it was difficult for Abhi to concentrate on his studies as the insults boiled inside his head. He could be studying mechanical engineering in JU now, but instead he was being bashed for poor work performance by someone with a degree from some college he had never heard of. Today was especially tough. “Clearly there is a serious lack of grey matter inside your head, Abhishek!”, had been Verma’s concluding line. Dropping like a stone on his bed on reaching home, Abhi decided that now was the time for doing something, even if it meant doing something insane. He picked up the newspaper, took out his cell-phone, took a deep breath and dialed.
For Rupam, life had almost been a bed of roses. He had been a good student, and his family had enough money to afford the best education. Family money combined with diligence and brains had proved to be a recipe for quick success. After acquiring a good management degree, he had started his career at a reputed MNC at 24, and had begun working his way up the promotion ladder real quick. Presently, at 28, he was looking at a great future. He had been married to his long-time girlfriend Soma for a year now. Extremely pretty, fair, and slim Soma was the dream trophy wife. But she did have her quirky tendencies, which she proved, yet again, on Monday evening.
Soma sensed her husband’s good mood as he had returned earlier than usual and was whistling merrily as he changed out of his corporate attire. “Good day at the office?” she asked. “Yes babe! I am looking at a huge raise very soon. What say you to a vacation abroad this winter? Coupled with the gold bracelet you were looking at perhaps?”
“Great!” Soma knew that now was the time to break her news to him. “Listen, I called Mr. Choudhury…the guy from Saturday’s advertisement.”
“The guy who wanted someone young to inherit his stuff”
“What the… Soma that is very funny! Stop joking around and please get me a cup of tea, will you?”
“I am NOT kidding. I called him. Told him about you.”
Rupam stared. After a few silent seconds his wife continued “He says he wants to meet you. He has asked you to call him this Friday and fix up a meeting”
“Are you nuts? And why Friday?”
“Well of course he understands you will be busy before the weekend. I told him what you do”
“Ok now you are seriously pissing me off! The guy could be a fraud! For all you know he could be after our money! Did he want our background information? Why the hell do you have to do these things! Screwed up my mood completely.” Rupam threw his tie on the bed and walked into the bathroom to wash up.
“He didn’t ask me much. I thought I should tell him what your profession was. Tons of people know where you work. They aren’t after you, Rupam. Anyway, I think you should call him. If you don’t like him you may choose not to go and meet him, right?” Soma waited for an answer in vain, and finally went to get his tea.
Komolika was in the final year of her M.Phil in English literature. She taught English at a school on the side, and her weekends generally involved tutoring school children in the mornings. She often did things on impulses, like the time she had decided to study literature in spite of trying out the sciences in high-school. To be fair, she had cleared the entrance tests of quite a few good English Departments in the city. Hence, her decision was not opposed by anyone she knew, but it did raise a few eyebrows. Little did she care as she happily explored the amazingly rich realm of words. Since she saw that advertisement she had had an urge to call, which only increased with time. She knew what her mother would say. It could be some psycho waiting for women to contact him, and then call them somewhere and have his way, or worse, kidnap and ship her off to some sick little place full of sick men. Komolika laughed aloud as she could almost hear her mother screaming. She envisioned her very own school where children would learn to ask questions and be allowed to disagree. Her parents envisioned her getting a PhD, joining the faculty of a reputed school or college, and somewhere in the middle of that, marrying an appropriate groom. Komolika managed to hold her desire for two more days. On Tuesday, she called.
Exactly seven days later, these three young, vibrant people found themselves in a well-furnished drawing room of a two-storey house in Park Street. Soma, after all, was Rupam’s boss at home, and her coaxing had made him call up the man he swore was some kind of a “nutcase”. But, the voice of the old man had seemed stable, and a park street house seemed harmless, so Rupam had turned up. He had not missed the sparkling car in the garage as he had entered the house. Slowly, he could sense that he would not mind owning all of this. “What if this is for real?” he thought.
They had been ushered in by a servant, asked to sit on a comfortable sofa, and had been requested to wait. They had introduced themselves to one another and, not knowing what to expect next, had started discussing the strange scenario.
“It is a hoax by all means. I am ready to call the police the moment I sense something weird”, whispered Rupam.
“Mighty brave of us to turn up at a strange man’s house alone”, Abhi said, looking at Komolika.
“After I spoke to him and got his full name, I looked him up on the net. According to Linkedin he is an engineer from REC, Durgapur, and he worked at some reputed consultancies as well. Some other sites also confirmed his identity and address. I took the chance”, she smiled.
Rupam wasn’t happy. Checking the net had not occurred to him somehow. To prove his worth he added “Well he doesn’t have kids. Has probably gone senile, lost his marbles and wants to give away his stuff. It’s a kind of charity for the mad if you ask me. Insane, but not harmful.”
The servant reappeared after about 15 minutes and said “Mr Chakraborty, he will see you now. Please come with me”
