Prayer (Prarthana)

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Ting Ting Ting. The wall clock said it is 3 AM at night. Sudip got up from bed. The bedroom is a bit enlightened from the street light. The curtains are removed from the only window open. There is a continuos buzzing sound outside. It is still raining. The heat wave is a bit reduced with the advent of the monsoons. Sudip felt cold. He got down cautiously from the bed, cautious enough not to disturb anyone. Lowered the speed of the ceiling fan and then looked back at the her wife Sonali and daughter Sunetra. They are fast asleep.

This has been a very tough day for Sonali. The housemaid didn't come today. All day she had to look after every possible household works by herself. She had to cook as well like everyday. Sudip loves food and he loves food cooked by Sonali more than any other food. Sunetra is only three. She looks like a little fairy nowadays. Sonali is good looking, Sudip is more than average. Suntra has received the best looks from both of them. She has thrown away the bed sheet aside. Sudip thought of go in again and put it in place, as it is a bit cold today. Then he paused, slowly got out of the room.

Sudip took out a bootle of water from the top of their refrigerator and entered the kitchen. The window of the kitchen is half closed. A sudden gush of moist wind jumped inside the kitchen. He once thought of closing the windows, at least in the bedroom, but recalled Sonali doesn't like that. "It feels so suffocating. I cannot sleep this way", she always complain except in winter. Sudip drank few sips of water from the bottle. He put that down and try to search for the match box in the cell. It's not there. He gets out of the kitchen to switch on the light.Getting the match box and head towards the other bed room through the dining cum living room.

Sudip has his desktop in this room. This room is smaller than the master bed room in this two bedroom flat they have purchased the last summer. This flat is at Patuli, a very convenient location in the newly built area at south Kolkata. He can easily reach his office at sector V at Salt Lake and can get back within half an hour or so at night. Sudip took out the packet of cigarette from the drawer of the computer table, lit one and sat on the bed. Here also a window has been kept half opened by Sonali. "Gods need air too." She told with a muse when Sudip asked about shutting all the windows. "But my PC!" "Gods will save it, she replied". "You see, gods will save my computer", repeated Sunetra. She always try to keep copying what her mother said. That's how people learn to talk, that's why a language becomes the "Mother's Tongue". The little lady, she always says everything to be her. The other day she was lookig at a car with great concentration. "That's my car" she said. "It's not your's for it is not ours. Everything me and your mom have is yours" corrected Sudip.

"Gods will save everything. My PC, my family and Sonali?" Sudip wondered. The rain must have been stopped. In this room is there is a large picture of Goddess Kali, the goddess who is widely worshiped by Hindu community specially Bengali people. Also one of Lord Ganesha. The God of knowledge with elephant's head. In two other medium sized frames there are pictures of Lord Krishna and Goddess Durga. In a corner self, specially created on Sonali's demand there are several small framed pictures and small statues other God and Goddesses. Sonali worships regularly. Sudip is not a believer. He sometimes had arguments with Sonali about keeping so many pictures of Gods. "This room looks like a average villagers room. These pictures better be kept at the home place. Sometimes my friends come here, and the pictures are so embarrassing. Can we not keep some of them at the bed room?" "No, you can't. In bedroom, the pictures of Gods should not be there according to Bastu Shastra - the Indian home science. We have photos of ours in the dining cum living room".

The cigarette is burning slowly to ash. Sudip canot think steadily. He has gone through vary tough situations throughout his life. He has built up his own fortune from the day he started living with his uncle after his father's death. He later found that his mother could not care for him as she got married and settled very soon after his father's death. All the time of these disturbances, he never prayed to God. A hatred towards this unknown force drive his life in a determination to win out his adversities. He became atheist. The man who has married his mother didn't allow Sudip to live with them. Sudip went to a residential school at 6. Almost at the end of his studies in a college at Kolkata, he lost his mother as well. He was left alone, he remained alone. Even after all these evil happened to his life, Sudip steadily studied in his college to shine in his life. He was really a good student and very soon after he passed out with a Master of Computer Application from his university, he got a job. Again, he had shown to his uncle, aunt, cousin sister, all known relatives and everybody around that he is not lost. He can win without the God between him and his success, even if life gets measurable.

