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East-West (Purbo-Paschim)
PART TWO by Sunil Gangopadhyay

East-West (Part Two): Outside a plush hotel in New York, an Indian youth is seen waiting for an appointment. He is desperately in need of a job. He is Atin, the young boy of Part One who gets mixed up in politics, and is obliged to leave the country, much against his will. He is still a revolutionary at heart, he hates his exile in America. The large canvas of this novel covers three continents, but more particularly the dramatic events following the partition of India, the political unrest in West Bengal, the plight of the refugees and the birth of a new nation, Bangladesh. The social and political reality instead of remaining a backdrop takes on centre stage where simultaneously individual lives unfold, each with it's own account of love, hate, passion and betrayal. The author takes a dispassionate look at the Naxal revolutionaries, exposing their vulnerability, the colossal tragedy of so many promising lives coming to a pointless end. On the other side, in the other Bengal, events move to an inexorable climax, while the fictional characters flit across the stage, the shadow of actual historical figures loom large — Ayub Khan, Yahya Khan, General Niazi and the day by day account of how the mighty Pakistan Army, one of the best in the world was doomed to a most humiliating defeat. This novel of epic proportions is an unique experiment in blending fiction with facts, an attempt to truthfully capture a swiftly moving course of events, a compelling novel difficult to put down.

Sunil Gangopadhyay (b. 1934), lost his father quite early and had to struggle hard to support the family. They lost their ancestral home in the partition and settled in Kolkata. Along with doing various odd jobs, Sunil continued his studies and did his masters from the Calcutta University. Poetry was his first love. He spearheaded a poetry movement, started a poetry journal which had a long life of twenty-five years. In 1966 he tried his hand at fiction and made a mark overnight. Since then he has been writing novels and short stories at a prolific rate and is now considered one of the most outstanding of modern Indian writers.

Enakshi Chatterjee, a bilingual writer in Bangla and English has won the Rabindra Puraskar for Parmanu Jignasa, a book on the history of science, written jointly with her scientist husband Dr. Santimay. She has a number of books to her credit—biographies, children's fiction, science fiction, popular science and translations. The wide spectrum of Bengali fiction translated by her range from Tarasankar on one end to new and emerging writers like Sohrab Hossain on the other. She is equally at ease with the reverse kind of translation, the most notable being Satpatro, Bengali rendering of Vikram Seth's A Suitable Boy.

EAST-WEST
P U R B O - P A S C H I M

SUNIL GANGOPADHYAY
PART TWO

Translated from the Bengali Original by

ENAKSHI CHATTERJEE

nk

SAHITYA

AKADEMI

East-West (Part Two): An English translation of Sunil Gangopadhyay's Bengali novel Purbo-Paschim by Enakshi Chatterjee, Sahitya Akademi, New Delhi. 2004 Sahitya Akademi Rabindra Bhavan, 35, Ferozeshah Road, New Delhi 110 001 Sales Office 'Swati', Mandir Marg, New Delhi-110 001 Regional Offices Jeevan Tara Building (Fourth Floor), 23A/44X, Diamond Harbour Road, Kolkata 700 053 Central College Campus, Dr. B.R. Ambedkar Veedhi, Bangalore 560 001 172, Mumbai Marathi Grantha Sangrahalaya Marg, Dadar, Mumbai 400 014 Main Building, Guna Buildings (Second Floor), 443 (304), Anna Salai, Teynampet, Chennai 600 018

© English Translation, Sahitya Akademi First Published 2004

ISBN 81-260-1895-X

Rupees Two Hundred Seventy Five

Cover Design: Biplab Kundu Cover inset: R.K. Yadav

Typeset at Printo Graphic Systems, New Delhi and printed by Wellwish Printers, Delhi-110 088

Afterwards

1

LIKE fine puffs of beaten cotton light snow has been floating down since early morning, whitening
the treetops. Rows of weeping willows stood leaning towards the river looking sad and morose. There were plenty of other trees too, poplar and maple among them. The road, Riverside Drive goes parallel to the Hudson River. The pedestrian path had plenty of seats, cemented tables for playing cards or chess. The seats however were unoccupied at this time of the day. Cars rolled smoothly along the roads without jerks or honking of horns. There was only the muffled groan of friction as the cars sped through the wind. It was a funny city sound. Atin was slowly walking, gloved hands dug inside the pockets of his overcoat. The gloves had a few holes, he was obliged to keep them away from the cold blast. Atin sported a fashionably cut beard, thick moustaches, a pair of sunglasses and a cap. He looked up once and glanced across the street to a bank building, the clock of which alternately flashed the temperature and time. It was 817 in the morning and minus 4°. The snow had started melting by the middle of March, deceptively heralding the advent of spring. Spring does not come so early in this part of the world. For the last couple of days the sky had been cloudy and snowing had continued. Atin felt a strong urge to smoke but he could not very well light a cigarette with the gloves on. Siddhartha has warned him of frostbite, of losing his fingertips from exposure to the cold. He had come out of home much before time. There was plenty of time to take a slow walk. He had enough warm clothes to fight the cold — woollen vest, a terry wool shirt, a jacket and an overcoat; the cold fresh air made him feel good. He passed other pedestrians. The riverside drive was a favourite spot. It was a working day to day but the city had a lot of people who had no work. Then there were the tourists to throng the city the year round. From the opposite direction two young men with obviously Indian appearance walked towards Atin. Afraid that they might be Bengali, Atin stepped behind a tree to avoid a direct encounter. He was not keen to make acquaintance with unknown Bengalis. He pricked his ears. Yes he was right. They were talking in Bengali though with a strong East Pakistani accent.

At exactly five minutes to nine Atin reached the gate of the Central Park facing the Plaza Hotel. He had an appointment at nine. By now the snow had stopped, making way for the sun. Unpredictable weather. To stop his increasingly fast heart beats Atin lit a cigarette. He had half a mind to turn back. He had a few quick puff of his Lucky Strike. Children in bright clothes tumbled about in the park, under the watchful eyes of a woman. An old man hungrily watched them. Perhaps he is childless or forsaken by his children. Atin threw away the cigarette and crossed the street to come to the gilded entrance of the Hotel. Plaza was high profile, patronised by the presidents and vice presidents of big companies and film stars, much beyond the reach of ordinary tourists. Fortunately one had free access to the lobby, that was one thing he liked about this country. You could roam about the hotel or shopping arcades at will: there was nobody to stop you. Perhaps they kept an eye on you. Anyway no coloured person ever dared to enter these hallowed precincts. Atin, looking straight ahead went up the flight of stairs, pushed the revolving glass door and walked in. The counter stood to his right: the staircase was next, then the lift. As he stood in the spacious lobby Atin noticed that everything including the furniture, the doors, the railings looked as though they were made of gold. He wondered if that is what is called gold plated. As he walked up to the counter his heartbeats continued to bother him. What the hell. He should not feel nervous, come what may. Of the five people at the reception counter he chose the one with the most innocent look. Adjusting the knot of his tie, Atin cleared his throat, then asked, Excuse me, I would like to see Mr. Samuel Wheeler please. The blue eyed golden haired youth who could easily have been a film star replied politely, May I know if you have an appointment? The Indian habit of just a nod is often misunderstood by these people. So Atin added, Yes, I have an appointment with Mr. Wheeler. Just a moment. Hotels like these never gave away the room number of their clients. Allowing just anybody to go up was totally out of the question. The young man studied a list, listened to a phone and finally declared, I am afraid sir, nobody is in. All blood drained from Atin's face. What did he mean? Not in? Yesterday he had talked to Samuel Wheeler on the phone and he said Friday at 9 a.m. and he is not in. So much for the words of the white people. On second thought he realised that the gentleman might be downstairs, having breakfast. Can I have a look at the dining halls? He ventured.

The receptionist gave him a bland look which must have been part of his training to show faultless good manners minus human warmth. Does he not realise that Atin has come a long way, that he is in a problem? Atin might be but that is not this man's job. Perhaps nobody would have stopped him from looking for Samuel Wheeler but Atin did not know him. It would have been stupid of him to keep asking for the identity of Mr. Wheeler. The receptionist meanwhile had other people to attend to. Atin waited sheepishly feeling empty inside. Would all his efforts be in vain — all the preparation to the extent of the borrowing of a suit? Finding Atin still waiting the receptionist turned to the key counter. He hasn't left his key, he said almost to himself. But his expression changed as he discovered a piece of paper in the keyhole. Sorry sir, he has left an instruction. May I know your name please? Then he checked Atin's card and said, Mr. Samuel Wheeler is waiting for you at the swimming pool. Was that man out of his mind? Meet him at the swimming pool in this weather? Which way is the swimming pool? The receptionist could not help showing impatience. He has already spent his valuable time — six minutes per dollar for this stranger. He pointed to a wall, which showed arrow marks leading to the swimming pool, the sunbath, the conference hall and other dining halls. How could Atin know that such information is pasted in the wall? He followed an arrow towards the pool. He has been here for more than a year but was yet to get used to their peculiar ways. Of course there are heated and covered pools for health fanatics who want to swim the year round. Suppose the pool was crowded, how would he spot Samuel Wheeler? It would be easier for him to spot Atin, the only non-white in this all white zone. He had to deposit his overcoat at the entrance of the pool. I am not going to swim; I have to see someone, said Atin, handing him his coat. This calls for a tip, he realised, goodness knows how much. For every little service they expect a tip in this country. If you under-tip they give you a contemptuous look. Once he was forced to take a taxi. As he was counting the change the Puerto Rican driver picked up a half-dollar and two quarters on his own. That has taught him the lesson that you have to pay fifteen percent extra. Fortunately there was only one male swimmer in the pool among a handful of children and women. A young woman with just an underwear the size of a tie sat on the steps, her figure enough to drive one crazy. Her legs were smooth like the peeled trunk of a banana tree; her uncovered breasts like two conch shells just picked from the sea. The feminists of this country have rejected the bra since the sixties, she was a living reminder. Naturally he could not take his eyes off this shameless beauty but necessity prompted him to turn his gaze to the gentleman. He looked robust and middle aged with a square face and small eyes.

some residents. This half naked gorilla of a man notwithstanding his qualities has the audacity to throw questions like this. do you come from the Kalighat area? On my last visit home I learnt of the son of a sub judge. the great American vice. The police were still on the lookout for the killer. Obliged to go down on his knees Atin tried to be as civil as possible. Paki was Pakistani. New York state had a sizeable Bengali population. Quite a lot of Bengali boys came here to study.I remember them. Since the interview was in the morning Atin had expected it to be over breakfast and did not have anything in the morning. Bombay. So it was meant as a joke. In fact Atin had an inkling of it in London. said Mr. This was a warning. Wheeler. Arizona or New Mexico. Hi. He beckoned Atin and swam towards the topless nymph. I happen to be an Indian from India. The tips of his nose and ears grew red.. Would he have dared to subject a white man to this kind of treatment? He had an impulse to walk away. Naturally these events sent ripples to distant shores. Bengalis or tourists did not frequent them in general. Atin felt insulted. a murderer. was serving my stint in the army.. Let us come to business. Only the other day a Bengali engineer in New Jersey was murdered by a fellow Bengali.. The police and the army were after them. some on short-term visits. Ajanta. There was a lot of sense in what he said. nondescript Bengali young man interrupted Atin in a heated argument: You call yourself Atin Majumder. An intellectual like Saroj Dutta out talking a walk in the morning was shot. your namesake. Samuel Wheeler? I am. He meant Red Indians. An innocent. has jumped bail and left the country. I hope you do not mind my calling you here. Then it dawned. Have been to India way back in 44. . Leave New York Siddhartha had advised him. For Atin it would be safer to move to Mid West. Wheeler. The murdered man had Naxal links back home. killing Naxals or suspected Naxals indiscriminately. From which university in India have you acquired your degree in Chemistry? What kind of an interview was this? Atin was furious. Khajuraho.The hair on his chest was grey though his head was topped with black hair. I like Indians. He took a fleeting look at the nymph and added with a twinkle of a smile. Listen young man. good. By that time the Naxals of West Bengal were on the run after about two and a half years of dominance. Someone from Siliguri or Jalpaiguri might recognise him and try to take vengeance. Good. It seemed to please Mr. Are you Mr. But something held him back. Pratap Majumder. You see I must have a swim in the morning. Atin gave a very polite reply: Sir. This man has the audacity to call him at the swimming pool.. Of course. It was not very clear if he had killed anyone but chances of a vendetta could not be left out. You Paki or an Injun? What on earth was he mumbling? For all his efforts at mastering American English spending three to four hours in front of the television Atin was completely floored.

Most of the questions were inconsequential. shave your beard. what he was compelled to do was merely in self-defense. A flippant tone would lead to bad temper. It looks as though he has got the job. all right. Do you know Spanish? A little taken aback. It has been a big mistake to concentrate all their attention to the Soviet Union. Our chairman whose son had gone to Berkeley and turned into a beatnik is allergic to beards. The moustache may stay. He was not a murderer. It is not easy to get a job in the Mid West or Arizona. This was indeed unfair. The man is not so bad after all. He had applied to an advertisement put out by a pharmaceutical company. No sir. But this fellow insists on being personal — learn Spanish. The scene has changed in the last couple of years. Samuel kept stealing glances at the bare breasts of the mermaid but Atin had to keep his gaze fixed on Samuel. Samuel asked.Siddhartha was right but America was no longer a job seekers paradise. in three months. With great restraint he went on replying to Samuel's queries. But women in this country rated money and power above good looks. But he must be wary of the superficial friendliness. What chance did Atin have against someone of importance to whom Atin has come seeking favour. All right. Siddhartha has warned him. Artificial light from the low ceiling fell on her body creating the effect of sun light. fully clothed. He easily got worked up. It was conducted within earshot of the semi naked beauty . Atin would have scored better than this hefty fellow if the question was one of winning a favour from the mermaid. he was once at the point of strangling someone. The discovery of petroleum in the Arab countries has caused a jolt. these people are not like glum faced Indian officers. Atin had to blurt out the truth. It was an unfair contest. Siddhartha's brotherin-law knew somebody there.this was what bothered him most. anyone asking him about his past was enough to give him a sleepless night. the knowledge of Spanish is a must. Obviously the daily swims took care of the fat which was likely to accumulate from drinking beer. Only this girl was determined to show off her figure. Excellent. That was how Atin got called for this interview. A couple of the Bengali residents of . The other swimmers were clad in proper swimsuits. But what could a poor Indian seeking a job do? He could not afford to be distracted. I will learn it sir. The girl was drinking beer and giving them a steady stare. But I am afraid you will have to shave off your beard. They are easy and friendly though it may be a put on facade. The children splashing in the deep blue waters of the pool stared at Atin perhaps because he was the only coloured person or because he was kneeling. Atin will not mind shaving if it would help him leave New York. As a matter of fact he too wanted to leave New York. But you will have to go to Mexico often. the Americans have realised to their chagrin.

how about Tom — short and simple. they can't handle your Indian name. At least in Arizona nobody knew him. Atin gnashed his teeth and bellowed — son of a bitch! 2 SIDDHARTHA woke him up. Samuel did not leave the pool. put in Samuel. He got up and started to walk mechanically. So he has to change the name given by his parents. about six beer bottles stood on the bedside table. It is over darling. Siddhartha . are you through? I am going back to the room. He even forgot to tip the man who had kept his overcoat. Dhruba's house. all for the sake of a job. said Atin. He felt as though he had been slapped hard on the cheeks. said Samuel. Stunned. Was it just American informality or reluctance to waste time for a coloured Indian. to sink so low. I couldn't. Atin tried to figure out the role of this woman in Samuel's life. He can start a new life. To hell with the job! The morning. Another thing. She did not even look at Atin. for some unknown reason were hostile to him. busy cleaning her toes. It was seven in the evening. He felt flushed. said the nymph. said the naked nymph. he ran out of the hotel and walked in the snow without putting his overcoat and gloves.New Jersey. the window curtains were drawn. Atin was shaken. A wife? A companion? A private secretary? Whoever she may be her opinion seems to matter. He. that began so brilliantly. All right. He extended his hand for a wet handshake and said. son of Pratap Majumder of Malkhanagar. Before him stretched the famous Fifth Avenue. The TV was on. Atin Majumder. his hands shook as tried to light a cigarette. His father never asked for favour except for once and that too for his son. you would have to change your name. Almost at the point of tears. What do you think of this boy? OK. Sammy. Thank you. not the time to go to bed. To think that he was subjected to this indignity by a floating gorilla and a naked girl. He can shed tears as much as he liked — nobody was likely to give him a second look. You will be getting a letter. The servants were called Ram no matter what their actual names were. We are on first name terms in our company. had turned sour. It was an ironic reminder of a practice followed at one of his friend.

tidied the room. one arm dangling from the bed. Tidy by nature. Take out the aerogram from the drawer and start writing. are you? Drinking alone. His friend switched off the TV. He pulled his friend by that arm and said. Already Atin was feeling the effect of a nap after taking beer during the day. Get up. the agony of unemployment. driving his own car. You are joking. No there was no major news. Do you happen to have a tablet of tilenol? A cup of strong coffee is the best thing. smiled Siddhartha. then turned the thermostat down. . Change your dirty vest. drew back the curtains and gazed at the city lights. Atin put the letters back in the envelope and sipped his coffee. Siddhartha came up with two cups of coffee. His voice still drowsy from sleep. It had an immediate effect. There was also a letter from Munni. Atin grumbled. Then he went into the kitchen and put the cattle on. the best city in the world. he would read them again over and over. Went to the sea side in the weekend. he said simply. Baba never wrote. I have had a promotion. Neither Ma nor Munni ever wrote about any illness. neither did Atin though he was always having imaginary arguments with his father. He pressed his temples. pining away. Why have you turned the thermostat so high. Siddhartha showed him the envelop and put it back in his pocket. Who is it from? Get up and wash your face first. Without taking his eyes off the letters. and you should see the roses in my garden. Bablu. Atin nodded. It is unhygienic. He glanced through the two letters quickly. From home? he enquired. Siddhartha put his clothes in the proper places. You have a letter from home. The capital letters told him it was from his mother. Atin dug into his pocket and fished out a ten-dollar bill. he said. You didn't go to work? Let me have the letter. Our parents back in Calcutta are under the illusion that the son is having a good time in New York. my boss took me to a Broadway show and dinner. pockets stuffed with dollars. You know Ma. Emerging from the bathroom. Will you let me sleep? I can't do any cooking today.found Atin fast asleep. I have bought a red car. Atin found the envelop on the table. You have no right to read this letter in dirty clothes. Atin sat up. Acting Devdas.

We can't be bothered by stray insults. It was the meanest work possible. No need to talk to anyone. we immigrants. five eighty. Sixty rupees is a lot of money. Would you fry some eggs and sausages. The window-pane had frosted. you have remained a namby pamby Bengali. Tell you what. his arm joints ached but he kept mum. What do you mean? You will keep on doing odd jobs. He has to don a blue overall and a cloth cap. Like to try? Nope. Lazy lump. asking for a chemist in a Brooklyn hospital. I know of a good joint in the village. But it is so cold outside. That gas station job was better. The work meant working as daily labour in a nearby supermarket. Then I am going to build a palace in Madhyamgram and grow flowers. Bablu? Got to cook. People of mixed blood can work harder. these people eat like monsters. You know what I am going to do. please? I do not feel like cooking. are you? Did you never go out in the cold when you were in England? England is just as cold. after all. Tell me if you want to send some money.So you did go to work after all. It was a way of speech. We have some left over khichri. You are no good Bablu. they paid more. Get ready. It is a land of bastards. it suits you better. He took care of the butt before Atin could pick it up. Nostalgia? The letter from home. We are eating out. Aren't you hungry. What a lot of apples. I don't feel like going out. Saw an ad in the paper. Hell with your khichri. Get dressed. Our only motto is to earn more and more. How many times do I have to tell you. Let's have steak today. What is the going rate for dollars. Siddhartha snapped at Atin who had just thrown his cigarette butt into the trash can. The crates were heavy. say six. unloading crates of apple from trucks for two dollars an hour. which was a good thing. You are not going out without clothes. So it is ten today. One fellow used to call me a bastard. Put on my blue parka. How much did you make at that Siliguri college? Atin finished his coffee in silence then lit a cigarette. He drew lines on its surface. What about your bank balance? . Earn and save. Want to start a fire? These houses are so fire prone. We have some khichri from morning. To say good bye as soon as my bank balance touches one lakh.

and these people throw shiploads of grain into the sea. My way is not through abstention. You ask for one paper napkin. The lighted advertisements blink all night. People leaf through it for ten minutes then throw the entire paper away. Puerto Ricans and Blacks. What a lot of hotels and restaurants. remarked Atin. The double doors keep out the cold. The . the most prominent are electricity and paper. All through the night the shop lights are on. Tell me who is there to look at them? Go to Lincoln tunnel—simply dazzling all twenty-four hours of day and night. Who has the time to read the hefty newspapers.But I can't starve myself. a country where everything is just the opposite of what you would expect. Tourists crowded the area in spite of the cold. The wall was full of obscene remarks. The city authorities have issued notices for vacating. They reached Washington Square. You won't find this anywhere else in the world. though it is only natural. Poets used to read out their protest verses in the cafes ten years ago. it is mind boggling. after all you are merely using it to wipe your bum. Forget about your own country. the New York Times. Of all the things that Americans waste. I have never been here at night. Some son of a swine has swiped it. People starve in our country. People do not mind paying an extra ten cent for coloured paper. which used to be white are now available in pink and blue as well. And to think that we have a scarcity of paper in India. Toilet paper. hundred and twenty pages. Do not try to compare. The tourists simply loved them. And the way they waste paper. At one time Greenwich Village used to house famous writers and artists. now they have been replaced by fake artists in bizarre costumes. They do not believe in low cost. Does it matter. Sanchayita and Abol tabol to cheer me up. I want to taste happiness through countless bonds. through the open doors sound of music comes streaming out once in a while. now actors sporting as writers read out dirty poems much to the glee of the tourists who pay to listen. the steps were worn out. the railing was unsteady. That is what they are out to convince you. Most shops and eating joints here are open all night. They will give you five. How to reach to your pocket-that is what determines business policy. they are going to pull down the building which means Siddhartha will soon have to look for a new place to stay. The place was smelly and dark. I bet the whole of Calcutta does not have this many. They may waste paper but books are pretty costly. This is the other side of the globe. it matches better with the wall. Siddhartha was in a mood for some philosophising. How did the lines go? Atin who never cared for poetry shook his head. How I wish I could sell old newspapers. I had brought two books of poetry. They went down the rickety staircase. This was the Third Road in the Lower East Side at one end of Manhattan. more like a concrete slum. Siddhartha lived in the attic of a six storied building inhabited by poor Jewish families.

A small minority. addicts or homeless. Come on. It seems to be in perfect condition. Do not feel embarrassed. The lamp stand was of polished wood. Look at them now. Fancy carrying this huge lamp-stand to the restaurant? Everything goes. crossed the wide road to enter an alley.more you spend the more you want to earn. You said you needed a lamp stand. That is consumer society for you. crockery. Let me show you something nice. Siddhartha examined the records. You know this girl? asked Atin. And they have proudly put up a notice saying that he did. But I have seen people beg. The woman smiled and returned the greeting. Come summer and the American youth would crowd all the eating places in Tee shirt and slippers. Siddhartha remarked. That girl. Without waiting for Atin. You are free to pick them up. pick it up if you want the lamp. quite striking looking in her yellow pullover and jeans was at the door. a tall lampstand with a beautiful shade. Siddhartha picked up the lamp-stand and walked up to a restaurant. all of them. . That is how he met his end here. Heaped on it were magazines. The more you earn the more you spend. They don't have any resale value either. gramophones. Would this do? Some cardboard boxes stood next to a parking meter. They found a table. Most of my furniture has been picked up from the roadside. No use taking a lot of useless stuff. In a capitalistic society utility is not the only thing. Do you have to know someone in order to say hi? Siddhartha snapped back. It is the age of tape recorders. one good point about this society. record-stand. Siddhartha felt the texture. Must be in this area. my pet hate. Why throw it away? It is not in fashion. obviously looking for somebody. My father tells me that in his time you were not allowed inside a good restaurant unless properly dressed. continuous eighteen pegs. Thanks to the hippies. Pat Boone. People discard thing when moving house. When your basic needs have been met. A maze from which there is no getting out. you look for fancy things. They are alcoholics. It had no music and seemed to be quite secluded. So they are left at street corners. They cut across the park. Ever heard of Dylan Thomas? British poet used to drown himself in drink. As they crossed a brightly-lit restaurant. even the bulb was intact. He said hi to a woman at the entrance. who wants to be bothered with heavy records.

rebel expression! Since you have landed here. thank you. There was nothing unusual in finding Indian or Pakistani waiters in New York. aren't you? It came from the waiter. about the same age as them. Don't you have a wish of your own? How about lobster. Don't worry about the price. sir. . Actually I was introduced to her once. Come on. Mujibur Rahman must be made the Prime Minister. On the basis of the six-point formula the Awami League has had a landslide victory in East Pakistan. what is the date today? The 25th of March. Has there been any reconciliation? After he left Atin turned to his friend. . Siddhartha however had access to newspapers in his office library. What did I say to deserve such a look? All right. That has led to trouble. Excuse me. you are sure to get something. are you aware of it? Atin had no idea. He stared hard. You have applied in five. I have read that. Let us see. try to take things as they are. What has happened in Dhaka? Lot of disturbances in East Pakistan. suggested Siddhartha.Let's ask her to join us. For god's sake drop that angry. that is the only way to survive. You know what I had to do? Work as door to door vacuumcleaner salesman. So many of the Indian students even with doctorate degrees have to wait for a couple of years. Been here for two years. She is so tall that it is difficult to get a date. The TV was silent about the sub-continent. Nothing costly for me. Atin glowered at his friend. well today they are . Siddhartha ordered. explained Siddhartha. Yahya Khan had gone for elections. But she would be OK for you. in fact they have a majority in entire Pakistan. what would you like. Now he is in trouble. Where are you from? asked Siddhartha. He had a worried smile on his face. Chittagong. No. They could not afford newspapers. But you must have patience. Keep smiling. Do you have the latest news from Dhaka? I am afraid the last I had learnt about Dhaka was from New York Times a small news item and that was a couple of weeks ago. you are a Bengali. . Atin did not touch the paper napkins offered by his friend. After all your results are excellent. Wipe your face. a steak? Whatever you please. They were naturally happy to hear Bengali from customers. Bhutto will not have it. What is there to be so morose about? The new semesters start from April.

Atin felt amused. Good work by Salvation Army. 25th March. You can't very well live in the past. It's unique in the world. The actor Uttam Kumar was having a walk. It is the student community. Siddhartha held him back. he muttered. As if a cup of coffee can cure them. calm down. Let's go. The waiter from Chittagong brought the steak and a bottle of red wine. He said that students have declared independence. I read in the tabloid India Abroad that the government of Siddhartha Ray has employed a new tactics. I am sure the papers will have some news tomorrow. they have been vocal since sixty-nine. As soon as their backs are turned they are being shot. Good coffee he declared. Tell me sir. Kaushik and Pompom are in jail. he declared harshly. His eyes were red. It is all very well to criticise your own people sitting in the United States. He laughed after a long time. Manikda has gone underground. Atin pushed back his chair and stood up. It has been so long. I'll drop in. With my compliments. Come on. Nobody dares raise a voice against the students. They are not taking the Naxal boys to court. He saw something like this. Do let me have your address. Instead they are taking them to the maidan ground and releasing them. He was thinking of his comrades. are you from Dhaka? No. we are from Calcutta. A political change has come through student power and what are you people doing in West Bengal? In-fighting. West Bengal too is in a bad way. Why don't you join us? Thank you sir but I am on duty. Today. Free Bangla my foot. This is called killed in police encounter. Atin. Someone came from home last week. free Bangla. Mujib has to be given power. On their way back Siddhartha visited a free coffee counter. That was two weeks ago. sir. You have no right to insult me. You know something very peculiar is happening there. . The military have killed many people. Haven't heard about them. that's all. They had not ordered for wine. They had the perfect situation for a revolution but they chose elections. They keep the young people away from drugs. I am going. said the waiter. No army regime can allow secession. the fools. You would have met your end the same way if you were in jail. That's what you are. You are lucky to have escaped. Don't you have a sense of humour? High strung. When the waiter was out of earshot Atin said. What is past is past. Now the leaders are towing their line. The leaders were either in jail or lying low. There is a horror film on TV at eleven-thirty. the assembly is supposed to be on session.He went on but Atin was not interested in what was happening in East Pakistan.

a pipe stuck between his lips. Let me tell you something. "Let me have some time to think. A new flag fluttered from the roof top of the Mujib residence — a map of East Bengal in a red circle against a backdrop of green. From time to time Mujib wanted a respite. sat a very worried looking Tajuddin. I will pay. That would amount to a crime. How she came to be attracted to a useless oaf like you beats me." A protest day had been observed two days ago. Can I put a long distance to Boston? Wait for ten minutes. in a white kurta pyjama and shawl. True he has given a call to build forts in every home but he knew that the clay forts of Bengal will not . It will be cheaper after midnight. as if it was child's play to snatch half the country from the grips of the military rulers. I'll never speak to you again. It will save you all these long distance calls. Clamouring for free Bangla. "Please speak to Tajuddin. why would he want to break Pakistan? The students have now gone one step ahead and asking for a eleven point demand. A strong wave of agitation swept through the country. Sharmila is a gem of a girl. Siddhartha settled for the movie. Yahya Khan has no other way but to hand over power. An endless stream of people. Siddhartha must have read one of his letters. if you do not mind. organised by the Free Bangla Student Action Committee and the Free Bangla Worker Action Committee. the centre of the aspirations of a majority of students. a finger on his chin. the red circle a symbol of the sun smeared in the blood shed by the martyrs. singly and in groups and processions surrounded him." he appealed to the visitors. Don't you ever ditch her. wellwishers. understand? 3 AT his Dhanmandi residence sat Sheikh Mujib clad in a simple kurta pajama topped by a sleeveless jacket. the Bengali Muslims have got absolute majority. A little later Atin after hesitating a good deal asked. the labour leader has hoisted another flag at the gate of the house which was now the focal point. Next to him. Abdul Mannan. stretching on the bed. party workers. workers and intellectuals. Naturally he had to make up a lot of stories. Sure thing. He was exhausted from talking. He must write to his mother who keeps worrying about him.Back in the attic. The prime ministership of the entire country was waiting for him. You know what? Boston University is the right place for you. Mujib looked disconcerted. he couldn't possibly tell Ma that he worked as a daily labour. What do they mean — Free Bangla? Surely Pakistan has not been dismembered already? Was it so easy? And why would he try to do that? His six-point demand has triumphed. Atin sat at the table. The green stood for the fertile land of Bengal.

The students finally left. They waited for Shahjahan. Mujib. They stopped at Modhu's canteen. surely the General would honour the verdict of the people. Five cups of tea. . six of them of women. It is not safe. Notwithstanding the ninety eight percent votes in his favour he was not sure of the support of all his countrymen. The entire trial was stage-managed. There was a rumour that any moment there would be an army crackdown. overwhelmed. The students were even keen to change the street named after Jinnah. Kamrul Alam Khasru. Your house is not safe. Not less than fifty-five processions have met Mujib since morning. not to be lured into talks which was a ploy to gain time. Mere will power was not enough to fight against powerful armaments. Can he alone take the responsibility of a long drawn war. May be some conclusion can be reached tonight. requested Mujib to go underground. Mujib bhai. After all Yahya was not as scheming as Ayub. Well Sheikh Saheb is stubborn but what about Bhabi and the children? Said someone. This was originally called Iqbal Hall. do not worry about me. The talks have not yet reached a blind alley. a freedom fighter.withstand the bombardment from West Pakistani cannons. Mujib removed the pipe he was smoking and shook his head. as their spokesman. a victim of army conspiracy. across the table. He was killed in jail. Yet Sheikh Mujib hesitated. but the students have renamed it after Zahirul Haq. You all get ready. Modhuda. They proceeded towards Zahirul Haq Hall. Fierce arguments followed but Mujib stuck to his gun. After all what can they do? Take me away? Let them. to get more army into the east. let him make a last attempt. he pleaded. Bhabi and the family have already left for a relative's house at Shamibag. He was scheduled to meet Yahya a little later. They all pleaded with him not to yield to the military rulers. The atmosphere was tense with apprehension. assured them in a voice choked with emotion. He would like to carry on the dialogue to the last. student and Awami League leaders would be put behind bars. where a meeting was scheduled at eleven at night. the loss of millions of lives? He was being warned by the extremists in his party not to fall into the trap of the Bhutto-Yahya nexus. Besides if they don't find me they will have it out on the general public — can't let that happen. Sirajul was with them. I can't sneak away like a thief. In case of a civil war who would provide them with arms and support? Would India? Suppose they did not? How can he allow these bright young idealist boys and girls to become cannon fodder? No. Sirajul went back to the house. substituting it by Surya Sen. A group from the student action core committee rushed in. Siraj and Najrul Islam. He was convicted in the Agartala Conspiracy Case like Mujib.

the army. almost. leaving the money on the café table. even after Kader's admonitions some fled. down your shutters and take shelter in Jagannath Hall. Modhuda. More shots were heard. They found some boys leaving in panic. People say he has a soft corner for the wife of that Pakistani Major. . People fled for dear life. Monju bhabi often goes away to her parents. the younger brother of Altaaf. no smoking. They are here. that India was financing Awami League. I am enjoying his hospitality but nothing else. Why are you keeping mum. Tanks were out. He used to hold Babul in high esteem like a pir. They ought to be butchered. A Marxist. Kader peeped outside to find people running helter skelter. run according to the order of Indira Gandhi. No alcohol. the shooting down of innocent students in March. Nobody should be allowed in. As clean as his clothes. As far as I know. They are always fighting. The double dealing lot. some returned. A sound like thunder could be heard. interrupted another. I know. I was a student of Babul Choudhury. visit an army major so often? To have drinks. whole bunch of them. has dinner there. Echoing the Jamat-i-Islami he said the six-point plan was a plan to break Pakistan. Recently he went to China. The army. the hotelwalla contested against the Awami League candidate. He owed a lot to Babul. I know. what else. Babul was a role model. be it the police or the army. No. There were some bombs and a few 303 rifles in the upstairs room of the Zahirul Hall. A boy named Montu came running. They too decided to leave. I will move from his place now. he ogles at Monira. is that it? Sirajul looked down. it was only due to his magnanimity that he and Monira could come to Dhaka. your landlord. Now the same Babul has gone down in his esteem. Sirajul? Because you have your meals at Babul Choudhury's you won't raise your voice against him. said Kader. That is the reason the so called intellectuals pay second fiddle to the army. What does this mean? Right now Sheikh Saheb is supposed to be in a meeting with Bhutto and the President. A man of learning and well-mannered. asked Kader. Babul Choudhury had no words of protest against the army atrocities in East Pakistan. Why does Babul Mia. yet supports the army. Machine gun shots somewhere near caused them to stop talking. A lot of our professors are fifth columnists. And that Altaaf is a rogue. Babul Choudhury was a decent man. To think that he ridiculed Sheikh Mujib when the entire country was inspired by him. In fact the owner Hossain Mia. He even treats Monju bhabi badly. I do not share my meals with Babul Choudhury. He runs the paper. he explained. which did not support the Awami League.Tell me Sirajul. He even visits an army major regularly.

What on earth was happening? It was so confusing. Did it mean that the talks have broken down? The Martial Law should be withdrawn, Sheikh Saheb had assured. In that case the presence of the army seemed funny. They took position in one of the upstairs rooms. A shell exploded very close, then another. They could not see any army vehicle from the window. Kader flung a couple of bombs, uttering a filthy abuse. Showers of shells followed. It was still not clear why there would be a crack-down on students at the dead of night. There was no student protest during the day. There must have been some misunderstanding. Shots were fired from the tanks. With shattering of window-panes, the collapse of the walls, screams from the students inside the hall it was hell let loose. Sirajul jumped away to safety. The first to go was Kader, then Montu. A minute ago Kader was vehemently abusing the Khan army and now with one shot life went out of his body. It was incredible. Sirajul shook the listless body till someone dragged him away. All the students inside the hall were being killed. The students fled to the terrace but the next spray of shots sent them scuttling downstairs, like rats in a trap. Smoke and screams filled the air. Haider threw away the rifle Sirajul was still holding. They broke open one window and ran till they came to a garage. They climbed up. Some were lying flat on the floor. They said, keep quiet. Meanwhile the army had entered the hall, they shot each and every student as though being a student was crime enough. Those who had nothing to do with politics cried, asking for pardon in broken Urdu but the army personnel were determined to finish them off. Five figures lay very still on the roof of the garage. I am going to die, Sirajul kept thinking. Kader is dead, it is my turn now. It was a mistake to throw the bomb but Kader would have died anyway. The army was here on a pre-planned mission. Could anyone even dream of such monstrosity—killing civilians without any provocation? Sirajul thought of Monira who kept awake till her husband returned home. She knew that Sirajul would wait for the results of the proposed talk of Sheikh Saheb with the President, he might spend the night in a Hall, if necessary. But will he survive this night? They would be found out if somebody directs a torch in this direction. The entire youth of East Pakistan were being crushed tonight, there was the sound of dying men and the clatter of guns. More armoured cars now attacked Jagannath Hall, Salimulla Hall, the medical college hostels. Indiscriminate killing, the sky glowed with the endless shooting, of mortars and machine guns. The students of Jagannath Hall belonged to the minority community. Moreover the idol of the goddess Saraswati was still there. They huddled behind the image, thinking the Khan soldiers would not touch the image. But they were wrong. The army had been brainwashed into believing that the East Pakistanis were not true Muslims, they were either Hindus or agents of the Hindus. Besides a lot of infiltrators from India were now in Dhaka, inciting the students.

The army entered Jagannath Hall, kicked the Saraswati image. Then they lined up the students and shot them. They made other students carry the bodies outside the building. Then it was their turn. So it went on. The Provost of Jagannath Hall, professor of English, Jyotirmoy with Guha Thakurta met with the same fate. The elderly, Govinda Deb, professor of philosophy came running from his quarters, trying to stop the massacre Do not kill my boys. Let me talk to your superior officer, he appealed. The soldiers turned a deaf ear. You son of a Malaun, they muttered and sprayed bullets on him. His adopted daughter Rokeya Sultana came out carrying her baby. Her husband, in trying to resist got shot. The soldiers were nonplussed to hear Rokeya exclaim Allah; they did not expect it from a Hindu home. Their next target was the scholar Munirujjaman Saheb, head of the department of Statistics. He was saying his prayers. The army did not spare him or his brother. The office of the Ittefak was razed to the ground, the office of The People was burnt down, the top of the Shaheed Minar in honour of the martyrs of the language movement was smashed. The barricades put up by the people were removed, nearby houses were set on fire. The people who died did not know why they had to die. Was it just because they were Bengali? Next afternoon Sirajul and the others came down from the garage roof. With daybreak began a massive operation of burying the dead. Shallow graves were dug in which the bodies were flung with utmost disrespect. It was only when the sound of military boots had faded away that Sirajul and others could venture out from their hide out. They were dazed and dirty. All through the night Hyder had thrown up. It was his courage which saved Sirajul but he was not in a position to take it any more . . . Bodies lay scattered. Smoke came out of burnt houses. There was silence everywhere. Dhaka had the looks of a war-ravaged city. From a lane closeby emerged a man, his face pale, he did not talk to them. The man was Jinnat Ali, the joint president of Zahirul Hall. The two boys inched forward. The dead bodies were a sad reminder of what they had been through. Were they really alive? What about their people at home? Who goes there? A soldier standing in the middle of the street shouted. He had a sub machine gun. The two boys, intent on scanning the faces of the dead bodies had not noticed the soldier. The soldier was a middle-aged Pathan, square jaws and red eyes — he looked like a messenger of death ready to spray them with bullets. They had been careless, now they have to pay the price. On an impulse Sirajul felt like attacking the soldier. It would be suicidal but his companion might get a chance to escape. But it was easier said than done. The gun was pointed at them; there was no way Sirajul could reach him. In desperation he turned to Zinnat Aii. But no help came from him. The face of Manira flashed before his eyes. Dear God, please keep her safe.

The soldier motioned them to come closer. Slowly they went up like rubber dolls. Curiously enough the soldier had a kind face. Casting a quick look around he asked, what are you doing here? This is where we live sir, replied Zinnat Ali. Hindu or Mussalman? We are all Mussalmans sir, circumcised. At the soldier's bidding they promptly took off their pajamas. He did not even bother to look. Pointing the gun down he ordered, Get going, get going before the Captain comes. He won't leave you. What is happening in this country? He seemed genuinely concerned. All three ran for their life, pyjamas still untied.

4

A fire broke out one night at the Krishnanagar home of Bimanbehari. They had come down there
a few days ago. They had visitors and they had a late night. A sudden storm and a shower of rain at about ten ruled out any natural cause for the fire. The cowshed and the goose-pen both some distances from the kitchen caught fire simultaneously. The fire spread to the main building. The fire was brought under control after a lot of hassle. Except for the geese who were all burnt in the fire, not much damage was done. "I tell you the Naxals are behind this. I had warned you earlier Biman," said Rajchandra, a distant cousin. Bimanbehari did not remember when he had this warning. Rajchandra was one of those people who were in the habit of saying, I told you so. Why would the Naxals have a grudge against him, wondered Bimanbehari. With only twenty bighas of land, their family could not be termed as zaminder or jotdar. As for him, he was a dealer of books. Perhaps his only fault was retaining the Krishnanagar house. While his cousins dabbled in politics Bimanbehari and his two daughters were apolitical. Why he should be made a target, he could not understand. Students however were opting for the Naxal ideology in a big way. A triangular fight was on in the districts between Congress, CPM and the Naxals. The newspapers carried news about the murder of young men.

Bimanbehari had no sons; his two daughters were busy with their studies and kept themselves away from politics. So who would try to harm them? About a year back Bimanbehari got a letter written in red ink on the picture of a skeleton. But there was no charge mentioned in that letter. He was not warned for any action, he was only told that he was in the hit list. Bimanbehari did not panic but he was rather confused. His humble publishing business did not involve exploitation of peasants or workers, why then should he be killed? He had shown the letter to the Police Commissioner. The Police Commissioner was amused. He marked first with a red pencil and then with a green pencil at several places and said, You see Biman there are three spelling mistakes and a grammatical error, hardly the handiwork of Naxals. After all they are good students, educated. Some lumpens are active using the Naxal brand name. Throw away this letter. But if you want I can arrange for police protection. The idea of having a constable on tow did not appeal to Bimanbehari. The police commissioner went on. The next thing would be a demand for a fat subscription, something like five thousand. Such extortionists are rife. People even pay up — they are so scared. Do inform us if such things happen. The movement is on its way out. China has withdrawn support. Tell me Runu, asked Bimanbehari. Is it right to kill these boys? They are misguided definitely but they are fighting for a cause, aren't they? Murder has to be punished. Even a child knows that. This kind of indiscriminate killing did not happen in Russia or China, as far as our knowledge of history goes. Other people entered the room so they had to stop. The commissioner assured Bimanbehari not to worry. By the way how is that young man, the son of your friend? A couple of days later a High Court judge was killed in broad day light in Kumartuli. This was followed by more killings, of other judges, professors, even a Vice Chancellor. The well-known writer Tarasankar was obliged to have police security after getting a threatening letter in red ink. Bimanbehari had tried to keep the letter a secret from his wife, but the police commissioner's wife leaked it. Kalyani was scared to death. The family had to go to Benares. After the murder of a judge in Kumartuli, Bimanbehari became very worried about his friend Pratap. Pratap was a stubborn person and was not soft spoken. Nowadays one may be stabbed if he refuses to pay subscription for Kali Puja. A large house was rented at Benares. Bimanbehari had invited Pratap to come with his family to Benares, but Pratap did not agree. Bimanbehari personally pleaded to Mamata to come, but she had remarked that you know your friend, once he says no, he does not change his mind. Bimanbehari was a very sensitive man. He justly understood why Pratap did not agree. Their economic situations differ. When the two families live together at Benares most of the expenses will be borne by Bimanbehari. This will hurt the pride of the Malkhanagar dynasty. When in trouble does not one take help from a friend? What then is friendship for? With Pratap everything is different.

Bimanbehari proposed to lend some money to Pratap who said, I already owe so much to you, I do not like to increase the amount any further. They spent two months at Benares without any trouble. Kalyani was suffering from asthma for some time — she recovered her health. His younger daughter Buli became famous for her musical talent. On a trip to Agra they met another evacuee from Calcutta, Justice Swarup Mitra. He had rented a house there and was staying there for about three months. It was like the wartime exodus from Calcutta. Only this time it was not a Japanese bomb scare but the threat letters in red ink. Prabir, the son of Justice Mitra had come down from West Germany to visit the parents. Kalyani took an instant liking to this handsome and well-mannered boy. He would make an ideal match for Oli. They went for outings together including a visit to the Taj on a moonlit night. Oli got quite friendly with Prabir though she laughed at any hint of a match. Kalyani failed to understand the modern young generation. They mix very freely but it does not necessarily lead to love. During Kalyani's time young girls used to be prepared for marriage as if that was the only thing in life. Now girls think nothing of saying no to very good proposals. Bimanbehari however was not too keen to get his daughter married. She was already helping him in his business. Bad news awaited him at Calcutta. Bimanbehari learnt that within a week after his departure to Benares there was an attempt on Pratap though he had narrowly escaped. As Pratap with two of his colleagues was getting into the office car a young man suddenly surfaced before him. He flashed his knife but Pratap was too quick for him. He used his Gladstone bag as a shield as a result the knife merely brushed his right arm. He hit the assailant with his bag but he fled. Two of his companions exploded a bomb and they escaped. Blood oozed from his arm but Pratap refused to go to a hospital. He bandaged his arm with his handkerchief and went home. I am sure it was a mistake, Pratap had told Bimanbehari. After all why would they target me? I do not deal with political cases, nor have I convicted any Naxal boy . . . The motives were not very clear. In fact many personal scores were being settled in the name of Naxal attacks. Killing has now become a regular business. Any murder could be passed off as political murder. The police were not bothered. All they were interested in was finishing off the Naxals. What Bimanbehari could have told him but did not was the sensitive issue of Bablu. Pratap still believed that his son did not kill anyone in Siliguri, he was only trying to shield a friend. There was nothing much Bimanbehari could do. Ask his friend to be more careful? How would he be careful for that matter? One could be careful against robbers or thieves but if ordinary middleclass boys turned into killers, what kind of protection could one take? They were like your own children, they have access everywhere, and suddenly they bring out a knife. That was the pattern. Certain streets were to be avoided after dark. Outsiders looking for a particular address were being

taken as police spy and stabbed. How on earth was one to know which areas were forbidden? The police had not given any official notice to that effect. Bimanbehari moved in his car, he employed a durwan at home. But Pratap was undaunted. He got the office car for going to office but rest of the time he used the public transport. That the assailants might target him again did not seem to bother him. He was resigned to fate. Even this time Bimanbehari wanted Pratap to join him in his visit to Krishnanagar but Pratap declined. Mamata was not well. Bimanbehari knew it was an excuse. Actually a change would have done Mamata good. Calcutta was no longer a safe city. Foreign tourists gave it a wide berth; even officers or businessmen from other cities tried to avoid Calcutta. Bimanbehari felt much better in Krishnanagar. He was born here; his family had lived here since the time of Raja Krishnachandra. One of his ancestors was a friend of the poet Ramprasad. Two manuscripts written in the handwriting of Ramprasad was one of their valuable possessions. The local people knew Bimanbehari came here at least four times a year. In fact he had built a new wing in the local school which has been named after his mother. Nor was there any property dispute, he had good relations with his cousins. Who on earth would hear him a grudge? It was not the actual damage to his house but the fact that he was undesirable in his own home was what hurt him more. None of the cattle were taken or any other valuable. Evidently the miscreants set fire just to destroy. They were neither petty thieves nor robbers. Oli brought two cups of tea. Why don't you go in Baba, it is no use standing here. Look at you Oli ma, exclaimed Raj Chandra, Your face has got a dark tan. Don't go near the flame. Oli wiped her face; three ducks are dead. The other two are not going to survive — what is to be done with them? She sounded sad. Bimanbehari had no answer. Raj Chandra said, Throw them away. You could ask the people who are working out there. Could we put Burnol on the two injured birds, asked Oli. Bimanbehari left. He had lost all desire to communicate but Raj Chandra was determined to pester him. Since he had to get up before dawn he must have it out on someone. A deluge of advice to his cousin was one way of compensating for lost sleep. He whispered to Bimanbehari, Do not for a moment trust your uncle's children. They may sound polite but you never know when they will hiss like a snake. Rajuda, protested Bimanbehari, I have no clash of interest with them. They have rushed to help me on their own. All pretence. How do you know they are not behind this? That is their trick. The left hand is extended to help whereas the right hand is ready to stab.

He is getting on in years, thought Bimanbehari. A minute ago he was blaming the Naxals, now it is uncle's boys. He is confused. Some people get a vicarious pleasure in speaking ill of others for no apparent reason. Raj Chandra was one of those. Bimanbehari did not pay any importance to his words but he was an elder after all. So he could not contradict him. Though in the wrong side of fifty, Raj Chandra was in perfect health. He never had to work for a living. Costly cigars and other goodies were brought from Calcutta but he never went to the city. The climate did not agree with him. It is high time you should get Oli married. The two degrees are enough. It would be too late. We have an excellent boy here, good family. I can start negotiating if you wish. I think you should consult Oli. Nothing would be done against her wish. A slight tinge of impatience in his voice made Raj Chandra change the topic. Can I ask you something Biman? Is it true that you have arranged for a Naxal murderer to escape to England? It was totally unexpected. Except for three or four people nobody knew of the affair. So it has reached Krishnanagar? And coming from Raj Chandra who had never set foot in the city! These are troubled times, don't you see. Raj Chandra went on. There are factions among the Naxals. Many may be angry with you for sending one of them out of the country. Be very careful Biman, I tell you.

5

KRISHNANAGAR to Berhampur was an easily negotiable distance. Oli had been to visit the historic
sites of Murshidabad crossing Berhampur on the way. They had taken their Mem kakima to the Hazarduari Palace. Oli was still in her frock, She had a snapshot of that trip stuck in her album. In those days they used to be accompanied by some elderly member of the family, now OH can board a train by herself. It is a distance of two and one half hours by the Lalgola Express. But the fire changed everything. There was a strict order from the father. The girls were not to stir out of the house. Heart broken Bimanbehari wanted to return to Calcutta but the repair of the burnt portion of the house had to be attended to. Yet Oli had to go to Berhampur on Friday afternoon at any cost. She very well could not argue with her father who was normally quite indulgent. Moreover there has been a fight and bomb explosion in a school building not very far and her parents were jittery with so many cases of arson and murders. People were getting used to such violence. Shops downed their shutters if bombs

exploded in the market place only to reopen after a couple of hours. Despite the incidents life went on as usual. But something happened. As though sent by god an uncle appeared from Berhampur. He was Kalyani's younger brother, Santi mama to Oli and Buli. He with his wife Rita drove down from Berhampur to see a patient. On their way back they visited their sister. Contrary to her nature Oli pleaded to Rita mami, I would like to go to Berhampur with you. Please ask father to allow me. Bimanbehari did not like the idea. How would she come back? Santi mama assured him. He knew a lot of regular commuters to Calcutta. One of them would take care of Oli, see that she got down at Krishnanagar safely. From the station Oli could take a rickshaw. What is there to worry in broad daylight. Besides these boys may be creating trouble but they leave young girls alone. After lunch Bimanbehari almost pushed them out of the house. Get going. You never know, the car may break down. He was not nervous but after the fire he seemed to lose confidence . . . A nor'wester broke as they were passing through Palasi. The sky darkened till it was as dark as night. Oli had never seen such darkness during the day. The wild breeze hit the car like a ship on storm-tossed sea, it could overturn any minute. They stopped the car away from the big trees and waited, window glasses rolled up. Already they had come across a broken branch of a sheerish tree lying across the road. But Santi mama was not upset. He started to sing a Tagore song welcoming the coming of storm, stroking the steering wheel to keep time. Alarmed, Rita mamima asked, Suppose the storm goes on and on, what are we going to do? What does it matter? We will spend the night here. If the car gets blown away? That would be a world record, a flying Ambassador, laughed Santi mama. All credit to the Birlas. Cars as well as planes. But you do have a fertile imagination, I must say. Ever heard of a car being blown away in the wind? The rain came, making loud pattering sounds on the roof of the car. The road was deserted. Santi mama began another song but stopping midway he asked Oli, Tell me, who set fire to your house? I do not think it is political. Frustrated love, in all likelihood. Were you in love with a local chap? Had a tiff? It was Rita mamima who replied, No not again. And to someone in Krishnanagar? What do you mean not again? Is she already in love? Oli, were you not very friendly with the son of a sub judge friend of Jamaibabu. Where is the boy now?

I have nothing to do with the party. has fled the country. Please excuse me Oli. What do you mean. Santi mama and mamima may have met Babluda at their place but Oli has never talked to them on the subject. Santimama was obliged to drive very slowly. A fellow in Berhampur was in love with the daughter of a lawyer. They won't let you go just like that. Let me ask you something Oli. Well. In desperation the boy threw an acid bulb at the lawyer but it missed the target and hit an uncle. a friend? Do we know him? No. Let us start. he suggested. He was the rowdy type. Must be a friend of that Atin. will you? I have to see someone at Berhampur jail. so a political prisoner. who is he? A friend. And for that he had to go to the States! Santi mama did not like the idea. .In the States. I would have slipped out of the house if you had not come. One of your jilted lovers comes and sticks a knife in my belly. But you need permission for this. What for? To study or to work? He is doing Ph. I know her well. Santi mama took out a bottle of rum. Rita mamima ventured a guess. I would have told you but please keep it from Baba. I have a letter of permission on Friday at four thirty. Said Santi mama. she wondered. We are happy to have you with us. a soft girl like you. It was difficult to see the road. She can't lie. Just think about it Oli. At jail. Oli and Rita mamima occupied the back seat. A Naxal I believe. even then what is stopping a local chap from falling for Oli? Let me tell you of a case I had once. But Oli was outspoken. Nothing remains a secret. objected Santi mama.D in Chemistry. You do not have to answer that Oli if it is too personal. Somebody asked me to do this on their behalf. The front seat next to him was stacked with vegetables from Bimanbehari's garden. So they knew. He laughed loudly at his own joke. But how. Believe me. But why did you suddenly insist on coming with us? Is it someone you wish to see in Berhampur? That is a personal question you should not have asked. said Rita mamima. So you are a party activist. He lost an eye. there was a serious charge against him. Oli was taken off her guard. By then the wind had abated though not the shower. She starts stammering. the father asked the daughter not to have anything to do with him.

Rita you remember what happened that December night. The patient was already dead. Bravo. I will tell you of an incident. leaving me free to start the car I was possessed by fear.'s bunglow to play cards. I admired their courage. Then I was asked to get down. Stuff and nonsense. About three months ago on a late December Saturday I had gone to the D. Five minutes later somebody touched me on the shoulder with a pipe gun. You have got your facts wrong. Honestly. We left at about quarter to midnight. a most peculiar feeling. Oh god. I had to walk for fifteen minutes. We will put blindfolds on your eyes. I mentally wrote out my will and said Rita you are still good looking. One of them did try to drive but the engine kept stalling. They took you to the riverside before putting the blindfolds on. Usually people run for the doctor at the eleventh hour. Lucky for me. that was the first thought which came to my mind. Manikda. Subhankar is on duty. What a night. just think of the daring. He will manage. We cannot reach before nine. Two boys had been hiding in the car. If your eyes are tied what can you do except think. quite politely.But you have to go to the nursing home. I must admit. If you do not mind we will drive. Oli leaned closer. Oh yes. You are making it up. You know what I was thinking. Nobody can stop Rita's widowhood. the way was deserted. So I had to drive up to the riverside. But all the same I could not help admire their courage. they kept sobbing. it is too late now. Corrected Rita mamima. You are right. . But they did not misbehave. a leader of their outfit. These are dangerous people and armed. No chance. Santi mama took a sip. Such thoughts kept bothering me. What did you say the name was? Do you remember what he looked like? I did not look at the face. I started the car. Someone said.M. You must marry again. It was a Saturday. scoffed Rita mamima. Then the patient dies and the poor doctor gets the blame. I could have said. I am sure to be shot through the stomach.'s compound.M. They took me inside an abandoned house and opened the blindfold. Rita knew that I would be late. All I touched was the hand. Manikda. The danger to life now became apparent and as they left. he told Oli. Doctor Babu you have to go and examine a patient. Move over. It was bitterly cold. I was asked to write a death certificate. Let me recount the entire incident to you Oli. it still gives me the creeps. You must have been half dead with fright. The dead man was Manik Bhattcharjee. So Rita will be a widow. But they were very upset. One of them asked me. I could not be blamed and Rita was saved from becoming a widow. said Rita mamima in alarm. Then one of them escorted me to the car. blindfolded. Stop this. It was a cold night. I could not start the car. at the D.

. The red roses are gone. the police headquarters. Well. Taking a mental note in all probability to be decoded later. The untidy mop of hair could easily harbour lice. Oh yes. And his best friend is rotting in jail . Do you hear from Buludi. There was a rumour of her getting mad. In the letter she had received from the jail authorities it was clearly mentioned that no gifts are to be taken. Pompom was taken there and physically tortured to extract information. Next day she went to see Kaushik. He is much better now. replied Oli. The iron bars were reinforced by wire mesh so that nothing could reach the prisoner.Inside the car. She felt angry with Babluda. Rest of the way Oli could not join in the conversation. It was a fictitious name. and he is gone. She did pretend to become hysterical only to be shifted to a hospital. we cook our own food. Kaushik was the first to speak. Do they give you enough to eat? She asked. A thick growth of hair and beard hid the familiar face. Oli's eyes grew moist but she tried to control herself. He was aware of the hidden meaning behind these meaningless words. We have some white ones. Oli? She simply nodded. How selfish of him to have escaped. The forehead was a shade darker. It was a kind of affectionate regard one has for ones near ones. Only the bright eyes and the straight nose told her that he was Kaushik. Most probably he meant Bablu. How have you been. but she held Manikda in high esteem. Oli wanted to change to general topics. Oli shed silent tears. listening. Actually she had extraordinary will power. A man stood near the door. The red roses in your garden are they in bloom? Haven't seen a red rose since I don't know how long. . In fact Atin and Kaushik often remarked that Manikda was like their mother. The guard at the door smiled. She must not break down. don't you know that? Are they going to produce you in court soon? . Oli had visited her there. Very warm and soft. I wish you had brought me one. It was a small room. Red roses meant Lalbazar. Nobody could see her weeping in the dark. driving a red car in a country he used to hate. She was all right but she had begged Oli to go and see Kaushik at Berhampur jail. Her son was very ill it seems. lal meaning red. Not that she was a regular member of the study circle or keen to keep contact. He is now enjoying life.

Charu Majumder. She forced a smile. He might arrange to have Kaushik transferred to the hospital where he would get better food and comfort. Durgapuja and Rabindranath. She was preparing the great fish delicacy ilish. Did you have a check up? You used to have acute pain in the stomach. 6 SIDDHARTHA paid no heed to Atin's protests and dragged him to Santaboudi's party. Still Oli tried. How is my mother? Have you met her recently? Oli had not heard anything about Kaushik's mother. Kaushik repeated the question with emphasis. Why should he visit a perfect stranger called Santaboudi? Such arguments fell on deaf ears. He wanted to know about Manikda who was like a mother to them. your mother is fine. Oli assured him.Not that I know of. Siddhartha had informed the hostess that he was bringing a friend and Santaboudi insisted that he did. Tell me. Kaushik paid no heed. You need not worry. . Only three things we cherish as Bengalis have remained. But she was alive. His friend threw a shirt in his direction. He could not utter his name. I am fine now. Looking at Oli straight to her eye he threw a question. Can be ulcer. how could Atin resist that? Atin made no attempt to get up from the bed. Your mother is all right. he said. Have you met my mother? Has she said anything? Oli understood. expatriates. Suddenly Oli remembered that the jail doctor was an acquaintance of Choto mama. He could live on sandwiches or hamburgers for weeks. She is fine. Neither did he feel eager to meet new people. Needless to say she cannot sleep nights with her Naxal son in jail. After you have been here long enough you would realise what this means to us. Mother could also mean the head of the party. But Kaushik would not agree to have better living conditions for himself. How was she to answer? Lie to him? Tears welled up. She must not break down. He was still at large. ilish. The pain is gone. In Santaboudi's house you get all three. Though coming from East Bengal Atin had no particular weakness for ilish or for any fish.

remember? Take a bottle of Bordeaux. You could call her the queen of the Bengali community. loves to entertain people. It is customary to bring gifts. cheer up. was costlier than the wine. His friend laughed. I am not feeling well. which Siddhartha bought. Thank god that we do not have to wear formal dress complete with black bow tie like the British. Instead of a tie he wrapped a batik scarf round his neck. replied Atin. honestly. a friend was supposed to pick them up. What would I do there? That is how you get to know people. my boy. Goethe was giving examples of boredom. said Siddhartha indulgently. Come on. I do not know a soul. Tell me. A mechanical engineer from Shibpur. Panchuda is a real good soul. An Englishman got so tired of putting on clothes and taking them off day in and day out. Stupid fool. Want a slap from me. You are free to don your pajama kurta under the overcoat. For your information this is prose not poetry. Put on a lot of clothes. what? You will revive as soon as you get there. Get a bottle of wine from the liquor store.Grumbling. He called after Atin as he was about to enter the wine store. that he could not stand it any more and took his own life. Have you by any chance read Goethe's Poetry of Life? Poetry is not my cup of tea. I wonder how a quiet sort like him survived five years in the hostel. She is a singer. . Siddhartha never dared to defy Atin. Whatever is available within ten dollars. He speaks one word in an hour. Atin got up. Out in the street he handed his friend a ten-dollar bill. They walked up to the Eighth Street crossing where Samir. What does the husband of your Santaboudi do? asked Atin. what kind of wine? Any kind. an actress. their home too is at Queens. Their home is known as Santaboudi's house. We have been invited to an ilish dinner. Can't even spend the Saturday lolling in bed. shoes and socks as if I have nothing better to do. Now the roles were reversed. The bunch of red roses. Siddhartha took special care to dress up. Atin. quite appropriate. coat. What have you learnt in England? You can't take just any kind of wine. White wine with white meat. the natural leader at the Calcutta Coffee House gave Siddhartha a strange look. I will get some flowers. That is the bane of civilisation. Let me go back and lie down. inserted imitation pearl cuff links. Siddhartha patted Atin's back patronisingly.

Oh no. he is my friend Atin. Oh come on. difficult to get along with them. said Siddhartha. said Santaboudi. Santaboudi looked quite familiar though Atin could not recall where he had seen her. he folded his hands in a namaskar. It must be your fault Samir. Not that this country is not cold but the British are a conceited race. Atin slid into the rear. Siddhartha introduced them. She chided. this is not fair and our cellar is quite well stocked. I am Amiya Mitra. said Amiya Mitra in a nasal voice. the host. Atin did a namaskar without any attempt to speak. or I will get a ticket. What you get here is job satisfaction. I have to see things in the kitchen. Next to it sat Panchuda. How are things there? Amiyada. Samir's wife Basabi was waiting in front of a drug store.Exactly at seven thirty a car pulled up. She too got in. The house where Santaboudi lived was in a beautiful secluded spot. You have just come from home. I had asked you to come early to help me. didn't I? I finish at eight. you should not have brought the wine. Santaboudi. Mitra said. this was for the roses brought by Siddhartha. Spent about one year in England before coming here. A middle-aged man came up to Atin. your very first visit. It was a no parking area. get in called Samir. Siddhartha jumped into the front seat. She looked like the image of a goddess. You are late. So you are Siddhartha's friend. Basabi. a tall woman with lush hair answered the bell. Money is more important than job satisfaction. I can never get this purple in my garden. Walking across her tiny garden Atin noticed some roses in bloom. in white a kurta pyjama. All through the journey he kept his mouth shut. Siddhartha butted in. Beastly cold. Get in. I too was there. Basabi. An electric heater was emanating heat from the fireplace. Siddhartha spoke again. Quick. Plenty of chance if you can prove your merit and efficiency. Seven years! Couldn't stand the weather. Please lend me a helping hand. Santaboudi turned her attention to Atin. Do introduce yourselves. . Lovely. Dollar is a stronger tonic than pound. Not to be outdone. That is what I feel. For research too you get a lot of facilities. Brilliant student. He was smoking a pipe. The men stood up to show courtesy to Basabi. Siddhartha sat beside a young girl. There were about six or seven guests. but I took fifteen minutes off. Has been here for a few months. Why don't you admit that chances of making money are better here. it seems. wet — no sun. I see. Meet my friend Atin.

beating up teachers . After a few futile attempts at protest. each weighing something like three or three and a half kilo. Like everything else in this country this fish is much bigger than the Ganga. They moved over to the dining room. Atin withdrew to himself as if he was the most shy individual in the universe. Atin said. Bulamasi should be much older by now. She was certainly not the same person. announced Santaboudi. Where on earth is the poetry notebook? Had he taken it to Siliguri or left it in the custody of Phuldi? If it was in Siliguri then it is lost forever. two years ago had shocked him so much that he is still full of it. How about some beer. After he had helped himself to rice and dal Atin suddenly made a secret resolve. seen in Deoghar when Atin was a child. There was an Italian fish seller who knew of the Bengali weakness for shad and telephoned Santaboudi whenever a supply arrived at his shop. The students do not stand first. He picked up a Newsweek from the table and went on smoking. Santaboudi noticed his plate. . Steaming white rice. He was not in a mood to have anything. They could drink as much as they wanted in this house. Let me help you. Once on a trip to the Trikut Hills they had met Bulamasi again. do not let it grow cold. Why. He would not give anyone else a chance to speak. you have not taken any fish. This was the face of Bulamasi. He would begin by asking a question and provide the answer himself. Good Dutch beer. ilish and other dishes. His visit to India. Panchuda puffed at his pipe and smiled to himself. so was the state of education. even breathing the air was agony. Meanwhile the ladies were grouped together discussing the latest sales. As Santaboudi entered it all came back to him in a flash. The Naxals were burning school and college buildings. suggested Siddhartha. Dada used to give her adoring looks. Siddhartha looked up. Padma variety. Coming from Atin. Now Atin can understand that Dada was in love with her. That was his style. who was a heavy drinker and for the last few weeks have been drinking all by himself. Here at Panchuda's place one could get expensive drinks like Chivas Regal. He began on a very favourite topic of expatriates -denigrating the home country. It was a buffet table. even Coca Cola. scotch or bourbon? Nothing. Dinner is ready. Meanwhile Amiya Mitra had taken on the role of the principal speaker. This is known as shad in this country.Samir who was the bartender came up to Atin. Siddhartha turned his attention to his young companion. Two of his poems written in the background of Deoghar must be about her. refusing to be drawn into the conversation. . What would you like. Atin should have trusted Phuldi with it. The state of the roads was terrible. A trip to Calcutta is enough to make you forget English pronunciation. He was not going to touch the fish. Atin shook his head. they stand fast. which they could not afford. stopping Amiya Mitra in his long talk. .

if Atin could send three or four hundred dollars they could buy a fridge. The chatter in the dining room stopped. he did not feel like having ilish and made a lot of fuss. You should have told me. brinjal fry. he had to borrow money to send him abroad. Presently others were back. She turned to Siddhartha. no. burning a hole in the thick carpet. not talking to anyone. whispering. You know I too have . Panchuda came up to Atin and spoke softly. The cigarette dropped. parbal fry. Someone may come in any moment and a hue and cry would follow. But somehow he was not able to be his normal self. Baba was hurt that night. . It would be noticed. she insisted. Atin was having his exams. Even today they do not have a fridge. not joining in the conversation. he said. Atin must come again for a purely veg meal. People are mortally afraid of fire in this country. Let him. It was almost a personal affront. But the plate was not there. Who has washed it—Santaboudi or Siddhartha? He wondered. Hurriedly he picked up the burnt bit of the cigarette and stepped on the fire. Atin was ready to explode but controlled himself with effort. not complementing Santaboudi on her cooking. The host was the first to enter. smoke started coming out of the spot. Then she sang three Tagore songs on public request. but kept on staring. . that will do. He knew that he was being rude. I did not make any meat dish. Probably Siddhartha was discussing him. They did not have a fridge. From where did you get parbal? Atin finished his dinner quickly and returned to the living room. the exams were a few days away. A small flame shot up. In American etiquette this was an offence. It is not that Atin was put off by either Santaboudi or her husband. He got up and entered the dining room in the middle of the singing. . Sickness indeed. both had charm and grace. Ma was furious. Suddenly he remembered that he had left his plate under the table. these are not usual nor decent manners. He simply said cauliflower. It smells. Siddhartha did not show his surprise. How will he eat now? Let me fry some salmon then. not just ilish but all fish. Baba had brought a pair of ilish late at night. He pushed his plate away. why then was he engaged in this game of destruction? Atin had no answer. Panchuda moved away. He was not expecting an answer. You have not got over your home sickness yet. Perhaps it was still under the table. A chorus of laughter in the dining room brought him back to his senses. To think of home was considered a disease. till then he vowed to give up fish. He should go and wash it. She had a voice like Rajeswari Dutta. Santaboudi was complimented on her cooking though she was profusely apologetic about not having cooked proper vegetarian dishes. Baba threw away the fish.Atin was determined to be rude. I do not take ilish. Even to Atin's ears it was good. Atin dragged a sofa over it and slumped on the sofa opposite. He has seen Atin having ilish. He ought to pick up the burning cigarette. There was a black hole the size of an eightanna coin. Santaboudi turned pale.

appealed Siddhartha. "There is a gold mine in the sky far away". Atin was determined to be rude. . . Nita spoke to Atin without waiting for a formal introduction. Your friend made a farce of eating then left the room when she was singing. enquired Siddhartha. On an impulse he snapped open the seatbelt. hit him with sharp questions. The girls screamed. You think very highly of yourself. No. he could not stand it. Oh come on. why did you do that. Why. don't you? Made no effort to talk. blood drained from Siddhartha's face. Just standing. She was not as young as she looked. was doing her Ph. That was the last straw. Santaboudi was hurt though she tried not to show it. Barefoot. But Siddhartha peeped from the door. Must he reply to them? He does not remember why he went to the dining room.This room was warm and cosy. And when I asked what the matter was he was so rude! Basabi added her bit. Nita retorted with anger. The young girl Siddhartha was trying to be friendly with sat at the rear with Basabi and Siddhartha. What were you doing in the dining room? Why did you refuse to go back in our car? asked Samir. Tell me Atin. were you really hungry. That is never done. Siddhartha was slightly drunk and he sang. Well we are leaving. Keeping time by patting Nita's back. maybe he needed help. I am not going with you. . he had no answer. . as you can see for yourself. why. She was to get down on the way. Was it a crime to stand there doing nothing? These people were determined to pester him. Nita. . They climbed into Samir's car. this time Atin sat in front. Atin struggled but the questions will not leave him alone. I thought perhaps he was hungry again and I went to the dining room. He has no right to insult Santaboudi. declared Atin. What are you doing here? She asked in surprise. not used to this kind of treatment frowned. She went on in spite of Siddhartha's signal to stop. Why did you do this. I saw him standing. If you want to come with us. Her name was Nita. Basabi came in a little later and saw him. He tried to close his ears. Basabi. he ordered and Atin could not refuse. he felt helpless . Come along Atin. what was Atin to do. The way you were looking at others as though we were a bunch of fools and you the only wise one. Such a nice lady. Atin liked the warmth of the room. yanked the door open and sprang out. the attacks persisted. Cornered by these questions Atin was on the defensive. why. why are you keen to pick up a quarrel with my buddy? Leave him alone.D. He did not go back to the living room but stood staring at the wall.

God has saved me from becoming a killer. Let us not talk about it please. The ladies sat in petrified silence. A miraculous escape. The police let them go. 7 SIDDHARTHA fumbled for the key. a police car arrived on the spot. too angry to stop went on. Neither did Atin. thanks to the timely reaction of Samir. Both Samir and Siddhartha ran to Atin. A car braked to a halt though it was hit by the second and the second by the third. I was thinking we will have to spend the rest of the night in police custody. Let me tell you Atin. . Siddhartha pulled him up. it merely went off track and screeched to a halt. At last after digging into all the pockets of his trousers. It was an old car and quite rickety.Miracle. The car could have turned turtle. miracle. He fiddled with the door handle. just two feet away from the wheels of a Cadillac. It was a quarter to midnight but pretty soon cars gathered. I am giving you a week's notice. He lay on the road. So it could not be a case of drunken driving. racing at seventy miles could have killed him instantly. Well next time when you are in the mood for such melodrama please go to the Washington Bridge. Atin had rolled to the adjoining lane. For god's sake do not involve others. Find out a place of your own. Atin who had one key stood by sheepishly. He said to Atin. shirt and overcoat Siddhartha found the key. If you had been killed it was no fault of mine but I would have been bothered by my conscience all my life. It really is a miracle Atin. he mumbled. A sudden fall from a moving car. Samir's car was insured. What is going on? I thought you were going to dispose of a dead body. There was a bruise on his forehead. Getting high on such expensive liquor. still fuming. The middle-aged man came over to examine the car. After a while Siddhartha broke the silence. Everything was quiet and orderly. Luckily there were no cars right behind him or he would have been hit from the back. he did not smell of alcohol. But Siddhartha. Meanwhile in a mechanical response Samir had jammed on the brakes and by a fortunate coincidence were saved from a major accident. Enough is enough. The idea that a young man could jump off the car was inconceivable to them. It was an accident. Leave my apartment. He should have been smashed to a pulp but he was lucky again. Atin merely turned round at him and smiled. The police took down the name and phone number of the insurance company. Samir thanked him profusely and told him that the front door had jerked open suddenly. He switched the light on. The man driving the Cadillac approached them. nothing else. Nobody shouted or abused. jacket. He was not hurt. pleaded Samir. Samir had very little drink. all gone thanks to you.

Everybody was insulting me. Why did you force me to go to the party. Turning to Atin he growled. You have given me a week's notice. can I have some brandy first? Brandy indeed. . Did any of them treat you badly? Why were you so rude? Please. let me have the pleasure of seeing you killed. said Siddhartha angrily. . dive. Explain your behaviour first. my patience has a limit. Come on now. Why did you do it? If it was not for the two girls I would have given you a sound thrashing that you would not have forgotten all your life. Let me leave right now. Should I apologise to Santaboudi right now? Letting go his grasp Siddhartha said. I am feeling sleepy. Don't you try your tricks on me. He said morosely. Shame on you. . there is a time for everything. I don't know what came over me. To let you share my apartment? If you are so keen to kill yourself you could have done it back home or any place else but why involve us? No matter how I try I do not get killed. Is that so? Siddhartha pushed his friend to the window. He said in a low murmur. It's all my fault. The burden of guilt was having its effect. Let me tell you Atin. my head is reeling. not taking off the overcoat. You are hurting me. Sleep in the subway. Atin stood near the door. Santaboudi was so nice to you. Atin struggled to free himself. Couldn't we wait till morning? Nothing doing.He flung his overcoat on the bed. I felt I had better die. I'll leave earlier. opened it. Clutching Atin's hair Siddhartha charged. . shame . Siddhartha. Withdrawing into himself. I can't keep on making sacrifices for your sake. A strong push from Siddhartha had Atin tumbling on the floor. He said weakly. I promise. Nobody insulted you. You are right. How long can I go on providing support? I can't ask my girl friends to come here because of you. There is a limit to everything. You are getting a good bashing from me right now. Tell me now. I did not want to go. . Bloody idiot. What do you mean leave? Where will you go so late? I will find out something. . It was you who behaved so badly. I cannot date. I admit it was wrong to drag you all to danger. dive to your death. Atin lit a cigarette. Siddhartha. No way. Do you realise what you were doing to us? Atin dropped on a chair. . I will keep my cupboards locked . So it was wrong of me to take you to Santaboudi's party. To bring you here. It will not take more than ten minutes to pack my things .

He would have to sever his relation with Oli. holding his head high he blurted out. will try to make him give away the whereabouts of Kanu Sanyal — Khokan Majumder — Will they hang him finally? No Atin will not surrender. I simply do not know what to do. a revolutionary never surrenders. You know I have done something unpardonable while I was on the run. But they made the move. Brooding by yourself does that serve any purpose? No friend in this world can help me. It is better that I should die. The thought of your parents. It was a good thing to kill that hired goon. Instantly Atin lost his earlier zeal. Atin's eyes glared. an anti-social. A few minutes ago Atin did not know that he was to commit a murder. He is a different man now. Can't you make a clean breast of it to me even. Killing in self-defense. They cooked up a false case against me but in my heart I know that I have not done any wrong. What happened in two or three minutes completely changed his life. Not just in self-defence. I am glad I did what I did. In a battle you have to kill. After all he was the first to hurl a bomb at us. has to fight till the end. not my parents.And settle on a subway platform? You scoundrel. No. shirking people. Atin spent the first night in a jungle near Matherihat. You are getting morbid day by day. I had every moral right to kill him. It was raining that afternoon when Atin fired that shot to the man approaching and ran away. it certainly was not wrong. That is an obsession. He looked down. On the same night Atin realised that he can not hide in the jungle all by himself. Where will he go? He cannot go to Manikda's place. Manikda was injured. I can't get out of it. Police will soon find out that place. would beat him with sand bags. He was awake all night. But where will he stay in . or friends or anybody. they have recognised Manikda. I want to hear all of it to day. it is high time. He is no longer a son of Mamata and Pratap Majumder. then that ruffian charged with an iron rod. You are a perfect idiot. he is now a criminal. Excellent. Once Manikda had hinted that one could cross the border and take shelter in Nepal. right now. untouchable in the eyes of Oli's father. of that girl called Sharmila did not cross your mind when you jumped out of the car? Nobody can help me out of the crisis I am in. War may be wrong but not when you are in the middle of it and obliged to kill. I was feverish. Last night you sobbed in your sleep. What I have done is a great offence. What is a friend for. How can he show his face to them. his cheek stiffened. Since you can defend your act why do you act like a guilty man. He cannot go back to his Calcutta residence. they attacked for no reason. After all you were fighting for an ideal. I can't tell anyone. Atin related his story. without instigation—the police are on their side—once caught by the police they would torture him. He would have smashed my head if I did not shoot. I did not know what I was doing.

he would give Atin all possible help. The news of the murder had spread already. A couple of days after reaching Katihar. Atin had not yet been identified as the killer. It would be wiser to slip to Bihar. Paran. He used to visit Manikda. In a small place like Matharihat strangers get noticed. took a bus to Purnea and from there proceeded to Katihar. Though he had a tough time making both ends meet. He stopped having regular baths. In order to shake off his city look he took to wearing a dirty dhoti and discarded his shirt. Atin got into Bihar through Kishengunj. Already there was a protest rally in Coochbehar. a few months in Bihar might result in the case being shelved. If there had been a second person he could have talked it over. he tried to find out Ranjit at Matherihat. Ranjit had a cousin in Katihar. Atin was supposed to return to Calcutta. Atin's host in Katihar owned a stationary shop. Ranjit taught in a school.Nepal. Next evening when it was dark. He would have to write to her explaining everything. Nobody knew him here. had no truck with politics. a fellow traveler. But not just now. Atin had stopped shaving for sometime. He lived in a shack with tinned roof. away from the jurisdiction of the West Bengal police. They too were refugees but instead of living in a camp he has opted for a life of his own. The land grab movement in north Bengal has all but died down though the student community in Calcutta was organising rallies in support of the armed peasant struggle. Atin had met him at Siliguri. They were constantly dropping in. and gave him one of his shirts and a letter for his cousin. seven members of his family huddled in a couple of rooms. even combing his hair. Neighbours. Now he was obliged to take some extra precaution. What could they possibly have done when Atin did not communicate? Send a wire to Siliguri? Did Father go to Siliguri himself? In all probability Kaushik would tell them but how much did Kaushik know? And Pompom? Where was Manikda? On their way back Oli must have looked for Atin. Atin learnt from Ranjit. all refugees lived in similar shacks built close together. But after reading Ranjit's letter he did not ask any question and promptly put Atin to work in his shop. How was he to provide shelter and that too to a new comer. about thirty was lean and thin. advised Ranjit. Paran. Ranjit managed to raise fifty rupees for Atin. The murdered man was actually an anti-social with a number of murder charges against him. At last he felt out of danger. He had no money with him and had no contact in Nepal. Where did that Tapan go? Must have fled like a coward. Atin learnt from the newspaper about the fall of the United Front ministry. But he was also a member of the Forward Block hence the rumour that a member of the Forward Block has been killed by the CPI extremists. He wished he had not written to his mother about his visit. She must have cooked for him and waited. He was roughing it out. . Most of the time he kept his mouth shut. She must have worried herself to death. merely handing things which the customers demanded. Manikda had escaped.

It was Kaushik. Dozens were being taken into custody every day. They thanked Paran profusely and started off. Tapan that haramzada is such a chicken. . who under pressure from the police had divulged the names of Manikda and Atin. The peculiar dress of the man had fooled him. told them everything. They had thrown a bomb at Manikda then charged with iron rods. In spite of everything Manikda still trusts him. Kaushik was critical. when all on a sudden we were attacked. They were not the type to be chased away easily. Kanu Sanyal. We have some of our boys in jail. Manikda always carries a gun? You could have brandished the gun. It was a matter of seconds. Manikda said that? If I had not fired they would have finished us. That did not happen. It was not planned. But the students have responded in a big way. It was closing time. That was Manikda's instruction. Atin did not correspond to his family or even to Oli. Ranchi and finally to Jamshedpur. Manikda and other leaders had hoped that a part of CPM followers would break away to join them. an All India Co-ordination Committee has been formed. We would have been dead had I been a second late. About a thousand were purged. Efforts are on to coordinate the various Maoist organisations from Andhra Pradesh to the Punjab and form a new party. The bearded man forced his way into the shop. But Atin would have to remain underground for about a year. They saw the gun all right. All happened at the spur of the moment. This was the time for consolidation. It was stupid of you to get involved in murder. From Rajmahal they went to Dhanbad. It was as though he was a part of himself. Tough tasks were ahead. Atin was determined not to surrender without a fight. That made no difference. He was slowly getting used to his exile. It was all due to Tapan.Three and a half months were spent in Katihar posing as the stupid assistant of a grocery shop. Then one stormy evening in the month of Chaitra a stranger appeared. the ideal has spread to other corners of the country. Meanwhile a message from Ranjit said that Atin must not leave Katihar. They are keeping a watch on Tapan. that is what Manikda said. Manikda was taking a message from Charubabu to be delivered to Khokon Majumder. Once the flames of revolution engulfed the nation who would bother about warrant of arrest. The imposition of President’s rule in February gave the police enormous liberty. the dearest person in the world. But it was only a matter of time. Killing was hardly called for. The sudden revelation almost brought tears to his eyes. to avoid being arrested. Kaushik told Atin. Tell me something. It was you who fired without provocation. The preparation for the armed revolution was not nipped in the bud. That did not deter them. That was their intention. Did you know Kaushik. and in fact the underground organisation is even stronger now. Winter passed. replied Atin.

I went to the court and told meshomoshai not to worry. The movement against the President's rule was gaining ground. He learnt that Kanu Sanyal was arrested. he came to know eventually. he warned Atin. He is sick. Besides. And Oli? Did you by any chance meet her? No I didn't. he did not demur his presence. bringing a letter from Atin's mother. You can't be told. Any news of my family? They are all right. His parents knew. I think I will go to your mother and show her a two line letter from you. He did not utter a word. It is not a question of distrust. Five days later he was taken to Alipur Central Jail. Atin too sent letters through them. Oli's father had a hand in the arrest. Do not go out during the day. Months went by. Taking advantage of the informal atmosphere Atin stirred out of the house and joined the puja throng not for any religious urge but just to enjoy his freedom. they had met at a tea garden at Jalpaiguri. Atin was taken to Jamshedpur. It is a precaution. In spite of all the precaution the news of Atin's stay in Jamshedpur leaked out. He was a widower. She was Sharmila. Just went on smoking. There was a sizeable Bengali population in Jamshedpur. seeing that Atin was well settled at Jamshedpur. Naturally Durga Puja was a popular festival. But his freedom proved to be short lived. I told him though I did not tell him where you were. do not communicate through post. the elder of the girls recognised Atin. Mishra's next door neighbour was a Bengali family. Atin would be the tutor of his children. Now newspapers were available.Where on earth is Manikda? Sorry. bringing them cooked food and toys. Though Kaushik did not return two other messengers came. Manikda's safety is our prime concern. Atin got all the news. At the crack of dawn on the day of the navami a group of policemen surrounded the house and Atin was dragged out of bed. Oli too. There was no news of Manikda. There were quite a few pujas. Aware of Atin's background. to the home of an engineer named Satish Mishra who had studied in Jadavpur and could speak some Bengali. In spite of the beard. Kaushik went back. Strictly forbidden. neither are you weak like Tapan. The leftists were pressing their demand for a mid term poll. But she must have heard. In Sakchi itself there were two puja pandals. Oli had expressed her . Their two girls visited the Mishra children frequently. Bablu is fine. But I warn you Bablu. What did Baba say? Very funny. Mishra had courage. It is just a system we follow. So that even under torture you can't divulge his whereabouts.

It merely thrilled her to be in the presence of a revolutionary. Actually Bimanbehari had a clever plan. Passport and visa were ready but everything went wrong at the last minute. claiming this to be the real revolutionary party. I know about the rest of your story. then he had no other alternative. Oli after all was his only love . Atin did not even look at her as a girl. My government can deal with the Naxals in twenty four hours but I would like to leave that to the people. But in the magic of lonely afternoons. about your stay in England but where does Sharmila come in? Did you meet her in Jamshedpur and fell in love? asked Siddhartha. At great personal risk he released Atin on a bail of five thousand rupees then allowed him to jump bail and set sail for England. The Left Front came back to power. . Atin did not want it. For the first few months she was nothing beyond a friend. Oli’s father knows a lot of top people. Kaushik also persuaded him. So things would be simpler if Atin could be in jail as a political prisoner. their erstwhile enemy was no exception. under high fever Atin took Sharmila to be Oli. Jyoti Babu became the Home Minister and released all political prisoners as promised. . But Atin was not allowed to be out. He lost no time and reported it to the police commissioner. He could sense that the leftists were corning back to power. They had promised to release all political prisoners after coming to power. That was against the code of the revolutionaries. Pratap had asked his brother-in-law Tridib to give him shelter for some time. the one person he could talk to. She was such a charming girl. Meanwhile all arrangements were made to send him to the United Kingdom. Neither did Atin talk to her of love. The next day Atin sailed for England. On May Day Kanu Sanyal announced the birth of a new political party — the CPI ML following the thoughts of Mao tse Tung. she forced herself free. Sharmila was not told about Atin's background. He flourished the Red Book. The papers showed that he had a murder charge against him. She liked nursing the helpless man suffering from fever.intention to meet Atin confiding to Kaushik but before she could do that her father came to know from Pratap. It is just a matter of time. his family or of Oli. But when he realised that the future was bleak. Even Kanu Sanyal. absent minded. to which Tridib readily agreed. Bimanbehari did not give up. The same day Jyoti Babu spoke to a mammoth rally in another part of the maidan. he would at least have to serve a fourteen-year term in jail. It was a difficult question. he will certainly succeed in giving your case a political angle. He took her in his arms. pure. . He was often sick in those days. Subsequent events proved him to be right. innocent. As for their political demands that would be taken care of politically but their anti-social activities would be treated like criminal offence. Was it love or friendship? Atin was not sure. Sharmila happened to be his only companion in his exile. which made him a convict in a criminal case. but for all that she felt no sensation of love. There was a healing touch in her fingers and she nursed Atin back to health.

journalists. He was miserable. only her. leave alone entice. In the tide of passion all thoughts of Oli were washed away like a torn piece of paper. You better go to the school building for the night. Some volunteers came up. Standing at Aricha ghat Mamun pondered at the quirks of destiny.But as the months wore on and he grew weaker from illness. I want you. They helped them carry the luggage. she surrendered. Mamun came out with Monju's son Sukhu to look around for food. The normally bustling ferry ghat was deserted. He pined for a touch of the female body. Hena and Monju stretched on the floor. Where is it going to take me now. The school building was filling up. Some bread and kabab was all he could get. In the growing darkness the chances of crossing over seemed slim indeed. even the East Pakistan Rifles were . the shops had run out of food. Three days went by. Mamun did not elaborate. It was difficult for her to be unkind to a sick man. he wondered. Clubs were being gunned down. Atin was being irresistibly drawn towards her. rushing about in panic. even the children were too scared to cry. At last her resistance broke. The massacre began on the night of the 25th. The whole thing was like an absurd dream. he replied. Mamun settled in a room on the upper floor along with two other families. from a strong physical urge. Many families from Dhaka are stranded here. They were helpless. the streets were lined with dead bodies. I have my family there. only you. It took him seven more days to get her consent. By what logic could one explain the fact that innocent citizens were being butchered in the city. It was clear that Dhaka was no longer safe for the likes of him. Then Atin could hold himself no longer. Haven't heard from them. What else could he say. Mamun could get back home but kept indoors for four days. Mamun held Sukhu’s hand in a tight grip as he watched truckloads of people rushing to the ferry ghat and finding no boats available. In fact the sex urge was not yet aroused in her. But Sharmila never encouraged him. teachers and students indiscriminately. 8 THE vast expanse of the Jamuna River stretched before him. He wanted Sharmila. The news is bad. West Pakistani soldiers were going from house to house and killing all members of the Awami League. she merely moved away from Atin's excesses. All the ferryboats have been hidden to stop military movement. angry. He flung himself against her knees and begged. He loved Oli but why is she not with him? He felt frustrated. His temperature was hundred and four but he would not let her call a doctor. A schoolteacher asked Mamun about what exactly is happening at Dhaka.

He was seriously injured in the shelling of the Press Club. Mamun was withdrawn by nature. The bridge near Mirpur has been blown up they heard. But he ignored Monju's appeals to come with them. poet and journalist. ‘I will be all right. "Get out of Dhaka as soon as you can. Mamun look a great risk and proceeded towards Mirpur. With so many people wanting to cross would there be enough boats tomorrow? The children and Monju added to his problems. something unheard of in human history. . Monju joined him. Mamun could not very well go there. But resistance has started in various parts of the country. Babul merely smiled. that was his belief. . ordering the army to slaughter innocent unarmed Bengalis did not seem like an act of betrayal to Babul. before his scheduled meeting with Sheikh Mujib. Nobody knew if he had gone underground or taken to the cantonment. Perhaps to a childhood friend in Manikganj? Or further away from Dhaka — to Pabna or Bagura? But he never thought that he would be stranded for want of a ferry. Mamun was not sure about his destination. He even pacified his worried wife saying nobody was going to attack them. The fact that President Yahya Khan left Dhaka secretly on the night of 25th March. To think that he was forced to flee his very dear Dhaka like a petty thief! By the time they reached Nayarhat gunshots could be heard. He was a strange fellow — Babul . Things would return to normal within a week. He preferred army rule to a government by the Awami League. The bridge was damaged but negotiable. The previous day Mamun had come across his friend Faiz Ahmed. He decided to get out with Hena. Near Aminbazar they encountered an army convoy. Has Yahya Khan gone mad? Is he determined to wipe out the Bengali race to rule Pakistan? There was no news of Sheikh Mujib. You take care. Neither was there any way he could send word to his wife. not the sort who could get things done in an adverse situation. They are after those who used to write in Ittefak. Get away. He had warned Mamun. It was a vast stretch of water. Another spree of senseless killing.’ They set out on a car borrowed from a neighbour. A major named Ziaur Rahman speaking on behalf of Sheikh Mujib has declared independence. They would hunt him out. A Free Bangla Revolutionary radio centre was set up in the Kalurghat transmitting centre. Curfew was clamped from four in the afternoon. muttered the miserable Monju.disarmed and shot. fled the building and took shelter in a mosque. a little away from Chittagong." Feroza Begum was already in Tangyle with her youngest daughter. Mamun ducked. In Chittagong the East Pakistan Rifles were fighting a pitched battle against the West Pakistani army. right now. Do take care. Are they flying to India? But strangely enough he changed his opinion when Monju wanted to go to the village with Mamun. Look at Jehanara Imam or Kamal or Paltan. . Babul would not leave but he did not object if his wife accompanied Mamun. though the radio denied the report.

But this was hardly the time for laughs. the young conductor shouting for passengers. the same words were on all mouths. Sukhu could walk. of course. but Bagura was comparatively safer. leaving their city homes. whom everyone called Mukul. God knows what we have in store. Hurry. For food they had to go to a community kitchen where they were serving only rice and dal. This is the last trip. Once again they were obliged to trudge on foot. ‘Mamunbhai?' He enquired. She too was awake. what do you think. Akhtar. they were not used it. The bus trundled along but not for long. The man was a reporter at the Ittefak office. intense pain. At night after the lights were off. Mamun as the editor of a paper and seniority was respected in journalist circles but here nobody would have noticed him if it were not for Akhtar. rich hair paused too. Fortunately they had just a few bags. so walking was not a problem. replied Akhtar. whispered Hena. But a long walk in the strong summer sun was not comfortable for city-breds like Monju or Hena. He managed to procure rooms at the Ullapara dak bungalow for the night. A jolly sort with a hearty laugh. Who have been killed. do let us know.Back to the school building. He found no wailing woman. thick moustaches. dark. Of course. After a brief exchange of information Mamun asked Akhtar. The king of birds. They went past the Baghabari ghat to come to a rickety old bus.R. so that no vehicle could cross over. Presently Monju whispered. hurry. was it the combined mourning of countless women who have lost their dear ones? The lament of the country itself? Fortunately they got a boat and crossed over to Nagarbari the next morning. As they approached a level crossing they found a goods train standing right in front. Nothing was available at the dak bungalow though. But petrol and diesel stocks had run out. Mamun could mutter vaguely. Everybody was worried. It was a monotonous whine but there was something in it. roadblocks were made by the villagers to stop movement of troops. Pabna was troubled. . If you can arrange for a boat. A shiver ran down his spine. he paused near the stairs. Akhtar Saheb was quite resourceful. The students of Bagura had formed their own Mukti Bahini and driven the army out. M. Who is crying Mamunmama? Nobody in this room. People were trekking to the villages. who all are missing. A man. Suddenly it came back. This unearthly lament. the stifled sob of a woman came to Mamun's ears. he went on at the top of his voice. of good health. which spoke of terrible. Akhtar Saheb’s children and Sukhu Mia waited after the rice and dal for some vegetables to be served. So Mamun decided to proceed towards Bagura. A tree was lying across the road. Simply rice and dal could not be eaten. The bus they found finally had to stop near a blockage. Monju's eyes filled with tears. Mamun got up and looked into the other rooms. he did not like being carried.

Things like common salt were scarce. I have seen you a number of times in Dhaka. Monju and Hena. worried sick. the Mukti Bahini was jubilant. trying to avoid the physical proximity of others. Then the rickshaw-puller refused to go any further. Now the proprietor edits the paper. So Mamun had to bid good bye to M. In the prevailing lawlessness all shops were closed. 'You look familiar. has changed considerably in one week. The ride was far from comfortable. But gradually the . Just when Mamun was at a loss for a possible transport. A tulsi plant on a platform was evidence that the previous owner was a Hindu. Mamun's brother-in-law could not be traced. You are the editor of Dinkal. It was a tearful farewell. He suffered silently. Boarding a bus was out of the question. But life is full of pleasant surprises. were the only alternative.' The man bent down for a respectful kadambusi.' 'But it was you who started the paper. Mamun did not utter a word of protest.R. two ponds and mud houses around a courtyard. One had to pay whatever they demanded. Finally the rickshaw had to be lifted and carried over a fairly wide ditch. I am Ejaz Ahmed. He got this house in exchange. They were taken to pieces by the fury of the mob. Rickshaws. As he touched him the man exclaimed. Mamun had a brother-in-law in Bogura. with roads dug up every one mile or so. he was accosted by a man. Who would have thought that a family of total strangers would do so much for Mamun. He declared it to be typhoid by just feeling the pulse. By sheer will to live Mamun recovered after a week. looked like haunted animals. I used to own a bookstall at Bogura. You are running a fever? He insisted that Mamun should stay with his family for a few days till he got better. It was a pleasant home. Akhtar and his family. aren't you?’ ‘I used to be. Lots of stories were going the rounds. Mamun tried to stop him. In spite of his high fever and ache all over the body. I have been fired. Nobody knows how many were killed. Ejaz Ahmed came originally from Balurghat in India.He ran high temperature that night. It was as though they were paying back a debt. Before they reached Chandaikona they had to get down nine times. it would only embarrass others. The situation. After a pitched battle in Bagura the Khan army had surrendered. Then the EPR and the combined strength of the student and youth freedom fighters began to hit back causing damage to the Pakistani armed forces. plenty of trees. Mamun was told. I loved your articles. An old LMF doctor was summoned. Nobody else should know. He would give them shelter if he was still there. The military camp at Ariabazar had also fallen. The passengers would have to help take the vehicle across. The first onslaught on 25th of March took the Bengalis by surprise. now costly. Was this the time for luxuries like having fever — he was annoyed with himself. The next twenty-four hours were spent in a daze. He meekly pushed the vehicle as occasion demanded. He had no desire to live but only for the two young girls he could not afford to die. that was the contract.

asked Mamun. said Ejaz. Any Bengali youth was a target. people of the same religion from whom they had to flee. said Mukul. their daring efforts at ambush merely resulted in heavy casualties. Mamun with his family made for the Hili border in a jeep procured by Ejaz Ahmed. The army set them against the local people. Dhaka is even more troubled. The army had great fun in throwing little children in the air before shooting them. But he could not be traced. . All they had was courage. riots broke out in villages between Bengali and non Bengali Muslims. Who would give us shelter in India. their very own country. Perhaps M. they supported West Pakistan. A riot broke out at Jaipurhat. It reminded Mamun of the Nazi army's assault on Poland and here it was his own army. The Mukti Bahini boys were using this escape route. Mamun mama. The Bihari Muslims even in the last twenty five years had not integrated with the local people. replied Ejaz. dismantled by the villagers to prevent the movement of armed non-Bengalis towards Dhaka. There was panic everywhere that the army was advancing.Pak army were gaining lost ground. He finally met M. Mamun Bhai. Mamunbhai. went past Panchbibi and stopped in front of the sugar mill at Joypurhat.R. They crossed the river. Does not matter. Villages harbouring freedom fighters were indiscriminately torched. asked Monju. Then the army would comb the neighbouring area of Naogan and Bogura. As if this was not enough. The Mukti Bahini had used up their ammunitions. We have no passport or visa either. young girls were being dragged from their homes. particularly for the girls. Escape to India. Please do not waste time. It is not safe. That we may reach the border before the army gets here. husbands. Akhtar Mukul at Khetpal.R. near a wooden bridge. Ejaz Ahmed brought the news that the Pakistani army had recaptured Parbatipur and moving towards Hili in order to seal the border with India. you would not even have that option. You have no idea what those beasts are capable of. brothers. Mamun bhai. Under the circumstances I do not want to keep you here. Mukul persuaded the locals that it was important to set up a parallel government in exile. Once the border is sealed. The country. Army was allowed to indulge in loot and rape. Pray to god. The local EPR had withdrawn towards the Indian border. the border is still open. All roads are blocked. Many are going. the Free Bangla Radio station of Chittagong had been razed to the ground. Girls were being raped in full view of their fathers. They spent the night at the guest house. Akhtar Mukul could be of help. can't we go back to Dhaka. hesitated Ejaz Ahmed. Otherwise the resistance would be shortlived. was no longer safe for Monju and Hena.