Abhi got up and followed him to an adjacent room with bookshelves and an elaborate wooden desk. At one end of the desk sat a man who looked about 60, with wispy white hair, wheatish skin, sharp features, expensive-looking spectacles, and dressed in what looked like a beige Fab-India kurta. “Sit”, Mr Choudhury pointed at a leather-bound chair across him.
19 year old Abhi sat down.
“I remember what you have told me over the phone. Aspiring doctor. Almost made it the last time. You certainly have brains, dear boy, and perseverance too, remembering that you gave up a good engineering career. I might wonder if you have told me the truth, but I can always ask you to bring me your results and talk to people you know. So let’s discuss the actual thing. Why my money?”
The question hit him like an unexpected bullet. Tongue-tied for a few seconds, he pulled himself together. “Well honestly, so that I can quit my pathetic job, study harder, and hopefully pay for my medical studies when I get through.”
“The last part of it does not make sense Abhishek. Your father is an Indian, right? Once his son gets through medical college he will forget everything and embrace you, and maybe even boast about how you never gave up. Look at how he did not turn you out of the house despite everything! You do not need my money to pay for studying”. The shrewd old man smiled and kept looking at the teenager.
Abhi gulped “I shall not accept it. He did not stay by my side when I needed him”
“Nonsense” chuckled Mr Choudhury “You stayed in his house. You will take his money and forgive him in no time.”
Abhi grew a little red. Was this old fool actually having fun? Maybe he wished to insult people and spend his retired life. Well, he had his daily dose of insults from Verma. He did not have any reason to take it from strange men who could not fire him.
“Let me ask you something then” Abhi fired “Why give up your money to complete strangers? And also, the advertisement talked about brains and personality. I think I have both and hence I am eligible. In fact, you did not mention that I have to be needy. I may be stinking rich and still want your money, because you only used adjectives like smart and bright and brainy and young, all of which I am.”
Mr Choudhury stared coldly for a while, and then broke into a smile “Well this is not your average interview so I shall excuse your tone, and I shall answer your question too. As you know I do not have children, or anybody similar I can be happy to leave everything, I have worked for, to. In fact, anyone who is not my child will be nice to me and promise to take care of me only because they want it all. But I do not need such people. However, I cannot change the fact that one of the people who want my money will eventually get it, so why not make sure, that the one be the most deserving?”
“Isn’t there anyone you like among people you know?”
“There are people I like, but I do not like them enough. Don’t we hire completely unknown but deserving people to work for our own company? It’s something like that”
“If you have something specific in mind barring smart and young, do tell me then, and I’ll know if I am the one”
“I want my assets to be used well. If you can do that, it’s yours”
“If you mean something like charity-work by that, then I don’t know. The only noble work I shall do is when I cure people as a doctor. And I do not plan to do it for free either. I want to be a surgeon who is efficient and respected. I can help the poor now and then, but I do want to excel as a doctor. I am ambitious in that regard”
“…and you may even go abroad to practice. I get it Abhishek. You have the image of the hot, rich, successful doctor in your head. Like they show in the thriller series on Star Gold and stuff… But I like your honesty. You did not try to feed me a story about saving poor sick people and opening a hospital in a remote village of West Bengal. I met a doctor yesterday. That seemed to be his idea. Then I asked him why he wasn’t working in a suburban hospital right now, instead of the extravagant nursing home he works in.”
Abhi smiled and breathed a little easy.
“My only concern, Abhishek, is that, you shall never amount to what you are promising. What if you never make it? And continue at that job of yours?”
Abhi looked at the old man in the eye “I have hope and confidence, Mr Choudhury. And my past record also states that I am capable. But still, let’s say that I turn out to be a complete loser as you are implying, then I do not know what I’ll do. I shall make plan B only when plan A has no potential for materializing. And since you seem to agree than I have the brains, I am sure you know I shall figure something out. Because, whatever happens, I shall always have my brains and my personality”
It was Komolika’s turn next.
“I must say, of all the people I have spoken to, you seem to have the noblest plans for my riches” smiled the old man.
“Well I cannot add to that. Thank you.” A genuine smile appeared on Komolika’s serious face.
“So you want a school that focuses on interaction and wants to break the rigid education system so students can easily choose what they love. That is all very well. But don’t international schools in the city already do that?”
“They do, maybe. But those schools are expensive. Also, why embrace international standards instead of tweaking our own standards to improve them? And frankly, Mr Choudhury, how many of our kids need such international schools? Only those who can pay to go abroad right away, maybe. Students from our boards do reasonably well and enter respectable Indian colleges every year. I am one of them. I would not dream of going to an international school. I would merely have been happier if the answers we wrote in school had allowed a little latitude to use our own ideas, that’s all.”
“Impressive” Mr Choudhury sat up in his chair “if you open a school you must remember you have to conform to the boards that are present”
“But I can control the teaching methods. The teaching will be more liberal, interactive, encouraging, and with a scope wider than the prescribed syllabus. The board comes in only during examinations. Armed with a liberal education the students will pass with flying colours.”