Sonali came in his life like a cool breeze. After his marriage with Sonali, he brought things started to get settled for the last seven years. Now they are happily married couple, trying to build the future of their daughter with good education and other learning facilities. But can Sudip keep everything smooth running if Sonali won't stay with her? He lit another cigarette. No, he cannot bear this. He loves his wife than anything else in this world. She has been the turning point of his damned life. Life has become a bit smooth sailing for him from the day Sonali joined hands with him. After Sunetra's entry life feels like heaven even after the regular tremendous workload, tension and frustration at workplace. And now he is standing at an uncertain corner of life where this golden dream built by them is going to get shattered into thousands of small pieces.

He understood that he is not going to sleep, no way. He slept his sleep for this night. He is not going to office tomorrow, for he is going to tell Sonali and her parents about the truth. The truth, that Dr. Anirban Ghosh has let him know in the evening. Her cancer test has been found positive. The pain in her stomach is no more an average illness. Immediate treatment in a very sophisticated institution with cancer cell only may help her. Sonali will have to undergo a hell lot of pain to fight out this uneven battle. Even her Gods cannot help her or are they the only help for her to win? Or will she loose and Sudip with Sunetra will be lost?

Ting! Another sound of the wall clock let Sudip know it is 3:30 AM. The highway is slowly waking up. Some vehicles have started moving. The sound of rain has been stopped totally. He heard a dog howling from far away. As if the dog is crying. Sudip felt a burning sensation in his eyes. Looking towards the pictures of the Gods and Goddesses, he started weeping unknowingly and started to murmur, "If you are there, please help her. I don't believe in you but she does. She worships you regularly. Please let her beliefs come true. Please listen to her prayers." Tears started rolling from his eyes.


Wind (Haoa)

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The bus was running in medium speed. It had no hurry to reach it's destination. It is a bus from the CSTC (Calcutta, now Kolkata State Transport Corporation). This is a medium aged bus. At the most four years old, and the seats inside are arranged for the CSTC long distance service buses. So, it was a converted city bus. Earlier may be it used to run to a destination of 200KM or more, whereas it runs for 10-15KM per trip through the city.

It is a summer morning. Though it is around 9AM in the morning, the environment of the city is pretty hot. The traffic is medium, though the bus is full, like all other buses in Kolkata. No seat was left while as many as 40 people are standing inside this 52 seats bus. People were suffocating inside as the wind is not passing through the windows and is there is no cool breeze, only hot gust coming through the opened door and windows of the bus.

The conductor of this bus is wearing a dust-colored full sleeve shirt on a khaki trousers. That is the uniform of the government bus workers in whole India. While just like the private ran buses, the conductor is carrying a bag of tickets and money, and repeatedly asking the passengers to purchase their tickets. Some of the passengers are listening to his appeal for buying the tickets and paying, while others are just ignoring him.

Madhumita was going towards the south of Kolkata to her aunt's place at Behala to meet them. She has purchased her tickets and was looking out of the window of the running bus. She likes to look at the hoardings for advertisements. Though it has pretty restricted in Kolkata to put hoarding, banner, etc. some hoardings are still there with different advertisements. There are several big hoardings of the political party candidates, who are going to compete in the forthcoming Parliamentary Election. There are three main political parties standing in this election from West Bengal, the state of which, Kolkata is the capital. The ruling party alliance, the main opposition with an alliance and a third party which doesn't have much influence in this state. The ruling party is ruling for nearly 32 years continuously, when the main opposition has done the successful alliance with the other oppositions for the first time in history.

"OK, OK, now stop here." The bus conductor shouted to the bus driver. The bus suddenly stopped.
"What happened man? Why have you stopped?" asked the man in check shirt, who was standing just beside Madhumita.

"Yes, yes, why, why?" queries started coming from other passengers sitting and standing in the bus.
"Well, there is some problem with the left front wheel of the bus. It is loosing air. We need to pore some air it it, and there will be no issue." The bus conductor answered coolly.