Had to leave with family in the riot of fifty. You know something? My home was over on the other end. out with the details. tell me. name. Mamun looked at Mukul. Please step this way. It was one hour past midnight. Two jeeps started for the border at night without any lights. . Barisal. How long would that last? They cast a last look at the motherland and crossed the tracks. father's name. Beyond the tracks India beckoned to them. . I can't possibly forsake them. He looked up once. what? Faced with an uncertain future what could those just stepping from across the border reply to this taunt. what does it feel now. They have children with them. He came up to the railway tracks. All Mamun could do was to pat her head. Everything will be all right. hurry up. To think that people like him who had fought for the creation of Pakistan were now forced to leave the land of their dreams. This question had no answer. Besides. god had a lot more in store. address. It is getting late. without electricity. This way please. extending his hand for a hand shake . we must prepare the ground for a free Bengal where you can come back with honour. Monju broke down. The government officer said impatiently. The Indian officer received them politely. Mamun felt depressed. Mamun was informed by the SDO of Sirajgung. he said. We felt exactly the same way. Stand in single file. The police check post was a tiny room. Then you can retire for the night at the dak bungalow. The Indian Border Police would allow them to cross over. You must be tired but just a few formalities to be filled. Mamun had traveled this way before but that was before the partition. My boys are waiting for me at Baghabari. Suppose they refused them entry. insulted them? Where would they go? Mamun had only two thousand Pakistani rupees with them. He was glum. Now we find both Hindus and Muslims running away.The next day the Pakistani army started moving in. These children have been brainwashed into believing that India was a hostile Hindu country. feel like beating the breast. Well. He wore a vest. The policeman went on. stopping his scribbling. You need not worry. . Where were Yahya Khan and Bhutto now? They are the preserver and destroyer of Pakistan. Aren't you coming with us? Mamun was astonished. following the railway track from Parbatipur. The women kept up a chant of the Surah. The light of a torch was focussed on a fat register before which sat the thin tall daroga. expression stony. Allow me to leave. If you had to quit bag and baggage why make all the fuss in the first place. After midnight the two jeeps reached the Hili railway station. At any cost Mamun and party had to reach Hili before they did. profession. Shamsuddin Saheb. Come on. The man continued — So. A small group of the Bengal Regiment was ready to resist the army.

The only hope was that many of the Awami League leaders and intellectuals had sought refuge m Calcutta. across the bridge. The city of Mamun's youth. trying to sound enthusiastic. that is the Hindu belief. Mirzapur. Hena and Monju cast anxious glances at Mamun. It was a foreign city now. the area around Chowringhee and Park Street was meant for the white sahibs. he wondered how he would be received. After twenty-five years who knows how the city has changed. Do you know anyone in Beckbagan. Look at the Howrah Bridge. Well. Do they allow Muslims in the hotels of Calcutta? The memory of the 1946 riots sent a shiver down his spine. Will she ever be reunited with Babul? Why did her husband stay on? It seemed to Monju that he wanted her to be out of his way. The longest hanging bridge in Asia. You shed a lot of tears to come to Calcutta. carrying a kripan. I know quite a few.Two days later they got down from the train at Howrah. Is he one of those Sikhs who harbour a grudge against all Pakistanis who compelled them to leave Lahore and Karachi? Trying to sound as casual as possible. The driver was a hefty looking Punjabi Sikh. He has not kept track of any of his college friends but ever since he crossed the border the thought of Pratap Majumder has been constantly in his mind. said Mamun. In his student days. That is a tramcar. Lovely. Do they still exist? The trams and buses confused him. He did not know where they were going to stay. Then he turned to Sukhu. 9 THERE was a time when Mamun was familiar with north and central Calcutta but everything was a blur after a lapse of twenty-four years. isn't it? . of his student days. remember? He told Monju. Well. Somehow contact would be made with them. Look at the number of people taking a dip in the river. They came out to an early dawn over Calcutta. But where would he look for them in this big city? The first priority was to find a hotel. Beckbagan. Kalabagan. Rajabazar were populated mostly by Muslims. Mamun hesitated. Kolutola. but have to look for them. Where were they headed in this strange city? Monju regretted having left Dhaka. The hotels in these areas were run by non-Bengali Muslims. That will take time. Park Circus. Never seen one before. Mamun took a taxi. Mamun mama? Monju was apprehensive. you are there at last. Three dips and all your sins are washed off. Mamun asked him to drive to Beckbagan.

full of life. The front page carried a six-column headline about the atrocities of the Pakistan army in Jessore and a picture of three dead bodies on a rickshaw. Mamun was in for a lot of surprises. Gosh. next to a mosque from which the sound of ajan wafted through the microphone. Just you wait and see. What could one expect from a hotel like this. Mamun tried to assure them. Look. Hena was overwhelmed by the bustling crowd. No room to change clothes. she turned up her nose. said Sukhu wisely. soiled appearance and bursting with people. By the time they reached the crossing of Harrison Road Mamun was beginning to realise that this city was very different from the city of his student days. beautiful. the cockroach smell. He was warned by the SDO not to use this word in India. between the CPM and the Congress. here is your pani. A different smell. Mamun mama? Asked Monju. Her mama did not know the answer. not the worn out. Finally they found a hotel after a round of Park Circus and Beckbagan. Said Mamun. First of all. Baba. The first page also carried stories of violence in West Bengal — struggle between the police and the Naxals. You are right. It seemed that they need have no worry on that count. everything. thought Mamun.Looks like a steamer. I am going out. Security was the only concern. He asked for some drinking water. the damp. any stranger could be killed by the Naxals. You better freshen up. she declared. not including food. As far as he could see. With the money he had Mamun could not afford this room for more than ten days. He found a man reading an English newspaper downstairs. Calcutta has a funny smell. the surrounding slums had a Muslim population too. They were shown a fairly big room with three beds on the second floor for fifty rupees a day. carefully avoiding the word pani which was used for water in his part of the country. . Hena pushed open one of the windows. a two-storied bus. Hena came back from the bathroom at the end of the corridor. Everything will work out. contrary to his belief that all such people had left India. Hotel Madina. It was a quarter past six but streams of people thronged the roads. Not like Dhaka. But the hotel-boy bringing water in a tin jug said. How long do we have to stay here. We can look around and then move on to a better place. so dirty. Only it sails on the streets. It used to be sparkling. What a lot of people. He just mumbled. the hotel was run by a Urdu speaking Muslim. Samsuddin saheb had warned him that in some localities of Calcutta. Monju and Hena were put off by the cracks in the wall.

are we not going for some sight seeing? All in good time. A feeling of utter loneliness engulfed him. The descriptions of the military oppression seemed genuine enough but who was this Abdul Azad on the fourth page giving an eyewitness's account of the horrors of the 25th night? Mamun did not know anyone of that name. He would try the newspaper offices first. He remembered the Burman Street office of the Anandabazar Patrika. Within one hundred miles villages were being destroyed. He was a better actor than Raj Kapoor. twenty-four years has not made any difference. it had to be near the GPO. that was what the argument was about. The journalists would know about the leaders of East Bengal. Where was he. Akhtar Mukul about his whereabouts. What do the Urdu newspapers have to say about such atrocities? Mamun could not read Urdu and he was scared to ask any stranger. As Mamun stepped into the street the sharp April sun pierced his body. Everything came back. people hanging precariously from the doorway. The front page also carried pictures and stories of thousands of refugees streaming into India. thought Mamun. The lodging at Ripon Street where he used to stay would not be too far either. Quite unexpectedly he found most of the customers reading Urdu newspapers and speaking in Urdu. His body was still not completely fit. Next morning he forced himself to go out and do something.He wanted to buy a Bengali newspaper. . thousands of innocent people were being killed and these people here could not care less. I will take you everywhere. Give me a couple of days. . But the paper printed a different address. At least he could talk to them freely. Baba. Some people at an adjoining table were heatedly discussing the merits of two popular Bombay film stars. Not an inch of open space anywhere. And Muhammad Rafi was head and shoulders over Hemant Kumar. Did they take him to be a Hindu. said Mamun. Perhaps the man was using a pseudonym. though crowded. The area seemed vaguely familiar. Michael Madhusudan lay in the new Christian Cemetery. Well. The trams were already packed to the brim. Not too far was the Park Circus maidan. He bought a copy of the Bengali daily Anandabazar Patrika and entered a teashop. A refugee like these people. Should he go out and look for friends? But who were his friends? He had none. He reached a four-point crossing.R. in his old Mirpur? By some strange magic this teashop has remained fixed in the past. since he was reading a Bengali paper? When he was an active worker of the Muslim League they had burnt some copies of this paper. what am I. To the left is the old Park Street cemetery. If only he had asked M. No other actress was as great as Nargis and Saira Banu. He dozed off again. Someone named Dilip Kumar was actually a Muslim. Since the postal zone was 1. He was about to leave when Hena asked him. He noticed a board saying No Beef . Muslim women were being raped by Muslim soldiers. what was being done to continue the struggle for liberation. Further on. . After a long nap he debated about his next course of action. As he listened to these men Mamun’s astonishment kept growing.

The army was sure to have chopped his head off but he has given them the slip. The editor Sagarmoy Ghosh was short. A very respected man of Dhaka. eyes swollen was the very picture of dejection. I thought if I could talk to some people here. He got into a tram headed for Esplanade. But Santosh Kumar Ghosh's office was crowded. I don't. Which district? Sylhet by any chance? But Mamun's eyes had strayed to a man at an adjoining table. I will be back in no time. Amit babu. Then you can't see him. Sagar-da. Mamun was taken to the office of the magazine. Mamun had spent about twelve years in the city. What did you say? Dhaka? Joi Bangla? Come in. gave him a fixed stare then beamed — Mamun bhai? We had heard of your arrest. Really? Amit babu greeted him warmly. Here. He introduced Mamun to everybody around. Let me take you to Santosh-da. just joined his palms in a namaskar. Gaffar. The editor indeed. Finally he located the office of the newspaper though its iron-gate and security staff bore no resemblance to the old office. writing furiously. took him to a gentleman and announced. used to edit a daily paper. Well is it possible to see any journalist? Where are you from? Why are you here? You see I too am a journalist from Dhaka. He led Mamun to the lift. stocky and serious looking. I escaped through the Hili border. He does not see anyone without appointment. Has no time for the likes of you. please write your name on this slip. Do take a seat. Can I see the news editor then? He is a busy man. Gaffar was like a godsend. he was not likely to lose his way. Look here mister. her sari disheveled. How did you escape? They couldn't arrest me. Don't go out of the room. aren't you? he asked softly. a reporter. The man sprang into attention. Do you have an appointment? No. come in. He was walking past a counter. Mamun touched his back. Evidently she had been crying. Where do you think you are going? To see the editor. understand? Keep an eye on Sukhu. A hefty whiskered chap almost pounced on him. they could not get in. The man turned. Then he said. . he is the boss.Monju. this gentleman is from Dhaka. He did not say anything. Meet Syed Mojammel Haque. His manner changed completely. Desh. Going up to the editor Gaffar introduced his prize exhibit.

At least till nineteen sixty-five. After all how much can Desh pay you? You have come as a refugee. The editor kept his mouth shut. So glad to meet you. He kept lighting one cigarette after another. Where have you put up? In a hotel. What did you say the name is? Syed Mojammel Haque? Sounds familiar . Fantastic memory! Anything in Bengali print and he has read it. You have a book of poems — Butterfly of the Sky. Put in some personal touches. explained Gaffar. Beaming. I want the account tomorrow. Do give us an account of your adventure. The readers want to know what is happening in East Pakistan. the way Mamun bhai has traveled hundred and fifty miles with two girls and a child — it is a thrilling story of adventure. said Mamun. it is written by you. said Mamun. . Of course I will write. It ran a column by you under a pseudonym. said Mamun.I used to be a regular reader of your journal. You know what he told me when I was introduced to him? That song about Ekushe February . You used to write poems in the Saogat. This is Santosh-da for you. I hope you will like it. Confessed Mamun. For all his put-on sternness there was a streak of a naughty child in Santosh Kumar. Can you give it tomorrow? I am much obliged to you. yes of course. Syed Mojammel Haque. Were you at Dhaka on the night of the twenty-fifth? Have you seen any military action? Quite a lot. You know Sagar-da. casually threw a crumpled paper in a wastebasket. Robbed a bank or what? Mamun laughed. I have read the book. I do not like interruptions. . . you need money. the man fidgeted continually. understand? But Sagarmoy Babu of Desh has also asked me write about it. am I right? Mamun was speechless. Short of stature. Gaffar introduced Mamun. You edited a paper Dinkal. Hang your Desh. spoke sharply to a person standing before him. When the man was gone. he just stared at this man. A little later Gaffar took Mamun to Santosh Kumar Ghosh. . I am rather out of touch. That was what had kept him from opening his mouth. His silk kurta had food stains. That is all. isn't it? Will you keep quiet? Santosh Kumar snapped at Gaffar. not a cut and dried article. he turned to Mamun. Gaffar volunteered more information. All on a sudden the editor stood up and walked up to the window and spat out the pan juice. . I want you to write here. Then all newspapers and journals from this side stopped. Ghose did a salaam.

People call me just Mamun . Well if he has a telephone. We would not even mention it in Dhaka. You know something? I used to work for the paper Mohammadi when you wrote poetry in Saogat. This is supposed to be a nationalist daily but nationalism somehow is not fashionable in India. Anybody else you know? Yes. he asked. you must be from Coomilla. that is why. They attack and blow up presses. just a minute. I had no idea we have so many well-wishers in this country. Santosh Kumar pondered over this. . Sorry. . You can drop that Syed saheb. He flipped through its pages. Would you like some advance? Walking with Gaffar outside the newspaper building. That is not the way. Irony of fate! 10 A group of familiar faces. . must be a District Judge by now. I come from Faridpur. What is he? Was a Munsif. There was no need to ask a question. felt Mamun. Syed saheb you are free to do a regular feature if you want. You seem to know a lot of people. . Mamun admitted. right? Within half an hour Mamun felt as if he has known this gentleman for a long time. Now they are our greatest supporters. You and I seem to be of the same age. Don't recall the surname.Santosh Kumar went on. You are . I should have thought of that. waiting in silence near the entrance of the PG Hospital made Pratap stop in his tracks. Ananda Bazar had always been anti-Pakistan. Gaffar is contributing to our paper. Pratap Majumder? Pratap Majumder — does he write by any chance? No I do not think so. . Can you help me trace an old friend. You will find posters in praise of the Chinese Chairman. Even hospital gates had to be guarded these days. Meanwhile Santosh Kumar bellowed at all and sundry. That will take care of your expenses here. Bimanbehari. But tell me something. Why is this office guarded like a fortress? The Naxals. let me guess. nobody of that name. Finally the directory was handed to him. It will take time. I am not sure. The leftists hate this newspaper. Two police vans waited. his name would be in the phone directory. You and I would be working for them.

that was a stray incident. All blood drained from his face. I knew him. Tell me Biman. I still refuse to accept this. Presently Bimanbehari emerged from the compound. Nonsense. Just because some loafers take it into their head. Judges. He was a good man. But they were not targeting businessmen. The murdered man was a confirmed criminal. nothing to do with these political killings. Would you like to wait? He asked Pratap. for God's sake. teachers. If this goes on there would be no civilised life left. From Berhampur. we met last week and he had to come to this end for no reason. said Bimanbehari. The idea was to spread terror. Is it really? Will Bablu ever come back? Why not? The case against him will be dropped. do not misunderstand me Pratap. He has been murdered. Pratap was silent. I feel so guilty. himself. in fact he was going to contest in the coming parliament elections. With the kind of things happening who will bother about that incident which took place two and a half years ago? . Oh. a man of learning yet he had to meet an untimely end because a few misguided youth resorted to killing for the sake of killing. you tell me. What is going on? Kiron. Every time I hear of such wanton killing I simply die within. We can go to the cremation ground later. his brows puckered more in distaste than in sorrow. He opened his car door. Moreover. what a useless waste. Pratap shook his head. I did not mean to hurt you. Biman Behari's anger evaporated. Heard about Santosh Bhattacharjee too. What kind of lawlessness is this. The papers related to the case are missing. It will be quite some time. Good thing that he had learnt shooting otherwise you would have lost him too. Is there no protection? he was furious. his gang had attacked Bablu and his friends with bombs and rods. It is all in the past now. heard it from Ranjit. How many times do I have to tell you that Bablu acted in self-defence. From where did Bablu get a revolver? When did he learn shooting? There is no doubt that the shot was fired by him. Bimanbehari went on.Last minutes efforts at the hospital could not save Kironlal Roy. Justice of the High Court who was shot in front of his house at Kumartuli. He was a prominent figure in the teachers' movement. the accomplice who had supplied the revolver. is dead. Ranjit Gupta has told me so. As both took their seats he snapped. policemen. Pratap was not convinced. Manik Bhatchaj. The statement given by Bablu's friend Tapan and that of the criminals have matched. You would have acted in the same way in a similar situation. what can I do to atone for my sins? Pratap said very softly. sooner or later. Come with me then. Was one of our regular buyers. my boyhood friend. This man was stabbed by some youngsters on his way home. For god's sake don't be obsessed with that. Each will be on the other's throat. government officers were being killed at random. Why should you be responsible? What do you mean? I am not responsible? It is my own son who has started this. Which Santosh Bhattacharjee? Pratap did not recall anybody of that name. What a waste.

Let us go back. Can't even go back to my own home. .A. What should we do now. a first class first in his B. Is this a civilised country? Pratap. His friend went on. Inform the police? I think we should go back and assess the situation. Any attempt to resist would have cost my life. But why did they take him? The owner has no clue. a taxi pulled up near the lamppost. . Nothing you or I would be . By now the crowd had dispersed. Bemanbehari leaned out of the car window.Pratap let out a sigh. He says the boy was a good student. sir. After all we are inside the car. Better to inform Lal Bazar. it was deserted in front of Biman's house . We could have waited. No. And you stood and watched it? What could we do? They had daggers and pipe gun. It may be a false alarm. There was an attempt on your life earlier. No need to panic. Suppose three hoodlums come and pick him up like they did to day. just arrived from Seuri. As if sitting inside a car is any protection. they need protection. though a few could be seen at the turn. three men jumped out and dragged the assistant of the shop keeper and made off with him. Screams could be heard. Biman behari ordered the driver. A fair youth came forward. . The sight of us might trigger their anger. What is there to fear after all. Turn around. Something dangerous. Bimankaka. They may have a grudge against you. exclaimed Bimanbehari emotionally. They came back to Bhowanipur. The women in the house. People were rushing about in panic. Let us not panic. Still I feel we should go back and take stock. The car reached Bimanbehari's house. Mamata must be missing him. What is happening. suppose they have attacked my house! Why would they? Is there any logic any more? Why did they set fire to our Krishnanagar house? Let us go back. What was the hangama about? He enquired. Justice Kironlal Roy was inside his car. The driver too seemed to agree with Pratap. The car negotiated a risky U-turn and sped towards Elgin Road. You can let Bablu know that he is free to come back.. I think it would not be a good idea to ask Bablu to come. But of course he may not know. . had no truck with the party. As they approached Bimanbehari's house a curious scene greeted them. You see that electrical goods shop over there. turn around. Let us not take undue risk. The young chap was the owner’s nephew.

The telephone at the press is out of order.able to do. destroyed all papers. a meaningless fight for some new interpretation of Marxism given by the Chinese leader Mao tse Dong. After severe torture for a couple of days the Bengali population is hitting back. Apparently she has left for the press. And to think that the youth this side of the border are indulging in killing their own flesh and blood at a time when the Bengali youth on the other side were locked in a grim battle to regain their national pride. judges. would the lost lives come back? Bright young students. Coomilla. Resistance has been organised all over the country. . The Mukti Bahini has stopped the onward march of the Khan army who were torching village after village. Pratap turned to the newspaper. and clerks. Pratap turned to the report on the Coomilla front. between the civilians. Chuadanga. He was absolutely parched. So the Bengalis have really taken up arms once again as they did in the age of the Baro Bhuian. As concrete proof of the valour of the Mukti Bahini. Was a sabre jet really downed in Jessore? The Chittagong airport taken over? The Pakistan army has fled from Mymensing? Some of these might be highly coloured but there was no doubt that a battle was raging. I warned her so many times. I would not be surprised if the body of the young chap is found near the rail tracks tomorrow. A handful of army Majors and Colonels have come over to their side. He had something to show Pratap. It was an unequal fight. What is to be done. Seven Pathan soldiers were dumped . Nothing was impossible these days. Suppose Mao was to say that he was mistaken. They are all praise for the Mukti Bahini . He picked up the newspaper and tried to concentrate. helped by some police and border security personnel. Familiar names — Rangpur. their national honour Blood for blood seems to be the only rule in west Bengal. Bimanbehari pondered a little then agreed. She is not to go to the College Street. Amherst Street area. What does Bangladesh mean? Who renamed that country? Has Pakistan already given up all claims? Where was Sheikh Mujib? And other leaders of the Awami League? Presently Bimanbehari was back. they have come back again. Some of the accounts might be exaggerated. teachers. Some ruffians could have entered this house. faces distorted in fright. He looked upset. honest. Mymensing. to the heartening news of the encounters between the almost unarmed Mukti Bahini and the well equipped Pakistani army. Oli is not back. Why don't you send the car to bring her back from the press? suggested Pratap. Don't they realise the cowardice of it? The boys on the other side are fighting against automatic rifles and light machine guns and the boys here are content to stab helpless teachers on their way home. the newspapers printed photographs of Pakistani soldiers who have crossed over and surrendered to the Indian Border Security Forces. Pratap poured some water from the pitcher and drank two glasses. The Bengali newspapers have started referring to East Pakistan as Bangladesh. He asked Pratap to wait in his office while he climbed upstairs. Their huge frames mutilated. The BBC and its English correspondents confirmed it. . such was the fear generated by the thinny and skinny Bengali boys. All full of news of East Pakistan. They preferred to fall into the hands of the Indians. idealists have taken up arms merely to kill innocent people. Bogura. thrown a bomb. Pratap's heart swelled in pride.

Are they not aware of this scientific truth? Oli promptly changed the subject. No. Forgotten us it seems. thought Pratap. The only thing is who would be helping father if I go away. That boy must have been involved in some action at Seuri. You must have heard of the incident. You know something Biman? Your daughter wants to go abroad to study. Pratap felt strangely elated. Mamata would be delighted. He has got his driving license too. Bablu has got a new job. Who knows. She went upstairs. trudging across fields to reach Mamun's home. don't you hear from him? Oli smiled. Well I do not have the latest news. . I had applied in seven Universities. Where were you? Asked Pratap. Oli was the only person who could control him. Pratap stared at her. He said. His college friend Mamun. I will wire to Bablu. . I am planning to go to the States. Wonderful. Well he is a poor letter writer. You decide about the university and let me know. Does this mean Bablu is not in touch with her. Wanted to know about how he is doing. Oli drew a chair and sat down. Action. But every action has an equal and opposite reaction. three have accepted me. Beads of perspiration stood on her forehead yet she looked as fresh as an autumn flower. You need not bother. that's about all. We were worried sick. Why.into the river. I see. where was he now? And the house where Bula lived — did anyone live there now? Memory of a storm soaked night. Don't you worry. You know Pratap kaka. The town of Coomilla floated before his eyes. The car has gone to fetch you. he hardly ever writes. She said casually. Pratap kaka. It seems he is having a good time in the States. I did. busy. I want to surprise him. Yes. We are there. You know I met an old friend of Babluda's. Very cut and dried. He writes to his mother fairly regularly. . some day they might get married and settle down. In our days action used to have a different meaning. will be moving to the west very soon. The letters to his mother are never more than ten lines. When Bimanbehari came down he told him. Now it is up to me. going to Bula's . how long have you been here? It was Oli. Some new courses he has been taking. She still worried about her hot tempered son. I don't think your father would object.

I will keep one with me. Risk my foot. What is the matter? Pratap was curious. Excellent stuff. We must act in self-defence.Bimanbehari was trying to open the lock of a box he had brought. That is all. . are like his own Bablu. Bimanbehari replied. To his utter astonishment. . I have to. He put it against his cheek. But these are not the stolen ones. Revolution indeed. After all these boys misguided as they were. Pratap found a pair of revolvers on a dark blue velvet pad. Didn't you? Still intent on opening the box. But of what use will they be to you? Besides it would be risky if word gets around that you possess arms. Pratap shook his head. Money is no problem. You won't be able to. You do not know my daughter. Those ruffians should be shot like mad dogs. My life is not that cheap. She can be very stubborn. Absolutely like new. . Meanwhile do not force her. I do not want to impose my opinion. I can pay for her passage if she does not get the Fulbright or anything else. May be they will repent one day. Mauser guns. beauty. I see. Yet he picked up one. Habu . He had nothing to say. You do not sound enthusiastic. the better. He sounded indifferent. this would be an invitation to them to come and snatch the arms. Let her. . . Bimanbehari touched the guns with infinite care. . You too. Tit for tat. I can get you a license. Besides. Do you mean Mauser pistols from Roda company . in these troubled times. It is they who will kill you. had always been in the family. With her result she is sure to get a scholarship. . The future after all is theirs. If they think patricide is a way to bring in revolution then let it be. This is what you had always wanted. He opened the lid of the box. He wished he could use it to save the life of a single exploited Bengali across the border. That was how the attacks against the English had begun. What is that supposed to mean? Fifty Mauser pistols were stolen from Malanga Lane during the British rule. Easier said than done. Malanga Lane . For god's sake Biman. the more young people get away from this city. On the other hand. They were bought by my grandfather. You can keep the other one if you wish. I must resist. Bought by my grandfather from Roda Company. if that is what she wants. so smooth so cold to the touch. But she wants it now. You are not going to do any such thing. Beauty. A few terrorists disguised as cart pullers did it.

not that it was going to last long. So the two girls were up already. It might reassure the two girls. Mamun felt a little embarrassed. Don't go. Three days ago. . Do you have to go. don't go. It was much better than the hotel. It took Mamun a lot of persuasion to make them agree. not to-day. yesterday it had come down to seventy-five. I will be back before evening. Four thirty. Hena had to call him twice. though it was too early for breakfast. His heart was thumping like an engine . Don't you worry. He was not religious by nature but it was a special day and he needed to concentrate. you wanted to be woken up at four thirty. said Hena. Informed Hena. . He was going to be witness to a historic event. If you have. As he changed. Monju stood with a cup of tea next to the bed. The only hope was money from writing. . they had moved to a house in Beckbagan. We will be scared without you. What is the matter? He asked in a troubled voice. Oh come on. Would you like some more? asked Monju. Two hundred and fifty rupees for a fairly large room with a kitchen. Fortunately he had converted all his money. He must publish at least four or five a month. Quickly finishing his second cup Mamun lit a cigarette and left for the bathroom. In a few days nobody in this Bengal would even touch that currency. This was very unusual. Please baba. Be quick. Suddenly he knelt down for namaz.11 MAMUN woke up with a start. Monju pleaded. Mamun mama? Hena joined in. Is there water in the tap? I filled up the bucket last night. After he finished. He refused to eat but Monju insisted. His first article fetched one hundred fifty. But the girls kept insisting. But the girls looked alarmed. Hena had toast and omelette ready for him. On the first day at Calcutta Mamun got eighty-eight Indian rupees for one hundred Pakistani rupees. He took long sips. I will not be alone. The value of Pakistani money was steadily going down. He would be obliged to sell gold ornaments which sold for one hundred and eighty-nine per tola. What time is it? I am late. You may go on some other day. he could feel a growing excitement.

Mamun wiped her tears. Only shrubs and cultivated fields. Even at this hour quite a few people were out. Nobody spoke. curious and expectant. Yusoof Ali climbed on a jeep and asked the car to follow. Strange that it should not have a proper building like the Dhaka Press Club. village after village was being burnt. Gavaskar has hit his third century in the West Indies. Vendors spread their wares by the roadside. Be careful. fringed by flowering gulmohur trees. It was through him that he was here today. He was put in an Ambassador car with some foreign journalists. Put the once beautiful Curzon Park looked so different that Mamun could hardly recognise it. Sukhu. He was an old acquaintance whom Mamun had accidentally met a few days ago. Quarter to six. fight is on between civilians and the military. The convoy sped through Chittaranjan Avenue. Mamun overheard. The clang of the tram-car brought back memories of his student days. It was still called Jessore Road. Taxies waited near the Beckbagan crossing. apparently a tea break. past the Shambazar crossing and reached Jessore Road. Calcutta was a much bigger metropolis than Dhaka. I'll come back and take you to the Metro for a film show. look how strong she is. The Red Road at least was the same as before. three people stood next to a big ox and discussed the sews. Don't be silly. The first trams were trundling by. He stared out of the window. The convoy stopped at Krishnanagar. During the Second World War planes used to land here. probably the taxies plied all night. Mamun remembered many Hindu gentlemen used to take the early trams for a dip in the Ganga. Old people were out for their morning stroll. About eighty miles down this road is Jessore where all hell is let loose. She burst out crying. Madhyamgram. Are they headed for this Jessore? Nobody talked in the car. Mamun did not feel like striking up a conversation with strangers. His voice cracked with tension. He got down at the Dharmatala crossing. he wondered. The names of Dumdum. About a dozen cars were parked in front of the Press Club and about thirty journalists stood around. no use spending money on a taxi. Do they still do it. Already he noticed the brisk movement of the newspaper hawkers. Mamun sought Yusoof Ali out. He had to ask a few morning walkers to get to the tent where the Press Club was housed. The journalists . But even he was not told about the destination. The Monument somehow looked shorter. even after twenty-four years of partition. In actual fact they had to wait for the return of an advance party to find out which part of the border was the safest. Out in the street the Mamun found the sky getting lighter. They did not know where they would be taken. He took a tram. Look at Hena.He went to the adjoining room and kissed the sleeping child. A quiet ordinary eventless day. people were busy buying vegetables. Barasat were familiar but the place was not so crowded then. Monju bent down to touch her uncle's feet for kadambusi. Meanwhile pray to God for Bangladesh. He put his hand on the shoulders of the girls. Do not budge out of the house. There were some foreigners among them. Don't open the door to anyone.

he reminded himself. I see. He needs no identification. the journalist went on. it was Bangladesh now. Ji. True enough people from the neighbouring villages were trying to surge forward. Which paper are you from? Sorry. Armed soldiers circled the area. Mamun experienced a strange thrill. Close by is the mangogrove of Plassey. the mud houses were identical. the news has leaked that Mujib Nagar would be set up at this mangrove. A journalist from one of the Calcutta papers walked up to him. He will be speaking. where we lost our freedom to the British. Replied Mamun. A leader of the Awami League. I am not a reporter. Look at the crowd. Can you tell me which one is Tajjuddin? Can you arrange for an exclusive interview? Mamun could not help smiling. Tajjuddin Saheb has not come yet. I belong to this Bengal. They had been asked not to ask questions. This means he is not with Pakistan. the trees. In fact the demand for a free Bengal was his idea but I am not sure if he would be attending this meeting. We crossed Krishnanagar a little while ago. I used to be a journalist like you. Neither the Muslim League nor the Jamat-e-Islam wanted dismemberment of Pakistan. But the armed soldiers would not . Mamun was back in his motherland. Some men were busy arranging chairs. Once the word reached them how long would it take for the Pakistani planes to fly from Jessore? If all the Awami League leaders were killed or taken into custody the fight for independence would receive a jolt. collected from nearby houses. because no answer would be given. Some in the crowd could be spies. This then was Bangladesh. In spite of the strict secrecy. the people. The Indian . This Kusthia used to be part of Nadia district. all tight lipped. I am not a leader. Have they crossed the border to enter East Pakistan? Oh no. Is Maulana Vasani coming? Is he with you in this fight? I believe he has crossed over to India. Mamun got down from the car. Leaving the tarred road the cars proceeded along a dusty track. At last the cars came to a stop in the middle of a huge mangrove. To think that in another neighbouring mangogrove in the same district — the free nation of Bangladesh is being born. Who were these people? Mamun had a sudden sense of premonition. This was village Baidyanathtala. Have you noticed something Syed Saheb.allow them in so many were climbing up the trees. He felt a flutter in his heart. The landscape was identical. subdivision Meherpur. Interesting thought. isn't it? Mamun agreed. Am I right? He asked.drank tea from the roadside stalls. some were broken down. most of them without hand rests. district Kusthia. But some houses bore burn signs. They looked like a rebel group from East Pakistan Rifles.

A week ago declaration of an independent Bangladesh was made from a building in Theatre Road. everybody looked relaxed and cheerful. Bhutan. Today. Nobody knew from where they were procured. Osmani was Commander in Chief of the Bangladesh Army.P. We are eventually going to drive out the foreign forces. the Prime Minister of a newborn nation. Syed Nazrul Islam all were there but not Sheikh Mujib who was the most important person. When he spoke he exuded confidence. H. His whereabouts were still not known. Everything ended well. The journalists encircled Tajuddin. there is the Soviet Union. Though absent. Retired Col. Have one. The historic document was read out by the Chief Whip Yusoof Ali. Bangladesh has been born. Then the Acting President received guard of honour from a platoon of I. Syed Nazrul Islam would be acting President. he said. Sikkim . I am still too stunned to believe that it has happened. So you have formed a new government. Tajjuddin was the Prime Minister. A crash was heard.M. Arun Sengupta was undaunted. . Pakistan broken in two. The next day's newspaper would bring a bombshell to the Pakistani rulers. Passing a packet of cigarettes. Three names in the cabinet were Khondakar Mustaq Ahmed. There was silence for a few seconds. He distributed sweets. Finally the proceedings began after eleven. on 17th April. said Arun Sengupta. M. Entire Bangladesh is free except the army installations. asked a foreign journalist. Which countries are going to recognise this Bangladesh? In my opinion India will do it tonight. Why. The handful of EPR men would not last long before an army onslaught. Arun Sengupta was quite resourceful. Tajjuddin. He was a handsome man with curly hair and a quick smile.R. The question is. they have made that very clear. it was a branch of a tree giving way under pressure of too many people. Was it the Pakistani army? No. Calcutta. Their earlier apprehension was gone now. Kamarujjaman and M. Then other friendly nations will follow. Mansur Ali. . Mamun wished they would begin the deliberations soon. His Hawaiian shirt had a number of pockets. He spoke slowly but with confidence. I did not know India had friends. temporary headquarter of Mujib Nagar. And to think that we have been witness to this historic event. . mocked the British newspaperman. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's name was announced as the President. The journalist from a Bengali daily who had spoken to Mamun traveled in the same car. a British newspaperman sounded sceptical.Army would not set foot this side of the border. But how much of the country has been freed? Tajjuddin looked around. and Nepal. formal inauguration of free Bangladesh Government was done on its soil.

for shame golden China . They would have formed the government if it was not for Yahya Khan and Bhutto. And the Awami League will provide the leadership? Other parties like the leftists. Put in the British media man. Arun Sengupta took out a notebook. don't you see? Till you have your own election don't you think the proper thing would have been to form an all party national cabinet? Is the war for independence to be fought only by the Awami League? Certainly not. In the newly formed cabinet. Difficult for you people isn't it? You must have dinner with me tonight. The people of Bangladesh are fighting it. Bangladesh. that is what. Don't quote me please. The war may have stopped the supply. what do you say? Suddenly he dropped his voice. a time when you should have looked beyond party considerations. Ten years ago we were so Pally. This is a time of crisis. the extremists. Do you think that was right? Why. hopefully. Oh China. The people do not get fish. They had to make do with rice. I am fond of egg curry. I suppose you are right. sorry. Lunch without fish. the religious organisations may not accept that leadership. smuggled from Pakistan. what is wrong in it? Mamun was surprised. Well the chairman of China happens to be your chairman too if I am to believe your posters. under Pakistan government. Mamun hesitated. observed Mamun. Pressure of population. A feeling of guilt persisted for having been a part of an earlier no less historic blunder. Mamun caught hold of his hand. smiled Arun Sengupta. his heart still fluttering was in no mood to take part in the conversation. Usually these hotels serve very good fish. . In West Bengal fish is very costly. But that was a different election. None of these people would understand what was going on in his mind. At about three they stopped at Krishnanagar for lunch. not entitled to speak on behalf of Bangladesh government. Hindi Chini Bhai Bhai and all that crap. So the Pakistan of their dreams could not be saved. But no match on the ilish from Padma and rui from Sirajgung. Mamun. all are from the Awami League. . I have no truck with politics. I am just a refugee.Another Bengali journalist mimicked a well known poem and sang. When they extend this small cabinet they will include other parties. Tell me something Syed Saheb. . protested Mamun. This China is now supporting every barbarian act of Pakistan. It was a mixture of jubilation and sadness. dal and egg curry. The Awami League got an overwhelming majority in the last election. We get our supply from Punjab and Rajasthan.

Right inside Kushthia. I will send letters to them through the boys of the Mukti Bahini. Sukhu was at the door. stupid girl. if the Pakistani Deputy High Commision had joined forces with Bangladesh. He went up. There was no news either of Feroza or Babul. Mamun fiddled with a cheap transistor he had bought a couple of days ago. A group of young boys were discussing cricket in front of the sweet shop completely oblivious of the stupendous change in the history of the sub-continent. . And your country is Bangladesh . Bengali. Come on now. Monju. humming to himself. . from now on we are no longer Pakistani we are Bengali. Mamun felt he should not have been so jubilant. How about a song Monju? Sing that one — amar sonar Bangla ami tomay bhalobasi. they have left the civilians alone. thought Mamun. Is the war over then? Well no. Sukhu Mia my pet. She too looked apprehensive. Mamun waved to them then bought some sweets. The Deputy High Commissioner.They reached Calcutta. It is such a happy day. so are Chittagong and Faridpur. Mamun fell into a deep slumber. But to-day Mamun wanted to listen to All India Radio. He had to lie to them. Monju began hesitantly. . How can they be occupied with such trifling things. How far is Madaripur from there? Did you have any news of Ma? Mamun felt a little ashamed. Usually they observed a total silence about the Mukti Bahini and concentrated on fictitious stories about the forays of the disguised Indian army inside East Pakistan to torture innocent civilians. have some sandesh. Inside the closed door. Was it for the sake of his job? Mamun wondered. . The Khan army has gone back to the cantonment. Meherpur. encore. Mamun postponed his dinner with Sengupta for a later date. Hossain Ali however had been loyal to Pakistan. Hena was sceptical. If Indira Gandhi refrained from recognising the newly formed Bangladesh? Tired and emotionally drained. to find out if India had granted recognition. From what I heard there is nothing to worry. not yet but it will be over soon. We shall overcome animal power. From the street he saw Monju and Hena waiting for him at the upstairs window. The shop owner exchanged angry words with a customer over a soiled ten-rupee note. Baba. amar sonar bangla ami tomay bhalobasi. do you mean to say that you really went inside Bangladesh? Yes I did. Mamun waved his hands like a conductor and kept saying. her face beaming asked. Mamun picked him up and danced a jig. You know what you are? A Bengali. what do you know. . So trying to look cheerful he said. Dhaka is quiet. Our army was there. The Pakistanis did not dare to come near. After the terrifying days following 25th March this miserable family had at long last an occasion to celebrate. Neither the local news nor the national had anything on this issue. Hena and Sukhu joined. He put Sukhu down and glanced at Monju. encore . He listened to the barrage of falsehood broadcast from Dhaka in the hope that a glimmer of truth might emerge. He bought sweets and raced upstairs.

Hossain Ali's family. There was a feeling that India would not interfere in internal matters of Pakistan or risk war. While Hemanta Mukhopadhyay sang on and on. It created a ripple. It was common knowledge that no Bengali officer would be kept in high posts. We were in college together. The building of the High Commission would be in their possession. The first call of the robin was heard. Pratap. He wished to switch over to Bangladesh along with his seventy-one employees. afraid that he might be put under bar there refused to let him go. The green and gold flag of Bangladesh fluttered over the mission. It was an occasion to celebrate. claimed a letter writer. A wrong move by Yahya Khan. said the main politely. musicians. artists. The man turned around. Don't you recognise me Pratap. The slate coloured sky indicated there was no hope for the sun. However there was a piece of good news. She could not possibly ask anyone to leave work to accompany her to the airport. bright sun was followed by icy wind. I do not know you. A picture of dandelions by the road-side has appeared on the Time. She had to go to the airport at five. Journalists. A High Commission changing allegiance was direct proof that Pakistan was really breaking up. Pratap. At long last they had a place to meet. He stared at Mamun. Government of India was tight lipped about the new state. the temperature dropped by the afternoon. My name is not Pratap. You are making a mistake sir. happy and jubilant. Thousands of people flocked to that building which was now renamed Bangladesh Mission. I am Mamun. Tutul brought out her overcoat. 12 OFFICIALLY it was spring. Shirin was the only one she approached but she refused saying a visit to the airport makes her homesick. a transfer order for the Deputy High Commissioner to Rawalpindi turned out to be the last straw. intellectuals and political leaders who had taken refuge in India all came. The sight of someone familiar near the dais on which a musical concert was going on had Mamun startled. He touched the unknown man on the shoulder and exclaimed. . Mamun pushed the people around him to get near the platform. The thermometer outside the window showed the mercury dropping below ten. Yet. It was Hossain Ali who got in touch with Tajjuddin this time. It was quarter to three. his voice choked with emotion.The next two days were agonising. most unpredictably.

Yet she wished somebody was with her. Alam was stranded at Lahore. at the airport when she first landed. But why he left Dhaka for Lahore was a mystery. but setting the army against innocent civilians was an absurd idea. Her eyes smarted. Tutul found it not so intolerable now. Calcutta newspapers available at the India Office Library indicated a state of civil war in Pakistan. the Soviet Union or America have said anything in protest. blared the public address system. The exact situation in Pakistan was still not very clear. But when he saw her he was so surprised that he forgot his theatrical gimmicks. His friends in London doubted if he would be able to come out of Pakistan at all. the only country to kick up a row was India. Why couldn't Alam write? Was the strange voice on the phone trying a practical joke? Tutul was beginning to grow sceptical. No. She did not want to be embarrassed. After the fateful 25th of March. she felt dizzy. . Alam. One salwar-clad lady fixed her gaze at Tutul. there have been some skirmishes. Tutul tried her best not to show the excitement she was feeling and managed to look unperturbed. The driver of an overtaking car looked at Tutul and winked. In fact she did not know much about trees and flowers but in London it was customary to discuss gardens even though your garden may be just a strip. Neither China. his suit hung loose over his shoulder. Alam looked distinctly thinner. Tutul left the crowd and walked outside. Entire East Pakistan was up in arms against the atrocities of the Pakistan army. They may have met somewhere. The PIA flight has landed right on time. No. she must be steady. Suddenly Alam's lanky form appeared at the doorway and Tutul's heart missed a beat. In her letter last week. This had taken some getting used to. the negotiation between the Awami League and Yahya Khan has failed. but either Italian or Greek. it will not do to faint now. Her first encounter with Alam had been here. He looked taller. Most of the passengers had come out but Tutul had to stay on till the last one left. These were actually horse chestnut though Tutul did not know the difference. He might lift her before all these people. The passengers were coming out with a lot of luggage. Tutul was able to make out the difference by now. That was her problem. There was trouble in Dhaka all through March but Alam insisted that he had to go. This was an important day. that would have been a bit too much. She did not know any of them. The chestnut trees had sprouted new leaves. She felt her head going round. Tutul had a few questions but he put the phone down rather abruptly. He was busy talking to a well dressed person and did not glance towards Tutul. Usually she took the tube but today she brought the car out. But Tutul never spoke to a stranger unless spoken to. She parked her car at the parking area of the Heathrow airport and proceeded to the area outside the customs where others waited. This cannot happen in the second half of the twentieth century. And now she has come to receive him. but then her letters never contained any political news. checked the petrol and switched on the heater. All his papers including passport and travellers-cheques had been stolen. The British press did publish the news of the crackdown but has been silent ever since. Tutul's mother did not mention the war. Circumstances have changed. Actually Tutul was informed by a stranger on the phone that he might come to-day. Alam's friends however did not believe such stories. she knew was given to melodrama. Perhaps she should have bought some roses. True. There has been no communication from Dhaka in last one month. In all probability the man was not English. There were quite a few men and women who seemed to be Indian and Pakistani. Alam was not to be seen.So she took an extra overcoat and set out alone. She has not been keeping well lately. They felt those reports were grossly exaggerated in the Indian media. Pakistan's sworn enemy.

spoke broken Bengali. Of course not. he protested mildly. It was on the twentyfourth. traveler's cheque. This is Shahjahan Choudhury. It will be on the way. now settled in London. I am quite alive and kicking though it was a narrow escape. Were you carrying the handbag? Asked Shahjahan. from Calcutta. We will drop you. Alam lit a cigarette. a journalist of Ittefak. Tutul spoke. It was definitely a staged affair. Meanwhile a crowd had gathered. When we were crossing Jubilee Park a police car came from the opposite direction and hit our car head on. Meanwhile the other gentleman said. So Tultuli my dear. On that very day thousands lost their lives in Dhaka. FRCS. said Shahjahan. There was a man at the Lahore airport waiting for me. And here I was. smiled Alam. One police officer said I had to go to the police station. You would not believe it but it was a plan to trick me all right. Well I had to go to the police station. I would be a namak haram if I refused to respect his wishes. It was only for a telegram that my Jafarmama who had brought me up was seriously ill and wanted to see me. Alam was insistent. After the engine was switched on. Good bye. His business used to take him to Karachi and Lahore. Just a minute. Let me introduce. I have very little luggage. was murdered on that day. Shahjahan folded his hands in a namaste. What happened at Lahore? Exactly like a cheap thriller. My handbag containing my passport. Then a smile lit up his face. Indian citizen. The whole thing was a . A friend of mine. Shahjahan asked from the back seat. the declaration of an all out fight for independence by Sheikh Mujib? No question of going to Lahore. Alam resumed his story. Tutul. He was a Punjabi. Anyway I did not want to get into an argument. But why on earth did you decide to move from Dhaka to Lahore in this situation? That is mystery number one for you. didn't you? Tutul bit her lips. Please do not bother. In the meantime the man who had been at the airport to receive me had disappeared. Met him on the plane. Added Alam. Bahnisikha Sarkar. you thought I was dead. He touched her lightly on the chin. We proceeded in a taxi. This is my girl friend Tutul. said Alam. it was in the taxi. But how did you know I was coming to day? Who told you? Tutul was still too stunned to speak.It took him a few seconds to come to grips with the situation. I had to get another taxi. return ticket was gone in this hassle. But he did not have a car. I can take the tube. I hope you have the car. Look at me. The next day I left Dhaka by the morning flight much against my wishes because everybody knew that something was to be decided once and for all on that day. you know. Had gone to West Pakistan on business. The driver was dragged out though the poor fellow was hardly to blame. Only then I smelt a rat. No. Let me leave now. Could be more. Why would I leave the excitement. Where did you lose your passport? Asked Tutul. Said he worked for mamu. a doctor with an English degree.

Sir. that I had got British citizenship a year earlier and had not cancelled my Pakistani passport. So and so is a leftist of the China school. I was a man without identity. They did not let me report. Initially he was too afraid to help me. I had brought the other passport along for encashing my traveler's cheque. Listen to this first. Then I had an idea. do they support Mujib too? This shows how well informed they are. You won't need your passport any more. Only he could save my life. Said Shahjahan. One fellow came to interrogate me. They knew everything about me. You know Tutul. who was the strange caller on the telephone? He claimed to be your friend from Lahore. Alam touched her on the shoulder. You are connected to two papers in London. In the barrack-like building I was just given chapati and vegetables. You are involved in politics. armed guards keeping watch. Well no. So your mama was not ill after all? Jafarmama did not send any telegram. But they did? I will tell you later. I begged the Bengali cook to post a letter I had written to Mintoo. Every time I asked about my lost handbag they laughed. I was really scared. barbed wires. A couple of days later I realised that they would kill me. I wanted to make a phone call. they had no right to detain you. They did not let me do that either. The people who were interrogating me did not know about my dual citizenship. One day the regular man did not come. Before I could ask he whispered to me. They would have shot me then and there. so it seemed then. They were also planning to escape. Next day I was moved to another building. Nobody would know. do you know what is happening in Chittagong? It was this cook who told me about what had happened on the night of twenty-fifth March. Perhaps Allah was gracious to . what did you do? Tutul was impatient. more or less like a barrack. which of the Bengali Muslims in London were raising funds for the Awami League and so on. He supplied food to two Bengali army officers.trap. So. actually not much. Mehdi Ali Imam Mintoo worked as a PRO in the British Deputy High Commission. My British passport was at Dhaka. trying to control his emotions. It was done by the Pakistan Intelligence. It suddenly occurred to me that a childhood friend of mine. I thought I would never see you again. There was no hope for me. Their intention was to extract information. Did they beat you up? Asked Tultul. aren't you? He charged. How did he know that your money and passport were lost? That man saved my life. They even knew the names of some of my friends. You could have told them that since you were a British citizen. no tea or anything. papers which have demanded autonomy for East Pakistan. just shoved me behind bars without any reason. they said. Tell me. I was definite about that. The new man seemed to be a Bengali. What followed was a miracle.

This is genocide. Mintoo was due to leave for England within six hours of getting that letter. You used to visit Sulekha and Tridib with Pratap Babu's son. They claim to have crushed the Bengali resistance in Chittagong. unthinkable. do business with Pakistan. so they took it for granted that I would be anti-Indian. Do you know anything about the Mukti Yodhyas? Is it true they are fighting back? The army people make fun of them. They are Indian agents. That was a good break. I had to work hard the whole day last Sunday. not even a sweet word or a caress. If the Hindus are eliminated the population would be reduced automatically. I am going to sleep for two days. Track the Awami League supporters and shoot them down. he warned them. You want me to live in exile in mine. Here is my phone number. And boasting about it? But why would they tell you all these? Shahjahan gave a queer smile. all blood drained from his face. But where. I used to be a friend of Tridib.me. Tutul said. I have a Muslim name. Alam yawned. anti-Hindu even though I am Indian citizen. He would be going to the press. Shahjahan turned to Alam. So much of dirt. I live in England. He is my uncle. Alam stretched himself. Since I am a supplier in the army I have to entertain the officers. In London he contacted the Foreign Office and charged the Pakistani High Commission of detaining a British citizen. Thank your lucky stars. they deserve to die. What I keep hearing from them is horrible. They are going to reduce the population of East Pakistan by one quarter. Have you met him? Ignoring her question. Killed a thousand students? Exclaimed Alam. Of course the Bengali cook was arrested the next day. A thousand students have been shot in Dhaka. Tutul said. I have been trying to think where I had seen you before. I had seen you then. really. If the whole thing was delayed by two or three days I would have not have been alive. They have a grudge against the Bengali people. They reached South Harrow where Shahjahan was to get down. Are you related to Pratap Majumder? Surprised. Piklu. It was Mintoo who had phoned you. He fished out a card from his pocket. Would you let me stay with you in your Golders Green apartment? What do you say my Tultuli? You may. He hurried away. Oh yes. That is what most people think. Which means you do not want to take me to your apartment. admitted Shahjahan. Tridib mama is here. This is a small world. Do keep in touch. . Alam saab do not be surprised if your East Pakistan goes the Vietnam way. Kill as many as they can and drive the rest to India. Tutul's amazement grew. I managed to survive from the clutches of lions and what do I get? Nothing. Before handing it to Alam he looked at Tutul. they boast. said Shahjahan. I have vacuum cleaned your apartment too. What a girl.

But in that Lahore Jail I constantly thought of you. I have so much to say. What is it that you know? Sahjahan Saheb referred to your Pikluda and that is it. Poor Shireen. Just let me be near you for some time. OK. please. But will you never be my own? Will you remain inaccessible? I am not being inaccessible . pray? So many lovely girls were pining for you. The fight for freedom has started. absolutely blank inside. Tutul blushed. You don't understand. . Should I drop you at Naseem and Rebecca's? They would be delighted. get up. is that it? Alam hit her back playfully. Sooner or later the country would be free. how can he be my companion now? You can't possibly have any rivalry with him. I know the reason. Tell me. Why. he loved you but he has been dead a long time. I can't put the clutch. Then let us return together. you do not understand a thing. Perhaps I may not live to see freedom but I must live to see Tutul. 13 . I won't ask you again. Well. Get up. Alam put his head on her lap and stretched himself. Tutul touched Alam's hair. so let us wait. This is London after all. Come on. Will you sit up please. Tutul. we are almost there. He was a wonderful person. I only want to put my head on your lap and talk. Anything to avoid me. People are staring at us. He has stopped at that age.Who asked you to run after this girl. No. So I have to compete with a dead man. The thought of Pikluda does not hurt me anymore. are you more inaccessible than freedom? He asked thickly. How much longer do you intend to keep me away from you? First it was your mother's objection. Let them. Oh yes. Was it my own doing? It was in my stars. This is unfair. Don't you know it? Tutul turned to him with a faint smile. Please turn the car around. Trust me. . Then it was the FRCS. Do you know what was in my mind during my internment in Lahore? I am telling you the truth. I am free at last. why won't you be my own? Listen Tutul. I am tired. You cannot forget him. In fact I feel good. I was ready to give up my life for the political and economic freedom of East Pakistan. There is still time. did they beat you up? You are changing the subject.

driving license. He paused debating whether to pick it up. this is Shantaboudi. Beaming she said. I usually get fresh cabbages whenever I come here .ATIN was getting ready to go out but as he was tightening his belt the telephone rang. it is nice and cool outside. peeped out of the window. Somebody seemed to be in trouble. not Atin. . They searched but . Atin opened one of the windows. Your room is quite warm. I have no idea. opened the fridge door for no apparent reason. your locality is full of shop lifters. This is a collect call. . the fresh air. Then I bought two off-Broadway theatre tickets. Would Atin take it? Yup. If you have a message. I had some work in Manhattan. But why did she make a collect call from somewhere close? She had some business with Siddhartha. But after that incident at her place he was not particularly keen to face her. Shanta Rechardry wants to talk. Everything. When it stopped he put on his coat and reached for the cigarette packet when it rang again. How did you lose the bag? I don't know. Now she is coming right here. Whether it was one of them or some outsider. Oh god. Atin wished he had not picked up the phone. Why did you come all the way from Queens for grocery shopping? Shantaboudi flopped on a chair. Nobody calls so late in the afternoon. Are you home? Can I come for a minute? I am very close to your place. something terrible has happened. What was he to do? Suppose Siddhartha was late for some reason? Annoyed. Luckily I had the car key with me. There were about ten people in the shop. He did apologise on the phone but had been refusing her invitations since. He let it ring. My handbag has been stolen. A grocery in Fifth Street stocks vegetables from all parts of the world. it can hardly be urgent. music in the restaurants seemed to beckon . Siddhartha isn't back yet. He had to pick it up. An artificial voice greeted him first. money. Atin froze. How can he say no. said Atin. In about ten minutes I guess. It was gone in a minute. cheque book. Hello Siddhartha. he kept pacing in the room. . I am in a bit of a trouble. gone with the bag. Shantaboudi arrived within ten minutes. . . Not that he was in any particular hurry to get out but the street outside. I had put it on the grocery shop counter and had gone to look for something. . . . . Are you Atinbabu? When would Siddhartha be back? About time.

They have a way of piling up. all the time wishing Siddhartha was there. But you see my driving license is in the hand bag. She drew closer and sniffed. keeping to the exact speed limit. The quarters and dimes might add up to eight dollars. I have a fetish for cleaning you know. I have a lot of stuff in the car. She was good looking but not conceited. Why can't one drive without it just for once. So I thought of ringing up Siddhartha. Do not even have the money to buy a train ticket. Were you going out? In a hurry. said Shantaboudi. She was uncomfortably close. No no. One please but two tea bags. I can't drive. continued Shantaboudi.I feel like a fool. Sugar? Atin asked dryly. where they usually kept the change. The parking fee is a couple of dollars. I like fresh lemon. He told her. The presence of this woman had him in jitters. Anyone would love to be with her. In this car-dependent society having a car involved a lot of headache too. Atin put the kettle on the stove. You have curry stains in the kitchen wallpaper too. keeping your driving license with you. Let me make the tea. we have tea bags. Siddhartha will be right back. like finding a parking place. If she made any attempt to seduce him she would be taught a lesson. Can I have a cup of tea? Do not worry. He stood with his back to her wondering why her presence annoyed him. Handing the teacup to her Atin drew back. Atin wondered. Milk or lemon? You have lemon? Actually it was a lemon coloured plastic container from which drops of lemon juice came out if you squeezed it. I have never used it before. no use phoning home. I will make it. are you? Well yes. My husband has gone to Chicago. Do you have a license? Then you can drive me home. I could have told them about losing my bag and they would have let me go but I can't possibly drive without a license. In that case I have to wait for Siddhartha. Atin opened the first drawer of the table. You have a bachelor smell in your room. Even in trouble she had kept her cool. He gave her a sidelong look. Universal boudi . That was true. This will take care of your parking fee.

Actually I do not know much about you. In this country they believe in dignity of labour. in the hope of becoming rich one day. This remarked amused Shantaboudi so much that she spilled some of the tea. Irritated. entertains people and drops into boys' apartments — so much for the great Shantaboudi. Why did you do it? I had felt like doing it. thought Atin. Excellent. No. Thank you. somebody wanted to slash my hand. The next moment she said. At last he has got a white-collar job. She took the changes. I have a brother-in law who used to work as an attendant in a gas station. thank you. I won't waste your time. She withdrew her hand and sighed. she asked. Here she goes. Shantaboudi smiled sweetly. After her laughter subsided she gave him a good stare. Determined to drive the point home. Are you working or still in school? I work as a cooli. not even for a day. You may have to struggle in the initial stage — that is true for everyone. Please lend me two dollars. Thanks for the tea and the money. doing dishes in hotels for instance. Atin waited for her to begin her advances. soft palm close to Atin she said. Did you jump from the moving car on your way back from our place? From where did you get this information? Does not matter but is it true? Yes. This is the time Siddhartha returns.indeed. Atin went on. Forget about the car. Dignity my foot. You can wait some more. People do whatever comes in handy just because you can't survive without money here. The first step in seduction. Siddhartha seems to be late. There is another cut. Atin could not make head or tail of it. Three days a week I unload goods from a lorry in a supermarket close by. Acts in plays. Oh yes. I will take a train. Bringing her fair. Ask Siddhartha to call me. She raised her hand. do not mind the kicks. said Shantaboudi. Look at this cut. Do you have paper napkins. What dignity is there working as servant after getting educated. Such odd jobs are done by many. . hidden under the hair. sipping her tea.

. You must come early this time — not at midnight. don't you see? He is just back from office. he fights only with himself. Bring your friend along if he has no strong objection. why should he. Were you scared of me by any chance? Of course not. if I can help in any way. So you have not lost your handbag. no. Why are you in such a tearing hurry? After hearing the incident Siddhartha's face lit up. I used to work at one time. Enough of fresh vegetables. You must come on Saturday. Well got to go now. she smiled again. I did not want to bother him. Just then the lock turned and in came Siddhartha almost pushing Shantaboudi back. To buy marijuana. Why are you telling me all this? Oh. Detests this country. Another feast Shantaboudi. This is the last time. He could not help asking. I will come and get the car tomorrow. obviously to a pawnshop. I had come this side.Well. have you? What handbag? Whose? When? Siddhartha was curious. Atin could not understand this woman. That is the kind of person I am. Do you know what happened to a tourist family? They had asked a stranger to take a group photograph. You talked of being hit by a knife. isn't it? What happens to your tall claim now? Poets. It is not right to look only at the dark spots. said Shantaboudi. See you. thought I would have a chat with your friend. She turned back from the door. don't you think? Happiness can come in little things. Before they knew the man ran away with their camera. Angry and childish like you and a staunch communist too. tourists and lifters jostle in Greenwich Village. We have to make plans for Tagore's birthday. Thinks I am an American just because I live here. is that it? When? Coming Saturday. Was the story of the lost handbag a lie? But she did not make any move to get friendly using that as an excuse. Offered me tea. You can always take care of yourself. nobody minds. You could have phoned. for your information. Life has dark as well as lighted spots. Giving Atin a look of reproach Shantaboudi said. I mean are you used to travelling by train all by yourself? Yes. You reminded me of my younger brother the day I first saw you. No. just like that. Handbag? Car? What is all this? Tell me Shantaboudi. thank you. What? Chat with him? Does he know how to chat? I hope he did not fight with you.

laughing. I will drive you home. remember. said Siddhartha. . The parking lots are open till ten. He mentioned it only once. I am sure I can have some rice and dal at your place. Siddhartha continued in the patronising vein. Tell me Santaboudi when exactly did you step into our apartment? Well. was Atin’s prompt answer. one from India. I bet he must have boasted a number of times about his job of a cooli. Shantaboudi protested. Money is money. Siddhartha has spent much more on him but he has a casual air about everything. The great American myth. Was it really true? He did not hear from them at the beginning of the semester. Siddhartha would not joke about such a serious matter. No stupid sentimentality. once. Pay back every cent. You went out and did not even look at the letter box? What do you take me to be for. He turned to his friend. Holding two beer cans in his hand. the other was a long white one. You have bought a car. Rags to riches. No beer for me please. how can I possibly pay you back and all that nonsense. do you see that? The question was directed to Shantaboudi. get the beer cans from the fridge if you have not finished them off already. isn't it? That is hardly news. You have got that Boston University job. You owe me three hundred and ninety dollars. Inferiority complex. Putting his feet up on the low table Siddhartha loosened his tie. You son of a swine. I could not resist opening your letter. You did not budge out of the room the whole day. rags to riches. The cooli from the supermarket is now a respectable scholar. Don't you worry. But Siddhartha was not to be fooled. I doubt if this rascal Atin has cooked anything. Even if you dislike it you must celebrate with us. Give me one and one to Shantaboudi. You know I don't like it. He loves to do it. I did. but of course this is a summer course. So he is an object of ridicule. something Atin could never learn from him. There is another great news today which calls for celebration. Atin gave them a hard look. about forty five minutes. Your friend made some tea for me. Atin froze. Standing in front of the open fridge.Do sit down. a moron? He dramatically fished out two envelopes from his pocket. You know you have brought good luck to us. that is what. did you? Well. And he could not even give a proper answer. beamed Shantaboudi. Panchuda is not in town so what is the big hurry to get back. Self pity can turn a perfectly good human being into a liar. Forgive me Atin. You lose. post doctorate studies with an assistantship of six hundred and fifty dollars per month. Atin felt like hugging him. Listen you lazy bones.

with leather shield and sword. hardly believing his good fortune. what could I say. ready to pounce on betrayers. Munni. I want to see Pratap babu. occupied a chair. Call Baba. son of the landlord. Haven't you seen the whip on the sitting room wall? . Tuntuni looked pale and worried. scared out of her wits. He always carried on an imaginary conversation with her. You know something? Siddhartha informed Santaboudi. Oli had written after a long long time. That is wonderful. 14 TUNTUNI heard the bell and ran to open the door. Instantly he was on the alert. was lying crouching on the bed. tight lips. Said Shantaboudi. Let him. Munni. trace of talcum powder on the neck. her father suddenly seemed like a middle aged king who has lost his kingdom. take them. Tell Pratap babu. her hair all over her back. So what? Asked Munni. I hope his temper would calm down now. Tuntuni. they bring with them a feel of the soil. Siddhartha extended his arm. in a T-shirt and trousers. Letters from home are rare. Atin did not open the all-important letter on which his future depended. Munni. he said coldly. Wants to talk to Mama. Every evening he calls a girl named Sharmila long distance. After a blank stare he took off his glasses to reveal a red eye. ran to Bablu's room which was now in Munni's possession. And her letter comes today. like a stranger. Suppose he tells Mama everything? To Munni still possessed with the past. books scattered round her. he has come. She smiled. Personal letters are not to be opened. the one who sings? Here. as was her habit. Boston? Six fifty dollars? That is a lot of money. He had a sticking plaster on his chin. Lucky dog. lit a cigarette and bellowed. What does he want? Didn't tell me. I am in a hurry. light blue sun-glasses. What Sharmila. I did not open the other one. Now he goes to Boston.He stood rooted to the spot. angry eyes. She froze to see Paresh. whispered Tuntuni. After all my old pal. With some effort Munni came back from seventh century to the present. The handwriting on the envelope was familiar. Really Shantaboudi has brought good luck. He marched straight in. She must be hurt. of all days. Baba will teach him a lesson.

Tell your father I am very happy to hear this. What does the boy do? Reader in Science College. Will have to find an alternative accommodation first. Visibly pleased. She was not keen to get married. Relatives would be coming. More profit. Yes? We need more space for the wedding. Do you want to sell the house? Not a bad idea. . The house also needs repair. . . I have something different to tell you. He has known . did her Ph.D in Applied Mathematics and now taught in Science College. Will do that. Why are you so scared. Sit down. Right now we need the house for our own people. . Of what use was his wealth if he could not arrange a magnificent wedding for his daughter? But Paresh had a different mission. He fidgeted with the ashtray. . considering the rise in land price. sit down. . Perhaps he wants to marry you. His sons however did not choose the father's line. . We do not have any such plan. I have to talk to you. Well Kakababu. a resolve which caused a great deal of heart ache to the father.Munni would you please go and tell Mama? I can't. now. Tenants never take care of the house. That is great news. This month. Tell Baba the truth. Next month . well actually I . When is it? Well the date has not been finalised yet. Pratap knew the landlord Jnananjan Guha Neogi. Looks terrible. said Pratap. he mumbled. How is your father? Paresh looked down. so would you shift to another house? This was an absurd proposition. Pratap said. . Build a four storied mansion here. So you want us to leave? Very well. they were not any good at studies. He owned three houses in the city but has given up practice because of weakening sight. Guha Neogy had plenty of other properties. You will need more space did you say? Is the son-in-law coming to live with you? Paresh spoke with displeasure. . Getting over his initial diffidence he blurted out. my sister's marriage has been fixed. His daughter Sumita had been a national scholar. How can that be. Kakababu. Will attend of course. When Pratap entered the room Paresh stubbed his half-finished cigarette in the ash-tray. well what I was saying Kakababu . a criminal lawyer of repute. Kakababu. keep one flat for me. Have to get the house repaired before the wedding.

complicate? Don't you remember what your father did to your brother when he had tried his monkey tricks? You seem to be following his footsteps. if you do not vacate within this month I will push you out in the streets. We are incurring heavy loss by allowing you to stay at this rent. out. With one month's notice. controlling a strong impulse to slap the fellow hard on the cheek. You will hear not from father but from a lawyer. I met your father last week in a sraddha ceremony. Paresh spoke with deliberate disrespect. Get out. Mamata rushed to the room and stood guarding her hot headed husband. This is my house. For God's sake. the elder brother had threatened them with eviction about three years earlier. Another incident flitted across his mind. I have been polite to you so far. shouted Pratap.Pratap puckered his brows. I am not going to listen to you. Will you keep quiet. you have to vacate by the sixth next month. He did not tell me anything. I forbid you to enter this house. He flopped on a chair. He banged the door dramatically and rushed out. . That rascal came to threaten me. Mama has fainted. you know. Father does not look after property matters now. I do. Get out. will you calm down? With your high blood pressure . Let me warn you. Going to the police station right now. Dhiresh. Then you must also learn the law. . I will bring a criminal case against him. Very well. I know your sort very well. Or do you have power of attorney? Let me have a look. I say. Get me a signed letter from your father. she tried to paeify Pratap. all her hopes shattered. then I will think about it. You are a shame on the good name of your father. I do not want to look at your face again. Pratap's head reeled just as he was about to move his wife out of the way. He insulted Mama. I have decided that you have to leave this month. What do you mean. I piss on your premises. His father gave him a piece of his mind. thanks. why did you ask him to get out? That was unfair. How dare you ask me to get out. Let me see what you can do about that. . A lawyer's notice indeed. To Paresh she said. Do not complicate matters. As a lawyer he knew perfectly well you cannot evict a tenant who is not a defaulter. You can't possibly give a notice of half a month. Out. What is it Paresh? Would you like a cup of tea? Tea? No. Try your temper elsewhere. I am giving you a month's notice right now. Tuntuni who had been eavesdropping now ran to Munni. No landlord has the right to enter the premises without permission once it is rented. Let me have a proper notice with your father's signature. She burst into tears.

Who was going to protect them from the tyranny of the wicked now that Bablu was not here. This infuriated her. Come home. Do not get involved in such ugly incidents. How dare you put your hands on her? Don't you have a mother and sisters at home? Usually these boys collected at every street corner. She is coming to the theatre with me. Paresh was out to take revenge. Tuntuni was aware of it. Pratap would not realise that law alone cannot save anyone. I want to go home. he was no good. No. The fan whirred overhead in full speed. The goondas can get in when Pratap left for the court and pass it on the Naxals. . there is something I would like to talk to you about. After Pratap recovered and went for his bath Munni crept close to her mother. The girls had not expected matters to take such a turn but they could do nothing. But by some unwritten law of Kolkata streets physical touch was an unpardonable offence. his eyes closed. She decided at once that they should not stay in this house. Get back home as quickly as you can. The matter would have ended there but Paresh who had been drinking since afternoon overstepped his limits. to the Ballygunge Lake. Ma. with Mamata stroking his head. On her way back from giving tuition Munni was surprised and shocked to find Tuntuni walking along with Paresh in the Hazra Park. Besides Bablu had given Paresh a good thrashing for having said nasty things about Phuldi.You go home baby to your mom and drink your milk. Tuntuni. I can take her wherever I want . A random shower of blows and kicks followed this. Munni gave Tuntuni a look. having nothing else to do and threw juicy comments at young girls passing by. At once Tuntuni balked. Mamata was panic stricken to hear this. still dazed from her history book visualised her father in the role of a defeated king. A middle-aged man advised. had chops and cutlets in enclosed cabins in the Punjabi hotel next to the twin church. On her way back Tuntuni admitted that Paresh had been making advances.Munni. But these kings have a way of coming back to glory. She did not tell Munni though that she had been out with him thrice. You bet she will. How could Tuntuni be friendly with a boy like Paresh. Would not listen to her objections. Have you told anybody at home that you are going to the theatre? Munni threw a challenge. He wanted to take her out. the time has come to reveal everything. She is my girl friend. I won't. I won't go to the theatre. even allowed him to kiss her. looking at Tuntuni straight in the eye. There were many people around so Munni went straight up to the two and said. His father was now too old to control his son. Instantly a group of young men pounced on Paresh. telling her that he loved her. I won't. She accompanied Tuntuni to the room where Pratap slumped on the chair. The incident had happened two days ago. struggled Tuntuni. give her ice-cream. It outraged the Bengali spirit of chivalry and morality. gave dirty looks to girls. Paresh was not the type to oblige. He caught hold of Tuntuni's arm and declared in a drunken voice.

Biman wanted to give me a revolver. The landlord was a man of small stature. Pratap was relieved. Where can we get another house at such low rent? But the times are bad. His charge was ten rupees for every house shown and a month's rent for a house taken. But that should not be a problem. Leave the house? Of course not. . Are you out of your mind Mamo? Exclaimed Pratap. I am not going to stay in this house. the two conditions are. She quietly declared. where he lives. The four flats they went to were all equally unlivable but they liked the fifth one. Rajjab himself can try for his saheb in Behala. It was not that he had not heard the word before. Let us finalise then. This was a much better house than their Kalighat home. a selami of ten thousand rupees. I didn't. one can also find agents there. Bechu. no. in a nice locality. She knew her husband well enough not to argue. Mamata was determined to leave the Kalighat area. Threat from a loafer and we run away? This house is unlucky. I hope you have told him about the conditions. that was why they were letting out the first floor. The 'To let' notices once so common have vanished. the case would linger for years. For three hundred and twenty five. If he had asked me politely I would have thought of it. not of the High Court. protested Pratap. Comes to the same thing. Sipping the tea offered by the landlord Pratap said. . Mamata felt happy. after all he is a High Court judge. said Pratap. . you cannot have a lot of children and the other. Sir. Now it is high time I should go and get it. Are there people rich enough to pay so much? How do people earn that kind of money? By robbing? At last Pratap sought help of his personal ardali cum bodyguard Rajjab Seikh.As expected Pratap would not hear of it. How do people find out about houses? The ones advertised have rents in the range of three thousand. airy and open with three bed rooms. fair and well mannered. The landlord turned to the agent. She remonstrated mildly. Mamata looked on with a stony expression. one small room And a spacious balcony. No. I know how to deal with these rascals. . He said most pan shop owners keep tab on houses for rent. The entire first floor of a house in Jatin Das Road. but not here. An agent took both Pratap and Mamata on a house hunting tour. Let us get away to Tollygunge or Jadavpur or even further. they might assault physically . It seemed his wife was arthritic and could nor climb stairs. When Pratap came back from office he found Mamata looking glum. The girls also kept to their room. said the agent. which was well within his means. said the agent. But threaten me? Let them go to court. About the advance . So once more house hunting! Sighed Pratap. Supriti was doing her puja and had not heard the threats. Selami? Ten thousand? Pratap was flabbergasted. But reading or hearing about it and finding himself face to face with a situation like this .

But he did nothing of the sort. he said at last. I rather liked the house you know. The sound woke them up. he seemed to say. Mamata ordered the two girls not to budge out of the house. A quiet neighbourhood too. Since nobody was hurt the police would not even bother. The agent left with his fee. you know what with corporation tax. they must move within a month. He had no idea of the property Pratap had left behind. . Mamata was expecting the worst. Feeling utterly helpless. But nothing else happened. Even a house rent of three hundred and a quarter would mean a strain on the family budget . So in one afternoon fifty rupees were gone for nothing. Suddenly the veneer of respectability was gone from the landlord — his laugh was downright obscene. I am asking for much less. just because he happened to be the landlord? Ten thousand? He mumbled again. . Paresh with his cronies to enter. So this little man was to be offered a selami and bundles of hundred rupee notes. thanks to the Naxals. From where would I get that much money? But Mamata went on thoughtlessly. The man was enjoying his discomfiture. They had to sell Mamata's ornaments. Mamata quickly stood up to block the gesture this man was trying to make. To Pratap she conveyed her firm resolve. . All the pent-up anger exploded at last. income tax. take loan from the life insurance and Bimanbehari in order to pay for Bablu's passage. do you? Bellowed her husband. Bombs were a common occurrence. As if all those who rent houses in Calcutta rob or steal? At about quarter to one at night two bombs exploded near the entrance of their Kalighat house that very day. You want me to steal or rob. The landlord gave a sweet smile. All he did was laugh a kind of sardonic laugh. Three hundred for three rooms is quite a lot. . It did not even create a ripple among the neighbours. You have many ways of earning. Normally this house should fetch at least five hundred. . at least twenty times more in value. he finally said with a sigh. It was just an expression of the fury. But it can't be mentioned here. One of the doors got loose from the hinges. A Marwari was keen but I wanted to give it to a Bengali. just walked out of the house with Mamata. How many Bengalees are capable of paying this kind of money. It is not possible to settle for less. Pratap had a strong impulse to take out his slippers and hit the man hard on the cheeks.made a lot of difference. She knew how hot tempered her husband was. Can't take all the money in white. then I am left with sucking my own thumb. Pratap pleaded. Then twenty five more . Look around the market and see for yourself. No use asking for more rent. Pratap sat without a word. Ten thousand was a sum beyond his wildest dreams. Looking back over her shoulders Mamata remarked. Well you are a judge. The next day Pratap tried to phone the landlord only to be told that he was lying in a nursing home in a critical condition. This amused the landlord. It does not become you to try for a fancy house if the mention of ten thousand has you in jitters. it meant to say that more was to follow.

The moon shone with unusual brilliance. Pratap had streaks of grey hair. driving his own car. Mamun sported an unkempt beard but as they looked at each other recognition dawned. Please come here Syed saheb. . pondered Pratap as he sat in the court dispensing justice. wagging their tails. Paresh with his gang loitered at the street corner obviously aware of the fact that Pratap was now scared and looking for a house. Mamun's reaction too was mixed with guilt. How would Mamun understand that Pratap was like a homeless person in the city. But even for a cheap house there the landlord demanded two month's advance. his face dark with worry . Pratap could not ask his friend to bring them over to his house. So much for his mission of progress and revolution. If only his son was by his side now. he said doing a namasker. observed reporter Arun Sengupta. Only six days to go for the month to end. Mamun said. Could not trace you. Sir I am a newspaper reporter. You have brought your daughter and niece along.? Twenty-four years had brought about changes in appearance. that is what he has been reduced to. . He heard about Mamun's thrilling escapade. He was having a good time abroad. leaving the family in ruins.Once one is displaced from his ancestral place. You are Pratap Majumder. Then the two friends embraced. is he the person . thought Pratap. he remains a displaced person for ever. Good bye for now. Where are they now? In a rented place near Beckbagan. A bitter taste still lingered in his mouth as Pratap greeted his long lost friend. How could he? There might be another bomb burst to night. from Dhakuria. The two friends walked hand in hand. Two dogs crept close to her. He felt depressed. Tollygunge to even Khidirpur. A destitute. A handsome young man accosted him as he was coming out of the court. When did you arrive? Somehow the words lacked exuberance. Mamun! Exclaimed Pratap. . They knew her well so did not bark. I have been here for some time. aren't you? He turned to a middle aged bearded man standing a little distance away. 15 GOLAPI stood under the large tamarind tree. A Bangladesi gentleman is looking for someone of your name. It was midnight. His mind strayed from the proceedings of the court. Perhaps it was obvious from the way he talked otherwise why would all the landlords treat him condescendingly? The house hunting went on. All is well that ends well. . Meanwhile Pratap had received a formal notice in the letterhead of Jnananjan Babu. Far .

standing away from her. he usually kept sitting on the veranda till late. you have been. She tried to move her feet. . There was no other furniture in the room. Basudeb flopped on the ground near Golapi's feet to her utter embarrassment. No. please sit on the bed. As though on a cue Golapi broke into a sprint. Golapi assured him. Blow the candle out. just cautious. The dogs followed her for some time then turned back. What is there to see in me. . Completely at a loss. A sudden breeze rustled the leaves of the tree. bolted the door and led her to the bed. Let me sit here and have a good look at you. turned round the staff quarters. . a light smile playing on her lips. No. Closing the only window he whispered again. you are so beautiful. Are you thirsty? Want a drink of water? Then he went to the pitcher and poured himself a glass.away somewhere a baby cried. looking more upset than Golapi. I still can't believe my eyes. after all I am a very ordinary person. It was too much to realise that a woman of flesh and blood was there. in case anybody saw her . lulling people to deep slumber. do sit up. With his back to the door he stared at the woman who sat on his bed in just a yellow striped sari. There was no other sound. You asked me to come. Basudeb was sweating profusely. no use wasting it. soaking his vest in the process . But how can I see you! Besides I would be scared. Nepi's grandfather was asthmatic. Golapi. in front of him. She was not afraid. she pleaded. You know I have never seen a woman so close. It made her laugh. Was the light on in Sushil-babu's room? Stays up late. The store clerk Basudeb Chakrabarty sat on the bed scribbling something very intently. He took it off. Did anybody see you? He asked in a frightened whisper. you are so good. in front of a half-shut door. then there were the watchmen who guarded the godown. . After a day of unbearable heat there was a breeze. Now he was clad just in a lungi. The door creaked as Golapi entered. What? Blow it out? The room would be dark! The light might attract others. that swine. She would be visible in the moonlight. As she stood in the shadow Golapi kept looking around. A candle was burning inside. What would you be scared of? Me? She touched his arm. Basudeb would not let her. sir? Asked Golapi. Basudeb sprang to his feet. I have never touched anyone. . Golapi went down a slope. Please. said Basudeb. with no underwear.

Absolutely wonderful. A shiver went through his body as Basudeb confessed. Look my heart is still thumping. I never knew it felt so good. If I could I would have taken you out of this camp. Does not matter. I get here. we would have lived in a forest. just two poems. I have been dreaming about reading a poem to a woman. Women are like mother earth. Would you listen to a poem of mine? Poem? What do I understand about poems? Of course you will. Studied up to class four in the Coopers Camp primary school. That is why I asked you to come. Let me read to you another poem. But that is not possible. How can I marry unless my didi and the younger sisters get married? Tell me. I can't stay long. It has to be read in the right way. does he suspect me? No. the touch of a woman. Remember once I saw you coming out of a paddy field on the way to Kondagaon. how can I? Don't you have land back home? . But do not touch my feet. Every person understands poetry. Get me that exercise book please. He finished reading. Would you mind? Golapi could not move her feet. your father is hot tempered. with mud all over your body. This poem is about a bheel woman — you. You know I can never look at you properly. My heart is pounding. How did you like them? He asked anxiously. . Are you angry Golapi. he asked miserably. they bear us. What is a bheel? Where do they live? I have no idea. a forest goddess.Not you. no. read about them in books. Have I done anything wrong? Anybody finding out about your coming to me at night would take me to be wicked. Caste? I do not believe in all that nonsense. marrying in gandharva style. they are all about you. replied Golapi. just you and me. . But I am not educated. Let the light be. I am just scared. looking like a bheel woman as if you live in a deep forest. we are low caste. After kissing her feet Basudeb looked up at her. I send home two hundred of the two-fifty. His voice shook as he read them out . No. She put her arms round Basudeb's shoulder. But tell me. You have come — it is true. I have to look after my five brothers and sisters. I used to dream of this.. stroking his hair. sitting at her feet. Most of it went above Golapi's head. But I have fallen in love with you. they are way above caste. what can I do? Shall I read out another poem? Golapi climbed down from the bed to sit next to Basudeb on the floor. Can I kiss your feet? Just once.

. really? Nobody had wanted to. Golapi shook with laughter . I know all that. . You had promised to read some poems to me if I ever visited you. I like it. Tell me. . Why did you want to read them to me? After all. just once? Can I? Have pity on me. you know. Tell me Golapi. You are not common. . You want to hear another poem. My father was a peon in a post office in Medinipur. . illiterate too. Khiti babu steals rice from the store. Balu Singh cheats on weight. I never talk back. He had promised to marry me. Don't people of West Bengal own their own house? Well. no. You don't have to marry me. You know Golapi. In the dim light Basudeb stared at her bare breasts in wonderment. The candle was all but gone. have I done anything wrong? Was it wrong of me to ask you here? I just kissed your hand and feet. They wanted me to be a part. I have to go now. I don't keep the store key with me. the liar. no. They are refused by journals but I keep writing. This job has saved us from starving to death. just a look was more than he could aspire for He was more than obliged. I have grown up with want and misery all around. Golapi do you think so too? Golapi giggled. I am a very common woman. Good god. Golapi will you let me kiss your hand. your father had beaten up a man called Sudhir Das who worked here? Is that true? Yes. That is all. he and Jogananda broke his knee. Are you too a refugee like us? No. Jetha turned us out of his house after father passed away. Writing poetry gives me great satisfaction. I thought that was an excuse. Did I not tell you that at first sight you seemed like a forest goddess to me — an insignificant person like me. He did not dare touch her. Not so loudly. never ill treat the refugees. If your father comes to know . Do read me another poem. People make fun of me because I write poetry. That is the only pleasure I have left in life. it was beyond my wildest dreams that I would be reading out to a woman. No. but how could I being a poet? Wouldn't Ma Saraswati give me a curse? They think I am a coward. We would have got some dole from the government if we were. said Golapi. my didi has rented a room in Kalna for thirty-five rupees. please. I can't marry you even if I want to with three unmarried sisters at home.Land? We do not even own a house.

Nobody likes me. haramzadi. She tried to run but the voice of Harit Mondol stopped her. said she softly. Everybody here respects me as a guru and you being my daughter have been bringing shame to me. I should have finished you off at Coopers Camp. I look the other way when you carry on with the men of the colony but to do it with the babus . A little later she came out. She wanted to get out of this place. She hated it. Was it in Harit's power to teach all of them a lesson? But the thought that the babu class would be laying hands on her was unbearable. Everybody knows that I am not your daughter. Why did you do so much for me? Why didn't you drive me away? How can you talk like this? Drive you away? Nobody can be bad unless she wants to. Two dots of light told her that somebody was standing in the shadow. They dared not talk to her openly but lay hands on her if they found her alone. She inched forward. . sighed Harit. Harit let go of her hair and flung the axe on the ground. A woman gets a bad name once and it sticks to her. nobody would let me enter their room. Will you come again? You will sit next to me while I read out. I have a mind to finish you off. kill me. That would have been good riddance for me. Golapi burst out crying. Do it father. Nobody is to blame. Would you break his bones? I went at my own will. crossed the slope and reached the tamarind tree. Is that why you visit the babus? You know perfectly well I hate Brahmins and Kayasthas. Golapi caught hold of Basudeb's hand and placed it on her breast. He quickly withdrew it as thought he had touched a live wire. smoking. yet all the men were drawn to her body. . Where have you been just now? He wanted to know. Harit grabbed her hair. I am an orphan.You will not understand how much this visit has meant to me. her eyes brimming with tears. a bad woman. Shall I cut off your head in one stroke? Do it. he bellowed. Brandishing an axe with the other hand he threatened. It is better for her to die. This can't be done in the daytime. How long can I go on punishing others? You are the source of all evil. In between sobs she informed Harit that she hated each and every man of this colony. Come here. This was an unsolvable problem. . it was well known that she had an illegitimate child. Then Golapi kissed him on the lips. Nobody was ready to marry her.

that is all. Came to check on you. They think refugee women are cheap. But Harit enjoyed a special privilege as a leader. Why only last week the one kilo arhar dal you gave me turned out to be hundred grams extra. Next day was their weekly ration day. But why? This rice is from U. Would not mind. This floored Harit completely. Everybody greeted him with a slogan Joy Baba Kalachand and touched his feet. Singhji gives me more. He knew Harit was clever. He honoured me like nobody has done before. But Basudeb did not look up from the ledger. Nobody else in the colony would dare to sit on a stool in the ration shop. has a lot of dependents. From what Golapi told him Harit decided to assess that babu of the store. Who says so? Why should I cheat on weight? Did I say that? Smiled Harit. that's what they are. said Harit. they do not have honour or dharma. he is poor. The babu of the store. I will complain. Brahmin? Oh I see. P. one never knew from which direction he would attack. That was funny — a man calls a woman at night just to read poetry to her! Was he out of his mind or a crooked person of a high order. Khitish could not help laughing. Why did he touch your feet? He does not believe in caste. Does that mean somebody else is getting less. offered Khitish. . How about you Choto Babu. find out the kind of person he really was. said Harit and extended his hand. Did you accept money from him? He can't. I don't. Harit took position. Tell me Baro Babu.Give me the name. No. don't you smoke? He added. replied Basudeb without looking up. Balu Singh pretended to be offended. Read some poems to me. Have a cigarette. a Brahmin. I hope you are weighing correctly. and flighty as a bird. Called me a goddess. The babus were aware of it. He touched my feet. Of the two babus Khitish was tall and hefty. Poor did you say? The babu of the store? Thieves. Basudeb was thin and skinny. Liars! The whole lot haramzadas. all blood drawn from his face. do you get this rice from Burma? Burma? No. As soon as the store opened. It is a fact. Harit settled on a stool and declared. I wonder. Singhji. He does not steal.

How long can India government bear the burden of fresh refugees? A little push from India and Pakistan will break into two. Harit asked. Why. Fierce fighting is going on in Jessore. that is why it smells. To our advantage? Harit was getting more and more puzzled. then. came back to his seat and continued his account book. you must be aware of it. Lots of people starved to death. this time Mussalmans. . Is that so? You must have very strong teeth. This war cannot go on. Haven't you read? Do you have the papers? I go to the main office to read them. Your rice has the same smell. The government has enough in its hand and now Mussalman refugees on the top of that. how can that be? Harit was incredulous. There is a war on in your country. Then the government gave us a kind of rice in the ration. They carved out Pakistan from India. what a lovely word. But this was unexpected. Why not? Didn't the Mughals fight the Pathans? Sher Shah fighting Humayun — all that is in the history books. Quite a distance. Khulna and Chittagong. Think of that. Mussalmans killing Mussalmans. He had heard vaguely that in West Bengal the Communists have won the election and come to power . Some said they have come all the way from Burma. we don't find any smell. He made no attempt to join in the conservation. Khitish tried to change the subject. drove you people out. Harit was bewildered. why? Because the Mussalmans wanted a country for themselves. The communists were certain to do something for the refugees. you know. You know what I think? Continued Khitish. Mussalmans fighting Mussalmans. Just think of it. East Pakistan has been renamed Bangladesh. have you heard? Startled. India is not in it. Now they are in soup. A little later I will go for today’s paper.During the war our East Bengal had a famine. That is to your advantage. again? No. war? India Pakistan. They have filled up Calcutta. no. How do you mean? . They want to be independent. The newspapers are full of it. He has not seen any newspaper for the last five years and was totally out of touch with what was happening in East Pakistan. And you know something? Refugees are pouring into India. now the East Pakistanis have taken up arms and hitting back. Every day they are streaming into India from the border at Bongaon. A civil war in Pakistan! Bangladesh. Khitish sneered. bashing up real bad. It was a heartening news as the communists had taken up their cause against the congress who had pushed them out to this god forsaken country. it was dark and smelling of bed bugs. They are fighting among themselves. The West Pakistanis were bashing up the East Pakistanis. Meanwhile Basudeb went to the toilet. .

Tridib and Sulekha would put him up for a few days. So you are going to the main office. I have to go. took Jogananda with him and set off. paddy fields. I will give the application to the main office. A golden dream flashed before his eyes as Harit saw the vision of the lost home. There is trouble in Pakistan. But you know those of you who live in West Bengal will take this chance. if you are given the option of going back home or staying in India. Troubled area. They are sure to take us back once they are independent. in this heat? What on earth for? I have not taken my earned leave for over a year. It would not be difficult to collect money from the refugee colonies. After so many years the police may not be in the look out for him. he said feebly. about eight or nine miles! He sent word to Parulbala. . But will I ever get the chance? You never know. Tell me Joga. Don't bother. Khitida. what would you do? What a thing to ask. . He will tell when.Simple. if Bangladesh becomes another state India would say. living so far away? What do you say Basudeb? Basudeb. What can you do. I will run away from India if I get that chance. he asked. the ponds. . The Bengali Mussalmans want to separate. mango orchards. Have to go home. So that is your chance to rush back along with these refugees. Would it come true? Guru Kalachand had told him in a dream that good time is coming. Carry you. Two rupees per family would take care of his travel expenses. Basudeb almost trembled. Don't go now. A lot of Naxal trouble in your Burdwan. He must somehow raise the train fare and make a trip to Calcutta. I must go Khitida. Not too far. after all he was known to be a guru. said Harit. It would be a thousand times better to starve in that land than facing the humiliation of the camp life here. I am not very good at cycling. Who would bother about who came when . I will walk. now take back the refugees. Barokaka. also look for his son. chotobabu? Can you double carry me in your cycle? I want to read the newspaper. replied Jogananda. They reached the main road. Let me go now. perspiring profusely got up. They have to. Promptly Harit got up. Once at Calcutta he can make sure of what is happening across the frontier. I will take you there after the shop is closed. But my mother is ill. But he has not been visiting him in a dream lately. that lakpak singh? Laughed Khitish. Wait a little. What. said Harit. You will get back your land and everything. I need a month's leave. I can't double carry.

Are you feeling sick? With great effort Basudeb opened his eyes. You are going home on leave. I don't trust them. Who would beat you up? Beat me. Besides. Will you take me with you? 16 JEHANARA Imam sat sewing trousers for her son. bandits? For shame. She opened the stitches of the waist . Sunstrokes were not unknown this time of the year. He got down and stared at the two men as if he was faced with an insurmountable barrier. What is it chotobabu? Basudeb looked as though he would faint. Only spare my right hand so that I am able to write. Our neighbour Mussalmans of our village did not harm us. bare bodies glistening with sweat. better to live in peace. Except for an occasional lorry. To tell you the truth Barokarta. What was that? Harit could not follow. Just take me up to Bardhaman. his voice choked with emotion. They have had enough of the West Pakistanis. We were scared because of the riots in the town. By now they must have taken over our houses. He was not taking more than one shoulder bag containing some change of clothes for his indefinite journey. his voice barely above a whisper. They walked on in the fierce summer sun. I beg of you. Jogananda wiped his eyes. as much as you want. Mussalmans do not destroy tulsi plants. how to buy tickets and all. there was hardly any traffic. It might be a good idea to go there and see for ourselves. so Harit asked him anxiously. Harit came forward. They might think it is no use fighting with the Hindus. we had tulsi plants in our homes. please. you know. Harit roared with laughter. You are not going to beat me up. Why would they take us back? They might be friendly with India. Break my left arm or a leg but not this hand. I would give everything to sit by my tulsi platform and munch some muri. As they turned their heads to see if any lorry was coming their way they saw Basudeb riding a cycle. But I ask for a favour from you. the rest I can manage. I have done wrong. are you? He asked.It were they who drove us out. Perhaps he wanted to tell them something. can you take me along? I do not understand the ways of the railway. Why should we beat you up? What do you take us for.

How much of the torture was true and how much rumour was not clear to Jehanara at first. Everything died down. But the Akasvani. If Rumi and his friends were to be believed. student rallies have been shot at. like the death of Begum Sufia Kamal and Nilima Ibrahim by the Pakistani army and the killing of Governor Tikka Khan by the Mukti Bahini. in Islampur. Now a few were coming out with hardly four pages. Bhikhu Choudhury and his entire family has been killed. told a different story. Rumi was leaving today. What is this independence Rumi and his associates are talking of? With what are they going to fight? Whenever curfew was relaxed Jehanara took the car out and drove around the city. She was petrified. A cousin of Jehanara. The television and radio stations sang only praises of the military regime. well-known debater of the university? Her conscious mind accepted his arguments but the mother's heart would not agree. which published only government announcements. even passenger boats were not spared. he would not go against her wishes. amma and force you to speak the same kind of falsehood. The same thing might happen. But then some news of the Akasvani turned out to be untrue. Yet doubt persisted.R. In the village of Kartia a family had woken up and was getting ready for breakfast when the raiders arrived like messengers of death. Jehanara heard it all from Bhikhu Choudhury’s elder brother in his Dhanmandi home. They will come to you too. thousands of political workers put behind bars. But he refused to think of his own career when all around him friends and relations were being killed. put ten hundred rupee notes.C. to which everybody listened behind closed doors. The terrible torture by the army and the police was nothing new. Suppose he never came back? Rumi. How could Akasvani be believed? A few of the news items may not be true explained Rumi. Manirujjaman. no amount of persuasion could stop him. they have been distributed among non-Bengali Muslims. Sheikh Mujib has been arrested at the slightest pretext. Sadarghat. Shakharipatti. How could Jehanara Imam ignore the logic of his debater son. There was the smell of rotting corpses in Shakharipatti. Khan. a student of engineering had already got admission in the University of Illinois in the States. But what about the shooting of professors like Dr. Nababpur razed to the ground by mortar shells. Scenes of devastation greeted her everywhere — from Lalbag to Chakbazar. Wiseghat. Jyotirmay GuhaThakurta. By and by the news of the death of near ones trickled in. notices of transfer of ownership stuck over the few remaining shops. Sarafat Ali? You have seen with your own eyes the number of houses burnt down in Dhaka.band. No newspapers were published from Dhaka after the fateful twenty-fifth March. he was due to leave in five months. of areas captured by them. Patuatuli. Villages have been torched. Military rule has been imposed after the breakdown of talks between the political leaders and the military bosses. eminent people were being forced to speak in the electronic media saying everything was normal. then stitched it neatly Instead of being happy with her own handiwork. The army . she shed copious tears. F. For the last one month or so he has been arguing with his mother. of fierce fighting by the Mukti Bahini. Those who had fled from Dhaka to Jinjira across the Buriganga have been shot to death. Deb. G.