“That is hopeful. I really like it. What I don’t like, however, is what may happen to you soon. How old are you?”
“25. And what do you mean?”
“I understand that you are from an educated and liberal family, Komolika. But that does not mean that your parents will not want to marry you off. Going by today’s trends, you’ll be married at around 28, which is fine. But what happens if you are happily married to a great guy, continue teaching at that school you work in, give up all noble hopes, and decide to spend my money on yearly honeymoons abroad?”
“Hahahaha” Komolika laughed a little too hard.
“Don’t be amused my dear” laughed the old man “what I said happens more often than not. But then I suppose you could say that you’ll still be smart and great and what not, which dear Abhishek told me a few minutes back”
“I shall marry, definitely. But I can assure you that I shall not let go of my plan ever. And who knows, I may have even started my school before I am married. And I don’t think I need to give you a list of women who did great stuff even if they were married with kids. Mr Choudhury, I could have gone for a science, even an engineering degree, and bagged a job that pays thrice as much as my school does. I gave it up for the love of literature. You can be sure that I would be able to give up romantic vacations for my dream.” She paused.
“And what makes you think my husband will not be able to afford vacations?” she added with a naughty smile.
Rupam sat down and looked at Mr Choudhury. Rich old fool, he thought, but he’ll love me. Am I not successful like him? He eyed the bookshelves. Volumes of English classics on one wall, some science and engineering books and magazines on another, and a prominent section full of Bengali books – classics and contemporary.
The prudent old man had not failed to miss Rupam cursorily examining the entire room.
“I love to read, as you may have noticed. Got more books in my bedroom shelf. But let’s talk about you. You are by far the most settled and well-to-do person I have met today.”
“Well, thanks! I hope you look at it as a good thing”
“Certainly, you are made of stuff to be proud of - a great student, an IIM passout, and now at a great post. Good personal life too. I gather you have a rather industrious wife, and you are here because she wanted you to.”
The man’s piercing gaze and last words made Rupam uncomfortable. Soma is an absolute idiot! Couldn’t she have made me make the first call? Why did she have to call him? Shit!
“It is ok to listen to your wife Rupam. I never had one, but once or twice I have lamented the lack of someone who would tell me what to do” Mr Choudhury startled him. Is this man a thought-reader?
“Anyway”, continued the strange man “we are digressing. As I was saying, you are well-settled. In fact, I don’t think I have anything you will not be able to afford now or in the near future. Can you tell me if there is anything I may have that will entice you? Barring the fact, that the entire thought of getting a house and a lump of money is enticing in itself.”
“Well…” Rupam thought hard “you are right. I can buy most of the things you have…but I love your car. And technically, I do not own one. The car I drive belongs to dad. He has two. He gave me one when I got into IIM. But I am smart and successful, and you…”
“Yes yes I know all that” Mr Choudhury cut him short “I know what I said in my advertisement and I know you are all of that. But you see, I have met people who are struggling to pursue the education of their choice, people who want to start their own new kind of school… My money will only add on to your own lavish lifestyle, while the lack of it will not harm you. Why do you think you should be the one?”
Rupam flashed a smile. He knew, this time, what to say. “Yes, but I have inferred that charity is not what you exactly want to do. Or else there are numerous educational institutions and orphanages waiting for people like you.”
There was a long pause.
“You have caught me there. I don’t want anything to go to an institution, where I’ll never know how many and what kind of lives I have influenced. For all you know, I may have influenced the life of some corrupt official. I want to know exactly to whom my money is going, and how he or she will use it.”
“I know I am not needy in the least Mr Choudhury. But I use my assets well. And honestly, if you did have a son like me, would you not be perfectly happy to leave all your stuff to him, rather than hunt for students or dreamers who may or may not succeed?”
“You are getting personal Rupam, but yes, if I did have a son or daughter like you, I wouldn’t think twice. I also wouldn’t think twice if he or she were a complete failure. But that is not the case, is that? I do not have a child, and thus I must choose wisely, because I can afford to choose. With a child, you do not have the luxury of picking and choosing.”
Rupam was a little taken aback, as what he had considered to be his best point was refuted so aptly.
“One thing intrigues me though. Why aren’t you settled somewhere in the UK like most of your kind?”
“I never wanted to settle abroad. I love this city. I have travelled onsite quite a few times and will continue to do so, but settling down is not an option. Also, my parents live here, and I don’t want to leave them behind.”
“That is good to hear! Talk to me about your likes and dislikes and your life in general, Rupam, Since you have nothing to prove as far as academics and career are concerned. Let me see what kind of a person you are.”
“Well I like photography. Still go out early in the morning at times to take photos. I also enjoy watching movies – thrillers mostly. I like travelling. I make sure we take one vacation a year, no matter how heavy the workload. I do not read much though. My wife is into that.”
“Well maybe she should have called for herself” smirked Mr Choudhury. “She must be smart, considering she landed you. And I quite liked our brief phone conversation. Although giving my things to you will mean she is getting it all too…”