This is not a common phenomenon. Almost all the passengers targeted this morning bus to avoid the inevitable notorious traffic jam of Kolkata and most of them were traveling this 15KM distance from extreme north to south of the city in this unbearable hot morning, so, the murmur started automatically among the sociable passengers.

"These fellows are government servants. The VIPs."
"Now that the salary is increasing, they will be more VIP".
"What they do in the bus depot? They are supposed to check all the problems."
"Where is the time? Why should they care for me and you? Political Union of the ruling party is there."

Madhumita heard some discussions as well, while she is least bothered about these. She is around 22 years of age. Working for a call center at Sector V, Salt Lake City, Kolkata. She never wants to know about the political issues and from her past and present experiences she has known that gossiping this way is just wastage of time. People of West Bengal, specially people working for the government cannot be changed. The ruling party will rule and the unions will become more powerful day after day. You want to protest, they will not let you. Here, in West Bengal, everything is governed by political colors. You have a dispute with your neighbor, the political parties will come in to get some profit out of it. West Bengal, the Bengali, will never change. Nothing can change the unwritten rules. Only thing she has in her mind is to reach her destination quickly.

The bus started to move again after poring some air in the left wheel and the murmur stopped almost instantly. The bus have covered almost two thirds way to its destination. Passengers are continuously boarding and leaving the bus. Madhumita just finished talking to one her friends through her cell phone. Things seemed to be normal, when suddenly The bus conductor shouted again to the driver and the bus started running in a off rout.

"Hey, what are you doing?" asked the man in white shirt.
"It is not the proper rout. This is getting far away from my destination at Park Street." the guy wearing the greenish T-Shirt inquired.
"What's the matter. You are going away from the rout." again someone asked.
The bus conductor repeated his old answer. "We need to pour air in the left front wheel".
"What? You should have said earlier. I have important works."
"So, what could I do?" The bus conductor asked.
"Means? Three other passengers charged towards the conductor.
"You must have informed us earlier. We could have chosen some other option."

The bus almost stopped now and some of the passengers started getting off. But the rest of the passengers became furious.

"What the hell do you do at the depot?" somebody asked.
"Don't you have shame? You people being public servants wasting the time and money of people."
"Low class people. Only shouting for the ruling party leaders and getting the monthly salary from the government."
The cursing made The bus conductor angry.
"So, we are low class people, why are you yelling on us. Please shut up", he replied.

That reply added oil to the fire.
"How dare you talk to the public like this. Don't forget that you are a public servant."

The bus conductor realized that whatever these people are saying has truth in it. Even today, while they were having tea at the tea stall near the bus depot, neither the bus driver nor he felt the urge to check the Tyre of the wheels. Only thing they checked is the engine condition, brakes and fuel. But, again, it is a fact that he is an active member of the bus-union of the ruling party and may be elected as the secretary very soon. And these fellows do not understand how much power he may enjoy once he become the secretary.

Thinking all these in this situation and hot wind outside made him hot in anger. And he shouted back.
"Of course I am a public servant but not your servant. Don't talk to me like this, or else...."
"Have it been a private bus. We would have taught you how to talk to public." somebody said. In India touching a public servant on duty may bring a lot of trouble to a citizen. May be he recalled that, but some passengers do not care for the rules.

"Else what?" Three young guys surrounded The bus conductor. One of them pushed him.
"Let me show you", one of them tried to catch his collar.

Madhumita got nervous. She is thinking of getting late and start the bus right now. This is a sheer wastage of time and energy. The three passengers heading to the bus conductor must be members of the opposition party. That's why they want to show the muscle power. Also there is no point to dispute with a poor bus conductor. Only thing they all should do right now is cooperate.

Some other people may be thinking like her. So, one of them said, "Let it go. Let's do our best to start the bus and get it moving. We all are getting late.

"Here, we have an agent of the transport minister." shouted someone from the back side.
"Agent, agent. Tell him to come by the side of the conductor.
"He will report to the transport minister. As we all know, there are hooligans working for him, we will be all punished" someone yelled in mockery.
"32 years we are suffering from you, this will come to end."
"Let the election come, we will show them this time." said somebody.
"Only eating,sleeping, gossiping and shouting for the ruling party cannot save you all the time."