Even worse news were to come. Engels. just three or four vests. sacrificing you for the country. I tell you Jehanara. He has already slipped in two books of poetry. They even shot Kkari saheb in the mosque while he was reading the holy Koran. Thousands of young men have plunged into the fight for freedom. Then he stopped suddenly and declared All right Amma. an unknown place near the border. It took a lot of persuasion to convince him that if both of them went away then the military rulers will be suspicious and have it out on the father and grandfather. They are drawing out blood from many people. His younger brother Jami sprang up. so fond of books was obliged to remove a lot of them after the twenty-fifth. raping the mother in front of the son! Rumi corroborated such stories. they will be rounded up. the good humoured happy Ata Bhai full of anecdotes came. idealistic and unselfish. Jehanara packed Rumi's bag with tears in her eyes. in history and politics. how could Rumi. Two Behari Muslims are keeping an eye on us at the crossing of Elephant Road. not beasts — how could they be so merciless? How could they kill innocent men. like the Nazis. it looked as though he had not slept for many nights. burnt a lot of journals. Would you believe it now? Girls are being picked up from villages. He argued with his mother endlessly. Perhaps she could have been reconciled to the inevitable if he had left without telling anyone. The red striped shirt was his favourite but he would not take it. certainly not. A doctor I know very well was made to do it for them. Books of Marx. women and children in cold blood? Khala Amma who survived the bullet injury spoke about the killing of her son and family. Jehanara had brought up her two sons to be truthful. They had tied up his eyes. Mao tse Tung. Very well. But no. Tears dried on hearing of such atrocities. Jibanananda and Sukanto. She put in his favourite mango pickle but put aside a small bottle of ghee. that a war was going on could no longer be denied. if you insist I will go to the States. upset and distressed. he said. I am making a qurbani. Rabindranath. Rumi. Rumi was made of different material. it would only annoy her son. Ata Bhai of Narinda. You can hear it from him if you want. His hands shook. she said closing her eyes. their hands tied. poking a child to death from the arms of the mother. that would take care of the summer season. So the permission was obtained at last. Their days are numbered.consisted of human beings. And you want me to stay home after all this? Rumi showed her some clippings from Newsweek describing the news of the war of independence. we find corpses floating by in the Buriganga. They are making a list of all young men in Dhaka. The sewing done. clamouring to go. Would you want that? No. Che Guevara were put in a sack and . He was a good sportsman too. Let me tell you Amma. bubbling with youth and enthusiasm stay behind? Though a student of science Rumi was equally interested in literature and poetry. The temporary Bangladesh government is operating from Mujibnagar. He wanted his mother's permission. Killing a man in the house of Khuda! Would Khudatallah tolerate this kind of excess. Go and join the freedom fighters. What they are doing in the name of Islam is enough to make God's seat shake. qualify as an engineer but would carry a guilt stricken conscience all my life.

Rumi. Rumi saw Babul and turned away in disgust. Usually the boys celebrated it but there was no question of celebration this year. After they had gone some distance. Read it Amma. Today Jami willingly gave up his share of the time to his brother. Jehanara shivered as she held the dark rose. Rumi turned to look at a two-storied house. Amma. Rumi brought an old book. Next to him sat his father. Amma.hidden in a hole behind the bathroom wall. If others enquire tell them I have gone to stay in the Gulshan house. Rumi was still asleep. Young men like Rumi avoided him. You know I can't tell lies. Rumi finished his bath and came to the breakfast table. They had brought gifts. he told his brother. Of late he had noticed a strange excitement in Rumi's eyes. I will be there for some time. His father Shareef sat at the other end of the table. Has he left to join the liberation army? He wondered. Jehanara. Usually Jehanara stroked their heads to put them to sleep. Jehanara looked up and prayed to Allah to give Rumi a safe passage. dangling his air bag climbed on to the back seat as if he was going to college. There were knocks on the door. The day before was Jehanara's birthday. From his first floor balcony Babul saw the car turning into Elephant Road. but the boys looked glum. No. As Jehanara's fingers played in his hair. But there was no other way. tears should not be shed. Please do not do anything melodramatic. What did they take him to be — a traitor? A wave of . hiding his face behind a newspaper. No special food or asking others. The Nazis treated the Jewish people as less than human and killed them as insects. her voice choked with emotion asked: Just tell me who all will be with you. the mother tearful. same as the West Pakistanis who do not recognise us as Muslims. Each year surprise gifts were given before she left the bed. She wiped her eyes and got up to get the breakfast ready. It is about the resistance movement of the Polish people against the atrocities of the Nazi army. This boy who at one time came to him everyday to hear about the elucidation of the Red Book has now turned completely against him. This Rumi used to be so fond of western music. Drive me to the second gate of the Secretariat. What a price for freedom! What a lot of blood would be shed. You will find an exact parallel in this account. This will give you a lot of mental strength. please do not look back. Behave normally. Then drive away. Babul smiled to himself. an operation which caused him great pain. if Babul Choudhury asks do not tell him anything. Where would you be going? Please do not ask. Rumi softly whistled the tune of "Ekbar biday de ma ghure aasi" Let me bid good bye to you mother. Give Amma the Bonny Prince. It will not do to weaken at the last minute. she had told them. The sky was overcast. He too has allowed his son to leave but nobody knew what was going on in his heart. he told his mother. It was always a matter of right. the colour of congealed blood. each demanding more time from her. It was 'Mila — 18' by Leon Uris. a dark red rose from Jami. his face dug in the newspaper.

Are they scared? It is true that the army has resorted to repressive measures in order to put down the E P R rebellion and the amateur Mukti Bahini. Hossain Saheb too has disappeared. For some unknown reason Altaaf has fled to India. an agent of a foreign country. He was aware of her feelings for Mamun mama though it was not physical but at times such love can be larger than her attachment for her husband. lock. though. Babul hoped they would be safe. taking the child with her. During the Agartala Conspiracy case they had termed Mujib a traitor. But no. No patience at all. Babul has no place to go to. perhaps he has landed in Karachi. Sirajul was seen only once after the twenty-fifth. he was much above such petty sentiments but what was a man supposed to feel if he found his wife entertaining another man when he came home. It was Sefu who heated up the bath water and made tea for Babul eight times a day. Babul wanted to send Monira to her village home but she was determined to stay on in the hope that Sirajul would be visiting her. He missed his son. Must have joined the Mukti Bahini. . dreaming of the revolution. Nobody knows why they closed the paper. steeped in narrow patriotism. The situation in Dhaka reached such a pass that no young woman was safe even at home. neither Zahir nor Kamal.patriotism seems to have taken over. None of his friends keep in touch. Monju has gone to India with Mamun mama. That would be the time to wipe out the exploiting class. Any fool can see that. Babul was not jealous. It was pro-Pakistan all right. Socialist China by helping Pakistan is pushing them to their end. The whole thing about the Mukti Bahini was not favoured by Babul but he could not possibly turn Monira out. dressed in English clothes. some shops and offices are open. One time Marxists have overnight turned into devout Bengalis. What exactly do they want in the name of independent Bangladesh? If Pakistan really splits another class would replace the Pakistan army to carry on exploitation. again the same boys float in the tide of nationalism. these young men are dancing to the tune of the Awami League leadership. his picture would come out almost every day. Kamal and others should not lose sight of the fact that oppression reaches a climax just before breaking out of revolution. the very next day they turn out to be Chinese type Marxists. they do not realize that the way Pakistan is going it is only a matter of time before a total revolution would spread. The house was so silent without Sukhu. Let them stay in India for a while. a country he hated. the whole lot of them. Before leaving Monju had made the household help Sefu swear that she would never leave the saheb. Shallow and sentimental. The occupancy right now was two and a half including Sefu the household help. stock and barrel. Monira stayed downstairs. Babul sighed. Life is returning to normal in Dhaka. schools are being forced to reopen but the college and university students do not trust the government. day in and day out? What did she find in a totally confused person like Mamun? Babul could not understand. Perhaps proximity might disillusion her. Fluently speaking English. Babul forced her to leave. dancing American style. With the university closed.

in so insignificant a manner? He could faintly hear Monira's screams for help. he commanded. Nobody bothered about him and perhaps the same applied to him. There was a dinner at Santa boudi's the day before Atin left. A couple of days later when Babul was having his second cup of tea in bed. get out of here now. From the staircase Babul spoke to them in English. By whose permission have you entered the premises? Let go of this woman. Falling. Did not the fools know that he knew Tikka Khan himself? He rushed downstairs without his sleepers. Sefu. . Sefu was breathless. He was sick and tired of reading. Stop this. Old man Bhasani too had fled to the safe haven of India and supporting the cause of free Bangladesh. Sefu came running. he wondered? So this is death.Babul came inside the room. sir. True enough sound of falling objects came from downstairs. . Am I going to die. Actually Atin was worried about accommodation in Boston. a cup of tea quick. He could not afford an entire apartment. suggested Panchuda. Now at last he has a room of his own. The soldiers had thrown everything out of Monira's room. Babul was more stupefied than in pain. do something to stop this upsurge of nationalism. Saab. one fellow grabbed her by the hair. he murmured. The sounds faded. Panchuda was the self-effacing type. The soldier did not bother to answer. Thanks a lot Panchuda. Babul must get in touch with his party workers. Saab. . No. picked up a book and bellowed. Babul was annoyed. They have entered Monira appa's room. putting up with Samir's brother and his wife till he found something." In the middle of the din Panchuda had called him to ask where he would be staying in Boston. I can ask Satyakinkar. so he would try for a seat in a dormitory. This was beyond his wildest dreams. the military. his eyes closed. the military! What is it? Why are you jumping? They are in the house. an arrangement he was not at all happy about. There was nothing else to do. arise o wretched of the earth . 17 A small sunlit garden greeted him as Atin moved the window curtains. You never can tell from where help can come. He fired his revolver twice and ordered others. He tried his best to make up for his earlier unpleasant behaviour by singing lustily with others — "Arise o prisoner of starvation. I am calling colonel Ansari right now. not noticed in a crowd.

Atin was not enthusiastic. You will get a room and the key of the main door. She was called Martha. This was encouraging. Considering all this the room was a bargain. There was enough furniture. A strange coincidence indeed. They went back on Sunday night. You will have to pay for your room in Satyakinkar's place. . The idea of living with a family. Did you have a good journey? Atin was a little alarmed. I will be taking the room. the rent something like eighty dollars. No. even blankets. There is a room heater but you can ask my wife for extra blankets. married a white. nobody slept. they had a wild time. he tried to explain modestly. extra charges for gas and telephone. nobody had ever seen him casually dressed. He just turned his head towards Atin and said casually. Our people. It was a room after his own heart. Atin liked it even more for being in the attic. An entire room for eighty? I would love to take it. you might like him. Hi. is it possible to make tea in the room? He spoke in Bengali. Samir. a pukka saheb. The rents were very nominal. a bed. even Pakistanis but to ordinary job-holders. wardrobe. felt Atin. agreed Panchuda. Has been in this country for twenty three years. But the kitchen and toilet is common. But in actual fact he was a strong man of fifty. He did not usually interfere with the personal lives of his tenants but as another tenant told Atin he gave notice to those who failed or did badly in their studies. most of them do not know the meaning of that word. House rent usually cost a quarter of the salary. You might find it a bit cold. table and chair. Panchuda did not tell me that two were to share the room? Atin hurried to reassure him. Satyakinkar is a strange man. Will this man with an American wife insist on speaking in English all the time? So far Atin had stayed only with Bengalis. Atin was grateful to Panchuda for caring for him. Obviously he had vacuum-cleaned the room a little while ago. Siddhartha. mending the curtains. A Bengali? He asked in Bengali. I am Atin Majumder. Food was comparatively cheaper . Atin had found him on his knees. That is exactly why. they had no children. It was an eight hour drive from New York. The name Satyakinkar brought visions of a devout Brahmin with sacred thread. fully dressed. Satyakinkar paused in his mending and turned to Siddhartha. said Atin. At this point Siddhartha who stood behind Atin butted in. Panchuda reached for the telephone. book rack. the vacuum cleaner next to him. Have you ever lived in an attic before? Satyakinkar went on. They rented out rooms to Indian students. fair complexion and a receding hairline. Let me find out if he has a vacant room. Neepa and Basobi were in the car. no I mean I need some privacy. . Clothing and transport too cost quite a lot. If you don't you are always free to go somewhere else. he is a friend. Satyakinkar — what a name! Besides he was a total stranger. It had a slanting roof as all houses do in areas of snow fall. Everything was fixed in five minutes. Obviously some kind of idealism was operative in the deal. he could easily have asked for more. He was a nicer person than his accomplished and popular wife. They lived in the basement for some inexplicable reason. Well. Mr Lahiri. Satyakinkar said he had a room in the attic which would be seventy-two dollars. you will be free to come and go. From his unemotional appearance he would not have thought so. .

in the New York airport and in a Greyhound bus station. CBS was showing an old historical Atin did not much care for. He would have to buy a raincoat. Today for the first time after Jamshedpur they would be by themselves. A chilly breeze was blowing even in the month of May. She was due to return this afternoon by the three o-clock bus. after all how long could he loiter in the streets of this unknown city. she will be joining some . disappointed. I want you sweetie. The same girl. We have two Muslim boys and a Gujarati. No matter how much he wanted to keep the thought away it kept bobbing up. perhaps told her about Atin's jumping out from the moving car. Atin found it very odd that anybody could leave jobs and found another. Please feel free to ask for anything. You can use the ash-tray in the drawer. Strange country indeed! In the afternoons the TV had only soap operas or stupid talk shows. Bablu was much easier and seemed a very sweet name to her. Atin could not afford the bus fare to Boston. she failed to pronounce Atin's name correctly. She was coming to this country.Yes. Satyakinkar got up when Siddhartha lit a cigarette. the students were out to their classes. Don't you have a nickname. An American female voice purred. there is no knowing what Siddhartha would have said in front of her. Satyakinkar was off to work. but no pork or beef please. Get lost. to her uncle. What if I may ask is your discipline? Come here for your doctorate. He was excited. I don't mind other people smoking but I can't stand the smell. She cannot come before five. The woman giggled. glad that he did not use the familiar "tumi" when speaking in Bengali. she had left her job of teaching Russian to take up Greek. he bellowed and put down the receiver with a bang. In a way Atin was glad. His friends stayed for the weekend. He made a round of the university campus. After coming to the States Atin had met her only twice and that too in public places. The very first day she gave Atin a fairly big pizza as a gift. and fine snow. you can cook in the kitchen downstairs. The phone rang. a chubby woman with pink cheeks who looked older than her husband was born of white Russian parents. she asked laughing. At a loss to kill the time he came back to his room. Hi darling. Atin could have flirted with her but not today. On the whole Atin was delighted with the new arrangement. She did not want him to receive her at the bus station because there would be a cousin with her. His wife Martha. in this room. Suddenly for no reason he thought of Oli. Are you free this evening? He put the phone down but it rang again. Talkative and motherly. If you want you may have your own TV. his own room. Sharmila lived with her cousin. phone and fridge in the room but otherwise you are welcome to use the phone and TV in the sitting room. Then he had two hotdogs and coffee in a drug store and spent some time reading a thriller. I suppose? Atin informed him about his plans. though it was still two days to join. She could not cancel it in the last minute. She could speak a little broken Bengali and thankfully was not formal like her husband. Only Martha was in. how have you been? Whom do you want? Asked Atin. You can keep foodstuff in the fridge. she could not come to New York either. Sharmila had gone to Washington D C. This month.

You know I had to lie to Sumi. Ma had always wanted a refrigerator. But he must write it before meeting Oli. but I can't leave you. The letter has to be posted within a couple of days. neither has he told Sharmila about Oli. Who should be told first. confess everything in a letter. May be one of her father's acquaintances lived in New York and she would be staying with them. No. utterly unselfish. He went forward and caught her hand. The actual reason was that Atin could not make up his mind. She would be expecting to see Atin the first thing after getting down. Hi Bablu. That would be a lie. . He ran out of cigarettes but did not want to budge in case Sharmila came or called from the bus station. The film on the TV was over. are you a TV addict? You love watching soap ads? Atin smiled. Her hair was loose. His life would have been different if he had not met Sharmila. He must send money home. Atin will have to meet her at the airport. She does not know about Sharmila. it was out of the question after the involvement he has had with Sharmila. He has been trying to economize by giving up alcohol. He did have very strong feelings for her. Atin could have kissed her right there on the porch. She has been extravagant to save time. before Oli's arrival. He could have done some serious studying in the meantime. It would break her heart. He must tell her about Oli first. But how was he going to tell them? How could he tell Oli that I do not love you any more. She looked shy as usual. Give me whatever punishment you think tit. nobody was around. Oli or Sharmila? Must Oli get hurt first because she lives far away. He must hurry up and buy an aerogramme. But he could not concentrate till he saw Sharmila. Sharmila wore a light white raincoat over a pink sari. He was going to confess to Sharmila to-day. I am going to the market. said Sharmila. On the other hand Sharmila could very well blame him for not making a clean breast earlier. Just after she got out a taxi pulled up. any thought of causing hurt to her pained him no end. It would be easier to write. The moment she came to know of Atin's first love she was certain to detach herself and will never let him know how much she missed him. before it is too late. even Martha was out. At least if she came to know of it earlier she would have time to prepare herself. Surprisingly the first thought to come to Atin's mind was had it been Oli instead of Sharmila! Then he discovered an odd similarity in the features of the two women. I did not want to wait even for a minute.eastern university. Atin would give her all possible help once she set foot here. The burden of secrecy was becoming unbearable. It was only for her that he agreed to flee the country prompted by a shameless urge to live. a children’s' program started. Sharmila too was a wonderful girl. Munni would have written if she had acquired one already. she continued. Martha came up from the basement. She was so dependent on him that any attempt to jilt her would be cowardly. I love another. He has been cheating them both though he did not mean to hurt either of them. will have to pass through New York. But no. He would sit at her feet and appeal. After all they will remain friends.

The words remained unspoken. 18 . I just brought my suitcase. Who did it? I found everything here. shame on you. pulled a corner of the carpet and discovered a second key. Atin could not take his eyes off her. She fished out the key like a magician. Isn't the room nice? Come to the window. said Sharmila walking into the room. Look. Atin told her.Lovely house. you can have a view of the river. You are more absent minded than I am. They climbed up the stairs. it is already spic and span. She must have a duplicate key. Sharmila yanked the bed sheet off the bed. for greenhorns like you. Their lips. though a bit far from my place. You know I felt so bad. thighs touched. Swiftly she started rearranging the room. He kissed her passionately on the lips. Martha was out too. Let me see. in hotels. What would be her reaction? Suppose she said. I have to talk to you. so innocent. Atin rushed towards her and took her in his arms. The urge to press her against him and smother her with kisses was strong. How can you sleep in somebody else's bed sheet? Well we do. I will spend some of my afternoons here. He handed her the key. they collapsed on the bed. Sharmila looked at him. She drew Atin aside. But first things first. Come. What was to be done now? Sharmila understood something was wrong. he said. All restraint gone. I could have got the room ready for you. Sharmi. I will get you a new one tomorrow. oh. you want to jilt a girl to make me happy? As he fumbled in his trouser pocket for the key Atin realised to his chagrin that he was locked out. she was dusting the top of the table. but in spite of it she was so beautiful. books and a stand lamp picked up from New York. With feminine touch the room somehow looked different. Would you open please. So the room was furnished? Even the bed sheet? Atin shook his head. This is not a hotel. see my room. What is the matter with you? You look so serious. belly. breasts. remarked Sharmila. She has lost weight. Atin's heart pounding hard. her collar bones stood out.

She did not want any help from her father and he too had washed his hands of her affairs. about six years ago that they had traveled this way. thought it best not to tell her anything. Sengupta had won from Maniktala in a bye-election and was an MLA now. She cannot entertain her Naxal friends there. those two fellows were there. she leaned against the window and closed her eyes. Perhaps they were employed by Pompom's father. But Oli kept visiting her nevertheless. But Pompom was displeased. she would not be able to stand jail atrocities. Oli could not help giving a backward glance. standing guard. giving her all the information about Kaushik and others now in Berhampur jail. That was the final order from Sengupta. a couple of bombs took care that nobody would rush to the rescue. Her legs shook if she walked a few steps. Soon after three turns they were outside Oli's range of vision. If the two fellows were Sengupta's men were they keeping an eye on them or watching out for other visitors? Oli wondered but since Pompom had not noticed the men. shoot? They could do that for all she cared. It was possible because the superintendent was a good friend of Oli's uncle. but fortunately they did not follow in another rickshaw. She never told Oli about the kind of police torture she underwent at Lalbazar. The local train compartment was crowded. They got down at Memory along with a lot of other passengers Oli had Pompom's hand in a tight grip in spite of her protests. They were sturdily built. It was eleven in the morning and so many people around but these days murders were committed in broad daylight. she could not even hold a book. hands dug in their pockets.IT was not too long ago. Asoke Sengupta to keep an eye on the girls. Could be plain dress police or hired goondas by some party. Once in a while she whispered to take revenge. not particularly young either. . They crossed the platform and took a rickshaw. If she did she would be packed off to Bangalore to a mashi. They gave Oli a queer feeling. who was not a member of their party risk police attention by doing this? Oli was a feminine type like a doll in a box. eyed them keenly. Oli tried to read a copy of the National Geographic but her eyes strayed continuously to the two people standing opposite them. people got on and off at every stop but those two stayed put. Pompom made no attempt to talk. Pompom was totally bed ridden. Finally she agreed to go to their village home till she recovered but on one condition. singing and shouting all the time. Why would Oli. Yes. Today they were just two. Oli had gone to visit her at the PG hospital dressed as a nurse. Pompom had tremendous will power but had health had broken down. The only piece of news she kept from her was Manikda's death. What would they do now. The reason given for her release was health. It was through his efforts that Pompom was released from jail. did not look like road side Romeos. She stayed with her father in their Maniktala residence for a while but constant advice from well-wishers was more than she could take. Her face was pale.

Will visit him on the way. Without a hitch Oli lied. Proximity with them gave her a feeling that she was close to her Babluda. Where is Kaushik? As a matter of fact it was something even Oli did not know. He was convinced that his wound had turned septic. she kept telling herself. her will power would keep him alive. About fifteen were killed and twenty-seven injured. Only Oli like a faithful friend visited her everyday. have some rest. the police are sure to follow you. he cannot. How can you go now Pompom. They don't know me. As if they won't follow you. There was a murder charge against him. The sympathisers now gave Pompom a wide berth. He was forced to leave the country against his wishes. Were he and Kaushik in the same jail? Kaushik has broken jail. A couple of days ago there was an armed fight between the guards of the Dumdum jail and its Naxal inmates. Manikda and Tapan were part of Babluda. Oli tried to pacify her. She had cried her heart out hearing about the terrible incident of Dumdum jail. Tell me something Oli.Nobody came to see Pompom. Oli recalled. How will you go to Krishnanagar all by yourself? Let me get better. thirty-two had fled. I will go with you. What? What did you say? Why didn't you tell me earlier? Actually it was a slip. . Pompom opened her eyes. Last time the distance from the station to Pompom's house had not seemed so long. At least Oli hoped so. Tell me right now. Oli held her sick friend in a tight embrace. He wouldn't leave Manikda. most of whom were in jail. Babluda kept limping. Can you send word to Manikda? Haven't seen him for ages. none of her erstwhile party members. he cannot die. Get home. Is Atin still alive? I do not believe that he has been sent abroad. Kaushik could not die. For her all these people — Kaushik. Of the rest there was no way of knowing how many were dead and how many on the run. I will go to Krishnanagar. Kaushik who was brought to this place from Berhampur should be among those who had fled. Pompom. then I will tell you everything. Pompom snapped. don't you know? Pompom sat up. Oli did not want to break it like this. No. Probably Pompom did not read newspapers. In the untarred road the rickshaw bumped. Kaushik is not dead. No. As though she was talking to a baby.

is that it? Her father smiled. Already there had been a police raid. Oli could not blame her. but she also needed a companion. Do you remember Pompom the time a snake was discovered on my mosquito net? Quite a furore it created. Asoke Sengupta looked at the rain-drops. On the second day a nor’wester brought down the temperature. I want to go out in the rain. beaten up by the police. She may have her days numbered. get into your room. At the same time she has missed rain during her prison days. Do you know the police can mark you? She is a friend. are you trying to scare Oli? Asked Pompom. haven't they? He sat on the only chair in the room. There were two widowed aunts. This is when the snakes come out. nor do you have any political involvement. clad in a dhoti. He said. Perhaps the pleasure would do her more good than the damage to her health. Pompom would not let her go. I have come to know that you were not connected to the party activities. Oli stayed on for two days. Come. But he harboured no rancour. helped by Oli to look at the drizzle. Haven't done it for so many years. but necessity is the best teacher. Soaking in the rain? Feeling better. life had not been a bed of roses. looking preoccupied. The thatched roofs protected them from the scorching heat of May. Baba. then to his daughter. one of the aunts cried out. there were dark patches under his eyes. Pompom had nobody to talk to. wondered Oli. declared Pompom. As she brought her out in the courtyard. could laugh easily. . The first to get down were two strong men whom Oli had noticed on the train. Would it be advisable. But before they could start for the mango orchard a jeep pulled up. Nobody had taught her how to. admitted her father. One uncle looked after the agriculture. He never had much relation with his well to do family. She had no mental affinity with the relations living there. Then he turned to Oli. I used to live in this room. said Pompom. Right from morning Oli took care of her like a nurse. Aren't you afraid of snakes? He put a direct question to Oli. are you? Pompom let go of Oli's hand and went back to her room. let us go. Could be. followed by a drizzle. said Pompom. From Congress politics to Marxism.In their country house Pompom had a very old grandfather who was almost blind. he had been through a lot — terms in jail. Are you going to kill yourself? Get into your room. yet you are doing so much for my daughter. Saw a snake being killed on my way here. my goodness. she could not stay here indefinitely. Haven't seen rain for the last two years. You want her to leave. She was too weak. washing and feeding her. The trees around the house took away most of the heat. His face was heavily lined. followed by Pompom's father. Let us move to the mango orchard to pick up green mangoes lying under the tree. Presently Asoke Sengupta too walked in. Pompom came out in the porch. It was true she needed rest. pondered Oli. Don't pay heed. look at her. I am amazed. But Oli had so much to do. He touched his daughter's forehead. But your study circle friends have all forsaken you.

What madness is this? He brought out a folded paper from his pocket. Revolution indeed! Marxism has to be applied in different ways depending on the prevailing situation of each country. Presidents Rule will follow. And you are set to spoil it all. it is for you to scare us. Ajit Biswas of the Forward Block has been killed yesterday. We do not accept any other means. said Pompom.Oh. Would it make you happy to see me murdered by your party workers? Pompom did not answer. . . but we keep a strong watch. The whole thing is senseless. You know Pompom I was so fond of Manik. If we could have had these thousands of dedicated young people with us. The killers of Hemanta Bose did not spare his substitute from the same seat. For you the end has become getting into the Parliament and the Assembly. snapped Pompom. The extremist theory of Charubabu has pushed a lot of brilliant boys and girls to the edge. You get panicky to hear about revolution. What good does it serve tell me. revolution or a romantic adventure? East Pakistan is in turmoil. you may not know. These are textbook jargons. No central control. how many more young lives will be lost. if Charubabu had accepted our line we could have ousted congress by now. Don't you see that in a way you are helping the reactionaries? You are intoxicated by power. that is what we believe in. So this means you do not even have a strong party base. They will target Gopiballavpur. Who had asked you to write slogans declaring the chairman of China to be your chairman? Some of your party members who had gone to China had been scolded by Chou en Lai. What is it actually. you were in jail. It is not that easy to bring about a revolution in a country having a democratic structure. You saw the name of your party on the chit. Once the process has started . The units are doing whatever comes into their head. I knew it all along. One has to capture power through democratic ways — that is why we are trying. . We are gaining in strength by the day. Very soon Ajay Mukherjee would be removed. How long do you think this puppet government of Ajay Mukherjee will last? We have report that Mao Tse Tung himself has rebuffed some of you. There may be exceptions. Pompom. the army will begin action. "It is now your turn Asoke Sengupta. The sketch of a human scull below which one line in red ink. Childish pranks. one or two may develop weakness. but you have set about to bring about a revolution. is that it Pompom? He laughed. The end is very near. the centre is not going to tolerate any disorder in West Bengal." He tore the paper to pieces. Oli turned pale but Pompom did not register any emotion. she merely gave him a cold stare. is this a report of your party or of the CIA? You have no idea of what has been happening. They are killing or are being killed. Revolution. Baba. Is this what Marxism is all about — these senseless killings? This is your idea of Marxism! Our party members do not write such letters.

Meanwhile Pompom can go to Bangalore to her uncle and aunt. Asoke Sengupta raised his eyebrows. Wipe your hair first. Under no circumstances was she going to break down before her father. they are now letting the prisoners go and shooting them down all in the name of confrontation. Oli. Do that. Burning school buildings and killing policemen at random — where does this ultra leftism lead you? Extreme right reactionaries will emerge as a reaction. He is very sick himself. Don't you worry. didn't you know? Pompom turned her face away. As if on a cue Pompom burst out crying. You are going to the States. But what do you have against me. She looked at her friend in surprise. I will be alright here. Your father came to me. Embarrassed. on the run. Will spend the night here. stroked her head and said tenderly. Don't you see? Life for life. Your party is in shambles. Manikda? Oli looked down. He could have taken Oli aside to tell this. Manikda. I could not control my tears when I heard the news . You . They will take good care of you Pompom. Why did you keep it from me? She asked angrily. This was news to Pompom. Very well. Will you be happy to see me murdered by your party people? Pompom began to sob at long last. You simply had no experience in the perfect organising skill needed to run an underground party. I am here because I have a meeting in Bardhaman tomorrow. Pompom turned to the wall and stretched on the bed. murmured Pompom. nothing can go wrong with me. Oli was annoyed with Pompom's father. . Pompom? I am sleepy. you better hurry up. you certainly have not learnt anything from history. How much longer can Charubabu keep up. it is wet. Her father kept stroking her head. . For all you know your passport might be impounded. . Go back to Calcutta tomorrow. For shame. He wiped her tears. aren't you? You have got your visa but you must get back to Calcutta as quickly as possible. He turned to Oli.He led you astray . Let me sleep. you never know the police. Pompom gave Oli a quick glance before asking. Oli came closer and touched her. Have you come all the way from Calcutta to lecture me? I know you will not listen to me. Her father came near the bed. the weather too is excellent. But Khuki you did not answer my question. Another reason I am here is to tell Oli something. why would they take it lying down? You have antagonised the police. Asoke Sengupta stood up. he may have been misguided but he was a sincere worker all right. Then she sat up. . He has been dead a couple of months. He left. Manikda — she kept saying.

Oli? . Asoke Sengupta returned the next day. One carried a pistol. True enough they were. said Samiran. That night. They were Samiran and Bhanu. What? Not jewelry I hope. not known to Oli. No. We need money for food and medicines. in the forest. . Wait a little. gone abroad. I would have been forced to shoot the dogs. No. offering Oli a lift in his jeep. They are our boys. didn't you? I heard about it from my mama who is a doctor. From where are you coming? Asked Pompom. But I can give you something. Can you give us some money? About a thousand? Oli had about a hundred. How are you Pompom. but before he reached . she said. Babluda has fled. Pompom had even less. no. This village is not safe for you. knocking gently. replied Oli. Kaushik. drew near the bed and said. Santosh you must tell me. You can sell it for at least eight hundred. But they needed more for operating Kaushik's leg. not jewelry. Listen. Jayasree. no news is good news. Both of them sat holding hands and mourned for Manikda. tell me. Tapan. two hours after midnight there was somebody at the window. she said. So Kaushik was alive after all. the other had a pipe gun. Why are you sticking to me? This means Atin too is gone. Oli. Atin. Saroj Dutt. Please open the door. But Pompom was so heart broken that Oli could not leave her. asked Samiran. He has been shot in the leg. the police. But you knew about Manikda. normally people in villages do not have a lot of cash at home. The dogs were barking like mad. Who are the killers? CPM? Congress? No. My mama was taken to him for treatment. honestly. . in tears. Oli woke up to find Pompom listening intently.thought I wouldn't be able to take it? Who else is dead. What about Kaushik? I do not know. we do not have much time. I do not know about the others. They bolted the door. Oli attributed this to her will power. Sushital Roychoudhury. We are close by. This can be sold in any grocery shop. if you had not opened. Pompom heard their story. Would you come with me.

She must do what Babluda would have done under the circumstances. I am hungry. explained Pompom. 19 JEHANARA Imam had just sat down for lunch when the doorbell rang. in spite of her ill health acted swiftly. I will tell them. you will put them into more trouble. They are very costly. But his hair was disheveled. No. beaming. He was constantly in her thoughts all through her waking hours. Jehanara stared at her son. It went on ringing as if someone was not taking his finger off it. Pompom. As Rumi helped himself to rice and fish curry and gulped down the food. they can help me to make the trip. Pompom suddenly stopped on her tracks. From our garden. You will be sick. How can you go? You have to go back to Calcutta for your visa and all. No. you have to walk on foot. . No questions were to be asked. How can you go Pompom? They are hiding in the forest. Kaushik has to be saved. eyes sunken. Oli insisted. Betrs nuts. She got an allowance of three hundred every month from her father. as if he was just back from college. I must go and see for myself. He sat down and looked at his mother meaningfully. A bell at odd hours is scary. Kaushik is Babluda's closest friend. Can be sold for a tidy sum. Is that you Rumi? Rumi put down his bag. her expression a mixture of worry and joy. and it looked as though someone was determined to show how powerful he was. Suppose Kaushik has been shot in the chest or the back? They won't tell me.They tiptoed across the courtyard to a room where Pompom's grandfather slept. the shirt has not been changed for several days. She took an instant decision. Oli had absolutely no idea of the market price of Betrs nuts. The door was kept open. ammi. Let me go instead. she cried out. no. Still she kept her cool and asked the domestic help. They were quite heavy. Panic stricken. She did not even chide him for not washing his hands. I have to go and see Kaushik. at any cost. Go and see who the brute is. The servant brought an extra plate and waited. he simply said. But when the visitor came in Jehanara could not believe her own eyes. Her only regret was not having brought more money. dragging out four cloth bundles from under the bed.

The people picked up by them are not coming back. highly dangerous. do not ask me how we reached Dhaka. picked up the newspapers and went upstairs whistling. They were moving towards Bikrampur. Be quiet amma. He then briefly related their adventure. It was a roundabout route. he began. who had stood face to face with death only a couple of days earlier? . The army caught one of our smaller groups. breathless with worry managed to ask. Amma. the same Rumi. I cannot divulge names. Sirajul and others are waiting there. Eight miles further on was Srinagar. They had to trudge about eight miles through storm and rain. Rumi detached himself from his mother's embrace. Kumilla. Rumi smiled. whistling a minute ago. They reached Dhaleswari. He spoke as though he was not the bubbling young man he used to be but a much older and experienced person. tell me what happened. Pratap Hazra. They could neither turn back nor go forward. He went on eating. Jehanara phoned her husband in his office. is it? Oh yes. Crying and laughing at the same time she blurted out — Tell me Rumi. finishing off with a drink of the remaining dal. What do you mean we? How many were there? I warned you mother. The only way left for them was to cross over by way of Srirampur. combing the area for outsiders. I narrowly missed being shot. said Rumi with a deadpan face. As he left he spoke to his mother. We crossed Buriganga at Sadarghat. she ran upstairs to Rumi's room. there was just nothing we could do. But the Pak army had reached Srinagar too. they will take Rumi and his group to Tripura. Asking the servant to leave for the afternoon. She locked the door and took her son in her arms. Meanwhile the Pak army had crossed the river and reached Syedpur. You narrowly escaped being shot. a habilder who had been hurt and some Hindu families. You could have been among those captured. Do not ask too many questions. Barek. Jehanara wondered if this boy was her Rumi. the police station of which was now under the Mukti Bahini. Get me some cold water from the fridge. I could have been with them. two student leaders named Manirul and Ishrak. He washed his hand and mouth. cleared the table trying to act as normally as possible. In one unguarded moment she had said I am sacrificing you for the country. It is unusually hot this year. Kamal Lohani.Rumi turned to the servant. I will tell you everything. will you go and roast some green pepper for me? Do it on slow heat. They reached Srinagar in the evening. That is the plan. A boat overturned. Luckily I was in a different boat. The injured habilder was given shelter in a village and they crossed Dhaleswari to reach Syedpur. Jehanara. Must you hear everything right now? I had to come back because the route we were supposed to take has been ambushed. They were proceeding to the border. This was lying heavy on her conscience. Spending the night at the house of a doctor. carrying the habilder. he asked the servant. Sukumar Bardhan in nearby Nagarbhanga village.

As soon as the word reaches me I will have to leave. He put his head on his mother's lap. was finished off by the same people. . Jehanara said in a small voice. my friends tease him for being joru ka gulam — he will go mad. They will meet their end one by one. so you will be staying in Dhaka now. they are not Bengali. Babul Choudhury who was so thick with the fascist regime. How is Motaher chacha? Is it true that the Biharis of Mirpur are stopping buses and killing all the Bengali passengers? Have you heard about your professor Babul Chaudhury? He has been shot. Besides they are not going to keep a single young man of Dhaka outside prison. he said. It is enough crime to be a Bengali. Hai Allah. Rumi did not open his eyes. We heard Monira scream but who would resist the monsters. just like Babul Choudhury. Rumi. right into the lion's den. We had taken a vow to finish off the betrayers. The army had come to look for Sirajul. won't you? What do you mean? Her son snapped. Look at the irony of fate. All the pro-Chinese leaders of our college have joined the freedom struggle except a few hard core ultra left like Babul Choudhury. how can you allow the blameless to come to this end? But Sirajul so devoted to his wife. . Must be someone from one of our gangs. but Rajakar. We will have to find a route. Even Bhasani Saheb. Rumi sat up. But you said all routes are closed. He has finished off seven Khan soldiers with his own hands. the scum. But it is the army men who have shot him. . you won't stop me from doing what I want. We thought she had already gone. Do you want me to be one of them? Realising that he was hurting his mother Rumi changed his tone. Some young men are with the army. They took away Monira. How long can they hold on before our onslaught. May not survive. Such a sweet innocent girl. What will happen to Sirajul now. went looking for the lost group back to Syedpur. somehow.You know Amma. you are the best Ammi in the world. Tell me about the news here. What? The army? Are you sure? We live in the same neighbourhood. Rapport with the army. Good job. Babul had come down to stop them . They were late. Tikka Khan's army. but supported the Yahya regime. they have taken Monira away? Do you have any idea where? Nobody knows. Sirajul has shown courage you cannot imagine. I know Ammi. You know the deserters do not even deserve hell! I am joining sector two. I believe has sent word to China to support Bangladesh. Our contact at Dhaka was asked to move Monira to a safe place. Oh my god. under Khaled Mosharef. He used to do tall talks. What. continued Rumi.

She would cheer up particularly depressed patients. smile. Should she tell Sultana about Rumi's return. Apolitical Rasul Saheb was totally flabbergasted at the turn of events. His brother Altaaf has disappeared. Pray for him. in the house of a relative. Rasul Saheb fled with his family leaving all his belongings. But now the cut had turned septic. Aziz's polyclinic. of course after a lot of coaxing. She welcomed Jehanara and Shareef cheerfully. For sometime after 25 March. How could we leave him there? We put him in our car and took him to Dr. But he refuses to eat. Rasul Saheb is a deeply religious person. Saleha. Pretty soon Rumi fell asleep. please save my Saheb. The times are strange. smile. We could take it no longer. Please try to make him eat at least one half-boiled egg. His wife has gone to India. They were treating many freedom fighters secretly free of cost. His job had taken him to Brahmanberia. Come on. I have made him drink half a glass of Horlicks. Good news. On second thought she decided not to. patting them on the cheek. She came crying into the street. . Everything is going to be all right. Your patient has regained consciousness. something they had not taken seriously at first. what are they going to eat? Jehanara stroked her head. wondered Jehanara. Babul was in a first floor cabin. met his father and brother briefly but had no time to talk. There was a little girl in the house. His parents cannot be contacted in Tangyle. His wife Sultana too was a doctor. Sefu. domestic help. But the girl went on as though her own father lay dying. she might lose her leg. Dr. Already curfew was imposed. He will survive. How will you live if you forget to smile. Rumi. My Saheb has been shot. Please stop it. Aziz's polyclinic cum nursing home stood on the main road. He went out in the afternoon. Now at long last he has taken refuge in Dhaka. Nobody was supposed to ask him questions. When curfew was lifted for the evening Jehanara and Shareef went over to the nursing home. nobody can be trusted. observed every ritual with care. Brahmanberia was under the people who shouted Joi Bangla. Two bullets have been taken out from his stomach after operation. His wife had stepped on a piece of bone in the village road. Saleha's laments grew louder. Her husband. Is he still there? He has become our responsibility. If something happens none of his near relations would know. He has a transferable job. wore a black Jinnah cap.Don't talk like that. He sported a black beard. No war had been declared but village after village was destroyed. The next one had another acquaintance. Oh Baro Apa. I am going to die. What will happen to my children? We have lost everything. But his heart was still beating. Then the bombing started. It was Jehanara who had put Saleha in this nursing home. After all he was your teacher. He is not yet dead. Aziz was a reserved type but his wife was lively and jolly. who would risk his life. by the grace of Allah. Your Dad and I went into their house to find Babul all stretched out on the last step of the staircase in a pool of blood. wasn't he? Actually what happened was this. Hearing her moan both Jehanara and her husband entered her cabin.

Said Shareef. it is just a piece of bone. Babul said. They certainly are not Muslim. it must be late in the night. don't you have any law? Don't shout. At first sight Babul looked perfectly normal. Jehanara was in an optimistic mood. They moved to the next cabin. It has hurt her faith to find Muslims doing this to fellow Muslims. not now. Her delicate feminine face was pale but it was not apparent in the dim light. He has been thinking constantly of his son Sukhu and Monira. Sultana told me. They should be reaching here in a day or two only if the roads are open. he had no questions nor answers. Good things were to happen. They will operate. remarked Jehanara. Why bother her? Why don't you eat. I have been told. There is no religion involved here. All the lights of the city must have gone. Killed the Hindus and did not spare the Muslims either! Allah. Said Babul. Why is the lady next door yelling? Somebody dead? Not anybody in her immediate family. Babul would be walking about. good. Jehanara chided. Where on earth is Sukhu? Does he fret for his father? From somewhere far away came the sound of a child's cry. You can phone Calcutta via London. the colonel saheb. How about a boiled egg? Tomorrow. Babul stared at the ceiling. Consider yourself lucky. Still Babul said nothing. This is a nursing home. do you know? Asked Jehanara. Jehanara exclaimed. honest Muslims. they are not human — those Khan army people. You must regain your strength. Look at him! Babul you are all right now. Where is Monju in India. From the window ash coloured moonlight streamed in. but she has seen others being killed. Will they rape her? Kill her? He wished there was a way he could call Dilara's husband. We prayed for you day and night. A shadowy figure moved about. Baro Apa. you are going to get well. you were not shot. Ever since the return of Rumi.Saleha shivered. Now he had a book on economics held before his eyes. If only. Saleha would get back the use of her leg. it was so dark. Allah had listened to our prayers. A white sheet hiding the bandages on his stomach. you know. Babul? Shareef wanted to know. that is all. Babul could never stand a child's cry. said Shareef. He dozed off but something rushed inside the room and he woke up. if only the Pakistanis would stop the orgy of murder. She was dragged by the hair by the soldiers of her own country. I have sent word in Tangyle. But the book slipped from his hand. Babul put aside his book and merely stared at her. naked struggle for power. After the visitors left he tried to concentrate on the book. . At last obliged to say something. We would try to get in touch. perhaps the doctor. He knew nothing except books.

Babul made an attempt to say — Sirajul you should have come earlier. Liar! You had informed the army. You deserve to be hurt more. held there by force by Rumi and Ishak. The two doctors rushed to the spot. Let me get the injection ready. save us. you. I did not . he cried. Would you tell me please? Stop this nonsense. You son of a bitch. You have killed him! But Sultana was feeling for heart beats. I didn't. He could not go on. . Babul whispered. They are here. Don't kill me. Sefu. But even a little bit of food disagreed with him. quick. wondered Babul. What do you think you are doing? He barked. he whispered. Sirajul was now lying on the floor. It was Sirajul. they are here. roared Sirajul. The shadow pulled away the sheet and began opening up the bandage. A tug of war ensued. so he gave up taking anything. Two other shadowy figures had entered meanwhile. Meanwhile Sirajul brought out a knife from his bag and proceeded to cut the stitches. . I tell you. Where is Monira? Was it his own conscience. He is alive. Monira's husband. He looked with dismay at Babul and his bed smeared in blood. Trying to be funny! Where have you put her? I had asked her to join Sirajul. Babul was wide-awake now. Dr. He switched on his torch to inspect the wound. Rumi. His wound was stitched up again. Keep quiet. I want to see if you have been really shot. He was hurting him. he said viciously. Babul recognised the voice. Yea. . you boot-licker of the army. He realised it was not the doctor. One of them pushed Sirajul back. You are hurting me. snapped the shadowy figure. Get out. Babul was too weak even to read books or talk. In spite of it Babul survived. He grew thin and skinny. Babul was faint with pain. she cried out. Sirajul. It is all staged by you. The only visitors were Jehanara and Sefu. Now pretending to be good. The army took her away. but not too late for you. but she didn't. with tears in her eyes kept to his bedside. or his soul? I don't know.The figure flopped on the bed. Turning to the intruders she hissed. Why would they shoot me then? Stray bullet of a stupid soldier may be. you son of a whore. By then Sirajul has opened up the bandage. What did you do. Aziz switched on the light. Wait till I tear open all the stitches and gorge your stomach out. said the shadow. Let me finish off the dog. don't. hai Allah. Leave me alone. spy. Get some hot water. Clear out. He cried out and got a hard slap from the shadow in return. Let me have a look at your wound. it growled. Saleha from the next cabin began to scream. Blood spurted out. Or I am going to call the police.

No. He was surprised to find him up and about. Sefu has told me everything. You wait here for about half an hour. Can you ask him to come and meet me? He has gone back to action. You see I have work to do. Apel. A decent person like you would not stand a girl humiliated. But if there is no room you go straight to Apel Saheb so that when I come back I know where to look for you. He stood at the spot he was shot. All sorts of rumours are making the rounds. Aapa. Monju's brother. All he needed was rest. Forget about Sirajul. You better go to Jehanara Apa. I will come back after I finish my work. do you too believe that I did not try to save Monira? Of course not. Where has he gone? I have no idea. He called Sefu and told her to leave the house. The military might come here again. Patients were coming in so Babul was sent home. Don't you worry. Sefu protested. he is not in his senses. started walking. just a few skirmishes created by the agents of India. shops in Baitool Mokarram have been looted. On that day he had a visitor. She had given word to bhabi that she would stick to saheb. Apel had heard rumours about his Dulabhai being shot. not desert him under any circumstances. even climbed stairs. He was the only one to stay on in Dhaka with his family. But I must see him. The Shaheed Minar has been destroyed. he did not die but got a new lease of life. Slowly he got back his strength. The ancient Kalibari of Ramna has been razed to the ground. a mosque would come up there. Rest of the family were sent to their village home.Jehanara Imam brought the current news. She will take care of you. 20 . He himself was on the point of tears as he got into a rickshaw and disappeared in the darkness. "Pakistan Plunges into Civil War" declares the Newsweek written by Loren Jenkins who was an eye witness to the army crackdown. Babul locked all the doors and closed the windows. Pakistan government can no longer fool the world that there was no major problem. Babul too did not admit that he was shot. But Babul explained. Do not tell anyone that I have left. The next day Babul discovered that he could negotiate staircases without trouble. Babul who was a passive listener asked one day.

Chotobabu. Each family had contributed eight annas to sponsor this trip — they garlanded him with three marigold chains and set off their leader in a search for liberation. you people do not need tickets. perhaps his limbs would be broken once they proceeded to a safe distance from the colony. I apologise. lonely and silent at this time of the night. cross legged like a true sadhu. . I will be your disciple. Basudeb turned to him. the bamboo staff lying by his side. He wondered what was in store for him. puffing at the bidi ganja style. No sadhu baba. At Raipur they had to wait for five hours. He touched the head of the conductor. Jita raho. Harit wanted just one companion who would serve as a witness as well. Panic stricken. but Basudeb sat a little away on his suitcase and bedding. One strike by the lathi and Basudeb's head would be crushed to a pulp. reading something in the dim light. Yes I do. Other passengers thought probably it was Harit Mondol. If the ticket checker did not respect his sadhu uniform let him do whatever he wants. The train was due at three in the night. Harit sat very straight. But at the last minute little Naba would not let go of Harit's knees so he was obliged to take him along. will you come here please. So. He did not know if the no entry Order on him still held but he did not want to take any chance. have mercy please. Actually the disguise was only to fool the police. with a thick growth of beard and flowing though thinning hair. The heat was unbearable.A thousand strong crowds stopped the bus and started singing and jumping with shouts of 'Jai Baba Kalachand’. Harit bought tickets only for Jogananda and Naba. said Harit. Everybody started talking together. He almost jumped to crouch before Harit's legs. But the conductor. Harit in a saffron lungi and kurta. being cheered. held an oily bamboo staff in his hand. nothing could be heard in the pandemonium. The bus would take them to Raipur where they will get into the train to Calcutta. not daring to look at Golapi. Harit and his party had two bags. Harit put away the garlands and asked Jogananda to buy the tickets. Still well built for his age. elated at the sight of a sadhu touched Harit's knees respectfully and said. At most he would be made to get down. Have mercy. He even refused Basubev's offer of tea and jelabi at the bus stop. God will look after you. Basudeb brought them to the platform. The urge to smoke a bidi was great but he must behave like a sadhu. On way back he would make them put on saffron as well. Basudev sat stiffly on a window seat. Jogananda was accompanying him. This was good news because Harit and his two companions had set out for West Bengal with only two hundred and twenty-two rupees with them. His heart pounded like a rail engine. a sadhu can move about without tickets.

even the hawkers were shouting in Bengali. I thought nobody would be about so I would read out some poems. This is where Harit was beaten mercilessly by the police. Read to me. Tell me something. nobody seemed bothered with tickets. he wondered. dealing with nostalgia. Please have mercy on me. They reached Howrah at ten and almost floated out of the station in the surge of the office going crowd. Would Ma Janani give them shelter for the night. He sighed. You know very well what I am. He did not dare to read the ones he had written for Golapi but chose a rather innocuous one. What poems? Read them to me. You mean to say you had no other motive? Did not touch her? I touched her feet. Yes. the memory of which sent tremors through his body. He remembered the name. She has not done anything wrong. the crowd thinned. After Basudeb got down at Kharagpur. If for some reason I do not come back from Calcutta. the signboards were written in Bengali. I swear. Well they are nothing in particular. the party set foot on Calcutta. embarrassed. You have known pain. People got on and off. Sadhus do not have a caste. No checker came to ask for tickets. For Naba it was a novel experience. Yet Harit kept on the pretence of a sadhu. Harit decided to have some food first. Mohanbagan Lane. The police would have beaten him to death. Though he was not educated but being an artist he could follow the emotion expressed in the lines and was touched. Would they recognise him now? The first thing to be done was to look up his son. you would not like them. They chatted till the arrival of the train. Harit listened intently. My daughter too had seen a lot of pain. Did you ask my daughter to visit you at night to read her poems? Tell me the truth. Chotobabu. Basudeb had to open his exercise book. Jai baba Kalachand. Quite far — Taltola would come first. Much relieved that no checking was done. . They got into one crowded third class compartment. Jai baba Kalachand. Do not make me a sinner. please look after her. Everybody spoke Bengali. Do not pay heed to what people might say. Crossing the Howrah Bridge. Sit up. Dying your dress in saffron does not make you a sadhu. memory of the village and his mother. I swear by Ma Kali.Harit moved his legs. What is this? Being a Brahmin you touch my feet! For shame.

Are you looking for Tridib babu? Asked a middle aged lungi-clad gentleman from the balcony of the neighbouring house. mother to Harit. a new kind of sweet. only the one in the middle has disappeared. His wife . how could he forget it? The adjoining houses were familiar. Where are they now? Do you have the address? Asked Harit. When Tridib babu came down to sell the house. They reached the foot of the Monument and sat before a seller of gram powder — sattu. They reached Taltola. he knew of some cheap eating places. Harit stared after him. ice-cream vendors. made a mixture adding water. But Harit did not go in. Naba had his first taste of ice. Eat. tall buildings. The next destination was Mohunbagan Lane. Harit went back to the gate of the house he knew as Tridib's. It has changed hands twice after that. . But a gentleman from the house came out and welcomed him warmly in Hindi. From his experience of protest rallies in the Esplanade Dalhousie area. This was where he had met Tridib. . They came to Wellington Square and sat brooding. He is there now. He has sold the house a long time back. In a moment the city seemed empty. He bought some sugar for eight annas. to the house he had sought refuge in. It used to cost eighty paisa then. Heaps of sattu on a shining brass platter with a little salt and green pepper. spending eight annas. chased by the police. It seemed the gentleman had bought the house only last year. Probably they have moved. To England? His wife must have gone too. but not from Tridib and Sulekha. The walls were mouldy. . Has he made a mistake? He walked further up the lane. He could have contacted his father. Jogananda finished off the whole platter with salt and green pepper. cinema posters. There was no reply to the two postcards Harit had written to him. We have no idea of what has happened to Sulekha boudi. He had to gulp it down with plenty of water. The police arrested him from here. And a lota of drinking water. If he has become a gentleman may be he would not recognise his father. Naba was too hungry to bother about taste. he told Naba. that is what I have heard. This confused Harit. He looked thoughtful then replied. What is it sadhu baba? Please come in and take a seat. at the sight so many strange objects — trams. I will buy a new kind of food you have never had before. So he cannot meet the lady. well something happened. but Harit found it difficult to swallow. otherwise the building looked just the same. At the gate. Somehow Harit was losing the urge to meet his son.Come. He has not heard of them. made it into balls and told Naba. now it was one rupee twenty. The house of Tridib and Sulekha now looked a little different. Harit was forced to buy him an ice-cream stick. as beautiful as goddess Jagaddhatri. he said he was going to England. The gentleman paused to consult his wife. Naba meanwhile was restless with curiosity. Harit has never seen a kinder person. which was a new addition stood an indifferent Nepali durwan. They went to Delhi.

The street was deserted. but he recognised the gentleman. I am not a sadhu. He bellowed like a real sadhu. On hearing this name the man softened. So you are looking for Masterdada. But they were not beggars. Sucharit does not live here? Wrong house. . we are coming from far. So things were looking up. I told you. You have come to the wrong house. The man opened the door a little and snapped. He could not for the life of him recall the name of that lady. The government had exiled us to Dandakaranya. It was Sulekha's face which kept floating before him. Sir. Clad in dhoti and milk white vest. Opening the door wide he asked them to come and sit in the shade. The locality had not changed. You won't get alms. Namaskar. Now that I am here. I have managed to come back to find out something. Harit could not help smiling in spite of the situation. I told you to go elsewhere. They walked along the tram tracks. get away. get away. Why didn't you go to the ashram? Ashram? What ashram? Where? Who is it. Jai Baba Kalachand. why should I go elsewhere? Call your babus. Where is Sucharit babu? We do not have anybody of that name. just a refugee. Please don't. very urgent — brother. Does not Asamanjo babu come here? I have to see him. not heeding to Naba's appeal for a tram ride. Harit tried hard not to show his embarrassment. Somebody from the other side eyed Harit from top to toe and declared. Biru? Asked Anandamohan from upstairs. Harit had seen him only once. He was the one who had taken Sucharit under his care first. You are a Brahmin. sir. only refugees. No beggars. As Harit banged on the large wooden door it opened a little. Which ashram are you from? Harit went forward to touch his feet but Anandamohan drew back. The champa tree stood in front of the house. All on a sudden another name flashed across his mind. Jai Baba Kalachand. The house at Mohunbagan Lane was finally located. But where did he live? Harit had no clue. Even in the worst of times they were not reduced to begging. Anandamohan came down. folded his hands and said.He could neither remember the name or the face of the lady who had taken charge of his son. What is this? You are a sadhu. Asamanjo. The people of Calcutta saw through the disguise of a sadhu quite easily. From Wellington to Shyambazar was a straight road he recalled. Harit was not the type to break down easily but now he felt close to tears.

now Chandra. He had no idea of the whereabouts of Sucharit. The children running about did not look undernourished at all. These are refugees like us. Nobody could recognise him in the garb of a sadhu. She would explain. where is he? Absolutely floored. Your son. . An old feeling of guilt began to bother him. am I right? Your father died by drowning. Harit went about merrily talking about past events. Why then were we sent away? They entered the colony. but . Chandra was due to come back from the ashram at Naihati. One of them recognised Harit by his voice. Each family living there had their areas marked out by fences. He runs a shop in the market. Who lived there. followed by women. Why don't you come in. Jai Baba Kalachand. would you tell me what is in my luck. They were bewildered. I suppose? Anandamohan hesitated. Harit could guess. well. to the garden house of the Sarkar family from where Harit was driven out. he said. Sona Kaka? He cried out. The place where Harit used to live in the right hand corner had lau creepers on the roof. of all things? Strange! He was given the address of Chandra's ashram and told that they could stay the night in the guest house but Harit went to Kasipur instead. Let us go and find out how they are doing. please Baba. Harit stood under a mango tree and bellowed. I do not know. For some reason Anandamohan avoided the topic of Sucharit. Rented a place to stay. you may not recall — I remember the name all right. they found a place in Calcutta. I had put my son in your care. Tell me Baro Kaka. Let me see. better than us perhaps. Jogananda had never been here and Naba was born outside Bengal. he has not been here for some time. She has turned sanyasin. Harit pretended to scan the lines on her palm. One woman held out her hand and appealed. wondered Harit.Harit Mondol! Murmured Anandamohan. The old dance hall was in ruins. . I had met you once. but my daughter does. Come Joga. the woman stammered. Sighed Anandamohan. He said. Get some tea for them. Yes. How is he? I knew you would be back. Your husband is Barada Kanta. You come from the Bagmara village in Khulna. Posters of a particular political party were visible on the walls. It was still occupied by refugees who had turned it into a full fledged colony. Children came rushing. will you Biru? They chatted while having tea. many years ago. the cigarette smoking woman with coloured lips came back to his mind. So you have become a sadhu! . The men came home late in the afternoon.

Jogananda’s eyes were about to pop off the sockets. I want so much to touch the earth at Jessore and shout. he told me. But have you heard the news? Pakistan is again at war? I hear the border is not guarded any more. the place was noisy. Gopal was instantly apologetic. 21 THE rail tracks at Petrapol station had rusted. . they were polite. But instead of chasing people with their lathi. For a long time no trains had passed this way. do stay here as long as you want. You can count. The assembled people had not heard of Kalachand but they were ready to believe whatever Harit told them of the miracles wrought by the wonderful sadhu. Haven't you heard of him? He is more than a hundred years old. I had slipped into Jessore. Now the platform was teeming with people. We are going back. said Harit. How was the scene at Dandakaranya? Those who have gone to Andaman. Oh yes Sona kaka. they are organising themselves. government dole has stopped. Have no worry Gopal. Nepu jumped up. I won't be alone. everything will be visible from there. Hundreds of homeless people had taken refuge there. how are they doing? The refugees of this colony have to fend for themselves. who are still here. They curse the Pakistani army and are all praise for India. khichri was being cooked on four huge stoves. the ticket counter lay under a criss-cross of spider webs. I never thought that . You went into Jessore? You touched the earth there and nobody said anything? No. Joi Bangla. Even Mussalmans were hospitable.Harit patted him on the back. . they did not. of who have died. Harit assured one man named Gopal who was uneasy at the sight of their erstwhile leader. me with you too. Crowds of people are entering from that side. appeared to me in dream. You can go and stand on the tracks. No my dear Nepu. Listen you Harit. Oh no no. . I have not come to occupy my room. The pandemonium was further increased by the presence of a large number of policemen. Your good days are about to begin. Then I would go too. One officer requested the people with folded arms to clear the south platform. Jogananda who was silent by nature was startled. Well if I do come back. They exchanged news. I am not a sadhu but a disciple of the great Kalachand of Jessore.

but the identity card of Mamun with a seal of Bangladesh Mission helped them to gain entry. Among the homeless there must have been some professional drummers. . Went on to the next pot. daughter-in-law. No train would be coming. The sound of dhak was heard. was satisfied with the cooking and started to serve herself. Two officers tried to pull the woman away but Indira Gandhi stopped them. A boy served tea in small earthen pots from a huge kettle. A very old woman in tattered clothes somehow slipped through the cordon. the tracks were full of people. taut skin. Yahya Hoshiyar. which meant the Prime Minister has arrived. He had a bandage on his left arm. mother. Perhaps too much of melodrama annoyed Indira Gandhi. Indira Gandhi nodded. officially? What can I say? Answered Pratap modestly. India Government Zindabad! Indira Gandhi walked past Mamun and others. She examined the stuff from one and disapproved. 'Please get up. I have tiny grandchildren. you need not have any fear. beak nose. women and children waited hopefully. Without waiting for a translation Indira Gandhi assured her. Her son was murdered and their village destroyed by arson. we seek shelter at your feet mother. she said. She fell at Indira Gandhi's feet and started sobbing. remarkably young for her fifty years. The poor old woman stroked Indira Gandhi's feet as if caressing a child. A curious roar went up. She spoke to the old woman first in Hindi but a little later in broken Bengali learnt during her stay in Santiniketan. Pratap was allowed entry as a close friend of Mamun. Suddenly hordes of cameramen rushed in. I am nobody of importance. There was not the usual pushing about. give us arms so that we can go back and free our country. The publicaddress system kept blaring announcements in a metallic voice.' She said. in a light blue handloom sari. She told the woman. made a gesture to stop the slogans but it went on more lustily. shouting of slogans — Joi Bangla. and an incongruous lock of grey hair. Only two people occupied the bench meant for the representatives of the Bangladesh Mission. Not perfectly boiled. save us. He lifted the damaged arm and shouted. One of them craned his neck to ask Pratap — Do you think Bangladesh is going to be recognised today. ululations. In fact the two of them were stopped at the entrance. All slogan shouts had stopped as all eyes were on this scene. The wailing stopped.’ Some of the officers explained to the Prime Minister the gist of the tearful speech. everything will be all right and briskly walked away to where the khichri was being cooked. the crowd though hungry were quite disciplined. Mamun and Pratap joined them. You are our guest. The volunteers began to serve. The First man on the row was a dark young man in his early twenties. The old woman went on. It was a special day to day. Mamun carried more respect here. Tell me what you want to say.Nobody objected. She stood on the edge of the platform. the homeless men. Senior officers of West Bengal and the centre occupied the station master’s room. Two big pots of khichri were ready. We don't need food. as if to herald Durga Puja. strange waves of sound rended the air with the blowing of conch shells.

the Deshbandhu. the reporters were ready with notebooks. you are our guests. We will not refuse entry to a single of these tortured people but the world must be made to understand that this massive job of feeding and giving shelter to these displaced people is not the sole responsibility of India.R. Governor of West Bengal. Das.R. Pratap made no comment. now the Chief Minister of West Bengal though he may not be so very long. yet it is risky. our friends. whispered Mamun that no security men are near her. everybody pricked their ears. She is quite brave. they might shoot. Brothers and Sisters. You must eat first. she was soaked all over. It was a particularly hot May day. . We are a poor country but we will try our utmost to extend our hospitality. In the last twenty-five years 70 lakh refugees have entered our country from East Pakistan but in the last one and a half months since the 25th of March we have had 20 lakh. If you are a democracy how come Jawarharlal Nehru's daughter succeeds him? Another dynasty on the throne of Delhi! That is because all the men are spineless at least in the Congress. said Mamun admiringly. now their grandchildren are in the helm of affairs. This is an international problem. What about the family of Saratbabu and Subhasbabu? None of them are in the limelight? Indira Gandhi had retired to the Station-Master's room. I am sorry I cannot carry on in Bangla so I will speak in Hindi but very slowly. Remember Sarojini Naidu? Her daughter.Indira Gandhi gave him a good stare then said. In a democracy you are not scared of the people. the Nightingale of India. Morarji tried but found no supporter. They are afraid to come near common people. Central Minister for Education. And the gentleman with her. That is interesting — Motilal's granddaughter and C. Who was the other lady with Indira? Padmaja Naidu. Mothers. answered Pratap. Slogans began. They are still coming every day. You know who he is? Grandson of C. I find it strange. Why are the powerful nations of the . Pausing a little before the microphone Indira Gandhi began first in Bengali. Soon she came out to speak. Das's grandson! Do you recall the tussle between the No-Changers and the Pro-Changers within the Congress? Motilal and Chittaranjan had joined hands. Mamun wanted to tease him. Pakistani agents might sneak in. . The grey haired man is Ajay Mukherjee. We can't imagine this in Pakistan. The handsome smiling man is Siddhartha Ray. Please excuse me. If Pakistan succeeds in fomenting a communal riot in India at this moment then Bangladesh would be finished. She went on. Yes of course. chatting and nodding . You have rule of the army.

The same boy said. five bullets . From Petropol Indira Gandhi went to the Itkhola camp to give the same speech. Suddenly the hawker population has increased. . rifles slung over shoulders. We are freedom fighters. For all their muddy and dirty clothes. Where are you from? Your names please? . so there was no question of crossing the border. We do not have any. But he met some from Jessore and Khulna and heard about the latest. unshaven cheeks they looked like children from well-to-do families. He said coolly.. we were told at the border. O. From Haridaspur the Border Security Force were on the alert. Is that so? Taunted the checker. All said that they could not understand why the army was killing innocent people and setting fire to the villages. They sat by a window. Apparently they were not carrying arms . revolvers tucked into belts. From there she proceeded to Bongaon. nor did the question of recognition come up. O. Swarms of human heads everywhere. It has been a long time since we have relaxed in a drawing room. We need not buy tickets if we can’t afford. The name Bangladesh was not uttered even once. There were young men in olive uniform. Harit had wanted to talk to her but the surging crowd did not let him come near. he said. Then in a tone of disappointment he exclaimed. Was it because Sheikh Mujib had won the election and wanted to be the Prime Minister? Was that why they wanted to finish off the Bengalis? On the train Harit saw three Mukti Bahini soldiers. She did not bother to answer when some from the crowd asked her directly about recognising Bangladesh. Freedom fighters! Any identity card to show? Let me see.. so have cars. an expensive lighter. Harit and his group had a glimpse of Indira Gandhi near the Bongaon hospital. We hope that in near future all would be able to go back home . Oh dear. It was late afternoon. She came in an open jeep and left to cheer the sick and the injured. .K. What do you think this to be — your drawing room? They laughed. Ticket? He demanded. .K. . The oldest among them stroked his own chin.world being a silent spectator? We wish the people of East Pakistan all success in their fight for selfesteem. They were picking up the Hindus but not sparing the Muslims either. ignoring other passengers. shouting Joi Bangla. smoking. no identity card. Over and above the stream of refugees were countless officers. . chewing gums. Though full of assurance her speech disappointed many. They stopped talking. some Bangladesi taka. The Pakistan army had camped on the other side. One of the boys fished out various items from his pocket one by one like a magician — a cigarette packet. legs stretched out. . There was no way Harit could get into the refugee camps either without a valid identity card. a revolver. members from various charitable organisations. The checker stared at the weapon. The sleepy town had changed into a bustling place overnight. A checker approached. on our way to Mujibnagar.

Don't you know. Naturally checkers gave him a wide berth. May be it will take longer — more lives will be lost. Harit started for the ashram at Patipukur. let me see your ticket. What do we do now. What are you doing outside the camp? You are not supposed to leave your camp. even without India's help. He pondered over his experience at the border and came to the conclusion that the chances of going back to Bangladesh was slim. The future seemed quite uncertain. The next train came late in the afternoon. Don't you worry. no money. We had four Shiva temples on hour sides of our tank. moved closer. Your Prime minister has not recognised free Bangladesh yet. assured Nepu. They got down at Dumdum. Do you know I come from Bagerhat in Khulna. You there sadhubaba. his face glowing. Sir. guessing them to be travelling without tickets. We will get into the next train. The checker. Harit lost no time in establishing his sadhu identity. do not try to claim. Karim and Shyam. People gathered round him. The last lap of the journey passed off without hitch. Standing on the platform. we just want to visit. Coming from Bangladesh. but we must have a supply of arms. Who has asked you to go to Calcutta? He gave Harit no chance to explain. Oh no. we are refugees. watching the train leave Harit exclaimed. you are not supposed to ask the names of freedom fighters. yes. Harit could not hear the rest of the conversation in the ensuing movement of people. What is the latest? Do you think you can push back the Pakistani army? One of the boys said. Sending his companions to the Kasipur colony. cut in the tallest among them. pushed them out physically. Can you. We can drive back the intruders in ten days flat. What he . Are they still there? The train stopped at a station. sir. I know Bagerhat. Demanded the checker. We are old refugees so do not deserve special treatment. He began a song on the goddess Kali lustily. baro kaka? Jogananda was confused. All trains don't have checkers. But you must leave. Look at that. Can I ask you something as a friend? Will you allow us to go and visit our home? You won't be hostile like the Pakistanis? You are most welcome to visit. Another added. really? Yes. A sadhu's garb does not carry respect in West Bengal. Suppose we are Rahim. Meanwhile the checker drew near their group.

He then attacked the sweets. . But as he watched men and women coming out and going in in silent steps it seemed to him that nobody was allowed in without permission. Kneeling down. He decided to wait. Four cars were parked outside the compound. I too have my dress coloured in saffron. Harit? Asked Chandra. Harit folded his hands. This quiet and peaceful atmosphere was such a contrast to what Harit had just witnessed at the border — the millions of helpless faces. hunger. Presently a widowed woman came to him. Should he follow her. Nobody. Harit? Have a seat. The room was whitewashed with no furniture. she said softly. Fruits and sweets were placed on a marble plate and a glass of water. crossed a courtyard to climb upstairs to the room where Chandra sat on a seat of tiger skin. Chandra left. How are you? I am here to enquire about my son. Who did you get your initiation from. First you must have these. sickness. you were different. try to unite them in the name of Kalachand. she said. No. It was the time for the evening arati. saw the saffron clad Chandra. ignoring the song and the ringing of bells. Have a seat Harit. He entered. Namaskar. Evening had set in when he reached the Nari Kalyan Ashram at Patipukur. prasad was distributed. The people here are not even aware of what was happening sixty miles from here. sitting in front of the image of the deity. . said Chandra sweetly. Chandra opened her eyes. Why did you forsake the world? Did I. Didimoni. . Without hesitation Harit drank the water and asked for more. Arati was over. but I tried my best to give him a good education. Yes. wondered Harit. uncertainty. But the last time I saw you . Harit walked through an office. He did not stay. The incense smoke stung his eyes Harit craned his neck to spot Sucharit among the crowd. Chandra-ma wants to see you. You can't tame a wild kite. eyes dazed. Harit marched up. Have you come from the Ramakrishna Belur Math . registered no surprise. he called. can you? How did he die? . later. really? Is my son dead? You can accuse me Harit. It is just the dress. Namasker.could try to do was to create a contact between all the refugee colonies of West Bengal. raising his voice. . hair loose over her back. but he was nowhere to be seen.

No reason why he should not recognise me. We know. Luckily the durwan saw him. bring him in. He never came again. in that case? What do you mean? They have a warrant for you. Let me take your leave now.Who told you he is dead? He walked out. Minutes later two police officers walked in. They removed their shoes and kneeled on the floor. . But I felt miserable. But I was genuinely happy to see him. thought Harit. I was picking flowers in the garden. mother. his heart thumping wildly. he showed me. but this a serious matter. D C North. So he is not dead. inside the ashram? Chandra frowned. D C North. explained Harit. folded their hands respectfully. We have to talk to you too. this is Amaresh Dasgupta of the S B department. aren't you? Sucharit is your son. Sucharit? He got hold of my hand and pulled. He was obviously drunk. . Uses the knife freely. eyes were blood red. I am Binayak Choudhury. The other spoke. No idea. Warrant? What are you saying Asamanjo. . it was early morning. Did he recognise you? Did he know that you have become a sadhu? I haven't changed. is it? Everybody calls him a goonda. ignoring Harit. Would you step outside. Works for political parties for money. I said. anyway where can I meet him? Chandra looked down. He is threatening you. where have you been. Well I thought . reeking of drink. But I just came to see her. Chandra. I do not know what he has against me. But I have seen it. About six months age he appeared. Well. So he has taken to stealing. He is not the type to give up easily. Choudhury wants to see you. the beards luckily hid the face gone pale. Meanwhile Harit had licked the plate clean. said Dasgupta. It is urgent. in came Asamanjo. Has a gang of his own. You are Harit Mondol. He said. The police. Sorry to disturb you. Chandra. so early in the morning. I can't see them. His voice trembled. He looked grave. She paused. Sit down. Delicious! He had obviously enjoyed his meal. Before Harit could speak. Mr. No. So the police would never leave him alone. But I had no idea he would come to this end. One of them gave Harit a quick look. gave Harit a look then went on.

No. By now everybody knew about their affair and left her alone. no. How could she go out so early? Her hospital duty did not begin before twelve noon. That will make our task unpleasant. He never pressed the bell. caressed her closed eye lids. He was surprised to find her fast asleep. the kind of weather which turns one out of doors. put his lips on hers. Take your time. Asamanjo babu. said Chandra. We did not come here on a hunch. We would not dream of disturbing you for a trifling matter. Madam. Alam's friends made fun of his devotion. He has no secrets from her and she too could give her life for him. no. we have not come here for Sucharit. As Alam drew back one curtain the sunlight lit up her face. Have you brought court order? Chaudhury stood up. it is bad for health. a glorious sunny day. Why did you get involved with the Naxals? We do not like disturbing a religious place. Yet Tutul fought shy of physical intimacy. Actually you were running the ashram quite well. Like the fairy tale princess she would not wake up till the gold and silver sticks at her head and feet were exchanged places. a sea blue blanket over her. Who gave you the right? Flared Chandra. At last Tutul woke up. believe me. He gazed at the sleeping princess.But he has not been here in the last six months. Evidently she had taken a sleeping pill. This young woman is my very own. He knelt down by her bed. She may have gone shopping or to visit her Tridib mama who was in town. There was no answer. she was in the habit of taking. the heating off. There was another unknown barrier separating them. Even that did not wake her up. Please call our people in. her curls spread on the pillow. you see. She was fiercely loyal. thought Alam. . Chandra Devi you have made a serious mistake. But I am sorry to say that we are forced to carry out a search of your ashram. Alam opened the door with a copy of the key he kept with him. all the curtains drawn. It was eight thirty in the morning. they wondered. the room was in semi darkness. her chest heaving with the breath. Alam could feel it even when she was in his arms. Alam knocked again. 22 ALAM knocked thrice at the door of Tutul’s apartment in Golders Green. the first such in the year. It is no use resisting. Her first look was one of terror then as recognition dawned she demurely struggled to sit up but Alam resisted. whistling a tune. How could a slip of a girl tame a dare devil like Alam.

Tutul smiled faintly. How is it? Tutul stared at Alam without sipping the tea. You took sleeping pills again. You mean India? Selfish! Didn't you promise to take me along? Of course you are coming with me. I had a bad dream. Civilised people do not discuss their dreams. eggs and bacon. I mean home. Why should you die? Look at me. I will serve you bed tea. Home? Which home. Tultuli my dear. came to her carrying two cups. Don't be childish. tell me the truth. Tultuli. in this golden rays of the sun you look like a genuine princess. but look at me now. I want to go home. How many? Tutul did not tell him that she had a terrible headache. . When I first came here I used to be so homesick. Please would you put the kettle on? Of course. your highness. Are you mad? How can I go now with the fund raising programme in full swing? This Saturday there is a big rally in Piccadilly. I am selfish. How long have you been here? Since eternity. flung herself on him and wailed.Obediently Tutul lay her head on the pillow. what if I were to die? Why. Slave is at your service. I am too busy with myself. even your breakfast in bed — toast with marmalade. particularly bad ones. thought Alam. Alam made the tea with care. I could do with a cup of tea. No use paying the rent for two apartments. All right. It has been four years. wicked. he patted her head. All on a sudden she sat up. Something must be the matter. Alam. She refused to look up. why should I be deprived of everything? What have I done? This must be the effect of last night's nightmare. I do not even think of going back. at this instant. go for a visit. She lifted two fingers then asked. mine? Come along. to my country. You have dreamt that I am dead. Alam Alam. right? Which means that I will have a long life. Normally Tutul was so reserved that she blushed whenever he took her in his arms. The kettle whistled. all right. If my forefathers had seen this they would be turning in their graves. Not even to you? I can guess. Besides I do not have any leave left. Here is your tea. the feverish feeling still persisted.

well. How can I hurt my mother. my only mother. You saw everything. Alas. she was not yet used to sleeping suits and said. I will get a ticket for you from the travel agency Shireen works in. Was she acting on impulse? He knew of the objection her mother had to this marriage. If I die in the meantime . I will swallow poison. Tutul wiped her eyes. . . Well you are supposed to hand over the money you are collecting for the Mukti Bahini in person. You know very well I can't leave you here. nephews and nieces — gifts like tape recorder. what? Is this that son of a Mussalman whom you want to marry? I will hang myself. Remember she had a bad dream before leaving London? Oh. Did you see his face? Of course I did. Miss Bahnisikha’s mother screams. Alam said lightly. Miss Bahnisikha Sarkar returns from England with a lot of presents for her mother. You go alone this time. Can't you do the job? I heard this from Hassan at Sunday's meeting. Blackmail. Great rejoicing at home. mami. Now this sudden move from her had him bowled over completely. this is blackmail. settled her sari. you have to come too. You can pay later. who is that guilty looking chap with you? As he is introduced Dr. Hassan himself is keen to go. Dear brother Alam. transistor and what not. This means I can't go home. Dreams of early morning always come true which means I will be married to that man before leaving for Calcutta. I have a lot of responsibility. . I dreamt that I was getting married to an ugly. that is another reason. involved in a lot of other things. Now if she could be convinced . you are the one who is feeling homesick. So farewell my friend. Miss Bahnisikha with tears in her eyes says. besides we are yet to reach the target of five thousand pounds. tell me. She was about to break down. bohemian Muslim chap. But you do not know the character of Bahnisikha Sarkar. On such a glorious day as this! OK. naughty girl. A worthless doctor. a man of my talents is having his talents wasted. camera.Not just me. You better go. Consider the following scenario. I know your motive. not that again. OK. She faints. be a good girl. He hesitated. mama. Then Dr. If she commits suicide I won't be allowed in hell. Really! You should have written scripts for Bombay films. perfume. Somebody asks. I can't stop my surgery.. irresponsible. What motive? You will take me to Calcutta. I can't leave London right now. For the last two and a half years Alam had been pestering Tutul to marry him but with no result. One fine morning Dr. a la Tagore. .

What difference could possibly happen in a month? You see. He swallowed his food and shouted but the couple did not turn back. No. But why for god's sake. they did. Is that Shireen? Alam said looking at a sari clad woman walking with a man. They did not hear me. old people and young couples. But a point of no return has been reached. This time you go alone. . In fact Shireen saw me. Do not leave me ever. I suppose. said Alam. I won't mind. After forty-five minutes they came out of the building. perhaps go for a long drive and sit in a village pub. Tutul did not follow. said Alam. used to be. Shireen married him in February. She can't face the Bengalis. It has made a lot of difference. I would like to invite Murshed to our wedding. you must be prepared for the consequences of marrying me. I release you from that promise. parked the car and walked along the right embankment. But Murshed is a very good friend of us. Mursheed and us. Her head reeled. legs felt weak. Do you know that in London the east and west Pakistanis are not on talking terms? In a pub of south London students from Dhaka had a fight with students of Karachi. The sky was still clear.He said softly. Yes. More complicated. in February we were all Pakistanis. Murshed is west Pakistani. She used to be such a good friend. Why should we drag the fight to London for a war being fought in East Pakistan? Whatever you may say. It is indeed difficult to keep up normal relations. They will not have regular meals but walk about aimlessly. It would displease your friends and relations. Tutul was feeling much better now. She flung herself again on Alam and whispered. Looks like Shireen and Mursheed. Not anymore. a strange pain throbbed between her eye brows. there is distrust. Homesickness is a strong pull. All right then. Last week she saw me on the tube and hurriedly got down at the next station. Alam bought some hot dogs and coffee. Would the two wings of Pakistan stay together? Once the war has begun it is inevitable that free Bangladesh would emerge. From last night she had a premonition that she did not have much long to live. It is not that. the banks of the Thames were teeming with tourists. They crossed Waterloo bridge. You are desperate I can understand. Now tensions are running high. Tutul got down from the bed and walked a few steps to the toilet. gravely. But she paused. Hold me tight. You had promised you won't go to Calcutta without me. They are trying to avoid us. They went down the steps briskly and were out of earshot. You will cut him out just because he is a west Pakistani? Things will normalise later. naturally Shireen is in a spot. she could have waited for one more month. Alam. They sat on a bench and watched the boats go by.

America has always been an ally of the military regime of Pakistan so naturally their reports carry more weight. Alam. of course. It was funny to hear a tall and hefty Pathan like person speak Bengali. Seeing them Shireen froze but Murshed welcomed them warmly. Saewar Mursheed was a brilliant student of history. said Tutul. Let me ask you something. a favourite of Professor Basham. I have Italian red wine. Good cause for celebration. She wants to become a true Pakistani. Do you believe that the Pakistan army is killing innocent civilians. A little for you? Today you must. This girl has gone crazy. Alam bhai. He poured the wine in two glasses and asked Tutul. Next Saturday? Exclaimed Murshed. Before Alam could answer. Let me be frank with you. We are not going to your party if that Hassan Hafiz fellow is there. a rare sight in this country. Tell me something. . Shireen gave Tutul an oblique glance. Marry me. I find no way out. a member of the Pakistan Civil Service was posted. Bahnisikha Sarkar. But wouldn't others mind if we attend your party? What others. But what about Shireen? Shireen? Like a true Muslim woman she considers alcohol as haram. give me some food too. It is no use telling her that wine is not alcohol. Shireen persisted. He goes about saying that I have married an enemy of the Bengalis. white net curtains waved in the breeze. We have come to invite you. Let us open the bottle.You saw for yourself how they avoided us just now. Looks like a hurried decision. Shireen smiled with effort. We are getting married coming Saturday. And you know something? She has started speaking to me in Urdu. Murshed slapped his hand. Why are you acting so dumb. All right. torching down villages? The British newspapers have been reporting some of these incidents I have to believe. Both of you must come to a party at Tutul's Golders Green apartment. Even Time and Newsweek have brought out terrible reports. the windows were open. That evening both of them landed at the Belsize Park residence of Shireen and Murshed without notice. It was a warm day. But I am hungry. Turning to Shireen he snapped. Murshed broke into loud laughter. No objection. marry me. tapping Tutul gently on the head said. baby? Aren't you happy for us? Oh yea. Though born in Lahore he had spent seven years in Dhaka where his father. keeps on saying. Come on. not just wine. said Alam. Don't you worry. I am a great admirer of Dr. I am going to your party. Alam sipped his drink.

I too do not think that the common people are supporting the massacre policy of the army. she will be in for a shock. Murshed went on. A bunch of idiots. that is what they are . a Brahmin from Uttar Pradesh. The top army bosses of West Pakistan as also most of their political leaders are stupid. isn't it? Shireen spoke with vehemence. Didn't I tell you. . the same Pakistan which had produced Faiz Ahmed Faiz and Manto? I find it hard to believe. Alam. With two witnesses. Very often I talk to my mother in Sanskrit. . How ignorant can you get. The Champagne would have to wait till the others arrive. taken aback looked at her. and all the army is doing is to hold them back. This time he stayed on. He brought a lot of gifts. On the other hand the Hindus in East Bengal or Uttar Pradesh have absorbed a lot of Muslim culture. they would not publish the protests. Yet there are a lot of senseless killings. that they will reduce the population of East Pakistan this way. Alam and Tutul got married without much fanfare. For instance. You know what Yahya and his henchmen have succeeded in doing? They have created a feeling that Sheikh Mujib is an Indian spy. sighed Alam. to say the least. He poured some whisky for himself. But the press is gagged. Only ten people were invited to the party in the evening. laughed Murshed. Further east. that your cousin is turning into a west Pakistani very fast? She does not know that my mother is a Hindu. I have specialised in the ancient Aryan period. the Hindu conspirators have demanded cessation. He has put on weight his hair has thinned. the people of west Pakistan do not understand the meaning of the word. no protest at all? What does the army think. It is only natural that East Pakistan will have a different culture with close affinity to Hindu culture.Murshed. How can you deny or suppress such facts. But it is true that the Hindus are instigating. Bengalis are politically more conscious than the West Pakistanis because political and social movements have started in Bengal from the mid-nineteenth century. one crore. . Bengali has so many Arabic and Persian words that you can hardly utter three sentences without using Persian or Arabic words. Tutul said softly. Urdu has a lot of Sanskrit words too. How many can they kill. He has to come down to London quite often. My mother is fairly educated. how do the people in West Pakistan react to the killing of their own people? You do read Karachi newspapers. Each area develops its own special character because of historic reasons. When I take Shireen to my home in Lahore. They don't publish these reports. but Tridib was impatient. I was telling Alam that it is wrong to judge a person by his country or caste. West Pakistan has still remained largely feudal. The first guest was Tridib. By playing up anti-India and anti-Hindu sentiments they have got support of the common people. there is hardly any reaction to army rule. two crores? Has anyone ever heard of such a satanic plan? And there is not a single voice in West Pakistan against such horror. Is there no protest in West Pakistan. unlike in the east. the East is far away. Her subject too is history. in Indonesia their culture is predominantly influenced by Hindu mythology. The West is closer to the Arab countries. The Bengalis have tasted democracy already. including a bottle of Champagne and Black Label scotch whisky. They think Bengali is the language of Hindus.

Vow? What vow? Congratulations. It was for Tutul. said the voice from the other end. 23 . She kept asking. incredulous. Tutul watched them in dismay. Tridib mama is here too. and this day of all days! Nobody at home knew. from America. We should not have called them both. Tutul's heart grew heavy even on this very special day of her life. Bablu. you are a brave girl. He greeted others but as he noticed Tridib he stared at him in disbelief. You know Bablu I am so happy you called today. He could have made a collect call. It took Bablu a few seconds to digest the news. Alam here. And now this unexpected call from her cousin — Tutul was overwhelmed with emotion. The other were too engrossed in themselves to notice it. helping in the cooking. Phuldi. not wanting to pay for extra time. Tridib finished his scotch in one gulp and turned away. she wanted to hear Bablu's voice a little longer. Have you heard from Calcutta? How are they? Was it really Bablu? Tutul was incredulous. Don't you know each other? Asked the unsuspecting Alam. Tridib — Ignoring the crowd they glowered at each other. That was why she had invited him. She was debating whether she would call him when Shahjehan Choudhury in a beautiful summer suit made his entrance. as though poised for a fight. Of course! Hello. Shahjehan replied with wooden civility. carrying a bunch of roses and a velvet box. I am in Boston now. Hello. He has never called in the last one year neither does he write. realised Tutul. I got married a little while ago. He asked. Trying his best to be polite. she felt something had gone seriously wrong somewhere. Who is speaking? Who? Phuldi. What did you say? Got married? To whom? You had met Dr. She was terribly happy yet felt shy to announce the news. Tridib said. Interrupting Bablu's chatter Tutul blurted out. What entitled him to be among the guests was that he was from Calcutta and a friend of Tridib mama. The only link was Tridib mama. Shahjehan. The phone rang. This annoyed Tutul.Hasan's wife Bulbul has been there since afternoon. At first Tutul could not believe her own ears. Write down my address and phone number. friend of mine. Bablu calling on his own. Really? So your vow is over. He broke off. Alam attended the guests. I have married him. Between the two men stood the invisible presence of a woman — Sulekha. this is me.

he would not keep still. Sukhu could not make out the person they were here to see. Nazrul Islam has come to his namesake. He tried to tear up the garland presented by the Bangladesh Mission. Monju was tearful. Please come with me. Lines of Nazrul's poems went across his mind. Mamun looked about hoping to spot familiar faces. A procession came.MAMUN stood behind about two hundred people in a long queue at Christopher Lane that had formed since early morning. Was this the same poet Mamun had admired? The Nazrul Islam who had spoken to him once — So. my daughter and niece. But I have others. to face the camera. their eyelashes were still wet and soft. Who is it amma. He whispered to a few people and Mamun with his party were led into the building where Hosain Ali of the Bangladesh Mission was present with a host of other dignitaries. Monju looked at the sky and murmured. Ji. soaked to the skin with perspiration. nodded Mamun. Lorry loads of boys and girls from different clubs were arriving. spat out the sweet his daughter-in-law tried to feed him. who is it? They came out. The photographer was smart. It might rain again. He felt so depressed that he could not speak for sometime. Sukhu meanwhile was pestering him for taking them to the zoo as originally . muttered to himself when a tribute was read by the Mayor. blowing bugles and beating kettledrums. Hena looked scared. Not that Mamun did know about the condition of the poet but seeing for him was a shock. How much longer is it going to take? He thought everything would be over by ten. He attracted the attention of a photographer who took a few shots of the child with Mamun trying to keep him away from a gargoyle shaped water tap by the road. Sukhu fidgeted about. He has brought Monju. including the Mayor of Calcutta. It had rained last night bringing down the heat. curly locks all over his head. He was not responding to the appeals of the photographers to look up. How long will you stand here with a child. Are you from Joi Bangla? The photographer was curious. Hena and Sukhu with him. Bring them along. Mamun turned to look at his companions. Both Monju and Hena had bathed early. Poet Nazrul Islam sat in the middle of a carpet. you are Motaher's son. are you my child — had a glow in his eyes. The line inched forward. Sukhu was most excited as he. garlands and flowers scattered about him. The air was festive. Sukhu looked so bright in his new kurta pyjama and zari embroidered cap that strangers stopped to pat his cheeks. He kept asking his mother.

He said. can't we bring out a paper from Calcutta? It will publish all news of independent Bangladesh. . get in. Well. Achhalamo Alaikum. Have one. wondered Mamun. Poor child. We need a spirited editor like you. said Mamun. well. Wonders never cease! Where is Altaaf? He is not with you? Mamun wanted to know. Oh that one. Which way are you going? Get in. It looked like a rented car. Have you been there? What a wonderful country India is. Let me go there with you. No. Tell me Huq Saheb. you know. Invited Hossain Saheb. if we could start a hotel . He had seven or eight diamond and pearl studded rings in his fingers. keen to have a ride in a car had already opened the door. dismissed him without notice. you can travel anywhere you want. get in. He offered Mamun a cigarette from a gold case.promised. I have also talked to some hotel owners. thanks. he didn't come. he never had any chance of going out. Jubilant. No. But Sukhu. We will take the bus. Have no idea where he is. . Which way? To the Victoria Memorial. Mamun who had no reason to be happy at the meeting refused the offer. Went to their joint. A man leaned out of the window. But there is a paper. It would have been more appropriate for him to seek refuge in Karachi or Rawalpindi. This Husain Saheb's favourite pastime was India bashing. Excellent railway service. well. It was most unexpected. Oh come on. That paper is useless. Hossain saheb the hotelwala and owner of Deenkaal. Had been to Ajmeer Sharif. Is that you Huq saheb? When did you come? Mamun was dumbfounded. Wonderful. Hossein saheb greeted Mamun. Achhalamo Alaikum! Mamun returned the greeting dryly. It was this man who had called him India's agent. As they waited at the Moulali crossing a private car pulled up. I will drop you where you want. Have you rented a place or do you have a relative here? Hossain saheb wore a very fine expensive kurta. so many are crossing the border. Was in Rajasthan for ten days. . Joi Bangla of Balu Hakkak Lane. Mamun had no way but to follow. The lighter too was made of gold. Meeting your own people in a foreign country is really delightful. the hotels are reasonable.

Mamun burst out laughing. The die-hard supporter of Pakistan suddenly so enthusiastic about breaking it up seemed fishy. Why don't you come tomorrow. He watched the three young women move on against the background of the marble building then sat down on a bench. I will take care of that. Mamun kaka. I have sources. Many still took Hindu India to be an enemy of Islam. It is for the sake of the country. You will get paid in the same scale as any editor in India. Why are China followers coming over. Lunch is nothing much. Baba has asked you. At the feet of the statue of Queen Victoria Munni was waiting for them. not settled down yet. There are people who are thinking this movement would die out. Don't worry about the capital. An all-pervading national spirit was nothing but an illusion. Right now I am working for the independent government of Bangladesh. Pakistan would remain intact. I will sit here. We have settled more or less. How could some people contradict themselves without batting an eyelid. asked him to see him in a couple of day's time and left for Bangladesh Mission where he said he had an appointment. Why did you go into all the trouble. said Mamun. The prevailing impression in India that everybody in East Pakistan is against the rule of Pakistan was not quite true. What actually did he have in mind? This was a matter he had often discussed with his friends. She quickly ran down the steps. Mamun was apprehensive about keeping this man company but Hussain saheb had changed his mind. Please look for another editor. His already depressed state of mind on seeing the poet was further aggravated by his meeting with hotelwala Hossain. He gave his card to Mamun. Here I am. touched Mamun's feet and said. You have just moved. Are all the people coming from across the border supporting the new nation? Mamun had met some that used to be fundamentalists. they considered Bengali nationalism as anti-Islam. You are coming for lunch at our place. Why don't you girls look around. The poet's house was teeming with people. they never opposed the army rule? From where are people like Hossain saheb getting funds? Is it an attempt to sabotage the movement. The car pulled up at the entrance of Victoria Memorial. have lunch with me at the Grand hotel? I have no desire to be an editor again. a different kind of work. Thanks for the offer. to finance the spies who are here to supply information about the secret activities of the government of independent . It is not a question of desire. I am not joking. How is everybody at home? Your mother is still running a fever? She is fine now. To break up Pakistan with India's help would mean walking into a trap laid by India. Sorry for keeping you waiting. We must sit down and talk.

Pratap hesitated. as Kanu's wife was sick. facing west . It was about five minutes walk from the main road. particularly Hena who threw up once. What has happened to his poetic feelings? Life seems so peaceful. Hena and Sukhu. mynas settled on the trees. Lovers strolled or reclined on the grass. The ladies pelted Monju and Hena with questions. Mamun was highly amused to overhear some of their conversation. It is our fault we were late. May be you can go to her after lunch. Why are you late? Munni. A breeze was swaying the tops of the gulmohar and rain-trees. A war brings with it mistrust. I have not met your didi yet. espionage and web of intrigues. The dark. did you lose the way? No. Mamun was a little worried for the children. A swarm of parrots flew over the black fairy on the dome. the blood stained streets he had seen on the twenty-sixth of March. intrigue and betrayal! To think that he used to write poetry at one time. In such a delightful surrounding Mamun found himself thinking only of war. From the Victoria they walked to the zoo. Two ponds with neatly cemented banks brimmed with clear water. so relaxed here.three small rooms and a balcony. Pratap came down. A little later he asked Pratap. Munni-ma has shown us around. Meanwhile curious neighbours dropped in to have a look at visitors from Joi Bangla. Yet he always played the perfect host. Away in the main street cars sped past. Even the animals seemed to be listless in the hot weather. giving gifts of clothes to Monju. Mamun fixed his gaze on a bunch of red rangan flowers but they only brought back images of blood. Mamun was insistent.Bangladesh stationed at Calcutta? Dhaka radio obviously has access to such secrets. Let the youngsters eat first. This made his friend distinctly uncomfortable. At one point Monju had to sing a few lines of a song. They had to change buses twice to come to Pratap's house in Dhakuria. Have a wash and sit down to eat. The sight of his friend in this place brought back the image of a caged tiger Mamun had just seen. Flowers were in bloom. Where is she? Actually Supriti had been to Kanu's house to look after the household. They thought all Dhaka women wore burqua outside home. . But now he is crippled by resource crunch. you and I will eat later. But the heat was proving to be uncomfortable. The fact that they spoke perfect Bengali caused surprise. But she was back now. I want to meet her first. said Mamun. clots of red bodies of young students lying in front of the university. They wore the sari in the same style as in West Bengal and put a dot on the forehead — the neighbours found it amazing. In a bush nearby some bulbuls chirped. narrow staircase was quite a contrast to the huge house at Malkhanagar. You must be hungry. Supriti had declared that guest or no guest she was not to be disturbed. betrayal. no protested Mamun. buying tickets for Mamun on public transport. bright in the sunlight. said Pratap. Pratap had a large heart to match.

Leave her alone. Mamun seemed annoyed with Tutul. Why. the misery she had to face .. Didi even refused the money sent by her. after all she was the daughter-in-law of a rich family . There is more to it. That has been worse. even we can't touch her after she has had her bath. nor would she come back. Did he ever think that history would be repeating itself. Didi has exploded. had meals there. Correct thing to do. if she likes a particular person . the daughter should have spared her further pain. Pratap could not look at his friend in the eye. Senior people should be given due respect. She does not marry. Pratap tried to explain. The untimely death of Jamaibabu. Supriti who looked upon Mamun as her own younger brother is a different person now. Now he could realise what Mamun had felt at his friend's humiliation. You may lose your temper before lunch. . . As he was about to step out. She is educated. Your didi has suffered enough already. But there is a problem. she could easily have married in her community. it is not so easy to judge. Didi has been through a lot. That is pre-history. didi sold her ornaments to send her hoping that after she came back things would look up. and their ideas. Why is your niece so obstinate? If her widowed mother does not want it . Didi is getting on. wants to marry him. . . With age she has become finicky. please. Oh come on. and at his home? Beads of perspiration stood on his forehead. Well. gone to England. laughed Mamun. But is she having it out on all Muslims. is that it? What happened actually was Tutul got friendly with a Muslim chap there. a doctor was sent abroad. I would have said no. Mamun. She has not come back. . me included? I refuse to believe this. You too were the son of a rich father. Listen Mamun. Do you mean to say she won't let me touch her because I am a Muslim? Don't I know her? I have been to their Baranagar home. Didi's only daughter. . cheated out of her dues.The scene at Mamun's home in Dayudkandi came back to Pratap. Did you agree to this match? I was noncommittal. Tutul has made her unreasonable. They are not married yet. . very nice girl. I won't mind. Pratap restrained him. The girls might overhear you know — Didi can drive me away. .