Not sure how to react, Rupam smiled feebly and waited.
“Well you fit the bill perfectly. And if there were no other contenders at all, I would be happy to see you as my heir. But I must think. Leave your name and email ID there and you’ll hear from me soon.”
Rupam drew the writing pad. He could see two names already. Abhishek Chakraborty and Komolika Sen.
The three hopefuls returned home quite happy. The first two felt that they had argued their cases really well.
Rupam felt that being the epitome of success, there could be no question of his being the one. He was the only one with whom the old man would immediately associate his own class and achievements. Mr Choudhury was a professional like him who had spent almost the whole of his career abroad. He would not want that great house, the car, and the money go to some call-centre employee or school-teacher, no matter what he said.
In a better mood than Soma had ever seen, he sipped his tea with his arms around her and told her what had taken place. Soma seemed to like the sound of Abhi though, pointing out that Abhi could easily be equally successful in a few years time, and he was from a classy family as well. And what if Mr Choudhury had liked Komolika’s idealistic harangue?
But Rupam brushed her fears aside. “The teenage boy will take another ten years to prove his true worth, no matter what he does. The old man is already 67, he wants to see someone flourish right now. And only I fit the bill. And that girl is fine in terms of education and everything. But old Bengali science people will never completely like her kind unless she was already a well-known journalist or professor or something. She is just one in a crowd of teachers who want to change the system but marry well, and live happily ever after. You would have had a better shot at it than her. And from what I saw, the crazy old man is way too sharp to be victimized by feminine charm. Our wealth is about to be double honey. And you’ll have a huge collection of books very soon.”
Abhi could not stop thinking as he gulped down his dinner. He had done a good job of convincing, he thought. He finally dared to think what the consequences of his being the one would be. Freedom from the job he did not like, and more importantly, freedom from Verma. Enough money to relax and study without worrying about anything. Maybe he would even move into the house. He would not listen to Maa this time. This wasn’t some one-room flat in a cheap locality. This was a two-storey mansion in Park Street, larger than their own house. His friends who ridiculed him for his decision would be so damn jealous of him…the family members would try to get back into his good books. Abhi trembled with newfound glee and compulsively checked his e-mail every five minutes.
Komolika had just finished telling the story to her parents and sister over dinner. Her mother had opened her mouth but no sound came out of it. Her father was not too impressed either “This is all gibberish. Do not pursue this, Kumu. And do not return to that house. God knows who he is and what he wants. These people say nice things on the first day. You should not have gone to start with!” Komolika didn’t reply. Her sister gave her a “don’t-listen-to-them-you-are-awesome” kind of wink and continued eating in silence. Komolika knew in her gut that the old man was not trouble. Had she seen two more young women instead of men, it might have been fishy, but he had seemed so genuine. She would get it. Why would he make the rich MNC guy richer? And the teenager was simply not to be counted on. He had proved nothing yet. She, on the other hand, had a great post-graduate degree, and was going to get another soon. She already taught at a school, and she had huge potential to do a PhD and become a full-fledged academic. Her family was affluent, but not wealthy enough to invest in a new school. She was smart, young, educated and in need of funding for her great idea. She was just perfect.
A week passed and the tension and anticipation grew beyond the bearable threshold. Abhi had started losing hope as he trudged to work each day. Komolika had started faintly believing her father. And an exasperated Rupam had gone back to his “fraud” theory.
At his Park Street residence, Mr Choudhury sipped coffee while watching his Saturday sitcom. After that he walked over to his study and turned his computer on. His travelling reservations had been made. He was keeping enough money to last him for the next two or three months. According to the doctor he wouldn’t last that long anyway. He had decided to spend the last few days of his life at a secluded villa he had rented in the serene setting of Musoori. He could not forget how beautiful his first vacation there had been. He was going to go away to college, and his parents had decided to spend a nice holiday in the hills before that. He had loved the place – cool, green and peaceful, and way better than Darjeeling. Anyway, it seemed to have happened centuries back. He would revisit the place for the last time and never come back. He had spoken to his lawyer to finalize his decision regarding his property. The papers were ready, and the formalities would be complete in another week.
After checking the e-mail drafts he hit “send”, then another “send”, and after a pause, the final “send”.
On reading the mail, Abhi turned to stone. He was free at last. It was sinking in very slowly. Then he got up and let out a victorious howl!
Komolika re-read her mail thrice. Oh my god, she thought. She had hoped for this and a lot more, but it was hard to believe that something had actually happened. Taking deep breaths she calmed herself. Then she got up to call her family.
Rupam had to re-read his e-mail too. He had reason to smile, but the disappointment turned his lips upside down. Bloody old fool! Stupid nutcase! “Soma! Come and take a look at this”, he shouted.
On the “Sent Items” folder in the old man’s e-mail account stood the three letters, happily co-existing, one after the other.