The three young fellows who stopped after pushing The bus conductor, realizing the dire consequences they may had to face. Hearing the verdict and support of the fellow passengers they gathered some fresh energy and tried to push The bus conductor again. The bus conductor realized that the situation is going out of his control and just jumped off the bus to save himself from the angry mob. The driver also vanished in no time.

Madhumita got up from her seat and pushed her way outside to get some other vehicle. She also thought once to protest for the bus conductor and let him pour the air to finish this journey. She understood that, though most of the people she mix with and almost everybody around her workplace do not care for the elections and even do not cast their votes, the surrounding has really become anti-ruling-party. From her elder ones she has always heard only about good deeds of the ruling party. She even casted her vote in favor the ruling party in the last election.But after a few major mistakes of the ruling party to acquire land from unwanted poor farmers for industrialization and being unnecessarily rude to the village people, even some encounter deaths of poor farmers have changed something internally.

People has become impatient and a wind of change may be blowing deep inside their minds. She once thought about the hooliganism the three young guys started. This kind of intervention will increase suddenly if the ruling party looses this time. People will take the rule in their hands and will do something drastic, just to show that, they are powerful too. The same way the cadres of the ruling party does these days. She suddenly realised that there is a high possiblity of a civil war some day in the villages,suberbs, towns and even in this metropolis Kolkata, once the rulling party falls.

She felt the scorching heat of the sun outside and the burning sensation from the hot wind blowing . She felt as if the wind is the wind of change for this state that will burn a lot of things in the coming days.


Storm in the restaurant (Restaurant-e Jhar)

Sunday, May 3, 2009

This is a summer afternoon in Kolkata. At this time of the day at 2 PM the temperature has reached its maximum, almost forty degree Celsius. This has beaten the record of last thirteen years or so. There is no rain for at least five months at a stretch. Like other parts of the city sector V is also burning in this heat wave from Jharkhand. The heat is really unbearable for those who are strolling outside of their offices either for having food or for some unavoidable reasons. Even looking out from a safe corner in an air-conditioned room is giving a burning sensation to the viewers eye. The food, fruits and drink sellers as usual are out on this heat and relentless, as they are habituated to this heat wave for the last fifteen days.

Parthib and Manisha were walking towards "Finger Tips" a reknowned restaurant at this place, to have their lunch. The heat is so terrific that the fair face of Manisha looked reddish which added extra beauty to her look. Parthib could not move his eyes away from her. Manisha generally comes here wearing the normal business suit uniform of the business school they read in. But today being the last session before the final semester, she is going to attend ,she has worn a light blue sari on her. Her hair is pony tailed and she is looking gorgeous in the stone studded black blouse she is wearing. She is an attractive girl of twenty two. Just graduated from one of the famous colleges of Kolkata and looking for an opportunity in the corporate world as a professional like Parthib. Parthib has been working as a trainee at one of the software firms here in sector V.

"Right now, if required, I can die for Manisha", Parthib thought himself. He has proposed Manisha twice in these eight months, once indirectly, a few months back and once directly just three days before. She never said yes, but she never said "no" either and that is the last hope for him. He knows well that this is his last chance. She offered Manisha to have lunch with him today and headed for a nearby restaurant.

Srija was looking out through the glasses of her office. The boy is holding the umbrella on behalf of the girl, while the girl is having her fruit juice. "So funny", she thought . Riddhi has never done such an idiotic move while they are together. He works as a technical consultant for a software company at sector V itself. But, that is a bit away from her office. Sometimes they have planned to go out to eat during office lunch hours, but most of the time, they cannot meet at lunch. Even if they could lunch on the roadside stall a day, Riddhi will never do this. And about the umbrella? He is the last person to carry Srija's umbrella she thought. Is that really a foolish act? Doesn't that so the real love, care and loyalty to a girl?

"Hey, like to go to fingertips for lunch?" Komolina asked.
"Yeah let's go." Srija and Komolina headed for the restaurant.