Mamo. don't. going to the length of buying lobsters. you must meet my daughter. a moaning sound coming out of her mouth. You don't have to call them. He said firmly. with special brass utensils. You all should keep well and happy. Are you mad or something? Three kinds of fish. We have no news of the husband of this niece of mine. snapped Supriti. banging her legs. didi. would you please tell didi? Munni ran in to come out yelling. Pratap looked at his friend with helpless appeal. Pisima has fainted again. Unperturbed. hands closed in tight fist. Giving up. I keep worrying about them. wait. cooked by your own hands. Stay right there. he told Mamata. clad in a white borderless sari. what does it matter to anyone if I live or die. Both Mamun and Pratap stood up. My days are numbered. Would you please call them. Pratap asked Mamata to serve them on the balcony. May you live happily. Bouthan.Pratap opened the closed door and announced the presence of Mamun. Please tell didi that her younger brother would not eat if she is not serving. Pratap asked his wife. said Supriti indifferently. You used to feed me. I will come here often enough to be served by you but today I want didi to serve. As Mamun was about to enter Supriti. considerably relieved that Supriti did not explode led his friend away. I have left my wife and a daughter. He turned to Pratap. I mean it. didi. But I want to touch your feet. Munni will you go get the smelling salt? 24 . But Mamun would not start eating. There is no need for that. Why was Mamun so intent on making everything so difficult? Undaunted. Mamun saw that Pratap had gone all out to give his friend a good treat. Mamun raised his voice. two kinds of dal. Supriti lay stretched on the bed. You remember didi. This is hardly the time to be happy. Pratap said. No way. fries and vegetable dishes. so exorbitantly priced. The girls were eating in Munni's room. Mamun looked at the items served in separate bowls and exclaimed. looking like a thin bird spoke sharply. Pratap. how fond Asitda used to be of me. But didi. Pratap? Wait. Two carpet seats were laid. chicken.

People spoke softly inside the museum. From each bridge you get a different view of the city. putting his hand on her shoulder. Atin laughed at her discomfiture. That was reason enough for her. On some afternoons Sharmila took Atin around the city. A couple of days ago she rang up to say that she wanted to have tea in a small tea shop at Springfield Street in Somerville. They went to the science museum at the far end of the city. said Sharmila. Sharmila just wanted to have a look at the pigeons frisking about in the pavement in front of the shop. their cheeks touched but nobody gave them a second look. I have never had that experience though I have gone to Dakshineswar with my mother but don't remember having crossed the bridge. said Sharmila. Since Atin has not been to Paris. Many people walked over the bridge. according to her was the best way to know a city. the way other people make plans to go to a film or theatre or concert. Cambridge on the other. there was no pushing or jostling. However no homing birds could be seen. In spite of mild protests Atin actually enjoyed her crazy capers. as though she had an appointment with a river. she had visualised the scene the first thing in the morning. The breeze on Longfellow Bridge played havoc with Sharmila's sari. Think of Howrah Bridge and Bali Bridge. he did not argue. It was a city of the youth.ON one side of the Charles River stood Boston. She had sudden ideas to visit a particular street or church or park. Passers by gave her amused looks. then crossed the river and loitered aimlessly. Atin would have preferred a bus or a train but Sharmila has got it into her head that she would stand in the middle of the Buffalow Bridge and watch the river. They spent the entire afternoon there. Think of Paris. Youthful and colourful students thronged the streets. that. one could easily spend three to four hours here. near the embankment on the Charles river. . Atin was not too keen to visit the sights but Sharmila would not remain indoors on such a beautiful day. said Atin. Cambridge with its little cottages and quiet streets looked more like London than any other city. each no different from the other to which Sharmila protested vehemently. spring has set in. to any bridge in fact. But today he had to be on his legs for a long time after which he was not keen to walk to a bridge. He did not understand what was so special about Longfellow Bridge. Winter was finally over. I wish I had not put on a silk sari. For Atin a bridge was a bridge. flowers were in bloom everywhere. Under any circumstance they cannot be compared to Calcutta and Howrah. Not that the tea shop was in any way famous. The late afternoon sky had a red glow. a colour reflected in the surface of the river. Howrah Bridge is not for walking but it is so wonderful to walk across Bali Bridge. blowing the end over her head like a flag. This twin city is a delight to the eye. Atin held Sharmila close. She also loved to walk. Instead two helicopters whirred overhead noisily. Let me hold you to the ground. she said.

Do not put in lipstick just after a kiss. you are bad. he was going to save him. father was posted there. Mili. I have never had a boy friend you know that. hard as iron. How absurd can you get. no sir . pressed him with all his might . he put his hands round dada. He was drowning. Let us get back home. brother-in-law .. drowning. indecent. dada. Highly amused. she felt. Cousins. wicked. So unlike. Goodness. No. Go to the toilet a little later. A look at Manhattan from the Brooklyn side is unforgettable. You have lived in New York but never visited Brooklyn Bridge or Washington Bridge. The image was gone. madam. For a few fleeting seconds Atin was gripped by that feeling. So you watch the stupid serials in the afternoon. a big boy like you! You must learn swimming. Atin burst out laughing. Tell me about your childhood. She struggled to free herself. Strange you do not know this etiquette. Tell me Mili. has anyone kissed you before? Stop it. he must wipe out that image. That is not done. Sharmila was out of breath. Sharmila was over bashful. water everywhere. . do you? I used to when I had no job. Let me go. . I was so shy. it is a little chilly. You and I must talk about our childhood days. . this summer. In a desperate attempt he kissed Sharmila. May be a cousin or a brother-in-law or somebody? I won't mind. My childhood was quite uneventful. Though people kissed freely in the streets. only I don't know how I got involved with you. in Patna. looks like a city made of gold. . Sharmila looked around to find out if they were being watched. Oh the ways they do it. How do you know? Sharmila frowned.My mother's family live in Dakshineswar. trying to take his breath out of him. it does not become a girl wearing a sari. From a girl friend? From the TV. The afternoon soaps are all lessons in kissing. Golden Lanka? Have you ever swum in a river? I can't swim. Did you go to school in Jamshedpur? No. She opened her handbag to bring out her lipstick. Suddenly he saw the face of Ids brother. He held her head in a tight grip and kissed long and hard.. But Atin would not let her go. Atin put his hands around her waist. She kept hitting him on the chest. I have been there hundreds of times. join a public swimming pool. .

all blood drained from her face. What is the matter? Asked Atin. no. Bablu. rape. Sharmila leaned on the seat. What's wrong? My head is reeling. My head is spinning. as one would support a drunken person. I think I can manage. She told him to leave rather rudely and almost ran in. keeping her eyes closed. lean on me. Let me try. But obviously she felt too weak to walk. Is it very bad? Asked Atin. Bablu. Atin spread the paper in front of him — a cheap paper. I think I am going to die.I don't feel any chill at all. A newspaper stuck in the railing rustled. feeling weak all over. I can't bear it. Keep it till you find a trash can. Atin glanced at the pages casually without realising the tumult it was causing in Sharmila. Don't pollute the river. Rest of the way she kept her mouth shut. Should I take you to a doctor first? No. Take me home. robbery. Sharmila stood straight. She put her head on the railing. let us go home. What had he done to displease her? Was she physically ill or offended for some reason? . divorce of film stars. He almost carried her a few steps. which had no power to stop. Well we can't get a taxi or bus on the bridge. She pushed his hand away as he tried to pat her head. Luckily they got a taxi after crossing the bridge. Perhaps Atin too would want to push her off. the two towns would look so wonderful. They reached the house where Sharmila shared one room with her cousin Sumi who was a kind of stern guardian. I will be all right once I get home. Yes. full of sensational news — murder. It was because of her that Sharmila never asked Atin in. threatening to shake her off. Let's. But today Atin decided he would go right in and talk to Sumi. She pushed away Atin's hand. Sharmila looked at it and closed her eyes. The world spun around her. I am feeling sick. The picture of a nine year old girl covered a quarter of the page with a sensational headline. leaving Atin dumbfounded. she said. Let the lights come on. Atin tried to shove it in the water but Sharmila held him back. But Sharmila did not give him the chance. I can't walk. I can't stand.

In the living room Somen sat watching the TV. Satyakinkar pointed to various constellations and recited the names. Oli is now half a world away. scanning the night sky. The sky was equally clear there. throwing them at random till he was standing in the middle of the room. both Great Bear and Little Bear are distinct . there was no refusal in her reaction. he kept on an imaginary dialogue with Sharmila. as if it belonged to somebody else. playing some records on the second hand record player. A Gujarati. She . Was Sharmila aware of this. Could Sharmila read his mind. Have no idea. Very clear sky. Satyakinkar. In this country you have to buy them in packets. everything changed. What do they call Great Bear in Bengali? Pretending ignorance. Oli singing in the dark — how far away that day had receded. She is bound to understand. troubled and confused. amateur astronomer. . and felt cheated? Some day she has to be told about Oli. instinctively. Satyakinkar spoke in his usual soft voice. Look. Atin shook his head. Sharmila must understand this. Why then did she behave in this way. but Atin can never cast Oli away from his life. he was a walking encyclopaedia. Atin wished he would look down so he could take his leave. He still felt puzzled and bewildered. chatting and making love. He was reminded of the trip across the Ganga from Nabadweep to Krishnagar. Atin walked all the way to his apartment. In the one hour that Atin spent walking. A cloud of anger filled him slowly. he said to his landlord.The taxi had gone. How was he going to spend month after month under such a sloping ceiling? They had planned to buy some food and spend the rest of the evening in this room. But nobody could stop Atin from remembering her face. Every evening he had to watch the news. American courtesy demanded that you have to talk to people you meet. Fortunately Suresh came in. she is so soft. Now nobody can disturb him. Exposure to strong sun sometimes brought on a headache but today the sun was mild. he was thinking of Oli on the bridge. All on a sudden. a gift from Sharmila. What could have gone wrong? Stomach ache? Head ache? Sharmila never had such attacks before. addicted to the voice of Walter Cronkite. naked. Evening. you can't see so many stars in the sky over Calcutta. not much was left except some loose change. the windows were closed and curtains drawn. The room looked so empty. He took off his clothes. Was it the kiss? But it had pleased her. . Alone at last. even say hi to total strangers. The room was stuffy. He was hardly in a frame of mind to discuss stars. He had run out of cigarettes. climbing steps two at a time. Not enough to buy a packet of cigarette. It has taken Atin some time to get used to this practice. He banged the door shut. almost treating Atin like a stranger? After paying the taxi ten dollars and a tip of one to the driver. I have spent my childhood in Pabna. Atin left them. was out in the porch. so tender.

No. You knew that and spoke to me quite naturally after that. His body burned with anger. She had cut the line. Where did I go wrong Sharmila? My hand had brushed your breasts. yet . have you fallen so low that you are thinking about a girl. No. that is all you can think of? He gave his own cheeks two tight slaps. There was no food except a packet of cookies and half a bottle of drink. . besides no houses stood close by. She did not want to involve Atin. Atin wanted to know. She is asleep now. Goodnight. He must finish his doctorate in one year. But she had a boy friend. Sumi answered. I can't call her. I want to talk to her. She was reluctant to talk to Atin. standing stark naked? You have nothing else to do? A girl.stroke her hair. But as he closed his book the face of Sharmila floated back. At eleven-thirty his stock of cookies and cigarettes were exhausted. He must have some sleep now. I know that but what exactly is wrong? Have you called a doctor? I know Dr. She had a headache. Why did she resist? Why wouldn't she talk? He took a cigarette from the packet on the table. You have never ignored me like this. Sorry. that was not intentional. Sharmila is sleeping. Where was I to blame. For some reason this girl had not taken kindly to Atin. Atin Majumder. Sarbadhikari. But he would not go see her again. laughed. He munched on the coconut cookies and started taking notes. He could concentrate completely. Suddenly he was filled with remorse. she said dryly. Sumi. What is the mystery behind her sudden change of mood. She must apologise if ever she comes back. Without bothering to dress he opened one window. .had pushed his hand away when he tried to . he was not going to drink. . Moralist. Sharmila may be simple but too stubborn. He raced downstairs and picked up the phone. What does she think. Enough studying for a day. Forget about her. How selfish of him. she can treat Atin just the way she pleases? Atin Majumder is not going to stand her outbursts of temper. nobody could see him in the dark. What is the matter with her? Not feeling well. Sharmila could be seriously ill. Quickly he put on a pair of trousers and drew a book. to be thinking only of himself. He was hungry but did not feel like going out. all other thought were driven from his mind.

Had not had anything since a lunch of soup and hamburger in the campus canteen. Goodnight. . Then he strolled down the deserted corridor to the guard at the gate. The telephone stood in the middle of the two beds. But force of habit. Atin felt his skin tingle in anger. He has seen cars stopping at red light in the dead of night with not a soul or another car around. Train or buses cost money. asking him to leave because the doors had to be locked. they can be had for as little as one hundred and fifty dollars. At times hunger acted as dope. he felt strangely fresh if he let it grow. it was impossible to get on in this society without driving. 25 IT was seven in the evening. They had all gone to watch the Kurasawa movie in the campus hall. He was free to work as long as he pleased. She does not want to answer. That is coming useful. Well. So Sumi had taken the receiver off the cradle. He closed the exercise book. Most libraries were open till two hours after mid night. Why could not her highness receive a call? The next time he tried Atin heard an engaged tone. Sharmila must have heard it. no durwan or guard would interrupt him. Atin said. In Siliguri too he had to use the cycle often. Even if there were only two readers an assistant would be there to supply books. The urge to smoke made him look up. it was not so late after all. you have yet to know Atin Majumder. He has been taking driving lessons. People do it out of habit. A hefty looking man. To night he will go to bed hungry. Switching it off. he was reading the Time magazine intently. everybody had left but Atin worked lone in the lab. Ignoring the pangs of hunger he kept working. He realised he was hungry. Old cars are thrown away in automobile graveyards. went round the tables to check if any acid jar was open. Atin dialed again. He has not had a proper meal of rice for the last five days. Meanwhile he has bought a cycle like most students here. Then he would buy a second hand car. Atin walked out of the door to smoke.It could not be just headache. Sharmila could have called him. Sumi promptly put it down. Somebody had left a Bunsen Burner burning. He had learnt to cycle when he was in school. George. Only then he noticed the deserted lab. Sharmila. Since nobody was there he could easily have smoked inside the lab.

I hardly spend my money for movies. What is he doing here? This is not where he is supposed to be.George looked up. he would quietly pick up somebody else's and not bother to buy a new one. Everything was safe here except cycles. he thought as he was hitting the road. smashed to a pulp. They had not met after that. He wiped his face. come and watch this. Working late? You don't care for Japanese films? Atin smiled. Sharmila could have called. Atin Majumder would not be killed so easily. It might cause fever. Nobody came to attend him. the man started the ignition and drove away. No. Even Death kept guard over him. put the wheels in order. Where is he. Good for your health. Sharmila was away in Washington DC. Atin wished to risk it. He has no specific work here. With it he was brought back to reality. Instead of waiting for the rain to stop. Atin sprang up. If she was that sick she would not have taken the long trip on a Greyhound all by herself. A terrible loneliness gripped him. no identity. The man driving the car eyed him but did not speak. It was a ruse to avoid him. Was he no better than a whiff of cottonseed floating in the breeze. May be if he had lain on the road longer the police would have arrived and then an ambulance. Atin was thrown off the cycle. No cyclist or pedestrian was on the road but cars wheezed by making a curious music mixed with the sound of rain. He kept forgetting that they keep to the right side here. Atin had neither a raincoat nor an umbrella with him. It was Sumi who volunteered the information. no bones were broken. He dug his head to avoid the rain and kept increasing speed. Somen called out from the living room. no. . he is not going to any port but to his apartment where he would have to spend a few more years. . replied George. I will be run over now. he will cycle straight to the port . It was drizzling. not one moment more in this foreign country. A car screeched to a halt. The shining black road seemed to stretch to infinity. . Convinced that no harm has come to Atin. The car stopped. Atin picked up the cycle. After Jamshedpur he has never run a temperature again. He was soaking wet. He sounded excited. he decided to set off on his cycle. If ever he loses his own cycle. The jolt he had received was really mental. decided Atin. do come here Atin babu. He did not feel like asking Sumi either. Unmindfully he was cycling on the left. wondered Atin. In this town the cycle plying students enjoy special privilege. more faces looking down at him. No. Atin did not have the uncle's number. Back home he put the cycle on the porch and locked it. It was warm in the day but a rain invariably brings down the temperature. Normally Atin did not watch TV with others but tonight he craved for company. I am not a film buff. They get stolen every now and then. at her uncle’s. no friends.

Roy Robson: What was the delay for? Paul Gray: Some kind of trouble was going on. aren't they? What you mean is that a fight was on between the army and the common people. Roy Robson: What kind of goods do you usually carry in your ship. well. Light arms. a marine engineer. Paul Gray: Yes. even Sharmila would never know. rebellion you could say. Roy Robson: This time. Atin pulled up a chair. no. Just foodstuff — Wheat. Roy Robson: But Bengalis are Pakistani as well. It was the popular eight-thirty talk show. er. Why did she change? This is highly exciting. starving. Since the landlord was not present he was free to smoke. Gray? Paul Gray: Various stuff. Tonight the guest was Paul Gray. Somen told Atin. machines. Their ship was marooned in Chittagong for two months. Roy Robson: You must be carrying arms as well? Paul Gray: Yes. no. your ship stranded at Chittagong port must have been loaded with arms? Paul Gray: Oh no. airplane parts. Roy Robson. Paul Gray: No. So we help them. The people of Greek or Italian origin living here in the United States are American. Just wheat? How long were you stranded there? Paul Gray: About three weeks. Roy had a way of bringing out the life story and his presentation gave each story an aura of adventure. cars. Mr. On each show a person from a different strata of society is brought to the show to be interviewed by a very intelligent compere. But he did not want to tell them about it. these people do not know that ten minutes ago he has had a close brush with death. please come over. He has got a new lease of life. We were getting impatient. They have just begun. You may not be aware that two communities live in Pakistan — Pakistanis and Bengalis. Atin Majumder would have ended his life. . Somen said again. We were carrying wheat. Roy Robson: I see. You could say that. Roy Robson: What sort of light arms? Paul Gray: I am not supposed to tell you. The stuff was not being unloaded. Roy Robson: Your shipload of arms was for the army. Oh Sharmila again.Standing near the doorway he thought. It was a matter of a few seconds. They are poor. Three more people were in the room — Suresh. They were fighting. his girl friend Tinni and Abid Hussain.

in the first two visits we met some. Did they discuss the ways to unload the arms from the ship? . You saw dogs in the grounds of the Chittagong Club but no Bengali. Roy Robson: So they hate Bengali men but like the women? Paul Gray: May be. Hamid? I had enquired from an army captain. Where is Mr. Roy Robson: Interesting. That captain told me that the Bengalis wouldn't be allowed to drive cars. They had run away in panic. Roy Robson: Are the Bengalis black? Paul Gray: Frankly I could not make out any difference in skin colour among the Pakistanis and Bengalis.Roy Robson: Why then did they delay in unloading if they were starving? Paul Gray: Perhaps the army intended to starve them to death. You know something Mr. Do not mention his name. The families owning cars would be eliminated. Paul Gray: This is not unusual in the east. Robson. And each Pakistani soldier would keep a young Bengali woman as mistress. But except for the Chittagong Club there was no place to eat and drink. He puckered his nose in disgust. Roy Robson: Any Bengali among them? Paul Gray: Yes. in Rhodesia. Some Bengalis were fighting from outside the city. The port area was deserted. It seems the Bengalis outnumber the Pakistanis. Every time we visited Chittagong Club we developed friendship with some members. but not this time. But the Pakistanis are against the Bengalis. isn't it? Can you imagine a club in San Francisco where the locals are not allowed. Roy Robson: So you spent all your time on the boat? Paul Gray: We visited the city. I have seen street dogs in big cities of the east. this was my third. So we were obliged to go there. Even many clubs in Florida do not allow entry to the blacks of Florida. But the captain gave me a different reason. That Hamid? The Bengali. But you know I found some dogs loitering. Roy Robson: So you talked only to the army officers. nobody to unload. They even get into clubs. They plan to kill some and the children born to the mistresses would be Pakistani. In future dogs and Bengalis won't be allowed in this club. Roy Robson: Did you speak to any Bengali this time? Paul Gray: Couldn't find a single one. Roy Robson: Was this your first visit to Chittagong? Paul Gray: No. Chittagong is in Bengal. The first few days we heard sounds of gun battle but then everything was quiet. It happens in South Africa.

Well. They gave a terrible story yesterday don't you know? Somen went on excitedly. Slowly his expression changed to one of gloom. American TV channels were private. Tinni was the first to speak. It was an encounter between extreme nationalists and a dictatorial rule — he had no support for any of them. When did you hear from him last? Abid did not answer. . 15 Naxals were dead and 32 managed to escape. America happens to be the number one supporter of Pakistani army. There was a commercial break. They were rebel police. Jail break in Dumdum. Strange that they are showing it on American TV. not my responsibility. do they? He asked Somen. the biggest in recent times. not bound to tow the official line. They are fighting with American arms. hands raised appeared on the television screen. facing a barrack room wall. He feels Sheikh Mujib had betrayed the country. just imagine. Abid saheb? Asked Somen. I took a picture of the shooting. Tinni wrapped her dopatta round her shoulders. Besides that was the job of the captain of the ship. not arms. The silence was broken at last. What do you say now. He had no comment. In fact they exposed a lot of misdeeds of the American soldiers in Vietnam. bare bodied men with their back to the camera. I can't stand it. The picture was taken when they were shot and dropping down dead. wheat. I can't bear this horror. Said Suresh. The Naxal prisoners fought with the prison guards. Nobody can lie to Roy Robson and get away with it. my father who is in the Secretariat of the club never told me. A staunch supporter of Pakistan. Atin felt indifferent. he had a terrific argument with Somen only a few days ago. this is the direct experience of an American engineer. They looked much too weak to be policemen. They never give any news from India. Roy Robson: Did you witness any of the actual rebellion? Paul Gray: Just once. On my way to the Chittagong Club I saw about ten or twelve people lined up. Abid Hossain sat with his face in his hands. no. she exclaimed. that was a fact. Yet innocent civilians were being killed in East Pakistan. There was exchange of fire for twenty minutes. Why. His gaze was fixed on Somen.Paul Gray: No. Actually the ship was carrying American arms. she said. Reports were coming about Chittagong in newspapers. Suresh left the room to see her off. the Naxalites had smuggled a huge amount of arms inside the prison. stupefied. They avoid any news from India. I am leaving. From Calcutta. Or do you think the entire show is concocted? No Bengalis are allowed in Chittagong Club? Whispered Abid Hossain. that is what Roy Robson was hinting. The picture of some lungi clad. now it was from an eyewitness.

And what is he doing. Today's New York Times carries the news. from? He can't just walk all the way — two great oceans lay in between. True Santa boudi was a good soul. Tapan. Arindam — were they among them? Atin has no news of them. She must be keen to wipe out all memories. One can only fly. . Who can give him a loan? Of course he could borrow from the bank. Manikda. and courtesy the United States. But his account was new. Fifteen dead. he must. who would give him the money? But go back. And he is being fed by them. Kaushik. He has to go back. Sharmila could get it. He may not have much cash left but he can arrange for a loan. Dazed. Who all were they? Manikda. How do they get these god knows. Kaushik? In which case did he. Siddhartha was the only option left. come what may. He can persuade him. her uncle had a good job. their enemy number one. But suppose they refused? Atin would not be able to stand it. He pulled out his suitcase. But a lot of money. very briefly. of this bed as well where they had slept together? He groped in his mind for likely people and the thought of Panchuda exuded confidence. much bigger news. fifteen dead. again they will get organised to deal a death blow to the exploiters. A friend of his. Where would he get the money. did you say? He somehow managed to ask. But there is another.Atin was as if hit by a thunderbolt. Did they mention names? No. a Punjabi chap. But who is Sharmila to him? She has fled to Washington to avoid him. His body trembled. He has bought a new car. Fifteen of his friends had been killed in prison and he is immersed in the luxury of earning a degree? To hell with an American degree! But Panchuda after all was just a new acquaintance. moved to another apartment. Pompom. he walked out of the room. Atin was in no condition to hear this. Of course they did not mention how many guards were killed. Passenger liners have stopped. He rushed upstairs to his room. They showed a picture of the inside of the jail. Atin. Atin would go mad if he has to stay here against his wishes. Surely he would understand. runs a travel agency. moving about. President Nixon is still not bothered. That is a serious step. the capitalist nation. They showed the dead bodies. His friends were not ready to give up. he felt so hot as though he was running very high temperature — Fifteen were killed. According to the Wall Street Journal the Indira Gandhi government is going over to the Soviet camp. they gave loans even to students. The struggle is still on. They have broken out of jail. Not one day more. about ten dollars were left probably. have you seen? Indira Gandhi has nationalised the insurance companies. he must pack only the barest minimum. by whatever means. have any business to live? After packing some books and clothes in the initial flush of excitement he realised that a ticket has to be bought. sitting in America.

They have killed fifteen Naxals in Dumdum jail. I am busy. Go back like a sentimental fool and rot in jail. I won't stay here a minute longer. Stop braying like a donkey. I have no time for such useless talk. Fat lot of help will that be for your cause. Siddhartha. Yes. I have decided. Land at Kolkata and get caught by the police. It is unbearable. And you think I should remain here after that! Am I not made of flesh and blood? Can't you see . Then go back home in your dreams. concerned only with saving his skin. Listen Siddhartha . Hurriedly he called Siddhartha. It shows you have a conscience. .He ran downstairs without bothering to put slippers on. This is the last time I am asking for a favour. No. . Do not pester me about money. Take a sleeping pill and go to bed. The living room was deserted. Then jump across the ocean like Hanuman. For a few moments Atin stood bewildered and confused. Siddhartha. You think Delhi does not have a police force. This is downright obscene. Who knows perhaps you will go the way of those 15. After a long time tears began to . He seemed annoyed. . Sorry old chap. I have to. I won't get caught.. Will you lend me the money for a ticket? Sorry. Really? Come and go as you wish? But I have to. I want to go back home. I was reading out poetry to someone. Do me a favour. I beseech you. I want to leave this land of capitalists. What a time to call. Can't you speak a little softly? Have pity on my ear drums. Who can stop me from going back. in the papers. not after ten in the night. I saw it on TV. Yes I do. This is called pangs of conscience. have you heard? It came on TV. I will pay you back. I would like to see. Not a pice. He has proved himself to be a coward. I do it quite often. Interrupting him Atin cried out. hoping he would be home. He was. Tomorrow. Stop joking. Siddhartha cut off. by hook or by crook. I don't want a degree. I will land in Delhi and proceed to Kolkata. there is no way to get back.

Rabindranath. The revolutionary youth were engaged in a frenzy of destruction. He hit his head against the wall and cried out like a child. that was their intention. policemen carrying rifles stood back to back. Very few cars passed by. champion of education was beheaded a few days ago. Burn down everything. Schools and colleges were not spared from the revolutionary fury. Ma. It rained without stop in the street outside. The statue of Vidyasagar. Break old statues so that new statues can come up. They were armed with handgrenades. Remove Gandhi to make way for Rani of Jhansi. all looking upset. It was as though a new era of burgee marauders have began. out in the rain and get drenched for all he cared. some carrying flowers. 26 THEY parked the car in front of the university and crossed the tram tracks — Bimanbehari. Gandhiji and other national leaders had been demolished. The Gandhi ghat at Barrakpur would be Mangal Pandey ghat. Two police cars stood guarding the entrance to College Square. Even death gave him a long berth. Those statues were symbols of colonial education system and put up by agents of capitalism. A terrible loneliness seemed to tie his limbs in knots. right here. in the nerve centre of education. effective in creating earth shattering noise and also killing people. A hue and cry following this destruction amused them. ma . he will stand right here the whole night. These young men knocking down statues were not members of the CPI(ML) though they too were revolutionaries. pioneer of women's education. Statues of other great men like Rammohun. They were smashing things up because they felt in their guts that this is the way people were thinking. . Come what may. wipe out the old system. But Vidyasagar seemed to be their target. The new generation wanted to sever ties with the reformist past. down with middle class morality.flow. About twenty or twenty-five people were inside. barefoot with a vest on and stood in the middle of the road. The house was quiet. But he knew he would not be run over. . The Naxal leaders gave their moral support to the spontaneous orgy of destruction. Perhaps it happened by chance. Atin came out. in trying to wreck the examination system along with books and furniture some portraits were broken. They are hastening the process. The sight of four such young men would send the passers by running for life. Charu Majumder too supported the exuberance. Mamun and Pratap. scanning the scene. Now the statue had its top covered in a piece of white cloth. Crush them so that a new revolutionary . Nobody knew who gave the order to demolish statues and when. Nobody dared to protest. not just his image but the education system itself. their portraits burned.

making use of Rabindranath's bourgeois humanism and anti-colonial stance. the contribution of Rammohun and only vaguely aware that Vidyasagar did not support the Sepoy Mutiny. The government fell. Some excesses were inevitable in times like this. This went on for months — murder. After the initial success of demolition. . killing them was justified. The results were spectacular. small businessmen or big landlords. Their pipe guns and hand grenades proved to be ineffective. the people can never do wrong. Dead bodies of handsome young men with dreamy expressions could be seen in deserted fields. Revolution seemed just round the corner. Indiscriminate smashing of statues eventually lead to a mindless orgy of destruction. The only person to express doubt was Sushital Roychoudhury. But Charu Majumder issued a note of warning. After all the police force were protectors of the capitalist class. Kill more of them so that they are demoralised and leave. by the rail tracks. That was one way to obtain weapons to bring about revolution. Srikakulam. ignorant of the writing of Tagore. The young generation found it highly amusing. Arms could be snatched from unsuspecting constables or inspectors. You cannot put Rabindranath — Vidyasagar at par with Gandhi. Gopiballavpur. capable only of writing slogans and surreptitious murder were now faced with the automatic weapons of a trained para-military force. To single out the bourgeois democrats would go against the party decision. There was hardly any resistance. The idealist youth. Saroj Gupta in an inflammatory speech in a secret meeting at Hoogly said. The emotional Bengali mind was more horrified by a breaking of a statue of a revered leader than an actual murder. The colonial education system created hatred for the masses. can you? Instead of burning down schools a movement to reform the education system could be started. The policemen were their next targets. Forget the past and the poets of the past.culture might evolve. After a stint of President's rule came Siddhartha Ray. the BSF and the CRP were used. of the Party Congess Convention that the Indian bourgeois is a class of agents right from the start. They were butchered and jails began filling up. a name adopted by Sushital. demolition. untrained in guerilla warfare. Armed farmer rebellion is now a reality in Bengal. Instead of the police. Their protest can be seen as part of the armed farmer revolution. Then reaction started. Charu Majumder's message is poetry for us. The newspapers condemned the smashing but nobody came forward to replace the broken statues. arms snatching. Congress and the other Marxist parties joined hands with the government. If that hatred leads to destruction of property no true revolutionary should prevent that. the rebels turned to live victims. Poets would emerge from the revolutionary farmers. People were panic stricken. The three pronged attacks were too much for the Naxals. a representative of the central government. So the youth just out of adolescence went on their wild orgy. They turned to take revenge on the police who had been ruthless in Debra. Four young boys killed a constable in broad daylight with knives. In a pamphlet he reminded comrade Purna. Cultural revolution too would move ahead. The student unrest is a direct fall out. It is the sacred duty of the believers in the thoughts of Mao tse Tung to spread hatred against the system.

A new head had been installed. I had no idea. removal of polygamy and that too from an atheist would have been too much for Muslim society. Vidyasagar. said Pratap. Is that so? Mamun was surprised. A student should be considered good if he can think independently.V. stupid! Exclaimed Bimanbehari — an uneducated as well. learnt Marxism or whatever. but also thinkers and scholars. the Naxals might still be lurking in corners. they certainly are not uneducated. After all our Jagadish Bose. Said Bimanbehari. in one of their leaflets. Bimanbehari contradicted him with impatience How can you say this. I saw mention of Lakshmibai. the queen of Jhansi. Now at ten in the morning all party leaders have been invited for the opening. Why some of the best boys of Presidency are with them.At long last the broken statues of Rammohun. Every time Bimanbehari passed the beheaded Vidyasagar he turned his face away in pain. Did Charu Majumder learn his alphabet in China? They are determined to demolish statues but whose statues would be put up in their place? Just Mao. Bimanbehari and his friends were a little early. Mamun was a great admirer of Vidyasagar. Radhakrishnan were all products of this education. who is a nonbeliever? I do not understand their anger against Vidyasagar. then they would have not have fallen behind in education. many have ventured to resurrect the statue of Vidyasagar. No less a person than Ramesh Majumder has written that Rani wrote to the British that the sepoys threatened to blow up her palace if she did not join them. Now that the Naxals were on the run. . Can one think of a Muslim social reformer even now. C. Education is universal. Gandhi attracted attention. a system of English education for producing clerks. After all was not Vidyasagar a pioneer among publishers as well? But who would come forward. The conscience of the nation began to prick. Rani of Jhansi may be a popular heroine but turn the pages of history. Stupid. But talking of women’s education. said Pratap. Put in Pratap. observed Mamun. it depends on how you take it. Pratap. Queen of Jhansi of all persons! Whatever else they may be. Raman. His requests to other publishers to get it repaired fell on deaf years. After all these Naxals went to school in the tradition of Vidyasagar. Every country has produced some clerks. They should be indebted to him. They feel Vidyasagar made a mistake in supporting the system started by the British. Lenin and Karl Marx? This country does not have any great leaders? Asked Mamun. He wished there had been someone like him among the Muslims in the last century.

Added Mamun. The Vice-chancellor was late. Pratap watched them and wondered if a battle would start over a stone statue. They had gone to raid the armory in Chittagong with absolutely no idea about ammunitions. he said. So much for their noble contribution. so the ceremonies could not begin. Do they know the meaning of war? Killed some people for no reason. He told me what actually happened. Said Biman Behari. The bodyguards could be carrying guns anticipating a possible Naxal attack. Good students with an ideal but totally unprepared. The whole thing was a fiasco. was not such a trifling matter as you make it out to be. At least Mao tse Tung had a long preparation before he started fighting. But I know the story. A car pulled up with a bigwig followed by a jeep containing lathi carrying youth. It was for the women of this country that Vidyasagar had toiled so hard. . I am not belittling the armory raid. orientation and initiating the common man. It has already been four months. Do you remember? Said Mamun. You know I met Ananta Singh once. It was unprotected like the armory but the great revolutionaries could not find it. The militant revolutionaries are no different. Pratap frowned. In spite of their ignorance they did succeed due mostly to the carelessness of the British but could not use the looted arms for the simple reason that arms and ammunitions are never kept in the same place. Soulful speeches about patriotism. You call that a revolution? We have coloured it a great deal. Can you deny the excitement it generated. The armory raid. What training did they have? They have been forced to resist. no. the inspiration Surya Sen provided to thousands of young men even after his death? No. Bimanbehari felt for the revolver under his innocuous khadi kurta. made films and what not. I have great respect for Surya Sen. The Naxals remind me of the Chittagong armory raid. They do not seem to have had any training for warfare. He disagreed with his friends. In the crowd of about eighty a handful of women were present. Look at these youngsters. Who knows what is going to happen. The ammunition magazine was just a mile away. now they are being killed in return. put in Biman Behari. They think revolution is candy in the hand of a child. Some stray killings cannot bring about a change of order without adequate public relations. your people are fighting against a powerful army. Still I think this is no way to subdue the Pakistani army unless help comes from other quarters. It was a life and death question. Pratap threw away his cigarette. Bimanbehari added. What I am talking of is the preparation prior to a revolution. as if it was so simple a matter. Tell me Mamun.For us nationalism means the melodrama of the public theatre. Just wasted their lives for nothing. They were not aware of this simple fact. Look at the Naxalites. I was much too young then. The British must have had a good laugh. said Mamun. They ordered food in a hotel and then went for the raid. said Bimanbehari. my dear Pratap.

The boy accosted Mamun. You. The Naxals have threatened that for every revolutionary killed a hundred enemies would be murdered. Why. . dada? Pratap's immediate impulse was to box his ears. mumbled Mamun. You can throw it away. . A Naxal leader Mahadev Mukherjee has escaped from the SSKM hospital. How impertinent the modern youth can get? He turned away. He fished out a twisted cigarette from his pocket. don't you like it here? Asked Bimanbehari. Let them decide who are greater Marxists — a comment which made Pratap wish to strike him across the cheek. . The boy persisted. if I may ask? . Pratap had heard a senior police officer boast — in CPM and Naxal encounters we turn the other way. A barefoot young man in his late teens stood listening to this conversation. Thai is not the point. The world will forget about us. Then he asked. In these days such sounds were scary. Can't we ever get back? Why. Pratap nevertheless obliged. What is the party in aid of? Well people are here . I am afraid we would be reduced to the status of Tibetan refugees. as though carved in wax. When the boy returned his cigarette Pratap said with contempt. Can I have a match. He wore just a vest on a pair of khaki trousers. took a few puffs from it before throwing it away. that will do nicely. . Here. You know who broke it? Yours truly. Constant news of killings has made him short-tempered. Mamun and Biman Behari stared at him in disbelief. What is this celebration for? Pratap moved back. The young man nudged him. the match . I don't have a box of matches. pretending not to have heard. . But he could not help noticing round black marks on his shoulders. The boy smiled.The sound of a cracker or a tyre-burst sounded at a distance. Oh really? Said Pratap sarcastically. he had no intention of striking a conversation with this chap. crept to Pratap and asked huskily. Oh that? So they have got a new head installed. I believe the number of refugees has crossed seventy lakh — how much longer can the government feed them? Indira Gandhi will be forced to take a measure but her own house has to be taken care of first. This Samir Nag. Even at his age he did not smoke before seniors. Seething with fury. dada. none else. Suddenly Mamun spoke. What would happen to us? Your Indira Gandhi is keeping mum. Give me your cigarette then. Bimanbehari said. His hair was disheveled but his face was tender and handsome. Rakhal Naha was killed in Howrah. the statue of Vidyasagar . dada. . said Pratap. Only yesterday a journalist.

Looks like a boy from a good family. He may not have broken the statue but he supports the act. No shoes. Did you notice the marks on his neck? Asked Biman Behari. and this madman was trying to disrupt using filthy language. sala? Spoke the boy roughly. Mamun spoke with pity. One of the mastan boys held his hand. roaming at large. Is it any of your business. do you hear me. Pratap. what? Mamun was scared. He pulled Bimanbehari away. appealed Pratap. Please don't. He will not do any damage. The way the chap blinked continuously Pratap knew him to be insane. Meanwhile the shouts caught the attention of the crowd. They watched him from a distance. Let him loose after he became unhinged. 27 ULTIMATELY Pompom did not let Oli leave by herself. She swallowed double dose of all the medicines and an hour later jumped about. trying to stop the others. I have toppled the dome. she raised hell over the missing bags of betel nut. One of them banged the mad man's head against the railing. To hell with your respect. I will break that too. normally unemotional. It was not safe to be anywhere near such a person. felt his eyes tingle. It is I who has beheaded that son of a swine Vidyasagar. Come here to create trouble. Listen you sons of swine. new ones will come up. . I will take him home. Get out of here. The madman uttered an obscene word and tried to kick the bodyguard. That boy was exactly Bablu's age. Beaten up by the police. get out. He was talking like a Naxal all right. I know him very well. Biman. please leave him alone. They were here for a solemn occasion. Go and ask the son of the police if they know me. A few raised their lathi. Though considerably weak Pompom's mind was as alert as ever. The madman kept on. he happens to be . I beg of you. Please. The bodyguards of the bigwig came forward. let him go. . even expressed a desire to jump from the veranda as she used to do in childhood. One of the bodyguards growled. .I have done the right thing. taut like a bow. Burn down the old books. eyes sharper for being sunk in the sockets. Put a new one. He took the mad youth in his arms. He rushed forward. Then taking down the wash from the clothes line stretched high above the courtyard. The chap leaned against the railing and shouted. I am Samir Nag. are they going to kill the madman? He asked. Excellent work. in fact he looked somewhat like Bablu.

Pompom's kaka and kakima. I will come back to visit before going abroad. If I don't I will fret so much that it will do more harm. He is from the same neighourhood as ours. I am going with you. Trying her best to discourage Pompom. Where then would she stay? As the afternoon wore on. Pompom looked into Oli's eyes for a few seconds. I used to go to their house. That is where I met Kaushik. Come on. Pompom was treated like an untouchable. You are not used to lying. though frankly speaking I don't want to go. it will get late. They had to pull down the shade in front of the seat. I will see you off at the station. You can go with him in the car. I can leave for Calcutta with less worry. I have changed my mind. . But you have to. I will not go to Calcutta directly. Why don't you wait for your father? He will be coming in a couple of days. Oli hesitated.Sc. His nephews and nieces were good friends of mine. She picked up a bag. He seemed very shy at first. The daylong rain has turned into a drizzle. two houses away in Maniktala. She kept talking in order to keep her mind away from the sensation of pain. Pompom. Atulya Ghose used to live in that area. in your state of health it wouldn't be right. Was it because she was involved in a politics different from her father's or because they thought she was raped in police lock up? Oli did not want to leave Pompom among such hostile relatives but she was reluctant to stay in her Calcutta home. Oli will have none of it. Go to Krishnanagar. crossing the river would be too much for you. Since I have come with you let me leave with you too. The jerking caused unbearable pain to Pompom. so don't try to fool me. The rest of the family. A train ride would be more comfortable than jeep. Taking the bus. As a friend of Atin? Yes. There is no need for Pompom to take the trouble. said Oli. Oli could not make out why. He had visited our house with Babluda after their B. the grandfather with impaired eyesight. Oli got restless. Pompom. She can take a rickshaw. It is getting late.That's enough. Her bones seemed to be falling apart. a widowed aunt. Don't come to the station. How long have you known Kaushik? She asked Oli. said Pompom. so many formalities have to be attended to. she appealed. exam. But you look much better today. She had to catch the five-twenty train. Be a good girl Pompom. Any movement caused sharp pain in the abdomen creating an urge to urinate. were strangely indifferent as if it did not matter to them whether she stayed or left.

Oli could see through her pretence. It is just that you had a different kind of relationship with him. The word revolution was bandied about at home. Do you have a clove with you.You used to go to the house of a Congress leader? I was much too young to understand but I liked the informal atmosphere there. of all persons? You think nobody can fall in love with me. He would have made ma and baba happy. I met Kaushik in this house. To you. Introvert. both of us were small kids. even my father was in the congress trade union front before independence. As I was saying. but Atin could not go. used to write poetry. When he was in second year he spoke to me of love. asked the rickshaw-walla to stop and got down. Otherwise he was more interested in sports. I saw Prafulla Sen a couple of times in that house. among friends of father. Then Kaushik's family moved to New Alipur. The generation of our parents has betrayed us. His brother has been a chip on his shoulder. She has not told anyone about the nagging pain she felt during urinating. now that we are facing doom . After my mother's death. That word was electrifying. risky journey. much better than Atin. many of the elderly communist leaders had been in the congress. hiding somewhere. . . would visualise . But what good was that. I had quoted to him a line from the poetry of Subhas Mukhopadhyay: "This is hardly the time to frolic with flowers. I used to visit them. Babluda's brother who drowned in the Ganga was really bright. Oli? She asked trying hard to look cheerful. but we were in touch. You know Atin often regretted this. My father being a CPI leader I have known both Congress men and Communists. he would say . party workers. He was really fond of studies. Used to call Atulyababu — Jethu. She dragged herself to the rickshaw and climbed up. There was a proposal to send him to China. After his death Babluda had to turn to studies for the sake of his parents. A total revolution could only bring about a change in the social system. he was a brilliant student." I was deep in student politics in those days. he could not do this to the parents. I used to dream of a total struggle. His mother was very fond of me. He was very nice to us. . don't get me wrong. Abruptly she paused. You were talking of Kaushik. both were so powerful Congress leaders but absolutely unassuming in private life. Atin after all did not do well in school final. He had to leave them finally. Coming back to Kaushik. I would have been free to be on my own. Am I such a tedious bore? Please. My dada keeps pulling me back. haven't they? Never mind. England or US. They have tortured you at Lalbazar. Love. spend a day. Actually every time I met Atulyababu he used to ask about my mother. She walked across to a thick shrub to relieve herself. .

Tell me something. The police would shoot him down if they find him. Actually I am not in my right mind ever since I heard about Kaushik. forging ahead holding a red flag. was he? He never bothered about it. he acted as the link between Charu Majumder and the students. A shy person like him. he was forced to kill a man to save Manikda. You did not join our party. Sorry. Think of the effort Kaushik has put in to train himself. As far as I know it was Manikda who had wanted him to escape. That was how he came to the party. But why are you going to meet Kaushik. since he is on the run. OK. The credit should go to your father because he is responsible for bringing you into this world. Don't you see Oli. But I did not lose temper. you did not have to act as my nurse so I am at the root of everything. So you are helping a friend in need. But how he has changed. he did not have to run away. Why did you come back. He has spent nights with me in many odd places but never touched me. What I am now is mainly through my efforts. Well. He must be going through hell. People other than party members can be friends too. He was not involved in politics before. Would it have been better for him to serve a term in jail? He could have got a death sentence for murder. so far away from everything. A typical good student of the bourgeois middle class. Pompom said. . Pompom said softly. We had not started our annihilation program when he shot that man. Are they going to shoot me too? Asked Oli innocently. Atin had given up. I have not joined your party. . . You have done so much for me . That is a natural process. That is what I call a man. He brought Atin to the study circle. A friend in need. he organised our study circle. if I had not dragged Kaushik your Babluda would not have been involved. I know for certain that Babluda is not selfish. In the middle of this someone mumbles of love. I can't stand bloodshed. Putting her arms round Oli. Oli. He does not have his best friend Atin by his side that is what bothers me most. he was supposed to go abroad for so called higher education. I did not mean it. now when it is more risky? You are wrong. Millions are being born everyday. She is the spoilt child of a rich father he used to say.myself among them. But instead they opted for the safer road of parliamentary democracy. He does not even write. Nobody volunteered to help him when he was caught. I never knew you hate Babluda so much. Now he is struggling for life and you are asking me to save my own skin! Not everybody is as selfish as your Babluda. I could not stand it. He could have tried to break jail like Kaushik. In a way he has done the best thing to escape. You see he does not have a political background. I decided to mould him.

isn't it? You could say that. I don't care. was wounded. said Oli anxiously. They had to keep standing. it is too risky. Oli gave the direction loudly. In fact he has a grudge against you. a thing to say. When the crowd dispersed. You. I am committed. Are you sick? I am OK. This was the rush hour. let me take you to a rickshaw. Come. Kaushik is much more than a friend. in this condition? I can't let you go alone. I am going in any case. After the cooli left the girls exchanged glances. Pompom. Let him. Pompom rushed to the toilet leaving Oli to pay the rickshaw fare. The driver cycled the vehicle away from the city. the first thing Babluda would ask me would be about Kaushik. Take us to Sudha Hotel. Pompom. You have only a week to go. do you think I wouldn't have gone to him? Besides if I get to the States. you are shaking all over. They got down at Bardhaman station and waited on the platform. You are being silly. They reached the station. What would I tell him? That he broke jail. I am not that keen to go abroad. like impounding your passport. to the jungle area. He might give me a hard slap for all you know and ask me never to see him again.Pompom pressed her lips. I will keep you posted. I have a pretty good idea of how inhuman they can be. Go back to Calcutta. But at any cost she must behave normally in front of Kaushik. The greatest organised hooligans. the US government might refuse a visa. The jerking of the rickshaw hurt her. It is for Atin. Perhaps she can't make it alone. In that case I won't go. a cooli approached them. was now feeling weak. pain throbbing in her lower abdomen. The two boys who came from Kaushik had talked to Oli about how to contact. What I am telling you Oli that the police might make things difficult for you. Both of us need not visit Kaushik. Please listen to me. is hiding in a forest and I did not go to him? You know how bad tempered Babluda is. I am going anyway. I have got to go. Get back to Calcutta. They can shoot at woman without blinking an eyelid. By now Oli could make out if they were being followed. That is all. It was Tapan. she would faint any minute. . She leaned against the wall to steady herself. Even then. What. But you don't understand Oli. Pompom felt her head reeling. But the driver was an unknown person. the effect of the medicines gone. You have never been close to him. They are very close. Oli held the other girl in a tight grip. Nobody seemed to answer that description. They followed him. If it had been Babluda. climbed on to a rickshaw and paid the man. which are what the police are in this country. so that others could hear.

Presently two soft sounds of cycle bells were heard from the direction of the jungle. Pompom felt considerably better after two glasses of tea. Very well. We can't talk now. hissed Pompom. That is how some of us could escape. But we had smuggled in some arms and tried to resist. Who died? Anybody I know? . . Amateurish plan. Beyond this stretched the dark jungle. Yes. How many casualties? The papers said sixteen.You were not supposed to. No you can't. no light. . wanted to wipe out all the Naxals in one day — the swine of a government. can't tell you. he isn't. said Tapan. No. Kaushik does not know about Manikda. Oli stared at the darkness. I will walk all the way. replied Tapan. we can. Tapan. Again? Shivered Pompom. I am going to see him in a little while. She settled on the rod of Tapan's cycle. let me get down. is he? No. one of them was Tapan.After about an hour they reached a Punjabi dhaba. He broke his leg in trying to jump. The cycle ride was bumpy. no track. But tell me honestly. Tell me Tapan. afraid to think of the ordeal. Liars. Which leg has he been shot at? Sorry. I will carry you. Why did you come? Tapan chided Pompom. does he know about Manikda? Shh. Two men stood behind a tree holding cycles. We did not plan a jail-break that day. At least thirty-five were gunned down. It was their trick. Has he been shot anywhere else? Actually he was not shot in the leg. . But there was no other alternative. The bullet in the stomach is there still. Then she went to the makeshift toilet at the back of the Dhaba. he isn't dead. He has been shot in the stomach and the left shoulder. They opened a couple of gates and set a false alarm and started shooting indiscriminately. Pompom had to keep talking to get distracted. How do we go? We have two cycles. Idiot. The police could have nabbed any minute. wondering if they had come too early. much lower in the party hierarchy had no right to raise his voice at Pompom. it is eight miles. Answer me.

Comrade Kaushik Roy. stubble on chin but over everything hovered the unmistakable shadow of death.They were mostly from the Nadia and Murshidabad groups. The sight of him gave the two girls a jolt. Overgrown hair. What? Kaushik was dumbfounded. Some other injured men lay sleeping in the hut. But she stood up and said. Comrade Kaushik Roy. The tribals here are supporting us. Nobody is to come in when Oli and I talk to Kaushik. Tapan? Bidyut? Tapan who stood at the door did not answer. Kaushik pushed her hand away as she tried to pat his head. Why Bangalore? Will you stop this nonsense. Your presence will only make it more difficult for us. Are you sure? Snapped Kaushik. her sari wet and smelling of urine. makeshift bandages covered his chest and stomach. the special instruction to you is that you have to be removed first to our own hospital in Ghatsheela and from there to Bangalore. his bandaged leg stretched in front. He has studied up to third year medical. I shall give the orders from now on. I am the commander here. Kaushik leaned against a stack of hay. I have brought an urgent order from Manikda. only problem is I can't get up. to my aunt's place. Pompom? . Wherever he may be. I am all right. Calm down. he is alive. Who has brought the two girls here? Ask them to double march and get out. Have you met him? When? Of course I have seen him. It would be foolish to have confrontation with the police right now. Now that I am here. Do you know I have seen Subir die before my eyes? No. Where on earth is Manikda? None of these people could contact him. she said firmly. I am fine. we are approaching a village. About seven to eight guards stood in front of the hut the inside of which was lit by a single candle. Bidyut has. Kaushik looked up and cried out annoyed: Who has brought the girls here? Who gave you the order. Pompom slumped to the ground. It was a thatched hut. Pompom kneeled in front of Kaushik. said Pompom. Finally they stopped after one and a half-hour of cycle ride. I want to see him. he has sent word through me. spoke Tapan from the door. Has any doctor seen you? Asked Pompom. But let us stop talking. What nonsense is this? The police might come any time. He has ordered you to disperse from this area. He raised his voice.

He dragged himself out of bed. it tasted wonderful. At the end of every letter she writes we are all well. Atin had not written for the last three weeks. . Nobody would phone either. She can't. Manikda has asked Kaushik to go to Ghatsheela. If only someone could bring him a cup of tea in bed. Perhaps he might meet him there. Atin must buy a cheap camera and take some snaps. With the first puff the bouts of cough began. feels weak all over. He went on coughing. All winter long Atin remained hale and hearty. I am to take you to Bangalore. 28 IN spite of his best efforts Atin could not contact any deadly disease except a bad exposure to cold. She does not tell lies. This was the worst thing about catching cold in this country. He did not know anyone except Sharmila. Ma never complained or gave bad news. so he preferred coffee. It was accompanied by a persistent cough. Nobody was likely to call him if he did not get up at all. Making tea was a lot of bother. After three or four cups he has to light the first cigarette. Pompom gave Oli a meaningful look. which he had already read at least seven times. Not that it had any specific news. Tell him Oli. She wrote every week. palm candy and god knows what else. Can you show me anything in writing? Manikda is now with Charu Majumder. Ma wants a photograph of the new home. Do take care of yourself. No wonder these people stuff themselves with clothes and take them off only during sun bathing. In the morning he does not feel like getting up. He was not taking any medicine. With a deadpan face Oli repeated. It's much better to have black coffee. I have heard this myself. Comrade Nagi Reddy will contact you. You are to wait for further instructions. Already he had got a back-ache from excessive coughing. And from there to Bangalore. put the kettle on. He had to take it hot. black pepper. Oli was with me when Manikda came. Does he have the time to write? I find it difficult to believe you. he had to catch cold in spring. In his childhood his mother used to make a concoction with ginger. He put a piece of raw ginger he had bought from the supermarket. It does not leave you easily.Because our Andhra unit will get in touch with you there. Then he turned to the last letter from mother. Then said. Since he did not have a fridge in his room he would have to go to the kitchen to fetch milk.

saying it is justified. It will take time. Things will be all right. telling her a number of times why he was forced to pull the trigger in an open field of North Bengal. If he can save enough money he will run away from this country without waiting for his degree. so he could not afford to miss even if he was sick. This just punishment for ditching Oli. It was incredible how a soft girl like her could turn so cruel. They were spending their . now she lost her faith all because of a sensational newspaper photograph? Let her go to hell. The students make them work really hard. After all. But Atin had made a clean breast of it to her. The students have not come yet. Atin must visit him once and listen to his songs. At exactly ten past eight he climbed downstairs. Somen has a good voice. He had tried to figure out why she was acting in this way. He quickly donned the overall. The lab teachers are what we in India mean by demonstrators. His pay would be deducted even for half an hour's delay. mainly because they are spending their hard-earned money. The students too are hard working. then charged with an iron rod. save enough for a six-month course. suppose a mad dog tries to tear you to pieces you would have done the same thing. She must have realised suddenly that Atin was a murderer. But in the court the case was given a different colour. he had a better offer from Philadelphia. shaved and dressed. Atin must throw her out of his mind. Atin was amazed to see three Indian students working so hard that even their parents would have found surprising. He felt that any moment he would begin spitting blood. school is what everybody calls the university. Sharmila had believed him. and her memory makes his heart miss a beat. he would not have spared Atin too. Oli would never have acted this way. He collected his cycle from the porch. Would it have been a glorious death? Every time Sharmila had sympathised. He reached the lab two minutes before time. The best thing is to concentrate in work. what was he doing in that lonely field. Each dollar counted. the stigma remains. it was this newspaper which had brought out the change of mood in her. an anti-social had first hurled a bomb. But the first blast of wind started him coughing again. In his ground floor room Somen was singing softly with a guitar. he knew. Yet she has not made any attempt to contact him. That man. All three worked part time and slogged like slaves. It was a folk song the lines of which Atin found strangely appealing. Sharmila was back in Boston. as quickly as possible and save enough money for his passage back home.D. Why would a college teacher carry a gun with him. her fragrance still lingers in his bed. It took him fifteen minutes to reach the lab. Did she think that Atin was dangerous company that he could strangle her and push her off the bridge? Once a murderer. it was only for her that Atin took this job. It was persistent and painful. In the morning he had to work as lab assistant.By eight-thirty he had to reach school. so they try their hardest to pass. intending to kill Manikda. not their fathers. The stray newspaper with plenty of reports of gruesome murder which they were looking at on the bridge. Education is costly. They work for six months in a supermarket or restaurant. He has two objectives before him — to complete his Ph.

This will do very well. Today Atin was ill at ease because of his cough. Yesterday the unusual news made headlines in all the American newspapers: China's invitation to President Nixon. Peaceful way indeed! Has Chou en Lai turned into a Gandhi follower overnight? Atin decided to return home instead of working late at the lab. Snatching of arms in West Bengal was a frequent event. He made a point of not visiting their favourite joints. So that explains the Kissinger-Nixon weakness for Pakistan. What was the use of buying a car? The cycle takes him to places. Contact with China has been made through Pakistan. Atin always thought that their strongest bases were in Birbhum and Medinipur. Santosh featured in the news from time to time. another lab teacher and a good friend of Atin used to say — you know why Judy does not have a boy friend? Guys want to kiss a girl whose face comes up to their chest. though Kaushik had promised to keep in touch. but no mention of Manikda or Kaushik. about five nine. son of a rich businessman. As part of his economy drive he has stopped buying alcoholic beverages. She was healthy. He had stopped taking driving lessons too. even the short girls. chatted occasionally. All this time he deliberately kept away from Indian newspapers but the news of the Dumdum jail break broke through his reserve. people give those afflicted with cold a wide berth Judy usually borrowed things from his table. The weather of the seaside towns are so unpredictable. He scanned the pages for their names. Americans as a race are terribly health conscious. Actually he wanted a car for the sake of Sharmila. Henry Kissinger had made a secret trip to Pakistan. heaps of tissue papers had to be used and thrown away. He bought brown bread. She never combed her hair properly nor took care of her dress. But today Atin deliberately stood with his back to her after a formal Hi Judy. Steve. All the O Cs of Birbhum have been transferred. Mao tse Tung was to greet him warmly? Chou en Lai had already made a statement that the world's problems are to be solved in a peaceful manner. the boy would lean a little and the girl would lift their face — that is the ideal position. It did not make sense to Atin. they have invited the United States of America. The news of revolutionary activities in West Bengal. Kanu Sanyal. Andhra and Punjab also featured.own money that is why the urge to do well in studies. His nose kept running in the air-conditioned interior. Neither Manikda nor Kaushik had written to him. Atin had seen him frying French fries in a Macdonald store. China's declared number one enemy of the exploited class. He could hide in the library and go through the overseas edition of the Statesman. Cold is a contagious sickness. The Indian newspapers were full of the news of Pakistan and East Pakistan. it might rain in the night. Bhupinder Singh. Judy was quite tall for a girl. . There was a chilly breeze outside. The main reason was he too wanted to avoid Sharmila. butter and salami to save the trouble of going out for dinner. Atin gobbled a few sandwiches during lunch hour then went to the library to read newspapers. Have you noticed that women have longer lower limbs so that their abdomens are at level with the man's when they embrace. After the fall of the coalition government they are now having President’s rule. almost as tall as Atin. There was a Punjabi chap. a giant size. Asim. Judy from the next desk stared at him every time he coughed.

But have you tried grog? Tried what? It is a concoction. A muffler or a scarf would have helped to protect him against the cold blast. I hope I am not keeping you. He feels no urge to cook just for himself. They love the sun. mother would always heat up the rice for him. His first lessons in cooking were in Siliguri. the sound of rain at night. In my country you don't catch a cold if you get wet in the rain. It is rainy season in your country now. Oh yes. No matter how late he came back home at night. only it is known as lentil here. He had cooked salmon curry for Sharmila. Looks like it is going to rain. Atin had always been addicted to rice. Grog was very helpful. Dahi is not curd but yogurt. under Manikda. Atin was in charge of cooking. let me reach you home. May I carry your bag? Asked Atin. My dad was posted there. The masoor dal tastes wonderful. This was surprising. I have seen a lot of rain. he said. Again brinjal is eggplant here. Judy seemed to remember. said Judy promptly. It is not very far really. Steve wanted to taste Indian food. Don't you like rain. .He has gone without a rice meal for one week. Pretty soon Judy was seen coming towards him carrying two huge bags. Atin shook his head. It was not right to keep Judy company in his present state. He must invite Steve on some holiday. Americans in general do not like rain. Atin felt alarmed. Atin decided to walk with the cycle. I wouldn't mind if you carry one. Hitching both the bags to his cycle handles Atin said. In the New York apartment of Siddhartha. Hi Judy. He is a fairly good cook now. that way he felt less cold. must be a week's grocery. Everything is available here. He should not have touched her bag. I love it. What have you taken for your cold? Is there any cure for cold? That is right. even when he was sick. It had not occurred to him. a fact that would have shocked mother. Two years ago when I was in France I had caught a bad cold. being an Indian? I was born in Indonesia. You had a running nose this morning. The brinjals and cauliflower are quite big.

see you tomorrow. poured the liquid in a glass and said. Judy brought out a bottle of Jamaican rum. Women in this country are very sensitive to age. added some black pepper and water. clearing the books. This tasted like the mixture ma used to make. her towering figure almost touching the ceiling. The idea seemed to be the same. you must take it hot. Under-wears were scattered over the bed. good for your cough. it is a kind of chemistry. Yes. But she was much more disorganised. Let me start cooking. Use this saucer as an ash tray. Born in Indonesia. You must make it often. Keep it in the fridge.How easily these people talk about different parts of the world. . Atin felt grateful for the invitation. The world is their oyster. I will make you some grog. the room had a strong female smell. I like it. Briskly Judy cleaned up the room. then let the mixture come to a boil. Atin sat on the only easy chair in the room. You may smoke. Atin could recognise Van Gogh's Sunflower. isn't it? Why don't you have dinner with me Atin? But I have already bought some food. Atin turned to leave. She will have to make two trips to take them up. She poured some rum in a saucepan. she asked him in spite of the cold. If you are not busy you can come up. Cooking is my hobby. Just after it was brought to boil she took it off the stove. Atin put down the bags on the porch. Like him. this is wonderful. A large window occupied most of the wall space. books lay scattered about. Atin. Please sit. sip it slowly. But he could not mention this to Judy. It has been a long time since I have had a visitor. With the first sip a thin smile twisted Atin's lips. there were paintings stuck on the other walls. put several spoonfuls of sugar. Judy too lived in an attic. which lay heaped on its seat. Do you like Jamaican rum? Actually I am not fond of hard drinks at all. In that case let me teach you how to make grog. But I keep rum and brandy for cooking. They reached the lane where Judy lived in the second floor of a three-storied house. have something hot and sweet. You can talk to me of India while I cook. He locked his cycle and carried both the bags upstairs. replied Atin. Good night Judy. So he just said. been to France. Are you used to alcohol? She asked. she had also spent some time in South America.

29 MAMUN was at work. thank you for everything. Thank you Judy. nor was there any expectation of a kiss. they had met on the road by chance. he has not felt this good in a long time. he whispered. Feeling much better. Out in the street Atin felt cheerful. If she asks to be taken home and says good bye from the door then you must leave promptly. it means you have to make full use of the bed room. . This was beyond his wildest dreams. You will kiss her. Watch her reaction. it is already working. she told Atin. aren't you? On an impulse Atin put his arms round her. writing an article for the newspaper. See. the door is closed.She noticed that Atin was perspiring. however mad he may feel towards her. There was no other desire in this embrace except strengthening the bonds of friendship. She soaked a towel in hot water and wiped Atin's face very carefully. had another glass of grog. He could not bring himself to touching any other girl except Sharmila. She grinned sweetly. her breasts touched his head. The deadline was tomorrow. Born in . She patted him on the shoulder. Judy was absolutely normal. Well. take your date to a film show or a restaurant but don't start making advances on the very first day. the effect of the grog. You must know the dos and don'ts of dating. Judy soaked the towel again and repeated the procedure. this was not a date. don't use your hanky. no obvious sex play in her ways. Judy did not push his hands away. You must do this at least twice every day. does it have any other meaning? Can't there be any other relation with women except sex? True he wanted to take Judy in his arms but somehow it was not a strong enough urge. Judy has asked him in. It was dark in the stairs as Judy came down to see him to the door. No. Let me give you something. He did not even know her very well. even when she pulled him to the kitchen. He spent one and a half hours in the room. But if she lingers instead of saying good night it means she is indulgent. He closed his eyes in contentment. on the lips but only once. it will clear your nose. She said. Her large thigh brushed his arm. . Santosh Kumar Ghosh wanted a long article on the background of the language movement of 1952. You can ask for a date on phone. had a dinner of wild rice and minced meat and chatted. Atin remembered the rules of dating which Siddhartha was never tired of telling him . If after the kiss she asks you to go up to her room for a drink or coffee what does that mean? Don't stare at me you stupid oaf.

Mamun brought two reference books from the temporary address of Mujibnagar in Theatre Road. in jail was bitter about the ruling class. The student was shot. Their dirty kicks are aimed all over Bengal They don't belong They are selling out the land They have taken away food. though the idea of breaking up Pakistan did not even occur in his dreams. Ekusey February Our brave sons and brave women die in the prisons of the tyrant The souls of my martyr brothers send a call to you Let the latent power of the people flare up in field and market places February is seething with intense anger Ekusey February. Mamun did not recall the words but he quickly jotted down the last two stanzas. They don't belong. But he found it difficult to concentrate. Monju and Hena. Mamun had to make up a story of meeting two people just come from Dhaka from whom he has learnt that Babul Choudhury was alive and well. Ekusey February How can I ever forget you . Who is set to dismember Pakistan now — Sheikh Mujib? The rebel Bengali youth? Or the tyrant army rulers of the West? . His knowledge of history too was staggering. clothing. Ekusey February. It was a long time ago. recalled Mamun. and peace of the masses Ekusey February. the familiar Ekusey February written by Abdul Gaffar Choudhury. listening to Akasvani and the Voice of Free Bangla on the radio by turn occupied the other. There was nothing else for them to do. One particular song rang a bell. It can be used in his article on the language movement. . When Gaffar was in second year of college. Ghosh could vividly describe each mahakuma and street as though he was just coming from there. Mamun could not possibly ask them to switch it off. He was obliged to write on the bed since there was no other furniture in the room except two cots. he had written this poem at the bedside of an injured student in Dhaka Medical College hospital. He had pointed out two mistakes though of a minor nature in the last article of Mamun. . but the youth of Bengal were sceptical about them.East Bengal. Sometimes Monju frets to return to Dhaka but she knew that under the circumstances they couldn't. Mamun. Pakistan was just five years old. So he took no chance. It is time you wake up.

Soon the talk ended to be followed by the song 'sonar Bangla ami tomay bhalobasi. It was M. What is to be done now . After losing two and a half division soldiers now Yahya Khan is blowing hot and cold. ". the reason being lack of space. How are you Saukat? Come in. Let the whole world know that I have declared war against India. mines in the streets. . Please come in. After Mamun lost his job. The game is hotting up as the kicks and blows from the Mukti Bahini chaps are gaining momentum. he yells. from Northern Rangers. . The Ultimatum. The best soldiers of their three divisions have gone off to sleep in the muddy fields of Bengal. They could not possibly come in front of outsiders. Chacha is with me . This was the name of a popular radio feature. Mukti Bahini is on the way to victory. Meanwhile lots of things under Tikka — Niazi are tumbling down. it was both amusing and reassuring. . When somebody dropped in. Mamun never missed it. Akhtar Mukul. Tikka and Niazi after calculating profit and loss had fainted. I will teach them a lesson. It was not locked.Hena shouted. hand grenades are waiting for them in the towns. It is happening just the way I thought . Let India occupy an inch of land in Bangladesh. The voice on the radio went on in east Bengal dialect. The other visitor was a handsome Hindu. There was a knock on the door. breaking into his reverie. . do you want to hear? If the intruding soldiers board a train they are greeted by dynamite. Got your address from Kamrul Hassan Saheb. They do not have the time. With obvious displeasure Mamun greeted the visitor. And the fun in the areas under Bangladesh rule. they have breathed their last. I am not alone. Sukhu ran to open it. Is that you. sir. He was full of high spirits and could keep a roomful of people entertained even in these difficult times. Monju joined in. Saukat Osman saheb? Mamun was flustered. Whoever is sent. But instead of feeling happy Mamun was annoyed. risk of drowning in the water. It all came back to Mamun. How was he going to finish the article? Usually he did not encourage visitors. using choice slang words some of which even Mamun could not follow. . Mamun bhai can I come in? Asked a voice from outside. Mir Saukat Ali was his private secretary during his editorial days in Dinkaal. Though the name of the speaker was not divulged. Palash Bhaduri as guide.R. The man peeped in. Now Mamun could not ignore them. war with India. No. I am Mir Saukat Ali." The way the programme went on. Lahore Rangers. . Mamu is with me. But how much longer must one wait? Mamun turned to his article. armed police from West Pakistan — fall sprawling on the ground. come in. I am Saukat. even Monju and Hena recognised the voice. their co-traveler on the way to India. This has been going on for the last four months. . Saukat too lost his and went back to Chittagong. Gilgit Scout. These days the fellows do not even scream. Monju and Hena had no other option but to go to the kitchen. I have a gentleman with me. .’ I love you golden Bengal. . Abbu.

You couldn't recognise the fellow you were pining for. He will be coming down next week. So you are Palash. no no you don't have to take off your shoes. Mamun went in the kitchen to fetch Monju. Oh now it comes back. Where is Shaheed now? In North Bengal. Monju? Monju looked down. Monju sings wonderfully too. Shaheed. the singing sessions. . You look quite different. . Let me remind you Mamun Saheb. informed Saukat. there are so many these days. you have to sit on the bed. Next he looked at Monju. The tears Monju had shed for these two boys. she left singing after marriage. Even the chit Saukat gave me had your proper name on it. Have a seat first. What a wonderful time we had at your sister's place. Said Palash. I had no idea that you were here. . remember? It was no surprise to her. So. Then he looked at Hena and asked. How she has grown. She has not recognised me. We listened to someone singing as we were coming up. This must be your daughter. in trousers and a Hawai shirt. The thought of finishing his article was uppermost in his mind.Do come in. Palash. I have crossed the border three days ago. There is no chair. Mamun answered for her. He turned to the girls who had switched off the radio and turned their back to the visitors. It was a clear signal for them to leave the room. he said. now you are married and clean forgotten us? Palash spoke quite normally . . Mamun Saheb. How about making some tea for the guests. I have a programme at eight thirty. I met him day before yesterday in a musical function. son of Suranjan Bhaduri. These days this was the most important identity. Saukat informed Mamun. at Park Circus maidan. But Mamun showed no enthusiasm. now accompanied the flash of recognition. I will phone him tomorrow. smiled Palash. All in good time. I have heard his records back home. the awakening of womanhood in a teenage girl. I had visited Dhaka with a friend. would you like to come? . I did not know that. Mamun had to drag her to the other room. sporting a french-cut beard did a namaskar. Why doesn't she perform in any of the shows for Bangladesh. His eyes sparkled with amusement. that was before sixty five . Said Palash. of the same age as Saukat. Palashdada is a famous singer now. you have not recognised me. She recognised him but felt too bashful to appear before him. Don't you have records. looking after their tea estate. Mamun bhai. Is this your son? Very lovely. Who was it? Asked Saukat. Palash. Other expatriates would flock to the new comer for the latest news. How are you Monju? Monju stared at him for a moment then rushed out of the room.

they were always cloistered in the house. Monju. do you think I will let you go so easily. Oh come on. He said. What is the time? I had to sell my watch. This was his first visit.Monju shook her head and ran in to bring the tea. . He is a commander of the Mukti Fauz now . answered Palash. Palashdada. Let us go. 'It is top secret. her husband's brother. Yes. Now Mamun shifted his attention to Saukat. he came back a fun loving. Calcutta. — Altaaf? Which Altaaf? The General Manager of our office. The proposal delighted Hena. The message is urgent and secret. said Saukat. . Twenty minutes still. . Now that I have found you. Let Hena go. Poor girl. Quickly Mamun tore open the envelope and glanced through the letter. . Mamun bhai. In the hotel and newspaper business he had become a sycophant of his uncle Hossain saheb. Get ready. I have work to do. You know people listen to musical evenings till ten at night. But she would not go with the two young men unless escorted by Mamun. insisted Palash. Monju blushed furiously. What? Mamun got a jolt. Saukat now turned to Palash. she pleaded. . Mamun bhai. you must come along. Shaheed would join us soon. added Saukat. His duty done. This was news. Please convey to the government of Mujibnagar that I will be there tomorrow. He went over it again and again. He had a deadline to keep. consulting his watch. The Altaaf Mamun knew had fled to Germany after a short stint in jail for his revolutionary activities. happy go lucky creature. I can't. I met Altaaf at Agartala. To Monju who was looking on expectantly he said. opting for the risky life of the Mukti Bahini? He has made a name you know.’ He folded the letter and put it in his pocket. after a couple of successful encounters. watching dear ones being killed. Monju said. Aren't you coming Monju? We will make Saukat sing too. But Saukat had more to say. Sorry. a blind follower of the Pakistani regime during Ayyub Khan's time — that Altaaf now swearing in the name of Mujib. Altaaf had asked me to hand this over to you. What Saukat related was the usual story of burning villages and other atrocities by the military. Abbu. All right I won't ask you to sing. You can't be observing purda here in Calcutta. Monju bhabi's brother in law. He put his hand in his sling bag and brought out a letter. Demure yet willing. invited Saukat. You go ahead. Mamun was in a dilemma. can you? Nice place. He said. keen to hear the news . I hope you are not getting late for your show.

a country he disliked. For the last one and a half-month there is no news of his brother. said Mamun. No. Monju asked Saukat. With Palash a special memory of Monju's maiden days should have exalted him but he felt no thrill. He was not sure if it was right to let her be friendly with Palash and Shaheed. He went through the letter again. But Monju. In all likelihood he has been confined to army barracks. Did he say anything about his brother? Saukat glanced at Mamun for a second then replied. May be he has fled to India. His heart felt heavy with an unspoken sadness. Palash did not give Monju any time to dress up. we have to rush now. Having brought Monju with him and having no news of Babul weighed heavily on him. not quite. corrected Palash. Sirajul’s wife Monira has been taken away from their home. But Mamun kept standing. This is summer now so whole night programmes aren't possible. 30 IT was beyond Harit as to why the police spared him their usual treatment. Still people are fond of music. he should have found out the whereabouts of Mamun and returned to his wife and child. Mamun saw them off from the door. The reason he allowed them to go out was he was a bad actor. Altaaf has written. The last news was he was badly wounded by gun shot from the army. But to his . They left taking Sukhu along. People taken to army barracks never return. Now he was free to finish his writing at last.Some functions go on throughout the night. said Palash. the way Saukat has done. Army barrack! Muttered Mamun. thanks to martial law and curfew. but if he has Mamun would know better. If in the unlikely possibility of his escape to India. As far as I know he is still in Dhaka. Well. Saukat has brought bad tidings. his mind in a whirl. Even their neighbour Jehanara Begum had no news of Babul. He knew for sure that his aging bones would not be able to stand the bashing. We had no activity in Dhaka in the evening. he didn't. He was not destined to spend even a single day of his exile in peace. What was he to tell Monju? Tearing the letter to pieces he threw it out of the window. the Naxals are there. You had met Altaaf bhaiya. That would be the end of him. But Calcutta fortunately is free from such hazards.

It was as though they knew everything but wanted to hear them from Harit. Only when the police returned empty handed did she taunt them. When no incriminating object was found he got back his confidence and snapped at the police. Das Gupta. Can you think of some other punishment? But before that may I ask you a few questions? You have wasted enough of our time already. left? Left her job? Or gone home on vacation? Nobody works for a salary here. But I am not going to the press or complain. To ask the police to box their own ears! The height of courage! Did this woman have some supernatural power. she used to work here. The police did go to the cow shed. Chandra gestured him to stop. Perhaps she has joined some other ashram. Unlike Chandra. What happened at Chandra's ashram was quite puzzling too. You deserve some punishment. Haritbabu. Vinayak Choudhury said apologetically. the super of your ashram? Oh yes. so no question of leaving her job. Asamanjo was nervous and followed the police about with a pale face. Mr. they would find what they were looking for. She has left. The SB officer Amarendra Das Gupta scratched his head. Just five minutes more. called her a tigress. I do not know if she has a home. . the officer had said. I am going to complain to the Police Commissioner. What is the name. But strangely this was not followed by handcuffs or beating. I just want the two of you to hold your ears and stand up and sit down five times. What do you mean. The cross-examination was kind of funny. All the time Chandra did not leave her seat and sat with a deadpan face. write to the papers . Yes. We have important work to do.utter surprise what he faced were questions for hours on end. In spite of the time gap and his disguise one of the police people called him by the name. Kumudini Saha. said Asamonjo angrily. They were just doing their duty. They did not find anything there. . Please wait. She looked at the two officers. . she seemed to have a halo round her. On the contrary he was polite. Harit's eyes were about to pop off. would you begin please? Das Gupta flipped through the pages of his notebook and began. No more questions. we want to talk to you. embarrassed. . This is harassment for no reason at all . Did you search the cow shed? Go and look. . only be careful the Bhagalpuri cow is rather wild. it might kick. The first thing they did was to comb the ashram for Naxals. She may not have liked it here. As he watched this. So you admit that you were wrong. Where is she now? Chandra exchanged glances with Asamonjo before speaking. We are really sorry. Keep quiet Asamonjo. As far as Harit knew the police hardly ever make mistakes. the inmates used to tease her.

Perhaps. She too is in our custody. We do not want any bad publicity. you have to come with us. spiritual leader of so many devotees. It is no use shouting. one of the trustees of this ashram. He turned to Harit quickly. he has escaped but we will nab him. Another branch of your Pramila Ashram at Naihati. no. the pass book of Chandra Devi's bank account at Naihati — all recovered from the ashram there. Then we have nothing against you. Das Gupta brought the notebook close to his eyes. So you see Chandra Devi. Since we have not found any incriminating objects here. I do not. Tell me Asamonjo babu. is it your responsibility as well? No. lumpen proletariat in current language. Resisted till the last. What nonsense is this? Bellowed Asamonjo. twenty one bombs. You had sent Kumudini Saha to run that Naxal ashram. the ashram will run as usual. Would you challenge me if I tell you that instead of destitute woman that centre in Naihati is housing wounded Naxals? Two of them were branded criminals. Your son Sucharit was there too. You do not know for sure? No. There are some already. she is a holy person. Does your trust deed mention the Naihati ashram too? What I mean is. Who would be living there? Destitute women. You had gone to Naihati a couple of days ago. You are a Reader of the Calcutta University. In fact I was not even told of it. I had gone to supervise. About five of the escaped prisoners from Dumdum jail were there. I must say she lived up to her nickname tigress. Turning to Chandra he continued. Two revolvers. Where exactly did you go in Naihati? We are opening another ashram there in a house donated by somebody. We entered after your prayers were over and devotees had left. Five minutes are over. protested Asamonjo. asked Das Gupta. we were not mistaken. three pipe-guns. is that it? The inmates here are destitute women. I have nothing to do with the Naihati ashram. in the van outside. three prison uniforms. How dare you take her. Only Chandra devi will be absent. Binayak Choudhury looked at his wristwatch. said Vinayak Choudhury. two have been caught. You went there with a doctor day before yesterday. Please wind up. all blood drained from his face. We can arrest without the presence of a lawyer. . is that right? Do I have to account for all my movements? We are just asking for some information. Please get ready. Let me get a lawyer first.

Where was the place? They kept hammering on the same thing. Chandra devi you may take some change of clothes if you want. . Slowly Chandra faced him. roared Choudhury in an unusually high-pitched voice. You have shot an innocent young man in Naihati. Chandra went on coldly. now turned into a Naxal. You may be in the police force but you belong to this country. the son Parulbala had hoped would become a judge or a magistrate some day. Asamonjo babu? I have nothing to do with politics. Nisith Sarkar. said Asamonjo hurriedly. Get going Chandra Devi. Undaunted. That was the last Harit had seen of Chandra. He kept a smiling face. talking of false idealism.To Chandra whose eyes were fixed on the wall opposite he said. can you tell us. What kind of revolution can you have by killing college professors. . Harit must have conspired with Chandra to keep him hidden. Why don't you understand this Haritbabu. Harit was surprised that he was spared this. He has been involved in the murder of a Congress heavy weight. The police knew about the movements of Harit ever since he visited Anandamohan in Mohanbagan Lane. Why did he visit the Bongaon border? Was it to meet his son? Has he crossed over to the other side? The Kasipur refugee colony was searched but Sucharit was not there. you are shooting idealist revolutionary young men as if they are common criminals. perhaps due to his sadhu costume. I still think you are making a mistake. And what about the Congress and CPM boys your people are killing. A week later Harit was put on a covered police car already occupied by two prisoners in their early twenties. They are getting killed for nothing. hands and feet bound in chains. The irony of it was that Harit had to listen to the life history of his son from the police. it could have been hidden there by the Bangladeshi Mukti Bahinin people. Chandra never . They were only interested in Sucharit. That Das Gupta never lost temper. using the situation to their advantage. he was the only child of his widowed mother. It was never mentioned that there was a ban on Harit's entry to West Bengal. Common criminals are trying to pass off as Naxals. He was the hired goonda of a Congress leader. don't you? Where is your conscience. . Both Chandra and Harit were taken into the same van but they sat far apart. None of your silly lectures! You are brain washing these kids. Mukti Bahini at Naihati? Don't make me laugh. his son has committed at least three murders. This Harit babu here. . result of physical torture. Your son would be safe in police custody but if he is out he is bound to be killed. Shut up. said Das Gupta. he can never escape the Congress boys out to take revenge . They could also be only sons of widowed mothers. had the arms you have recovered at the Naihati ashram. . They looked dazed.

If only the boys were not tied up. The car sped towards the countryside. Byom Bholanath. didn't you? In our Khulna home we had Durga Puja in a grand scale. You there. Come Haritbabu. Jai Baba Kalachand. Wonder of wonders. In spite of the misery a smoke after all was a delight to an addict. like real. He raised his hand in the gesture of giving a blessing. Why did it occur to you? . But the boys seemed to have lost all zest for living. Why did you bring me so far. The potter. Das Gupta was already there. How about a cigarette. Sepahiji please can I say something? He made an appeal. I too come from the other side. The two constables covered in rain-coat smoked. waiting with a tea cup in hand. Taking advantage of his weakness. Starved of smoking in the jail Harit pined for a puff. Jai Shankar. Sepahiji I am a poor sadhu. we could have tried to overpower the constables and make an attempt to escape. your son will get a job in the police. He ordered the chained boys to be taken away. son? God will reward you. Harit was too clever to be taken in by such diversions. Do you know something. our image was. Have some tea. may your children prosper. Then he began in a nostalgic tone. Can I take a few puffs. Their iron chains clattered prompting a poke of the butt of a rifle. was offered a cup of hot steaming tea. You used to build clay images. They locked me up by mistake. rain leaked from the ceiling. the image of the goddess was perfect. Hang? Who said you would be hanged? Besides that is a matter of the court. Harit was given a seat next to the big officer. Presently a storm broke. Das Gupta said. your daughter will be married to a daroga. One of the constables snapped. Instead of a sharp reaction all they do is just whine like injured animals. God knows where he is now. May God bless you. he spoke the way one receives an honoured guest. Famous. Shut up. bring a chair for him. Harit said. A flash of lightning was followed by thunder. You know Sristidhar looked somewhat like you. sir? Is this the place to hang people? Startled. in some refugee camp may be. said Das Gupta. all over the land. The other two prisoners moved. But I must admit they have taken good care of me. Harit did not give up. What is the matter? Snarled the young constable. the older man offered his own cigarette to Harit. Byom Sankar. The car pulled up at the Basirhat police station.It was late afternoon. Khulna. Our job is to investigate. what eyes. The first greedy puff was followed by strong bouts of coughing. The older man instinctively folded his hands. That would have made the blessing more authentic. He wished he had procured a sacred thread from somewhere. thought Harit. Amused at his eloquence. what a wonderful artist. Sristidhar his name was.

Somebody held an umbrella over the head of the officer. nobody survives. sir? It was too dark even to recognise the faces. They paused in front of a tin shack. Little job? What kind of job? Drink your tea first. Haritbabu. if he had courted arrest he would have lived. rats scuttled away screeching. no magistrate. I saw some open fields from the car. What is this man up to? Would he kill the father for the crime of his son? Come what may. . A foul smell hung in the air. and now a fresh flood of them from East Pakistan. As a constable flipped open the cover Harit exposed to a lot in his life broke into cold swear. Angry. He looked in his late twenties. Das Gupta drew Harit under the cover. but part of our job. he used to limp. Why did you leave your son in Calcutta. I am sorry. Harit was scared to death. I want the names. Haritbabu? He could have been a real help to you in Dandakaranya. There is a little job for you. But you did not tell why I was brought so far. Would you do me a favour sir? After my death please inform my adopted son. the left sole is crooked. Das Gupta told Harit. Turning to Harit he said. How do I know the names. This is a dangerous game. blood oozing out of their nostrils. Only the face with a hairy head was intact. In the dim light inside the room a covered body could be seen lying on a stack of hay. You are soaking wet. I hope your children are doing well. actually my adopted grandson but he calls me baba. let him smoke his last good cigarette. No judge. did they? I knew it. put a handkerchief in his nose and remarked. Then you are free to go. From the chest to the stomach of the naked body was chopped and eaten away by mice. Release one from the car then shoot from the back. I am sorry to say most of the boys of the refugee colonies around Calcutta are getting mixed up in politics or turning into criminals.In the prison they were talking of a kind of hanging. Can you find any birthmark? I told you. You are from my part of the country as you said yourself. It is your turn now. He asked for one. Das Gupta bellowed. You will get a rude shock by what we are going to show you. Clean job. Das Gupta went up and asked. Naba by name. Who has told you such lies. was known as langra. if I may ask? Presently the two chained prisoners were brought and pushed into the car. What nonsense. Das Gupta. would you stop this useless talk? How does the question of your death arise? Have you been tortured yet? I myself come from East Bengal I have strong sympathy for the refugees. Lives in Kasipur Netaji colony. Not used to such good gestures. They didn't identify. The government is trying its level best but the streams of refugees keep staying.

he guessed and pointed to a spot on the nose. Kalachand has been kind to him. Let this gentleman cry. Jai Baba Kalachand. . 31 IT was a holiday today. Those very eyes. tell me sir? Not the police. But Atin has already got his mother's letter this week. He had no place to go to. Bhulu. The wailing went on. He lingered in bed. Harit walked on in the rain till he came to an open spot. said Das Gupta. who has done this to my Bhulu. Due to the kindness of Kalachand his son was still living. leaving Harit to himself. Haritbabu you are free. Harit obliged even though he was literate. That body of a young man. His face was still streaked with tears. He could get the newspaper downstairs but what was the use. How could you be so cruel. Das Gupta told an associate. but who? Never mind. Is this what fate had in store for us? What am I going to tell your mother. So he stayed put. wailing. After a while Das Gupta asked him.Harit took a few seconds to make up his mind. So you are sure this is your son Sucharit? Any other identity mark or birth mark? Though Harit did not know the meaning of such English words as identity or birthmark. you are indeed great. tell me Bhulu. . She had all her hopes pinned on you. Bhulu. What am I going to tell your mother. He was not expecting any important letter just now. His acting had been real convincing. . The police officer left in the van. He was asked to give his thumb impression on an already prepared report. One constable dragged him away by the shoulder. Let him face himself for a change. he was also known as Bhulu. O Bhulu. Bhulu o my Bhulu. Please make a note. You can get in touch with me in our Lord Sinha Road office for cremation tomorrow or the day after. What difference would it make if he did not read the newspaper. Atin decided to stay indoors. he was spared being beaten up by the police and a prolonged stint in jail. obviously from a good family belonged to somebody else. The post-man delivers letter early in the morning. The body will go for postmortem. You may go now. my pet. You did not think of her at all? We were hoping you would be educated and bring us good times . he would not even budge out of his room. the nose. All the foreign students rushed to open the letter box the first thing in the morning. He threw up his hands and shouted. Then he flung himself on the dead body. after all he is seeing his son after a long time.

Sharp sunlight stung him like a sword. even Kaushik. Ask the caller to hold on. all the time thinking of avenging the death of Manikda. Said the voice from outside. still acutely depressed. trying desperately to acquire a tan. She seemed totally unconcerned about onlookers. Somebody tapped on the door. Soon he began to perspire. he had never fired a shot in his life. Does life have any meaning? Yet. Still wet from perspiration. But first he must go as far as possible from Boston. These people are fond of showing off their body. he opened one window hoping to get some breeze. Now both Oli and Sharmila have gone out of his life. The room has a heating system but nothing to take care of the hot weather. killing one man. Atin was only instrumental. Standing on the bridge it must have occurred to her suddenly. The window overlooked the back garden of a house where a young woman reclined in a deck chair. This is the punishment he deserves. Now time for a ten-minute recess. he did not kill him. But no. Quickly he drew the curtain. Since he was not going out of the room there was no reason to put on clothes for nothing and in this sticky heat too. the sheet has not been washed for quite some time. He has been studying like mad. But why hasn't he written. which would never come near Atin. How could he aim correctly. sitting morosely. For quite some time he has had no news from home. Atin has been unfair to Oli. At times he is gripped by depression. Get over with his degree then flee this country. He thought Manikda was dead. his best friend — have they all forgotten him? The girl sun bathing in the garden stood up. It was death. He slept without any clothes. . But no. Who is it? He asked trying to get into some clothes. He rushed through breakfast and sat down to study. revealing her naked upper torso. Stuffing his shirt in the trousers Atin rushed down the stairs to find Abid Hossain alone in the living room. Atin looked through her. she will never step into this room again. He was to change the social system but all he has done is to break away from the family. She wore just a panty. I will be down in a second. Only the upper part of his body would be visible. He flopped on the bed. She drew the chair under the shade of a pear tree.At nine-thirty he got out of bed. He does not need any of them. Who would have thought that summer can be so intense in the white man's land. death always gives him a wide berth. Somen. He had also bashed him up with a rod. He ran from one corner of the room to the other. even Oli or Sharmila from his mind. that hand of death was the killer. this helped him to memorise plus it was good exercise. Let it be. He must shut off his friends. What have I done with my life? He could not get rid of this nagging feeling. book in hand. She must have come to know of Oli somehow. Of what use is his life? He has been committing mistakes one after the other. You have a phone. her body profusely bathed in cream resembled an oil painting. enough to get him killed but he escaped. A car had hit his cycle that day. Atin could not help notice that her breasts were fairer than the rest of her body. At first Atin was overcome by a sense of guilt as though caught in the act of stealing. Sharmila would have flung it off the bed.

Could you help me out? Key? What key? Asked Atin. I will. They will intercept. But he did not notice any key lying on the floor. Atin was indifferent. .As Atin picked up the receiver. All right. said Atin and rushed upstairs. Abid Hossain said glumly. as if events from a previous birth. neither the key nor anything else. I didn't. She had put on Atin's clothes. Would you please look into your wardrobe? OK. Once after a complete drench she had taken off all her clothes and spread them over the room heater to dry. Did I disturb you? Her voice was cool. I keep losing keys. I have booked a call. I must open the cabinet to-morrow. Take care. After all these days Sharmila called to talk about a lost key? How artificial and polite she sounded. I am holding. it is related to some work I must submit to-morrow. He searched the wardrobe thoroughly though he knew the key would not be there. There are some important papers . . Do you have a cough? Who said so? No. if it comes through. I don't. Extremely sorry to bother you. No I found nothing. This one is of the college file-cabinet. What can I do? Have I left it in your room by chance? Did you find a key when you vacuum cleaned? Atin did not vacuum clean his room after his last meeting with her. You coughed a few times. please. Sharmila? Could it really be Sharmila? Sorry Bablu. Bablu. When he picked up the receiver he adopted a hard tone. No. Sharmila was apologetic. it might come any moment. she used to hang her handbag in here. How far away that seems. Can't find the key anywhere. True. There was a bitter taste in his mouth. I just took a chance. . Not really. hold on. I have misplaced a key. Would you go and look. the voice on the other end sent a cold shiver down his spine. Thanks all the same.

Somen deserved thanks. pukka saheb. you son of a Bangaal. You know Linda. o mon dail randhorey. Her Bengali accent was not bad at all but the friend from England did not seem to enjoy the exercise. But Somen dragged him inside. not like the usual American girls. Good luck. said Atin from the door. The stranger moved back to make way for Somen. said Somen. come in. Delightful sight! He would also have Judy over for dinner one of these days. said Linda. Come in. Somen too was under the spell of ganja. most probably his American girl friend. I want to talk to Somen. . Apart from the handsome stranger Somen's girl friend Linda was there. I just wanted to thank you. said Atin. Obviously Somen had company. The room was full of smoke but not of tobacco. sadhu.Thanks for the advice. A handsome stranger stuck out his head and said. you don't know kancha morich! You can't make dal without it. ascetic and spirituality. . decided Atin to get a good view of the semi naked white woman. Funny. Turning to his friend from London he threw a challenge. her eyes bleary. Let's hear the song. But what is kacha morich? Green chilly. Come in. The way he was talking. Sala. What is kacha morich my dear sir? Jyoti Ray said slowly. This is my household mate and great scholar Atin Majumder — A real Naxalite leader from Bengal. Atin knocked. Turning to Abid Hossain he said. Before going to his room he paused before Somen's door to thank him. don't give up. He could hear the twang of guitar accompanied by singing inside the room. The next song too was a Bengali folk. Atin has been to this country long enough to get used to the thank you culture. I understand the meaning broadly. Dail randhorey kacha morich dya. He put the receiver down. . how news spreads. Cut it out. Judy was a nice girl. marijuana. Haven't got your line yet? Well. join the party. But why call Atin a Naxalite leader? They never discussed their personal lives. Somen picked up the guitar and resumed the Bengali folk song with Linda trying to join in. Let me introduce my friend from London. has had a few puffs of ganja. We call him Bappa. For her India was a land of ganja. A friend of mine has just come from London. gurur kachhe louga montor birole bosia. I will keep my window open. However bitter that telephone call had been. his name is Jyoti Ray. This pukka saheb does not understand most of the words. it used the symbolism of cooking dal with green pepper . Linda was an ex hippie and fanatic about India. Somen paused from time to time to explain the meaning to Linda.

admitted Jyoti. . but I don't think we have met before. Atin did not relish it at all. No. . Linda. he was very fond of ilish. But he forced a smile. particularly fish dishes made in honour of the friend from London. ekkebare manaiche na go (Go to the land of the red hills and the red soil. you are out of place here. He began. Dada had said he would buy mother an all wave radio once he starts working. delighted by that song wanted to hear another. he looked a couple of years older than him. What happened to that guy? She asked. not in London. In spite of Linda's persuasion Atin had refused to take ganja but he had to take some of the food Somen had cooked. He did not live to keep his promise. rangamatir dese ja. He kept looking Atin in a curious way then asked — where have I seen you before? Atin froze. When Atin refused it Baba would be hurt. it should not cost more than four or five hundred dollars He was still finding it difficult to make both ends meet .My father was a bangaal all right. absolutely out of place. Their Calcutta home does not have a fridge even now although Atin enjoys a common one and one of his own. even in that age he used to sing English songs. Trying to avoid him. Deoghar or Vaidyanathdham. Much earlier. Tall and sturdy. Somen's friend had also opened floodgates. Jyoti Ray shook his head. ilish always reminded him of his father. I never forget a face but can't spot you. No. Lalpaharir dese ja. Atin moved away from Jyoti Ray. Bappa. Atin must send at least one hundred dollars at any cost. He saw a stubborn young teenager through the pukka saheb. Actually Atin was not listening. absolutely out of place. You have a glum face my dear chap. he said. I was in London for some time. Did you ever live in a small town in Bihar. She pointed her finger to Atin. He keeps thinking of sending mother money to buy a fridge. Bulamasi's son in Deoghar. he wanted an excuse to leave. During a puja holiday they got quite friendly with Bappa though he was closer to Dada. Shad was the American version of the Indian ilish. Now looking back he can realise Baba's sentiments. He had sharp eyes and already thinning hair. Let me sing one meant for you. Somen babu. Let me try again. Oh no. This chap must be from north Bengal and would rake up the unpleasant past. you look out of place here. Memories crowded in.) Even after taking his leave the song would not leave Atin. But Jyoti came up to him again. where a relation of yours ran a music school? Now it came back. hethay ture manaiche na go. He answered stiffly. carry on please. Finally Baba was obliged to buy only telapia because that was the only fish he could afford. Sometimes he brought ilish in the evening to the great annoyance of Ma. He seems to be bored to death. The lines kept haunting him. . But what had Atin given his parents? Even Phuldi with her meagre allowance of a house surgeon had bought a radio for the family. I do not like talking while singing. but I hardly remember visiting that part of our country. He burst into tears in his room.

do convey my apologies to him. there could be no other explanation. they had made up soon enough. Back in his room. You see I don't forget faces. He has no other trace of her in his room. He set out without his cycle. Is that so? Yes of course. Why don't these people leave? With the return of the key his relation with Sharmila would come to an end. The key could be dropped in her letter. he had a good look. taking a roundabout way. The best alternative would be to put the key in an envelope and post it.box. You are out of place here. The likeness is remarkable. it was going to rain. I remember one particular incident. Perhaps it got under some book or something. Dada was not the aggressive type. Where is your brother now? In India? When you write to him next please tell him that Jyoti Ray is sincerely sorry.Watching recognition dawn on Atin's face. It could be reported to her. that was out of the question. That was my brother. But nobody had ever told Atin that he looked like his brother. The presence of the key was indeed a miracle. He waited under a street lamp. The sky was cloudy. absolutely out of place. She needed it tomorrow. after the formal tone adopted by her on the phone. But in that case she was not likely to get it before day after tomorrow. He did not want anybody to notice him dropping the key in Sharmila's letterbox. we had a fight and I punched your nose. Besides she would not believe his story that he did not find it earlier. Every puff brought about a bout of coughing but he could not just stand there. This was an usual practice here. Was it by an act of magic? It has been lying here for the last two weeks and he had not noticed it. thus avoiding a direct encounter. As he saw three American boys and girls chatting on the porch. His eyes were suddenly caught by something on the table. You used to recite poetry. Atin went over their Deoghar days. He must take it to her. you were two brothers. How wonderful life used to be! Yes Dada did have a fight with Bappa once. he was out of place everywhere — in Somen's party. . He picked up the key and wondered about the next course of action. You are out of place here. By the time he reached Pearl Street it was already dark. What was the matter with him. that of staying indoors the whole day. Jyoti was jubilant. he stopped on his tracks. at least for old time’s sake. smoking. So another resolve was broken. absolutely out of place — the lines kept haunting him. Atin felt nostalgic even tearful. Should he call Sharmila and ask her to come over? No. He felt rather stupid waiting there. You know the fault was mine. doing nothing. His decision to concentrate on his studies forgotten. He walked slowly. That was a long time ago. among fellow Indians or even Americans — even standing here like a fool. The keys. I was very impulsive those days.