Dear Abhishek,
You remind me about my own young self in ways more than one. I saw the vigour and rebelliousness of my youth in you. I saw my brains. FYI, I got through engineering and just missed medical by a few ranks. I never wanted to study medicine, and was more than happy to join REC. But you made me wonder what if my situation had been reversed? What if I had missed the benchmark for engineering and made it to the medical student-list instead? The thought of cadavers make me shudder. I would never have gone, and would probably want a BSc. My father, who was incidentally a doctor, wasn’t like yours. He would have kicked me out of the house, or worse, disowned me.
I have decided that a young man of your caliber should not work where you work, and should lead a life suitable for his intellect. I am freeing you Abhishek, knowing full well that you have all that it takes to do it yourself in the near future. Along with the material possessions that I’ll give you, I am leaving you a huge lot of hope - that you will not misuse the wealth. Use it well. I don’t mind if you even utilize it to go and study or practice abroad. But be thankful, and give something back to the world. Do not work for free, but do not unreasonably charge people who cannot pay.
I have chosen to leave you quite a large percentage of my money. You do not need so much of it, but still.
Wishing you all the best
Rajatava Choudhury

Dear Komolika,
I admired your spirit. You seemed a down-to-earth, ambitious, and accomplished young lady. I repeat what I had told you – you have the noblest intentions among the ones I met. I also liked the fact that you love literature. I am an avid reader myself, and though I do not possess any literary prowess of my own, I can certainly appreciate a good piece of writing.
I hope you realize how idealistic your dream-school sounds. I am not saying that things will not change, but they will not happen overnight, but you must know that. I had a feeling that you were a good teacher. I would suggest you open a tutorial to start with, hire teachers you like, and see how it goes, and if luck permits, you can expand it to a school someday. But I know a mere suggestion will not be enough. And I have decided to make the arrangements.
You shall be getting my house, which you can use as your tutorial-cum-experimental-school. I am not leaving you a lot of money, but enough to buy the necessary furniture and pay your recruits to start with. If you flourish, then you can take care of future expenses yourself.
Wishing you all the best
Rajatava Choudhury