"Whatever you say, Buchanan should be kicked out of Kolkata Knight Riders. Him, and for him only, we are standing nowhere". Saumitra almost shouted.
"No it is McCullum, with his wrong judgements all the way." Arunava argued. "You move dada (Sourav Ganguly) and you are lost. It is that simple."
Pallab was silent, as usual. He doesn't like cricket much. For this reason or maybe some other reasons, the other two are always making laugh at him, for the last few days. Pallab has started disliking this and brought to their notice, but situation has not improved. He just sipped the glass of cold drinks and asked, "Do you know there may be a thunder shower today?"
"What? Are you telling about the news paper weather forecast? Are they ever true?" Saumitra crossed. "Remember Mr. Goldar? Who was renamed as Mr. Gooldar - the rumour-monger, because of his wrong predictions."
"Google never lies." Thought Pallab himself. There is a continuous forecast from google about this thunder shower, though he never checked the satellite imagery. The gang of three were continuing their talk while sipping their cold drinks. They come here together regularly as they work for the same software company.

The restaurant is almost packed up now. Employees from the nearby offices regularly have lunch here. So, very few chairs have been left vacant for Srija and Komolina. They sat just beside the gang of three and Srija was facing the TV screen.

"Do you know where are we planning to go this weekend?" asked Komolina.
"How can I have the faintest idea of your appointments. I am not interested either." Srija thought. "Nope." she answered.
"Hee Hee, water world. That will be pretty exiting I guess." Komolina seemed exited.
"But, Komolina, Sandip is a married man. Do you think that he will continue with you and leave his family?"
"Of course, he will. Do you know how much he loves to stay with me than the old witch. That witch was once came to me and even dared to threaten me." Komolina sighed. "But I love Sandip and will carry on our relationship, whatever it takes."
"And they must have children?"
"No. They don't have. They cannot have any more. Sandip's wife had a surgery on her uterus."

The couple entered right now catched the eyes of both the gang of three and of the girls we were talking about. The girl in blue sari is really looking beautiful but the guy with him is also very handsome. They looked like a perfect match, as if made for each other. The type of couple who pass like a cool breeze in your face on a hot day like this. The couple headed forward to the corner where there is the last four seater still vacant.

Pallab said, "look there is another forecast coming on the TV."
"Forget the TV see the real cool breeze once. It is more of an eye candy." Arunava said.
"Absolutely right", commented Saumitra.
"Let's move now. Will leave early today." said Pallab.
"Wait man, why are you hurrying. Your Project Manager is away and today is Friday. Relax", said Arunava.
"No, if the storm starts just now, we cannot get back to the office so easily", said Pallab.
The other two continued the leg pulling as they are doing for the last few days. He is getting the message from his two coleuges today. They are no more the gang of three, three has become a crowd it is no more a company.

"See the couple, they really look great aren't they?" asked Komolina.
"Yes. Let's start our lunch". Srija said.
"Right. Please pass me a paper napkin".

Their lunch has been served and Komolina started eating really hungrily.
Srija looked at the TV screen reluctantly. The weather forecast is showing that there may be a very powerful storm over Kolkata in the afternoon. "They always forcast. Then the storms come and by the god's grace, Kolkata is always saved. The storms go to Bangladesh", Srija thought.

With extreme astonishment Parthib noticed that Manisha is waving to a man who have just entered. A man of around thirty years of age. The man was in a T-shirt and Jeans and looked pretty stout. The man walked towards them and without taking anyone's permission joined the table. He has a concerned look in his face.

Someone entered and the few seconds the door was open, cool wind entered into the restaurant. Nobody really noticed that for the ACs their. Nobody even looked out to see what is going on outside. Most of them have not noticed that it is almost dark outside, for a dense rain cloud is covering the whole Kolkata.

The gang of three were about to leave.Suddenly there is a cracking sound of thunder and the storm started. Nobody could get the real touch of the cool breeze as the resturent is air-conditioned. But, again there is a craking sound of thunder. Saumitra and Arunava headed for the door but were stopped by Pallab. "See the storm has started. Let's have some more cold drinks." Saumitra was going to call from his cell, Pallab stopped him. "Don't use the cell when it is thundering", he said. Arunava was totally confused, "how come this could have started, even before half an hour there was no sign of clouds," he murmured.