Sharmila repeated. do forgive me. She was not the type to cheat anybody. What kind of melodrama is this? Annoyed. She almost broke down. but that was a lie. believe me. It is lost. Bablu. . Bablu. he had forced me one day to take off my frock . . we used to call him masterjethu. spoilt. when I was exactly that age. She took it without looking at Atin. Atin felt after so many days of neglect was it easy to ask for pardon? There is no question of pardon. Here you are. Or have you found it already? The change in her was swift. I had cheated you. . In the semi darkness he could not make out which one had the name of Sharmila. . . I don't understand. Your key. Somehow I had missed it. Holding out an envelope with the key Atin said coldly.The three Americans walked past him. . . I have lied to you. Please pardon me Bablu. You had lost it. Now it was Atin's turn to be flabbergasted. She would have passed him but Atin chose that moment to turn back and she stopped. Key? What key? Your key. Lie? What lie? It is a terrible lie. if you can. if any other person had touched me before. . sometimes things do slip from my mind. I had fainted I was so scared . The paper you had picked up on Buffalo bridge suddenly brought back everything. I can't show my face to you again. What nonsense was this. I had forgotten it. it was not intentional. It was right on my table. What are you talking about? You had wanted if I have had any relation with anyone else. After waiting for a couple of minutes Atin proceeded to the rows of letterbox. Genuinely surprised. It is unpardonable. I refuse to believe that you had lied to me. . Instead of picking it up she turned to the wall and burst into tears. he said roughly. one of them lived in the room next door to Sharmila. our tutor. moody but never dishonest. but I am spoilt. you of all people . All on a sudden the door opened and Sharmila came out. My life has lost its meaning. I could not find your key earlier. There was the picture of a young girl on the newspaper. I am spoilt. Sharmila could be stubborn. I had done a great wrong and I had kept it from you. but the envelope slipped and dropped. My god. No I haven't. and to think that you had trusted me . I am sorry for that. Is that you Bablu? She exclaimed. Bablu. please. I had said no.

he couldn't do it. More than Oli her father was worried sick. But he changed his mind. do you have any idea how I have suffered. She was supposed to have lunch with Babluda's family. Never before had they dared to make love in this room but they did today. in fact I had thought of taking sleeping pills. something happened for which you are so . Mili. Perhaps Mamata wanted to talk to her alone. Oli did not know if she should take Varsha long. You are absolutely pure. he did not care if Sumi. . . All Government offices including the Passport Office believe in doing things at the last minute. No no. Atin licked her tears. You don't hate me. he wondered. His feeling for Oli could not be put at par with that trifling incident in Sharmila's childhood. It hardly matters. From the bank she ran to take delivery of some clothes from the tailor's shop in Free School Street. . it was late already. . Sumi was out. When it was over Atin lit a cigarette and lay flat on his back . Keep quiet Mili. they must be waiting. . . Perhaps this was the time to make a clean breast of his affair with Oli. the puritan cousin or somebody else might find them. . It was a very special day. Varsha was constantly with her as she ran from place to place. stop crying. have you gone mad? Sharmila struggled to set herself free. I wanted to die. even after this? Asked Sharmila. He was shaking all over. No. 32 OLI was to catch a plane that night but she did not get the Reserve Bank permission before one thirty in the afternoon. hardly nine . Both their bodies were hungry for each other. They went in and spent their time laughing and crying. I am not fit for you. Atin took her in his arms but she was in hysterics. don't touch me. it is not worth bothering about.Atin grabbed her hand. He had been unfair to Oli but he had no right to belittle her honour. What are you talking about? When you were that age. I am wicked. Stop it. her face tear stained. Don't you know me well enough? What does it matter if a pervert had touched your body when you were a child. Then there was the last minute shopping to do. in fact even if it had happened when you were older it would not have mattered to me.

some with gifts for their relations. I have to go. So. The son is on a forced exile but why is Tutul who was so fond of her mother oblivious to her suffering? Is it all right to tell Tutul of her mother's illness? Asked Mamata. They would be extremely hurt if I did not go. sit down to eat first. Oli said. At last Pratap spoke. Pratap having left office early. But a lot of guests were expected at home. Never mind. She must be expecting her. About six weeks ago Tutul had written that she was coming home but since then she has been strangely silent. It is better not to tell her. Oli. We have written to Tutul. But as she sat down Oli found to her surprise that she was really quite hungry. She might force you to put up with her. Mamata patted her head. It is as though they are lost forever.Finally at quarter to three she asked Varsha. I must visit Supriti in the hospital. a kidney operation is not such a big deal. Yes. asked Pratap. . It was almost three when Oli reached there breathless and tired. Only Supriti was not home. I do not feel like eating. for three days with a friend of Baba's. Aren't you leaving tonight? When Pratap heard the story of the bank clearance he grumbled. She had been hospitalised with acute pain in the kidney. Everybody watched her. Would you mind coming to Babluda's place with me. You look terrible. demurred Oli. Exclaimed Mamata. She found all of them waiting. A single girl. Don't tell her. the tension they have put her through. I will be waiting at your place. Mamata decided on her own. but don't take more than an hour. Come. Pratap was silent. I am sure she will come to the airport. She could not possibly explain everything to Varsha. Two of the children have left. what have you decided Oli. masima. There was no other way but to undergo an operation. You won't get such fish in that country. Say we are all fine. Oli replied. So. thought Pratap with a heavy heart. Have you gone mad? To accept a lunch invitation when you should rest at home. All is settled now. After all. I do not understand these officials. Suddenly she has become the centre of attraction. Just eat a little bit. I have made your favourite light jhol of koi. Go ahead. said Mamata. That you will halt in London? Intent on picking the fish bones. Yes. thought Oli. I can quite understand. said Mamata. going on a long trip.

Do wear it today. Let her go now.But she has been writing regularly. Actually Oli's decision to go to the United States for higher studies has pleased Mamata the most. Please. There is a limit to what she can carry. When Mamata brought the dessert Oli had to refuse. Such a nice girl. But Mamata never forgot to make payesh. Yet people do visit their parents. remember. But Mamata insisted. A shirt for Bablu and a bottle of ghee. insisted Munni. He will come to New York to receive me. I will let him know the time and flight number from London. You must drop a letter from London. And some pickles and papads for Bablu and . . Such an expensive tangyle sari! Kakima I have a lot already. Mamata turned to Oli. Yes of course. Don't you remember Olidi? You must go and tell him. Besides the yet unspoken proposal between the two families might happen finally. . It is for you and you have to wear it. How hurt they would have been if she had failed the appointment. Today is Chorda's birthday. It was Munni who blurted out the real reason for making the special payesh. protested Mamata. Must be having trouble about getting leave of absence . said Pratap to his wife. so level headed. May be. Have you written to Chorda? She asked. Has he written back? Yes. She took a second helping. And I will give two cotton hankies for Chorda. Ever since he left for North Bengal. let Munni have it. Began Mamata. . that is a lot. You can't say no. This is for you Oli. said Oli shyly. added Munni. Munni was the one to ask the question which was very much in the mind of the parents. Oli too was thinking of the absentee son as she put the payesh in her mouth. not hot tempered like her son. . . She has to say good bye to a lot of people. So that was the significance of this day. Mamata was at last able to offer Oli the ceremonial birthday dessert filled her heart with happiness. I wonder if he remembers it himself. Mamata handed her a packet. The fact that after three years. Interrupted Pratap. he loves it with hot rice. Can you take a few more things for Bablu? Mamata asked hesitantly. She will be able to keep him in check. don't they? Trying to change the subject. Up to twenty kg. a blouse piece and a pair of earrings for Phuldi. Atin has been away on his birthday.

Pratap went on. Pratap was very fond of her. it made him feel like lying down. have you decided? Two years — not one day more. the daughter of the Malkhanagar Majumdars. much simpler. Supriti had made things more difficult by making him promise not to write to Tutul about her illness. which I have to give. do take care of yourself. Pratap had turned the other way. Can I give you a lift. I will take the train from Dhakuria. .D. Pratap took a little time to answer. the doctors said not to worry. Anyway she never mentions it in her letters. No. I will have to do Masters again but I have no intention of doing Ph. with Didi lying in the dirty general ward of the hospital. Said Mamata. Even now the police are after the Naxals. At least for a couple of years more . He came out of the house with Oli. How long are you going to stay abroad. No cabin was available and Pratap could not afford a nursing home. Now he asked Oli to hurry up. You can take it from me. Crying is so infectious that Oli too shed copious tears though she did not know why. no. Like a smuggled object he was sent to Bombay first. But so far he has kept it from others. And tell that son of mine . I have already told your father that I am going to the airport. Your parents depend on you. Didi is hurt that Tutul took the decision without consulting us. You are going so far. Oli had such an air of innocence and purity about her. Tutul had wanted to marry someone over there. You can give half of the ghee to her. do you know anything about it? Oli shook her head. . He sat patiently in the court. Even today was not a good day for him. Do what your Kakima said. But I should not be keeping you. I'd rather go for short-term courses in publishing. the wife of the once famous Sarkar family of Baranagar. She was a different type. your family is waiting for you. Kakababu? Asked Oli. . It was painful to put her there. Tutul should not know. That is enough. But he decided to go to the airport nevertheless. Tutul is not fond of pickles. It was not possible to see Bablu off. She put her arms round Oli and said. It was four already. all by yourself. A strange reeling in the head kept bothering him. said Pratap. Biman Behari did not allow Pratap to go to the Howrah station lest it might draw the attention of the police. But her voice choked and she broke down. time to visit Didi in the hospital. Tell me. Then he said.But there is a sari for Tutul. He himself had not been feeling well lately. Kakababu is Tutuldi's mother seriously ill? She is sure to ask me. That is a good idea. Their customs do not allow foodstuff. He could not sleep well at night. . . listening to the cases like other days. But tell Bablu that he should be in no hurry to come back.

they would lose their caste. Kalyani was too polite to protest. Some of the visitors were strangers to her but they all had children or brothers in the UK and the States. otherwise he would not have survived. The ladies were distributing advice as well. Normally she was not fond of any kind of meat. an aunt who hardly ever visited them made Oli touch the Gita and take a vow that she would never take beef. right and wrong were relative. She has lied to her mother and father. She could hardly talk to her friends. Then a funny thing happened. On the train Kaushik was dressed in a sari to hide the bandages all over his body. Oli coolly told him that she was taking her sick Didi to Ranchi. Where would all the stuff fit in? She was carrying just one suitcase but the piled up packets would require at least two more. He had been to their house often. What if she brings along a saheb son-in-law? Ever since Oli has come back home after taking Pompom and Kaushik to Ghatsheela. . sticking to them too rigidly made no sense. This was a subject Oli had never given any thought to. That worked. friends of her father. She carried with her a huge burden of secrecy. the very next minute she was running to her friends. one of whom recognised Oli.When Oli returned she found the house full of friends. She even kept it from Varsha that she had gone to Ghatsheela. She even invited the policeman to visit them. One said. Kaushik had a revolver with him. Sending a girl of this age without getting her married first. listening to their jokes but nothing registered. relations. She ran from floor to floor. He enquired about Oli's destination. To keep her conscience clear she had been going through the lines of William Blake: A truth told with bad intent Is worse than all lies that you can invent. she has been lying right and left. Oil's father had helped him in his studies. In all her dealings with so many visitors she constantly thought of Pompom and Kaushik. listened demurely to Baba's friends. Oli felt quite bewildered. The policemen interrogated some other passengers but left Oli and her party alone. Truth and falsehood. That truth can bring about a great deal of harm she has felt herself. Kalyani I am amazed at your courage. she was summoned by her mother. That was a forbidden name. He put the end of the sari to cover his head and face and pretended to sleep all the way. he would have used it. A distantly related cousin of father. it might mean a question of life and death. She had lied to Kaushik about Manikda. Taking a vow hardly mattered to her now. Two policemen got into the compartment at Kharagpur. hoping they were safe. They had all brought packets. the house wore a festive look. Telling the truth would have amounted to manslaughter. Even a month ago Oli would have hesitated to take such a vow but experience has now made her wiser. That situation was saved. This aunt believed that any one eating this forbidden food would bring a curse to the family. Oli's heart was beating like a drum but she kept a passive face. probably she would not have taken beef but she disliked the fuss over not eating beef.

In London Tutul was not to be told of her mother's illness. 33 IN the quiet and exclusive neighbourhood of Ballygunj Circular Road a small house was the hub centre of activities. scared yet rebel Bengali population. Stories of new atrocities made the rounds. They were accorded a hero's welcome as pioneers of the Independent Bangla Radio station. the very next day they had announced independence from the Balurghat Transmission Centre. The Indian authorities had lent them two old tape recorders. Nobody complained. Inspired by their broadcasts. The house at Ballygunge Circular Road however did not transmit programmes. Ziaur Rahman. so there were minor differences but for the noble cause of the country's freedom all fights were made up quickly. They shared two bathrooms. Artists are generally an individualistic lot. they had also promised other cooperation which was politely refused. Prime Minister under the Mujibur government. You have done enough for us already. Rehearsals and recordings went on day and night.She would be carrying the burden of secrecy with her. Janab Abdul Mannan of Tangyle. led by Belal Muhammad. The office of Tajuddin Saheb had been changed into a makeshift studio. The recorded tapes were taken to a secret spot near the border for a fifty. Whatever they lacked in equipment was more than made up by the vitality and enthusiasm of the workers. Occupied earlier by the office of Tajuddin Ahmed. Atin should not be told about Manikda's death. though most of them came from affluent homes. The most sensational event was the arrival of the Chittagong radio personnel. They lived on khichri or simple rice and jhol. that was what she was to tell Atin. Thank you for making arrangements for transmission. it brought much needed solace to the exploited. The Pakistani army cracked down on 25th March. It also housed about seventy workers of the radio station. defying the Government. Pompom had insisted. workers from the six radio stations of East Pakistan were crossing over and joining them in large numbers. That part was not difficult but would she be able to carry on pretence before Babluda? She was apprehensive. a major of East Pakistan Rifles declared the establishment of an Independent Bangladesh in the name of Sheikh Mujib. there was no fixed place for sleeping. now in charge of publicity said our boys would do the work. bringing with them old recordings and tapes. Manikda was absconding. it was now given over for the use of the radio station of free Bengal. plugging all cracks with cloth and cotton.kilowatt transmission. The artists and intellectuals seeking refuge this side of the border also wanted to .

famous film director and writer. Kamal Lohani was busy writing the news script. How about singing for us? Monju blushed. Meanwhile Monju was getting impatient. You can't walk in the streets without brushing against others. Can we listen to your talk? Asked Saokat. But luckily they were. You too? He is Janab Jahir Raihan. the music producer used to be a frequent visitor to Monju's home. The recording ended amidst claps. Monju and Hena almost held their breath. The radio programmes too were a part of the war effort. with a reminder not to sneeze or cough. from the Bay of Bengal. She was out of practice since her marriage. Samar Das looked at his watch. Samar Das. They will build a social order free from exploitation. Ajit Ray. Jahir Raihan spoke in very clear terms. Apel Mahmood. You are Bilquis Banu. pressed the sa and pa notes of an harmonium and asked Monju to begin. he introduced him to the girls. Let us go home. Calcutta seems to be warmer than Dhaka don't you think? Saukat went one step ahead. She nudged Saukat. the title of the talk being — From Pakistan to Bangladesh. Interested in lending your voice? He asked. I will be back in forty five minutes. But there is a pleasant breeze in the evening. Finally it was Hena who could break the ice. As they left the room Saukat greeted someone. said Jahir Raihan. So you are trying to avoid Samarda. my goodness. Jahir Bhai. Salaam Alaikum. You knew quite a few Nazrul songs. Akhtar Mukul of Ultimatum fame recognised Monju and Hena. There was no news of Babul Choudhury so far. Saukatbhai. We need some female voices for our chorus. where people will live in peace and happiness without restriction. in the house everything was done on a war footing. Jahir Raihan was going for recording. I doubt if they will allow you in. Jahir Raihan wiped his forehead. You have to give a singing demonstration. . True to his word.participate in the war for liberation. The Bengalis of Bangladesh will not repeat the mistakes made by Pakistan. aren't you? He asked. enough to make them forget their present hardship. The girls were thrilled to find famous stars like Abdul Jabbar. Samar Das came back. It is the ruling coterie who have managed to crush the rights of linguistic regions under millions of corpses. Mamun stayed home to take care of Sukhu. Look around in the meantime. M R. One day Monju and Hena came to visit the centre with Saukat. some of them rehearsing dressed in just a lungi with no vest on top. He said the people of Bengal are not responsible for the death of Pakistan. is that it? Nothing doing. The future was beautifully presented. I will sit with you then. Kaberi Kibria and others in flesh and blood. And the people. But Monju blushed furiously and refused to utter a single note in spite of persuasion by Samar Das and Saukat. They could vaguely sense that they were becoming a part of history.

In Calcutta this was perfectly normal but the conservative in Mamun felt uncomfortable. You know Mamunmama too can sing rather well. Within two weeks Monju had a couple of songs recorded and won a great deal of appreciation. . singing and laughing with the youngsters. said Samar Das. It gave Mamun the solitude needed for writing yet he was not sure if such free mixing was right for Monju and Hena. Chandannagar or Bardhaman where the artists from Bangladesh were given a boisterous welcome. Mamun who was fond of music found the musical efforts disturbing. Unable to refuse their persistent requests Mamun sat before the harmonium. Hena is right. what was he to do? Meanwhile he had received news of Feroza and his other daughter from his brother in law in London. If she dressed with care Monju could easily pass off as an unmarried girl. Not that he disliked the boys. If you sing one of the favourite songs of Babul Choudhury that will be your letter to him. Saukat. where his wife had moved was quite safe. Monju told her well wishers one day. Barun struck a book to keep the beat. Imam lived not very far from Mamun's place. We can't send letters. So the practice began. He too communicated with his family in this roundabout way. Saukat often took the girls there. a judge of the Calcutta High Court. The families had grown quite close. You are not ready for recording yet. Palas and Barun set out to make a singer out of Monju. Monju began a little hesitantly. Friends volunteered to help. if I am not looking at you that is. New houses had to be found. But in case Hena chose someone. unless you go through grief. The marriage of his daughter can wait. her voice was unsteady. For hours they sang with her. The house at Ballygunge Circular Road could not accommodate the flood of artists and journalists from across the border. Freedom was the first priority. said Hena. You need practice. Monju and Hena looked like two sisters. About fifteen such artists were staying in a flat in Lansdowne Road. how will you ever overcome it . The three of them. Agreed Saukat. The attention accorded to them was a source of worry to Mamun. Mamun felt years younger. Everybody in Bangladesh listens to this programme. Dukkho jadi na pabe to. By and by she was asked to sing in fund raising functions in the city and places like Barrackpur. a friend of Palas procured a harmonium. a song of Tagore. But nobody had any news of Babul. Monju was out of practice. Barun. But Mamun was finding it hard to concentrate in his writing. . Samar Das joined her but stopped suddenly. Barun compared his voice to Dhananjoy Bhatterjee's to which Mamun answered with a counter compliment. she could not sustain the rhythm either. Almost all their time was spent in rehearsals. Even Hena was inspired and recited the poems of Nazrul for broadcast. When you sing you sound like Hemanta Babu. Just think what this would mean to Dulabhai. But the proposal alarmed Mamun.You know Appa. dukkho tomar ghuchbe kobe. . Madaripur. after all they were bringing Monju out of her mask of seclusion. In fact Monju had already suggested a match for Hena with the son of Taufik Imam.

He had faith in Saukat but in a strange place there are all kinds of people. irresponsible fellow. the moon shone on a clear sky. after all it is not very far. Serampur! That is too far. Protested Mamun. Not at all Mamunbhai. Monju and Hena would not have any appetite for dinner after the feast there. so that Mamun had the house to himself. What is it like this evening? The moon shining over Calcutta must be as bright over Dhaka. What was he to do now? Inform the police? Or the Bangladesh Mission? Would anybody be there at this time? He went out in the street. After the heat of the day the park was crowded now. However he came back before nine and finished his dinner by nine-thirty. still no sign of the girls. he would have ample time to complete his writings. Two more women artists would accompany them. Are the streets deserted. A married woman going out with a man unrelated to her to sing in a public place would have been unthinkable some time ago. The presence of an older person would have spoilt the fun. He wandered off to the Park Circus Maidan and bought some peanuts. We will drive down and come back by nine thirty or ten. That would have saved him the worry. Even though this area was the target of Naxalite bombing a few days ago. pacing up and down.A grand reception was being organised in Serampur for the Bangaladeshi artists. The idea was to keep an eye on Monju. The streets were deserted now. He was married to the youngest daughter of Waliul Islam. said Saukat. Suppose they have had an accident? How would Mamun explain to Monju’s husband? Hena too was with her. with occasional attacks by the brave freedom fighters? Are army tanks patrolling the streets? Do people still go to the Press Club which was bombed on the 25th of March? The people broadcasting ugly propaganda from the official Dhaka radio are Bengalis. an old acquaintance of Mamun. Saukat did not care to keep his word. Why are they doing it? Don't they want freedom? Or are they scared of the army? Babul Choudhury had never supported the nationalism of the Awami League. The programme starts at five thirty. In all likelihood he is working to help the government and his wife is broadcasting songs to boost the morale of the freedom fighters. Ten o clock. Couples mostly occupied the benches. Mamun's mind went back to Dhaka. Mamun was at a loss. He wished he was also asked for the programme in Serampur. . people were not afraid to venture out. he is friendly with the army officers. Finally he agreed on condition that they also take Hena. Then he came up and stood at the window. How times have changed and with it the old value system. It was a foolhardy thing to do. He was not able to write a single line. Sukhu would spend the night at Justice Imam's place. where Saukat wanted to take Monju. Frankly he did not want her to go but could not say no to Saukat. The city was under curfew after sunset. Mamun was beginning to get alarmed. But he had become so used to the noise that the solitude disturbed him. he should not be in danger. Eleven o clock. This put Mamun in a dilemma. Sukhu was sent to Justice Imam's house. But a young girl like Hena could easily lose her head. there was a cool breeze. Unfortunately the poor girl died in childbirth. Besides Monju was needed for three chorus songs. Has Saukat married again? What were his feelings for Monju? Suddenly Mamun recalled that Babul and Saukat never got along.

Perhaps it was easier to die fighting than carry luggage. They were ready to give up their lives for the country. All the tanks near the border camps were already polluted. there was nobody else in the car. Most of them coming from well to do families were not used to manual labour. The doctors called it Conjunctivitis but it soon acquired the popular name Joi Bangla. There was no medicine for the eye disease except bathing it with splashes of clean water. A flame of anger erupted within Mamun. In times of crisis like this one realises that water is far more important than food. The freedom fighters were digging with all their might. After the fall of Belunia. ideal for setting up a row of camps. Where on earth was Saukat? Palash handed a packet to Monju.At quarter to one a private car pulled up. It was a marshy patch where they worked with fallow land around. having a fresh water tank was more important than fighting the enemy. Then a new kind of eye ailment started. the monsoon made matters worse. The tents were in tatters. that was the most important war effort right now. training would come later. He had an urge to gouge out his eyes. Every day hundreds of fresh recruits were pouring in. Palash was taking Monju away from him. Cholera broke in some camps. 34 two hundred young men were busy digging a tank since morning. The darkening sky was making them apprehensive. He did not know if it was anger or envy. Work must be finished before it starts raining. for others the virus came from India. Some said it came from Dhaka. It was Palash who got down. Next to get down was Monju but somebody called from the car and she stopped. This disease infected even Pakistani soldiers. with implements procured from neighbouring villages. The epidemic of cholera spread to Dhaka and the official radio was never tired of accusing India for germ warfare. they could not be asked to go back. Isolated resistance was not enough. Hence the need for new tanks. They had realised that for the time being. Mamun had kept the front door open. The sector commanders were at a loss to provide food and shelter to so many. they had to change the entire strategy. there was an eye contact for a few seconds. The camps on the Indian border were full to capacity. Rice and dal were all they could be provided. nurse cholera victims or dig. He saw Hena running inside. But the stocks were getting exhausted in no time. All he could think of was that this chap. Water for drinking and other purposes was no less of a problem. The hurriedly set up tube-wells were breaking down from overuse. ABOUT . the panic spread like bonfire.

A spy has to be taken to the Sector Commander for interrogation. Many looked like nothing on earth from constant slipping on the mud. He was dismayed to find that handsome fellow he had noticed lying on the ground with one already on his chest and about a dozen others screaming. For want of any other tool he was using it to dig to the boisterous merriment of his colleagues. Hand him over to me. What is it. I dare you. Sirajul who was at the throat of the supposed spy turned his blood shot eyes to the leader. Old enmities and party differences were hard to die and erupted occasionally. One has to undergo rigorous training and discipline. What he could gather from the disjointed accounts was that this man. Besides it would be a variation of the same tragic story of inhumanity and torture. The very word spy sent electric waves. Kill him. let me have the pleasure of killing him. He was not talking to anyone. He looked a little older than the others. But scuffles and shouts in one place made him rush to the spot of trouble. shoveling up earth into a basket and dumping it in the heap. a sword with him. Faster. Why don't you open your mouth. one eye was closed. Such fights were quite common. a total stranger had joined the camp a few days ago. What the Pakistani forces were doing all over Bangladesh has crossed the limits of credibility. Finally Sirajul identified him as a collaborator. Razakar. Sirajul. I am taking him to Major saheb. Hasmat thought this was not the right time to renew acquaintances. and he would have been beaten to death if Hasmat had not intervened. In running the camp Hasmat had realised that only patriotism is not enough. cheering the boys. kill him. All of you get back to work.A boy from Tangail had brought a family heirloom. Faster. Spy. Drizzle had started. If they could finish the job the rains would fill up the tanks. Leave him alone. The victim was promptly tied hand and foot. He was already badly hurt. They carried on without lunch. boys. The recruits are getting hardly more than five days of guerilla training. If you can finish you will have boiled eggs with khichri tonight. Spades and shovels were aimed at him but Hasmat raised both his hands. faster. Al-Badr. Each came with the romantic dream of going to action but they had neither the arms nor an extended plan for war. hopping about. In spite of his overgrowth of beard the man looked vaguely familiar. well known for his heroic deeds was already leading a platoon. Professor Hasmat Saheb of Kumilla Victoria College supervised the operation. But where is the time. The prospect of killing a spy was exhilarating. He did not communicate with anyone. that is the order. All on a sudden he noticed a fair and handsome man in T shirt and trousers with sharp features. spy. He pushed them away and asked angrily. I know him sir. Went up a cry in unison. Faster. Random actions cannot achieve much. Nobody knew where he was from. He had an air of class about him. Stop it. tell me first. Then just to please the rest he slapped the victim on the cheek. finish him off. Hasmat told him sternly. man? Who are you? . Said Hasmat. his nose was bleeding.

unable to decide if she was a killer or a saviour ran away holding the baby. I saw a mother strangle her own son! What? Do you mean to say that mother was Monira? Babul shook his head. He pushed the man. to the utter surprise of Hasmat. Nobody felt sorry. Babul was with such a party. He was Babul Choudhury. After leaving home Babul . Bewildered. breathing heavily. How did you meet Sirajul? Who is Monira? What has happened to her? Babul stared at his friend but his looks went through him. what is the matter with you Sirajul? What is it? For some time no words came out of Sirajul. Let me know the entire story. the topper of the class. believe me Sirajul. The mother stopped his face in a tight grip. the rascal Ajrail. he could not wipe it out from memory. With great effort Hasmat untangled them. Babul. I am going to strangle him. He had an urge to lie down. What was the life of a baby against the lives of so many? Everybody asked the mother to leave the child in the jute field including the father. Why are you here? Sirajul sprang on Babul. haramzada. Every day streams of old people. I have. He had neither the heart nor the language to describe the incident. What a lot of beating.The man cringed but said nothing. I am Hasmat. But as soon as they had reached the open fields suddenly Sirajul burst into tears. On the third morning they were almost caught. I have looked everywhere for Monira. They walked all through the night. it could not be. He slumped on the ground and screamed. His sad and sensitive face was not that of a spy. hiding in the day. After crossing a river they came across two armed convoys. Monira! Monira! That a daredevil sort like Sirajul could break down like this was incredible. By the time the army had gone the baby was strangled to death. Babul! Don't you recognise me? He blurted out. Get going. Babul was taken to the Sector Commander. the able young man having left to join the resistance movement. You know something? He muttered. Suddenly a child cried out. women and children were trudging towards the border. Now Hasmat brought two cups of tea. too tired to talk. The military cars were so close that they could hear them talking. Hasmat kept looking from Sirajul to the prisoner. Of all the terrible experiences he had gone through one incident stood out. I am coming with you sir. But the commander was busy in a meeting so Hasmat was asked to deal with him. He asked again. The man spoke at last. Now. his class mate. offered his friend one and said. sipped the tea. Hasmat recognised the voice. Sirajul was taken away. Instantly they slipped into an adjoining jute field. He turned to Sirajul. I wish you had got in touch with me earlier. Yes. said Sirajul. But Hasmat was keen to find out. But the mother. the tall stalks provided a good cover. he looked familiar. From just a glimpse Babul had of the baby it looked exactly like his Sukhu. An insect could have bitten it. Goodness.

A heavy shower began just as the sun went down . Paltan was in the Mukti Bahini. . I have known Babul Choudhury for long. The BSF officers were here to pick up two daring swimmers for a special training. He went up to the army Cantonment to look for Monira but his friend. Hasmat took him aside. Let me tell you frankly sir. Sirajul. How long have you known him? He came to dig on his own. But Babul wanted to see with his own eyes that Morira was dead. rest here. Even if I don't somebody else will. Listen to me. Meanwhile Hasmat had given up. by putting his own life at stake. Naturally it made Sirajul feel very important. I do not mind. some had joined the Peace Committee. .had first looked for his old friends. a collaborator. Rafikul Islam had patted Sirajul on the back. The jubilant group of tank diggers came back. You are wrong. as far as I know. He has no training either. physically and mentally. Babul was not able to trace him that far. At last Babul seemed to wake up. a Pakistani Colonel did not let him get in. he is going to be killed by any freedom fighter who knew him in Dhaka. He is sick. They had either escaped to India or hidden in remote villages. It was sheer madness to think Monira was still alive. he said. an altogether different Sirajul. Nobody knew where Jahir had gone. A long interview was on. Soon he will be taken to an undisclosed destination. You may not agree with his ideology but he is not a spy. his face beaming with joy and pride. sir. I must convince him that I even risked my life trying to save Monira.lt would have been too risky. Well. I am telling you sir. congratulating him. Sirajul gave him a good stare. . Have you wondered what a China follower like Babul Choudhury is doing here? He does not support our struggle for freedom. This is the only way he can atone for his sins. He had found out that the Habildar who had dragged Monira with them had been transferred to Chittagong cantonment. He grabbed Hasmat by the hand. The usual end for any woman raped by the soldiers was her body would be thrown to the jackals and vultures. Babul would just not open his mouth. She must have escaped. He is thick with a number of army officers. yelling and singing. Let him kill me if he wants. Sirajul at that moment was in the major's camp with two officers of the Indian Border Security Force. Is he ready to go into action? Then send him with one of the ambush teams going for action tonight. Hasmat got hold of him as soon as he came out. I have to talk to Sirajul. I don't trust him. He does not recognise free Bangladesh. that is what he is. Don't go anywhere. Out of fifteen only Sirajul was selected. He says he wanted to save your wife. many China followers are joining the liberation struggle. He would not lie. Not so soon. I have to report to Major saheb about you. His anger against Babul had subsided. People like Babul Choudhury are made of different stuff.

his eyes glowing. Saab. Take a rifle. obviously not his own.When both of them went back to Babul he was sitting very still. In all likelihood he was an informer. recruitment and fund raising of the Mukti Bahini. others swore eternal vengeance. {2} All firearms kept without license be made known {3} Let the Peace Committee Union be instructed to oust all Hindus. his large eyes. Members of the Mukti Bahini reading the leaflet went pale with fear. Let us see what kind of a freedom fighter you are. I study in class four. held in Laksum in early May had reached the camps of Horina and Thakurgaon. But it was difficult to trust even a boy of that age in these treacherous times. Mujahid. encouraged ethnic and regional conflicts and are responsible for inflicting damage to Pakistan {6} Let the unions submit lists of military and ex-military personnel {7} Let the officers and workers of government and semi government institutions be encouraged to go back to work and so on. Sirajul pulled his hand roughly. But the experience of the last few months have taught him to be wiser than his years. Otherwise. While the Pakistani army was fighting the Mukti Bahini all along the border. setting a trap for the freedom fighters. Some of them broke down. The innocence of childhood persisted in his lotus soft complexion. Jamat-eIslami. The report of one meeting of the so called Peace Committee. Don't. malis. Al Shams. They were scared stiff for the family members left behind. giving implicit support to mass slaughter. reactionary forces inside the country lent them moral support. has given a ring of authority to his speech. They were the Al Badr. he said quietly. you have to go for action tonight. Naturally under the circumstances they doubted Tota Mia. {1} Let the Central Peace Committee be told about the secret activities. It had the following resolutions. Ipkaf and other armed organisations. 35 A boy of about ten brought the news. Sirajul. Get up. dhobis. he introduced himself. Razakar. wondering what kind of atrocities they were undergoing. barbers and fishermen {4} Buddhists living in Pakistan should be given all facilities so that they can have no fear {5} All erstwhile members of the now defunct Awami League be asked to give written declaration that they have nothing to do with that party and declare that {a} the now defunct Awami League used to work for the dismemberment of Pakistan and unification with India {b} that political party used to spread class hatred among Muslims. all except professional sweepers. you. A list of names collecting funds for them and those contributing be presented to the Peace Committee. In the name of the Peace Committee even educated people were joining hands with the tyrants. I am Tota Mia. how could he rush straight to the camp of the . Some started abusing the tyrants in the nastiest language. He wore oversized shorts. If you kill me there will be one freedom fighter less.

Apprehending another possible Chinese attack. The spontaneous resistance of the people after the assault of the twenty-fifth of March had caught the Pakistani army off guard. The Mukti Bahini on the other hand has run out of food. no country has recognised Bangladesh. and ammunitions. They are going be killed in batches. saab. He has come on his own. The sector commander kept interrogating the boy. In keeping with their propaganda that everything is all right inside the country in spite of India's efforts to destabilise. Two hundred. That was all the sector commander could get out of Tota Mia. so it seemed from his account. a military victory against Pakistan would not be easy for India at the moment. Can't the big Mukti Bahini overpower only fifty-four of them? Otherwise not a single of the prisoners would survive. setting fire to her body first. An action was needed if the boy was to be believed. He slumped on the ground. They have taken position all along the border. they have caught two hundred. Their homes had already been burnt down. answered Tota Mia with the natural innocence of a child. As yet. Besides it would send wrong signals around the world. It was not enough to overpower the army. So they have halted fresh action for the time being and thinking of a new strategy. Last night a young girl jumped to her death. On top of this were . His father works as a baburchi for the army. who has sent you here? How did you cross the border? Nobody.sector commander. having brought two more divisions from West Pakistan. the Khan soldiers were scared of the word Mukti. he gasped. The story of the group of two hundred held captive in Kariabazar was quite credible but the description coming from a boy of that age was so very graphic that it made them wonder. running all the way? Saab. Women and children are put in these two rooms. They had to be vigilant in the West Pakistan border as well. Right from the start Pakistan had termed India an enemy of the Muslims. supplies. But it could also be a trap. One cannot face the enemy with just will power. though India has allowed the Mukti Bahini soldiers to operate from her border and provided shelter to the streams of refugees. He knew for sure that in spite of their bulk. a large section of the Indian Army was deployed in the eastern sector. this is the high school. not even India. In Kariabazar. Look. but Indian army was not ready to face the Pakistani army. the Pakistani government were shooting down people escaping towards the border. That is how Tota had the opportunity to see everything with his own eyes. Save them saab. With a stick he drew lines on the soft clay soil. Tell me. the Pakistani army had captured a group of homeless villagers fleeing towards the border. The prisoners are kept in four shops and an empty building adjacent to the school. India did not want a direct war with Pakistan. They have not been given anything to eat for the last two days. Then the soldiers started target practice. Moreover. Going to kill them all. It was doubtful if a direct involvement would win support from all sections of people in Bangladesh. fifty four members of the Punjab regiment are housed here under a major. save them. Yesterday afternoon twelve prisoners were lined up under a mango tree. But now they have strengthened their position.

His opinion could not be ignored. Why did Sheikh Mujib launch a call for freedom in the meeting of the seventh of March if they were not prepared for it? Yet he wasted time in useless discussions till the twenty-fifth. With so much trouble in the home front. Osmani. forty-five trained guerilla fighters. though not openly. leaving the youth. If this mere boy could be so concerned for the prisoners can't we do anything to save those lives? Are we such cowards? Sirajul had shown exemplary courage in quite a few actions. The news spread all over the camps. If he was hurt in a rescue action like this then that would mean he is not fit for any special training. commander of Sector One just back from the Calcutta conference was intent on reorganising his forces. But Sirajul insisted.the Naga and Mizo rebels. There is no reason why we should distrust his story. Sirajul had managed to climb up a tree whose branches spread like a canopy over the road and stayed there for the whole day. he said. the first thing he did was to get arrested. Since he has been selected for an important training programme. They had rubber slippers for . the students. the number of sub-sectors and troops under each unit were also figured out. Was Bangladesh going the way of another Vietnam? How long would the guerilla war continue — fifteen years? Twenty? Can the morale of the people withstand it? Bitter questions were asked. he had succeeded in disrupting the enemy supply line in Ramgarh-Karerhat Road by an act of great daring. This boy is a symbol of that collective protest against the Razakars and Al Badrs. the political workers. All the other Awami League leaders fled to the safe retreats of Calcutta. waiting. giving Yahya the opportunity to bring in battalions of army over to this side. Accordingly entire Bangladesh would be divided into eleven sectors. At last Major Rafikul Islam agreed but he did not want Sirajul to go. Babul Choudhury was included too. They set out amidst heavy downpour. At an opportune moment he had dropped on a microbus from the overhanging branch. Somehow Sirajul felt the boy could be trusted. They decided to go in for organised guerilla warfare training. India was in no position to come forward to help Bangladesh. the police and the army people who had broken away from the Pakistan rulers to die a muddy death in the battlefield? Major Rafikul Islam. Now he was bent on leading a rescue party for the Kariabazar prisoners. Meanwhile the wonder boy Tota Mia with his incredible story appeared on the scene. In order to guide the freedom fight he should have gone underground. The shower had brought the much needed fresh water to the just dug tank but made the military operation extremely difficult. not to speak of the Naxals in West Bengal. He gave him something to eat and took him to the Major. Top officers of the Mukti Bahini had met in a secret conference in Theatre Road Calcutta along with the new Prime Minister Tajuddin and the commander in chief M. He chose his own men. The fact that an eleven-year old could run across the border at the risk of his own life proves how much the people of this country have changed. EPR. he told the Major with conviction. Only two weeks ago. finishing off the entire crew. putting a stop to all action and ambush for the time being. Instead. Nobody came to remove the bodies of the dead Pakistani soldiers. It was practically impossible to move in front of the enemy fire and piercing searchlights. The bus lay blocking the road for days. he should not take undue risk. This decision disappointed many.

They crossed the canal and crept along the base of the high embankment. their troop too had disappeared in the darkness. Nothing was visible in front. stood still for one full minute. Monira could be among those held captive. do you understand? Oh no. But there was no other sound except the patter of rain. Which way is the school building? Asked Sirajul. Standing erect. About five minutes went by. Sirajul on the lead. You get into the water and go over to the other side first. Way is clear. It is a good thing it is raining. Listen kid. bending their heads low. He reached the other side of the canal. We are almost there.footwear and carried mortars. sir. The sky was as dark as can be. They came to a canal. If you mislead us we would all die. who has had only two days of shooting practice. he warned. he informed Sirajul. Insallah. Not a sound. No enemy trench on the other side. I know our school so well that I can take you there with my eyes shut. Sirajul ordered his troops to lie down and wait. a sitting duck for the enemy. Not much water. now overflowing with rainwater. it was hard to keep his balance. Babul. Was it wise to bring so many freedom fighters on this risky venture based on information provided by a little boy? Wondered Sirajul. This possibility egged him on. He traced his way back through the sludge. They would kill as many Pakistani soldiers as possible before giving up their own lives. Sirajul looked around for lights. If there were any trap. It did not seem that enemy troops were on the other side. Some were bare bodied. every single one of them. warned Sirajul. Gradually signs of habitation told them that they were nearing the fringes of the village. Said Tota. Barefoot. there was no going back now. they will be finished tonight. Luckily the Mukti troops had not encountered any hurdle so far. Sirajul kept Tota right next to him. I can't make a mistake. Taking Tota with him. did not hesitate to put his feet in the muddy water. The Pakistani army usually burnt down three sides of the area they occupied. you too. Babul stood alone on a battlefield. the way is straight ahead. Kariabazar. Trusting the information of an eleven-year-old they proceeded blindly. He clutched the boy's shoulder so that he could not run away. The rain had stopped. followed by his troop. in mud stained shirt and trousers he proceeded one step at a time in the knee-deep water. spoke Tota in his little girl voice. Even if it is a trap. keeping open only one side. The slush and the sticky mud clung to his feet. Sirajul flashed his torch on Babul Choudhury's face. The Khan soldiers would be sleeping soundly. The village might be deserted but the enemy camps would have lights and sentries outside. no stars could be seen. But he was acting so natural that it did not seem likely. Dim shapes of trees and huts . The same thing had happened here too. Sirajul took the first plunge. rocket launchers and rifles. Tota could be a spy. listening. Sirajul would be the first to find out.

Sirajul could make out. intent on restraining the Mukti fauj. I am going to cut you to pieces. Did the little boy take this route intentionally? Anyway. The large trees would provide ideal shelter for them. The trucks were proof of the strength of the enemy. Another troop moving from the back of the building was facing mortar fire. Prisoners. carried on incessant firing with Chinese machine guns. It looked quite hopeless. this is the school. Sirajul ordered his troops to spread to the right.were visible. But where are the prisoners? Are they close enough to be hit by the exchange of fire? The shops identified by Tota were close to the school building. The Pakistanis were caught off guard. But suppose Monira was among the prisoners? All on a sudden a tall fellow rushed forward. keeping his LMG aimed at them. the Mukti troops won't stand a chance. the little boy held Sirajul by the hand and marched ahead as if he was leading a blind man. Some of their soldiers were seen running about in their underwears. Meanwhile. Did he hear the shrill cry of a woman? Sirajul was not very sure. A rocket landed on the roof of the school building. Two flaming torches in front of the school gate illuminated enough area to reveal five trucks and a bus. A single storied building stood a little far off. It was now or never. Babul kept hitting the locks with the butt of his rifle. Once they came out. Look. A truck caught fire from mortar charge. why doesn't he shoot? . ignoring the light machine gun fire. He showed him the rooms where women were held captive. He was Babul Choudhury. Instantly LMGO rifles roared. Then Tota pointed to a building about five hundred yards away. They were not able to get out. By this time firing from the other side started. No glimmer of light anywhere made him jittery. Simultaneous attack was to be launched on the school building to give the prisoners a chance to escape. The first mortar charge came from Sirajul. the Pakistani army. The number of enemies killed would be that many steps towards freedom. For the first few minutes no counter attack came. you little rascal. But the rooms were locked from outside. There was no way the Mukti soldiers could run and break the locks. The prisoners only screamed in panic. now that they are here there was no need to waste time. run. But he turned his attention to mortar charge. Enemy attack could come from the back in case Tota was playing tricks. He clutched the little boy's hair and said to himself. The fool. Undaunted. he had no time to think. The Mukti troops shouted in unison. if you turn out to be a traitor. Sirajul finished off one after the other. Run. The idea was to keep the enemy inside the building for as long as possible. They crossed what looked like a fruit orchard. Tota Mia shot out towards the direction Babul had taken. The enemy soldiers were jumping out of the school windows. The Pakistani soldiers understood why the Mukti troops were here so they made the shops their target too. No sentries could be seen but murmur ©f voices came from inside the building. But this could not go on for long. sir. It was high time Sirajul gave his troops the retreat order.

Want me to help? He asked. Hands stretched. restrained him and blew the whistle. said Tutul with effort. So you remember? I thought the doctors had misplaced your brain cells. But Sirajul determined to kill the rest of the enemy rushed forward. He was lying. pulling up a golden quilt over her body. Normally she was not fond of alcohol. They must be saved from the enemy fire. Their purpose served. followed by others. acting as both doctor and nurse. 36 TUTUL was back from the hospital to her apartment at Golders Green. I remember every little thing. No. Two enemy soldiers were almost upon him but Sirajul did not give them the chance. After two sips of the chicken stew she asked for some brandy. Alam exclaimed. Handing his rifle to another Babul picked up the still body of the little boy. Everything seemed so dear including the teapot . The Mukti troops did not stop firing though they were retreating making their way through isolated flames still burning. He turned his MLG towards them and bellowed. Nobody had kept an eye on little Tota. yelling at the enemy. Bodies lay scattered. let me have it myself. He poured a little brandy in a liquor glass and kissed her pale lips.The prisoners poured out of the rooms. What he did next was nothing short of madness. Husmat. blooding coming out of a bullet hole in his chest. Pleasantly surprised. Unable to withstand the firing power the Pakistanis retreated behind the school building. What about that bottle of Remy Martin? She asked Alam. Tutul looked around her. Some of the dead were prisoners. He did as asked. Inshaallah let me finish all the brutes. . Her face seemed to be like the moon under a thin veil of cloud. Babul and Sirajul trying to scan the faces stopped suddenly. A couple of Pakistant soldiers had moved towards Babul. Her head was bandaged. The last locked door was opened by Babul. Tutul refused her usual dose of tranquilizer in the evening. Without wasting time Sirajul rushed out in the open. Alam was constantly by her side. she was so weak that even talking was a great exertion. so innocent. . Come on up you sons of swine. but Alam knew the reason for her asking for brandy. Just prop me up. almost defying the doctor's orders. Finally his second in command. the Mukti troops should return now. Even in death he looked so vulnerable. come forward if you dare .

nothing should happen to him. How are . He assured her. Ma. his face beaming with confidence and good humour. She never thought she would come back from the hospital. Bathed in the sea. . No. Will you hand me a pen and a letter pad. Tutul woke up with a start. Would Death demand some other life in exchange of her life? Pikluda and Joydeep had added their lives to her. Said Alam. Can I have your shaving mirror for a second? The face which stared back at her from the mirror was pale. how are . Tutul touched her bandaged head. Her writing looked like a bad scribble. Suppose Alam had to pay a price? Alam stood near the window. . Why are my lips dry? She asked softly. They are not dry any more. Still mustering all her energy she wrote on. . You must be mad at me because I could not write to you last week. She will be scared even more. . Let me do it for you. You know it was such a wonderful place. . Your mother would think you are taking drugs. don't peer over. Let me show you a sample. As she began writing Tutul realised she was too weak. Alam kissed her lips. She took a sip of the drink and began. Alam obliged. Four of us had gone. Imitate your writing.with a broken handle she had been meaning to throw away. Alam observed his handiwork from a distance. gained three pounds . She could not get the letters right. Don't you worry? I will give you such perfect make up that you will look like a film star. in rounded letters. . I will write to her tomorrow. I don't write rounded letters. a touch of rouge and a generous dose of cognac she got back a little glow. Go away. But this feeling had a tinge of sadness. Alam quietly picked up the pen and writing pad. She felt too drowsy to carry on. . And he really did a good job. please? I have not written to mother for so long. . The word 'London' in Bangla proved to be a problem. eyes were dull. Oli would not be here for quite some time yet. She must be worried stiff. Is there any way I can hide this? She asked. She won't be able to bear it. the skin rough. I had to go out of London. She told Alam about her fear but he just laughed. But can you write a letter? Of course. pounds. Ma will make out. A Japanese silk scarf hid her bandages. What is the matter? Look at this letter. I am fine . I have told Tridibmama. With lipstick. you know. . I have learnt swimming. My god.

exclaimed Tutul. Alam laughed. Replied Oli. No. Of course this was no surprise to Oli. He said seriously. Did you meet her before you left? Oli had no qualms about telling lies. In fact Pratapkaka too had advised her not to tell the truth about Tutul's mother. Dulabhai. Oli folded her hands. My mother-in-law would chase me with a broomstick. She does not know about me. Bishakha corrected her. said Tutul emphatically. Don't you plan to go to Calcutta? This September. Look at me. even for a second. This is Oli. It has been two days. I will tell them. Earrings are from Munni. a Muslim. Yet strangely enough she was rather fond of the Algerian boy friend. Tell me about my mother. This time we must. With some of the raindrops sticking to her hair. No.Listen to me now. Pisimoni is not that kind of a person. protested Oli. Tutuldi? But you look as lovely as ever. Ma would be so shocked she will fall ill herself. He had seen the letter in which Tutul's mother had vowed never to see her daughter's face if she married a Muslim. Tutul asked Oli. Take me too? Asked Alam. How did you lose so much weight. it is my bad luck. Bishakha. Someone from home is coming. She paused a little then added. Nobody objected to their different religions though her mother did not approve of Tutul and Alam's marriage. Promptly dropping the empty glass Tutul welcomed them lustily. Their marriage was much talked about in London's Bengali circle. It would be better if I leave you to yourselves. Oli came exactly at half past seven. Ghee and pickle. please. She was complaining that you write fewer letters these days. Come on in. I have known her since she wore frock. So you are my Jamaibabu. When are you flying to New York? Asked Tutul. Oli looked like a perfect picture of health. No pampering for a son-in-law. Poor me. Even write to Ma. But Tutul kept saying. said Alam in mock grief. Yes. Have you called Bablu yet? . nothing for you Dulabhai. Sorry. Oh come on. But for god's sake don't tell them about my illness. still unmarried had an Algerian boy friend. Look a sari for you. Oli. I met her the afternoon I left. Was I ever fat? Let me introduce my husband Alam. that is what they prefer. Don't leave me. we are going to Calcutta this time for sure. How wonderful you look. You haven't told them about your marriage yet. Opening the packet she said. Of course there are no Hindus in Algeria. This Hindu Muslim trouble seemed to exist only in the Indian sub continent. Can't get up. It has been a long time. No putting off now. Had a bad fall on the beach. accompanied by the daughter of a friend of her father ’s — Bishakha. please.

But please don't tell her about my sprain. you are pretty well known in London as a romantic couple. Tomorrow we are going to Stratford-on-Avon. Got to go now. Tutuldi we have cinema tickets. Women can easily see through camouflage. Tea after evening is bad for health. in spite of our best efforts. Oli stood up to go. . Do write to me as soon as you get there. Alam walked with them to the lift. Alam dialed. said Alam. . isn't it? Remarked Oli to the utter surprise of Alam. Tutul has become so irregular . Oli said. explained Bishakha. Most of the people know about your wife's brain tumor operation. Oli. And don't miss British Museum and Tate Gallery. Bishakha is taking good care of me. . talked to the operator then waited. not at home. It will be a surprise. About a month ago she was down with cough and cold. How can she talk to Babluda in front of all these people? Besides he already knew the date and time of her arrival in New York. Alam would you get the line please? Make it person to person. Finally he said. said Oli. If you care for wine . Looking at Oli straight at her eyes. Pishimoni is fine now. He lit a cigarette. You must go to a theatre at least. Alam. The symptoms appeared before our marriage. . He could not smoke inside the room for the sake of Tutul. . Tutul asked. Mr. Alam did not even offer you a cup of tea. So the operation has been successful. Greatly relieved. But the operation has been successful. she is out of danger now.No. but there is nothing to worry. said Oli. Suppose now you tell me what exactly happened. So we could not fool you. This caused Oli to blush a little. No thanks. How is mother? You know I dreamt one night . said Alam. Tell me the truth. She will take time to recover. She came down the stairs to see me off and pleaded. But I have hardly talked to you. I'll write to her about my marriage myself. said Oli with emphasis. I will be here for four days. We have already been to Madam Tousseau. Then I too can talk to him. . He stared at her. See you. You haven't? Call right now. I could have taken you around if I did not have this sprain. .

Evidently they are not on good terms. You know I felt so nostalgic for home.Tutuldi will get well. Let us talk. Interesting. you must join films. I haven't kept any. After they left. we have to go to Calcutta this September. leave all that to me. murmured Alam. With your good looks and acting talent.. Then he won't leave easily. We are going home this September. Let them come but see that they don't stay late. But you must not offer him drinks. impeccably dressed with a bunch of flowers. Shahjehan saheb invariably drops in just when your Tridibmama comes to visit. I am really sleepy now. It was Shahjehan. Who is it? Tutul could barely open her eyes. He brings his own drink. OK. but she is quite smart now. I won't divulge it to her mother. You must get some sleep now. Shahjehan was the first to come. quite smart. I will talk to him. You must try to convince her that everybody loves her. You are a great actress. He asked eagerly. Nobody at Calcutta would mind at whatever she does. . You have so many things to attend to. I don't feel like sleeping. Oli sounded confident. Oli used to be so shy. what do you say Alam? You can visit your home but I can't possibly go to Dhaka. You must come with me. Shahjehanbhai? Tutul asked with effort. I am positive. Alam. From tomorrow you are going out.. Don't give him a glass. Ma will understand. How do you feel Bahnisikha? I am Shahjehan. What did you think of my acting? Tutul wanted to know. OK. Who knows when this war is going to stop. Try to go back to sleep. Alam threw down his cigarette and came back to Tutul. Now for your medicines. He drinks Scotch. Another thing. Tridib babu is due to come. How did you like her? Yes. She asked Alam to sit down on the bed. We shall talk about that later. How are you. Alam had hardly finished giving her the medicines when the telephone rang. But what could I do? Couldn't ask him not to come. he had called. He crept towards the window and asked Alam softly about her health. Tell him not to smoke in the room.

Why do you come here so often? Every time I am here I find you too. As if he was looking at Shahjehan for the first time. Rushing to the bed he exclaimed. You have got a dirty mind. Why do you come here so often? Standing between the two. Shahjehan gave her hand a soft caress and went back to Alam. cent per cent. . replied Shahjehan politely. Tridib made his entrance. Alam interrupted him. said Tridib. What do you mean? You stick to lovely girls like glue. Robinson told me it is a very critical case. The teetotaler had turned into an alcoholic. how is she? Still unconscious? Raising his hands he lamented. Let her recover first. please. Cordelia. with a cigar between his lips. like a cloudy sky at sunset without the glow. Tridib could hardly stand straight. Let us move out. you must get well quick. You bring bad luck. I am afraid I have to be unpleasant. Please take a seat. Shahjehan turned red. that is what. Alam said roughly.We are fine. Suppose you tell me first. After a few drinks he talked incessantly. stay a little! Alam pushed him away with a firm hand. our little girl . we are fine. Tridib turned his drunk gaze towards him. She had already gone back to sleep. putting his hands on Alam's shoulder. Don't. . You have to keep your fingers crossed. He made a dramatic entrance as if he was a tragic character from Shakespeare. it is for you that . It must be a coincidence. . You should take her to Switzerland. Keeping his voice cool. I beseech you . Her surgeon Dr. Tutul. decent well maintained person of his Calcutta days. Tridib. Come away. frowning. Alam. he was at the point of breaking down. Shahjehan. Spare Tutul. had grown flabby and uncouth. She may not want to go . But Tridib was tearful. please. She is still unconscious. That was before the operation. why did you bring her home? Let us not disturb her. You are a lucky guy. It has been successful. he said. Would both of you please get out? . Already quite drunk. I can fix a place for you in Zurich. . He said. Tutul did not respond. . . Don't ever come near this girl. I feel so sorry for Tutul. Gentlemen. His eyes were dull. . Shahjehan cut in. Said Tridib. Tutul. . I could ask you the same question. Cordelia. Tutul. Tell me the truth Alam. Don't disturb her. He was a completely changed person from the nice. Alam took the cigar from his lips. You won't find another girl like her. Before he could finish.

I dreamt of her. But nobody is likely to believe it. Tell me Tridibmama. She is fine. went on Tridib. God never comes down to testify. . Pratap had a hard time but he never let the family feel it. Alam caressed her head. Now that you ask me. Tutul went on. Shahjehan said. Then I saw her. Tutul sat up. please. Me? I have been trying to find out the answer to this question all these years. I am not sleepy now. I had dozed off. . You get back to sleep. . hoping she would go back home as a great doctor . said Tridib in a hoarse voice. Completely taken aback. Ask him. said Tridib. patted his pockets for a cigar. We were having such a lovely time in Delhi. They are all waiting for Tutul. That is why she never comes in a dream. I just had a dream . How can she come here? She can't. She has gone and she will never appear in my presence. just now! Tutul. It is nothing really. pleaded Tutul. Oh yes. I promise after that I will get back to sleep. Let me hear it out. then shrugged. Let me finish. Still in a daze. As god is my witness I have never been mad at Sulekha. Tridib flared up. Tridib yelled in joy. There is Tridibmama. Alam you don't know. . Change the subject. Tutul said. Can't we stop this morbid topic for some other time? Suggested Alam. Pushing Tridib away from her. He wiped his mouth. Never spoke one word in anger. You know Tutul why my wife had moved to Delhi. By now wide awake. young chap. over there. fine. opening the window to breathe fresh air. Cordelia my Cordelia. what has happened to Sulekhamami? Finding Tutul almost normal brought Tridib back to his senses. But that is absurd. Tell me. Suddenly Tutul opened her eyes and sat up. Who. to avoid her fans. admirers and lovers. Oh Tridibmama you are here. visiting the Lodhi Gardens . . No. I dreamt of Sulekhamami. Tutul.Look. please. Remember Tutul is a very dear niece of Pratap Majumder. Tridib stood with his back to the window. Get back to sleep. she was Tridibmama's wife. Tutul . Tridib raised his hand gesturing Alam to stop. She left me in anger and sorrow. Sulekhamamima. Don't think you are one up by marrying her. did not find it. said Shahjehan. Since you have asked me. Already she has drifted far away. Turning round. I never see her. don't talk. she is back! He was going to flop down on the bed but both the men caught him. Sulekha. Shut up. She is lost. why did she go away? What was she angry about? This chap knows. I have never talked about this to anyone. I agree with Alam. this Shahjehan. . Did you say you saw Sulekha in a dream? Lucky you. Tridibmama. near the door.

I wonder how you could be so indulgent to him! That's enough. We were indulgent towards everybody. Sulekha. Shahjehan. But look at me. She shut herself up in a room and finally when I found her she was in flames. At last he looked up. Alam had to oblige. You Tutul. and that ruined two lives. You are so good. All three of us. She let out a heart-rending cry. In unsteady steps. He could not finish. But every time we came back home. You can begin a new life with any one of them. But it is all in the past. Tutul extended her hand towards Alam. A sentence slipped out of my tongue. And actually speaking. We were great friends. I don't think of Sulekha in particular. Since Tutul wants to know. Tridib you are wrong. The whole world wants her. Ratul fought over her like two dogs fighting over a piece of bone. It is not self-destruction. You must get well. I have to tell her.every weekend. Tutul walked towards her uncle. Where did you put my cigar? He asked Alam. but they came only for her. you must get well soon. We would donate our life span so that you have a long life. 37 . Why do you torture yourself still? You are destroying yourself this way. Don't you have a little whisky in the house? Please let me have a few pegs. Please. Tutul. That brute of a man Ratul started it. I am neither well nor unwell but carrying on just the same. so good. Without looking up. I am setting you free. I have lost all hope. Tridib. Perhaps Shahjehan. She is gone. Ignoring him completely. I exist all right but I am not even here. dug his face in his hands and began to sob. I felt I was acting like a dog in the manger. this is a lie. After I heard the whole story I felt so sad. Shahjehan left the room silently. please. How can I. yet she must be somewhere. we found some admirer from Calcutta had dropped in. Tridibmama. . I did not count. She never comes back in a dream. Tridib went on. it did. This Shahjehan and another friend. This Shahjehan fellow or Ratul. Tridib answered. I was not home that day. Will you give me a hand. just one sentence. Nobody expects anything of me anymore. I am parched. I told her. Tutul . Well I was nice to them. . What? You don't trust me? It was as though my words had set fire to her body. it is so painful. on some pretext of work. protested Shahjehan. interrupted Shahjehan. like two prisoners caught in the trap of civility. real flames. She put her hand on his back.

nobody dared to come out of the . He said. an army officer. They have all taken shelter in India. The ancient Kalibari temple of Ramna had been razed to the ground. People could be seen moving about during daytime. sell her jewelry and property if needed. They were tight lipped about other things including the news of Rumi. law and order has returned to the country. Radio BBC. The damaged halls of the university campus were deserted. All his family knew was that he was in a camp in an unheard of place called Melabari. It was twelve noon now and Rumi was still fast asleep.IT has been raining since morning so a meal of khichri seemed most appropriate with mutton and mangoes to go with it. Pakistan is now stronger than ever. They did not know that professionals like him had joined the Mukti Bahini. They gave furtive looks behind them. Rumi's parents were informed that Mosharraf was now commander of K Force. A couple of weeks ago two serious looking youths with overgrown hair and mustaches met Jehanara in a relative's house. And now Rumi is here. spurts of machine gun fire. He was no other than their son Rumi who surfaced from time to time most mysteriously. shops. Give them what they want. For quite some time his whereabouts were unknown. He had already got xeroxed copies of the designs from the office files. He wanted a list of all bridges and culverts in the country and some information relating to exploding those bridges. But her husband saw through the ruse. The two boys were sent to contact trusted people at Dhaka and to collect supplies." It was the family name of Khaled Mosharraf. not money. Jehanara let him sleep although lunch was ready. According to them all Indian agents and anti-socials had been destroyed. Shareef used to work in the design division of the government Roads and Highways. It said. The messengers had brought a secret request from their commander. They had brought out a chit. They had chatted till the wee hours of the morning. No questions could be asked. " Please help the bearers of this letter. Rumi. offices and courts had started functioning. I am OK. The concerned citizens had no way of knowing what was happening. In spite of it. a signboard proclaiming it to be a mosque hung from the ruins. Jehanara was ready to give them her all. laughing. But the very next week they came and like heavenly angels brought a telegraphic note from Rumi." Excited beyond measure. Usually they invited people but this time nobody was called except one very special guest. The idea of forging out a free Bangladesh was the pipe dream of some mad people. Akasvani and Free Bangla Radio gave news of the fighting going on at the frontier. Pakistan radio on the other hand contradicted all that news. That was how Begum Jehanara and Janab Shareef Imam were celebrating their twenty-fourth anniversary. The Ekushey February memorial was all but smashed. — Moni. Of course he would not tell them why. He has made a sudden appearance last evening. at present near Agartala where Rumi was undergoing guerilla training. if he could be called that. "I am fine. The city was limping back to normal life but the burnt out slums remained. With Monibhai. It is bridges they are after. Sector 2. But sounds of explosions rented the air after sundown. daily vegetable and fish markets were back to business. a note scribbled on a piece of cigarette packet.

Get up and have your bath. Come on. Though her son was tight lipped. the apple of their eye. Who is it? He asked. said Jehanara. Rumi drew a long breath. unkempt hair. the water taps dry. Wonderful feasts we have. he was supposed to go abroad for higher studies. admonished his mother. trying to hide a smile. So this is what guerilla training has taught him. nobody. wondered Jehanara. Ah. She entered Rumi's room and stood staring at his sunburnt body. As she touched him lightly on the back. To escape the eyes of the enemy they had to spend hours in the water. Say you will? In no time Rumi was ready and came down for lunch. that their sons are active for the cause. His younger brother Jami who had missed out most of the stories last night was bursting with queries. You are going to feed me today. Wide awake. Grand! It has been so long since I had a good meal of khichuri laced with ghee. Rumi sprang up. Biriyani gosth every other day. Was life more risky for her son in the undisclosed camps or right here. Her heart bled. the first born.house or even peer from roof tops. that they are not afraid of the military might of Pakistan. It is your marriage anniversary today. chicken twice a week and fish in plenty. The Pakistani soldiers had no idea what these "Mukti" chaps looked like. to be alert in sleep. Her Rumi. Just think where me and Jami would have been if you had not married father? Don't be silly. did a few exercises to ward off all traces of sleep. on his own bed. don't they? What do you mean khichuri! Rumi began. Rumi had been telling them. It is me. Jehanara could feel that coming back to Dhaka after guerilla training must mean they were planning an attack from inside. But it is one. Bhaiya. Electricity went off for days after those explosions. Then acting like a four-year old he clutched the ends of his mother's saree. The dare devil freedom fighters grew bolder and appeared during the day too. Why didn't you wake me up? You looked as though you had not slept for months. Evidently the Mukti Bahini soldiers were making surreptitious attacks on the power stations and government offices. sprayed the Pakistan army with bullets and disappeared within seconds. Rumi moved back with a jerk. lovely smell of khichuri. touching his mother's feet. These daylight raids in Dhaka proper were ample proof that the freedom struggle is by no means over. Ammi. two eggs for breakfast. Rumi asked. What is it Ammy? Is somebody here? No. laughing. who had never left the family before. Before sitting down he did a kadambusi. they give you khichuri at the camp. coming in jeeps or motor cycles like a flash of lightning. The explosions at night in spite of the subsequent inconveniences later made many mothers like Jehanara proud and happy. . start eating. Food is ready.

I will be home for some time. For how long? Frankly. eat the rest. Horse dal ? What on earth is that? Asked his mother. A kind of unpeeled dal. you have no idea. . A little more khichuri? Some gravy with it? Quite a lot for one day. Jami was not convinced. Not used to such good ghee. I may stay on tomorrow just to please you. Rumi exclaimed. Rumi used to be so fussy about clean plates. You know Amma. I had just four segments but one of the chaps was so hungry that he had about twenty. once we were without food for two days in an action. Hunger is the best sauce. would leave the table if he found a speck of some foreign matter. came back to the table and lit a cigarette to the utter astonishment of the family. we fight for our legitimate rights. Never ask such questions. Only remember they are tyrants and exploiters. Tell me Bhaiya. throw away the roti? Throw away the precious roti? Are you mad? We just pick out the dead insect and throw that. In fact Rumi had confessed to her last night that he has acquired this habit at the camp. You know what happened afterwards? He writhed in stomach pain and kept rushing to . With long hours of waiting in trenches cigarette seemed the only companion. Enough. Mukti soldiers get special treatment.Is that so? Both Jehanara and Jami were flabbergasted. Finally we plucked a jack fruit from a tree. Jehanara allowed him to smoke in front of her. Rumi washed his hands. he replied gravely. Jehanara gave her younger son an approving look. given most probably to horses. now I realise. Do you have any news of Babul Choudhury? she asked. Munching the first portion of the food. does it sound tempting enough for you? Want to join? But so much food would make you too fat to fight. I don't know. Pure nectar. Tell me Jami. That roti and horse dal tastes so good. I was kidding Jami. We don't get khichuri. enough. What we get is a kind of dal we call horse dal with either rice or roti. shocked. said Jehanara. . . Jami exchanged glances with his mother. We don't really kill people. Insects in the roti? What do you do. which Jehanara put into his mouth. Smoking was not allowed in this home. And the rotis have insects baked with the dough. have you killed a Khan soldier with your own hands? Rumi looked into the eyes of his kid brother and changed expression. We are fighting for freedom. Such a lot of food? Who supplies it? We hear that Indian government is having a tough time feeding the refugees.

No. God knows where he has disappeared. Everything was chalked out. Will she ever come back? Monira may never be found but the scoundrels who destroyed her will receive their due. all handsome. Yet Jehanara could not get rid of a nagging fear. Jehanara listened with rapt attention. There was no way Jehanara could guess what plans were being hatched in the minds of his friends. Rumi kept going out and coming back on odd hours. Shefu often comes to me to ask about him. they dragged her out of the house. But he still laments for Monira. They could not be refused. he said and left. There was no question of distrusting them either. The little maid servant. cheerful boys who came and went with him. kitchen floors being dug up. . One day Rumi brought two sack loads of arms from a secret camp at a village called Purulia. obviously acting on some information received. Friends and relatives dropped in all the time. Spies of long experience search for you In every road. Somebody from one of the cars asked. Replied Rumi absent mindedly. comb through every home . Don't know. Nobody knew what was coming next. He threw away his cigarette and began to recite: What do you look like? What kind of clothes? Do you move about in? Is your long hair tied in knots? And a halo around your head? Stick a feather in your cap. often staying out all night. . In nooks and crannies. Destination unknown. We will butcher each and every one of them. or whistle from the top tree branches Like a bird in clumsy loose fitting robe? Sit in a shady teashop? What do you look like. . What are your targets? Going which way? The answer came from the other car. The next few days were hectic. please. Has made a name as a brave fighter. target mobile. they ask. Who is this by? She asked. The boys got into the cars. I still shudder to think of the day. She heard of houses being searched. look for you. prepared for a few actions that night. She is very fond of Babul. But I hear of Sirajul. Don't ask. Two cars hijacked from Dhanmondi — a Mazda and a Fiat. Is it Samsur Rahman by any chance? Rumi put his finger on his lips.

One military police swore at him. Fire. breathing fast. Alam sped to road number five of Dhanmondi and drove towards Green Road. bastards! Swiftly Alam swerved to the left. which drove past the house. Before the policemen could aim their guns they were pierced to the ground. then move on to the house of an army officer at Gulshan. Amma. Jehanara rushed out of the kitchen to answer the doorbell. The idea was to create panic. the stomach and the head. So the news has traveled already? Two army trucks were right behind them. outwitting the enemy. . shouted Rumi. The car drove away. There were six of them in the Mazda. Then he sped towards New Market. Great action. Keeping watch from the back seat. Two lying on the ground. The house would now be to their left. One would keep driving. Two soldiers were lying on the ground aiming their L M Gs. Fire.Actually they knew their destination and targets all right. Stop the car. A barricade stood in front. But these Dhaka boys knew all the labyrinthine lanes of the city like the back of their hands. The operation was hundred percent successful. Not a moment was to be lost. happy to have hit their targets with no casualty at all on their side. Today Rumi did not keep anything from his mother. Rumi in the back seat flanked by two. which buzzed non-stop. They paid no attention to the car. The three stenguns opened fire. The jeep swerved. Alam switched the headlights on. She was almost pushed back by Rumi and two other boys. About seven or eight policemen sat relaxed in front of one house. Rumi suddenly saw a military jeep coming out of a side road. turned round at the crossing of Satmasjid and came back. First the guards at the Chinese embassy in Dhanmondi. great action! He blurted out proudly. again to road number twenty. lost control and crashed into a lamp post. They drove straight. Two more soldiers walked up gesticulating to stop. Every passing car was being checked. almost running over the two soldiers. What was the matter? Has the diplomat left Dhaka? Now they needed to contact the other car. It all happened so quickly that the soldiers had no time to retaliate. Three stenguns roared aimed at three levels to hit the head. For some reason the house of the Chinese diplomat at road number twenty had no guard. whispered Alam. They sat with bated breath. Rumi began to fire followed by his two colleagues. They drove to road number eighteen. It was almost upon them. Victory again. their faces flushed. The car slowed a little as they approached the gate. He roared. Another jeep and two military trucks chased them. In no time they were in New Elephant Road. Where do you think you are going. nobody talked. The Chinese embassy was still unguarded. Alam turned the lights off and switched on the right indicator and turned the steering as though he was taking a right turn. then the Police Lines at Rajarbag. But cars were lined up. Alam drove from road to road till he reached Mirpur Road. three would fire simultaneously and the other two would be on the alert. to make the rulers understand that the youth of Bengal could not be put down by torture. All six of them roared with laughter.

What? You will be going out again? Jehanara was shocked. They looked bright and smart. Rumi lay flat on the back seat. Even she is involved. Amma. Five stenguns. Abbu? . Several people were playing cards in the living room. said Jehanara. The sacks were packed securely and placed on the stool at the centre of the hauz. The military would know at once. the last items very aptly called pineapples. The safest place was the water reservoir. Will you drive the car. quiet and deserted. Don't you think the military will not want to have a look at the hauz? What would you have done. They may not suspect a woman driving a car. The second lane to your right. said Sharif. They drove back to a dark house. Rumi told his mother. I think you should go. She brought some Dettol but Rumi stopped her. Jehanara sat still. Come back and park again right here. Jehanara removed the collar to find little black blisters. life and death depended on who would be using it first. instructed Rumi. Explained Rumi. popularly known as hauz. The person keeping it said we must remove them to night. Khuda Hafez. Without a word she brought the car from the garage and sat behind the steering. Let me have a look. His shirt too had tiny holes. A little while ago her sons had successfully used these arms but in the hands of the Pak army it meant an instrument of torture. carrying two loaded sacks. Amma. This means I will have to lie low till they disappear. It is not far. From sten gun sparks. Then drive up to the end of the lane and come back just to make sure we are not being followed. It was a blind lane. it was huge. The stenguns were scary. The stuff lies in two houses beyond. one pistol and two hand grenades. Let me go and check. He disappeared in the darkness. ten feet deep. She still could not believe what was happening. Her heart fluttered.All of them including Sharif and Jami came up to Rumi's room to listen to the details of the action which took just half an hour. in her own country. overcome by a strange sensation. A little later! Now we have to go and get the arms. But Rumi was sceptic. thinking people using them were god fearing yet think nothing of killing god's children. The sacks were carried to Rumi's room. She has read about guerilla warfare. f he whispered. she waited anxiously for her son — was all this a dream? Soon Rumi was back. stop in front of High Saheb's house. Jehanara felt them. Sharif had switched all the front lights off. Jami went down through the manhole taking a stool with him. They have to be hidden right now. Look at the blisters on my shoulder. Eight feet in wide. It can't be helped. seen films but to think that her own son is one of them. These arms are more precious than our own blood.

All I can see now is the shining surface of water. Sharif lit his torch. searchlights. They arrived after midnight with cars screeching to a halt. marching of boots. More arms were coming in. The events of Dhanmondi and Mirpur Road had given the administration a big jolt. I have a headache. he just said. listening to music. It was the celebrated farewell song by Khudiram. Let me wear the noose round my neck with pleasure. Ekbar biday de ma ghure asi Ami hasi hasi porbo fansi Dekhbe jagatbasi . The banging on the gate woke Jehanara up. the freedom fighter sent to the gallows by the British. said Rumi. Rumi and his comrades were standing very still in his room. There was no way to escape. Was it a coincidence? Jami asked him if he wanted to hear Jim Reeves. Jehanara was suddenly reminded of what Rumi had told her once. The song went on. the veranda. Let the world be my witness. . But the West Pakistanis are afraid of water. I doubt if they will venture inside the tank. Soon he dozed off. To search thoroughly one has to get down. That was all they talked about these days. The radio blared Indian programmes.I would have felt suspicious. But Rumi and his party came out of it unscathed. They want bloody martyrs. mother. Rumi said he was sleepy. From his looks it was obvious that he was not well though he would not admit it to his mother. They had looked through all the widows to find the entire house surrounded. After a couple of days Rumi budged out. their bayonets glistened in the light. Rumi left home after breakfast to return late in the evening. . Jehanara combed his hair with her fingers. The nine guerilla groups now in Dhaka were planning a major action simultaneously on the sixth of next month. I would have peered into the tank for people hiding there. . I will come back in due time. She spotted at least twenty military men in front of the gate. We are prepared to be martyrs. Many of his friends dropped in. One particular song stung Rumi to the quick. earlier. the day marked for official defense day celebrations. Jehanara grabbed Rumi's hand in terror. He had heard the same song. Jami with another friend crept close to listen to war stories. the garden. Then I will take care of them. — Bid me farewell. You know what our sector commander says? He says no free country wants guerillas alive. The next two days he spent in bed. Let them go down. It was a favourite song but Rumi was a little upset. The song over which the entire Bengali nation shed tears. The searchlight fell on the garden. would you press my temples a little? He went to bed after an early dinner. ammi darling.

But how can this be. he forced himself to open his eyes. would not hesitate to kill him for the sake of his own ideal. his brother and father were made to march up front. ordered the captain. Rumi! Rumi! Cried Jehanara. The subedar was an Urdu speaking. their clothes torn and dirty. Mamun shut his eyes in panic and groaned loudly. Where are you taking them? She cried. to Ramna police station. Was he dying? Could this be a delusion before death? A tall man. They were back two nights later. smoke coming out of his mouth. the calling bell had been out of order since morning. It changed from blue to dark. He wished any of the hospital sisters or the matron would come. Sharif and Jami. The captain could very well have been a college student. black patches under the eyes. Said Sharif. They did not release Rumi. stood at the foot of the bed. Rumi. Jehanara rushed out. with blood stains on the lips and hair. middle aged Bihari. In normal circumstances Rumi and he could have played a football match against each other. Their legs felt much too heavy to carry their body weight. with dark glasses. faces pale with humiliation. Gradually the smoke solidified and a human figure emerged. just flashed the torch. Pointing to the car in the garage. wiping out the door from view. Your car? Do you know how to drive? Yes. I would go too. Did I wake you up? . No arms were found but they lined up the three men. the captain asked. Sharif signaled his wife not to insist. Drive along with us. Where is he? Father and son were in no condition to utter any sound. Taking them for routine interrogation. He felt suffocated. Said the captain in a cool voice. 38 MAMUN had a feeling that smoke was spiralling into the cabin. not much older than his son marched in with a subedar and some policemen wielding automatic weapons. They were aware of a lot about him. They turned the house upside down but did not try to go down the tank. Why. I do. They will be back soon. But now he has come as a killer. Rumi too. He made an attempt to sit up. stooping a little. he even looked like a familiar figure.The ugly shouts forced Sharif to come down and open the door. perhaps from some coal stove nearby. How are you Mojammel Huq Saheb? Said the visitor. Incredible! Was he the devil himself? Mamun never cared for such superstitions. One captain.

Yet there was an aura of the supernatural about him. Is something wrong with his thinking process. How is the poet Jasimuddin? Has he stayed on in Dhaka? I have no idea. My heart is in the right place. Monju and Hena should have come by now. He had blacked out one afternoon near Sealdah after a terrible chest pain. Finding him alone. What he had suffered was an attack of angina pectoris. is your problem? Mamun asked his visitor. So nobody came to visit him. Musafir has walked in. I am a patient like you. As soon as the doctors realised he was from Joi Bangla. I live close to Berhampur. How could he materialise in the hospital cabin? Mamun groped for his Sorbitrate tablets under the pillow. A lot of things happening after the fateful twenty-fifth of March would seem incredible to the people of India. it was dark outside. When did you get back? Perhaps it was in my destiny to taste the food of your jails. But it hardly requires psychic powers to make out why Mamun was lying in a hospital bed. What are you doing here? He wanted to know. I saw you this afternoon. he wondered. Mamun had not heard of him in the last four months. A normal enough explanation. Mamun sighed. In his student days this hospital was known as the Campbell Hospital. is it? Asked Musafir. But had to come for treatment.Of course. have nothing much to do with Calcutta. Manirujjaman — have they been killed as the newspapers say? It is incredible. not even Pratap whose court was quite close. It was his great good fortune that some passersby took him to the Nil Ratan Sarcar Hospital nearby. with his usual sunglasses and cigar. Digestion trouble. What. You were stranded in Dhaka in sixty-five. This man is supposed to have the power to predict. they shifted him from the general ward to a cabin. A little smoke from the cigar lingered inside the room. What are you looking for! Your medicine! Feeling bad? Mamun put the tablet under his tongue and tried to get back his bearings. The sky outside grew darker. What is your problem? Heart. or he could have been crushed to death in the rush hour stampede. Musafir was going to speak but Mamun stopped him. There was nothing to worry. he was none other than Musafir. it is my intestine. My room is on the second floor. Musafir drew nearer. assured the doctor. may I ask. . Mamun need not have panicked. Govindachandra Deb.

Goodness. please. that bania Gandhi of Gujrat used to call him a Muslim leader. Look at the clouds. He was getting unduly worried. actually you would get a fright if you look at my eyes. is that what you mean? Who said you wouldn't? But that would not solve your problems. Go ahead. . you are smoking! Won't you follow any of the hospital rules. Such trifling matters can cause misunderstanding. With the thermometer in his mouth. I was waiting to be admonished. Even when Jinnah Saheb was in the Congress. What will be the result of our fight? How long would it go on? You have a great deal of misery awaiting you. . Why do you wear dark glasses even indoors? Musafir laughed melodramatically. What is your real name? You are known as Musafir . . It is a quarter past three but looks like evening. You have foresight. Better not to see them. he said. Once we get it . What? We won't get freedom. . . Musafir walked up to the window to snuff out the cigar. There is an author of this name. India is a free country. After the nurse left. Does that mean the people are not suffering? For the present the important thing is to get freedom. The name has stuck. She spoke to Musafir sharply. may I ask you some questions? For a heart patient it is better to be frank.A nurse marched into the room clicking her high heels. Did we divide India? Were you not supporting the Muslim League? Did you not press for partition like an impatient schoolboy? You can't be serious. Simple. Think of all the reasons. We are going to have floods this year it seems. . So that I look mysterious . My parents had named me Rezaul Karim. Musafir. I could smell it even from the next room. Freedom from whom and for whom! You were in a hurry for freedom and divided India. If you do not mind. Mamun could not speak. about who forced us to press the demand. When I started writing I used the pen name Musafir to avoid confusion. Study the history of the Congress movement. Replied Musafir sheepishly. Depends on what you mean by freedom. The nurse switched on the light then stuck a thermometer under Mamun's tongue and consulted her watch. it was always dominated by Hindu communalism. So it was only quarter past three? There is still time for visitors. . Mamun turned to Musafir. I am throwing it right away.

Mamun Saheb. Can you think of greater tragedies than those witnessed by us in our lifetime? You built a separate state for Muslims and within a couple of years the east and west wanted to break away. Nothing physical! Why do you insist on giving it a different colour? Chatter of voices outside the cabin told him that Hena and Monju were here. The only other woman I care about is my niece Monju.Under all their nationalist or Indian facade lurked their Hindu identity. UP. in fact she is the cause of your heart problem. Please. That is the way I speak. We had no other way but to break away. Now I doubt if our demand was justified. Musafir Saheb. The horrendous things that followed partition could have been avoided. Can you. isn't it? We had not realised that tyrants do not spare people of their own religion. Since you made that aspersion in Dhaka I have been analysing myself. Musafir Saheb honestly say that you too did not support the Muslim League in those days? May be I did. That is why it was imperative that we retain our Muslim identity. For common people like us it does not mean a thing. Let me ask you something else now. How do you write poetry if women mean nothing to you? Only a fool would say that women are the one and only source of poetry. I am not impressed by bogus forecasts. What do you mean? In spite of your effort to eliminate women from your life. Please don't get excited. And you decided to leave crores of Muslims in Bihar. I have neither the time nor the inclination to run after mystery women. one woman is creating havoc. West Bengal. perhaps never will. And now you think that with a monolingual state those tyrants will change over a new leaf? Greed and love of power is no respecter of religion and language. no offence meant. but it is just affection. Why are you being so pessimistic? You think we are wrong to fight for freedom? You have no idea of the situation after sixty-nine. Besides I do not write poetry any more. of a personal nature. The lines on your forehead point to a different kind of worry. All this talk about language and culture is just a ruse put up by the intellectuals. The East is East and the West is West and never the twain shall meet — remember the words of Mark Twain? You are kidding. Assam and got away with Pakistan. . Leaving them to an uncertain future? May be we did not weigh all the pros and con. at exactly four as usual.

I would like you to meet them. blood report is good too. he said. Mamun was charmed even though she was his own niece. Mamun could not take his eyes off her bright face. Nothing will happen. She had certainly dressed up to day. Monju said. Always an admirer of beauty. the Bihari Muslims . shimmering as though she had glitters all over her face. You know Abbu. I am expecting visitors. . Naturally we can't take them without your permission.Let me leave you to your visitors. you must tell them to forget about the idea. but just for a visit to the hospital? There was no sign of worry on her face for her still untraced husband. No. You could have waited. He left before Monju entered. Please Mamun Saab. you look quite fresh. Barun brought his head close to Mamun's and whispered. . Drops of water drifted down her ear lobes. Mamun felt her wet hair. Can we go Abbu? Pleaded Hena. Casting a stern look at Monju. Wipe your hair. expressing concern. she never used them. went on Barun. said Musafir. knee deep. . They don't listen to us. said Barun. hold my hand. You are drenched. Was this strange man really a patient here or did he appear out of nowhere just to scare him? Barun and Palash accompanied Hena and Monju. . Let us chat. Mamun Saab. We will start very early and come back the same day but so many things can happen. Monju looked stunning in a light pink sari. said Barun Baxi. protested Mamun. Not now. No. You never know. Hena ran to her father. stray bullets and all that. the streets are full of water. Here. absolutely not. . Mamun felt a little uncomfortable. I have lots of things to discuss with you. The nurse and the doctors said you are much better. nothing else. We have enemies here . An uncanny thought came to Mamun's mind. Monju and Hena want to come with us. Musafir turned to go. Mamun said. Can you please see to it? The doctor said you do not move about. Did she have a touch of lipstick? No. what do you say? Mamun shook his head vehemently. To the border! Out of the question. We are going to deliver supplies to the border. Walking is good for the heart. Let us take a turn in the veranda. Would that be all right. Mamunmama you temperature is down to ninety-nine point two. I will drop in again. How much longer are you going to lie down here? I want to go back. He pointed to a towel. the car might break down. Don't go. But it was pure admiration.

Mamun told Barun. In fact it was only because of him that they could get a taxi on their way back from Burdwan the other day. Hakim Sahab has brought some sweets. In the waterlogged streets outside. carrying a box of sweets. Pratap looked tired. Nobody would come to the cabin now except a person with the dinner tray. poor kids. So it was not his idea to take Monju and Hena along. His hair was dripping wet. Replied Palash politely. The young men were taking advantage of Mamun's absence to drop in and spend long hours chatting. How is Didi? Mamun asked Pratap. That was the reason Mamun wanted to go home. delighted to see the sweets cried. they were not familiar with the streets of the city. Mamun turned to Palash. lying in a hospital bed and the girls were having fun. Here he was. Mamun did not feel like having anything.During this exchange Palash kept quiet. trying to avoid Mamun's eyes. No. They have not been heard of since. Watching this cheerful boy Mamun felt concerned. He is a very helpful chap. Pratap left soon afterwards but the others stayed on till the end of the visiting hour. But from his expression Mamun understood that his friend would not tell him even if she was not. one has company. Be very careful when you go. Mamun Saab? Shall I get you some? Before he could answer Pratap appeared at the doorway. like the squirrel in building the bridge to Lanka. I have a recording tomorrow. Of course Monju wanted to keep it back from him. Do not take undue risk. I would consider myself lucky. Mamun felt anger bubbling up inside. In a way the general ward is better. his visitors took care of the food. replied Pratap. Some Indian photo-journalists had crossed over. Why was he so concerned? A faint odour of the cigar smoke still lingered. Wonderful! I am starving. the traffic was thrown out of gear. Have you had tea yet. Visiting two hospitals after work was no joke. Barun. it might be stopped in the rain. Excitement is not good . Palash was the one who brought the girls to the hospital every day. Instantly Palash had cut in. He hoped no harm would come to him at the border. He does not seem to have any bad intentions. They. The doctor on his usual eight-thirty round may be held up tonight in the rain. Barun too did not seem very keen. Mamun rubbed his chest. Monju had dressed up because they were on their way to Mahajati Sadan. Was he really jealous of Palash? Somebody had to accompany the girls. There is a musical soiree at Mahajati Sadan to night. If I can be of the tiniest bit of help. Hena mentioned. Better. True to the Malkhanagar tradition he never visited Mamun without some gift. That explained. The dislike was mutual. Are you too going to the border tomorrow? No. have no idea of what a war really means. After they were gone the deserted cabin suddenly took on the appearance of a dark tunnel. it were the girls who insisted. No. It made Mamun think of what Musafir had told him. He distributed the sweets with great gusto. he has no grudge against Palash. even reluctant Mamun was forced to take one.

He found Sharmila's door slightly ajar. Monju holding Palash's hand. a gift from Sharmila. Who is occupying Atin's room now? Perhaps Tuntuni. Perhaps they will splash through the water. Alone in the lift he sang loudly. You don't belong. Who knows what the future has in store for them. He nodded to passers by who said Hi and kept humming to himself — You don't belong. She placed one hand over the receiver and asked. It was a one-room apartment with attached bath and kitchen. all the while humming to himself. No. It was beautiful spring weather. Sharmila pressed her button from her second storey apartment for Atin to enter. Atin could not get rid of the song he had heard once. broad daylight still. flowers were in bloom. He was losing control. Sumi. They paid more rent than Atin as two of them stayed here. Martha. He tried to drive away the disturbing thoughts. then boarded a bus and got down at Sharmila's place. He selected two packets. said Atin. hurry up. frozen stiff. you don't belong. let them have a good time meanwhile. The ancient lift cluttered its way up. That is the most natural thing for them. sunset would be at eight. Sharmila's cousin would not be home. Atin put the packets of ice-cream in the fridge. Next to the Appleton Chapel stood a small shop which stored different kinds of ice-cream. He passed Science Centre and walked towards Harvard Yard. He avoided her if he could help it. Atin knew. I would like to take a shower after you. A look at the two single beds reminded Atin of Phuldi's room back home. feminine perfumes trapped inside the cage. The phone rang. which she shared with Munni. some leaves were beginning to turn golden. He paid at the counter. why is he mad at him now? Why should they shut themselves at home and not have fun? After all they were young. Will be with you in a minute. In this age they do not bother about the past or the future like old people. let them enjoy the music. He pressed the button and heard her voice: Who is it? Mr. She heard him and spoke from the bathroom. this will not do. It was sixthirty. Mamun could visualise the entire scene. a housecoat flung on her to answer. He wore a pair of jeans and an Egyptian cotton shirt. I am taking a shower. Death. her body swaying in laughter. 39 SOME songs have a way of echoing through the mind for no apparent reason. The Boston Strangler. not likely to melt on the way. Sharmila came out of her bath. Let them walk on to the Mahajati Sadan. you don't belong. drank from a Coca Cola bottle and said.for him. Should I ask her to come over? . he kept humming it walking down the road. A moment ago he was ready to excuse Palash.

the Americans are sending human beings at a much greater cost and risk. Atin took off his shirt and paused. Sharmila had to push him into the bathroom. The moon was not visible yet. admitted Atin. He looked at the practical side of it instead of romanticizing. he suggested. People driving. Is someone about to have his bath allowed to kiss someone who has just had hers? No. Come here. It is so clear. All his desire to take a bath was gone now. live from the surface of the moon. even Atin. I thought it was science fiction. Martha has become quite friendly with Sharmila. Atin turned up the volume and knelt down by her side. In fact Sharmila is concerned for Martha not having any boy friends. you don't belong. In the meantime Sharmila changed quickly. just like us. Fat lot you know. Sharmila made an effort not to smile. What is the matter? Watching a film? No. Instead of sending rockets. That hill over there — Mount Hedley — hill of the moon. By and by Americans would be sending vehicles. I have goose pimples all over. Sharmila moved the window curtains to get a glimpse of the moon. Do you notice something? The car is not bumping. What a tremendous achievement! There should be worldwide celebrations.Atin shook his head. it is lunar gravity. Daylight still lingered. Atin came out of the bath to find her staring at the TV screen with great wonder. To tell you the truth. . Behind the closed door Atin went over the lines of the song loudly: You don't belong. Let us go out later and watch the moon from a park. Use the pink towel. Just think of what they have accomplished. He rushed forward and took her in his arms. They have to be one up on the Russians. They have been asking one another over for meals. She feels bashful to dress before others. Tell me something. He too looked out of the window. I was more surprised to watch Neil Armstrong talking to the American President from the lunar surface. Putting the phone back into the cradle she said. I have asked her to come on Saturday. Those who calculate before kissing are crooked people. Sharmila was visibly excited. never. said Sharmila excitedly. Isn't it strange that we are directly getting the picture as they are moving about on the surface of the moon? Exclaimed Sharmila. Human beings. Already Neil Armstrong had set foot on the moon. I am through. You can go ahead. This is Appenine area. Somehow Atin did not share her excitation. Scott and Arwin are driving a car. build houses on the moon — that is how science progresses.

Quite unusual. oh yes. Bablu. a long weekend. . plate in hand and watched TV. why not. OK. Presently lights were switched off. Will she go straight to Maryland? She can come and stay with us if she wants to come to Boston — Cambridge. I have to go to New York. The daughter of a close friend of father is coming. Coming for a visit or to study? To study. They sat on the bed touching each other. Let us have a quick dinner and go out. The Americans may send men to the moon. Suppose I join you? Atin hesitated for a few seconds before saying. I am so happy. have to receive her. He made a last minute request to Sharmila to change her mind but poor Sharmila could not displease her Mama. she would have to be around. Monday is a holiday. held Atin's hand against her cheek and said softly. Oli. This is not the time to stay indoors.The lunar landscape faded and advertisements began. trying to sound casual. The full moon shone on a clear sky. no. He settled on a back seat by the window in order to smoke. day after tomorrow. What is it? You don't want me to go? Some special plan with Siddhartha? No. What is she called? And her subject of study? Oli Choudhury. Sharmila looked at the moon for a few seconds. At the University of Maryland. They had noodles with corn beef and mayonnaise salad. said Atin. Not too far from here. I have no idea of what her plans are. said Sharmila. Used to be a student of English literature. no jerks on the smooth highway. Atin had brought Sharmila's favourite almond ice-cream. Suddenly Sharmila remembered that her Mama from Washington would be coming in the weekend. Though he would put up in a guesthouse. Noticing that hesitation Sharmila laughed. That would be nice. A feeling of love radiated from Sharmila's face. the passengers got ready to sleep. a journey of seven hours. The greyhound bus sped away. What a lovely name. It is a good thing she will be in Maryland. I will tell her. but it was equally important to sell soaps and oil. He was a very learned man and Sharmila was awed by his presence. You come along. On Friday night Atin boarded the ten 'o-clock bus to New York. None of them felt any need to talk. Is Siddhartha throwing a party? No.

People did not chat or shout in public transports. Atin has been saved from such a fate. He did not regret his relationship with a pure. On turnings long lines of speeding cars with red back. He too would have helped the cause of the revolution instead of living in exile here. But finally the police caught up. He lit a cigarette and stared out of the window. It was actually an image of him. For all its mechanised life this country at night looked like the primeval earth. Oli wrote to me that he is fine. Atin was wide-awake. I was just thinking of him. Do you know that he is dead? What? No. How was he going to broach the subject to this girl. It was against the law to smoke in bus they did not seem to care. the course of his life would have been different. in a capitalist country. These four or five lane highways were perfect to the point of artistic excellence. Remember Kaushik? Certainly. He saw a man running alone the bus. You have become a Yankee Atin. he was drawn to drinks and womanising. Two black youths sat in the adjoining seats smoking marijuana. More cars plied on the highways at night. so gullible.light looked like a luminous procession. Gazing through the glass he had an illusion. He has just mentioned her name that is all. He has seen such cases. They even offered Atin some but he was in no mood to talk to anyone. Thanks to Sharmila. you have. Even after coming here. They were passing through miles and miles of deserted moonlit fields. Atin had noticed that. She had helped him restore his mental balance at a very crucial time. But then he would not have met Sharmila in that case. impossible. there was no noise at all. white shirt with rolled up sleeves on gray trousers. Except for lover couples who giggled and kissed. Who are you? What do you want? Asked Atin. Did he run as fast in the field at Jalpaiguri after shooting that troublesome fellow? All he could think of while running was that he would not get caught. one of the gang who killed Gopal Sen of Jadavpur University was on the verge of losing his rationality because he could no longer justify his action. again it was Sharmila who had pulled him up. spoke the shadow. Don't you know me? Of course I do. Have I forgotten anything? Sure. . son of Pratap Majumdar. But she was yet to be told about Oli. One chap in New Jersey. I am Bablu from Calcutta. so trusting? The shadow outside the window knocked on the glass. an eccentric fellow. innocent and brave girl like her. Clusters of trees appeared once in a while. If Kaushik had taken him to some other place like Hazaribagh or Daltongunj. at Jamshedpur town. Neither Manikda nor Tapan got caught.

Bablu. I can't hide anything from her. who Siddhartha used to be friendly with? He was not the sort to stick to one girl. smiling. She put the coffee-pot on the stove and said. Your friend is still asleep. Bablu. He used to make fun of Atin. Get lost. Hi. A white young girl in a silk dressing gown. Really! Tintin. It was not proper to show the surprise that Atin felt. She said. What happened to that angry young Bengali girl. like the smell of Bhatful flowers in the forests of north Bengal. He slipped into the building as a middle-aged man came out. Tell me what you just said about Kaushik is a lie. So Siddhartha was living with a white girl? Or was she just an overnight guest? The girl moved about in a way as if she was the mistress of the house. That is what I had to tell Sharmila. Atin lost his temper and went to the toilet. kept running alongside the bus. He gave Atin a look but said nothing. Probably the building housed quite a few Indians and Pakistanis. Tagged a girl friend along from home. After a mug of black coffee Atin got down to the subway station. with no make up opened the door of Siddhartha's eighth floor apartment. Back to his seat he saw the shadowy figure again.Oli? Which Oli? Oh. why don’t you sit down and be comfortable? Atin felt like an outsider. She trusts me completely. You are a fool not to take advantage of this permissive society. his bag slung over his shoulder. And on your way to Krishnanagar. I see the daughter of a friend of your father. he was used to the sort. As Atin brushed his lips on her cheeks he had a sexy smell. Neepa or some such name. . This must be the effect of the marijuana smoke from those two boys. It did not leave him. Come in. But why was he feeling nervous and guilty? He had a feeling that he was about to commit an offence. I will do whatever possible to help her. It can't be kept a secret. She is a friend and will remain so. later on the rickshaw. by the river. but she will be told by and by. Just that. And keep everything from Oli? Pack her off to Maryland so that she does not get to know Sharmila? What rubbish. You must be Tintin from Cambridge. I am Susan. what did you tell her? Stop it. The girl introduced herself and put her cheek forward. It was too early when he reached the sprawling bus terminus in New York. Siddhartha had asked him to come to his Brooklyn apartment straight from there. Did I ever promise to marry her? Certain promises are not spelled out. She made two of her tutors leave because you forced her to. dabbed his neck and forehead with water. opening the main door. You are changing the subject.

which means I can now come to New York. You can stay there for a few days with your girl friend from Calcutta. Though it was usual in this society. he ordered Susan. Replied Atin in a dry voice. It was Sharmila who picked up the phone. How can he use the phone belonging to someone he did not know? How will he pay? A collect call was the answer. Bablu! She sounded happy and excited. Key to apartment 632. Susan will make lunch and call you. Should I come. He must put a call to Sharmila. Without a word he threw it to his friend. wouldn't you? Siddhartha went on. You know what. You would have a nap in the afternoon. the presence of the girl for one. 40 OLI spent two days visiting the British Museum and some art galleries. I wish we had traveled together. The apartment belonged to an East Pakistani who has gone to fight for Bangladesh. Atin stood up to leave. he decided finally. half ajar he could see his friend stretched out on the bed in his underwear. please do. Empty. Staring at the wallpaper. She was dying for some news from home. the largest Atin has seen in a long time. Susan drew her legs under her exposing a good part of her legs. Then she visited the India Office Library with Bishakha. It is for your use. The East Pakistani boy had a large collection of Bangla books and records. Let us have coffee and chat in the meantime. he said not to wake him up before nine. I need to sleep too. I can manage. Susan. Yes. May be Siddhartha has his reasons. say on the eleven o'clock bus? Sumi will stay alone.From the door. Then he went back to the bedroom and came back with a key. Susan could have used this place. Siddhartha joined them a little before nine. Baromama has cancelled his trip. said Susan. Atin asked her. he felt ill at ease in the apartment of a total stranger. thanks. Aren't you going to call him? We had a late night. she had insisted. will you please take him up and help him to unpack? No. Do come over. That would have been wonderful. Atin normally would have dragged him out of the bed but felt too self-conscious before a white stranger. Go and get my coffee. he tried not to feel offended for almost being pushed out of the apartment. Your friend is tired. What do you say Bablu? Atin took a few seconds to answer. Out in the corridor. Glancing through a couple of .

