If you have a problem, fix it. But train yourself not to worry, worry fixes nothing. - Ernest Hemingway

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Looking back

Bimochan Bhattacharya

[The author is my friend. He writes prose and poetry in Bangla. I am happy to share one of his reminiscences with you. The translation is mine. - SSC]

The year was 1978. A friend came to my office to inform that Amal, one of our close friends, was ill. He had been hospitalised because of food poisoning. I said I would drop in at the hospital in the evening.

After reaching the hospital, I came to know it was not food poisoning; Amal had had a cerebral stroke and his condition was critical. After returning home that evening, I went out again, to spend the night at the Medical College Hospital.

Not that night alone, we were at the hospital every night until the fourth of January, when Amal left us. But this story is not about Amal. It’s about someone else.

We spend the night at the hospital and come home in the morning, after a quick bite, go to office; on the way home, drop in at the hospital, and then go back again to spend the night there. That was the routine for ten of us during the time. We spread old newspapers and slept under the stairs. Another group of young men used to be there. Their patient was a boy of twenty/twenty-two years. We didn’t know what his problem was, but he would walk out of the ward to chat with his friends. He talked loudly, and often, in filthy language.

We were preoccupied with our friend and ignored his volley of profanities. But one day, we ran out of patience. A big fracas followed. The boy, who was the patient, shouted the most. One of the members of his group was Mir Kasim, a well known footballer of Kolkata at the time. After some time, when the temperature cooled down slightly, Mir took the boy into the ward. He came back and told us the boy was his brother. He was afflicted with blood cancer. None of us knew much about blood cancer then. Mir told us that the doctors had said his brother wouldn’t survive beyond a few days.

We felt awful and apologised to Mir. He said in a calm voice, ‘No, how would you know?’

Days and nights trudged past. Our friend’s condition fluctuated; he was better one day, and worse the next. We stopped reacting to the boy. On the contrary, we became friends with Mir and others of his group. One day, the boy even came to us and apologised for his rudeness.

One day late in the night, I woke up to find everyone sleeping. Someone was singing in a beautiful voice. The tune was perfect. A friend and me climbed up the stairs and saw the same boy, leaning on the banister of the first floor landing. He was looking at the dark sky beyond, and singing with his back towards us:

Tum na jane kis jahan mein kho gaye,
Hum bhari duniyamein tanha ho gaye …

Towards the end, when he sang

Loot kar mera jahan
Chhup gaye ho tum kahan, tum kahan …,

we too became a little emotional and returned to our place.

The next evening, a coffin was brought to the ward. We saw our companions for almost twenty days, Mir Kasim and his friends, crying bitterly. We were young then. We too hugged them and cried.

The boy who had been singing just a day ago came out as a corpse. That was the first time I covered my head with a handkerchief and put my shoulder under a coffin. The cort├Ęge left with him. The words “tum kahan, tum kahan” reverberated in my ears.

Exactly twelve days later, on the 4th of January 1979, we carried the remains of Amal to his home. We shouted “Hari Bol” on the way.

15 comments:

  1. It is very touching. But ,life is all about such moments.

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  2. Very touching and poignant, Santanu da. We forget that it's the greatest leveler of sorts! I've no words! Shouldn't we have a few of these gems more ?

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  3. my eyes are now full of tears...don't know how to react...

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  4. Absolutely beautiful. You touch the chords of my heart with all your stories and you super narration. Wish you and your family a very happy 2010

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  5. Thank you All. Sujata, a correction: this is not my story, I have only translated it. But I am happy that the story has touched a chord with you. Happy New Year to you all!

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  6. Bimochan kaku,
    that was very touching and emotional...

    Specifically, the last two paragraphs. So very appropriate for our times when we are leading the so-called "FAST LIFE" where people don't even care to think about their own parents and family members.

    Have nothing much to say except LIFE GOES ON and each of these incidents at least teach us something in life..

    Santanu Kaku (I think that will be appropriate),
    Nice, compact translation.

    Will wait to read something more like this from both of you..

    My best wishes...

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  7. bhishon marmosporshi lekha...eti ami ageo porechi banglae. anubadtio chamotkar.

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  8. HAPPY NEW YEAR TO YOU ALL!!!!

    I have read this story earlier. It touched me. The translation is equally good and it has also touched me alike.

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  9. A poignant read indeed.

    A very happy new year to you and your family. I hope you are doing fine.

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  10. khub mormosporshi lekha. 'tum na jane kis jahan me kho gaye' chokh jhapsa kore dilo muhurter jonyo

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  11. Many thanks, Joy, Swati, Mausumi, Tanmoy, and enigmatic kS, I am delighted that you loved Bimochon's piece. I assure you, there will be more. Do watch this space in the WWW.

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  12. Very touching and emotional story...it reminds me one of the Bengali serial in nineties, "Simana Chhariye", where Rabi Ghosh was in the lead role. He was a cancer patient but never let others know about it and used to live the life to its fullest...thanks for sharing the beautiful story...

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  13. This post made me cry Sir, something inside me has always shied away from such stories because I feel engulfed in this big wave of sadness...nevertheless....I had to read this one...very poignant..

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  14. Re-learnt a few things from the post.

    Humans bond well in times of crisis, better than they do in good times. Seems somewhat ironical, yet that's one of the myriad things about us (which I've accepted now, some time before I used to be skeptical).

    Duality is intrinsic to human nature: the same person who curses incessantly can also be philosophical/poetic.

    Like K-da says, Death is the great leveller.

    A very late comment from me jethu - apologies!

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  15. Thank you, Niloy, Vaishnavi and Sudipto. I am passing on your comments to the author. I agree with you, this is a wonderful piece of writing.

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I will be happy to read your views, approving or otherwise. Please feel free to speak your mind. Let me add that it might take a day or two for your comments to get published.