Dear Rupam,
You were the most exciting guy I met. Handsome, young, successful, well-settled, and gliding through life with the ease you deserve. You were the complete package if you ask me. I can almost feel your thrill, as I think about my early career. The sheer happiness of making so much money, and the unimaginable exhilaration of being promoted, or going abroad at the expense of the company. I was there once, and I enjoyed it to the fullest. Having experienced all of that, I can assure you that you’ll have an amazing life, more amazing than mine I’m sure, because you have a family.
I was truly at a loss when I tried to decide what I would do with you. Leaving you more material possessions seemed a useless waste, but I could not leave you nothing, because I have taken a liking to you. I had to give you something.
The first thing that I have in mind will not be of any consequence to you. I have decided to leave all my books to your lovely wife. She can pick and choose the ones she wants. I am assuming she will find the engineering magazines a little dull and probably skip those. And finally, I leave you something that you liked. A successful man has not enough of these. Consider it a congratulatory gift from me for doing so well at such a young age. As you can understand by now, I leave you my car.
Wishing you all the best
Rajatava Choudhury

Friday, June 8, 2012

The Other Side of Halcyon

Write something better
I would think every night.
The next morning bright
Will make the fingers move.

Write something at all
It turned out to be
A drenched and tired me,
Who had so much yet to prove.

Write the third stanza
Two are never enough.
Oh does it seem tough,
To fill the wordless snares?

Write your heart out
Pure honesty will pay
Isn't that what they say?
Well honestly is scarce!

Write till it looks decent
It should weave a little plot
And make its own slot
In some ongoing trend!

Write the final lines
These will serve to mock
The hopeless mental block
 And create a strange end!