One speaker proposed that Pakistan Airlines should be boycotted internationally as passenger planes were being used illegally to carry arms to Dhaka. Yes. Mohiuddin Ahmed. where a meeting has been organised by an ex-judge of Bangladesh — Abu Syed Choudhury who was acting as unofficial ambassador of that country to mobilise world opinion in favour of the oppressed Bengalis of East Pakistan. that's him. I must meet her before I leave. She said. . Joy Bangla. going up the staircase. Why are you going to the States then? You could have studied English here. She had no idea of how warm England could be in summer. It was a fairly warm day. A group of teenagers almost collided with them. That means Tutuldi is better. There were Bengalis all over the place. Replied Bishakha. . Trafalgar Square. These teenagers in a hurry do not see which way they are going. the second secretary of the Pakistan High Commission in London has just resigned and come to express solidarity with Bangladesh. seventy lakh refugees have poured into the country so far. Shouts of cheer interrupted one lecture. It is a little different from what I had thought it to be but very lively on the whole. Who would have given me a scholarship here? But America would give you a greater culture shock. She scanned the papers but was somewhat relieved to find nothing on Kaushik and his associates. said Bisakha. speaking in their own language. It clearly showed that a large number of Bengalis lived in London. 9 Naxal prisoners killed in an encounter in Asansol jail. your Dulabhai. The new slogan is — make love.Bangla newspapers she found a lot of unpleasant news like Malda being cut off by floods . At first an appeal was read out to release Sheikh Mujib from the prison in West Pakistan. that Tutuldi of yours is a brave woman. signed by 130 British MPs. Watching American teenage tourists loitering in their vests Oli was surprised. Seems like it. a total of 38 police men have been killed in the last eighteen months. said Bishakha. They left the meeting and set out towards the tube station. Alam on the platform? Asked Oli. But Oli did not feel any bitterness. The campuses are full of hippies. Isn’t that Dr. not war. I must say. First the Beatniks and now the Hippies have shaken their values. don't the Americans want war? . a police constable killed at Maniktala. even the concept of dress. You know I like London. Couples lie right in front of others on the campus grounds. normally crowded with tourists was today the venue of a meeting of about five thousand Bengalis. Cheers went up from thousand voices — Joy Bangla. Sounds good. Hold on to the railing to your left. They proceeded to Trafalgar Square. Then one by one the speakers described at length the inhuman torture of the Pakistan army all over Bengal.

They took Oli to the police station. Anyway. The tube was to take Oli to Reading. When Chandana and her husband Manoj came to pick her up they found Oli staring at the rail tracks in the deserted platform. The officer was a kind man. In British trains nobody talked. Pentagon. Chandana came from an upper class background. This was the first time she was travelling alone. was a brilliant student but was married off before her graduation and came to England. a gang has been operating on this line. They would come to receive her at the station. Pressure from big arms manufacturers. Bisakha's father had warned her about pickpockets. He was perfectly right. . the date of admission to the university of Maryland would expire. Manoj dropped them at his house and drove away to bring back their two and a half year old son from a relative's place. about thirty pounds in cash. . all blood drained from her face. You would get a duplicate passport and US visa. She had even contemplated committing suicide. They were classmates in Presidency College. Oli whispered. He said. . Almost everyone had a book or a newspaper spread in front.Not the younger generation! The Hippie movement began from opposition to the Vietnam War. After stepping into the platform she realised that she did not have her handbag with her. Allen Ginsberg and others are raising funds for Bangladeshi victims. For the first time the American youth have gone against the government policy. I hope you have the numbers of the travelers' cheques. . Her head reeled. Many passengers were getting down at Reading. Can you go and have a look at the Gents toilet? He asked Manoj. I am finished. Even the four or five Indian passengers avoided direct eye contact with her. The bag had her passport. air ticket. two hundred dollars in travelers' cheque. We have reports of such thefts every day. Was it left in the train? No. she was clutching it all the time . Somebody in the crowd must have taken her bag. an address book. The thief had thrown the passport and the air ticket in the nearest trash can and made away with other valuables. in a hurry to get down was pushed about a bit in the jostling crowd. Both of them worked and left the child there. Why is President Nixon supporting the military regime in Pakistan? That is the state. Oli has watched such scenes in films but now for the first time she realised that two persons sitting side by side could actually be so distant. to her friend Chandana's place. . Actually all was not lost. after the harrowing experience of the last half an hour Oli at last heaved a sigh of relief. Chandana gave her a good shake. now she won't be able to board a plane to the States. You have to report to the police station. the police would humiliate her and she would be sent back . a pair of gold earrings. Oli. A series of apprehensions went through her. Oli had not kept the number of the travelers’ cheques so that was gone. Bob Dylan. as Manoj explained. The rest of course is gone. Babluda would go back from the airport. I really am.

How is life here. . Oli was not particularly keen to have rice and macher jhol but somehow everybody in England was determined to give her Bengali food. Perhaps it was a kind of nostalgic meal for these people. Both of you must make up your mind about your future. But next morning I don't feel that way. We are yet to buy a house. She worked in a Deaf and Dumb school. gave her friend a penetrating glance and said. How many people in our country are happy in the real sense? It is no use running after an elusive idea of happiness. quite small. The best boys of Presidency College are living in out of the way places. . What was a bright student like her doing there she did not ask. that's the name. have nothing to do with books. His constant refrain was. Manoj was back with the child. The problem is that our parents are too protective. It was a two-bedroom house. we have to work so hard that I would not want to come back once I reach India. After her day's work Chandana would have to cook for her. He had broken jail and come over here. Then why is it that people do not go back? It is a kind of security. stray killings and all. In the coffee house you had asked the bearer to keep the change giving him twenty rupees for a seven and half rupee bill. Meanwhile Oli tried to help her friend in the kitchen. Well there are people who get away from these creature comforts. We are saving money. Just coming from home. Go to any Indian here and you will find them talking only about houses and cars. I am a workman. Frankly. What happened to that friend of yours. Unadulterated food. good house and a car — these things give you real comfort. you know. People do not seek happiness here. organising peasant movements. material comfort. the child will have chance for a good education. Remember how we used to make fun of your indifference about money? We used to think you do not know how to count change. some evenings I wish I could return at once. The pleasure of not having to do a thing. so the conversation ended abruptly. if both of us work for ten more year we will have enough money for the rest of our lives. You know what I really think? I think happiness is a philosophical hoax . Oli. People here make fun of Calcutta. you have a good life that way. Oli spent the night but since both Manoj and Chandana had to leave for work next morning they could not chat till late. Oli would have preferred to have sandwiches but Chandana would not hear of it. You have not gone back to visit even once.Oli could not help notice the look of strain in Chandana. but comfort. Atin. Chandana? She asked casually. . Manoj was late. I believe Calcutta is in a very bad way. Manoj was a mechanical engineer. that is what you can't have here. Complained Oli. I tell you. You have done a wise thing coming here. Chandana was chopping onions. Good food. Then the baby came. But here you have to be careful about money. I was so innocent and stupid in those days. She stopped.

the city of artists and poets unfold before her. after a hurried breakfast they set out. Very soon. she exuded confidence. She visited the Tate Gallery again. She imagined Babluda standing next to the rose shrub. she could sense an hidden undercurrent of tension. Next day Bisakha and her father saw her off at the Heathrow airport. Would America be any different? The face of Babluda came before her to be replaced by Pompom and Kaushik. he had no other option. in kurta and pyjama. pondering over a lot of things. she whispered. She stood near the window. Two very close friends. Masterda. Let any crook come near to snatch her bag. A sudden shower forced her to rush to the nearest station and come back home. She had to borrow five pounds from Chandana. At the New York Airport she would declare dramatically. Ananta Singh. was unthinkable from a girl like Chandana. bundling the still sleeping baby and dropping him at Manoj's sister's place. I will be with you soon. Perhaps her dress caught the attention of the passersby but nobody came forward to talk. so Oli was on her own with a tube map as guide. As far as law and order was concerned England was no better than India. I can't stay away from you any longer. . Fortunately she got back her passport and the air ticket otherwise all her hopes of meeting Babluda would have vanished. Checking in her suitcase. But he has not betrayed them. using firearms like the great revolutionaries of the Chittagong Armory Raid case. Next morning. watching the historical city. He would have been killed. She must tell Bisakha to send her a cheque. Tutuldi would be disappointed. I have come to you dead broke. From now on she would only have Babluda to lean on. watching an English shower falling over English roses in an English garden. She did not want to stay on in London even for a day. Babluda. The thought amused her. She had no money either. Oli bade good bye to them and entered the security enclosure. Kaushik had broken jail. Losing the handbag in the station had shaken her badly. soaking wet. was bound to be different. You can roam about the entire day in this city without uttering a single word. Ganesh Ghosh. swinging her handbag. Day after tomorrow seemed such a long way off. Kaushik must be saved at any cost. Yet somehow the reaction of an Indian visitor. You know Babluda. But where would she go? With the notebook she has lost Tutuldi's number and address. She went and sat in Hyde Park corner. A cynical statement like happiness is a philosophical hoax. Lying in the bed with a baby smell. Today Bisakha had to go back to work. Babluda and Kaushik have drifted far apart. penniless.Somehow Oli had a feeling that none of them were happy. Did Babluda still have his beard. One good thing about London was you could visit the museums and art galleries free of cost. watching the world go by. Other party colleagues have misunderstood Babluda. she wondered. Oli stayed awake. Oli was not hurt but surprised at this display of western individualism. The very word England used to thrill her but now that she is in this country she is not feeling any excitement at all. When Oli got down at Paddington Station. with the hangover of two centuries of British rule.

Thank you. Down below the city of New York looked like a picture postcard. Someone is coming for me. one of Kaushik's friends had put his arms round her with great passion. That was why. Pakistani or Indian. Would she be any match for him in a war? After his third peg he put his hand on Oli's thigh. he unfastened his seat belt and turned to Oli. Babluda was the only one who went ahead in spite of her resistance. But Oli shook him off without much ado or melodrama. said Oli. Nobody except Babluda had ever touched her. let us remain friends. Oli pleaded. if you wish. She might have found it improper earlier but he sounded like a wild Bedouin. going to visit his son who was studying architecture in Chicago. don't.The middle-aged passenger in the next seat with a faint garlic smell was obviously from the Middle East. At Ghatshila. Not that anybody had never tried. He looked at her. The man ordered whisky for himself and insisted that Oli has some red wine He started a conversation in a rather loud voice. The very next minute she felt apprehensive. She could spot the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty. they were much softer than Indian men. he moved his hand and promptly fell asleep. Please. Brightly lit sky scrappers. Of course the Prime Minister of India was a woman. It was nice talking to you. it had a touch of the East. He was from Cairo. After the plane took off. Then the lights were switched on. Suppose Babluda was not there. so is Babluda’s pishimoni. What were the lies she had to tell him. She must have faith in Babluda. the precarious condition Kaushik was in. He was not to be told about Manikda's death. Instantly. He has seen women in sarees before. Oli was proud of the fact. The plane touched down with a mild jerk. Is anyone coming to receive you? I can drop you to any hotel. He must not be told about Tutul's operation either. she told herself. All through the night she did not doze off even once. taken aback. the torture Pompom had to undergo in Lalbazar. The Egyptian asked Oli. mentally and physically she longed for him. She touched the man next to her lightly and said. But the President of Pakistan was an army general. His warmth and innocence touched Oli. But Oli was wide awake. The man broke into a loud guffaw. . Most of the passengers were fast asleep. Please. She is up to some tricks with Pakistan. the 'fasten your seat belt’ sign came on. Gently removing his hand. The magic of the word Friend seemed to work. she must not be nervous. But now. She liked it. Please get up. he asked. eight miles per minute. Oli went over them. Oli repeated. She did not even have the money to telephone. They are all well. And what else! Way above the clouds the moon shone brightly. You had built the Pyramids once and now you are sending your sons out to study architecture! Oli expressed wonder. Every minute the plane was taking her closer to Babluda.

Rains are good for paddy. Confused and bewildered. people being shot for no reason. ponds. Please move over here. But they keep on moving as though chased by hounds and very often becoming targets of the tormenting aggressors. Oli wanted to leave her suitcase and make a dash towards him and put her arms round him. They are leaving their ancestral lands for dear life. Oli. even children were not spared. She liked Sharmila at first sight and did not let go of her hand. rivers are on the verge of overflowing. Nature has a wet and green look. Dinajpur to India. This year the monsoon has been particularly heavy. There he was. at the same time excessive downpour can spoil the crop. staying home means no meal for the day. Jessore. But the rain could not stop the thousands of refugees crossing over the borders of Kushthia. Without giving Oli a chance to speak. He hurried away. Sharmila this is Oli. marshlands and canals are full to the brim. The Indian towns near the border are having a hard time coping with the influx. We have been waiting. he introduced his companion. an endless stream of human beings. The plane was forty minutes late. The month of Sravan is both a time of joy and distress. He has shaved off his beard. Would both of you mind waiting here? Let me go and find out where Siddhartha has parked the car. Mymensing. already reducing the population of Bangladesh by close to eighty lakhs. You must be tired. their population doubling overnight. somehow looking taller and thinner. How was the weather in London? The warmth of this girl touched Oli. floods have already started in some districts. So far the prospects seem to be of a good harvest. Will this ever end? . So many young couples were kissing in front of others. This is my friend Sharmila. who constitute more than half of the seven and half crore population of Bangladesh. All the tanks. Oli. They have seen villages being burnt to cinders. waving. Camps are being opened but daily more and more people are coming. these fugitives do not know what future has in store for them. Atin shouted in Bangla. the government of India is at its wit's end in trying to deal with this new burden. The journey is quite boring. Chittagong. But for the daily wage earners. it is raining. you are here at last. and the husband has seen the wife being raped and countless other atrocities. As she drew near. Sharmila took Oli's hand.She went past the Immigration and Customs. 41 IT has been raining without stop the whole day. though for some reason she found Atin to be evasive. With countless problems at home.

Three days ago the in-fight had resulted in a murder in this camp. The fine drops of rain spread the germs of nostalgia all over. In the porch of an abandoned school building sat Babul Choudhury. Nobody knew what greater terror the future is going to bring. cleaning a stengun. In a combined operation. the police and the military have put thousands of young men under arrest. In private conversations doubts are expressed about treating the Muslims like honoured guests. Even moral courage seemed to be dissipating. But there are skeptics too. the local population reacted emotionally. not even India has recognised Bangladesh. past differences were surfacing between erstwhile Awami League and NAP followers. Soon they resorted to ugly charges and counter charges. at least among the educated class. Khulna. Countless people.The rest of the world remains a silent spectator to this tragedy. there is a lull. Neither Rumi nor his friends have returned. Jehanara Imam has been visiting pirs and fakirs proclaiming supernatural power. seeking shelter. marooned inside their houses. People unaffected by partition succumb to Hindu communalism. The Pakistan army has doubled its offensive which was beyond the power of the Mukti Bahini to counter. thinking nostalgically about the home they have been forced to leave. as if they have now become one. Bogura. The one good fall out of the Pakistan army crackdown was the new realisation among the people of both Bengal of the futility of communal hatred. One Pagla Baba. but life has not come to a complete standstill. How long can the fight go on with no money. In spite of the political division. Since they had nothing to do. After the first flush of enthusiasm. In desperation. nobody objected when the government of India introduced extra postage stamps to meet the cost of the refugees. What would be their next plan? No country. they whisper. The city too is groaning under pressure of the population arriving from across the border. In the all-pervasive rain. they are being driven out. thousands of exiled people like Mamun stood near the windows. Apart from providing for them. known for his clairvoyance has predicted that he would soon bring the boys back safely. Go and have a look at the refugee camps. All the Bangla euphoria will change into a tilt towards the Arab countries. all the freedom fighters are sitting idle. They are delighted at the prospect of dismemberment and the consequent weakening of Pakistan. Language is proving to be a stronger bond than religion. It was raining in Dhaka. A great majority are Hindus. People willingly donated a day's pay. He paid no attention to the heated arguments among a group on the other side. Are they going to settle here permanently? Such doubts however cannot be expressed publicly. the same people will turn into our enemies. not given to emotion. Some countries have sent some help to ease their conscience but so far nobody has any solution to offer. . How many have been killed and thrown into the river is anybody's guess. Sirajul has been taken to some undisclosed destination in India for special training. Once everything settles down. just moral courage. It was raining in Rajshahi. Pessimism is giving way to fear. chatting or just brooding in the camps. they should have kept in touch — that seemed to be the prevailing feeling. It has been raining in Calcutta too. the apprehension of riots looms large. arms. Tangail. But surprisingly. All action of the Mukti Bahini had come to a sudden halt in Dhaka.

Even the sympathisers of the movement have gone back to work. All the streets having Hindu names in Dhaka have been renamed.The rain continued in Karatia. Natiapara. The Hindus are instigating trouble with support from Hindu India — this is what is being spread in West Pakistan. Pakulla. inhuman crime. the situation has not changed under Pakistan rule. a good many have changed colour and turned to the Pakistani despots. Besides. But if a Hindu becomes a Muslim for some motive. their lives revolve round a circle of about ten-mile radius. Mirzapur. To the great crowd gathered to see the fun. Asit Neogy. They are not Allah's feresta. What is there to see. Those Hindus who were obliged to stay have been converted to Islam. The crowd came forward to distribute sweets to the new converts. A section of the youth of Bangladesh have joined the liberation struggle. to be used by the Pakistani army for espionage. so there is no way to escape either. Propaganda against the Hindus has been intensified. factories have been forced to reopen. Kalihati and other villages covering the entire sky over Bengal. The rebels have been eliminated. Professor Abdul Khalek. Dulal Karmakar. fishermen are out with their boats. A grand conversion ceremony began in the biggest mosque in Tangail. were trained in the rituals of ajju and kalema. Dulal Karmakar and the rest went back home as Rahimuddin. In spite of the downpour the farmer is out in the field. To a great majority of these people concepts like country. Under Hindu zaminders they scarcely got two meals a day. the funniest part is they can get away with loot and arson. Gopalpur. he will be killed. Low caste Hindus like sweepers. The youngsters just follow the leaders. not Muslims yet. colleges. They get food. banks. may be just a little less. It matters little to them if the rulers of Rawalpindi. In a public meeting in Tangyle. driving away the Hindus and other destructive efforts. they have no idea that there is anything wrong in being a Razakar. Bhuapur. Jagannathgunj. professors. They are still kafers. Neyamatpur. Among them are teachers. Islamabad or Dhaka speak in Urdu or Bangla. offices. Bhatkura. barbers. washermen. About three hundred Hindus with names like Nikunjabehari Saha. Abdul Khalek shouted angrily. Badal Basak etc. No other religious community has the right to live in an Islamic state. Schools. Of the ninety seven percent of the population who had voted for Mujib. Each was presented a cap. The stomach is indeed as powerful as god. the Secretary of a Peace Committee declared that only Muslims will live in Pakistan. the weavers are busy at the looms even the beggar woman is going from door to door notwithstanding the rain. In the name of Islam they do not balk at any heinous. cobblers will be allowed to stay because Muslims do not go for such lowly jobs. Conversion to another religion is a small matter. money and arms — that are what matters. Pathrail Chandi. were lined up outside the mosque. A list of names has already been made. Naturally they find nothing wrong if the army crushes down on the Hindu secessionists. The Peace Committees have been given great power. They have never been to Dhaka. another section have formed the Al Badr and Razakar groups. But an air of festivity prevailed. Those Hindus who had refused to desert their ancestral land were panicky. freedom has no meaning. Presidents of Zila Parishads who are active members of the so called Peace Committees and participants in genocide. Nikunja Saha. Kodalia. Kalimuddin . Haripada Sarkar. One can be driven to any length for dear life.

and so on. Then it was the turn of the Hindu women. A short cut process was adopted for the women-in-purdah. As the Imam uttered the kalema from the other side of a saree stretched out like a curtain, the women repeated his words sobbing all the time, a cheer went up from the spectators waiting outside. The new converts, anxious to prove their loyalty flocked to the mosques in large numbers, outnumbering the old Muslims. Not accustomed to kneeling for prayer, the new converts often lost their balance. A Maulavi was kind enough to permit such persons just to come to the mosque and watch. Among the curious crowd were a handful of young men who came with a totally different purpose. They were identifying the people committing excesses. When the time comes they would have their vendetta; not a single culprit would go unpunished. The Pakistani army had brought about a semblance of normalcy in the entire country. But in Tangail sub-division itself a secret group was active. The leader of the extremely powerful brigade was one Qadir Siddiqui, popularly known as Thunder. He had left college to join the army but came back again, rejoined college and made a name as a student leader. Tall, handsome, with beard and whiskers like Fidel Castro, he was well known as a leader of the Tangail Awami League and younger brother of Abdul Latif Siddiqui, an elected member of the Jatiya Parishad. Tangail, sixty miles from Dhaka was unaffected on the fateful twenty-fifth of March. But the frantic exodus from Dhaka started the next day, the news of the army crack down on innocent citizens reached Tangail. One eyewitness from Dhanmondi spoke of the way Mujibur Rahman was pushed into a car amidst cannon charge and taken to an unknown destination. Naturally the elected representatives and leaders of all parties had to organise some kind of defense. An armed brigade was formed. Sheikh Mujib, anticipating arrest had already recorded a speech, which was now broadcast over the radio. He had asked the Bengali people to go on fighting for freedom till their last drop of blood. The red, green and golden flag of Bangladesh replaced the Pakistani flag from all offices and buildings except the Circuit House, which housed one company of soldiers of the Second Bengal Regiment. Of the five officers two were Punjabi. Were the Bengali soldiers willing to join the Mukti Bahini? Why then did they keep the Pakistani flag flying? Already the police and the Ansar troop had surrendered but till the soldiers in the circuit house surrendered, Tangail was not safe. One midnight, a motley group of about seventy-five marched towards the circuit house armed with outdated three-o-three rifles and a few extra guns. As they were crossing the river some of the overzealous among them fired a few rounds. Instantly the army opened fire from the circuit house. The Chinese machine guns roared, crushing the amateur soldiers to death. The silence of the night was broken by the terrible boom of the canons. Qadir found himself alone with just a few of his followers. Knowing that they were ill-equipped to face a trained army, Qadir waited till day break. Then he procured some microphones and blared a message to the Bengali soldiers of the Second Bengal Regiment. He did not stop till contact was established with the Bengali Subedar and finally the Bangladesh flag fluttered over the circuit house.

The next to join the Mukti Bahini was a brigade of East Pakistan Rifles. With them Qadir and his followers proceeded to a face to face encounter with the Pakistani army coming to Tangail to teach them a lesson. In the first clash the Pakistani army was caught off guard, they lost some vehicles and men. But when they began to charge the Mukti Bahini had had no chance before the barrage and machine gun strafing from helicopters. Pakistani flags fluttered again from the police stations. Political leaders went underground . . . Some fled to India. Qadir with his men and whatever resources he could mobilise, fled to the hilly tracts. He built his own brigade with patience and courage. They made sudden forays and destroyed Pakistani army installations, looted weapons. Nobody could see them. An award of one lakh was declared for Qadir, dead or alive. The villagers were warned. Any help to Qadir would be punished with burning down of property. Yet the villagers gave him shelter and food. Qadir also finished off the agents of the enemy after an open trial. Everybody including criminals were afraid of Qadir. Rumour spread that Qadir alias Thunder possessed supernatural powers. He was renamed Tiger and his group was called Qaderia Fauz. Other Mukti Bahirii groups had withdrawn to the Indian border and crossed over to India. The Indian Border Security Force trained them in guerilla-warfare. How the Qaderia force was carrying on by itself seemed incredible. Neither the temporary government of Mujib Nagar nor the Indians were ready to believe their existence at first; but by intercepting wireless message of the Pakistani force, they were convinced. The impregnable Pakistani bastions were in disarray by their hit and run attacks. Some foreign newspapers expressed surprise at their mode of operation. It came to be known that a well-disciplined army of six thousand freedom-fighters have been formed under Qadir Siddiqui. In the open encounter at Ghatail Dhalapara, Qadir was badly wounded. There was rejoicing in the Pakistani camp, that Qadir was dead. But their joy was short lived. A wounded Qadir, trudging one hundred fifty miles on foot, crossing several rivers, surfaced in India to a hero's welcome. He was truly speaking a tiger. After his treatment was over, Qadir, taking great risk and went back to his own area. He wanted to be with his own men and carry on war till Tangail was free of the invaders. His forces did something incredible on the river Dhaleswari. Seven steamers and ships loaded with men and ammunitions were going north. Since Tangail and surrounding areas were under Pakistani army control, the ships were not keeping a sharp vigil. But order had reached Qadir's unit at a tiny riverside village to destroy those ships. But how could a small guerilla unit accomplish such a miracle? But such large amount of ammunitions would strengthen the arms of the army in the north. The Mukti Bahini on the other hand needed arms badly. So they were determined to accomplish the impossible. Commander of the small unit, Major Habib lay in wait with his troops. In fact he had made a trip round one of the ships dressed as a fisherman and chatted to the soldiers on board. They were in a relaxed mood.

Habib’s total strength was his eighteen men, three two inch mortars, six LMGs, some rifles and one rocket launcher. The seven ships sailed by, at an equal distance, as Habib's men watched from their hide out, eager to start firing. But Habib had strict instructions that nobody was to start the offensive before he gave the signal. One ship passed, the second, then the third, the boys were getting restless, but their commander sat like a statue. A large sandbank stretched in the middle of the river. The water was deeper on the eastward channel that was the route taken by the ships. Habib and his men waited on the east bank. Then the last two ships, larger than the others came into view, ammunitions covered with tarpaulin, on which sat soldiers, cracking jokes. As they came within range Habib's LMG began spraying bullets, followed by simultaneous action by his boys. Strangely enough, there was no reply. After the first group was shot to death, the others jumped into the river. The other ships, instead of coming to help increased their speed and fled towards Sirajgunj. That the Mukti Bahini would dare to launch an attack was beyond their wildest imagination. The last two ships were packed full of gunpowder and firearms. An explosion could blow them up any minute. The two ships ran aground on the sandbank. Habib, the dare devil that he was, got into one of the ships with some men. The deck was strewn with dead bodies. The entire stock of millions of cartridges, bullets, canons and mortar lay at their disposal. Volunteers rushed from adjoining villages, helping them unload the arms. About five hundred men working for six hours could not even take away a fourth of the stock. But time was running out, any moment the Pakistanis would be back. After the boats had moved to safe distance, the ships were set on fire. For the next three days explosions went on intermittently from the burnt ships. Pakistani army, air force launched a fierce bomb attack but by that time Mukti Bahini had left the area. As they retreated, they went on destroying bridges. This was how arms costing twenty-one crores of rupees were destroyed by a handful of Bengali youth, rank amateurs, who had never even held a gun a few months ago.

42

SIRAJUL took off from Agartala. To be on a flight was beyond his wildest imagination. Airplanes
were something he had watched from the ground, carrying well-dressed people in suit and tie. But on this flight he was pleasantly surprised to find common people, carrying bag-full of vegetables. In fact he himself was better dressed with clean clothes, a pair of Reds. He has taken two sets of clothes.

It was a clear day. From the window they could spot farmers ploughing, herds of cattle, little houses. Soon this was gone. They saw forests and hills and finally a wide river, tiny boats sailing on the water. Could this be the familiar Meghna wondered Sirajul with a heavy heart. He did not know Indian planes flew over Bangladesh. He asked Motin who from the next seat was straining to have a view, What river is that? Motin had no idea of geological features seen from high above. He could not tell. Nirmal and Jehangir in the seat in front constituted their team. None of them had any knowledge of where they were being taken. Presently pretty airhostesses served tea and a food packet containing two sandwiches, one chop and a sweet. They exchanged glances. Even yesterday they lived on tasteless khichri amidst mud and squalor, the bitter smell of bleaching powder. And look at them now, eating sandwiches wearing babu-like clothes. This was exactly like what happens in films. Within an hour the plane landed at Dumdum airport. This then was Calcutta. Sirajul had been hearing all sorts of stories about this city from one of his uncles who used to work here. People often get lost here, the shops are open all night, and you can get just about everything, even tiger's milk if you have the money. What he has been hearing now in the camps were more or less the same stories. Leaders like Tajuddin, Syed Nazrul Islam and Commander-in-Chief Colonel Osmani were in this city now. The Naxals kill policemen in the streets, bombs explode every now and then but that does not stop musical concerts. The singer Debabrata Biswas, Sirajul's most favourite can be seen in such functions. Sirajul's heart beat faster. He began to fantasize, Col. Osmani patting his back, telling him, I have heard a lot about you. You would be given much greater responsibility now. The four of them along with about thirty more such men were put into a covered army truck. A convoy of four such trucks left the airport and turned right. Soon they were passing through the countryside, as lush and green as in their own country, the same paddy fields, mud huts, bullock carts, many of the pedestrians looked Muslim. The only difference was the prevailing peace. Nobody bothered to look at the convoy. When it was late afternoon the convoy left the road, drove across fields to stop at a place circled with trees. Between forty and fifty tents were set up there, armed soldiers standing guard. They were made to stand in a line. A Punjabi officer welcomed the Mukti soldiers and said today they could relax, play volleyball if they wanted. In the evening there are film shows in the canteen. Training will begin from five-thirty tomorrow morning. He had just one request, not to leave the camp without permission. Sirajul and the three others were accommodated in the same tent. You know something? Said Jehangir, excitedly. This is Plassey. I saw the road sign. Which Plassey, of the history books? Asked Motin. Is there any other Plassey? This is a historical site. Murshidabad and Berhampur must be close by.

There are quite a lot of mango trees, said Nirmal. Must be that famous mango orchard of Plassey. Let us look around. The camp was spic and span. The canons attached to a dozen armoured-cars looked quite unused. They went close but nobody stopped them. In front of the officers quarters a volleyball match was in progress. All were non-Bengali jawans in khaki shorts and vests. One Sardar fellow asked them to join but the Mukti soldiers were keen to look around. They entered the canteen. It was a hall with tiled roof. A screen for showing pictures hung on the wall. There was a table tennis table too. They could buy things like cigarettes, chocolates, soaps, blades and things like that. They did some shopping with the two hundred Indian rupees they were given before embarking. Things seemed pretty cheap. Jehangir bought ten bars of chocolate for five rupees. I never thought I would ever have a chocolate again, he said sadly, popping one into his mouth. They watched Doctor Kotnis Ki Amar Kahani, a film about an Indian doctor working for the revolutionaries in China. A very noble story, but with no songs or dances. Indians do not get along with the Chinese now, whispered Sirajul. Why are they showing it in the army barrack? It is an old film, explained Nirmal. They are showing Mughal-e-Azam this Saturday, saw it on the notice board, informed Motin. That is a good one. They stretched out on their cots after dinner and smoked. None of them could sleep, everything had a new, unfamiliar smell. You know, said Motin. The armoured cars we saw to-day. The sight of them used to scare us in the streets of Dhaka. We touched the same kind of cars! My father used to be a post-master somewhere in this Murshidabad district. He opted to the other side after partition. Just think I am here to have training, the place my father chose to leave. Remember sixty-five? Said Sirajul. India was our enemy number one. And we are lying in their camp. Isn't that funny? How times change. All the big officers of the Indian army seem to be Punjabis. Our majors, captains too are Punjabi. Some turn out to be friends, some are enemies, isn't that confusing? I could have died in Indian bombing, I was stuck in Lahore. Look at me now, having chicken and chapati in the Indian army camp. Destiny, I call it destiny. Jehangir was philosophical. The chicken curry was a little too hot don't you think? Asked Nirmal. Sirajul was suddenly reminded of Monira who was fond of hot food. He sighed and turned over. They woke up at the bugle sound next morning at quarter to five. It was still dark outside but they sprang up to get ready. They had to fall in within fifteen minutes. The first few days they had

physical training and jogging. This was followed by a week of swimming practice in a tank and a canal, both overflowing with rainwater. They were divided into small groups and competitions were held. How much time each could spend under water was timed carefully. Sirajul was the best in swimming under water. One midnight they were woken up. A group of about twelve was taken to a river, a drive of about fifteen minutes. In the pitch dark they had to swim across the river with a pair of fins attached to their feet. This made swimming easier and soundless. This practice went on for some nights. Then something very dramatic happened. A brightly-lit launch was anchored in the middle of the water, dream like in its beauty. Brigadier Gyan Singh gave them limpet mines. They had to swim to the launch and attach them to the body of the launch very quietly. A group of four, led by Sirajul were to finish the job in half an hour. For Sirajul it was a simple job. This river called Bhagirathi was also known as Ganga. The current was not too strong. Sirajul rubbed oil all over his body and slid into the water swam to the launch where a party seemed to be in progress. They stuck the mines and swam to the shore. Within minutes sounds of machine gun firing rent the air. Strong searchlights were turned on towards the shore. Shadows of people hurrying and scurrying could be seen. What was the matter, was it a Pakistani boat? They were not told anything. They ducked in and swam under water. When they reached the shore more surprises were in store. There was nobody waiting for them. Did they leave thinking them to be dead? If this happens to be under the Pakistani army, not one moment was to be lost. Carrying Motin who was injured they ran for life. They followed the road by which they had come. What made them desperate was the fact that did not have arms with them. After a while the lights of their camp could be seen. Brigadier Gyan Singh was waiting for them. He took Sirajul in his arms and congratulated him. You have made it. Bravo. Excellent timing! Now they understood. The whole thing was a part of their training. Motin's injury was not serious, he was more nervous than hurt. The shots were fired at the sky. What had hit Motin was a mere splinter from a cracker. We have great good news, said the Brigadier. A twenty-year Friendship Treaty has just been signed between Soviet Union and India. Gromyko is in Delhi. He has announced that if India were attacked the Soviet Union would stand by us. There was jubilation in the camp, feasting and dances. Some jawans danced Bhangra. The Mukti fighters sang Bengali songs. After exactly a month and five days the training was over. The Mukti fighters were sent to Calcutta and put up in a flat in Ballyganj Circular Road. Their time was all their own now. They moved around, visited the Free Bangla Radio Station, Nakhoda mosque, the Victoria Memorial, Rabindranath's ancestral home at Jorasanko, tasted the celebrated rumali roti and mutton chop of Chitpur's Royal Hotel. Sirajul wanted to meet Colonel Osmani, an appointment was also made. Then they were persuaded to go to the maidan to attend a meeting in support of Bangladesh where many writers and artists would be present. Sirajul hoped his favourite singer Debabrata Biswas would be

there. But just as he had stepped on the grass, crossing the street, he heard a woman's voice, You are Sirajul, aren't you? She could have knocked him down with a feather. All these days Sirajul had only thought of Monira. The thought of Monju had never crossed his mind. Suddenly he saw an extremely beautiful woman before him, everything else vanished from the scene. Monju was also kindness incarnate, she had been a saviour in their time of distress. Monjubhabi! He exclaimed. Babulbhai is all right. Where are you staying here? How are you? Monju had tears in her eyes. She felt as though she had met a long lost relative. Her voice shook as she asked when did you come to Calcutta, Sirajul? Why didn't you come to see us? I had no idea of your whereabouts. Everybody knows Mamunmama at the Bangladesh mission. Sirajul, where did you meet my husband? Where is he right now? We are in the same camp. Babulbhai has recovered now, completely. Recovered from what? You don't know? Yes of course. How would you? Well, nothing much. He was shot in the leg. He is a freedom fighter, now he has changed. You are alone Sirajul, where is Monira? Monira? His companions tried in vain to stop Monju from asking but Monju could not interpret their warning looks. She asked again. Why did she not come? Sirajul sank on the ground, oblivious of the place and the time. His friends carried him to a nearby place, they sat under a rain-tree. As Sirajul recounted his tale of woe, both Monju and he shed copious tears. But Mamun would be released from the hospital today, so Monju had to leave. She asked the entire party to have lunch with her the next day. She would write a letter to Babul. Wiping their tears they went their different ways. But as they returned to their flat, they found the sour looking Major Chopra waiting for them. Pack up your things, he said. You have to leave tonight by an air-force plane. Leave to-night? But where? Asked Sirajul, agitated. No questions. It's an order. He would not listen to their pleadings to stay for one more day in Calcutta. Finally Sirajul protested. He was not bound by Major Chopra's orders. His order has to come either from a commander of the Mukti Fauj or the government of Bangladesh. Listen my dear chap, explained the major. Operation Jackpot will begin from tomorrow, for which you have been given training. We are not going to force you if you back out of panic. You are

neither the Indian army nor BSF recruits. It is your war, now if you do not want to go ahead that is your choice. You are free to go where you please. There was no question of backing out. Of course we want to join the operation, said Sirajul. It is just one more day that we want here. No way, Major Chopra was quite firm. The timing is determined after calculating a lot of factors like the full moon, tide, weather, the speed of the breeze and so on. Your commanders, not us, will control operation Jackpot. We are not in the war. We just provided you training because you wanted it that's all. One hundred fifty were given special training, out of which sixty have been selected finally. You are among them. But if you prefer to stay on, have a good time, go ahead. You won't be called again. His arguments were invincible. When do you want us to be ready, Major Saheb? Asked Jehangir. So, he won't be able to meet Monjubhabi after all. Sirajul was put off. However they were permitted to stop for ten minutes on their way to the airport to say good bye to Monjubhabi. They touched the knees of Mamun who sat crosslegged on the bed. Sorry bhabi, apologised Sirajul. Could not make it this time. May be when we come here next time or when you go back to Dhaka, do write a few lines to Babulbhai, the air force plane won't wait for us. So they were freedom fighters, on their way to a major operation. Mamun stared at the boys. He has never looked at a freedom fighter so close. He was old and sick, not used to fighting with arms but a part of him wanted to accompany these brave hoys to the battlefield. Have you met Babul? Asked Mamun. So he is all right. I am so relieved. Where is Altaf? He too is a freedom fighter, I believe. It was a passing phase, said Sirajul with ill-concealed contempt. Nobody knows his whereabouts. But Babulbhai has surprised everyone. He does not know what is fear. He is right in front in every action. Monju listened to Sirajul with pride mixed with pain. She scribbled a note very fast, most of which consisted of the same phrase: take care of yourself. Mamun climbed down from the bed to pat them on the back as if he were sending his own sons on a dangerous mission. Bless us, Mamun saheb, said Sirajul, so that we may come back successful. To everybody's surprise, Mamun burst out crying. He mumbled something nobody could follow. The car was already honking downstairs. Sirajul almost snatched the letter from Monju's hand who put it hurriedly in an envelope and said in a voice choked with emotion, Do tell him to send me a reply in whatever way he can. As Sirajul was about to leave Monju clasped his hand. You will get Monira back, I tell you, you will.

a suspect was shot then and there. Which village are you guys from? He asked. returning from the market. He was a rascal. Fulcharighat and Arichaghat. Next morning they set out on foot. The man was not convinced. They passed the armed Pakistani soldiers guarding the waterfront and got into a boat. Operation Jackpot was a simultaneous raid on the two sea ports of Chittagong and Mangala and riverine ports like Chandpur. a loose silk kurta. Naturally the return passengers were fewer. Khulna. how much? They are not for sale. Goalando. so Sirajul had no chance to meet Babul. The boat sailed. the most important target. We have bought them. Meanwhile they had changed their clothes into those of ordinary villagers.They flew to Agartala. the two majhis and a strong looking man with close cropped hair. Narayangunj. From the market they bought some vegetables and fish. He was eyeing the seven young men with suspicion. a journey of four days. Their destination was Charlaksha. He must be a big boss of the Peace Committee. Asugunj. The curfew made it imperative that they walk by day. about six gold rings in his fingers. beyond Chittagong. across the river Karna Phuli. Sirajul gave Nirmal a meaningful look. The reply was well rehearsed. taking out the vegetables one by one. He picked up a gourd from one of the baskets and charged. From the back Nirmal struck a blow and pushed the man into the river. But the guerillas active in the city had procured an ambulance. people were coming in. The difficult bit was going through Chittagong. To assure the other passengers Jehangir folded his hands and said. Ignoring his explanation the man said. Their guide would be changed from time to time. In the boat were some women and children. There was only one way open for them though they were instructed to avoid unnecessary trouble. Daudkandi. Sirajul was commanding one of the three units in charge of the Chittagong raid. His friends were in the same unit. carrying a big basket. The man struggled to raise his head above water but Sirajul leaned and kept his head under water. Nagarbari. Very soon he would get to the arms hidden in sacks under the vegetables. They wore lungi. you live in Lalsha and haven't heard of me? You ask me to believe that? He groped into the baskets. . They got down near a market by the riverside. scratching his abdomen under the lungi. they crossed seven check posts. There were check posts at street corners. said Sirajul politely. The same night they were taken to Horina camp. At last they felt relieved and began to smoke. Barisal. Karta. torn and tattered vests and a gamcha on the shoulder. Please don't be scared. The market was yet to pick up business. He instructed the boatmen to row on. But during the day jeeps fitted with machine guns made rounds. The chances of being caught were so considerable that substitute units were kept in waiting. Early morning after the curfew was lifted Sirajul's party was put in.

Al Abbas with its 1041 tons of ammunitions was anchored at jetty 12. led by commander Bachchu. Jehangir was the most educated of the lot. He was aware of the fact that music broadcast from the BBC was used as coded message during the Second World War. . After twenty-four hours a second song would be played. It was dark this side. He spent the whole day listening to the radio while the others cooked or took a nap. Hormuz had 9910 tons of stuff. Strong searchlight beams combed a good part of the water surface for intruders.V. if anyone happened to spot him. The second party arrived in the evening. the Orient Barge had 276 tons. and catch up on sleep. a group of young swimmers crossed over to the port. they were absolutely fagged out. The mission was a hundred percent success. Sirajul sprang into attention. If you don't come back do you think we will? Sirajul smiled. Get ready. then did some work out. Will you do something for me? In case I do not come back. he whispered. During the last part of the vigil. The largest liner M. had a short nap. The duty of the port guards would be over at two when a new group would take over. The searchlight fell on him. The next day an old song was beamed. Saigal. The most daring of them all. All they had to do was to let them float with the current. They promptly fell asleep.They changed boats and reached Charlaksha under a scorching sky. Next afternoon while the transistor was playing an old favourite of K. said Sirajul. There were other gun boats and barges too. Any moment he could be a target of the guards. Each was allotted a particular ship. but the brightly lit jetties of Chittagong port could be seen. The commander of the other unit knows it. What was that song? I have not been told about that. He fished out an envelope from his pocket. They had early dinner. Exactly at one they slipped into the water. Not a word! Nothing has happened. This fact was also taken into account in planning the operation. Fins attached to their feet. We have just twenty-four hours. By now to their advantage the ebb tide had begun. getting back is tougher than reaching the target. For us. the sentries were usually less alert.V. I like that. The tide was over. All India Radio blared songs. including cannons and tanks. The limpet mines were attached.L. Bachchu announced. and clung to the body of the ship. Motin and Jehangir started discussing the incident in the boat but Sirajul interrupted. M. ebb tide was yet to begin. Sirajul went beneath the Hormuz and surfaced on the port side. The night passed without a hitch. How about listening to music? He switched on the transistor he had brought hidden in the basket. The water was still. After a comparatively dangerous transit. exclaimed Jehangir. hand this letter to Babul Choudhury. At 6. One hour after midnight! That is the zero hour. We will eat. The next party is on their way. Two huts were kept ready for them.

cried his friends. Where are the Mukti soldiers. They began brush firing the villages. By now the rescue team had arrived. He turned back and began to run in the direction of the village. Overhead a helicopter flew towards them. They are burning down houses. he screamed. Son of a swine! He ran to the village firing his machine gun. The end of the world has come. Patia is on fire. sending shock waves through the entire city. they began interrogating the villagers. a stranger. yelled Sirajul with all his might. The very next moment. To go back would be suicidal.40. coming. Suddenly Sirajul stopped in his tracks. Haramzada. Come back. She could only identify Rabindranath. But Sirajul seemed to be possessed. As the sun rose the Pakistani helicopters came flying and the army in launches. breaking away from the pull of his compatriots.The first explosion went off at 1. Sirajul was pierced to the ground. How can he go back without her? I am coming. They are dying for us. The unit ran along the bank. They had no time to turn back. But Sirajul. awaiting the arrival of volunteers who would show then the way. The guerillas are not supposed to face the enemy. After five minutes a bigger explosion followed. The great Hormuz was sinking. Sirajul. Monira. They had to follow commands. But in the wailing of the women Sirajul could hear Monira. thought the alarmed citizens. Is this Babluda’s room by any chance? But where is he? . 43 AFTER flying across the great expanse of the Atlantic. The shooting was about to begin. The villagers were lined up. The room was full of posters and pictures of various people. Sharmila. Che Guevara. But it was not for them to argue or look back. realising this put her to bed right after reaching the Brooklyn apartment. Sirajul and his unit reached village Patia. His voice was drowned in the roar of a helicopter. a scene they did not have to witness. This was a common reaction and they were told to guard against it during training. Sheikh Mujib and Maulana Vasani. a dark and lovely girl in a pink nightie sleeping next to her. Then a series of blasts shook the air. Next morning Oli woke up very early to find herself in a place she had never seen before. Hai Allah! Jehangir struck his own forehead. Instead of going back to Charlaksha. He has gone mad. Oli was so overcome with jet lag that she was hardly in a condition to talk or even keep her eyes open. all his suppressed emotion and tension released after the completion of the mission lost his head.

somebody had said. On the way back from the airport there were other people in the car. It looked as if Sharmila lived here but the books scattered on the table had a Muslim name scribbled on them. What could be the reason? Did he know about Babluda already? Babluda had all the time acted quite distant. however hungry she might be. The window opened to a view of a garden and a rain soaked street beyond. Where has Babluda gone. Where is it? Did she lose it in the plane. As she could not help looking at her own image in the mirror on the back of the bathroom door. it can't be. the key was not there either. but Oli could not bring herself to opening a fridge belonging to a stranger. The houses were taller and larger than those in England. A remark overheard in the car last evening came back to her. Would Baba wait for two years? At the Dumdum Airport she had sensed a kind of despondency on his face. no. Here she was in a strange country without money. Immediately the thought came back that she has lost her money and travelers cheques. It was not in her handbag. For her this room was America. Then she was brought here. like Tutuldi married a Muslim? What is her relation with Babluda? No. She pulled the curtains back and looked at the landscape from a considerable height. Oli could not remember. She peeked into the toilet to find her own sari hanging from the shower screen. The fridge must be stuffed with food. nothing at all about his own people in Calcutta. She felt famished. Has Sharmila. Her suitcase stood by the wall. Of course she has seen nothing of the country yet. She would certainly go back after a two-year stint here. She thought of her father. she felt tears welling up. She went into the bathroom to change back to her own sari in great haste. For some time she wept for no apparent reason. a border less yellow half-silk was not her own. She took out her tooth-brush and tooth-paste from the bag and brushed her teeth quickly. leaving her here. Who changed her dress? The thought made her blush a deep red. still locked. She searched her other bag for the key. Gradually the memory of last evening came back. The sari she was wearing. He asked general questions about the London weather. As far as she knew the famous Brooklyn Bridge was in New York. they were going to Brooklyn. No. Now she remembered. the cars were bigger. with an implicit understanding of trust. She felt uncomfortable in other people's clothes. This Sharmila is a nice girl. he had no son to take it over. as if she had a plane to catch. she wondered. She changed into a sari Sharmila had given her. Oli had learnt quite a lot about the publishing business. From the way Sharmila was talking to Babluda. did he really want her to go? His idea was that Oli should take charge of his business. quite different from the . This apartment must be on the sixth or the seventh floor. For all his enthusiasm to send her abroad. cars parked on both sides. they were looking for the key of the suitcase.She got up and tiptoed out to the common passage leading to other apartments. so kind of her to offer her sari. How is New York different from Brooklyn? She had no idea. Let Sharmila wake up. Oli liked her mild manners though she had expected Babluda would come alone to receive her. Babluda kept quiet most of the time. Yes. not even touching her hand. Attached to this room was a kitchenette and a toilet.

Sharmila rubbed her eyes. She wished the pickpockets on the London tube had spared her this humiliation. She put the kettle on the stove and kept on chattering. The old professor and Pulitzer Prize winning writer. It was a question of life and death. She was using the familiar tumi. She opened her eyes and beaming all over asked. But suppose she wakes up late like Bishakha in London used to do on holidays? It was quarter to seven. so hurt that she felt numb. But within minutes of setting foot in New York she felt the common ground of faith between them slipping away. She was nothing to write home about. You have not had tea or coffee. Sitting up. Oli nodded. tall and slim. But she was sleepy too. Perhaps the invisible waves touched Sharmila. She does not know about Oli. Oli drew close to the bed and eyed Sharmila critically. No. She sighed. we offered him the sofa but hut he was adamant. have you? After all you are not familiar with the place. he lives with a girlfriend. You know what fun we had last night. How do you feel now? OK? Again. I too landed here only day before yesterday. rich hair but cut short. But it was too late. It was after a long separation of three years that she was meeting Babluda. She must have wanted to hide her sorrow in sleep . and hurt. If only she had money with her. she would have started for Maryland right away. Oli reciprocated. . almost knocked out. Bablu would not sleep here with two girls. we chatted till late at Siddhartha's apartment on the eighth floor. she was not acting innocent. Then circumstances beyond their control tore them apart. . by a couple of years at the most. You know you were quite restless in your sleep. Oli's mentor in the university had been corresponding with her regularly. This girl could be a little older than her. as a woman looking at another woman. she was not going to lose him to this girl under any circumstance. shook her head to drive away sleep. We could not possibly share his apartment. she really was. She wiped her tears. that is all. You gave me a fright. I could have gone over to a friend who stays close by. Yet he had always remained close. the feet smooth from wearing socks all the time. It was a terrible blow. There was a decency in the way she stretched herself. She had talked to him on the phone from London. The last meeting was at the bus stand at Siliguri. So this peacefully sleeping girl is very close to Babluda. he has a wonderful collection of Bangla songs. small chin. But how can she go out without a penny in her purse. An apartment is sure to be ready for her there. There was no pretence in her manner. So you are up already? Did you sleep well? Oli nodded. leaving her with total strangers? If Sharmila wakes up she can borrow some money from her. Oli never accused Babluda for that. dainty waist. Where has Babluda gone. Peter Mayer. The apartment belongs to a friend of Siddhartha.way she was talking to the other person driving the car — Oli had no doubt at all about their relationship. By now Sharmila was up on her feet. You went off to sleep. Susan offered to share the same bed with you and . She knew there would never be any misunderstanding between them. the lip line spoke of an honest heart. In fact. she is not angry with Sharmila. No.

replied Oli. We are friends of Yusoof Ali. She informed them. milk and salami from the fridge. Are you homesick? She asked. She continued her chatter. Sharmila put a record on. I poured a glass of water on his head but he was still very drunk. we have come to meet Yusoof. You can look around the city. Where did Babluda sleep finally? Sharmila made coffee. she took it black. She does not even have a dollar with her. nobody minds. Oli bit her lips. The semester is yet to begin. She took out eggs. I mean Bangladesh. tell me. But Bablu would have none of it. after all the bed is big enough for three. Yusoof Ali. Sharmila. Now Sharmila had to come forward. Never mind. I mean Pakistan. Frankly. You need not worry. It is raining. It was just for one night. Do you have his home number? Yes. ever had it before? Tastes quite different. She went on. I know nothing about Yusoof Ali. You know yesterday Bablu and I went grocery shopping. he said. busy with the frying pan asked Oli to attend to the door. After the couple left. boiled or fried? How can I stay here? Oli said. but that is in my suitcase. They must have been . Sharmila began to laugh. don't you think? She did not complete the story of last night. Why am I feeling nervous? Oli asked herself. used to cry a lot and wanted to go back. Oli was not used to coffee. the lady mumbled. The boys and girls here leave home. Would you please put two pieces of bread on the toaster. I used to be. she has come empty handed. We are going to be here for a few days. I can see you are hungry. The boys would sleep for quite a while. in her night dress. Taken aback. For Babluda! Or she was afraid to face a melodramatic scene? A gentleman with a sari-clad lady stood outside the door. Yusoof Ali is not here. This strange conversation was carried out in English between two sets of Bengalis. She offered OH some biscuits with a layer of bacon. How do you like your egg. He is not here. Today is a national holiday. without sugar.me. The bell rang. Can you call it a sacrifice. And you have lost the key. Let us have breakfast. Bablu was high. We are too attached to our families. and Babluda did not even touch that hand. We will drive you down to Maryland. The gentleman looked at the number on the door and repeated. You must be. They always had tea back home. no. Nobody here calls so early in the morning on a holiday. The professor I would be working under wanted me to call him as soon as I reach here. He has gone to India. I have to reach Maryland today for registration. we will think of something. Yusoof. Why should Susan sacrifice for our sake. It is a holiday. That is brown bread.

Sleeping away. but this Yusoof Ali has a good stock. Perhaps they wanted to come in. Where did he spend the night? At an apartment near by. no sign of Bablu yet. . How silly can you get. Do we have to pay for our stay here? Oh no. said Sharmila. People let others use their apartment free of cost. I think there is no harm if we help ourselves to a little bit. cucumber and mustard. Oli was thinking. leaving Oli in a stranger's place. Babluda is the limit. after coming all the way in the rain . He lives alone in an attic in Cambridge. You know your Babluda can sleep till eleven. The flower pots need watering. We will go up later. No. said Sharmila. . You get it. . Make coffee. Replied Oli with a mischievous twinkle. Sharmila was about to make coffee but Oli stopped her. It is eight-thirty. When did you get married? Married? Who said we are married? Sharmila stared at Oli in wonder. god. You know once I poured water in his ears. the fridge would be in use. He is sure to bring tea from home. Oli thought. I won't. so Sharmila was obliged to take it. what do you say? The kettle whistled. sometimes I go and pull him out of bed. He did not even ask about his parents. Oli showed no attempt to pick the receiver. Can I have some tea please. Rumour among his friends in Calcutta. It must be Bablu. no. Oli noticed that she has nice breasts and even the faintest smile lights up her face. But I will never hurt her either. She asked. We didn't buy tea. Susan wants us to join them for breakfast. She poured milk into two big glasses when the phone rang again. He could have shared this room with us. anybody! Meanwhile Sharmila had made sandwiches with salami. she spoke in English. how he screamed. Oli was sitting next to the phone. somebody called Jamini Mukherjee. his comrades.shocked to find two girls in his room. It was not Bablu. I will never admit defeat. I wouldn't know what to say. How do you open the door? I have a key.

Oli kept up the smile. Goodness. It was my dream to come to America. His eyes kept shifting from Oli to Sharmila. before finishing our studies. . they are wonderful people. About an hour later Atin came in along with Siddhartha and Susan. On the other hand you are so pretty. A dark girl in our family! My aunts used to tease me. we are not thinking of marriage yet. But I did not want to settle down so soon. Siddhartha admonished Sharmila for not being dressed. Shounak. May be later. Atin lit a cigarette. Actually Shounak is a very honest person. saying I have liked the bride. Neither did my father. What is wrong? Oli looked the other way. is that it? Oli sat silently. He did not want me to come. We would not have objected. But now I feel that I won't be able to stay on for long. Two years is not a long time. Not again. beautiful and accomplished. Great hostility between Babluda's party and theirs. What does this friend of yours do? He is in active politics. Have I hurt you in any way? Sharmila asked softly. No. What do you mean? You already have someone. You know Protapkaka had asked me to verify. Babluda would be mad if you tell him. When Sharmila came back after clearing the table she found her in the same position. I somehow felt I could confide to you. Sharmila said. staring at the wall. Oh come on. His eyes were still red. How do you know I am accomplished? Besides I am not beautiful at all. lovely weather like rainy season back home. Let us go for a long drive. Why did he not write to us. Smiled Oli. You know Sharmiladi. hair disheveled. Did you sleep well? Atin asked Oli. Let us go out. Actually I made a mistake coming here. I will write to them. Don't want to stay indoor.Blushing furiously. They chatted on. Why should they bring ideological differences to personal level? Please do not tell Babluda just now. Not on talking terms. Sharmiladi. I have a friend. Yes. he said. all the Bengali boys will fall for you. Why? Shounak is an active member of the CPM.

still decorated the wall of the flat. assumed Mamata. still clutching the whip. But soon after Munni came to her. She had plenty of work piled up. now. Mamata had noticed that it had no foreign stamp. He is sitting very still. Mamata. Munni was right. so. obviously bringing some bad news. Mamata touched his shoulder. Pratap in tears! This was as impossible as a tiger eating grass. What is the matter? Pain in the chest again? Pratap shook his head. Please leave me alone. tears flowing down his cheeks. he did have tears in his eyes. What is wrong with Baba? She whispered. Don’t ever leave me. put down the karai from the stove and hurried to the living room to find her husband sitting in the same position. it had remained an integral part of the household furniture. having survived partition and many change of houses. Pratap looked up. will you? She knew her hotheaded husband only too well so Mamata withdrew to the kitchen. Then wiping his eyes he asked Munni. where is Tuntuni? . Mamata found her husband sitting distractedly on the chair which badly needed repair. Pratap's father had bought it on a trip to Puri. 44 THE whip with a metal head. Who is the Hakim Saab thinking of right now? Which unfortunate culprit is due for stern punishment? Startled. its braided leather straps fungus-coated. He sat with the whip in his hand. what do you look like? She asked herself. In spite of Bablu's objection to having it hanging on the wall for no purpose. Pratap grabbed the postcard. Putting down the cup of tea on the table Mamata asked lightly. Apprehensive of his health. my very own. Shounak. many years ago. he replied. Pratap had the good fortune to escape its lashes but he did use it on Bablu once. No. somewhat relieved she asked. you don't have to. his expression a mixture of anger and sorrow. neither utility nor decoration. Who is it from? Don't you want me to read it? Glaring at her. Kanu a couple of times. As she tried to pick it up. I called him but he did not answer. Are you very tall or of medium height? You have a beard? Do you smoke? I will build you up. must be the cause of his disturbed state. A postcard lying on the table. disturbed.Oli moved to the window to look outside. you will be my creation. staring at the floor.

happens. Recently Supriti was critically ill. Soft spoken and mild. Mamata flopped down on the chair opposite and murmured Chordi? She is gone? Certain thoughts are too unpleasant to be spoken aloud but they come to mind nevertheless. Strange irony of fate! Compared to her brother and sister. She was the darling of her parents and did not have to leave them even after marriage. Your Ustadji (former). she had never tried to exert herself in anything. Adieu. your revered mother had made your Chordi her heir. You did not let me read the letter. a TB patient. so with your sister's consent the house has been sold. nor Supriti but Santi of all persons. Mamata had even thought of bringing Santi to them. Pratap appealed. If it were Biswanath. anything urgent? Instead of snapping at her. but she revived. I am sending you one thousand by money order for Tuntuni's marriage. Whatever God wills. it would not have come as a surprise. Her music mad husband used to visit her a couple of times . was the one to go. She will be back by eleven-thirty in any case. Any bad news from Deoghar? Asked Mamata. Can you go and fetch her? Pratap asked Munni. Last Saturday your Chordi had an attack of thrombosis and left us all. but you must go and call her right away. adieu. she had been admitted to a typing school near the Gariahat market. You may recall. This was a bolt from the blue. Chordi is dead. I have decided to spend the rest of my life in Kashi. Most of the money has gone in settling debts. Let me convey to you a piece of good news. God has not been merciful to us in this life. brother. He has murdered Chordi. It is a sin to read such a letter. Not Biswanath. She had no attachment for me lately. Biswanath Guha.Since Tuntuni was not any good at studies. had his days numbered. But Santi thakurjhi! It was a strangely worded letter: My Dear Pratap. his voice hoarse. But what is it Baba. At long last she will have peace. Killer! Pratap struck the table with his fist. protested Munni. But she never came home on time. You don't have to worry about us any more. Go to college a little late. Biswanath. But I don't want to be late for college. but I can't keep it from you. Momo. Santi has had a lacklustre life all through.

Mourning is not observed outside your own country. He had just ordinary cough. Yet Mamata could not help feeling sad for the self effacing sister-in-law who had to go through a lot in her last years. It was only natural that Pratap would feel devastated about his sister. As far as she knew mourning rituals for a sister does not exceed three days. A chubby looking person leaned out of the window. Sold the house! Without letting us know! Then murdered his wife! That man is capable of anything. how is Bardi? Asked Kanu. The letter is dated five days ago. what is the use? That drunkard. But her secure life was shattered once they were obliged to leave their ancestral home and move to Deoghar. don't raise your voice. And what after all could Biswanath do except sell the house. A TB patient does not live this long. that is better for her. she tried to argue. Mamata left him to his thoughts. Tell me. Every time he seems to have gained weight. it took Munni a few seconds to recognise him. Supriti took it very calmly. spitting out paan juice on the street. she will be with Ma. Munni. Munni. Munni went looking for Tuntuni at the typing school. it was all a show head us into believing he had TB. Where on earth does she go then? How was Munni to go back and face Baba? Pondering over various options Munni was just about to cross the street near the Gol Park comer when a Landmaster came to a screeching halt in front of her. the cheat. He can move to Kashi if he wants but I will catch him. There was bad news. his voice cracking with emotion. He has to pay for it.during the year. the shameless crook. She added. . Let Tuntuni wear an iron key next to her skin. Pratap lowered his voice but went on. After all she had not seen Santi for a long period at a stretch. That man had made my sister's life miserable. you need not write to Tutul and Bablu. They will have to be thrown away. Now his cheeks bulged like oranges. perhaps she was too weak to feel any strong emotion. She was content with that. Mamata voiced her thoughts from a more practical plane. In a way she felt grateful. Mamata was thinking of the expensive magur fishes on the frying pan. Didi has to be told in good time. So she went before me. let me give you a ride. What is the use of going to Deoghar. Do we have to observe ashouch? Chordi is dead and you want to know if we have to go for mourning? Pratap was flabbergasted. It was Kanukaka. That he did not decide to come to Calcutta to be a burden on them was a more comforting thought. I am going to Deoghar today. get in. I am not going to let him go unpunished. Kanukaka now owned fifty percent of a cloth shop in Burrabazar. Apparently Tuntuni had stopped attending the classes long ago. Chordi died two days before that. Pratap flared up. Pratap went on. Please. The crook. What do you mean. Ma had called her. Every year he brought gifts of expensive saris to Ma and Pisimoni but nothing for Baba. Let Tuntuni do the sraddha here. He rarely visited them these days. Hey.

This was the opportune moment to give the tragic news to Kanukaka. . Kanu. No chance of getting it back now. Are you mad? Kanu wanted to know why it was hanging there. So it was Biswanath Guha. But in no time Pratap was faced with another explosive situation. After everything was over. You know Munni I had taken my whole family to Deoghar last Puja. Mamata drew near her husband. They are having a civil marriage that day. even though on a small scale. Paresh. I must visit the rest of the family. the god of death. That would be the ultimate compromise. come on. do you remember Santipisi of Deoghar? Of course. right? He is in Kashi and here you are at Calcutta ready to whip him. . In the evening the bride and groom would come to seek their blessings. I paid for a seer of milk every day but she gave it all to jamaibabu. Santi was in the background. He did it on his own. Kanu was a man of action. But for all his affluence. Santipisi was Kanukaka's sister after all. Heirloom indeed! All the brass pots and pans of your mother are left behind in Deoghar. the son of the landlord was her lover and wants to marry her. He was stunned when he heard of her death. get into the car. . The cars behind his car began to honk. Munni. it is a family heirloom. Biswanath jamaibabu had borrowed fifteen hundred from me. it will stay there. Do you really want to know why I had not taken it down? So that my wish to use it does not fade. We stayed in a rented house in Bahanna Bigha. Kanukaka. He proved to be extremely useful in arranging for all the ritual. Tuntuni would stay here and move to her in-laws after the stipulated period of mourning. then Mamata patted him to sleep. I could see that Chordi was quite anemic. one could barely see her face. Mamata brought out a group photograph taken in Deoghar during better days. It does not become you at this age. She put her hand on the broad shoulder of Pratap and went on. my mad little darling. but it needed a lot of running about. A huge palatial building. To think that Chordi . Stop this. Why did you sit with the whip in hand when the postcard came? Who were you trying to target — Yama. Chordi was a kind soul. still quite dazed with shock said. one night at bedtime. Kanu's driver took the car to the side to park properly. But as Paresh's father has died and the family is still in mourning. or Biswanath? Pratap gave no answer. You know. You did not let me bring even a couple of plates. But even in the photograph. Tuntuni had just admitted to Mamata that she was pregnant. Biswanath jamaibabu had everything fixed for me. Munni broached the subject. Why wouldn't I. No only the whip stays as heirloom. they cannot have a marriage ceremony. arranged by friends. That night they made love. to punish whom? No. Mamata lightly brought in the topic of the whip. Pratap never gave him his due recognition. another Majumder of Malkhanagar gone.

You are obliged to forget a lot of what had happened in the past.Instead of feeling happy Pratap burst out in anger. I will look upon you as my father. asked Paresh finally. Tuntuni looking bashful and different in a red Benarasi sari. I am going to take the hide off his back. Munni served them sweets. Are you going to come or not? Do I have to? Asked Pratap. He could not stand the very name of Paresh. their brides are supposed to come with sizeable amount of dowry. thrown bombs! And now I have to welcome him as our son-in-law. She found Pratap lying on the bed. wipe your face. As he entered. He sounded miserable. He turned to the wall. These days you have to put up with a lot of things. play with a girl of this family. Tell me Kakima. he has come to show Pratap that he can do as he likes. in spite of her illness made an appearance to bless the couple. sindoor in the parting of her hair. A festive atmosphere prevailed. No you won't. Mamata kept her cool. He is having his bath. This was his revenge. . the more furious Pratap became. One of them sang three ghazals. turn her out of the house. Mamata tried to pacify her husband. Get up. He will never take Tuntuni to his home. isn't Kakababu at home? Oh yes. They are moneyed people. Everybody stood up. Mamata interrupted Munni who was going to give some excuse. But he could not. to his mother. he felt like saying enough is enough. the girl is lucky that the boy has agreed to marry her. whatever are the circumstances. He refused to believe that they had got married. His neck was hurting. the whip was gone. It is all a lie. The more she argued. the wish to crack the whip must remain with him. From now on. Signing on a bit of paper does not make him a good boy. Pratap felt that this so-called marriage is an insult to his father. Three friends accompanied them. an act of precaution by Mamata. and put on a vest. Pratap felt like giving that rascal a good slap. I don't want to see her face again. Even Supriti. to his Chordi and most of all to him. Don't we have any pride left just because we are poor? Let him enter this house. the singing stopped. Don't be silly. This is the last time. He could feel the eye language of his wife telling him to bless the bride and groom. Besides. What? Marry that scoundrel Paresh? Ask that girl to go and hang herself. I will go and call him. You must have heard that father has passed away. said Mamata sternly. They came later in the evening. Nevertheless Pratap held an imaginary whip in his hand. You will not touch that whip. he said. Suppose he had refused? Have you forgotten what this Paresh had done? How he had threatened us. Now get out. Paresh walked up to him and kneeled at his feet. For a moment.

said Atin. Susan had left. Two apartments at your disposal. . what? Atin did not bother to reply and went on making coffee. You can have my car.He held his palm a quarter of an inch above Paresh's head in a gesture of blessing. You can't make them get ready for the eight o'clock bus. Take your time. No. she has not been there He paused and raised his eyebrows. He buttered his toast quickly. He was careful not to touch him. his voice heavy. Siddhartha picked up the toast which had fallen off in the impact and resumed eating. a real harem. I am sorry. As he fixed his tie in front of the mirror. Apologise! I like that! And all these days I took you to be a friend of mine. from one bed to another! Have fun. so Atin spent the night here. Take the girls around. And take those two babies in your arms. I apologise. you need not cook lunch. I have a mind to punch your nose flat but I do not like physical violence. so Siddhartha was up and ready by seven-thirty. lock stock and barrel. The girls are still asleep. he saw Atin sit up and stare with a dazed look. There is a bus to Boston every hour. I can't stand silly jokes. I will go to the bus station direct. What's the hurry. Siddhartha. Got to take the eight o'clock bus. Take Sharmila to the Gaugenheim museum. Siddhartha. Never set foot in my house again. right now. protested Atin. There is a lot of left over. thanks. 45 TODAY was a working day. We are leaving by the ten o'clock bus. What is the time? Asked Atin. I am taking the tube. said Siddhartha. You don't have to be up so early. get out of my house. How dare you slap me. Without looking up Siddhartha declared. Really. stay at home. man? If you are not in the mood for going out. Turning round Atin slapped Siddhartha hard across the cheek. Will you please fry two eggs for me? Asked his friend. What's the hurry. Atin spoke again. Shut your trap. You can take an evening bus. We have to catch the bus. two girls. I say clear out. up on his feet. I promise. I lost my temper. Get out of my house. you are having the time of your life. no. will you? He shouted. No.

That is precisely the problem. I will not bother you. she was telling me. Oh yea. The chances are fifty-fifty. Getting ready for another slap. At last Siddhartha burst into a loud guffaw. idiot. pure and divinely beautiful. They stood before the door of the other apartment. It could be done if you really wanted. Not a minute more. But she has become so thick with Sharmila. That is unfair. I have to go now. Oh my darling. I have slept with another by mistake. Listen. What would you have done? Me? I should have gone down on my knees at the airport and confessed. and most probably a virgin. I do not deserve your pardon. Chat about this and that. really! Violence before breakfast — most detestable behaviour. But I must say. Siddhartha. Wasn't it exactly like a TV soap? Close friends turn into sworn enemies due to some misunderstanding. But how? There has to be a plausible reason. . That is the reason I am avoiding her. where are my fried eggs? What heroics. I do not want to see your face again. Come on. In other words you mean to keep up your deception for some more time. just give me a little time . Right now. how can I talk to her alone? You talk a lot of rot. . Who do you think will open the door? Siddhartha asked Atin. . .I will. even Susan noticed it. Come with me. the way you are avoiding this new girl. The girl looks so innocent. I am serious. About what? About my relation with Sharmila! I just thought she needs some more time to adjust. Stop it. are you? That was a hard one. There must be something wrong. What you should do now is spend some time with this Oli alone. I will show you. so from now on you and I are going to be brother and sister. If you are determined to tell her everything then it will come out. You can do whatever you wish with those two chits . now I will have to make a clean breast to Oli. I mean it. Why don't you understand this is humiliating for Sharmila as well? She has been through a lot for you and you are dangling another lover before her — this is utterly ridiculous. . I can't lie to her. certainly. Let me take Sharmila with me.

this after all is a new place. Siddhartha left with Sharmila but promptly came back on the pretext of having left his lighter. Don't be silly. He kicked Atin on the seat of his pants. You can come back and sleep some more. hastily dressed. She put the key on the table. of course! Atin go get a loaf of bread. I have to go to the bank on my way to office. but would you do me a favour? Siddhartha was prompt with an explanation. Tit for tat! You take that. I don't have the form with me. make good use of the time. Sharmila came up. Siddhartha was right. He must make a clean breast of it. I do have to go to the bank. understand? He turned back from the door. do you get me rascal? He closed the door with a bang leaving Atin to his thoughts. I'll be back within an hour. I will sign. Listen. If I do not get an all clear from you then I am going to tell Sharmila everything. Sharmila. Oli is not likely to open the door. Forty-five minutes later I will call you from the bank. I'll go a little later. You go ahead. Everything regular! Why don't you make me another cup of coffee. No harm if I put in a loan application. The men came up to their apartment. said Atin. don't dilly dally. Atin has just opened an account. Give me the form. Besides I have to take the guarantor in person. He won't do. What's up? What time is it? She asked. Tell her absolutely everything. Oh Sharmila you look so ravishing with hair uncombed. I am extremely sorry. No. Meanwhile Atin can go out and bring a loaf of bread. All the people at the bank will fall for you. Let Oli sleep. Sharmila opened the door. oh so heavy! He was suffocating. Favour? What favour? Sharmila was still drowsy. you fool. Will you be my guarantor please? Why couldn't Bablu do it? Do I have to go? No. I need a guarantor for a loan. Kiss her if she breaks down but nothing more. I mean it. I hope? Of course. He wished he had died that day. Give me ten minutes. I give you nine minutes fifty seconds. He turned out to be right. He could visualise the blue water swirling around him. said Siddhartha. In less than ten minutes.You are wrong. He stood up to face the inevitable. He is being unfair to both. just a formality. Bring the key with you let Oli sleep. casually dressed. . Yawning and half asleep. The world needed a person like his brother. not him.

after you were gone. How have you been Oli? He asked. you must be mad at me. I was a nervous wreck. Atin watched her. curled up at a corner of the bed. I mean only to confess face to face. Oli. She has gone out. there were so many people around. is he? For god's sake Babluda. Why didn't she call me? What is the time now? She tried to break away from Atin's grip but he would not let go of her hand. Babluda. he has never tried to take advantage. Oli tried to turn away at first. if it was not for Shounak. You can't explain everything in a letter. Blushing furiously. There she was. Atin asked. Where is Sharmila? She wanted to know. Atin knelt down by her bedside. . Shounak Banerjee. Opening her eyes. nobody knew your whereabouts. I am so sorry. his very own! But he realised he can't do that now. Atin flopped down on the carpet and groped for a cigarette. in my time of utter helplessness. His own Oli. I used to feel so lonely. used to work for Pompom's father — so a CPM. took her hand in his and called. Oli stared at the floor. But here you shut the door and you are isolated from the rest of the world. I couldn't wait for you Babluda. how could I refuse the person who was there. He often barged into Oli's room in their Bhowanipur house. Continued Oli. Will be back soon. Oli kept up the guilty tone. found her lying on the bed. He called her softly but there was no response. Somebody from Calcutta must have told you everything. What do you mean? Didn't you notice I have been trying to avoid you. reading. Babluda. He used to work for Pompom's father in his election campaign — Shounak Banerjee. Shounak is a perfect gentleman. What was she trying to say? He had no idea. Atin resisted the temptation to take her in his arms. Pompom was in jail. Varsha took a job and left. asleep.He opened the door without making any noise. But one person stood by me. You know why I came all the way to America? Only for you. like a bird while Rabindranath. can you always judge a person by his party affiliation? Believe me. I was going insane. Please don't get me wrong. with you absconding. Maulana Vasani and Che Guevara eyed him intently from their positions of vantage. even Kaushik. her slightly heaving breasts. So you have become friendly with him? Who is that man? Atin spoke sharply. it would mean an insult to Sharmila. for me. For a few seconds she did not speak. You must have seen him. what is it? What have you done? Keeping her eyes down. In many ways he is like you. Babluda will you excuse me? Frowning. but he understands me. Oli. Did he ever see her sleeping? He could not remember. But that was different. I had no friends.

Yes. was enough to cause a flutter of fear in Bengali hearts. his tone tired. the police as well as the opposition leaders. morose. The telephone rang. Governor of East Pakistan and Military Administrator. 46 EVER since the fateful twenty-fifth of March. old chap? He asked. blushing all the while. hundred percent. Babluda. It was Siddhartha. defeated. all trace of sleep gone. Shounak never speaks a word against Pompom. Oli felt relieved that the topic had moved away from her imaginary boy friend. the name of Tikka Khan. I don't trust a single one of the CPM fellows. Kaushik and their group. I will remain your Oli. He is active. in the house of someone known to Shounak. Obviously that chap has been taking advantage of Oli's vulnerability. She was building up the image of Shounak bit by bit with great care. I will beat the life out of him. tell me everything. All clear. Who is this Shounak. I have given my word to Shounak. smiling faintly. Those CPM fellows believe in elections. Gen. He is CPM. it's just the opposite. Power and money. Careerists the whole lot of them. arresting all Bengali officers of the army. which was the code name for the army crackdown on universities and newspaper offices. If he is trying to trick you into anything. He talks about you quite often. Is it all clear. Operation Searchlight. putting Mujib behind bars and creating an atmosphere of . Lt. Atin seethed with anger. Must be after her father's money. Oli looked up. where is Kaushik now? He broke jail. He has helped us indirectly. please. She went on and on about Shounak. He caught hold of Oli's hand but with a different kind of passion. It was so successful. Tell me. which means you have no contact with Kaushik and the others? No. Atin lifted the receiver. that is what they are after. Admitted Atin. please don't be mad at him.She spoke in a clear voice. just that the relations will be different. Tikka Khan had a temper of steel. Only the eyes were still to be put. In fact he hates violence and wants that sincere workers like Manikda and all should return to the party. And Manikda! Absconding. quite a record in the history of jail breaking. of course Manikda does not know it. you must have heard. I would like to meet this character.

He was experienced and against the Awami League. In fact he proceeded on the journey but was brought back from Karachi by his advisors. untrained in the art of war. After giving orders to put down the rebellious Bengalis at any cost. It would not be safe to go to the East right now when subversive activities are going on. of all people? He felt like chopping off the head of Sheikh Mujib and go back to Dhaka just to show those fellows who are in authority. But indications are that the allies of Pakistan would favour a lessening of military pressure and try to win back the East Pakistanis. Within six months he had restored a kind of normalcy in the towns. was ably conducted by him. Not that Yahya did not try. He was determined to keep Pakistan in one piece. If Pakistan breaks up ultimately.panic. His first choice for a civilian Governor was the elderly Nurul Amin who had been a chief minister in the west. as it was for the sake of duty. he felt a keen heartache. who would be responsible for it — Mujib or Bhutto? As for India's friendship treaty with the Soviet Union. Have another by-election. How can he admit defeat to her. They want to make Pakistan non-Pak. President Yahya Khan left for Rawalpindi under a veil of secrecy. He could not get over the humiliation as a professional chief of army of losing one wing of the nation in spite of the mighty Pakistani army. ready to offer all help. never to return to the east again. the advisors said. According to sources close to him he was stung to the quick by the betrayal of the Bengalis. after all the effort to separate from the idol worshipping Hindus are willing to fall into their clutches. keep the pretence of a democratic structure — that would please the emotional Bengalis. Gen. A. A political solution would be a better idea. who. He closed himself into his room with bottles of alcohol and a couple of women companions. He may be a smart talker but could he extract votes for his party in East Pakistan? When it came to sharing power with Mujib he did not listen to logical arguments. though skirmishes continued along the borders. the Prime Minister of India is a woman. give some power to the people's representatives. Amir Abdullah Khan Niazi. coming back to his senses. Many dignitaries who attended the oath-taking ceremony wondered why at this time of crisis a doddering old man was replacing iron man Tikka Khan. was the next choice. Seventy-five year old Dr. Malik. To make matters worse a new chief of East Pakistan army was installed. Yahya suddenly decided to separate the administration from the army in East Pakistan. Nor would it be a wise thing to chop off Mujib's head because a dead Mujib might turn out to be more dangerous than a live one. order came for his transfer. But Nurul Amin declined on health grounds. one time trade unionist but long retired from politics. these Bengalis. dentist by profession. Occasionally. In early September. After all Pakistan had her allies — China and America. Lt. But that Bhutto of Larkana would not strike a compromise with Mujib.M. They are half Hindus. No matter how much help the rebels get from India. undoubtedly an able person. aided mainly by the Indian army. When Tikka Khan was basking in selfadmiration. couldn't the Pakistani army resist them? Moreover. He suffered no qualms for the blood bath. In his farewell banquet Tikka . Tikka Khan felt humiliated. that did not worry Yahya. With half his power taken away.

. In no time we will recapture those areas. Remember. if India wants a total war it will be on Indian soil. don't you know? General. my dear chap. Niazi loved to brag at the dining table. Yahya made another mistake. Laughed Niazi. That was nothing. even among those who were sceptical about a free Bangladesh. my dear chap.Khan openly voiced his resentment. This embarrassed his Press and Public Relations Officer Siddiq Salik when he bragged in front of foreign correspondents. the son of Begum Jehanara Imam was not among the released. . False statistics and fooling — these two are greatest weapons in war. Where were all the thousands of young men gone who were not chargesheeted? Rumi. This created new hope. Dhaka. But you know what? That is a dirty city. Now the freedom fighters became more daring and indulged in stray attacks. Gen. On land India is no match for us. . Only two hundred prisoners were released from the prison of Joydebpur. Insaallah. But it backfired. Don't you worry Tikka Khan saheb. . Though an experienced soldier. I would rather give it a wide berth. Otherwise your lives will become miserable . In looking for a political solution. He released all arrested persons except those charge sheeted and announced sweeping pardon. Parents like her clung to the hope that perhaps they have fled across the border. he told his colleagues. aren't we fooling ourselves? War has not been declared yet. Soon we will have dinner in the best hotel there. This act of the President only exposed the inhuman tortures of the army. The idea that under pressure from foreign powers. but already 3000 sq miles of our border area are under Indian command. crude jokes bordering on the banal and his love of wine and women like Yahya. Niazi. if you allow me. If Mujib comes back he certainly would not stop at anything but freedom. Amir Abdullah Khan Niazi was known in the army barracks for his loose talk. I am sorry to leave you in mid-stream. don't lose heart. As far as I am concerned. I would have preferred to complete the task assigned to me. Why should people care for the Pakistani rulers? Lt. Keep the lid tight. He went on to say — do you want to see if I am able to shell Calcutta? I can capture Calcutta anytime. who will provide you with the necessary guidance. I do not want to comment on this decision as the President alone knows the whole situation. You have an experienced commander. Anyhow. General do you think it is wise to exaggerate about our military strength? He had protested mildly later. Five more battalions are on their way. I am suddenly asked now to make over my charge to Dr. . I will smash the asses of the Mukti rascals in a way . I have seventy thousand trained soldiers. Malik. But keep one thing in mind: don't relax your hold. I was hurriedly summoned to Rawalpindi on 4th March to take over East Pakistan. I will allow no harm to my Pakistan. the President would be obliged to release Sheikh Mujib grew strong. He declared amidst uproarious laughter.

But I have been in Dhaka longer. sing the praise of Islam. They follow Islam from the bottom of their heart. curse Hindu India. we have never tried to prove that the army can be their friend. Are they against Pakistan too? No sir. army rule for them is nothing unusual. newspapers. sir? A couple of months ago the editor of a Bengali daily invited me to his home. You don't win a war by the number of soldiers or ships. It is the great good luck of East Pakistan that they have an able commander at the right time. but they are for democracy in Pakistan. I am sure there are some devout followers of Islam. He took me inside. Then he took me to a nicely decorated room where his third wife. The editor thought that my presence might reassure the members of his family. we of West Pakistan that Bengalis are half-Muslim. But here they can't stand army rule. May be some of their rituals are different but that does not matter. introduced me to his mother and sisters. We have not been friendly with the Bengalis. That is your responsibility. The editor then left us there saying he had to fetch a guest from Hotel Intercon. I was quite puzzled. before the election. You try to understand their psychology and campaign in a suitable manner. You are perfectly right sir. Not against Pakistan. that is totally wrong. May I give you an example. We seem to think. sir. It is the decision of the commander who decides the fate. In the west wing the idea of democracy was never very clear. It can only mean one thing. but democratic movements have started in the east right from the time of the British. Were you in uniform? Ji. People of West Pakistan are just out of the feudal age. Is that wrong? Ji. officers like you. There is still time. idiot? . sing patriotic songs on the radio. What I mean is. Listen to me. TV. we are in no way their equal in naval and air power. they are stationed in the West. to be quite frank. a stunning woman was sitting. not here. I have been in many Bengali homes. They are devout Muslims. Siddiq. Change their hearts. But we have double trouble. Our enemies are within as well as outside. But we are trying to repress them with the help of the army.But general. forced me almost. Do you know why? There was a military raid a few days ago in the house of his sister-in-law and the soldiers raped two girls of the family. The students here are politically more conscious. Siddiq. What did you do next.

You did not take her in your arms. You are one of them. If you go to the border you will find our soldiers retreating at the slightest attacks. You and your sort should be ashamed of yourselves. Niazi flared up. Her face shone. Each and every West Pakistani soldier is a barbarian. killing people. Somebody offers you a plate of kabab and you worry about the price of beef. We could hardly carry on a conversation. The soldiers should not be encouraged. I hate every thread of that uniform of yours. Sorry.Rather embarrassing. If I touch her she will consume that poison. mortar shells landed in the airport runway. the next day. Why was this lady keeping me company while the other women were inside. Siddiq. News of Pakistani army retreating from the border began to pour in every day. I felt so ashamed of myself. The lady seemed educated and sophisticated. I want to see her. literally like a kalnagini snake of this part. Within a few days the notorious Monem Khan. Should I introduce a course on the art of lovemaking? Sir. . sir. excited. Come on. I have never seen such a spirit in an exploited woman. dishonouring women and now you are sorry! Just sorry! I hate you. If all our beautiful women are grabbed by India then that is one more reason to crush that nation. Nazi stamped his feet in rage. a part of Hotel Intercon was destroyed. former Governor was killed in broad daylight. I would like to know. That coward Bengali had procured a beautiful chick to please you. Perhaps she had a hidden box of poison. I wondered. Hanging my head in shame I quietly walked out of that house. They have to be lovers. excuse my saying so but a totally immoral army is no good when it comes to fighting. Niazi stood up. You are a good for nothing fool. as soon as I said that the lady hissed like a snake. I thought. Do you have a cock under that trouser of yours. Angry at last. If all our soldiers keep on raping Bengali girls how can we win back their hearts? You are right. General. Why didn't you show her that we could be good lovers too? Sir. Explosions occurred in the streets of Dhaka. she hissed. You are an idiot of the highest order. But you can't sir. Take me to that spirited woman. Bewakoof! Sir. Third wife indeed! And you did nothing? Please listen to the rest of the story. After an uncomfortable silence I said I am sorry for the unfortunate incident at your sister's family. But this is serious matter. They are scared of the word Mukti. Leave that to me. the whole family left for India. Destroying houses. I will go and inspect the border.

But undaunted Niazi went on a tour of the border. Professor Peter Mayer suggested two more alternatives. often riding an open jeep. Oli could not go to Boston. But Atin. But Oli would not hear of such an arrangement. Niazi smiled. I am returning to Dhaka right now. Where would she stay? A possible alternative was to stay with Sharmila's uncle and aunt at the suburb of Washington D. Sir. nor was any private apartment available. when do you expect it to begin? Putting a piece of kabab in his mouth Niazi replied. where he answered queries. Journalists arranged a dinner in the dak-bungalow. please try to understand. 47 the smaller American Universities getting a place to stay is no less difficult than gaining admission. A young woman asked. for as long as you want.C. he reached Hili and saw the wreck of an Indian army tank. One was to put her up in a motel for about a week. a self-imposed guardian of Oli did not approve of it. I don't understand politics. Oli did not like the idea of imposing on some family who would not accept money. She could not possibly share an apartment with a stranger and a white male at that. All the dorms (American for hostels) were full. We can have an intimate interview in the Flagstaff House. IN . Proudly Niazi showed the evidence of India's complicity to a group of journalists. The next day was registration. have you seen such skinny people in West Pakistan? We only accuse them for not being Muslim enough but have we given them enough to eat? They are desperate. Exasperated. That is politics you are talking about. do you expect a total war with India? If so. Atin and Sharmila were faced with this peculiar problem. But in that case commuting would be costly and time consuming. I will teach them a lesson. as far as I am concerned the total war is already on. Peter Mayer had fixed a slightly more expensive apartment for Oli to be shared with a Norwegian Professor. Niazi noticed her made up face. By that time a seat might be vacant in a dorm. I have some more questions. India is trying to stab us from the back. In his round. Everybody laughed. Niazi said. short hair and a glint in the eyes enough to set a male heart in flutters. Siddique pointed to the undernourished villagers and said. You can come with me. As a soldier my only duty is to protect the integrity of Pakistan. said the young girl.

Let us explore the other alternative then. the bloodshed and the burden of millions of refugees. this is not a revolution. please do not think I blindly support Nixon. You are in the Soviet camp. it is not going to solve anything. interrupted Sharmila. Atin said sharply. India has had a military pact with Soviet Russia. helping them kill people. Why are the Soviet Army chiefs visiting Delhi so often? From where has India got her MIG fighters? You Americans boast of democracy. do you think? None of them were bothered about Bangladesh. But they had to say something so Atin said indifferently. Don't you think America could have applied pressure to Pakistan to make Yahya. Well. What do you think of this Bangladesh problem? Going to end soon. You know I was deeply moved by a poem of Allen Ginsberg called September on Jessore Road. With his unkempt hair and beard. tall and slightly stooping. isn't it? Now the US is sending feelers to China through Pakistan. Religious fundamentalism and military exploitation on one hand and nationalisticlinguistic sentiment on the other—none of these matter to the working class. He drove them in his ramshackle car. She also noticed that Sharmila has clear opinion about international affairs and Oli shared her views. three having been published so far. said Peter Mayer. where exactly is Jessore Road? I would like to go there. the moving description of the refugee camps is so touching. isn't that right? Well India is being forced to join in the arms race because of China and Pakistan. not a military pact. replied Mayer. Personally I feel that man is stubborn and an idiot. President Nixon always leans to Pakistan. I believe millions of refugees are pouring into that over crowded city of yours. Peter Mayer looked more like a side actor in a historical movie. That is only natural. which he insisted on calling a jalopy. Suddenly he lost his cool. Sheikh Mujib and Bhutto sit around a discussion table? A political solution would have spared India the border conflict. That is terrible. Communist China has been made a member of the United Nations. I could hardly hold back my tears. Naturally America would side with Pakistan. After a pause Peter Mayer began. she noticed Babluda's discomfiture when China was referred to. Your Calcutta is very much in the news these days. Weapons form a part of the deal in any friendship. and working on his fourth. It is you people. Right now Kissinger is in Peiking. he told them. . in jeans and T-shirt. I don't think it is going to end soon. their immediate concern was a proper accommodation for Oli. Yet you are friendly with dictatorships. Tell me. Peter Mayer smiled. the Americans who are supplying arms to Pakistan. He was also a writer of novels. Well Pakistan with its army rule is also an ally of China. We have had a friendship pact for twenty years. He said angrily. India is now quite isolated in South East Asia. Though Oli did not participate in the conversation.

She draws only flowers. amused. It is Nepal she is going to. like the British? Asked Peter Mayer. she is interested in flowers. Even after partition it is still called Jessore Road. I too do not think Calcutta is such a good idea. indicative of money and good taste. opened the gate and entered with his gang. Now she has taken to painting and has already made a name. Peter. Sir. if you want. The refugee camps are by the side of this road. Peter parked the car. won't you let us have a look at your newest work? All in good time. They left the main road. Of course I will be spending some time in Delhi and Agra. Both of them went in to get the drinks. no alcoholic beverage in my home! But you can have soft drinks. Mary is going to visit the country you are from. She is going to study Himalayan flora and fauna. Sir. My travel agent has asked me not to stay in Calcutta. bombs go off in the streets. . Sharmila said. Oli and Atin exchanged glances. this road stretches from Calcutta to the town called Jessore in East Pakistan. this is Friday. They entered a thickly carpeted room with a huge Japanese painting on one wall and various potted plants. Mary. I would love to go but not before the novel is done . without displaying any surprise at the sight of so many strangers. Just call me Peter. Anyone buying a new house in Maryland acquires a painting of Mary Wilson. not a Calcutta girl did not like the dig at Calcutta. added Peter. why has Peter brought us here? She is much too rich to have a paying guest. They were told that Mary used to be a colleague of Peter but after losing one leg she had to quit her job because though she carried on with a wooden leg. changing her flight in Calcutta. With millions of refugees crowding the already packed city. Rows of cactus pots and more potted plants on the balcony made it a pleasure to the eye. She was Mary Wilson. Why do you insist on calling me Sir. A middle aged woman with snow white hair and tinted glasses opened the door. the growl of a dog could be heard inside. . Sorry. As he touched the bell. But Peter you haven't told me anything about these three. said Mary. adding the information that Oli has just landed. Peter kissed her thrice on the cheeks and said. She lost her husband in that car accident a little more than two years ago. Mary. Yes. if you are serious then I can write to my Calcutta friends. Atin and Sharmila told her about what they were studying and where. Lovely roses and chrysanthemums were in bloom. He pronounced all the three names correctly to Oli's surprise because he was in the habit of calling Oli Ali till he was corrected. Mary I would like you to meet my Indian friends. . Peter introduced them. took a few turns and pulled up before a bluish white two-storied house with a well cared for garden in front. can I have a beer? I know you do not keep hard drinks.At last Oli joined in. she could not get a driving license. traffic stops. She just said hi. Even Sharmila.

If you agree then that will take a load off my mind. I have never lived in such a beautiful house. do you think you can take charge? I will be ever grateful to you. with clean white sheets. asked Mary. The dog went round them once then sat facing them. Oli used to have dogs at home at one time but she knew that Babluda detested them. a big wardrobe. You are lucky. a small TV. A little distracted by the question. This is perfect. explained Mary. Mary offered more inducements. said Sharmila. bookrack. I hope none of you dislike dogs. Americans believe in dignity of labour. said Atin lightly. Atin and Sharmila stayed on. She had very thoughtfully bought a few things Oli might need. Since the owner has given permission. I will spend some weekends here. He was stiff now and the dog. some chocolate slabs and a bottle of perfume. You are free to use my telephone. said Oli.I can't just stay on as a guest. . Oli. a packet of biscuits. Oli. He will not be any trouble. Passing on Coke cans Peter began. said Sharmila. telephone. So this is agreed? Let us go and bring her luggage. Oli just shook her head. call your friends during weekends. Americans believe in paying. sensing his feeling was not taking its eyes off him. Watering is not a lowly job at all. Are you sure you won't be scared to live here all by yourself? Asked Atin. Sharmila quickly unpacked Oli's suitcase which had to be broken open finally and arranged her things. From there she will be going to Singapore and Japan and won't be back before a month. like a new sheet with pillow cover. I think staying with Sharmila's uncle would be much better. writing desk. In a couple of days Mary is leaving for Nepal. Let us go get her suitcase. said Atin. But don't refuse the money. an attached bathroom complete with a porcelain bathtub. She had asked me but I don't think I can come every day. She has not asked us for dinner. I have done some baby sitting myself. We have a proposal. Water the plants. He has already taken a fancy to you. Meanwhile the plants have to be watered and the dog fed. Be a gardener then. The problem of accommodation was solved so simply that for a few moments none of them knew what to say. Peter and Mary came back with a Dalmatian. Of course Mary will be paying you for this service. A bed. We better leave. I don't want to send Friday to a kennel club. even fathers pay their children for getting work done. Finally Atin stood up and declared. After Peter left. They were shown the guestroom. This is as good as a five-star hotel.

holding hands. That Peter Mayer seems to be a nice man. In a little while she saw Atin and Sharmila walking by. in fact the atmosphere of this beautiful house has a loneliness about it. But teardrops smudged the words. nothing could have been better. Oli almost ran in. On top of that she offered to pay her. Oli you need not have any worry. she will see Oli again at eight. What was the use of staying here? Leaning against the wall she cried as if her heart would break. Atin seemed in a hurry to leave. You need not have spent so much. she must not think of it anymore. He will not leave me. It had grown dark. Babluda holding hands with Sharmila would not leave her. The dog might get out. What a remarkable woman! She has lost her husband in an accident. and free to go anywhere she wants. 48 . You have kept the front door open. Mary was in her studio. In the dark room she just stood. She felt as though her heart would break. You will need these things. warned Sharmila. No. write letters perhaps. Get back. Sharmila after all was a good match. Oli came out on the balcony and she had a view of the road. her hand over her mouth. There were so many letters to write — to her parents. The dog however was lying in the living room. So Babluda was gone. How can Oli accept the money? She is already a celebrity. She was careful not to make any noise. We will have to catch the six o'clock bus. But there is an air of sadness about her. Babluda has not even touched her hand all this time. quick. leaving her all by herself. Well. Of course I had thought you would be living in a dorm. she must do something. She went to the bathroom to wash her eyes but the pain persisted. It was actually her last good bye to him. We will keep in touch. Going upstairs. Oli came down to the gate. bye now. As Oli groped for the switch she paused. The entire country was empty for her now. That scene. I have my Shounak. Varsha. Pratapkaka but Shounak can wait. to Pompom. No. Tears welled up. You will get to know the Bengali population in Virginia by and by. Please feel free to call us for whatever you need. She forced herself to think of her new landlady. she herself is without one leg yet she has not given up. Oli kept telling herself. Going to Nepal to study Himalayan flowers! Unbelievable! Obviously she had already made arrangements for the dog and the plants but she is so polite and kind that she made Oli think that it was Oli who would be doing her a favour.What is all this? Cried Oli. It will take some time to get to know the shops. Sharmila held Oli's hand in a warm grip. But the tears kept coming. She would not touch him ever. Oli could not help herself. tears flowing down in a never-ending stream.