"Meet my would be husband, Nabin", Manisha broke the ice. Nabin said hello, but Parthib could not here. As if the sound of thunder made him deaf and the sudden impact of the situation made him dumb as well. "I have never said about Nabin to you, as you know, we were pretty busy. He works in IBM, Kolkata". Manisha continued and then Nabin intervened, asked something to Manisha. Parthib was not listening to anything, he is terribly hurt. The sudden strike of the thunder storm as if has hit the core of his mind. He gaped around to get away from this situation, this particular moment. "Why me?" he thought to himself and recalled that Manab, one of his friends had given him the warning. "Don't mix with this kind of a girl. She is not of your type. Your relationship will turn to nowhere." Manab warned once.

Neither the three, nor Parthib can move out now as heavy rain has also started almost immidiately. The sound of the TV and the buzz of the people around has been stopped suddenly as there was another cracking sound of thunder and the restaurant lost power.

Srija felt helpless. She always fear from the dark. She also felt suffocated. Srija tried to look at Komolina and she felt a bit of hetred towards Komolina. "This is one of the girls who demolishes the love made home, the family, the real heaven." Suddenly a question struck in her mind, "has Riddhi really gone to Bangalore to represent his company in the Sun Java Conference or he has gone somewhere else? Does Riddhi also have someone like Komolina, in his eyes? Is this the reason he is reluctant about having a baby? " Srija thought." She picked up the cell, tried to ring Riddhi, there was no reply. The automated voice response said "The mobile you dialed is switched off, please dial after some time." But according to Riddhi, the conference is scheduled from 9AM to 1 PM. So, Riddhi must be free now. She tried again and again but no reply. Srija felt a tremendous frustration and breathing problem started. She is about to loose consciousness.

All of a sudden a cool breeze of air entered into the restaurant. It is around 3 PM now. Out there is absolute darkness at noon. After a long five minutes, the generator has been started and the lights came back. Manisha and Nabin could not find Parthib. He is gone.
"The idiot will not disturb me any more," Manisha thought and a quick malicious smile came in her face. "The fool. Moving a few days with a guy doesn't mean that I am bound to be emotionally attached to him." she thought.

Srija gained back her consciousness. She found her head resting in the lap of Komolina. Komolina is treating her as a baby and nursing her with a wait handkerchief.
"We will have to see a doctor after this storm gets over." Komolina said.
Srija could not reply, she only beckoned to her parse where she had her inhaler. Komolina took the inhaler out and stick that in Srija's mouth. Srija closed her eyes.
"It is the man, who is to be blamed in these illicit relationships", she thought to herself.

The storm gone as suddenly as it came. There is a huge tree broken down on the road. The electrical wires, telephone wires are all lying around here and there. A heavy stream of rain water is flowing over the road as well. The cars and buses are moving very slowly as one side of the road has been blocked by the tree. The rain has not stopped totally but everybody is trying to get to their destinations. Some are seeking for taxi. Some are running for bus.

Komolina, with the help of some other guys around and the employees of Finger Tips, got a cab, helped Srija in and started for the nearest doctor she knew. Srija kept her eyes closed again and though a bit embarassed, felt the contentment of being cared.

Manisha was still having chat with her boyfried at the restaurant. They are not in hurry and planning to go for a movie show at the "Big Cinema".

Arunava, Saumitra and Pallab came near the exit. Arunava and Saumitra looked to each other and together they said to Pallab, "Sorry, we have mistaken and make a fool of you about the storm. We have troubled you for quite some time about your ideas and lifestyle. Please don't mind. Those were just for fun. We are friends indeed. " Pallab felt that their gang of three has become a company again.

Parthib was sitting inside the nearby bus stop. He felt the rain. And felt the tears are rolling from his eyes after such a long period of time. He is not feeling the urge to get back home. He is submerged in deep sense of frustration and suddenly feeling lonely. He suddenly realized that he cannot die for anyone. Not even Manisha. As storms get over, and people comes back to normalcy and brings back everything to their shape, however hurt he has been, he will have to bring back normalcy, for him, for the people around him. He wiped the tears from his eyes and started trying to a get a bus to get back.


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