. by tradition had their Durga image built at home and not get it from Kumortuli. but no. Lakshmi and Saraswati included. painted and polished. the fifth day after the new moon. which constantly haunted him. . he thought. The reason why he was given this prestigious task was the dwindling eyesight of Haladhar. What is the use of painting a pair of eyes on her? Gods are blind after all. The women of the household bathe early and dress in ritual cream silk and spend the day in fast though these days a cup of tea is allowed. faces of other women with sunken cheeks. Only curious children peeped in. They were employed by the jute merchant.THE image was now all but ready. You seem to be crying. It would be a sin to model Durga's eyes after a human. lifeless eyes . it was just a hobby he had learnt — how to make toys. his wife's. The straw structure slowly filled up with layers of clay. This has put Harit in a spot. the centre for making and selling of images. but the visions floating before his eyes were restless eyes. Harit was in deep meditation. He used to stare in wonder at the making of the Durga image a month before the puja. It was a challenge. With the brush in hand he stood up. the mango tree with its sprawling branches beckoned to him. Harit Mondol was to paint the eyes. . the pain. . The "eye giving” ceremony usually takes place on Panchami. The eyes. she was a mortal after all. were the serene eyes of Sulekha. Since none of the images. But today he must finish the task he has undertaken. Harit came back to the present. the Banerjees of Basirhat who. a most important function. trying to visualise the eyes. they were hidden from public view by jute curtains. Golapi's. What's the matter with you? It was Haladhar who nudged him gently. . the only woman in his life he worshipped as a goddess. On the insistence of the master artisan Haladhar. Why bother. . . . then first a coat of white paint . . . After all it was no ordinary image but the face of the mother. dipped it in black paint and gave the eyeless face a good look. She looks like a beautiful blind woman. Harit . in the narrow track between green fields of paddy he clearly saw the boy running along. oh god. He tried hard to see before his eyes the divine face. the music of the dhak in the air . but painting the eyes of Ma Durga was indeed difficult. It had to be done in one stroke. Harit was working as an assistant to Haladhar Pal. He had strayed to a land of dreams. and the sorrow of the homeless? Do they ever lift a single finger to do anything! . All that needed to be done to transform the lifeless clay image of the goddess Durga was putting in the eyes. the potter . were dressed yet. Other faces floated past. Harit. He too had fasted. He could manage the eyes of other gods and goddesses with a little help. Do they see the misery. He was not a professional potter. what was he to do? He jerked his thoughts back to his childhood when the eyes of Ma Durga were a source of ceaseless wonder. but they were children after all. every stage was magic to the child .

you better have some food now. The puja organisers have not yet started coming but the dhakis beat their dhaks. Naba loves balloons and icecream. You are blessed my dear son. It could have been better. it will not be noticed once the dress and ornaments are in place. Would you like to take some advance. He had often felt the same way. blessed. Haladhar. Not quite satisfied with his own handiwork. It is quite late. Harit understood. Custom demands that the men folk do not look at the image before the purohit does the ritual of bequeathing her with life. Have seen quite a lot of them in my life. more or less. . a couple of miles away. The second Babu of the Banerjee family came out. Haladhar announced to the children. Look at the mother smiling at you. No hurry to get back. By afternoon they finished the rest of the work and set out towards home. you are through. Go home and tell the elders that the eye ceremony is over. After the police arrested him. a way of letting people know that they are here. Jogananda had gone back with Naba. Puri. Harit. he said. of dissatisfaction comes over him. Removing the jute curtain. there is a festive air. Not yet ready to retire. dada? Not feeling well? No. Beautiful! She is blessing you. Come with me. partly because of the drummers who assemble here for getting assignments. They had to cross the market place. watching from a distance took Harit in his arms. Haladhar did not even bother to wash his hands and started eating. Is anything the matter. The shops are now open till late. Harit could have bought him a new shirt. I think I'll be able to do justice. I will take care of the little details. Go and get some rest now suggested Haladhar. Anyway. Another one hour or so said Haladhar.In a swift stroke Harit completed the eyebrows first. after completing something which took months of toil. Harit squinted and examined the eyes critically. If that boy was with him. So. asked Haladhar. It was hardly an inspired work. Harit insisted. Without showing any desire to look at the goddess now complete with eyes. alu dum and sweets were served by a slim young girl. Haladhar? Yes. then the eyeballs and finally the outlines. The people of Kasipur colony. Haladhar pulled his hand. But still unhappy with his work. They were reluctant to have anything to do with Harit. Would you like to do some puja shopping? Harit shook his head. Just the dressing up. it is just that I feel kind of empty within. much better. Babu. Haladhar was not talkative by nature but he kept massaging his breast. The children clapped in glee. Harit lit a bidi and stared at the image. are you now. peeped at the goddess and ran indoor. a kind of sadness. a member of the family. Nobody is here. no. apprehensive of the police had bought them return tickets. The eyebrows were not uniform. Let me do the eyes of the Asur. which drew a comment from Harit. Let us go and have some fun.

My ancestral home for seven generations. That is all nonsense. Oh really? His companion made a face. Your country. about the jatra plays coming to perform and their stars like Jharna Kumari. They are opting to surrender because the Mukti chaps are cutting them up. His eyes were blood shot. So today only Ismail Mia was their only hope in case of any trouble. Dulali Chatterjee. instead of crowding here? The bearded man had no answer. sala! You ought to be ashamed. you fool. Here Mia bhai. Why won't they celebrate puja in Barisal and Faridpur? Harit asked. Usually this is a rowdy place. . Ismail Mia hefty as a Shimul tree controlled the fights with a firm hand. and it still remains your country. nobody dared to put hands on him. Would clay cups do? Harit dipped his little finger in the liquid. He never takes a drop of drink. called out someone from the crowd. Don't want to torture indeed. red in the face! They are Pathans. because they don't want to torture the Bengalis. My forefathers were born there they died there. even Ma Durga if they find her. They are being brought over to this side of the Ichhamoti river — about two or three every day. hands tied. the bearded chap was adamant. knife fights were a common affair. or Faridpur or Khulna. he looked at Harit for support. Why don't you go back there to die. They would butcher them. So you too must have been born there. Buroda. The Khan soldiers! Wailed the bearded chap. It was not that Harit never drank but today he felt a little apprehensive because they had all the payments with them along with two the polic new dhotis. was in tears. What huge figures. not in Barishal. Haladhar repeated the ritual after him. His customers were scared of him. observed one wisely. he accosted Harit as though he had known him for ages. The one who spoke first said. Though a total stranger. Two files please.He took Harit to a joint where cheap local alcohol was sold. you see. two glasses for us. They pushed through the crowd and reached the counter. The owner of the joint. Chhanda Pal. Just a minute. All the Hindus have fled. sprayed it on the ground muttering Joy Baba Kalachand. We are running short of glasses. In the general mayhem Harit looked around for familiar faces. Did you see. quite drunk. You have left your Barisal years ago. For shame! Of course it is my country. They brought three of your Khan soldiers this side. in fifty. asked Haladhar. throwing of soda bottles. he too has become a follower of Kalachand. Some of them are willingly surrendering to the BSF. No puja in our country. The topic meanwhile had taken a different turn. asked Haladhar. Today he glistened with sweat as though he has had a coat of polish like the Durga image. A bearded man next to him. can you believe it? His companion slapped his shoulder. Ismail replied.

all of the goddess Lakshmi. they have seen it in the paper. if you will let me. no East Bengal West Bengal. let us go back. The images were quite ordinary. taunted Ismail. then you can judge for yourself. done from a cast. I am ready to be a Muslim to get Jharna Kumari — what big breasts. but I have no home now. Like Sharmila Tagore of the films. Let me paint one. It was a strange world — there are no Hindus and Muslims. Men come from across the border to this place where Bihari Muslims carry on their trade. finished it with care. If only three people sat and talked across a table they could have stopped the senseless bloodshed. leaving her Hindu husband.I heard that Jharna Kumari is the daughter of a Muslim. Ripples of laughter followed their observation. Sala. replied Haladhar. He was a potter. was sitting on the porch. he had asked Haladhar. he could somehow make a living. Is that why you have taken to saffron? They got along very well. most of them yet to get a coat of paint. Looks like you will make a kabab of Jharna Kumari first. I can paint the dolls. my god. Not that Harit never thought of doing the . How are you doing. Haladhar wanted to know where he was from. Within a few minutes Haladhar was fast asleep. Fortunately the money and the new dhotis were still with them. Do you know how to paint? Haladhar was skeptical. Harit pointed to across the river. Only the rickshaw-walla that appeared to be a refugee said almost to himself. lay heaped. Harit had walked up to the veranda where clay dolls. man. They reached the tin shack where Haladhar lived. “The Mukti boys are at it again at the border. At long last Harit had asked for some food. They fight but are thick as thieves the next day. people being killed by other people. It will linger the whole day. Harit picked one up. He nudged his companion. dada? Still feeling empty inside. This is the house where Harit had finally landed after being released from the Basirhat police station. It was pouring outside. The people were so used to these sounds now that nobody bothered. His wife. But he was not a beggar even though he was dressed as a sadhu. Replied Harit. Haladhar too was a refugee but he left long ago and never lived in a camp. Haladhar had to be dragged on to a rickshaw. One person objected but many others supported this information. She has become a Muslim because she wanted to marry another. mentally deranged since she lost her children fleeing the country. Gunshots were heard across the river. My home used to be there. She will serve me kabab and I will be leaning back — how much do I have to pay for that? You are drooling. Harit was listening to this and feeling greatly amused. come on. is that right? She comes from a Hindu family actually." Only about ten miles away a battle was on. obviously impressed by his work. There is no Hindusthan Pakistan in a drink den.

The irony of it was that the inmates of that colony now did not even provide shelter to his grandson. The camps housing the new refugees are no better. Harit has grown attached to this family. A son of death once attacked this Basuida here. Do tigers ever eat anyone up? Asked Harit. When one's time is up. Oh yes. Haladhar pays him well. They had orders for four Lakshmi images from Mollakhali. By the mercy of Banabibi one can ward off a tiger attack but the cruel goddess is Ma Manasa. Like tigers and snakes the presence of the police and the military does not deter them. Why should their time be up? Harit failed to agree. Well. the people going for collection are young like you. smoking bidi. The first to follow Durga puja would be Lakshmi. pujas of various deities would go on. After all he came here with a purpose. including men from Joy Bangla to sell their catch this side of the border. one after the other. to find out ways of bringing his people to green and fertile Bengal from that barren stony land. But the price he had to pay was quite heavy. The tiger had crept up from behind and dived on his shoulder. It was he who got beaten up by the police though he was responsible for occupation of the Kasipur garden house. It seems the fiercest of tigers are intimidated and bow down before Banabibi. chatting about their life in the Sunderban forests. Early in the morning the fishermen bring basket loads of fish. Tigers are afraid of human beings. There are young people who fight back. From now till the beginning of Baishakh. Will you take off your shirt and show them. In his experience the poor can be the greatest enemy of their own kind. In fact Haladhar had made the image of that goddess earlier. They were busy giving the finishing touches while the two customers waited. The more Harit listened to these stories the more curious he grew. people die more from snakebite. . How can he go back to tell them there is no hope? Of course he has written to Parulbala. said the speaker indifferently. It was customary to worship the goddess of the forest known as Banabibi before venturing into the forest.same. in fact his wife Parulbala had insisted that they leave the camp but Harit had become a leader and could not betray the trust other refugees bestowed on him. such is her powers over beasts. The boat stank of fish. You know what Basuida did? He struck his axe right on the eyes of the beast and you should have heard the roar. He got back to work with Haladhar before the pujas were over. There is no question of going back to East Bengal. Nobody lives forever. The last two are no better or worse than natural disturbances. sometimes. Harit stopped his work as he listened to the hair-raising tales of the honey collectors. They went deep into the tiger infested forest to collect honey. He did not feel like going back to Dandakaranya. He pointed to his companion. Harit has decided to stay on till he has earned some money before going back. Finally he took leave from Haladhar and got into the boat with the two men of Mollakhali. Basuida? The other man showed the scar on his shoulder but he did not brag.

He can carry on a living here but he wanted to live with others. To your right is Mollakhali. . but the pull for his wife. We will till the soil. Muslims. even some tribal Santhals. he drew a deep breath. We do not want to be a burden on anybody but stand on our own two legs. Naba and others of the colony could not be shaken off either. carrying their daily struggle for existence. It is not a village. After a long time Harit felt good all over. Boats loaded with passengers plied. They were not anybody's property nor the garden house of a zaminder .Speeding across smaller rivers and canals they reached the wide expanse of the Raymangal. By now a plan was taking shape. She might know about the whereabouts of his son. going round in boats to adjoining villages. There was no shadow of war in these settlements of various groups. Won't the government listen to this appeal? Of course they will. but Tridib made no attempt to budge. God knows if he was alive. full to the brim after the rains — almost as wide as an ocean. The names of the villages where they stopped rang a bell. we are almost there. Hindus from Medinipur. The people of his camp. farm lands on the other. catch fish in the river we will carry on. From the newspapers he has come to know that Chandra the sanyasin has been released. The fresh green village drew Hark to it. . We might survive or if it is not in our destiny. Life was following its own slow pattern. Further up. people from Orissa. They would demand nothing from the government. a few thousand in all. no ration. informed his companion. that was the only way he would be happy. we have village Satjelia. refugees from East Bengal. could easily settle in one of the uninhabited islands. Harit stayed in Mollakhali for a few more days. Tridib stood poised to cross over to the other side in Piccadilly Circus. The river was lined with forests on one bank. Just allow them to live in the soft fertile soil of Bengal. be wiped out. The sight of the water made Harit nostalgic. As they passed a small island with overgrowth of trees. Huge waves lashed the coasts. On the other hand they will be spared the expense on account of the refugees. But what was the use? Let him live his own life. Far away in the horizon stretched the coastline of Joy Bangla. He had been standing there for quite some time as though undecided whether to take the plunge while the traffic light changed. After all they have nothing to lose. They were at peace. no cash dole. Fishermen flung their nets on the forest side. 49 HOLDING his cigar gone cold between his two fingers. The island is called Marichjhapi. He has to go back. . It would be dangerous to look for him. Harit wanted to know the name of the village. people hurried across. He had no news of his son.

The unwritten law was you stand one round of drinks. He brought out not a book but a small white square card. Nobody drank alone. Oh Tridib? Ratul feigned surprise. and same figure. how could that be. He never visited unknown pubs on principle. Ignoring Tridib completely. A man jostled him inadvertently and came back to apologise. An English pub was where people went to chat. I am afraid — he began with cold politeness. All the high stools were occupied. but some Bangla words made him look up from the book he was reading. Tridib had gulped down the beer. Their friendship was resumed. by aspiring theatre actors in peculiar clothes and even more queer mannerisms. Taken aback. It might start snowing any time. Your usual? Tridib nodded and fished out a ten-pound note. He pulled at his cold cigar and realised that he was thirsty. but he had no idea what exactly he was looking for. The aging bartender could never remember the name of this customer.. then others would do the same. leaving his high stool. About ten minutes of brisk walking took him to one frequented among others. The man next to him left. he had his overcoat on. Ratul! Exclaimed Tridib in great surprise. It was quickly replaced by another mug. windless day. Tridib made his way to the counter and shouted to the bar tender. By the time the food was finished. His childhood friend Ratul had come back to Calcutta from Bombay. . As their eyes met. But Tridib was an exception. I could not recognise you. Ratul! He could not believe his eyes. he rebuked himself. Tridib with a flicker of a smile around his lips patted his overcoat pockets. a visiting card. Tridib never looked at co-passengers. In spite of the heated interior. Has he already forgotten her face? No other woman could be like Sulekha. But Tridib paid no attention. Evening. evening.It was six-thirty. he called the lady with him. She was unique. Today he had met Ratul in the tube. A plate of eggs and sausages followed a big mug of lager bear. He was a familiar figure but he never went beyond exchanging nods. Come. So Ratul was in London! He must have noticed Tridib but gave no sign of recognition. Men and women were in a hurry to reach the tube station on this dull-cold. No. How different you look. also to spend some time away from the wife. same height. sitting exactly opposite. He was not drunk now. the lady tried to protest but Ratul insisted. Ratul stood up. For a second it seemed to Tridib that it was Sulekha. so Tridib got a seat. The inside was filled with smoke and so crowded that many were obliged to stand. large deep eyes. He replied. When did you come to England? Ratul frowned. Mac. She was gone. a widower. Don't you recognise me? I am Tridib. my friend. he carried a lot of things in its pockets. He stared at it with a look of amusement. and wealth of hair. Ratul kept proceeding towards the door. discuss everything under the sun.

After all he was in no great hurry to get back. Tridib wished he had got down too. belched loudly. This is the only time I am normal. do telephone. But somehow Ratul was too aloof. Mac came up. she had asked. said Ratul. Holding his companion by her waist he got down from the train. Wonderful smell! Shrimps. Tridib too has been to London for six months. took a sniff. He looked at the card with office and residence numbers. but he was genuinely attached to her and Alam. He could still pass off as a captain of any cricket team. Deaf to the general racket around him. will you? Now that you are the wife of a Muslim. How could she forget the help she received from Tridibmama on her arrival in this country. changing his job. He brought out a small bottle of Scotch from his pocket and took a long swig. the crowd pushed from the back. that is where he used to work. took away his cigar. . Tridib flopped on the sofa. Of course she has paid back the two hundred pounds. Both Shahjehan and Ratul had accused Tridib for her death as if he was the one who had set fire to her body. He will be late. Tutul? I may but promise you will come completely sober? We don't keep drinks. he kept studying the card as if it contained a long and hidden history. how could he tell her that he is setting her free. he would not have talked to him on his own. But the door had opened. Tridib ignored the rebuke. Tridib waved to say thanks. lit another and offered it to Tridib. The secret of success in life is to forget. This is on the house. I have told you before. spilling some beer on his shirt. you have turned against drinking. Where do I contact you? Tridib asked anxiously. He gulped down the third mug. Tutul stopped half way. The real session begins now. Cut it out. Lucky chap. Well. Chloride company. he declared. He had not been in touch after the unfortunate incident. silly. Nobody prints a card for a short visit. Yes of course. turning pale with humiliation. Tridibmama. why don't you understand? Where is Alam? He has duty in the surgery. I have to get down here. Alam does not like it. You are tipsy again. Almost at the point of blowing up. He put down the mug on the counter with a thud and stuck the unlit cigar between his lips. Sulekha had resisted all temptations for his sake yet how could he be so heartless. said Tutul with visible disapproval. isn't it? Why don't you ever ask me for dinner. he had no desire to talk. After getting over from the suddenness of the encounter.The train had slowed down. is it? Beer is not alcohol. But he has kept himself rather well. So Ratul is here. they are right in a way. After his fourth mug he remembered something and came out. Who was that lady with him — his wife? So he has swept Sulekha out of his mind. Ratul handed his friend a card and said. So you want me to go. He took a taxi and came straight to Golders Green.

high time . Why don't you write a note and leave it to us? But you must. . . People say all sorts of things in the heat of a quarrel. A little unsteady. yes? There are things I want to talk to you about. so vulgar. Nothing of the sort! I would like to apologise to him. her hair loose. Tridib gave her a long stare. Have had some eggs and sausages. stop feeling guilty. Tridibmama. Will you give me the address? Why should you visit him? He has been here a number of times after that. I am engaged.For god's sake. I never take anything solid after sundown. he walked out. . said Tutul anxiously. It won't take me a minute. by the way can you give me Shahjehan's address? No I won't. I will change now. why are you bent on killing yourself? Try to forget the past. What do you mean. saw somebody today. never even think of death. Don't you worry my child. God forbid. You know he understands why you lost your temper. You were upset because you thought I was going to die. Tridibmama. If children like you die. Shahjehan was taken aback to find him at his door. Let me have the notebook. and so final. her eyes looked moist. But she isn't. . Where is your address book? How about having some shrimp curry with toast. I have guests. It was the first one in the side flap of the notebook. On a good-looking ivory finish card was printed the name and address of Shahjehan's company along with some other numbers. I promise you I won't misbehave with him. The news did not interest Tridib. Tutul was firm. Both of you do nothing but fight. Alam has not allowed her to go back to work. Oh yes. Yes? He asked coldly. Death is so cold. Why do you have such junk food day in and day out? Now a doctor is speaking. Keep living my dear. promise me . You are changing the subject. That is enough. took a taxi. Today she was in a housecoat instead of a sari. He took another swig from the bottle and stood up. Tutul has taken some time to recover and is always keen to prove that she is perfectly fit. the earth will be unlivable. . You see we have a common bondage! He put his hand on Tutul's head. we are leaving for Calcutta in a couple of weeks. Don't you know me? Let me get in.

It took some time to register. I am of no consequence. After seeing his guests to the door. he said. said Shahjehan stiffly. putting everything before Tridib.You call that helping yourself! Disgusting! Oh. I retire early. I think we have come to a decision. already quite intoxicated. Planning to break up Pakistan! Bangladesh! Balderdash! What good would that serve. you can ignore my presence. I will get you everything. You know these English people can't even recite a line of Shakespeare. soda and a glass arid got some ice as well. He declared. then said sarcastically. I will pour my own drink in my own glass . Since when have you turned so ordinary. He almost pushed his way in to find about six young men and women squatting on the carpet of the living room. For god's sake Shahjehan. I .So what? I will wait till they leave. The young men collected the money and the sheets. But Listen Shahjehan bhaiya. may I ask? What can I do for you! Is this English or an aberration of the language? Can anybody do anything for anyone? It is a jargon of the shopkeepers. From the cupboard he brought out a bottle of Black Label whisky. Rank idiots. said Shahjehan. I don't accept drink from a host who does not drink himself. All of you are true Mussalman. But I am a bloody son of a bloody Hindu. We will get an appeal from Bernard Russell. For me my own bottle will do. This is my time to drink but I won't come in your way. Shahjehan came back to Tridib. out with it. A little ill at ease to find an outsider they stopped talking. I'll remain speak-ti-not. Please help yourself. But may I have a glass and some bloody ice? Sit down. and bloody drunk as well. Pakistan broken in two! Anyway. OK? You go on with your meeting. Muslims — each one! I see. What is it that you want to tell me. I am sorry to disturb you. Putting his hands in his trouser pocket Tridib watched the scene with amusement. it has been so long since I have exchanged notes with you about Shakespeare. but tried to save the situation. While they exchanged words about their next fund raising concert. papers and pound notes scattered about them. you meet secretly after sundown but don't drink. OK? Tridib almost bumped into one in trying to take a seat. you please go ahead. having taken swigs from his own bottle. Now. Tridib stared at Shahjehan for a few seconds. what can I do for you? He asked indifferently. The young group looked at Shahjehan who was embarrassed. Tridib quietly sat drinking with a meaningless smile stuck on his lips and a faraway look in his eyes. I will not touch your fancy Scotch. sorry. I did not expect this from a Shakespeare expert like you. The worst expression in the English language! Most hackneyed — it makes me mad. Next campaign will be in Sussex. Sorry. Help yourself! Mimicked Tridib. Forget Shakespeare. There is an important matter to talk over.

This is over simplification. What good would that serve? The Sulekha you are thinking of is not the real woman but a figment of your imagination. Where does he live? Exactly. "mad as the sea and wind. Another bottle of soda. Ratul. That was what came to my mind too. you and me and Ratul. suppose we meet and call Sulekha through a planchette. You are obsessed about Sulekha. right here. I am sorry to say. Tridib fished out the card and inspected it as if to assess if it was real or imitation. Shahjehan's lips twisted in a strange smile. don't you remember. What nonsense. That athlete lover. . had never read a line of poetry. . As you please. his voice severe. I think Ratul is doing well. I have a score to settle. interrupted Shahjehan. Thanks for your advice. in a state of shocked disbelief asked. He is here. he must be living somewhere. but if we sit thinking of her. frankly. don't you? You have no memory of her. . when both contest. said Tridib abruptly. Where is he? Asked Shahjehan. Where did you meet him? Will he be in this country for quite some time? Well." the chap just stared at me. alone. I will meet him soon. Just imagine one of their greatest poets . the old threesome. whatever you may think about planchettes. he has found another woman. I know them by heart. I saw the phone numbers. I may have to spend the night here. . what is the hurry. If you have anything else to say . the same Ratul is now in London. please. we will — Let me have the card Tridib.recited some lines to a shopkeeper. that is how Sulekha will come back to us. You think you can explain everything. I am in no mood to discuss the subject. a very ordinary individual. laughed Tridib. Who was it that you said you have met? His air of indifference was gone. I will make arrangements. Who? Shahjehan. our heads touching — vibration from one carried over to the other. . said Tridib. Where does he live. Listen Shahjehan. which is mightier . Excuse me. . Shahjehan went on. No. but we are going to have a get together with Ratul. Ratul. . she has lost even in death. Poor Sulekha. I met Ratul today. but not with you. I too don't have much faith in it. . Let me have it. from Hamlet. Excited. mad to get married. do you mind? Getting old. taunted Tridib. ache in the knee you see . .

It also involved visiting banks. That was the only reason for this madness. got involved in the freedom effort of East Pakistan. said his acquaintances. Though he had a head for business. For the last couple of months he has. It was not in his nature to acquire close friends. he did not spend all his waking hours working like other successful people. willy nilly. For a man of taste like Shahjehan those drunken visits were too much. who like a bull in a china shop surfaced in his home and created havoc.50 FOR no apparent reason Shahjehan began winding up his export business in London which he had built up alone. Saville Row suits he could easily pass off as a Britisher but he knew very well that they never considered him as one of them. The same spirit of restlessness did not let him settle down in Dhaka. shapely figure. breakfast in a restaurant. but he lived alone in a nice little house in Kensington. He did not marry again. He sold his entire stock to Mark and Spenser and negotiated with Sindhi and Gujrati businessmen to sell the goodwill of his company. With his fair complexion. without any partnership. fond of Shakespeare-Tolstoy-Goethe and BachMozart-Tchaikovsky. . But this smooth tenor of life suddenly collapsed like a pack of cards. The entire afternoon would be spent in his office. He led a very ordered and regulated life — a morning walk by the Thames. But he felt bored with life. In the evening he stayed away from business matters as far as possible. Through Tutul and Alam he has been actively drawn into the movement supporting the freedom struggle though initially he had wanted to contribute money and stay away. Within a week he moved to another hotel. He liked to think of himself as a world citizen. clearing and insurance agents. He was feeling restless. He did not drink or smoke and for the last six seven years women had ceased to interest him. The greatest artists of the world do not belong to a particular country. At first he sold the house for a song and moved to a cheap hotel in Southall. He is doing this to avoid Tridib. Tutul and Alam were responsible for this. brothers and sisters lived in Calcutta. He never had any opinion about the splitting of Pakistan though he was profoundly moved by the atrocities in East Pakistan. then back home to take care of the correspondences. spending all his time reading and listening to music. Politics never was his cup of tea. It seemed he needed a lot of cash in hand. which he shared in central London with a travel agency. Rest of his family including his parents. they are part of world culture. Of course Shahjehan never identified himself with any country — India or Pakistan. though he was a perfect gentleman in his dealings. Their family business of carpets and garments was flourishing in Calcutta. London no longer had any charm for him.

Yet Ratul had the audacity to hit him. forcing them to disperse. Shahjehan asked himself: why am I doing this? Why? Why? Why? Ratul crossed the street and walked up to a woman at Hyde Park corner. He walked into a tea shop diagonally opposite Ratul's office building and chose a table with a clear view of the exit. who obviously had been waiting for him. No. he never crossed the limits of decency. But that was not the real reason for his decision to wind up. He ordered tea and opened a book most casually. It was not for Tridib but Ratul that he decided to move out of London. He did not visit Tutul and Alam after selling his house. As for Shahjehan himself. Business prospects are good in Amsterdam and Frankfurt. As he walked along Oxford Street he shrugged. in fact he enjoyed the company of both the husband and wife. in fact he wanted to leave the Delhi chapter behind him. . The memory of Sulekha too was fading. Two speakers at different parts of the park were shouting themselves hoarse. ready to intervene if trouble broke out. one of them a friend of Alam. swinging his briefcase. chance meetings can not be ruled out. he decided to try out these two places for the time being. he asked himself. He had an appointment but his business was over by three thirty. Three policemen stood idly watching. At this point the entry of Ratul upset everything. he never made any demands on Sulekha. She looked like a married woman. who owned property in Calcutta.In the frequent meetings held at his place Tridib was making a regular appearance. with a line of sindoor in her parting of hair. His family. The two of them cannot live in the same city. Shahjehan was much too polite to shut the door to his face. His old anger. . Ratul had no place there. It was just like Ratul to take advantage of other people's wives. He could never get over this humiliation. Most unbecoming for a man like him! Yet the next day he was back in the same spot again. the answer was obvious. As if Gujratis. grief and resentment returned with a greater force. He kept his plan a closely guarded secret . cheerful and debonair in a blue flannel suit. Marwaris and Bengalis did not have business dealings with Pakistan! The news that Ratul was in London had him excited at first but he controlled himself. accused of spying just because he happened to be a Muslim. What on earth for. As he kept up with him along the opposite pavement. treasured their friendship. Her memory still hurt but strangely it was less of an agony and more of a lovely sense of nostalgia. He had no desire to renew his friendship with Tridib. . The way Ratul put his hand round her waist indicated illicit relationship. in an inebriated state. What is the use of nursing past bitterness. they were not even aware of his new plans. . call him a Pakistani spy! It was by his manipulation that Shahjehan was detained by the police during the Sixty-five war. At four-thirty Ratul was seen coming out. Why was he behaving like this? A little while ago he had stood for half an hour in front of the building where Ratul worked . spewing venom against the Pakistani rulers. he can never pardon Ratul but it was not in his nature to pick up a fight. . He was convinced that it was Ratul who was responsible for the tragedy — his shameless manner had forced her to destroy herself. had been staunch Congress supporters for three generations. Why has Ratul made an appointment in a place like this? But of course.

He excused himself. in a whiff of cheap perfume. Normally he enjoyed solitude but today the thought of his lonely hotel room put him off. Have I sunk so low? Sneaking on others! Let Ratul do whatever he wants. saying he had already invited some people. Promptly she sat down. he walked up to an empty table on the first floor. We can pick up some food on our way. Declared the girl. which actually had very little whisky in it. What will you have? Asked Shahjehan trying not to show his distaste. We are going to Calcutta soon. what is more he could not get rid of the feeling that the woman he was kissing was none other than Sulekha. Shahjehan nodded. He knew about the operations that went on in such places. One of them. Shahjehan knew was to inflate the bill. Very formal in matters of invitation. cheating the clients. Presently they started kissing. that is the reason for this party. he stopped. He called Tutul to ask them out for dinner. Don't worry. Ratul kissing another woman. her thigh touching his. ashamed at his desperate craving for company. Why don't you join us? She invited him. obviously remembering the fact that the Pakistani President was involved with the notorious Christine Keeler of the Profumo scandal. Luv. She giggled. She said. replied Shahjehan. won't be seeing you for quite some time. My god. In the dim light some women hovered near the counter. a tall woman with overdone make up drew near. I was having Scotch. Tridib mama won't be here. Nobody picked up the phone. the scene kept haunting him. The idea.They strolled to a lonely part and sat behind a growth of shrubs. The girl's glass already had soda mixed with it. He did not even touch his glass but after the girl had downed three. He tried to ring up a Pakistani gentleman. But Tutul was having guests for dinner. He left half way and went to Soho Square. agreed Shahjehan. Shahjejan admonished himself. Shahjehan could never accept a last minute call to join a party. I am Christine. Almost at the point of ringing another of his acquaintances. determined to try another experiment. You see I will be leaving for Amsterdam soon. the moving figures on the screen failed to absorb him. may I join you. Two pegs of premium Scotch were served. . Sounds wonderful. Hello. he suggested they go out and have dinner somewhere. He went to a film show but even the throng around him. What's your name. Do you mind going to my apartment? You can relax there. darling? If you are Christine then I am General Ayub Khan. very nice and cultured with whom he got along well. Walking into a bar named Contact.

Most probably the taxi driver was one of the party to fleece vulnerable customers. at times becoming unbearable. Just to avoid the volley of abuses he fished out another twenty five. The scene he wanted desperately to forget. Perplexed in the extreme.Can you lend me a hundred and twenty-five pounds? Asked Christine her voice almost down to a whisper. Shahjehan said. Omar Shareef! But finally the entire effort fizzled out. that of Ratul kissing a woman. never going beyond a handshake with men. even looking at a beautiful face was a pleasure. They went out and took a taxi. He knew he was not a homosexual. Cold meat. . Are you a Paki or an Indian? She asked. Back to his hotel room. . went to Christine's flat. he wondered. They bought some food. As if it was a promise to himself! He opened the works of Shakespeare at random. I will wipe out all memories of Sulekha. he said to himself. The girl was back. . but being wrought. The girl left with the money. I need it rather urgently. his only solace. He muttered to himself — Ratul had slapped me but I have forgiven him. It was nice chatting to Christine but she felt terribly insulted when he refused her advances. Is that right? She widened her eyes. like Oscar Wilde. of one whose hand. Perhaps the rest of his life would go on like this. The owner has a percentage in all likelihood. But strangely enough something held him back from proceeding further. A nagging pain persisted. trying to kiss but he turned away. Was that the system here? Shahjehan was trying to figure out. I am Egyptian. floated back. Did he ever do it with Sulekha? Did he . put it on the dressing table and walked out of her flat. Of one not easily jealous. They make great lovers. She embraced him. Inside the taxi. Shahjehan felt no urge at all. He began from the second column of the right hand page: Of one that loved not wisely but too well. Just to show that he was not a novice in the game. Perhaps they don't trust the new clients. the girl put her hand through his. Make it one hundred. will never see Tridib again. A funny smell in Christine's apartment was bothering him. He was not one of those who can rush into a physical relation with a total stranger. He counted the notes and put them on the table. The girl was simple and frankly curious about lots of things but when she took off her clothes and invited him. Lovely women attracted him. he did not feel like eating at all. I can spare seventy-five. he took a long hot shower. Neither said Shahjehan.

. He spent the weekend meeting Pakistani and Indian Bengalis. No. Who will teach me how to forgive my greatest enemy. The next day he tried to drown himself in work but the afternoon found him again in the vicinity of Ratul's office. He had an uncontrollable desire to jump into the river. upon my brothers guard. not for a moment leaving Ratul out of his sight. As soon as he stepped into London the feeling of bitterness returned. Richer than all his tribe. . . To think that Ratul is somewhere in the city. He does not want to hurt anyone. Why had he brought himself to this level and that too for an insignificant creature like Ratul! Turning round he kept walking till he reached Waterloo Bridge. were it At home. . in life they merely create havoc. But his next meeting at Glasgow had to be skipped as his secretary called from London to inform him that he had a buyer who wanted to meet him immediately. He shadowed Ratul for a while. threw a pearl away. vengeance — Othello was not the right thing. but his lips twisted in agony. he kept asking himself. Two drops of tear rolled down. Presently he dozed off. Life has lost all meaning. He touched his own throat and recited softly: I took by the throat the circumcised dog . envy. so ashamed with himself that he had an impulse to strangle himself. At least he was successful in driving Ratul away from his thoughts. vengeance can never give you peace. probably destiny. The last part of Othello. No. . It seemed to echo his own feelings. Shahjehan closed his eyes. but he just stood there clutching the railings. walking along its streets. to give him unconditional pardon? He followed him about from afternoon till quarter to eleven. he wanted to rise above anger. The tragic heroes are noble only in poetry. even there Against the hospitable Canon. Again he turned the pages of the volume and came across the following lines: My hate to Marcius. it is much better to withdraw into himself. . he knew it by heart. Where I find him. of one whose subdued eyes Albeit unused to the melting mood . . with the keen eyes and keener patience of a professional detective.Like the base Indian. Something was eating into his soul. He tried reading the Koran. he was losing the urge to live. He was drawn to this place by some unknown force. He forced himself to go to Bristol to attend a fund raising meeting. would I Wash my fierce in his heart . then stopped.

waiting for them. What the hell! I saw you getting down at this station. but I can't give you a lift. The Calcutta and Delhi chapters are closed. Shahjehan remarked. Ratul blurted out. Can I take a lift in your car? Meeting after so long. Shahjehan went close and said casually. said Ratul roughly. It isn't that easy. Listen. Now if you will please get off . you could say that. mine. but Ratul was too preoccupied to notice him. Who said that I did! . Soon he would speed away in his car and Shahjehan would have no way to follow. then she boarded a bus. said Shahjehan. Ratul looked at him and stared. Moving aside. Sorry. replied Ratul. I am rather tired today. Should I press the accelerator. Having problem with the car? Ratul frowned. probably the cold coupled with the drizzle had done something to the motor. And you expect to carry on merrily. There was no reason why he should not recognise this man. love affairs on the sly — wonderful! I suppose you have forgotten that you had got me arrested during the Sixty five war. Ratul went to a parking lot where only one car was parked. Obviously they could not meet at home. we have lots to talk about. But before he did anything the engine came to life. Fortunately for him the car refused to start. What are you doing here at this time of the night? Do you live in Harrow? Well. Can you forget so easily? Haven't you met Tridib? He keeps pestering me on the phone. It is all forgotten. So the old chapters are closed. walked for some time hand in hand. is it? You have spoilt our lives. said Shahjehan airily. he had not changed like Tridib. . I have no hang up about the past. let us be straight. About forty minutes later. would that help? No thanks. Ratul among them with Shahjehan at his heel. Fastening the seat belt. Good evening. I have told him in very clear terms that I am not interested in keeping touch. he knew he had to face him. Ratul came out to open the bonnet and peeped in. . There were about ten people inside. his face growing dark. It is going to be all right. They came out. Get in. Any problem! May I help you? Startled. had ice cream. Ratul began. Today Shahjehan was losing control. Ignoring his words Shahjehan got into the driver's seat. It would be foolish to lose this chance. Since Shahjehan could not get a ticket he sauntered outside. Many of the passengers got down there.Ratul met the woman at a restaurant in Belsize Park and went to a play later. Tridib's. It was destiny again. I turned out to be lucky for you. Not knowing what to say. see. He followed Ratul to a tube station and got into the same compartment. the train was nearing the terminus.

That man had destroyed so many. coarse and uncultured brute like you . A gun in the hand of a man like Shahjehan was so absurd that Ratul did not take the threat seriously.I know it. All right. the perfect gentleman that he is. The car windows were pulled up so the noise was not carried outside. You behaved like a brute at their place. you stuck to them always. the collars turned up. As though on a cue Shahjehan fished out a revolver and held it against the nose of the other man. perhaps to strike a blow but checked himself. she said so herself before leaving Calcutta. Tridib. choosing his words carefully. I have not finished talking yet. What is it? What do you want from me? You are responsible for Sulekha's death. it happened in Delhi. Sulekha would not have . Who bothers to look at other parked cars? The British police had other more important things to take care of than worry about the murder of an Asian. along the rain soaked street. Ratul. good bye. accused me of being a Pakistani spy. crouching figure for a few seconds. for everything. Then whispered. oblivious of the rain. you are guilty. Only because of you and that made her set fire to herself. Before he could finish a scuffle followed. But you were the dog in the manger. a liar. He was feeling light. insulted me. Nobody was out. had told Sulekha she was free. You had struck me once. Was it the moment he had heard about his presence in London? Must be. He leaned over to open the car door and pushed Shahjehan. He said. So after all these years you have come tell me all this nonsense? For your information. Because of you Tridib suspected his wife. Ratul raised his hand. Sulekha had agreed to marry me. He closed the door with his other hand. will you? You have to apologise. Now. his hands dug inside his overcoat pockets. remember? You still are a dirty spy. When was it that he first thought of killing Ratul. Shahjehan walked across the muddy parking area. I have proof. Don't talk like a scoundrel. You have been trailing me. get the hell out of here. He walked on. He would walk to the next station and board the train there. You had assaulted me. As Ratul tried to push the revolver away. He stared at the still. I did not pay you back. Do not ever shove a man like this — understand. I don't want to hear it. His body would not be noticed before next morning. Khuda Hafez. There was nobody out in the parking lot. he had no right to live. Shahjehan shot him twice at point blank range. You dared to try doing it again. A Mussalman never forgives treachery. crude. . otherwise why should he a carry a revolver . not even any police van. . . In the drizzling rain. It all happened because of you. Shahjehan. Exuding pride. fury and confidence he spoke. no feeling of guilt bothered him. perhaps till the afternoon. no guards either. He yelled. he asked himself. No house could be seen in the vicinity. Leave me alone. . not Tridib.

How much longer! A dog of massive proportions followed by two policemen entered the lounge. A strong stench of urine hit Tapan as he opened it. 51 TAPAN pushed the door a little and peeped.since? So his spirit was there. his heart still pounding. some left over food on a plate stood in one corner. Next morning at eight he came to central London. He was not sure. May I see your passport? Said the policeman. without a shirt. At this point the dog growled and sprang towards a man trying to escape. he stood on the deck and breathed the air of the English channel. exploded Shahjehan. his passport in hand. putting a packet of books and clothes down on the cot. He proceeded. Free! Free at last! A new life is about to begin. Books lay strewn all over the room. He found Kaushik lying on his side. How long can he take care of Kaushik. Pity. a lungi was dumped on a pair of crutches. There were quite a few Indians and Pakistanis. Ratul could not prove to be worthy of forgiveness. The only opening was a window that was kept closed always. Good god. Excuse me. He checked in his suitcase and waited in the lounge impatiently for the announcement to board the ship. The lounge was full of hippies. After the ship was well on its way. Shahjehan gazed at the immigration control gate. Should he wake him up. He could not be sent to Bangalore. debated Tapan. While this was happening the microphone blared the name of the ship Shahjehan was travelling on. Tapan leaned against the wall and thought about his next step. One of them asked. sleeping on the cot. his thin and bony body exposed. Joginder Singh? No. Would Tridib talk to the police? The policemen looked about then made straight for Shahjehan. are you Mr. Tapan came in and closed the door. so they have found out already? Shahjehan's heart began to pound. Quickly the passport was returned and the policemen ran to the scene where the dog had got hold of the suspect. Once he was on the other side of the English Channel he would feel relieved. There was nothing to sit on except the cot. Kaushik's problem was insomnia. . perhaps involved in narcotic smuggling. Boarding card in hand. bought a ticket for an European coach and got down at Dover. Nobody knew of his connection with the dead man except Tridib. in the sub conscious? Yet he was ready to forgive him. so he decided to shut it again and lit a cigarette to get rid of the stench. all the time. But there was no time to be lost.

he softened. As a measure of caution. Meanwhile the police came to know of their hide-out so Kaushik was shifted from one place to the other. . three have been caught. One such patron had flatly refused to see Tapan sending a ten-rupee note through his servant and asking Tapan never to come to him again. He resumed his work for the insurance agency he worked for earlier. he continued to live with a bullet in his kidney. who would remember that incident? Not that the police were not after him. His shoulder injury had improved. One has been killed. many prisoners had met that fate. The police kept constant watch over his house so the idea of sending him home was out. But how could he leave a helpless and sick friend for the sake of his own security? The reason why other party members cut off all connection was not really their fault. A doctor was called from Jamshedpur but he could not extract the bullet from his stomach. but when the detective officer learnt that Tapan came from Sarail in East Bengal. . having their own house in New Alipur was lying on a cot in a slum in Naihati . . He had practically no money of his own. the others have escaped to faraway places. But this was not a foolproof arrangement. How on earth can he get a doctor to extract the bullet. it was risky to try to track them. The news of his death reached his parents a month later. It was an unplanned. Kaushik would have to be shifted soon. Tapan was in no apparent danger. All that the police knew was that he was in the group of Manik Bhattacharjee — perhaps they could stretch his involvement with the Jalpaiguri murder. . in a jute mill labour slum. This room has been rented ten days ago. Some had gone underground. Among the others who broke jail. his legs were much better but strangely enough. The biggest problem was the cost involved in keeping Kaushik away from the eyes of the police. he was now friendly with the congress boys. currently much too agitated about the lock-out in the mill to care about the identity of the sick young man. Each was busy saving his own life. all financial help was gone . where his political affiliations were not known. But Kaushik was a much sought after criminal and the SB officer from the east. A good part of his uncertain income went to his uncle's family. Most of the dwellers were Bihari Muslims. Yet Subir who was not as seriously wounded had succumbed to his injuries . Some have retreated to the safe haven of their rich families. however friendly would certainly not come to Tapan's rescue if he was found to be helping Kaushik. That they would need a place to hide did not occur to them when they broke jail. To think that Kaushik. A boy from a nearby hotel brought the meals.his condition had deteriorated in Ghatsheela. Somehow Tapan not being a rich man's son or a bright student eluded the eyes of the police. They might have been killed if they had stayed. desperate act. a fact that would make him an easy target. He has gone back to his Dumdum colony. In fact it was his idea that Tapan should make friends with the congress boys. He couldn't possibly mention before his friend that money was his chief worry right now. Nobody knows their fate. They were out of touch with other members of the party. There was nobody to help. The earlier sympathisers have turned their backs. Meanwhile the situation has changed considerably. now he also sold National Saving Certificates. He cannot walk without a crutch. coming from an upper middle class background. But now murders are a dime a dozen.

raising loans was no problem for her. After President’s Rule in West Bengal the police were having a field day. Hopefully I will know something in a day or two. Kaushik was running a temperature again. his eyes still wet. It was no use explaining the situation to Kaushik. a source of added worry. She is under treatment. So he could not let his daughter come to the house. The pale and senseless body of his daughter gave the impression that she was dead. Anyway. Tapan was in a real fix. There was no response.indicated a change in class character. Who will lend money to a chap from a refugee colony? From Durgapur Kaushik had to be removed at very short notice. But what would be the next step? Tapan wondered. But Tapan ultimately took her there as no other option was open. Pompom! Where is Pompom? Tapan shook his head. He was in no condition to understand. but I am trying my best. don't you see? He snapped at Tapan. She needs care and treatment. Tapan called the sleeping comrade. she had contacts with high society people. he would invariably pick up a quarrel with Tapan whenever he came. A crowd would invariably bring in the police. not sparing the daughter of any ML A. The first thing Kaushik asked on opening his eyes was. Asoke Sengupta had his own image to his party to think of. A hard boiled political leader like Sengupta broke down completely. I am known to the CPM cadre in that neighbourhood. So against his better judgement. Kaushik. For the last couple of months he had lost contact with her. a change for the better. It was Pompom who was looking after Kaushik. Kaushik. won't you tell me where she is? Have no news yet. Don't come back to me unless you have some news of her. you and come and go as you please? No. you see. In the prevailing mess nobody knew what actions were ordered by whom . Though she refused financial help from her father. . you can't meet Pompom. . When he realised she had fainted he asked Tapan to leave her alone. Kaushik demanded. All I can tell you know is that she is not in jail. Meanwhile some Naxalite group had hurled a bomb at Pompom's father in his Maniktala home. Do you think this is a club or something. Tapan said softly. They were after Pompom. . Sitting up on the bed. Sengupta gave him a rebuff. As expected Mr. Her father is not available. To lose a wonderful person like Kaushik would be a great waste! He had to catch the evening train to avoid suspicion of his family and neighbours. Don't you want her to live? Two days later Tapan had visited their house. It was when Tapan and Pompom were on their way to Bankura to explore chances of finding a shelter that Pompom suddenly fainted in the Howrah station. as though he was responsible for his present condition. do you follow? Kaushik gave Tapan a shove. He was convinced that Tapan was trying to hide the fact of Pompom's arrest. Irritable and impatient. He touched his forehead and got a shock.

Kaushik asked. Picking up the other packet. That is what is worrying me. besides your uncles might be able to help. understand? I am going no place. They are not sick like you. Tapan found it too much to go on seeing Kaushik in tattered clothes. I might go to China or Albenia though. Recently he has developed a bad cough. Don't be silly. the boy who was the most well dressed of the lot in the study circle. how can I go back like a good boy? I am being practical. eaten it up. Your best friend Atin has gone. What a lot of trash. so could not choose the right types. Who are they for? It was a thick shirt bought from the footpath for eighteen rupees after a lot of haggling. Why the shirt? How long can we go on like this? Said Tapan by way of a feeble excuse. Should I get in touch with your mother? My mother! Why? You want to send her to jail too? I will be careful. forgot the blade for shaving. eggs. Get out where? You know Kaushik you need good nourishment like milk. Kaushik never smoked earlier. Why should I have milk and eggs. Kaushik was perpetually hungry for books but Tapan found it impossible to keep up the supply line. Kaushik was downright rude. But we can't afford them. he had to borrow from friends whose tastes were different. Your uncles might help.You talk as though you have made a round of all the jails. tell me. sisters. Couldn't bring any news of Pompom in all these days! Listen to me. am I a baby? Who has milk and eggs in this busti. Then he added. for getting the bullet out of your stomach. no brothers. Tapan offered him a packet of Char Minar. Answer me first. phone from your uncle's place. Once I have left home. I have no mother. I am going to get out as soon as I am strong enough. . Let me have a look at the books you have brought. You should go abroad like Atin for treatment. England. I have digested the bullet already. nobody. uncles. Don't you have any idea of what good books are! He said crossly. Hang your being practical. What are these? Oh clothes. Tapan could not afford to buy books. He has struck a deal with old newspaper sellers who also dealt in second hand or discarded books but Tapan himself was not very well read. now he cannot do without it. Your mother should be informed about you. You are no good. Anything else you need? Asked Tapan. Let me finish. America or Soviet Russia. Sorry.

he was so violent that he did not listen to Tapan's protests. You are running a temperature. After all I have done more than enough. Who am I after all. I hate you. Stop fussing. Where are those study circles revolutionaries now. Such jerks are needed. Overcome with anger. that is what the Chairman has said. Right now I have just seven rupees with me. How can I possibly take care of Kaushik. I forbid you to come to me again. In early August the police shot Saroj Dutt. At last. is that it? Charity! I did not mean that. There is a limit to everything. Out. Without bothering to look back. some will go abroad. No police in India dares to touch him. You are not coming here again. He was not going to stand all this nonsense. but I will remain where I am. from a refugee family. so is comrade Charu Majumder. out. I earn barely enough to support myself. Kaushik who could not walk without a crutch tumbled and fell. So and so has died. Our boys will protect him with the last drop of blood in them. disgusted. After all he had rented the room with his hard-earned money. Tapan rushed out into the street. Gurudeb. Shashi they are all gone. Kaushik was beyond himself with rage. Don't be childish. day before yesterday. The station was a twenty-five minute walk. The others will bag cushy jobs. Manikda is dead. Sudeb. Asking me to go abroad for treatment like bourgeois reactionaries? Get out! I don't want to look at you again. I would like to know. . It was Kaushik and their sort who had dragged me to the study circle. I have no idea what tomorrow will bring. Kaushik tried to push Tapan out of the room. Many will die. Why did you talk of feeding me milk and eggs. Keep your voice down. He tried to free himself forcibly. Who has been supplying you the money? Are you raising money like a beggar? What nonsense! Listen Tapan. What more is there to happen? What do you mean? We are alive. the idea of a total revolution was far away from my mind. the hell with everything.You are an idiot. I can take care of myself. Who had asked you to bring a shirt for me? Tell me who bought it? Milk and eggs indeed. you would not understand his case. Tapan said. But I think we have reached a blind alley. I care a fig for your charity. you rascal? Having pity. Suddenly Kaushik grabbed Tapan by the shoulder and charged. Asim Chatterjee has been apprehended in Deoghar. As Tapan took long strides he went on talking to himself. spending his own money to buy the shirt. Damn it. What do mean by telling me all that? Others are dying and I will fill myself with good food! That was not what I meant. Why don't they come forward to help Kaushik. I say. I spit on your charity.

presenting it to Mamata though it stayed in Tuntuni's room. Where is Kakima. He spoke slowly. not even enough to buy a blade. And these are sandesh from Bhim Nag. I have brought a record of Feroza Begum. without giving him anything in return. Very well. let him fend for himself. was constantly raided by the police. How can I leave you? I just wanted some fresh air. wiping his eyes in his shirt sleeve. Moved to tears. looked so vulnerable. mumbled Mamata. You should not have done it. as she always did on such occasions. to be accepting gifts from a new son-in-law. as if it was in another language: Tapan were you leaving me? Don't you want to come and see me again? Are you mad? Said Tapan. It was Tuntuni who opened the door but Paresh asked. he dropped in whenever he pleased. known for his firm courage.After briskly walking for five minutes Tapan paused. Kaushik was a rare person. He stood under the street light. Actually Tapan had wanted to give six rupees out of the seven to him. yet she was obliged to . Earlier he had bought a record player. He wanted to show off. Mamata could not afford to buy gifts. He changed his mind and decided to go back and fling the money to his face. If the boys of the other party who hovered near the station. the great idealist. What would Kaushik have for dinner tonight ? He has no money. at odd hours but always with some gift. intent on taking revenge. specially ordered. balancing on a crutch at the corner of the lane. daal and a vegetable costs about twelve annas. nowhere to go. The area. raising his voice. Where was he trying to go? It was not yet dark. He was almost on the point of tears. The whole thing was embarrassing to the extreme. 52 MAMATA had just finished her lunch when Paresh made his entrance with an LP record and a box of sweets. Now that he was their son-in-law. He was reduced to a skeleton. Kaushik Roy. How could Kaushik think that he was collecting donation? Tapan had not asked anyone for a single paisa. He came closer but all he could say was just utter his name. conflicting emotions going through him. it was suicidal to come out in the open. Mamata had to come out from her bedroom. Tapan would keep away from all this trouble. A meal of rice. his integrity was beyond question. a hotbed of labour unrest. Kaushik stared at him in wonderment. sunken eyes. This was Paresh's style. Tapan hurried back. Kakima. so helpless now. Let us go in. He turned back and was shocked to see Kaushik. identified him that would be the end. unable to take a step. songs of Nazrul — I know she is your favourite.

pay later? Send it later. Tuntuni. Mamata did not change her sari. The way Paresh talked nobody would guess that he was the culprit. Please come and listen. Tears welled up. The sweetmeat seller must have taken her for a domestic help. give Kakima a seat. Some sweets too had to be bought. She was dying of shame. On the contrary she felt that Bablu has been sent on exile. Mamata's thoughts drifted away. perhaps it was common enough but she had no idea. I know you. wondering how to handle the situation. Poor Munni was obliged to share a narrow dingy room with her aunt. . The only thing she put aside was a gold ring. After all Paresh was their son-in-law. responsible for turning them out of the Kalighat home. Unluckily for her the local grocery store was closed. Mamata did not have enough money with her. She has never gone to the grocers all by herself . But the boy saved her from the ultimate humiliation. a gift to baby Piklu from his grandfather. Today she was forced to do a chore she was not used to. For a mere four rasogollas. he said. said the boy. . he invited Mamata. She could make some luchi and fry brinjals. . she said. It was just not done. Pay later. You are Munnidi's mother. Meanwhile Paresh had put the record on. just put on her slippers and came out. For all her fondness for Nazrul songs. But they could not afford ghee these days. But she bore him no grudge. Mamata said stiffly. The door of Tuntuni's room closed slowly. and frying a luchi in dalda was out of the question. he did not give her a look. mashima. my daughter will pay you in the evening. the rooms get smaller. aren't you? She buys loaves of bread from here. She has never been through such experience. He has not written for more than a month and a half. and she could not possibly send Tuntuni to the market. Paresh often spent the night here. She even went to the length of exchanging the gold rings her sons got during their rice eating ceremonies for a new ring for Paresh and a pair of ear rings for Tuntuni. Smiling in gratitude. But the boy at the counter solved her problem. Mamata came out of the room. against his wishes. Music was on in full volume. Munni was in college. All she could think was what to offer Paresh at such an odd hour when the part time help was not around. She wiped her tears. drowning any other sound. the only reminder of the son she had lost. After marriage Tuntuni had to be given a separate room. Take it.cut down on household expenses and bought Paresh a shirt piece and suit lengths. Every time they moved house the area shrank. She did not have the heart to sell it. Kakima. of not having enough money. For no reason she thought of Bablu. The boy did not realise what effect his casual comments had on Mamata. They have no sense of shame at all. so she was obliged to go a stationary shop where only 250 gram cans of ghee were available.

That Tuntuni should have come and taken care of the frying. and that too during the period of mourning. Times have changed. Goodness. You should have some rest. brings in friends too. What do they think this is — a club house or what? I will tell Tuntuni this won't do. Supriti. a bride of the Majumder family. Two young men of Paresh's age were at the door. hardly ever talked to anyone except Munni. Well. grumbling continuously. Let him rent a flat and take his wife there. Mamata made no answer. Tuntuni has made a mistake. Mamata made more dough for the extra guests. It would hardly be proper for her to make that suggestion. I saw you going to the shop. in our time the son-in-law would never come unless invited. Let me see. She remarked with disapproval. Friends of Paresh. We are all a burden on Khokon. Said Paresh in a tone of authority as though it was his house. You are late. Who could it be? It was too early for Munni to return. for which . cut some more brinjals. had become very fussy and religious. back early for some reason then he was sure to make a scene. Did you have to do that for them? Well. instead of cooking for the jamai. didi. They were not so shameless. he can drop in. The doorbell rang. Mamo! You. can't he? Mamata said softly. said Supriti glumly. our only brother and you are our precious sister-in-law. echoing Mamata's feelings: he comes at any odd hour. The part time help never came before five. I believe they have plenty of money. plays music loudly. Khokon. Supriti went on. Come on in.Back in the kitchen she lit the stove and made a dough when Supriti. Mamata went on rolling out the luchis in silence. actually I went to get some ghee . That was why it had to be a registry marriage. She flopped down on the floor. it broke my heart. He is not in good health. Supriti got ready to go but both Tuntuni and Paresh had reached the door before her. It is simply disgusting the way they are carrying on. Actually Mamata was scared for a different reason. After all. done without the knowledge of his family. If it was Pratap. Why can't he take Tuntuni to his own house? You are forgetting something. Pratap won't allow such rowdism. It has not been one year since his father died. Mamo. They cannot get married during this period. he is the son-in-law. . . The present generation does not bother about protocol. I was sick and you had to go through such a lot. She was thin like a sparrow. I am afraid Khokon would lose his temper one day. That Paresh is here again this afternoon. disturbed by the din next door entered.

But I felt so depressed. a family of five in a forcibly occupied refugee colony. of course nothing of that is left. even Tuntuni. even better than the blacksmith. she used to be such a beauty. You may not recall him. They are huddled together. Lives in Jadavpur and forced me to visit him there. Pratap was late. If he stops coming at all and refuses to recognise her as his wife then Pratap will have no option but to maintain Tuntuni and the child for the rest of his life. It is much better not to visit old acquaintances. you are making luchi! She exclaimed. Nepukaka's eldest daughter Saraswati. Usually he felt too tired to go out after returning home. He recounted today's experience to his wife. You didn't have to. Suppose he came back. in Malkhanagar. I had started for Sealdah station when can you guess who I ran into? Nepukaka. But Supriti unable to bear it left for her room. Does he ever feel homesick? Another nagging thought kept bothering her. Our Natun Kakima. we were so fascinated by her. It has been three years. famous for his muscles. Shall I get you something? Or would you have dinner? Asked Mamata. ask them not to bring any food. He would never come up on his way back because he was scared to meet Pratrap. but nobody thought of Bablu and Munni. As yet. you know. Mamata was hurt. my god. At five-thirty Paresh and his gang left with Tuntuni to go a cinema show. so he attended whatever other business he was obliged to right after office. . . Nepukaka's son has a small job. I wished I had not come. So it was better that they bear with Paresh for a year after which hopefully they will be rid of them. How old would he be now — not more than Sixty five but he has already developed a stoop. We used to call his wife Natun Kakima. Had a couple of samosas there. Oh my. A two roomed house with tin roof. the filthy language she was using. That Nepukaka has grown old. no. in fact I could not recognise him at first . How he has carried on I have no idea.the marriage was the only way out. No. now widowed is living with . Pratap was in a reminiscent mood but Mamata was in no mood to listen. they used to have a house by the big tank. For some reason Bablu was in her mind. Listen to this. Mamo. I heard her fighting with a neighbour. where would he stay? Supriti has a room. quite a lot. But Pratap was going on. the last Mamata saw him was when he left for Siliguri. You know it was Nepukaka who spotted me first. You know what happened? He told Mamata as he changed into casual clothes. how proud he used to be of his health. I felt so depressed. His friends have brought cutlets. I am not hungry now. instead of stopping them joined in the fight. the boy is the youngest. that kakima has been reduced to this! Nepukaka. Tuntuni came to the kitchen to find the two aunts busy with cooking. He was a strong man. not interested in Nepukaka's tale of woe. But then Nepukaka insisted that I stayed for some time. He is the only earning member. Paresh has not told his family. he would cut the sacrificial goat in one stroke. he has married.

how cramped we have become living in these cramped quarters. it will. . After all she is your niece. that is what Biman says. you brought her here but to be quite honest do I have to spend all my life looking after her? When she was sick I even thought . I realise how narrow and mean I myself have become. That was an unkind comparison. Nepukaka who used to give a lusty cry from the other side of the big tank now nags like an old woman. is that it? Have you gone out of your mind? Till he completes his doctorate. Tuntuni and Paresh? Pratap could not stand criticism or complains. I am slaving away. I blame myself too. Living in those dingy little rooms has done this to them. Besides the political situation has to change. doing my utmost to keep the family going and that girl. The world has shrunk. But Mamata went on. Both Nepukaka and his daughter seemed to believe that I could get him a job since I am a hakim. everything is related to selfish motives. Shocked and hurt. this constant worry about money. Thakurjhi. No. I have a lot of power. They are so narrow minded now. Have you ever thought where Bablu would stay if he comes back? Bablu coming back? Has he written that he is returning? So you don't want him back. Pratap looked at his wife. He should concentrate on his studies. what else is left to fight for? We too are selfish and narrow minded. He is struggling so hard. Her eldest son. his hard earned money. Will you stop. no need to work hard to send us money. twenty three needs a job. thundered Pratrap. Mamo. . niece or no niece would act so shamelessly. I hate it. said Mamata angrily. And you refused the money Bablu had sent. . You are always picking up on me. I have done nothing. Pratap sighed. your own sister.them with her three children. One can struggle against poverty but if you lose your self respect. . the question does not arise. Why blame your Nepukaka alone? Look at us. Even though we are not in a refugee colony . You know what surprised me most was the change in their outlook. I can't stand it. That is exactly why I had refused it. Do you talk to your own didi these days? Ask yourself. He said stiffly. Can you discard her? Didn't you talk of driving them out. You hate Tuntuni — is that a sign of magnanimity? She should have been whipped for what she has done. .

Look! She exclaimed. The atmosphere was not likely to improve but Tuntuni came up with a letter. Munni tore it open. actually it was a bank draft. In any gathering three out of five would be from the east. Great! Is it still there? No idea. There was a nip in the air. it came out in occasional comments like — Oh. said Munni. This is a lot of money. looking much older than his friend. You are not to send it back. the city has been taken over by the Bangaals! Presently the two friends were on the street. Mamata told him. Do you remember Naren Cabin? Asked Mamun. And in her name. He waited till Pratap finished writing his judgement. 53 MAMUN came to meet Pratap in the Court. In the few months he had been to Calcutta Mamun has aged considerably. You and your ego! Tutul is clever. . Our regular haunt for egg chops. pretending to ignore Mamata who kept wiping her tears. How about going there. Two hundred pounds. but Pratap did not wear any warm clothes though Mamun had a shawl wrapped over his kurta pyjama. Munni examined the stamp and declared that it was not from the States but from England. Glaring at her husband. Pratap sat down with his files. Many of them were originally from East Bengal. It was a thick envelope with letters for everyone. Answered Pratap. . . There is a cheque too. Poor girl. It was didi who refused the money earlier because she has married a Muslim. This time it is up to you to accept or refuse. after all you are a Hakim.In the middle of these domestic tiffs something unexpected happened . Suddenly Mamata felt a wave of affection for Tuntuni. delighted at the sudden windfall. she must have milk regularly from now on. chatting with lawyers all of whom were inquisitive about Joy Bangla. Remarked Pratap. you can buy a fridge now. do you understand. Ma. Has not been to that area for ages. No wonder the locals resented it. If it is all right for you. After taking his bath. Two hundred pounds! Said Pratap. Mamata took the cheque. The cheque is in your name. They were reminiscing. It had a foreign postmark. as his house was some distance away. She handed it to her father.

Most welcome. You can try that too. Once you are out in the street there is no difference between a judge and. we will go. No. CPM or Congress. I don't think they will attempt a second time. way back. said Mamun. So you are from Joy Bangla. the day students have left. Mamun looked around. Yes. But I think I am in the hit list of Naxals — they have already made some judges their target. But my children don't have any east Bengal accent. Have there been other changes? Oh yes. my Calcutta accent is perfect. a criminal. The man folded his hands to return the greeting. Central College is renamed after Maulana Azad. Difficult to say. He greeted the owner.Come on. Plenty! Harrison Road is Mahatma Gandhi Road. What would you like to have. The same tables and chairs — only the walls are shabbier. What? Tried to stab you? Who were they? Pratap shrugged. Namaskar. No. You can't change accent in one generation. let us drop the idea. The funny thing is my son was in that party. do you keep track of our classmates — Subimal. Then let’s. Egg chops. could be anyone — Naxal. This place used to be famous for egg chops. They had tried to stab me once. You never know who is stabbing whom. You should have told me earlier. I believe Ripon College has been renamed Surendranath College. One can't be scared of the students. Do you still make them? Of course! We also have egg devils. Sir. Calcutta is a great equaliser. As a matter of fact the killings are less frequent these days. A garland of hibiscus flowers adorned a framed picture of goddess Kali on the wall. After taking their seats Mamun asked Pratap. That was our favourite table. Traces remain. Mamun was back in the old times. after all they are our children. Overwhelmed by nostalgia. Tell me. Yes. Lutfar Rahman? . you know. mutton ghugni. Mamun stopped on his track. I have been here quite a while but people can make out. The teashop was more or less empty. Mamun was enthusiastic. I noticed on my visits to College Street. why not. how could he make out I am from Joy Bangla? Your accent! But I have spent so many years here. They found Naren Cabin exactly as they had last seen it. pointed Mamun. I am sure you know. You know we used to come here during our student days. Baidyanath. before the Second World War. Pratap insisted. evening shifts are yet to begin. The middle-aged man at the counter must be the owner's son.

felt an urge to visit her quite often. what is wrong with my wife Mamata? Is she any less desirable? Embarrassed. She preferred you. Then a group of noisy students entered discussing the subject of Bangladesh at the top of their voices. They talked of old times. It was a peculiar unseen bond. admit it. Pratap. Pratap. I am sure she would be happy to see you. Mamata bouthan is unique. Such a talented girl! I always thought she would be a famous singer one-day. Sheer stupidity. He has no contact with his wife. I did meet her.I lost touch. The thought of Bula roused mixed feelings in Pratap. said Mamun. I wish I could meet her. You were devastated to hear of her marriage. Still I feel bad about Bula's unhappy life. I couldn't aspire for the hands of a Hindu Brahmin. Early in my career I was posted in the districts. that is all I can tell you. the way one writes about nature. Please. Why should I feel hurt? I never had any such relation with her. Lives somewhere near Tollygunj. But could that be called love? It was part guilt. The conversation stopped as the owner of the shop. Mamun and Pratap were obliged to eat in silence. don't get me wrong. on a few occasions. someone from a neighbouring village. not me. But you could have married her. Pratap said lightly. out of reverence to his guest from Joi Bangla brought the food himself — Egg devils. He did feel fascinated by her. proposing marriage. weren't you? You are the one who fanaticised about her. part weakness. your Butterfly of the Sky? Pratap was amused. What else could I do. You mean to say you have not met her even once? Well. How is Bula? He asked. No. Why. I am sorry. you know. I have not been in touch. It was no use bringing it in after all these years. and part a sense of possession. To think that such a life has been wasted. We were both in love with her. The two friends had a lot of memories to share. Where is she? You still remember her. Let us both go. he is in central government service. that is how. I am sorry to have brought this up. Well. Pratap never had the opportunity to tell his friend that Bula had come to him once. Tell me something. But met Subimal once. the son of a Muslim. Both of them talked of their boyhood romance with tenderness and detachment. But we were not rivals. Would her family mind if we pay her a visit? What does her husband do? He does not live here. At one point Mamun wanted to know about their boyhood crush — Bula. Mamun hastened to correct himself. Their married life has not been happy. another name for egg chops and mutton ghugni. I just wrote poems of appreciation. .

. The Mukti fighters with all their courage cannot resist a modern and organised army. China. The others were of opinion that it was far more honourable to fight your own war. what? Try to free the country first then you can go back and start in-fighting to your heart’s content. I find it surprising that now they have realised that the neighbour's house is on fire. So far the government as well as common people have been exceedingly kind to the ninety-three lakh refugees. We brag about seven and a half crore of Bengalis wanting freedom. you had a stronger claim. Vietnam. Why don't you understand the impracticality of it. General Osmani says the same thing you know. But on the contrary hundreds of leaders sprang up overnight and offered themselves as candidates. You have fled the country. If Indian army enters East Pakistan that would be aggression. Al-Shams are flourishing. These boys used to cry themselves hoarse over American imperialism.The heated debate was whether Indira Gandhi should or should not recognise Bangladesh. Jamaat-i-Islam and Peace Committee members are making Bengali intellectuals their targets. Bengalis killing Bengalis! Our golden Bengal has been reduced to a barren cemetery. I was in the office of our Home Minister Kamrujjaman when some middle level leaders of the Awami League walked in. we thought Bengalis would boycott it. One of them. Makes me hate the human race itself. But the actual picture is different. about fighting your own war without Indian participation. of carrying on the freedom fight for an indefinite period. Who are they? What would be their role if Bangladesh does become independent? Other groups like Razakars. That is not all. After all you were the secretary of the All Pakistan Awami League. pure and simple. So much of death and destruction! Exclaimed Pratap. Already ninety-three lakhs had poured into India. But can it last for years? The Pakistani agents can start a riot any time. But why! I think that is right and far more honourable. Looting is rampant. Thousands of people are being butchered. That is suicidal. How long can the India government carry on with this burden? If recognition to this new state is given then that would enable India to help them militarily and that was the only way to rid Bangladesh of Pakistani army. went on Mamun. Mamun paused. Said Pratap. Let me tell you what happened the other day. The country would be ruined. They are Bengalis. I got a scare. just to flatter Kamrujjaman said they had expected him to be the Prime Minister and not Tajjuddin. Flattery is a dangerous weapon. When Yahya Khan cancelled the Jatiya Parishad election and called for a bye-election. leaving everything behind. Mao. Obviously the boys were just back from refugee camps where they had gone with relief material. I wish you had left your scheming nature too. They are after the Mukti boys. Want to start a quarrel. Then he went on. There is another feature you can hardly ignore. Al-Badrs. keeping his voice low. I am telling you Pratap. But fortunately Kamrujjaman blew his top.

why did you say you have nothing to do with Joi Bangla? Can you deny your roots? Wouldn't you go visit Malkhanagar once the country becomes free? Certainly not. Hena had gone to attend training courses for first aid and nursing. Pratap listened for some time to the music practice session of Monju. the garden by the tank has turned into agricultural land. his name was often in the news. I had brought him here. Pratap sounded very positive.The din was becoming unbearable. Pratap did not miss anything about him. I can't accept money from you. Hoards of young men got in from a football match just over. None of us have to buy tickets on train. I have no desire to go back and look at these. Please. I don't want to spoil it. He was aware of the fact that Bula has not retained her youth. A few days later he visited Pratap again and repeated his suggestion to go and meet Bula. Mamun liked the idea. Some kind of a government office is housed in our outer house. he had put a personal ad in the paper with her photograph. cheering and shouting obscenities. Mamun was often in a reminiscent mood. Ever since his heart attack. but it was not her youth that he was keen to see but a past experience which both had shared. his air of easy familiarity which Pratap found irritating. it is on the house. You are right about overstaying your hospitality. But the owner folded his hands. Barun and three or four other youngsters. But Mamun. sir. A good part of his youth had been dedicated to her. Why should I not pay? Please accept the money. said Pratap coldly. let me retain the beautiful memory of the house. Now her son too is living . with Palash. Pratap had to give in finally. But Pratap was thinking of the days at Deoghar. I am greatly obliged that you stepped into my shop and had something. For your information. so they got up to settle the bill. You can donate it to the Joi Bangla fund if you wish. From Esplanade they boarded the tram to Tollygunge. organised by Begum Sajeda Choudhury. I have nothing to do with Joi Bangla. unmindful of the din carried on with a detailed description of Bula's wedding. Sir. Though reluctant at first. Would the present owner extend a hearty welcome to me? No Mamun. Satyen was a person of importance. Out in the street Mamun said. They came back to his Park Circus house. Tell me Pratap. Mamun did not try to contradict. It was the idea of Gouri Ayyub that women of Bangadesh too should participate in the freedom struggle. I find this very touching. What is the use? From what I have been hearing the doors and windows of our house have been taken out. of how Bula's brother-in-law Satyen called her Choto Ginni. The main house must have been forcibly occupied. This cannot continue if you stay here longer. Recently he has lost his wife. you are from Joi Bangla. even on public transport if you have some kind of identity card. What for? Mamun was genuinely surprised. God knows if Bula's husband was alive but he was not around.

It was his firm conviction that Pompom is either in some unapproachable jail or dead. what was there for Pratap to do? They got down at the Tollygunj tram depot and walked on. let me show you the house. Otherwise she would have found some way to get in touch. Get ready. I did not tell them that I would be late. The police would recognise you. So the streets were deserted. Why? People at home would worry. He had a rickshaw waiting. He told Mamun. Where do I have to go now? Asked Kaushik. Where exactly are we going? To Pompom. I heard only last night. does it matter very much if you are late? But Pratap was adamant. Her brother-in-law Satyen babu is an important man in the Mukti Joddha Assistance Committee. still running a fever.abroad. Bula's in-laws are from Narayangunj. Are you telling me the truth? . I don't feel like moving. Tapan entered the room where Kaushik lay listlessly in bed and ordered. After a while Pratap realised his mistake. No. How could he tell his friend that it was for the same reason that he never wanted to go back to Malkhanagar. A couple of the workers are absconding after killing a manager. We have to leave this place. Where is she? Kaushik asked. It was one thing to get wet in the rainy season but getting drenched in the cold season is not very pleasant. This place is getting hot. So Bula must be totally under the clutches of that wicked fellow. The police may raid any time. In a house in Ultodanga. they will welcome you. quick. I am not going. After coming all the way? Mamun was astonished. Satyen. Come on. said Tapan trying to hide his anxiety and apprehension in a faint smile. quick. He sounded tired. He pushed his hand free. Come on get up. 54 RAINS in winter are somewhat unusual. Well. Mamun gripped his friend's hand and insisted. I won't go in. Kaushik was not convinced.

said Tapan. The books had to be left behind. Please take off that dirty pyjama and put on a pair of trousers. They are police informers. You can't judge everybody by a party label. Where is she in Ultodanga? In the house of a distant relative! What is the matter Tapan. don't start a fight. What is to be done with those? Asked Kaushik. Nishith Majumder of Maniktala. Nobody from our party. Tapan asked the rickshaw man to put the waterproof curtain down. . Why should I? Who told you that the bustee would be raided. you are fumbling. Kaushik put on a shirt. You must look presentable. In the police report your description says you have a broken leg. You wouldn't know him. a Congressi. Nishith who? Never heard of him. He is very fond of you. To be absolutely sure. who has given you the information about Pompom? Nishithda. How does he come into the picture? You had lived in Maniktala in your childhood. I know these so called reliable sources. I swear I will never betray you. I see. Kaushik. If you hand me over. Who has told you about Pompom? Kaushik was impatient. Someone. you can pocket ten thousand from the police. if I have taken my mother's milk. That will be better. For god's sake. Nishithda knows both you and Pompom. I think I will be able to manage without them. The two crutches stood against the wall. Tall talks! Tell me honestly. The slight drizzle and the growing darkness turned out to be convenient.Why should I lie? Whatever meagre belongings were there Tapan quickly made into a bundle. how could you? I don't trust anyone. You must be making it all up. very reliable source. If I am my father's son.

You call yourself the son of a gentleman? Son of a whore! Trying to turn me over! I am going to kill you. but . reading a newspaper. Tapan proceeded. He got down every time the train stopped at a station. Kaushik cried. don't be foolish. The help he is giving us is purely personal. Sala spy! Growled Kaushik. In the dim light of the platform a man could be seen standing next to a local train compartment. Like a beast about to pounce. . it being a holiday. It was still drizzling. you. Pompom is not here. Please. Kaushik bit his hand hard but still Tapan did not let go of his grip. the usual office going crowd were not there. Kaushik nudged Tapan. but curtains were drawn. but slowly. Puzzled. Nishithda has brought her here. Your mother was getting hysterical. She is not here? You want to kill me as well? I will cut you into pieces. the man folded the newspaper and jumped into the same compartment. now it is my mother. please. is it? Another lie! No. each one of them. Tapan turned to a lane. I want to get down right now. guarding the way to the main road. To hell with Nishithda and his help. you nimakharam. Tapan had warned Kaushik not to ask questions but the mystery man had attracted his attention too. The station was more or less deserted. Listen to me. breathing heavily. I can take care of myself. I had to take this risk. Those who do not believe in class struggle are my enemies. it is the truth. It is about a five-minute walk. Midway in the lane Tapan paused. I mean I have lied to you. I tell you. don't you? Tapan had to force an angry Kaushik to sit down. A few seconds before the train started. After a while he turned back. Can you make it? Asked Tapan. I have no relation with my mother or my family. . You used Pompom as bait. You want to see Pompom. No rickshaw was around. Kaushik. Don't hold my hand just walk ahead. All the while Tapan had grabbed his friend's hand. You have to see her. Yes. The flight of steps at the Ultodanga station proved to be a hurdle for Kaushik but he managed without help. So all this melodrama is for a ten thousand Rupees reward! Please listen to me . you son of a swine. It is your mother. . Tapan just shook his head. Kaushik saw the man on their trail standing. Nishithda considers you two like his brother and sister. I have told you already. Yes the man was on his trail. sweating in the cold weather. . . Can we get very far by taking each one to be an enemy? Forget it. Lights were on in the first floor. Tapan gave the man a quick look and got into the adjacent compartment. The last house looked fairly new. You and Pompom used to go and play with Atulya Ghose's children.Certainly.

I have known you since you were six months old — do you know that? So the great hero. others too. Tapan dragged Kaushik to the house. Why don't you go to our Hooghly house. Go abroad then. Was everything all right? He asked Tapan. Kushu. She just wants to see you. Ma. how are you. The police will find out all right. . Kaushik was cool. Now the police will be after her. How long can this go on? Where are you staying now. His eyes smarted but Kaushik could not weep. You needn't be afraid of the man over there. you have put my mother in danger. He was a Congress worker in those days. You stupid fool. Boudi has broken down. I am staying right here. Ma. and Pintu. Nobody would know. Ma. Let them. Kushu? No fixed place. what? We too broke jail — that was the days of the British. I had asked Nishith to arrange a meeting. We do not have much time. Don't you worry. Asokeda. He is only guarding us. drew her son to her and burst into crying. I won't see my mother. I don't want uncle's family to be exposed to danger. Soma? All Alaka could say was Kushu! Please stop crying. that's all. Let us go in. He put his hand fondly on Kaushik's shoulder. replied Tapan. Atin has gone. Pompom's father too was with us. At the sight of the two boys he relaxed. Breaking himself free.What has Mashima done to deserve this? She just wants to have a look to see for her that you are alive. The bastards. here is your son. Alaka said. See for yourself. Everything fine so far. Boudi. Nishith Majumder touched Kaushik on the chin. looking worried. his tears had dried. He opened the door of the room where Kaushik's mother was waiting. Ma. What do you mean? You are dying to see Pompom but not your mother? What kind of revolutionary talk is this? What can I tell my mother? I cannot go back home. So this is your Kaushik? I would not have recognised. he asked. broke jail. muttering Kushu. Alaka rushed forward. entered through the front door to find Nishith Majumder in kurta pyjama standing at the head of the stairs. Nobody will know. Controlling herself with effort.

This will do. Do you know the risk he has taken. he declared. She has written from a nursing home in Berhampur. You have nothing to worry about Boudi. his voice heavy. So you are thick with the police these days. He took them to a taxi waiting at the corner. I am sorry. The man on their trail now came forward to open the door of the taxi. He could not show it in front of his mother. in fact we are related distantly. No. But I have brought it for you. Kaushik hesitated. Besides it is risky. In our mission one should rise above greed. I will be fine. I am going to Berhampur. said Nishith Majumder. the strain had been too much. for my sake? Nobody in his department knows. Take care of yourself. asking for Kaushik’s address. He is the best person to find out whether we are being followed by the police. Ma. Bye. . Don't you worry about me. Keep it. Your father had been a great help to us at one time. He took two aspro tablets and gulped it down with some distilled water offered by the driver. he did not get into the taxi but made a signal to start. Just a minute. Kaushik. Kaushik said. Keep the whole lot. The moment he was out of the room. you have to let him go now. The police would leave her alone. signed by Pompom in a shaky hand. she said. Who was the man who followed us all the way and now put us to this taxi? Which party? Don't get mad. We are from the same village. Take care. he said. At last the tears came. Kushu. It is only for him that we had a safe passage. I know him.Nishith Majumder who had left mother and son to themselves now knocked on the door. is that it? Kaushik. He is from the special branch. Kushu. It was written in some other handwriting. In a pronounced East Bengal accent he told Tapan. Ma. Taking out two inland letters from her bag she said. this will do. Alaka insisted. Let me reach you to the street-corner. she has written to me. However. please. Don't go to Howrah station or Sealdah. Why don't you keep in touch with her? Kaushik almost pounced on the two short letters and went through them. Putting his arms round his mother Kaushik spoke. Alaka opened her handbag to bring out a wad of hundred rupee notes. I am telling you. Good-bye Ma! Alaka wiped her tears. these are from Pompom. Boudi. Then picking up just two. or Naihati. Meanwhile Kaushik was feeling sick. Ma. I had told you about him.

Berhampur is a hot spot now. He had heard the name from Pompom. his stomach pain had started. Perhaps that is why such words came out of my mouth.Kaushik leaned against the seat. You are angry with me. Let us take the train from Dumdum instead of Sealdah. that is what bothers me. Fortunately for them the town was safer. it is from Ma. he said feebly. You do not trust me any more. But I have to go to Berhampur. They did not have to go far. by any means. We will spend the night on the train. I don't know what came over me to utter such filthy names. He could feel the presence of the bullet in the stomach from time to time. She had told him of an uncle of hers. in agony. Yes. he was silent. The nursing home gate had the name of the principal doctor. Please forgive me. Would you give me a cigarette please. But no patient with the name of Pompom Sengupta was admitted there. Kaushik spent the whole day in bed. he was absolutely sure. You really did not know about Pompom? She is not even capable of writing a letter. Oh. what with the Joi Bangla refugee population and the training camps for Mukti Bahini soldiers. I do not mind your calling me names. Loneliness. Kaushik's guess was right. the police vigil was somewhat slack. a doctor. Tapan meanwhile had made a trip to the nursing home. I am going to Berhampur to night. When do we start work again? My present worry is where do I take you for the night. What will I do with it? You keep it. Oli had come to visit him once when he was serving a stint in Berhampur jail. They got down at Berhampur and checked into a cheap hotel. There was no doubt that Pompom was here. by the name of Shakti or Santi Majumder who was sympathetic to the Naxals. he was Santimay Majumder. the name was one of the two. But as soon as Kaushik felt a little better he wanted to be taken there. Tapan I am sick and tired of being all by myself. He gave Tapan the two hundred rupee notes. she has used Oil's connection. something I really do not believe. He was reminded of an incident. How do we go to Berhampur? I don't think buses ply at night. I am not feeling well at all. aren't you? I am sorry. What is there to forgive? You believe that I can hand you over. But we are losing faith. I forgot. Perhaps we could go to the border and get into a refugee camp. said Tapan coldly. Tapan had no other way but to venture out with Kaushik. . We were warned against going to either Howrah or Sealdah. Keep this.

This is a trap by the police. Please have me admitted. well. a close friend of Oli — is she here? . We had to use it to gain entry. The man led them to an adjoining room. He will know. a little nervous. without giving him a look went on writing something. He said indifferently. The doctor was going to leave in five minutes. Don't you? He walked up to the man at the counter and said. I have never allowed the police to enter my premises. laughed the doctor. No use looking at the door. Like Shabari waiting for Rama in the Ramayana. said Kaushik. How come she has sent you? That is a lie. But tell me something. Oli is in America. Which of you two is Kaushik Roy? He demanded. soon appeared in white shirt. without a gun. Yes sir. You are in luck. admitted Kaushik. I would get admitted here. I would like to see Dr. You can't see him now. You still have about one hundred and fifty rupees left. Here he was.This is it. eyed them carefully. which was not there. Pompom has to be here. Bravo. If the doctor does not want to see us. I can't breathe. It worked. We won't detain you. Kaushik stretched to his full height. Majumder. you can't get away. Kaushik stood up. Still some spirit is left. trousers and a white pull over. looking at the doctor in the eye. It is rather urgent. I might die if no doctor attends me. It would have worked like magic. The doctor. Sorry. He wished he had it. ever. said Kaushik with as much politeness as he could muster. I don't get it. I am Kaushik. after nine. from Oli Choudhury. took a deep breath and felt his pocket for a revolver. Majumder's niece. We have been expecting you for the last two months. She is Dr. listen to me. Pompom Sengupta. tell them. Kaushik pleaded. We don't forgive betrayers. Please wait here. well. said Kaushik. Listen Tapan. Tapan was too unimpressive to be of any help. said the man at the counter. remarked Santimay with a smile — which was a mix of amusement and mockery. declared Kaushik. Some day somebody will get back at you. We don't have a spare bed. Cool down. I am seriously ill. may I? The man. We are from Calcutta. Please. Just tell me. Santimay kept on the banter. without strength. Please try the hospital. otherwise we would not have disturbed you at this hour. So your Highness has the time to drop in at long last. Just tell him that Kaushik Roy from Oli Choudhury is here to see him. Oli's Chotomama. even his voice is too feeble to scare a stranger. the daughter of Bimanbehari Choudhury of Bhowanipur. Come tomorrow morning. I am in terrible pain.

The doctor took them to the second floor. Didn't you know that Pompom is here? My friend Tapan had tried but could not get any trace. He wanted to have her treated in a Calcutta nursing home. I can make that out. The doctor closed the collapsible gate. you have made a thorough wreck of yourself. What kind of revolution is this. Pompom stays with us. added Tapan. What can a doctor do if the patient herself gives up? Gasping. his jaws tight. You can spend this night there. he had moved away from the bed. The doctor seemed quite well informed. She was determined not to take any help from her father. I have a feeling it is psychosomatic. We have to give her heavy sedative. don't spare that guy. She left a letter for you at home. What about providing shelter. This is where I live with my family. You should have thought of the wounded and made plans for a squad of doctors. they reached the second floor. Come see for yourself. You are running a fever. People have survived with a bullet inside the body but your anaemia looks bad. Pompom was sound asleep on an iron cot. you had bullet injuries in stomach and shoulder. Said Tapan. As a result she has lost the will to live. She has grown so thin that she was almost unrecognisable. The bullet is still in his stomach. almost carrying the ailing Kaushik who strongly refused to be carried on a stretcher. the pain in her stomach is unbearable. said Kaushik. We have a guest room on this floor. When she came here she was in no condition to travel by herself. . We have not been able to do anything about it. I know both your legs were broken. The real problem is her acute depression. your skin indicates acute anaemia. We have just heard about this place. modes of communication for those who are going underground. may I ask you. You are snatching guns but have no idea of how to procure bullets. No power on earth can save him. Somehow she has got it into her head that Kaushik is dead and Tapan has parted company.Suppose you tell me why another close friend of Pompom by the name of Kaushik Roy is pushing her to death? What is wrong with Pompom? Kaushik was miserable. Didn't you get it? I have been to her home a number of times but her father never divulged her whereabouts or the letter. I wish I could kill that police chap who had tortured her private parts. You people have killed a lot of constables. Santimay lightly touched her forehead. All three stood at the head of the bed. Well. Kaushik Roy? The doctor began. He has been here.

said Rita. I have nothing to say if two able bodied and healthy man and woman decide to live together. What good did it serve? If you want to love everybody. one of Oli's favourite aunts. in fact he never had the time to take care of himself. learn to love your life. I will bring another cot here. She was on glucose the whole day to keep her ache down. What a futile. It was to save Manikda that Atin had to kill a man and flee the country. he occupied a chair between the two beds. just a chance that your health may improve. that Manik Bhatchaj. I cannot guarantee you long life but if you stay close. The doctor introduced her as Rita. Tapan did not know that he had contacted TB. On the third day Santimay brought a strange proposal. She was in complete possession of her senses and even joked about the groom having a growth of beard. unable to get down because of the catheter attached to her lower limb was dressed in a new sari. Otherwise how will you bring about change. Look at this leader of yours. True. not the man. so Kaushik kept quiet. It was too late when I was taken there. both of you are sick and miserable. Kaushik. Pompom. meaningless death! You had been to see Manikda? Asked Kaushik. angrily. A post-dated notice was filled with the necessary details. I have heard about your Manikda from Oli and Pompom. You have got to. But let me tell you something. What is wrong in getting married? A marriage registrar was summoned. Both Rita and Tapan enthusiastically seconded the proposal. improve the lot of the poor. Tapan. Rita. I can't stand the sight of so many promising lives coming to a pointless end. They were there for two days. I had gone to see him. Pompom just lay quietly. Such a noble man had to give his life for petty party rivalry.He paused. explained Santimay. my wife. this is mister Kaushik. You must live. But you are weak and sickly. forget all about your revolutionary ideals for the time being. A lady entered. You have to live so that others might live and live a better life. Kaushik said sadly. Excuse me for sermonising. what a pity. If you recover completely you may go back to your revolutionary work. So you found the time at last. then there is a chance. what I saw was a dead body. If you can call it that. sacrifices are sometimes needed for a noble cause but then you have to see that the sacrifice does not go in vain. Do you have any idea how Pompom has suffered for you? It was no use trying to give an account of how he had spent the last two months. how? Can merely giving up your lives achieve those tasks. He wanted Pompom and Kaushik to get married in the nursing home. the name we have been chanting daily. Is it necessary to marry just to sleep in the same room? I am not concerned with the moral or religious aspect. so that you can sleep in the same room. neither agreeing nor disagreeing but Kaushik raised a feeble protest. You see Kaushik. But the party boys could not save Manikda. . learn how to live your own life first. for you this social bonding might act as a kind of therapy.

Fortunately Abid's mother did not know English. After a wedding the newly weds have to sleep on a flower bedecked bed. to home cooking and news of Calcutta but there was a catch. . In fact Atin had gone to the length of telling Abid not to ask Satyada. Atin was forced to carry on a conversation with Martha. Satyada was much too formal and Martha did not follow Bengali. So naturally they were invited to Abid's party. Mashima? He asked. As it is one had to speak in English in the workplace. The landlord and his wife were invited too. They were keen to hear the latest happenings in Calcutta as well as news of the freedom struggle but all that would have to be carried out in English! That was too much! Atin had noticed this social problem in all Bengali gatherings he had been to. This was where they would have a chance to freely use their own tongue. I have never seen a bride with a catheter. in shops and markets. No mantras were uttered. It has been so long since I have had parbal. in New York and Cambridge — the presence of the foreign wives was resented. a phul sajjya.Kaushik quipped. Abid Hussain was having a party in his room. and would not be able to smoke either. But Abid had a special obligation. I heard you have brought some parbal. Somen took this opportunity and carried on in Bengali with her with great gusto. He has invited Atin and Somen. Of course he was still worried about his two younger brothers who have joined the Mukti army. Perhaps their main attraction was Bengali food. What have you cooked. Thank god I don't have to translate all these in English. Atin was looking forward to the invitation. Bablu. they could not very well leave the wife at home. He had suggested to Abid to put his parents in a motel. But they had no foreign exchange. Satyada had made an exception to the rule of not having any other family member share the room. adding in Bangla. And daal with panch phoron too! He winked at Atin. Finally Satyada had to give in. so they would have to speak in English and be prim and proper. Don't the people who marry white women realise this? Even if they did. Abid's mother insisted on staying with her son. 55 TO celebrate the safe arrival of his parents from Chittagong via Calcutta. The dry legal words were followed by the Registrar's one line speech: let your marriage be long and peaceful. isn't Mili coming? Asked Martha. Tapan brought some flowers and scattered them over the two beds. So alu and parbal curry must be in the menu. which their wives could not provide at home.

Atin got it for three hundred. said Atin. a variety of foods available. She said she would be a bit late. Atin wondered. not exactly. you can't possibly park it in the bedroom. said Atin. not necessarily. Well. Satyada had objected. Was all the praise because of the shelter provided by the city to refugees from another country? In actual fact Calcutta transport was not good at all. . . including the United Nations. What really was the relation. quite cheap. I am not. In this country cars are parked out in the street. Atin hardly ever found anyone saying anything good about the city. Atin was on his guard. Who would have thought that a pukka saheb like him was so keen about Calcutta.Actually the room was not large enough for a big party. Did any one in West Bengal think so? Partition was a reality though unpleasant . but Sharmila. who has joined the ISKCON and left for Los Angeles. A common language is a great bond don't you think? No. the public transport good. though not formally invited. She is supposed to come. What is the relation between the two countries. Actually Somen insisted and lent him part of the money. Abid's parents were all praise for Calcutta. People walk home after a night show. He said. leaving his wife. but Atin had kept it in the driveway. now I am parking it outside. He gave a vague answer. Of course you have to park it outside. Justice Abu Syed Choudhury and a couple of other important people were supposed to come. are you too from East Pakistan like Abid. a sweet girl. Martha patted his arm. Then changing the topic. the safety in the streets. . Though his father came from that part. is it like East and West Germany? Martha was curious. Actually Atin had got it very cheap from Somen's girlfriend. one day they would unite. you did not tell us that you have bought a car? A red Ford! She put it lightly but there was an air of accusation. would be joining them. I did not mean that. what is now being called Bangladesh? No. The strangest thing was Satyada had joined the Bangla speaking crowd. After the independence of Bangladesh would the relations change? The barriers set up during Pakistan would disappear? Atin was doubtful. he had no memories of that country. it was blocking his car. Tell me Bablu. even rice was scarce not to speak of other delicacies. Our language and culture are more or less the same. I like her. she said. take shopping. All the time he was trying to eavesdrop into the other channel of conversation going on. The people are kind. But you must give me a ride. Atin did not hesitate. Martha disagreed. They have been travelling across the world giving talks about the situation in Bangladesh. While people in West Germany still thought it was an unreal division. How about that! Yes of course.

who in her eyes was a cousin of sorts of the American President. Martha. All solutions should come from across the table discussions. The other guests did not turn up but Sharmila did. I took my wife there. Even that was an overstatement. Compared to other universities of India. She refused to serve food to this white woman. even that they do not understand. . graduated in forty. Under the circumstances. You Americans are flying thousands and thousands of miles to drop bombs on North Vietnam. The youth here are against the war in Vietnam. I too am a student of Calcutta university. To her homesick eyes Sharmila looked exactly like her cousin. The war in Vietnam is an immoral war. The house we used to stay in is exactly like that. You serve her. Not only India but also other powers of the world should come forward to teach Pakistan a lesson. she has been untraced after the disturbance. But I don't understand. Naturally this remark triggered a bitter argument. Let me tell you sir. Naseem begum did not follow English but she was aware of the American government's role in this issue. Martha joined in.As the saying goes. there are protest marches and all. All wars are immoral. Abid's mother Naseem begum agreed. she told her son. So that they never use the army to torture civilians. That goes for the University of Calcutta. a degree from Calcutta is worth a lot in this country. even for Atin. Naseem begum was delighted to have a Bengali-speaking girl for company. charged less for stuff bought from shops. Someone from his department had been to Calcutta to work in the Bose Institute. What the people of East Pakistan are doing is a fight for survival. do you think a war between India and Pakistan is the only solution? Absolutely. Edward Kennedy was there recently. We were offered free cold drinks. Somen and Saif saheb spoke in a chorus. I would like to know something. went one step ahead. said Abid's father Saif saheb. killing people by napalm gas. Satyada was saying. a dead elephant fetches a lakh. Abid. said Martha. Atin felt that perhaps when Satyada came here that was true but not any more. All they do is politics. He said. you are talking of war? Are you war monger? This was too much. Yet during Pakistan's rule we thought India was enemy country. In Begbagan. on the whole they treated us like long lost relatives. said Martha. We hear a lot of things in the media about East Pakistan. who used to support Pakistan until quite recently. He said several million refugees have fled to India. I won't. I do not support any war. There is no other way to stop this brutality. What I liked most was the love and kindness shown to us as soon as they knew of our identity. And you are two poor countries. that is a silly comparison. he had told him that nobody in Calcutta did serious work or research.

We are dirty beggars. Atin promptly pointed out her mistake. But instead of creating more appetite Atin lost all desire to eat. No. bright in studies. Good riddance! exclaimed Somen. She is a Bihari. The company was relieved to see them leave. please. how about going to Longfellow Bridge. don't talk like that. the house has burglar's alarm fitted but solitude itself can be painful. Not to-day. Bablu. roast chicken. but Oli has not talked to Atin on the phone. excellent in housework. even once. Atin could detect a shade of regret on his face. They work in the office. She may not follow our language but you start speaking ill. Sharmila calls her often. Why isn't she here? Shortly after dinner. complained Somen. He could easily take Sharmila for a long drive. But can't we abuse the Americans in our own way? If you have an American lady sitting right there well. Others chatted away but Atin felt strangely isolated. Abid did not serve drinks in the presence of his parents. Sharmila is not from Calcutta. the artist lady having gone away. All the five daughters were so accomplished — jewels all of them. Oli living all by herself in the room upstairs. she commented affectionately. For you everyone is kind. protested Sharmila. That idiot Martha. His thoughts strayed to Oli. plain rice. All he could see was Oli alone in that house in Maryland. said Atin indifferently. Nobody can get in. Martha is a kind lady. from Jamshedpur. It was a sumptuous spread — biryani. comparing this struggle with the Vietnam war . Ever the pukka saheb. Protested Sharmila. Satyada and Martha took their leave. Atin and Somen had a few drinks before coming here. she will immediately understand. and take care of the family. how pleased she would have been. He wished Oli were here. In that case I could have taken a taxi. She was a Calcuttan. do you understand Sharmila. Satyada went to bed punctually at quarter past eight. She had been invited to a Hindu household in Elgin Road. cook at home. In fact Sharmila suggested it. so versatile. What is she doing now. salmon curry and four kinds of vegetable dishes. all by herself in that huge house in Maryland. . Atin kept thinking of Oli. you know something.The girls of Calcutta are so good. As the conversation went on. and the ground floor completely dark. Atin did not speak but took a turn at high speed. Even kind-hearted ladies can be great bores. . She has never lived alone. But even he seemed a little moved. Why speak ill of them in their presence? said Sharmila. Atin had a car now. After seventeen years of exile he was keen to know about Comilla. . We have not been there after that day. As if they don't do the same to us. The party broke up. spoke the dialect with Abid's father. I am sleepy.

Who is this goddamn Shounak. Tell me what the problem is. I want full details about this character. totally out of place. how do you like my sari? Abid's mother gave me a beautiful jamdani. totally out of place. Lalpaharir deshey ja. stop talking about that Shounak. She picked up the phone after about one minute. ranga matir deshey ja. To change the topic she asked. fine. Whose letter! After a brief pause Oli replied. hethay ture manaiche na rey — go to the red hill country. Babluda? You must have had a fight with Sharmila. a good time to phone Oli. Sharmila understood that something had gone wrong. . Nobody was there in the living room. Went down to feed the dog. I am out place here. in Cambridge. You will be driving alone after dropping me.Bablu. He has written about all our friends. I do not like it one bit. From Shounak a long letter. Don't boast. What's wrong. Babluda. please. What is the matter with you Babluda? Asked Oli sweetly. Got a letter. Oli? I am fine. puzzled. Please. Actually I have not finished reading Shoumak's letter. Then I opened the letterbox. He parked the car. I had to put it on for her. Why are you mad? How is Sharmila? How have you been. . I'll call her. you have me worried. I could hear the telephone ring . Oli. . Atin exploded. He climbed up. Tell me about you. you are out of place here. He strode downstairs. What kind of song is this? Asked Sharmila. Instead of commenting Atin broke into a song. It was no use visiting Abid now. his voice sounded like an admonition. This is my national anthem now. Atin was in no mood to talk. He kept on humming the same song on his way back. poured some whisky and sat down to read. How could he tell Sharmila that Oli was constantly in his thoughts. But the song would not leave him — you are out of place here. the land of red soil. Where were you? Asked Atin impatiently. Oli. but it also pained him to keep it from her. You are mixing with riff-raffs. driving a car. Haven't I told you that I will not die in an accident? I have a charmed life. he would tell her sooner or later. He wanted to talk to Somen but his room was dark. She resisted the temptation to ask him. Don't I look out of place? He did not kiss her good bye.

Jehanara said.No. . Oli interrupted him. A special guest in coming or what! No. Eid was celebrated in a simple way. Jehanara was enigmatic. who am I . Oli giggled. they have to manage the household. They live from day to day. . Before dozing off in his bed he muttered her name. against the decree of the Pakistani army who wanted Eid to be celebrated with great festivity. . no special food. I think of Calcutta. . Oli nothing of the sort. Eight days ago. no. Nice crockery set is kept aside for a special occasion. . None but the very rich and the stooges of the army followed this order. beautiful lace table cloth on the dining table. . . . foreign towels in bathrooms. . no. nobody to disturb me. Nobody knows if a person going out of the house will be back at all. no new clothes. . Who knows what will happen tomorrow. Atin put the receiver down and stared at the wall for full five minutes. . he said sadly. Jehanara decided to give the rooms a facelift with fresh new sheets on the bed. I had saved these for the weddings of my sons but as things stand. it does not seem to be likely. Oli. Shareef could make no sense of her words. I am not going to stand between you . 56 WOMEN are thrifty by nature. Shareef and Jami stared at the table. like I have done . . you live there alone . Sala Shounak. Oli. Oli. I keep thinking of you. But what was the occasion to day? At Shareef’s insistence. Then he took a sip from the whisky bottle. if you ever misbehave with her . son of a swine. Atin was at the point of breaking down. After months of listless living. Let us use them as long as we are alive. what will happen to the lovely things. The gold ornaments most women are so fond of are actually not so much for wearing as a symbol of security. save for a rainy day. . Oli. But I enjoy being alone. a bleak future staring them in the face. Is there anything I can . What is the matter? Asked Shareef. set an Italian dinner set with sparkling new cutlery and cut glass tumblers. I just want to know if you are all right. The Mukti Bahini on the other hand in a secret circular had asked the people to refrain from festivities. She is not mine any more. No reason. Jehanara however had cooked special sweets thinking of some who did not turn up. no. But these days the citizens of Dhaka wake up in the morning. If we are to die suddenly. We are our own guests.

Even though Jehanara. Pir saheb did not even know. There is more. Take as much as you want. They had acquired just one sten-gun. This would be a lesson to the Mukti Bahini boys and would induce them to surrender. Just to lighten the sombre atmosphere of the dining room. Asad took it. Asad. Asad. Jami went on. they got an all-clear signal from one of their men who was stationed there. Tauba. Feroze and Firdaus. But socks were of no use to them. Remarked Shareef. as most of them did not have shoes. As soon as they pointed the sten gun on the forehead of the guard and he dropped his rifle. he hollered and everybody obliged.Tomorrow has been declared Crush India day. the notes started dropping from the sleeves. As the car reached the bank. in view of the uncertain future was using up her valuable stuff. APWA. There was a rumour that about a lakh Bengalis will be declared Indian agents and will be shot. She said she was buying clothes and stuff for the army jawans to be sent through the All Pakistan Women's Association. They had forgotten to take a sack or a bag. Jami began. Once she almost got caught. Nobody had any idea of what it meant. Hands up. demanding why she was buying so many? An answer came to her on the spur of the moment. hai Allah. that is what I call them. But before the army could swing into action the bank robbers were gone. . Both Jehanara and Shareef had a hearty laugh in a situation where danger lurked at every step. Robbing a bank in Pir saheb's car. at the same time she was hoarding clothes. Earlier they came to take only money and cigarettes but as winter was approaching they needed warm clothes. specially woolens. She was buying six sweaters from a footpath stall in Jinnah Avenue. he said. next to the Jonaki cinema hall? You wouldn't believe it. How could they do it? Listen to this. They took Arif’s father Pir saheb's car. Two army trucks stood by the roadside. Munir and Feroz ran in. rice and cash tied in small bundles. Munir. buried in the bags of rice. Munir had a toy revolver. yelling. We know the Mukti Bahini needs cash. It was great fun. who was behind the robbery of the Muslim Commercial Bank. Suddenly a Pakistani soldier appeared before her. The men were collecting medicines and hundreds of cigarettes. You know Amma. they had changed the number plate. How would they carry the bundles of cash the manager was offering? Finally Feroze took off his shirt and made a bundle but by the time they were out of the bank. But they had no inkling till the public started clapping and shouting Joy Bangla as they do in any action by the Mukti Bahini. Visitors would drop in any moment. How much did they collect? Asked Jehanara. The manager came forward. Real novice. Really! Jehanara was surprised. don't kill me! Munir rushed to the cash counter brandishing his toy pistol. Tauba! Exclaimed his father.

the hero of the young generation. however. When news came of Khaled Mosharaf’s death. I shed tears the whole night. sat for hours staring at nothing in particular. Headings like Naked attack by India often appeared in the newspapers. But none of them had any idea. The Indian agents armed with heavy artillery had been repulsed. . Many people in Dhaka were getting impatient. and disappeared after an action. Exactly ninety-eight days ago he was taken by the military and has not been heard of since. What is it for.The Mukti soldiers sneaked into Dhaka every now and then. Jehanara waited with bated breath for a midnight knock on the door. Pagla Baba is the only ray of hope. the entire city was plunged into grief. But we have won the war in Kosba. from her. who did not care for his own life. It is in our control now. good or bad. She heard about Babul Choudhury. He was not dead but badly wounded and flown to a hospital in Lucknow. They picked up anybody at random and charging him to be a malaun kicked ruthlessly . You know Amma. The uncertainty was unbearable. Every time she expected it to be Rumi. You know Amma. The youngsters held him in great awe. Indira Gandhi was out of the country. asked Jehanara. they wondered why was India not starting a war in real earnest. related the messenger from the camp. Have you seen Ibrahim of the Ghosh Lane recently? He too has a red band round his shaved head. Was he doing it just to cheer them? Jehanara wondered. But a few days later the correct information trickled in. No idea said Jami. During action he proved himself an extraordinarily brave soldier. rehearsal of black out did not strengthen the impression — although neither the All India Radio nor the Radio Bangladesh confirmed it. touring. He never talked. With the Mukti Fauz intensifying their attacks. relating it. There was never any mention of the dreaded name of the Mukti Bahini in the newspapers. The news created a scene like Karbala in our base camp. The media would have people believe that India was at war with them. . the oppression on the general Bengalis assumed inhuman proportions. the commander of sector two. She too had noticed this. The latest trend among Biharis is to shave their heads and tie a red band across the forehead. We beat our breast and cried. One person who happened to be the son of a Peace Committee member was shot dead by mistake. often at unearthly hours. Has Rumi broken jail and escaped to India but did not get in touch with the family for reasons of security? When others dropped in Jehanara served them food and appealed for not keeping any news of her son. The newspapers of course had a different story. Curfew at all hours. They look like Satan's brothers. . Her heart danced with joy when they came. He had tears in his eyes. In this the Bihari Muslims were helping the military. but it changed into a smile as he came to the happy conclusion. Jami informed his mother one-day. he has assured all the mothers that he will bring the sons back.

not from Vietnam or Bolivia but from this Bengal. They expected the citizens to join in the offensive. at least a new beginning will be made. A price of a can of kerosene had shot up from eleven to eighteen rupees. . then it disappeared from the market. talking to someone. He looked like a true freedom fighter. . Rumi. there would be fighting in the streets. As she looked at the print. Only a few days ago a Punjabi Major and some women were injured in another bomb blast in Fancy House — a sari shop. Jehanara was now resigned to her fate. cap at an angle. Bangladesh! On her way back Jehanara recited some lines of a poem. honking like mad. . a belt of cartridges across his shoulder. she had to pause between lines to ask the photograph. particularly Jibanananda — Abar asibo phirey Dhanshiritir tirey ei Banglay Hoyto manush noy — hoyto ba shankhochil shalikher beshey . Electricity has been erratic ever since the explosion at Siddhirganj power station. by the side of the Dhansiri. I think he has done it as a precaution. we shall fight in the streets. Any day the Mukti Bahini would enter Dhaka. How crazy he used to be about poetry. Jami and Shareef were determined to take part in the all out war. We shall fight in the houses. perhaps as a kite or a myna . I don't want to look at him again. She had given them the negative for enlargement. Niazi and his men might set fire to the city if they found no way out. How would the cooking be done? Jehanara sent the old servant in search of kerosene and she took out the car for some necessary purchases. right in front of the military. but let it be. one of the favourite lines of Rumi. A din and confusion greeted her as she approached Baitul Mukarram. as the raiders were Rumi's friends. she could understand why. How life like! Rumi. her heart missed a beat. in military uniform. (I will be back again. But Shareef was always doing something or the other to help the Mukti soldiers. They were like his own children. Rumi could have been one of them. If freedom comes it will have to be at a tremendous cost. Jehanara was glad. . Coward! Spineless coward! Said Jami.) Tears streamed down her cheeks.Goodness! So Ibrahim bhai too has turned into a Razakar? Jami was shocked. his young face distorted in hate. The situation reminded Jehanara of the famous speech of Winston Churchill during the Second World War. Cars were speeding away. in this Bengal May be not as a human. won't you be back? When? But you have to don't you see? . He brought home bits and pieces of news. Her husband was losing weight. What has happened to him? Rumi was constantly in her thoughts though she hardly ever talked about him. A bomb had exploded in a shop in broad daylight. killing three army people. Rumi. Jehanara went to a photography shop to collect a portrait of Rumi.

in order to secure moral support from the western nations. consisting of Indians living in America and Indian officers. You will hear it from Big Brother America — that was the unspoken message. to see this country gaining freedom. showing resentment.She put the photograph on a stand in the living room. here in this Bengal. She has left the country in a time of great crisis. 57 INDIRA Gandhi came out of the JFK airport in a black overcoat over an orange and yellow sari. She turned up the overcoat collar. Indira Gandhi. Everywhere she was received cordially. Is there any power in the world. . Indira Gandhi looked at the diplomat angrily. A diplomat sitting next to her started a conversation. has had talks with President Nixon for two days. She stared out of the car window with unseeing eyes. What is she doing? Putting up Rumi's photograph here? Was this an assumption that he was not coming back. But they were guarded and shirked the actual issue carefully. She went back a few steps. which was to take her to a hotel in Manhattan's Lexington Avenue where a suite has been booked for her. They were all keeping something back. She wrote in a piece of paper and stuck it at the bottom of the frame. she wanted to rest. How can you leave the land at such a time? No. admired the photograph. She will definitely meet them. the elected Prime Minister of the largest democracy in the world. Britain. . she assured them but right now she was tired. no. This had been the greatest blow to her ego. in full bloom of youth in spite of her fifty odd years looked somewhat morose. briskly walked to the limousine. Rumi you have got to come back. Strange. which can suppress this land? I will be back again. President Nixon did not agree to give a joint statement. in Belgium. We thought . ever? She quickly pressed the picture to her heart and muttered. Neither did she reply to the flood of questions aimed at her. . Here she was. She did not even smile to the cheering crowd. New work of rebuilding will begin. expressed sympathy and promised financial help to the refugees. her looks meant to convey her unwillingness to discuss the topic. they sang praises of Indian democracy. She was biting her lower lip. a boy like you can never shirk his duty. No American diplomat could be seen in the five hundred strong crowd gathered there to welcome her. yet Nixon refused to give a joint statement as if the visit of the Indian Prime Minister was of no significance at all. It was a windy day with a continuous drizzle. So innocent a face but how fearless and valiant! Thousands like him have set out on a mission to free the country. Slowly panic gripped her. Austria.

Do you still produce muslin? I believe Kashmir is a lot like Switzerland. don't you think? Your Excellency. blankets. madam. tries to annihilate a particular religious community. Indira Gandhi. we are a poor country. Mr. red in the face answered. We don't want a war between you two.Why America. is that so? A clearer picture emerged from Indira Gandhi's talk with the Secretary of State. I still don't understand why India is so perturbed. Nixon showed no inclination of going beyond small talk so Indira Gandhi was forced to put it bluntly. continued to support the military ruler of Pakistan. quite right. But if a government kills millions of its citizens. It has got to be stopped right now. Well if it is Pakistan's internal matter then it is all the more reason for us not to interfere. A practical man. was something that Indira Gandhi could not understand even after coming to Washington D. You promise to increase aid on the one hand and supply arms to the military government on the other — what kind of policy do you call this? It is a lovely sari you have. You should make an effort to see that the military rulers sit with the elected leaders for a solution. We are sending relief: food. replied Nixon evasively. It is only you who can pressurise them to set Sheikh Mujib free. replied Indira Gandhi. Rogers the next day. so proud of their democratic culture. we can increase the amount of aid. should the world remain a silent spectator? It is not just a question of politics but humanity. Anthony Mascarenhas in his book The Rape of Bangladesh has compared Yahya's army to the Nazi army of Hitler. It is your media people who have exposed the whole story. Rogers. We are getting help from other countries too. of course. agreed Nixon. the whole world gets worried if any two countries go to war. we have to seek help but I have not come to you with a begging bowl. Have you given any thought at all to the atrocities of the Pakistan government in the east wing? Oh yes. observed Nixon. After all the United Nations is deliberating about it. All I am asking you is to try for a lasting solution. President.C. Nixon smiled sarcastically. Terrible genocide is going on. Neither should you. I am sure you share my views. The reason India is perturbed is that already ten million refugees have crossed the border and entered India. How can we take care of this tremendous load? Quite right. But Pakistan will push over her excess population to India and we keep on feeding them — how long can this go on? Well. Both the countries are equal as far as we are concerned. money. The problem is not between India and Pakistan but inside Pakistan. Is the Hon'ble Prime . if need be. without beating about the bush remarked. Already Senator Kennedy has visited the refugee camps. We should not interfere in any problem between India and Pakistan. who disregarded the results of the general election.

Pakistan has acted as the medium. Indira chalked out another strategy. Nixon is likely to visit China soon. Under the circumstance. regardless of how and where they are used. She did not receive any such reception from the American people. All well-meaning people all over the world should raise their voices against the genocide in Pakistan. From what Rogers said. Two thousand Chinese boys and girls sang at the airport to welcome Mr. both Hindu and Muslim? Poor people after all die like insects. If India wants to drag Soviet Union into the sub-continent then she will usher in another Vietnam. continued Rogers. This was not a diplomatic war between India and Pakistan but a matter of life and death for millions. America will go on honouring the arms treaty that they have with Pakistan. So she would appeal directly to the people. Don't they feel sympathy for the Indian people? The Indian consulates and the embassy have failed to present India properly. A shade of gloom darkened the face of the Indian Prime Minister. Was not the RAW aware of it? Even the Indian Embassy in Washington had no inkling? A couple of hours earlier. A lot of tears have been shed over Hitler's killing of Jews. In replying to their questions she carefully avoided the name Bangladesh. Chou en Lai in China? It was stunning news. the young generation was against the war in Vietnam. which is actually a Military pact.Minister aware that at this very moment Mr. The American people after all were freedom loving. This Lin piao was vehemently anti-American. press clubs. Yet other sources said he had left China after an aborted coup. Indira spoke in churches. he had it told by Rogers. had a bath then came out to meet the Indians waiting for her. for instance the mysterious disappearance of Lin piao. a TV interview was also scheduled in a national channel. others said he was dead. America and Pakistan is going to be formed. The American press and TV too were independent and powerful. as a special envoy of Pakistani President Yahya Khan is engaged in a diplomatic dialogue with Mr. What Nixon did not want to tell Indira Gandhi. Bhutto. who was supposed to be Mao tse Tung's successor. Nixon met the Indian Prime Minister in a formal dinner. a country having powerful allies. rested a little. the role model of Indian Naxalites. make them understand the actual picture. How can India come to the western world for support? This is like eating the cake and having it too. She reached the hotel. the Jews are white and moneyed people. So such people do exist. Bhutto. India has signed a friendship pact with Soviet Union. The way is now clear for America. Yet there are writers and artists who are raising funds for the refugees. Indira Gandhi's visit amounted to a big zero. America does not want to disturb the status quo in Pakistan. naturally. Some said he was seriously ill. In short it would be a foolish thing if India gets involved in a war with Pakistan. Neither did she talk . it appeared that a new axis between China. thanks to the liaison work done by Kissinger. All protocols were followed but there was no joint statement. Certain sequence of events have favoured the formation. Moreover. In New York she was supposed to speak to the students in Columbia University. Why should America bother about the massacre of millions of poor Asians.

Please remember. Even the intellectuals of West Pakistan have demanded the release of Sheikh Mujib. she said in the TV interview. to pacify the terrorist rebels. Already one thousand Pakistani agents have been arrested in West Bengal alone. Malreaux said he would support any war for freedom and would take up arms himself in case of a war to help Bangladesh. Indira's command over the French language came in handy. already hard pressed for employment will begin to resent their presence. Indira was for good relations with China for two reasons. which can flare up at any pretext. yet the American government wouldn't lift a finger! Indira's next stop was France. A riot would mean a loss of innocent lives. A political solution is being talked of. Can you tell me what I should do? He asked Indira frankly. The Prime Minister George Pompideau himself came to welcome her at the Orly airport. So Bhutto's visit had not been fruitful. we have kept democracy alive in the last twenty-four years. India is determined to bring about a solution. She asked Pompideau to arrange for a meeting with Chou en Lai. In spite of the best efforts of Bhutto. Is there any logic in the US government's argument that India and Pakistan are equally responsible for the crisis? Pakistan is killing its own people. It is not an easy task to provide for this population for an uncertain period. Pompideau. she repeated. Pompideau was a man of culture and with his usual French chivalry. we cannot afford to let the crisis in East Pakistan continue. and India. This can only be done through discussion with the elected leaders of East Pakistan. one time minister and a friend of her father.about the possibility of war. In this situation. But the French Prime Minister. organised a grand reception for Indira. fraternity and liberty making this country a role model for the entire world. Pakistan will certainly try to instigate communal trouble inside our country. driving them to flee to India. she could communicate with the French Prime Minister without an interpreter. Pakistan wanted to have a military pact with China but no such treaty has been announced. One. Pretty soon the local population. A visit to France was always an exciting experience because it was more than a nation — it was an ideal. Let China and America supply arms to Pakistan as much as they want. In the reception Indira spoke highly of the French ideals of equality. too could not give any assurance except saying that in case of war France will not give any assistance to Pakistan and will increase the quota of aid to the refugees. We are sitting on the top of a volcano. he could not get any joint statement from Chou en Lai. But a prolonged war will be a disaster. we have not succumbed to pressure from any great power. a good friend of Indira's father was warm and affectionate. Many in our country are crying themselves hoarse for going to war. for humanitarian reason taking care of them. How can you say India is equally responsible? There is a limit to our patience. Before leaving Paris she went to visit the writer Andre Malreaux. She used stronger arguments in the University of Columbia. Then there is this burden of a hundred million refugees. . But there was one good news. to reduce the defense expenditure of having a large armed force at the northeast border and two.

Visibly tired after her speech. she wiped her face with a paper napkin dipped in eau de cologne and asked the assembly. Twenty days later she returned to Delhi. During the Second World War. But Indira had shown exemplary tolerance. Is there any solution except war? The only good thing is that I have made it clear that no makeshift solution is possible. frustrated. but more of whether we would be able to withstand another war. no black flags were shown in Indira Gandhi's meeting. But she mentioned neither war nor any hint of a solution of the Bangladesh crisis. war clouds loomed ominously overhead. Charu Majumder had gone underground. Perhaps the western powers want a collapse of Indian democracy. Somehow all parties were united in their feeling for the people of Bangladesh. In due course Indira came to Calcutta for a public meeting. will history ever excuse her? She spent her fifty-fourth birthday at home. With increasing skirmishes in the border. The ultra leftists were not wiped out yet. Indira did not answer the question. quietly. Was a total war on the way? It is not a question of war. This has enraged the leftist parties. People must be ready for sacrifice. After the meeting she met writers and artists at the Raj Bhavan. Siddhartha Sankar Roy was acting on behalf of the centre. a war on the top of that would be the last straw.In West Germany she heard more or less the same noncommittal assurances from Willie Brandt. concentrate on spreading communal harmony in your respective constituencies. What now! They wanted to know. humiliated but determined. I was detained in London. This had not happened in the wars of 62 or 65. A country. Will it turn into another Vietnam? Floods and other natural disasters have played havoc with the national economy. Indira noticed that the opposition was no longer being hostile to her. Please do not think of war just now but instead. She addressed a mammoth gathering at the maidan. Though the army does the fighting but the civilians have a lot of responsibility too. Her cabinet colleagues asked her about the outcome. Can she take the responsibility of breaking it into three? If the Balkanization continues. did not want to bother about the massacre in East Pakistan. photographs of two Pakistani pilots who were shot down in an encounter. The crisis can be solved only with the help of the people of East Pakistan. We will send the refugees back at any cost. and trouble kept erupting in the city. Strangely. India was broken into two in 1947. In spite of the bomb attacks all the concert . They are demanding election. You are still not ready to recognise Bangladesh? Asked one of her cabinet colleagues. Why is it that the same opening songs are sung at every meeting? Does it mean new songs are not being written after Gurudev Rabindranath? But nobody was interested in cultural matters. Those who were against the Congress or disliked Nehru's daughter felt enraged at the treatment their Prime Minister got in Europe and America. whose memory of the holocaust was still vivid. President's rule has been imposed in West Bengal. Some stray events of aggression have been reported in the paper. The topic of war was in every mind. After all politics was more important than humanitarian sentiment. people listened with respectful attention. explained Indira. she said.

She walked with brisk steps with Aurora and Siddhartha Sankar Ray. jumped into a jeep which took them to the airport. Chief of the Eastern Command. At this point a Sikh officer in full army regalia was seen at the door. it creates a kind of festive atmosphere. TAC in brief. there is some urgent work at Delhi. Indira Gandhi took some time. deep down at a secluded spot of the Dhaka cantonment. The silence was broken by the sound of marching boots. She completed her dialogue with film star Uttam Kumar. Her face did not register any emotion. General Niazi dressed in summer trousers. Entry was restricted to only the high-ranking officers. scanning the sky for bombers. in spite of the black out. it has been operating from here since November. . From there she was transported to Delhi in an air force plane. Radio sets were on all through the night. So it was war after all. In army parlance it was known as the Tactical Head Quarters. At midnight Indira Gandhi addressed the nation on the radio. Many came out in the streets. 58 THE Head Quarter of the Eastern Army Command has been shifted to a concrete underground shelter. a grey bush shirt. whispered someone. Please carry on with the tea. Within an hour the news spread that Pakistani bombers have attacked five places in the western front. Near the staircase she almost ran like a young girl. It is your duty as artists to keep the people from getting too involved in the excitement of war euphoria. Ladies and gentlemen. Good god. As long as the war is far away.halls were open — entry was free. It was a windless evening in winter. War between India and Pakistan was formally announced. two staff officers in tow. He handed Indira Gandhi a slip of paper. Tea and snacks were brought in. It was a full-fledged war. Indira stood up. not a leaf stirred in the trees. I am sorry I have to leave. Music has a great role in times of crisis. for reasons of safety. The President declared emergency all over the country. under a sprawling sheesham tree. Defense minister Jagjivan Ram was called from Patna. Lieutenant General Aurora saluted and walked in. a silk scarf round his neck went down the brightly lit underground staircase. That was why the Prime Minister had to rush to Delhi. more in fact than necessary to read the message then she folded it into tiny bits before tearing it up. I will meet you at some other date. he is Lieutenant General Arora.

Rear-Admiral Shariff and thirty others. Niazi said to his officers. It did not occur to them that India would never offend the sentiments of the Bengali Muslims. But in the Eastern sector strength of the Indian and Pakistani forces were almost equal. Bhairabbazar. A soldier always preferred real action to an endless waiting. Cheer up. That is the way my soldiers are spread in all border outposts. A number of telephones and wireless sets stood on the tables. Indira Gandhi had deferred the announcement till 3rd December though war preparations were on in full swing. Rangpur. But the President of Pakistan in a surprise remark had told a Chinese delegation towards end of November that he would be in the battlefield in ten days time. making the border impregnable. Hence this strategy would be to Pakistan's advantage. Explaining his strategy. Comilla. ending the nerve wracking suspense. Large operational maps covered the walls. They will fight from there and then draw back to the forts for reinforced attack. from now on the war will be on the Indian soil. If they die they will be martyrs. plans were finalised to enter Englishbazar in India from Rajsahi. victory will be ours. The news brought relief to the officers as well. Their decided strategy was to adopt the fortress concept of defence which meant converting border towns into well-equipped fortresses in order to stop enemy advances. It is open combat. By the grace of Maulana Ali. We will chase our enemies wherever possible and butcher them. Finally the uncertainty was over. The war has finally begun. tell your men that this is a war until the end. Eight months of chasing the Mukti soldiers through marshy terrain had tired the soldiers. The enemy would have to neutralise and bypass them. Mymensing. bragged Niazi. if they kill the enemy they become Gazi. In order to do this the enemy would have to employ a force at least three times greater than that of the defenders. Major General Farman. to smash the enemy. gentlemen. Look at my fingers. Other officers were already gathered there — Major General Jamshed. Niazi told his officers. an all out war was announced from Rawalpindi radio of Pakistan. Jhinaidah. their faces stony and glum. the defense at Chittagong was strong enough to resist any Indian attempt to enter Dhaka from that side. Ammunition and food for about two months had been stocked at border towns like Jessore. A commando unit was ready to destroy the Farakka barrage. General Niazi strode to the middle of the room and declared with great gusto. We will keep Pakistan together. Jamalpur. Inshallah. while Indira Gandhi was addressing the crowd at Calcutta. He drew his fingers into a tight fist. Bogura. east and west.He went along a long corridor flanked by rooms and entered a hall. Sylhet. But he was under the impression that India would attack on the day of the Eid to catch them unaware. war started on both fronts. Moreover they were told that they will be going for a . Niazi too was getting impatient. Now there is no question of not crossing the international frontier. Chittagong and other smaller towns. But the battle began even before the ten days were over. From now there is no backing out.

14 Sea Hawks. Their Sabre-jets could not leave the ground. creating huge craters. Pakistani navy too was in a bad way. Not all army officers were without conscience. Some of the officers were mortified to see for themselves how exploited this part of the country has been. They witnessed the fireworks. Their notoriously powerful submarine Gazi was already half way towards East Pakistan to deliver a mortal blow to the Indian Eastern fleet. But the Indian destroyer INS Rajput located the Gazi off the Vishakhapatnam coast and after a brief battle the powerful Gazi went down. All attempts by the Pakistani technicians to repair the damage were thwarted by fresh bombing. had a Brigadier disguised as the President. 2 Sea Kings. The motorcade. an event. Even women beggars roamed the streets — the villagers were under-nourished. Was this the brotherhood of Islam? Was army rule the only answer? East Pakistan seemed truly a colony of the west. Nobody made any attempt to pacify the rebel Bengalis. Admiral Shariff of East Pakistan Navy had just a few gunboats and frigates. The runway at Tejgaon airport was wrecked and so was the new airport being built at Kurmitola. Pakistan air force replied with machine gun fire of the Light Ack-Ack Regiment. The first three days were an indication of which way the war was going. rendering the runway unusable. millions left their homes but no political leader of any importance came from the western part. not even Bhutto. household helps were easily available and at half the salary they paid to them in West Pakistan. another named Rajshahi made it to the port in a . On the other hand Indian Navy had aircraft carriers. spend 30 thousand rounds of ammunition. He never visited this part in the next nine months. There was no hope of any naval help from the west. By ten in the morning of 6th December the battle of the Pakistani air force was over. They found the events of the last eight months humiliating specially the cowardly way President Yahya Khan left East Pakistan. INS Vikrant with its Sea Hawk planes stood guard over the Bay of Bengal. Somebody proposed using the wide highways of the capital as runways but it was not considered technically feasible.crusade. They had taken over some private boats and had them fitted with cannons. which came back to the President House. Yahya after the order of army crack down was on his way to Rawalpindi. destroyers and frigates. The Indian planes suffered some damage on the first day. but they were demoralised to find that they were obliged to kill fellow Muslims as the Hindus have fled. which caused nationwide mourning in West Pakistan. The Sea Hawks made short sorties and bombed Chittagong and Coxbazar. clapped to see Pakistani planes destroyed. cried out in dismay if Indian planes caught fire. even army officers realised that this cannot go on any longer. The whole world heard about the army atrocities. On third December at forty past two after midnight Indian bombers flew over Dhaka. On the infamous twenty-fifth of March he had gone to a tea party at the Flagstaff house of the cantonment. In one day the Pakistani planes had to make 32 sorties. Calcutta was not a target but on the first day Pakistani air force bombed seven targets in the western sector. their people second class citizens! The student community and the intellectuals of West Pakistan voiced their protests. Fighter planes fought the Indian planes in full view of the citizens of Dhaka. 2 submarines one minesweeper. The air space over Bangladesh was completely under Indian control. The Pakistani gunboat Comilla sank near Chittagong. They came back the next day and dropped six bombs weighing 500 kilograms each on the runway of the Dhaka airport. killing kafirs.

He knew where the mines were but the path he took to graze his cattle was safe. procured from the western powers. They could not stop the regular bombing sorties of the Indian air force over Dhaka. The sea route was blocked. the Pakistani soldiers surrendered to the Indian army and pleaded not to be handed over to the Mukti Bahini. enormous amount of money was spent every year on the army. Only the army was left. In his underground headquarter Niazi heard that Indians are retreating in the western sector. raping. He jumped up and.burnt condition. In any direct combat where defeat loomed large. Yet this army after first two days of heroic battle began to retreat. most of whom had lost their family in army atrocities. India had 7 artillery divisions. there was no hope of getting reinforcements from the . But the Bangladesh forces were with Indian army. The Commander of Sector One. A large force was deployed along the China border. under the assumption that a chunk of occupied Indian territory in the west would be an excellent handle for bargain. Last but not the least. They do not spare the prisoners of war. out to take revenge. For the last nine months the Pakistani army were on a rampage.000. it was not easy to oppose this mighty force. That was the end of the naval war in East Pakistan. Rafikul Islam was shown the mine-free spot in a field map by an eightyear old boy. Cut off by sea and air. communication links had snapped. They were more organised now with three brigades — K Force. well trained officers. A moral degeneration has set in from which a call for jehad could not pull them up. To keep the Naga and Mizo rebels from taking advantage of the situation also required army presence. they had the support of the common people. was one of the best in the world. A surprise Chinese attack at any moment could not be ruled out.060 strong army and a paramilitary force of 73. But the euphoria was short lived. What was the reason? In the east. from illiterate farmers and fishermen to young children came forward to offer help to the joint command of India and Bangladesh providing them with vital secrets and information. killing. who were soldiers after all. Amritsar has fallen. Amritsar had not fallen as they learnt soon enough. the rest were hidden in jungles. it was not possible for India to deploy more than 7 divisions for the Bangladesh war. Religion was not the issue at all. The Pakistani armed forces with their sophisticated weapons. S Force and Z Force. They realised the futility of defending a people who did not want them. There were 1260 officers in East Pakistan. It was impossible to win a war where the people hated their own army but cheered the aggressor. 20 thousand armed Bengali soldiers in 9 sectors and one lakh trained guerilla freedom fighters. Meanwhile the scene in the eastern front was grim. but the desperate Mukti Bahini. a 41. They were scared not of the Indian army. Strangely enough. After that no other gunboat dared to leave the port area. looting. their disciplined soldiers. Pakistan radio said the Indians were on the retreat from Jhenida but the local people saw that Pakistani army had fled two days ago. Niazi's army was withdrawing. cheered. misleading both the sides. Soon after the birth of the nation the military held the reins of power. the commander of the eastern sector was more interested in what was happening in the west. Some gunboats were damaged near Khulna. False rumours were afloat. Taking everything into account. Everybody.

. Meanwhile all diplomatic personnel were leaving Dhaka.west. The two senior officers accompanying Niazi sprang upon him. he put his hand on the shaking back. I want the name. The Governor. meaning the Chinese from the north and American Seventh Fleet from the Bay of Bengal. thirty-six hours. Get out of the room. From day one they applied full force. Niazi paused in the middle of the conversation. Niazi reached Hotel Continental. we will finish you off to save you from the Mukti soldiers. Before stepping out of the underground TAC Niazi had a telephone conversation with Rawalpindi. there are ups and downs in life. As he went over to inspect the cannons outside the airport. I saw the Sahebs weeping in the room. A man used to glory may have to accept defeat. How long do we have to wait for our friend? He asked impatiently. Of the eight battalion forces Niazi had asked for. General. General. what is there to panic? Help is coming. like a child. On the fourth day of the battle he was called by the panic stricken Governor to be appraised of the actual situation. An embarrassing silence followed. Even if it does not reach in time. Meanwhile Niazi. Pakistan wanted to prolong the battle so that other countries can come in. he got only five by November. Niazi. The answer was. accompanied by two senior officers entered the Governor House for a private session with the Governor. how far are the Indians from Dhaka? Why don't you go and see for yourself? snapped the General. The commander. they were frightened out of their wits. his normal wit and humour gone snarled. He roared. now somewhat recovered was spending most of his time in the underground TAC which gave rise to a rumour that he has fled. a debate can be initiated in the United Nations. There was no answer. . But things change . Shhh. Who has been saying that I have run away. There was just no way the rest could reach the east. already shaking now burst into tears. Allow us to fly to Burma. warned the others. a scene which had even old man Malik in tears. Have faith in Allah. India can be accused of being an aggressor. About a dozen nurses. declared neutral area by the Red Cross. normally of a cheerful disposition was sullen and morose. Please General save us from the barbarians. Well. Not a word of this to anyone! Pakistan and India had opposite strategy for this war. The confused waiter withdrew and related this to the other attendants. all from Pakistan surrounded him. realising that he had to say something. India on the other hand wanted a blitzkrieg. Please don't break down. At this precise moment a Bengali waiter entered with a tray of coffee and sandwiches. Some were taking refuge in Hotel Intercontinental. He moved on to inspect a hospital. . Niazi. General. foreign journalists mobbed him. the Mukti soldiers. The hefty figure. spoke to Niazi. Foreign journalists were leaving Dhaka from where no news could be collected. In the midst of a total pandemonium. All the sector commanders were told that the war could not be allowed to go on beyond two weeks. Since the nurses had witnessed the rape cases.

a boy in his early teens. including the border camps and in the battlefields across the border people rejoiced. Major General Kader has been given orders to retreat. with deafening roar. Meanwhile Pakistani Major General Kader waited anxiously in the circuit house verandah in Tangail. sweets were distributed. Babul bhai. cheeks covered with an overgrowth. Paratroopers were descending from a dozen planes circling overhead in low orbits. the symbol of oppressed humanity has joined Pakistan to massacre the people of Bangladesh? He was violently upset. Now the only target was to reach Dhaka. He stood next to Babul. also holding a rifle. he could not speak. his clothes in tatters. He stared at the afternoon sky where the afterglow of sunset still lingered. Indira Gandhi formally recognised the new state of Bangladesh. Mymensingh and Jamalpur had already fallen. embraced. If India recognises Bangladesh can the Soviet camp be far behind? So Bangladesh was no longer a dream. a belt of bullets round his waist. I will fight till my last soldier and the last bullet. East and West Pakistan will never be one again. Do you have enough force to defend Dhaka? If Dhaka falls it will happen over my dead body. How much longer would it take? 59 BABUL Choudhury stood on a river embankment. slim body now looked like a rusty iron pole. His fair. So the much-awaited help from China has reached. Everywhere. said the frightened Shafi. injured in a mine blast has somehow managed to reach Tangail. Babul will have to fight against the Chinese soldiers? China had taken the side of Pakistan in the United Nations. The . Babul bhai? Whispered Shafi. Rawalpindi had been assuring General Niazi of Chinese help. The Pakistani army in that country is the aggressor. the enemy is not shooting. It must be the Chinese. Are they Chinese. his bare feet mud stained. his invincible 31 Baluch Regiment in tatters. Lieutenant Colonel Sultan. Babul could not convince himself that ultimately China. trousers rolled up to the knee. holding an MLG. encouraged by the progress on the war front. amidst deafening cheers in the Indian Parliament. but they kept delaying the deadline. but it was unbelievable that it would join hands in an open combat. On the fourth day. In reply Babul just clutched the shoulders of the boy in a tight grip.Will you let us know where you stand? the journalist insisted.

There was no place for the Razakars. Gopalpur. wailed one officer. the battle for Tangail would begin. Hai Allah. The highway from Madhupur.7 inch cannons? The retreating Pak force had no cannons of that size. Somewhere else. The Mukti soldiers started fires to send out signals to them. But in ten minutes the sudden ray of hope vanished. It was no use. With his contingent was added the paratroopers and the Mukti Bahini — thus it was a three-pronged attack on Tangail. looking up at the sky. which was a safe zone. What are those — 3. General Kader snapped. Identify the planes. everyone is saying they are Chinese. under a large Banyan tree stood freedom fighter Kader Siddiqui with his men. Kalihati to Sholapura has been freed by Kader Siddiqui's men. Al Shams and Peace Committee members. But no. Indians are closing in from all sides. the paratroopers were well above the range of his gun. Everyone! Who is everyone? Go see for yourself. The Pakistani forces in their desperate scramble to retreat were using heaps of jute bags as bridges. Who are they? General Kader leaned from the verandah to ask a Major.Dhaka Tangail Road is laden with mines. now in full control over the air space of Bangladesh allow a single Chinese aircraft to enter? Not a single Pakistani plane was there to resist the raid of the Indian paratroopers descending from smaller planes. having occupied Jamalpur had meanwhile crossed the Brahmaputra and proceeded towards Madhupur. like floating umbrellas gently coming down. Indian Brigadier Klere. pushed back and abused by the Pakistani soldiers — just reward for betraying their own people. the regular bridges were blown up. They were descending in the area between Kalihati and Pungsi. Bangladesh flags were shown from MIG 21 aircrafts flying low. their faces beaming. They were not Chinese. The Mukti Bahini. the arms they were carrying came into view. The Pakistan army in a hurry to retreat was in no position to resist the advancing paratroopers. Did you find out? They are going towards Kalihati. answered Major Sarwar. At first it looked as though more leaflets were coming down like the countless ones already scattered asking the Pakistan army to surrender. They had nothing to save Tangail. they were being kicked. Every vehicle. being escorted by the MIGs. the paper bits soon expanded into what looked like flowers as if it was raining flowers. . standing next to General Kader . packed with men and baggage were obliged to proceed slowly. . Slowly the parachutes opened up. there was no mistake about it. . the Mukti soldiers are making sudden forays on the retreating Pak army and inflicting a great deal of damage. In futile rage General Kadir began firing his stengun finishing off a round of bullets. Not satisfied with the reply. Sir. As the parachutes came closer. Al Badr. News had already reached them that today the Indian paratroopers would be coming. Some began to jump up and down. Why would the Indian air force. lying in wait by the roadside was spraying the retreating army with bullets. they were Indian MIG 21 planes.

he spoke slowly. The motor of a vehicle they had confiscated from Ajit Home. You can try the leaves. Brigadier Kadir. he said. without tanks! Niazi was hell bent on saving Dhaka but Dhaka was a mirage as far as Kadir was concerned. we have got to establish contact. unable to withstand the attack of the paratroopers. Then a Major named Zafar raised his hand. . There was no other sound except the drone of crickets. The lucky ones among the Pak troops encountered the Joint Command. The road was laced with mines. The 93 brigade met him. left the main road and marched across a field. sick and exhausted. An officer brought him some twigs. Zafar crept out with his five jawans. They hid in jungles or ruins during the day. chewing tamarind leaves. turning turtle. Said Kadir. since it was impossible to move with a big contingent. Soon they ran out of ammunitions and it was the turn of the villagers. drinking the filthy water from the ponds. Who would volunteer? Everybody kept quiet. Surprise attacks by the Indian Army and the Mukti Bahini had them in total confusion. . We won't survive in this way. He kept 8 officers and 18 soldiers with him.Finding no way to defend Tangail. But how far and in which direction was Kaliakair? Absolutely fagged out. squatting on a patch of muddy ground. out to take revenge. they ran helter skelter and shot at random. the rotting smell of carcasses were unmistakable signs of the Pak troops having passed this way. This was what fate had ordained for the mighty Brigadier. Even a die-hard soldier like him felt close to tears. taking advantage of the dark night. . sir. I am ready to venture out. had no idea of direction. Brigadier Kadir ordered his men to disperse. Let Allah be your guide. a businessman of Tangail was stuck on a tree. We have to take a risk and move forward to look for the 93 Brigade. At least forty vehicles lay all over. made desperate attempt to reach Kaliakair. Brigadier Kadir flopped on the ground in an area circled by shrubs. Tastes sour but not bad. For two days they carried on without food and water. When they reached the highway it was open target for the Indian fighter planes. The small group led by Brigadier Kadir. sir. to chase them and beat them to death. Inshallah. Try to get to Dhaka in whatever way you can. completely at a loss. also on the retreat. Khuda Hafez. There is no way out. Take five jawans with you. That was the only way to save their lives. He would have felt honouerd to give up his life in fighting kafirs and gaddars but he did not know what to make of the High Command's strange instruction to withdraw and that without air cover. we will find them. the Pak soldiers soon lost their way. But unfamiliar with the terrain. the Pak Brigadier fled towards Kaliakair. where another of their contingent was supposed to wait. trudged across the muddy terrain in the night . They lost no time to raise their hands in surrender. the vehicle smashed in a mine explosion. They had to slush through the cold water of a marsh to arrive at a ground with half burnt huts here and there.

This is not Indian army. Babul delivered a kick on his stomach. Sir. his LMG in the ready. For five minutes they exchanged fire. He sprang on the young boy who had moved forward. . I don't know those people. he shook with fear. Under the open sky they were sitting ducks while the other side were under cover. I will kill him. From behind a tree emerged Babul Choudhury carrying a light machine gun with the boy Shafi. held a knife against his throat and shouted. chasing stray runaways from the Pak army. where is Monira. looked at his rank and said. For a few moments Babul stared at him. He was a student of Dhaka University. Major Zafar vaguely understood the meaning. you have killed all of them? He was beyond himself with joy. . You are Choudhury Sa'ab? Babul Chaudhury? I am Major Zafar . he operated on his own. his arms raised. I surrender. He pulled Zafar up. I will count three. He pushed the boy away and exclaimed. Tell me where is Monira. Babul did not belong to any sector. where is she? Thrown on the ground. the Mukti Bahini had no use for prisoners of war. It had to be reached anyhow.By the time they were half way across the open field they heard muffled sound of vehicles and saw the flash of a car headlight. The Mukti boys want to shoot you. Major Zafar wailed. I don't know . I swear by god. Major Zafar wished he had not wasted his bullets. But the Indian commander did not let them kill Zafar. Major Zafar. You have already killed twenty-five lakh. . the blade of the knife glistened in the moonlight. kill him. Bullets went through them. . the girl your men had taken away from my house . save me. But according to international law I can keep you as . kill him. Let him kill me then you can throw him to the dogs. I told you . . But footsteps were heard and a group of the Mukti Bahini. Babul bhai. But now without arms. Hiding behind a dead soldier Jafar shouted. Suddenly a spray of bullets with a deafening sound had them lying flat on the ground. are you afraid to die? No. . please. Putting the nozzle of the gun on his forehead Babul continued. yelled the young voice. is it? Son of Idrish! Haramzada. . So a road was ahead. One of them recognised Babul. what is another boy to you? Shafi. With a little care he could have dealt with these two. . said Babul as he put one foot on Zafar's chest. Then he shouted back. He carried a certificate from Khaled Mosharef. Two soldiers lost their head and stood up trying to run. When he ran out of ammunitions he joined any contingent of the Mukti Bahini for a couple of days. but Babul's voice was familiar. I have no idea. save my life. attracted by the gunshots rushed to the spot. another started to scream. One jawan was already dead. Looking at this man and child. In the moonlit field five dead bodies lay about.

In clear moonlight they could see at least five figures crawling towards the centre of the field. Haven't you heard our General Manekshaw's promise on the radio? Shafi told the Indian Commander in Bengali. he whistled in surprise. Zafar was made to ask them to surrender. Hand him over to me. I have a personal score to settle. We adults are fighting. With the nozzle of a stengun at his back. Babul fired. There would be fighting in the streets. You are surrounded. this haramzada was about to stick a knife into me. he just gripped the hand of the Indian commander. Aren't you going to punish him? Babul interpreted his words. Under a tamarind tree stood Brigadier Qadir. pleaded Babul. Why have you brought this boy into the battle? He asked Babul. the Mukti men too had physically hit him. commander. all blood drained from his face. Babul took him away and walked away when the prisoners were being lined up. Were they enemies or friends? Quickly Babul and Shafi took shelter behind the tree trunk. Babul wanted to reach Dhaka quickly by way of Kaliachak. He was lucky to have caught a Brigadier. Major Zafar was speechless. I will show you the way. This call was answered by a spray of bullets. The Indian Commander ordered his men not to shoot. they shared the stale bread he had been carrying. If you don't then I hand you over to the Mukti boys and look the other way. When they were within fifty yards.prisoner of war provided you show us where your companions are. The Indian Commander drew the boy to himself and patted his head. Stop. trying to assess. Surrender! Surrender! . followed by Shafi. As the Indian commander noticed his rank. From the cover of the bush a command was heard. The last battle was going to be in Dhaka. Kill me if you must but please don't hand me over to the Mukti. is that not enough? His parents have been killed. One of them jumped up and shouted. The enemy made no attempt to fire. You will get all chances as the Geneva Convention says. The joint forces spread all around the bushes. he has no place to go to. He shouted to the Pakistani soldiers. stop firing. They decided to have an hour of sleep by turn when a rustle in the grass put them on the alert. Still quite stunned. What else is there for him to do except join in the fighting? Shafi spat on Zafar's eyes. obviously leaving the main road. explained Babul. The Mukti Bahini jawans were the first to rush in. For a moment the Pakistani Brigadier had thought of shooting himself. Stop firing. but the faces of his wife and children stopped him. cried Zafar. He threw his revolver at the feet of the Indian Commander and pleaded. Put down your arms. Zafar was made to lead to the clump of bushes in a marshland. it was obvious that they were a breakaway group from the Pakistani army. Going back to the shade under the tree where Babul had left his shoulder bag. his voice husky. Said the Indian Commander. snatching weapons and showering the Pakistani men with kicks and slaps.

The man cried. When the Pakistanis realised that they were one man and a half. Save you indeed! You scoundrel! Did you listen to any of the Bengalis when they begged for life? Finish him. Rangpur. Major General Nagra in the circuit house was in full command. After the shot rang out. he bellowed from his hide out. Who will be the first to liberate Dhaka? 101 Communication Zone of his division was ordered to take position in Tongi. The Captain folded his hands and appealed. Son of a swine! Another kick. badly hit rolled over. Khulna. I don't know her. The prisoners were kept in the court-house. Let us go back to Dhaka. Nagra. They cannot reach Dhaka bypassing Tangail. save me. TANGAIL was free . north of the city. The original plan was that the Joint Forces coming from Akhaura would launch the first attack on Dhaka. Babul ordered and come out on his knees. Meanwhile the other soldiers of the Mukti Bahini were getting restless to enter Dhaka. So they were not carrying heavy arms or tanks. he turned to Shafi. He had another worry. 60 at last. Hands up.They dumped their rifles and a stengun on the ground. two were in no position to get up. a soldier by profession was feeling a bit nervous about a speech he was supposed to make at a meeting. During peaceful days Babul was a frequent visitor to the cantonment. but this Captain was a stranger. one of them made a desperate attempt to retrieve his gun. Brigadier Klere of the Joint Command was dealing with them. Yet he went on hitting him. another. Three proceeded. Where have you kept her? Babul asked ferociously. We can sleep after the war is over. please. save him. led by Kader had blown up bridges and freed some highways. That Tangail could be taken so quickly by the paratroopers was beyond their expectation. But Babul did not take any chance. But Major General Nagra is the first to reach so close to Dhaka. As they came closed. He is the killer of your parents. One of the survivors was a captain. It was the responsibility of General Nagra to stop the retreating enemy from reaching Dhaka. Babul put his hand on Shaft's shoulder. A group of the retreating Pak army was fighting by the Turag river. every hour new contingent were being added. save me. Where is Monira? Answer me first. save me. Babul kicked him hard. Already Mukti Bahini. He knew Major Zafar. Who? The Captain was puzzled. But Shaf i’s bullet hit him mid-way. Bogura. withdrawing from the fallen posts of Jamalpur and Mymensing. Indian infantry with artillery and tank squad were advancing from Jessore.

the decision of the Commander would be final. They were also dropping bombs over Dhaka. Joy Bangla. Please surrender. Khoka. Indian Air Force planes flew overhead. He was not a full general but was the historic credit of capturing Dhaka going to be his? He got busy in sending instructions to all positions of his troops. Struggling his way to the car. The meeting would go on but Major General Nagra had to rush back to get in touch with Head Quarters. I know you have been through a lot. I salute your boy from Tangail. nicknamed hangman. on way to Dhaka. He was drowned by garlands and had to be escorted with great difficulty to the stage at the grounds of the Bindubasini School. He said. But if the situation demands. Jay Hind . responsible for the killing of thousands. the notorious son of Mucha Talukdar. it was as though they wanted him to be cut up into little pieces. The Indian Commander was given a formal reception on behalf of the Mukti Bahini. so far we have won. Future will recall their heroism and bravery with reverence. Kader Siddiqui. . In the Circuit House Major General Nagra got new orders from the High Command — the 101 Communication Zone was to take position 15 miles from Dhaka. Dhaka is well within the range of our guns. Pakistani sipahi. The Mukti Bahini was now in total control of Tangail and adjoining villages. That was the end of their mission. Joy Joint Command. People who had lost their family members under Khoka's order howled for blood. Indira Mujib Zindabad. please have a little more patience. To keep on fighting would be an unnecessary loss of life for you. the credit for which goes largely to the Mukti Bahini. hathiyar daal do. had been brought to the gathering. Meanwhile All India Radio had been broadcasting the voice of the GOC in C General Manekshaw beamed at the Pakistani troops. to keep back the crowd rushing at him with garlands. I have yet to see a braver organiser like him. Maj. We guarantee you life and honour. in a few hours from now the onslaught on Dhaka would begin. had to attend the reception where about a hundred thousand greeted him with deafening cheer. Governor Malik had promptly signed his resignation and moved to the safe shelter of Hotel Intercontinental. Stray Pakistani soldiers.Nagra. He looked at the mass of humanity while distant gun shots were heard. it was uncertain how long it would go on but the citizens of Tangail were intoxicated with the heady taste of freedom. Indian planes were dropping millions of leaflets asking the enemy to surrender. A part of the Governor's House had collapsed. they can move up. Commander of the Mukti Bahini. Please give us all cooperation in maintaining law and order. Three Mukti soldiers pierced his stomach with bayonets. Nagra spoke slowly in simple Hindi. Major General Nagra received the order with bated breath. . He is truly a tiger. members of the agents and Peace Committee were being rounded up. he was brought up. at the insistence of Kader Siddiqui. The battle for Dhaka would take countless lives. Gen. he sped away. tied hand and foot. . After a trial lasting a few minutes. We have liberated eighty percent of area of Bangladesh. Lay down your arms. About a few dozen soldiers aimed their gun skyward and gave him a gun salute.

scattered all over with bones and skeletons? A list of Bengali intellectuals had already been made. Did it mean surrender orders for Niazi or to go for a cease-fire? Why should the Indian army. Niazi. They had high hopes of running an independent state! Very well! What kind of magic are they going to show to the world ruling over an extensive graveyard. He had been asked to conduct war operations of this magnitude depending on others! General Manekshaw gave his last and final warning. Spivack and asked him to negotiate with the Indian side. who had already given an ultimatum of a few hours. Like all defeated generals. he had plans to teach the traitor Bengalis a lesson. Where are the friends — the Chinese or the Seventh Fleet? All he could feel was a noose closing in. The Head Quarter at Rawalpindi had gone on giving him false assurances. agree to a cease-fire? Niazi called Rao Farman Ali to finalise the conditions of the cease-fire. Let East Pakistan go to hell. Farman Ali ordered the Al Badr and the Al Shams to finish them off. an all out attack would begin on Dhaka. Well known professor and playwright Munir Choudhury had just had his bath at eleven in the morning and had asked his mother to serve food when a group of young men came to see him. The noose was tightening. When the Joint Command was at the fringe of the city. Sir. he said. Fighting would result in ninety thousand widows and more orphans in West Pakistan.In the underground bunker sat General Niazi. His only worry was how to save the army and citizens of West Pakistan. Hours passed but no reply came. unlike Niazi and both of them quickly drafted a proposal for a cease-fire and both of them went over to the American Consul General Mr. would you please see that something is done and done quickly about my proposals sent to the President? In a long reply President Yahya asked Niazi to take all necessary measures to stop the fighting and to preserve the lives of armed force personnel and Pakistani citizens. he made arrangements to burn all relevant papers before the final surrender. his head dug in his arms. It would not take more than five minutes. Surrender was the only way open to him. But in actual fact he sent it to Washington while Niazi and Farman Ali returned to their command for a long wait. If the Pakistan army did not surrender by next morning. not a single enemy soldier would be spared. all he could hear were enemy bombers roaring overhead. in desperation he telephoned Pakistan's Commander in Chief Hamid. The message was confusing. He was waiting at the street corner. Their commander wanted to see the professor. Niazi's big talk of defending Dhaka till his last drop of blood was in tatters. By now. Moreover. Farman Ali was cool and level headed. Meanwhile Farman Ali had drafted a second plan. . All I can do is to send your message. Spivack received them coldly and declined to negotiate cease-fire terms on their behalf. Why did the Bengali Al Badr and Al Shams agree to this monstrous proposal? No reason can explain this except perhaps the insanity generated by war. He instructed the Joint Command to have a cease-fire for one night. He had sent some proposals to President Yahya Khan to this effect but the President was in deep depression and did not reply.

The enemy camp. The Indian soldiers could have bypassed them. scientist Abul Kalam Azad and many more. This is not the way of guerilla fighters. This is our battle. The Pakistani troops had occupied a convenient position behind a water tank in the upper storey of a building. Were they out of their mind? Sun Singh rushed to them. . Finally Sun Singh himself advanced with an artillery contingent. Do not go forward. taking the mud tracks west of the main road and move to Dhaka but Sun Singh did not like the idea of leaving an enemy camp behind. They are bound to give in. It is sheer stupidity. it might take some more time. How stubborn were the enemy? Were they determined to be killed! His repeated calls to surrender were answered by a fresh round of bullets. Please get back. The rest of the Mukti Bahini boys were up all night. He came out in his vest and lungi. He seemed quite cool. said Sun Singh. Take position behind us. Do not get killed for nothing. replied Babul Choudhury. No shot is to be fired without my orders. Brigadier Clere had set up camp by a river. After a fierce fighting with the enemy at Kadda. You are disobeying my orders. The food would be flown to various battlefields by helicopter. By the time he reached the turning in the street the Al Badrs had him blindfolded. In the same way others were called out of their homes — Anwar Pasha from the University Staff Quarter. Meanwhile in Tangail the Mukti soldiers spent a night sleepless with excitement. Adopting a hard tone. lawyer AKM Siddiq. Two brigadiers — Sun Singh and Clere under Major General Nagra had already proceeded to Dhaka. He has had training sessions with the Mukti Bahini and he respected their valour but this was a battle between professionals. that is my order. Turn back right now. some of the over enthusiastic Mukti soldiers have gone along. Sun Singh shouted commands standing on a wall to the Mukti Bahini. I have to stop the mortar attack. cooking for the twelve thousand Indian troops. caught the man by his shoulder and bellowed. Babul Choudhury turned to him. physician Abdul Alim Choudhury. I order you to move back to the main road. restraining the Mukti Bahini boys from rushing ahead. Sun Singh snapped at him. They were brought to the Mirpur cemetery and shot. But they were in no mood to listen. Brigadier. Let us do our bit. My jawans will take care of that. so I am going to the back of the tank.The young men were polite but carried guns. The night sky was shattered with roaring guns and cannons. he shouted. In the middle of the flashes and smoke two figures were seen rushing to the enemy position — a tall figure of a man and a young boy. So Munir Choudhury had to oblige. in spite of their eight hundred against the three thousand regular army and some Mukti men of the Joint Command put up a courageous defense not willing to surrender. The Joint Command under Brigadier Sun Singh were moving along the Nabinagar-Savar Road when action began near the Jehangir University at three in the night. You will get many more chance to fight later. The Mukti Bahini would incur unnecessary loss of lives trying to fight the desperate Pakistani troops. The Indian troops were not able to make much headway. The bodies lay in a heap.

Let me go. he got into a helicopter. Can you walk up to Tangail hospital? There is no need to go to a hospital. At first he made an attempt to aim his gun at him but recognising Shafi he stopped. Hold my hand and try to get up. I can stand on my feet. After a fierce fighting lasting for one and a half hours. Already about a thousand Mukti soldiers had reached the Mirpur Bridge. He patted Shafi's back. Other bodies had dropped from the upper storey of the building and lay there. by the side of a ditch. Sun Singh gave instructions to hold the prisoners captive. Brigadier — Babul was stubborn. Look. Let me see the shots. Have they been finished? He asked the brigadier eagerly. sent one contingent towards Mirpur and with a torch in one hand walked up to where Babul Choudhury lay. I have seen it for myself. let me go. this is war. damaging the tank and taking the enemy unaware. . Sun Singh could see the tall figure roll over but his LMG continued spewing fire. the enemy post at Savar fell. the hero of Tangail with him. The winter sun was about to rise. A mortar was fired towards them. My child. Charge. Sun Singh took the child behind cover. Enough of bravado! Chided Sun Singh. Actually he was shot on the neck and in his left arm. Catch them. About hundred and fifty of them had been killed. the rest laid down their weapons. Sher-e-Bangla. move my arms. Indian troops too were approaching the bridge. protested Babul. not a football game. Sun Singh jumped on the wall and ordered. Instructing Brigadier Clere to proceed in that direction. Major General Nagra with a few others walked along the road. Sun Singh sprang to the ground. Once we finish them. Babul had disappeared in the darkness but the enemy probably had spotted him. It has not been used yet. Babul had crawled to the back and fired. not very serious injury. Some buildings of the city were clearly visible. He handed the binoculars to Qader and asked him. in spite of his protests. taking Kader Siddiqui. A searchlight swept over him followed by a spray of bullets. Chase the troops fleeing to the left. Crossing Mirpur would mean reaching the outskirts of Dhaka. Babul was not dead. some had fled. taking the boy with him. Sun Singh said in broken Bengali. By late night news reached Major General Nagra that Mirpur Bridge is unprotected. Take over the bunker on the right. He stood on a bridge and focussed his binoculars. The air space was totally safe. He struggled. Major General Nagra was appraised of the battle of Jehangirnagar. Come let us march to Dhaka. The smell of gunpowder was still in the air where the helicopter landed on the Savar Mirpur Road. no wound on the head. the red glow already lighting up the eastern sky. what building is that? It is the new assembly of the new capital.It is no use stopping me. blood-soaked. the road to Dhaka is clear. Soon the water tank gave way. No resistance remained now. There is no cannon on Mirpur Bridge. But Babul rushed forward.

Dear Abdullah. Choose between surrender or total destruction. Nagra smiled. Nagra removed his binoculars.71. why would the Indian side go for cease-fire? Manekshaw wanted surrender and laying down of arms. He was amused. so Nagra is still a Major General but Niazi has become a General. Farman Ali asked angrily. A white shirt was tied to the jeep for want of a white flag. Nagra thought of the reaction of his erstwhile colleague when they would meet. The promise for security would come after that. Daudkandi.. fight for every inch of ground. Niazi kept staring at him. We are here. 16. A personal one to Niazi. Meanwhile the cease-fire proposal has reached the Indian COC Manekshaw via the American Consul General Spivak. We assure you will be treated according to the Geneva Convention. well within cannon range. Who are they? Aren't they scared? They are a peculiar pair. Dhaka has been surrounded. He knew Niazi quite well. Promotions were quicker in Pakistani army. Who are all those people running about in the streets.12.30 A. The generals read the note. Manekshaw has turned down the proposal. Victory was within sight. Do you have any reserve force? Farman Ali asked in Urdu. I will tell you about them later. Remarked Sun Singh. Both were trained together as commissioned officers during the British days. is this fellow Nagra coming to negotiate the cease fire? Others kept quiet. Our boys. Uncomprehending. The air force was there too. The Rear Admiral asked in Punjabi. his contingent could be the first to enter Dhaka. The meaning was as clear as daylight. Major General Jamshed.M. called a communication officer and took stock of the latest position. No discussion. We have surrounded you. The Joint Command has reached Narayanganj. carrying arms. He scribbled a hasty letter. Within half an hour the letter reached Niazi. I personally assure you that you have no risk of life. Some officers sped to Dhaka to hand over Nagra's letter to Niazi. General. Major General Farman Ali and Rear Admiral Shariff were with him. Your game is up. I can see one person and a child near Mirpur Bridge.Looking through the binoculars. Yours Major General Nagra 8. If Nagra so wished. Narsingdi. chasing stray invaders. Kuch palley hai? (Have you anything in the kitty?) . Nagra asked again. Either surrender or fight.

they would tear them to pieces if they had their way. At far end of the Race Course maidan Babul. The ceremony was short.. Even some of the Indian troops joined hands in looting foreign goods. The ceremony was to take place in Ramna Race Course. Kund. With this the battle on the Western front also stopped. Nobody came from the temporary government of Bangladesh. But they stayed away from grabbing women. refrigerators. their Prime Minister was a woman. Naturally the Pakistanis did not agree to this absurd proposal. General Aurora and General Niazi sat side by side. Major Haidwe.K. After all. Elderly people watched from roof-tops. Indira Gandhi in the announcement of this victory spoke with great restraint. shooting at the sky. Who knows what the next five years have in store. like a stick. Major General Jacob had already flown from Calcutta and finalised the surrender ceremony. Indian troops were deployed to stop the Mukti soldiers from indulging in vengeance. where in March 7. our greatest enemy.Niazi looked at Jamshed and shook his head. Delhi rejected Farman Ali's objection to the phrase India Bangladesh Joint Command. Let us go home now. In the afternoon the Indian GOC in C. he told Shafi. there were strict instructions. Niazi did not want the humiliation in a public place but he had to concede. They were throwing flowers to the trucks carrying Indian troops and spitting at the Pakistanis. The Mukti Bahini boys roamed the streets. Farman Ali said. Leaning on his LMG. General Niazi took out his revolver and handed it over to General Aurora. they have been defeated by the Indian army. They do not recognise them. two-in-ones. Go. Eastern Command. There was no government in Dhaka. Looting began as there was no machinery to stop the looters. A table was set on the Race Course Maidan.V. The only representatives from the Bangladesh side were Air Commander A. T. So the war is finally over without any street fighting. Then both stood up. Mujib had declared independence for Bangladesh. . carpets. The latter's hand shook so much that he had to be given a second pen to sign. Our real fight is with poverty. bring the messenger with due civility. Then no question of carrying on. One hundred Pakistani army officers and one hundred jawans laid down their arms in a symbolic gesture. The surrender deed was signed by Lieutenant-General Aurora and Lieutenant General Niazi. the GOC in C of the Bangladesh command who had expected the Pakistan army to surrender only to him. We should not boast about the victory. screaming like mad. Millions poured into the streets of Dhaka. canned food and piled them in the trucks. neither General Osmani. Early in the morning some rich West Pakistanis and injured army officers had left by helicopter. How much the situation has changed between 1965 and 1971 thought some. There has been a lot of casualties on both sides. Flight Lieutenant Yusoof and the leader of the Mukti Bahini Qader Siddiqi. but in the euphoria of victory they too were overdoing things. dancing. she declared. As it is a section of the people were after the blood of the enemy. Jagjit Singh Aurora arrived with his wife in a special plane. The Indian army could not take complete control of a situation where law and order could collapse any minute. sick and gasping watched the surrender ceremony with Shafi. leaving the West Pakistani nurses in the hurry.

so Babul saluted to him. He entered through the open entrance and stepped into the drawing room. Najma. The life saving machine could not be started. She has survived like this country. he said. Please keep it. The Bangladesh flag was not fluttering over Jehanara Begum's house. embracing one another. The slogan Joi Bangla rumbled like thunder. Where are the others — Basir. but where is Rumi? Others shot questions at him. Qader. Ashraf. I think I am going to die. he said. The war is over. But Babul laid down his arm. Jewel. Babul felt faint. The sound of gun shots was everywhere — the Mukti soldiers firing in the air. She saw Babul but did not speak. though young enough to be Babul's student. Qaium. it was quiet save for a group of men and women in prayer. That is for you to do. Dulabhai. Presently Jehanara appeared looking blank like a statue. Qader. A lot is to be done. Here you are. Sirajul. replied Qader. Someone cried out. Sirajul. He was taken to the hospital where the main electric switch was turned off for black out. dirty and shabby like a ghost? Babul recognised the eyes. She was Monira chewing a bit of sugarcane. Rumi was no more. Jehanara's husband had died of a heart attack.After a few steps he met Qader Siddiqi. Babul leaned on Shafi and limped his way through a jubilant crowd shouting Joy Bangla. Majid. you are back. impatient to meet Begum Mujib. raped repeatedly. Babul started for his own home. Sharif died without any treatment. like thousands of other young men were not coming back. She is back but who would Babul hand her to? Everything seemed to reel. I do not need it any more. He whispered the account. Shaukat. Only Monira. . My job is over. has come back from the army barrack. Babul. Debnath. Belu. This Monira seemed to him to be the symbol of free Bangladesh. He said. The news of Sirajul's sacrifice had reached him a few days ago. Shafi. Nearing his own road Babul stopped on the tracks. So. asked a companion to pick up the arm and jumped into a jeep. But where is that person? It was for this Monira that Babul had left home. Yes freedom has come but with a price. Julekha. We have to bring back Mujib. by launching an attack on Pakistan if necessary. One of them signaled Babul to sit down. Who was that shadowy figure waiting on his doorstep in tatters. Nurujjaman? Nobody knew. She ordered a meal to be cooked with all the provisions she had stored for the Mukti Bahini. Give me a hand. You can have my gun. This was incredible. Three days ago. was a commander after all. Montu. Naim. she greeted Babul in a normal voice.

Alam stood by Tutul. . I don't need a thermometer. But Tutul was stubborn. All hotel rooms are as impersonal as hospital cabins. The afternoon sky was the colour of gunpowder. . Alam gave her a long kiss. long enough to get a second look from strangers. No. no greenery. Tutul and Alam were taken to a hotel along with the other passengers. Tutul sat on a chair. They had nothing to do. where is he? Is he still fighting? Babul had no answer. I am fine. No. I know you are running one hundred temperature. A little on the lower side. the most handsome patient in the world. houses and roads. Tutul pushed his hand away. He blacked out. I don't feel any temperature. I am fine. said Alam. You are feverish. Though she had taken to wearing trousers she kept her hair long. church spires and mosque minars. she said. 61 THE plane was delayed for eleven hours in Beirut. The excitement of going home after such a long time was proving to be too much for her. How much? Asked Tutul. Meanwhile Alam had brought out his instrument for taking blood pressure. As the put his hand on her shoulder he exclaimed in alarm. yes. sixty — hundred ten. don't. said Tutul. I told you I am all right. I believe perfume is cheap here. You look so beautiful today. resisted Tutul. They were scheduled to visit Calcutta two months ago but after everything was finalised Tutul fell ill again .Panic stricken. That is my normal. Luckily she did not have to go for another operation but the doctor had advised her not to undertake a long journey for at least two months. This yellow sari suits you. You had better lie down. you are running a temperature. he said. She did not look as though she was ill except for a pale look on her face. Let me look at the diastolic and systolic. She was not fully fit to travel. From their sixth floor room they could get a view of the city. . Monira asked again. Cheer up my darling. nothing abnormal. Alam suggested they go shopping. Dulabhai. I tell you. I would like a cup of tea. But Tutul was not interested in hopping from shop to shop. These rascals might make us run to the airport at midnight.

Alam could open a hospital in the border. A lot of people had gathered. He was carrying five thousand pounds with him right now for the ongoing war. his face glowing. But he could not take part in the actual freedom struggle. Alam? Haldar was excited. Pakistan has surrendered in Dhaka. you must have strength of mind and body. but he never told Tutul about this deep-seated regret. The news came on in an hour. Alam was scared. Tutul and Alam were enjoying the situation. Just think of the jubilation in Dhaka and Calcutta. Ceasefire? He asked. Yes. said Alam. Do come in. Just a minute. They had dinner and returned to their room. It was Ramen Haldar.Of course. raising funds. some play was on in an incomprehensible language. He did the best he could from London. Tutul wrapped her shawl around Alam and said. some were trying to tune into BBC in their transistor. Tutul. Who knows when the rascals will resume flight. that is why. No. a newspaper named Gulf News was also brought in. Alam has been working for liberation since sixty-six. If we had reached in time we would have been there by now. said. what is it? The hotel TV in the lobby just announced end of the Indo-Pakistan war. I am so lucky you know. Have you heard. we are like hostages. Mr. Cease fire since this morning. If they were in Calcutta. one of their co-passengers from London. The reason why Tutul was anxious to return home was for his sake. Bother! said Alam. let me order the tea. Without a word both Tutul and Alam rushed downstairs. You are going home. . If you had joined the war. Has the United Nations intervened? No. exasperated. no. A dispute started among the Indian and Pakistani passengers in the lobby as though it was a mini war. But by that time the news was over. Alam could not possibly leave her sick and ailing after the operation. Perhaps she had guessed it. My country has attained freedom and I am stuck here in goddamn Beirut. now cheered up considerably. Bangladesh was free. There was a knock on the door. What? You don't have to go to war. Do you know why I feel happy? For a very selfish reason. I might have lost you forever. printing and distributing booklets and leaflets about the army atrocities. Yes.

Yes of course. You can join me later. this is her fate. Nobody knew. It is a troubled area. But a closer look confirmed Tutul of her mistake. This is the best arrangement. The money can wait. Why don't you come along too? Without stopping at Calcutta? Without meeting my mother? How can you say this. She burst into tears behind the closed door of the bathroom beset with the illogical fear that as soon as he out of sight she would lose him. I do not know what has happened to my friends. You proceed to Dhaka. Last time Tutul's visit was cancelled at the last minute. . Are you mad at me? No. I don't have a mother but others are there. Others were being greeted with emotion. One young man looked exactly like Bablu. You have your mother and other relatives. I am dying to meet them. Next morning at ten when they reached the airport nobody was there to receive them. we have to alter our plan. The Dhaka flight was due to take off one and a half hour later. Tutul nodded. Drop me at Calcutta? Tutul was hurt and surprised. Leaving me alone? You won't be alone. Can't you stay in Calcutta even for a day? Well. Perhaps in some mysterious way he has managed. The TV news said fighting is still going on in Chittagong. I could have been of help in the hospital. Now that the war is over. In that case let me go to Dhaka alone. a couple days won't make any difference. hence the precaution. The war is over. They lay on the bed. But how could Bablu come here from Boston. I have to hand over the money I am carrying. That is right. not enough time to take Tutul to the city and come back. Can you take a taxi? Asked Alam. I was thinking of joining you at the front. It was a peculiar feeling to be back with no familiar faces to welcome them. said Tutul. crying.You know. I can't wait till I get to Dhaka. embrace. no. So what? I have to get to Dhaka as quickly as possible. You will hand it over to the Bangladesh government. silly. I will drop you at Calcutta and proceed to Dhaka right away. Besides. silently waiting for the flight announcement which was blared at midnight.

After trying a few other hotels they finally booked a double room in a second rate hotel in Theatre Road. OK? Tutul nodded. Ma and Pratapmama had to go through a lot to bring her up. Send me a telegram. . Take the medicines. Don't worry. I won't. She carried a heavy bag. How can I leave you if you keep crying. It was just an ordinary day. Right. said Alam. oh yes. Alam ran back to get his suitcase. then fly to Dhaka. Come. overcrowded buses. You had told me that there is no room in your mother's place. Give my namaskar to your mother. She bent down in an outburst of sobs.Let me take you to the taxi. just a minute. Do smile. I will be at the airport. said Tutul. she had no money to get it mended and stuck a safety pin to keep it in place. stay in a hotel? A hotel? She was finding it indecent to come to Calcutta. Stay with your mother as long as you want. Putting up in a hotel. I won't. Finally she said. he agreed. Once she had broken the strap of her slippers. No. I won't let you go. How silly can you get? Said Alam. They could not get a room in Grand Hotel. I won't. Take care. You can stay on if your mother wants you to. not responding. saheb? Asked the taxi driver. Please start driverji. We are staying in a hotel? Tutul was shocked. After signing in the register Alam was given the room key. He dug the bottle from his pocket but Tutul threw it out of the car window. A taxi was obtained. But Tutul stood very still. You wouldn't be there to see. Where do you want to go. For the present. Tutul clutched his arm. she whispered. Grand Hotel. traffic jams. No slogan-shouting. Alam carried her suitcase. Don't start moving about right from the first day. warmer than London but Tutul shivered. processions. He said. said Alam. Tutul got in. No. You need rest. Now she is a foreign returned doctor with a rich husband. as though in a daze. Driver saheb. The ultimate snobbery! I would like to go home first. let us go. in this city where she was born and brought up. Then I will come back and buy a ticket. She had to count every paisa of her tram fare. to her mother and staying in a hotel. Outside the air was mildly chilly. He touched her arm. There is no harm if I reach Dhaka one day late. The Bangladesh Mission will have all the news. honking of horns. throwing of garlands to the troops returning from the battlefield. I forgot your blood pressure tablets. Alam saw none of the victory celebrations he had expected at Calcutta.

It was no use arguing. I have never been to this place before. let me go and drop you. cried Tutul. All right. Please. Don't know the roads. You can take a taxi in the afternoon. said Alam. Tutul charged Alam. thought Alam. I know the reason why you refused to come with me. Verbal attacks can be worse. a Muslim son-in-law might be greeted with a broomstick for all you know. They must be Mukti Bahini fighters. I will find out the house. Let me finish. Suddenly Tutul was in her elements. By the time they reached the Gariahat crossing. Please do not take the trouble of introducing me. I will go back in this taxi. Then she turned to Alam. . let me get back to the hotel. Tutul touched her mama's feet. They did not have to look for the house in Selimpur. Let's get back to the hotel. The doctor just left. A crowded jeep with cheering young people sped by. Pratap did not show any surprise. Good. a city Alam had visited only once as a teenager. You are scared of my mother. Your mother is not well. You know I can never leave my mother however harsh she may be on me. It cannot be diagnosed but she is getting worse day by day.Alam understood. What is wrong with ma? She asked. I will drop you at the door and leave and make my appearance on day two if the coast is clear. So you are here. He just said with the effort of a smile. He could identify Bangladeshis easily. On day one. Well. The doctor has left? I would have talked to him. Tutul. There he is. my mother is very ill. there was something about them which made them stand out. But are we going to go through the test today? Please Tutul. That's fine for me. Alam scanned the faces of the passersby for familiar faces. Alam. she never swept a floor with a broomstick. My mama. She pointed to the streets of Calcutta. My mother comes from an aristocratic family. Many important citizens of Dhaka were here. giving Tutul a gentle nudge. is that it? Tutul fixed her stare on Alam. I was going to say that I can never leave mother but if she treats you badly I won't ask you to visit our home. Said Tutul with evident pride. I don't feel up to it. Alam smiled faintly. You would rather leave me. I hope you have no objection to my staying in a hotel? We will be in the same city. so he gave in. You can be so funny. Pratap was out in the street talking to a gentleman. I will not mind staying in a hotel either.

I use both. She had been dreaming of this meeting. They realised that Supriti has cancer. Tutul exchanged glances with Alam. Tutul'e eyes welled up with tears. We will be together. That seems to be my son-in-law. Supriti raised her voice. she was becoming incoherent. you are a nice boy.Alam had to get down. Will you take me? My son-in-law can take me. Ma? Brightening up visibly. Seats will be laid on the northern verandah. Do take me Mamun. Alam moved close to Supriti. What did you call me. Mamata gently stroked her head. Is he from the family of Amin Choudhury? Mamun did not know Alam or his family. Cooking will be done on the big stove. Pratap leaning against the wall. Didi. Tutul walked up to the bed. So you have your daughter and son-in-law. That is what they used to say in Malkhanagar. Come in my son. said nothing. Please don't misunderstand her. As he bent to touch his feet Pratap took him in his arms. 62 . For me you will be Ma. It is a huge house you know. mumbling something in a hoarse voice. said Supriti. The country is free. Very handsome. assured Mamun. You will seat in a row to have meal. Didi. As she looked at her mother's shrunken body. What is the matter with you. I will never do that. Supriti sat propped against three pillows on the bed. Have you heard Tutul? Hindustan and Pakistan have become one again. Nothing remotely like that happened. touched her feet and asked softly. you should call me Amma. It is a long walk from the boat to Malkhanagar. she did not live to see the new son-in-law. It is a very happy day today. most certainly. Supriti caressed his hair. the first thought which came to Tutul was of Joydeep. You are Amin Choudhury's eldest. but Khokon wouldn't. How happy Ma would have been. flanked by Mamun and Mamata. come in. Let us visit home. You know my mother pleaded till her last breath to be taken to Malkhanagar. is he? Mamun. do you remember? I can walk. he agreed. how she would fling herself to her mother’s breast and caress her. Poor Ma. look how handsome he is. Tutul will be a good wife to you. No Ma. Ma? But you are Amin Choudhury's son. Yes. She took his hand. but she is very sensitive. But you have to get well.

daughter of barrister Motiur Rahman. The three young girls and five boys seemed to fill up the room with colour and warmth. stopped singing and knocked first softly then pushed hard. Mamun felt strangely out of tune with this mirth and jubilation. Let things settle down. who is for one. . just back from Holland. Saokat. what? His welcome was icy. groups of young people walking at any hour. . Sattar.A boisterous group of young men and women climbed up the stairs lustily singing a patriotic song about Bangladesh. Freedom at last but it has a tinge of sadness as well. There is no government there. Dragging the harmonium from under the bed Palash started to play and sing a Tagore song: Aaj Bangladesher hriday hote kakhon aaponi . Palash. The Razakars. the result of getting something you had pined for with uncertainty and trepidation. Apel. Was it for the people who had to sacrifice their lives for it? When are you returning to Dhaka. the sons of swine are roaming the streets of Dhaka. move around at will till late night? Mamun did not like it. shouting slogans. into Palash’s mouth who could not object as both his hands were on the harmonium. Monju pushed a sweet into his mouth and laughed. A wild burst of laughter greeted this act. This is from your famous Dwarik Ghosh. oblivious of the racket they were making so late at night. Mamunmama. This has been the usual routine for the last few days. remarked one of the boys. In her orange cardigan over a yellow sari Monju seemed to sparkle. This question was expected from Monju. This irritated Mamun. Monju stuck the sweet. Mamunbhai? Asked Saukat. Mamun shook his head vehemently. Mamun had not seen the other girl before. Like magic Calcutta has become a haven of peace. With her was Tahmina. A lot of sweets are left. She wore strong make up and had no cardigan or shawl. So far she has not shown any urgency to return home. chatting till well past midnight. We went looking for that shop. Babul Choudhury was untraced. . Among the boys were Mahbub. Perhaps it was the generation gap. asked Monju. Monju has no worry about her lost husband. have another. even the Naxals are lying low. They started talking at once. We will break the locks of the prison and bring Sheikh Mujib out. So the girls are thinking that they have got the right to do as they want. Mamun had to get up from bed to open the door. oozing with syrup. Let us wait and see. breaking into laughter for no reason and then walking back home. He mildly protested. At times music could seem like torture even to a music lover like Mamun. Do you take this to be the prison. You used to talk of Dwarik Ghosh. They were in no mood to listen to him. felt Mamun as he gave her a piercing glance. He has been feeling empty inside. They reached a closed door on the first floor.

People would not take it lying down if the Indian army does arrest him. persisting in a mistake. The group had with them. Yet in his heart of hearts he thought finally good sense will prevail. The present generation will never know how the dream of Pakistan took shape. disregarding Bhutto's advice would allow Mujib to be the Prime Minister. Don't you wish to celebrate our hard earned freedom? Who all are for tea? Asked Monju. hotel tycoon and owner of the newspaper Dinkaal. Noisy footsteps sounded on the staircase. With a wide smile Sakhawat said. Haven't you heard of his torture. There is chaos in the country. Look Naseen. President Yahya Khan. Come on. The Mukti boys are holding on to their stenguns. The guerillas are out to take revenge without waiting for proper trial. Dhaka is a troubled city all right. Monju. Listening to Palash tuning the harmonium. completely obsessed by the heady sensation of a crowd cheering and clapping. you won't get lost. let us sing. why should she get lost. But they opted for a break up. having seen enough of the atrocities of the Pakistani army. the amount of tears and blood shed for the ideal. Sukhu stayed with the family of Justice Masood.That is not true. One cup for me. their efforts to cripple the Bengali Muslims. She has already made a name as a singer. protested Saukat. Look who is here. I myself saw off Tajjuddin and others at the airport. At least that would have saved Pakistan. I told you don't get nervous. Hena was away in a camp at Krishnanagar working as a nurse. Here is some biryani for you. Observed Mamun. They had run out of murgmassallam. she is with you after all. and some kabab from Siraj. Will you stop this? Monju was disturbed by the way the conversation was going. I am putting the kettle on. He wants to take law and order in his own hands. The Bangladesh Government has started functioning from this afternoon. . look. pricking four people with bayonets in front of millions in the Paltan maidan? But he is a war hero after all. of all persons. he had been wishing and praying for the freedom of Bangladesh. Every evening Monju was out to sing in some victory celebration or the other. said Mamun though he had rationed his tea after the heart attack. joined Tahmina. It might lead to another civil war if Sheikh Saheb does not return. Her record has been brought out by HMV and given wide publicity. For the last nine months. Have you read of the arrest of Qader Siddiqui? What? Mamun was shocked. Mamun has been running into him in Calcutta and except exchanging civilities did not extend hospitality. Why is he here? Tahmina clapped. agreed Mahboob. Mamun could not get rid of the nagging regret for the break up of Pakistan. Qader Siddiqui of Tangail arrested? But why? He has not been arrested yet but the Bangla Government has asked the Indian army to arrest him. Sakhawat Hossain.

you know. said Hossain. The rich smell of ghee and cooked meat swept away all traces of music from the room. On way back from my trip to Ajmer Sheriff. What do you mean by first class citizen of Bangladesh? Would there be other classes too? He asked sarcastically. And leave Bangladesh? How can we get on without you? Of course not. no one as noble as her. What a country — so vast. please. it is still hot. two mango trees are still there. I had been to visit our house in Park Circus. out of the question. So we are no longer second class citizens of Pakistan. he thought. He offered his chair to the important guest. You know where I got the news of the surrender? In Delhi. I was thinking of dual citizenship like they have between America and Canada. . such variety. Lucknow and Delhi. opened his gold cigarette case. will you. Hossain Saheb's English has improved considerably in the last few months. He eased himself into the chair. No. Monju promptly intervened. Mussalmans. but help yourself to the biryani. I dropped in at Agra. feeling on the top of the world when the news of the surrender came. Mamun picked up one. first class citizens of free Bangla. took over. as was his nature. Unable to resist the temptation. I had a lot of property in India. I was there a month ago. We are a free nation. Hindus living in perfect harmony. I saw Madam Indira Gandhi with my own eyes. can you imagine? I wish I could get it back. said Hossain. You were right after all. Actually he has started smoking already behind Monju's back. Huq Saheb. Mamun kept quiet all through. It is all right if he smokes just one. He began. She has class. beautiful building. Hossain Saheb. took one out and then on second thought offered one to Mamun. That house will now fetch nine lakhs in Indian money. great lady.One of his companions carried three huge packets. it would take one generation for the wound to heal. Mamun could not be rude on this happy occasion. You want to have Indian citizenship? Saukat kept up the bantering tone. taking Mamun in his arms. Mamunmama is not supposed to smoke. Alaikum salam. Salam Alaikum. The haramzada Pakistanis have been taught a lesson. Buddhists. Hossain was quick to correct himself. you can't find her match in the world. A Hindu lawyer has taken it in exchange of a house in Purana Paltan. Just a way of speaking. Sikhs. today is a big day. And Madam Indira Gandhi. We are all first class citizens in Bangladesh. please have a seat. Christians. don't you think? Coming to think of it we can opt for Indian citizenship. Indira might agree if we can convince her. India is our true friend. I was in Delhi on the sixteenth you know. Saukat who was afraid to speak in front of Hossain Saheb when he worked for the paper now talked on equal terms. in front of the Parliament House in Delhi.

she is going to exploit East Pakistan instead of Yahya Khan. When are you going back to Dhaka? Asked Saukat. Come on Naseem. he said. The people of Calcutta are slurping for our fish. that is getting cheated. And that Indira Gandhi! For all her sugarcoated words. I am sure you realise that. I asked him to remain here. is that it? Well you may not have heard another rumour. . Met him in Delhi. I have seen it with my own eyes. Mamun was sleepy but could not ask the guests to leave. he did not understand politics. said Hossain. He wanted to signal to her but she was hypnotised by Hossain's eloquence. Two songs were sung but as soon as there was a pause. Who told you this is a rumour. but nothing much though. Saukat. Two more left after some time. Monju went over to Justice Masud's place at night but it is getting late. Hossain smiled. You can take it from me. India is Hindu. he is fine now. Not yet! Have some business deals to finalise. I am coming with you. So the Indian army is not coming back. misled by his beard. In Delhi they are jubilant because the Muslim homeland Pakistan has broken. Already I have bagged import order of tobacco and paan worth twelve crores. All Indian Civil Service officers will be posted in the districts of Bangladesh and run the country. said Hossain Saheb. But he is a collaborator. Hindu India did not fight the war for free. We are going to have a lot of business with India. do you know anything about the whereabouts of Babul Choudhury? Giving Monju a quick look. Hossain replied. The two girls were scandalised. It is cheating all right. This is the fact. We are going to be cheated for god knows how long. Protein for nicotine. At last Mamun asked. Instead I will export fish. He had gone to West Germany for treatment of a war wound. Just a minute. Then he raised his voice. Secular my foot. As Henna was away. They did not fight for nothing. Has he come to India with him? Oh no. All smiles evaporated from Hossain Saheb's face. But Saukat pulled him down. I tell you. the Indian army is not leaving Dhaka soon. they are happy to be one up on the Muslims.Some left after sharing the biryani at half an hour past midnight. Hossain Saheb began again the greatness of Indira Gandhi and outburst of gratitude to the great people of India. Hossain Saheb went on talking. They will demand their pound of flesh. looking after my business interests. isn't he? A communist? As if that was the last word! He busied himself in lighting his cigarette then looked up. where should I drop you. he got up to leave. Indian army will replace Pakistani army. Saukat asked Hossain Saheb about Altaaf. Fish for tobacco? Saukat laughed. My driver must be asleep. They care two hoots about Bangladesh. He took Palash to be one of them. Embarrassed by the turn of talk. In spite of Saukat’s meaningful coughs there was no stopping Hossain Saheb. Palash was a singer.

Saukat and Palash. What about the excrement of the ninety-five lakh refugees! That will be left in the Indian soil. Hossain Saheb left with Naseem. Monju had gone to complete her nightly toilet — Tahmina crept to him. It has only been four days and you have already started it. There were two cots. he was agitated by a strange excitement of having witnessed freedom twice in a lifetime. That India has done a lot for us can you deny it? Shouldn't we give something in return? Well we have. almost in tears. He did not pay much heed to Hossain Saheb's remarks but a sense of regret persisted. That Hossain Saheb is a filthy rich person.Saukat turned to Mamun. You may flatter India as much as you want. Now she has to extract the price. Tahmina would be sharing one with Monju. already. Tahmina stayed on. Hossain Sahebs flourish everywhere. It was one-thirty. Look at the anti-American feelings in France after all that America has done for them. You are a real dear. the intense happiness of the first time was not there. Monju did not want to go to Justice Masud's house so late in the night. Will you stop this? I don't like this kind of talk. declared Hossain proudly. The Burmese are Buddhists. You don't go to the bottom of things. Said Mamun. act as fertilisers. We will have to be under Hindu India. Right. Bangladesh is too small a country for independent existence. Is that what you think Mamunbhai? The Indian army is not coming back? That Bangladesh will be a colony of India? Well some of the Indian soldiers will not return — the ones who have lost their lives. Tahmina kissed Mamun on the cheek like a European woman. It gave me a weird feeling the way he turned turtle on Indira Gandhi. agreed Tahmina. I have seen such people in other countries. What about Nepal and Burma! Asked Saukat. Palash? Palash burst out laughing. His eyes smarted. she began. I am not afraid to speak the truth. Nepal is a Hindu kingdom. appealed. that's what she is. War is nothing but another form of business. Monju. If you do not mind Mamunmama may I smoke? For a girl having lived in Europe this was not an unusual request. Mamunmama. It amused me even more because I happen to be Indian. isn't he? People of his sort will continue to enjoy the same privileges in the next regime. might I have one too. Our relations with India might change later but why so soon? Big brothers are not tolerated. Observe the Gandhi's eyes — shrewd. Please stop it. before Monju is back. But the second one was different. She didn't fight it for charity. Mamun said conspiratorially. Mamun was no longer sleepy. . Really? Mamun got a start.

said Mamun. Mamun sat up and stared at Monju without speaking. without much conviction. But I have come back. I hold an Indian passport. Mamun shook his head.It is ah interesting story. she told Tahmina. Mamun was not interested. I know you are a poet. She drew closer. pulled the blanket over himself. We live in Amsterdam. her hair wet. Are you sick? Monju touched his arm with concern. Though I support Bangladesh wholeheartedly. Let us visit other places like Darjeeling. humming a tune. the words of Monju echoed in his ears — Don't you love me any more? Don't you love me any more! . won't we visit Ajmer Sharief before going to Dhaka? Asked Monju. It is two a. She sat on his bed. Monju came out. exclaimed Tahmina. your generation. Hena wants to study in Santiniketan. Tahmina giggled. He pulled the blanket over him and closed his eyes leaving the two girls to a whispered conversation. Mamunmama. At six-thirty the part time help will knock on the door. But I am not sleepy at all. What have I done? Don't you love me any more? The long lost word love sent electric waves through him. The muse has left me. She quickly moved away as the bathroom door opened. said Mamun weakly. Mamun went to his bed. It is your turn now. She asked again. Monju pulled the blanket from Mamun's face and went on. Mamun could not make out what they were saying. But soon a whiff of feminine fragrance told him of Monju's presence. hurt. Mamun lay very still. covering his face. My father had left India to take up Pakistani citizenship. I was born in Barisal but was sent to Europe while I was still in college. I am married to an Indian doctor. What about a visit to the Taj Mahal! Mamunmama? No answer. loving people were commonly bandied about.m. Hai Allah. How about chatting away the rest of the night? You can chat but I would like to sleep. Yusoof Ali. But the sensation of hearing of love from a woman was a totally different experience. We have never been anywhere. Without a word to Monju. Love in the sense of loving one's country. Get some sleep. in a striped handloom sari. holding his breath. How can you sleep with our chatter? Mamunmama will you recite some poetry to us. Mamun did not respond. I do not understand you people. You are angry with me.

Why did she speak of love, a word Mamun has never used talking to her? Love can have different forms, even affection, loving one's mother, loving your pet dog, there are all sorts of love. The anxiety and apprehension of the last nine months had driven away all finer sentiments. Survival had been the topmost priority, but with the coming of freedom natural sentiments have staged a come back. Now Monju is being so soft and caring after all these months. The conversation in the next bed stopped but Mamun was wide awake. He tossed and turned in the bed. For the last six weeks he had been sleeping alone in this room. Now with the close proximity of two young women something stirred in his aging body. On the threshold of old age, Mamun still hankered for love. He felt attracted towards Monju, burnt with jealousy to find other young men displaying undue familiarity with her. He must protect her as he is committed to Babul Choudhury. But was that the only reason, he was not sure. Babul may be dead. Monju is surrounded by healthy young men, specially that Palash sticks to her. Yet with what genuine eagerness she spoke to him today. Mamunmama, don't you love me? Did it mean she only cared for his love or was it just a way of talking? He clicked the bed switch on and climbed down from the bed. Both the women were sound asleep, Tahmina turning to the wall, Monju on her back. She is growing lovelier every day. Mamun has not seen anyone more beautiful than her among the women of Calcutta. Somehow she seemed a replica of his first love, Bula. The likeness was stunning. The man staring at this lovely woman, the rhythmic upheaval of her breasts, was not her uncle but a different person, a poet. He has stopped writing poetry but a poet never dies. Mamun gazed at her stray locks on the forehead, the closed bird like eyes, a hint of a smile. He went closer prompted by an urge to touch her, to tell her that it is only you I love. I can’t live a moment without you. But on second thought he restrained himself. No, Tahmina is next to her, she can't be woken up. He felt a slight ache in his heart. Was another heart attack on its way, induced by smoking? If he dies tonight then Dhaka would be beyond his reach, he would die without taking Monju in his arms! He stumbled away, went over to the window, put a Sorbitrate in his mouth. Tears welled up, no, he can't die now, he would not. He looked out at the fading darkness of the cold winter sky. He waited expectantly for the ajaan, a call to prayer from an adjoining mosque, the sound which normally disturbed his sleep. He couldn't wait for sunrise. In spite of the nagging ache in his chest, he felt a tremendous urge to smoke. Equally strong was the urge to take Monju in his arms. Both urges were insane, but he could not help it. No, no, he has to live, to hand over Monju to her husband, Hena to her mother — responsibilities he cannot very well shirk. And last but not the least he pined to look at the new Bangladesh. Tears streaming down his cheeks, Mamun prayed, Dear Allah, give me strength. Make me forget my desires. Protect my country, bring a new lease of hope to its miserable people. O you all merciful, bring peace to my troubled heart, save me from undesirable urges, from greed. Give me back my poetic skill, please god.

63

A light sheet of snow covered the red car like a silk scarf. Christmas was just two days away - it
was going to be a white Christmas. It has been snowing since early December. The holiday spirit was everywhere, the air was clear and refreshing. Collars of his overcoat turned up, Atin was clearing the driveway with a shovel. It was his turn to day. As he was a late riser, Sharmila had to ring him to wake him up. Now Atin has a phone of his own. Icicles hung from the tree branches, everything was sparkling in the morning light. The sky was clear but one never knew when it would start snowing again. Atin turned the car heater on. The ice cover melted, all he had to do by way of cleaning was to wipe it affectionately with a piece of flannel. He was fond of his car, though third hand, it worked beautifully. Strangely enough it was red like the fantasy car he used to write to his mother about at a time when he was so hard up that he had to borrow his tube fare from Siddhartha. The car was a necessary item like clothing. It saved on transport as well as time. He got his job without any effort. Company people came to recruit prospective workers from Ph. D students. He had had offer from three companies, discussed terms over lunch. He remembered the humiliation of an interview by a pool side in New York, perspiring in a borrowed suit and tie. Now he can go for lunch in jeans and parka. The difference is the stamp of a well-known university on him. He was supposed to go back home after his doctorate. He went through days of depression before accepting the job. He used to make faces at himself in the mirror. In those difficult days Sharmila gave him constant company, trying to argue why he could not go back now. It would be suicidal. His parents too never hinted that he should go back . . . In West Bengal the Naxalites were on the run, he heard from Shameek, a cousin of Somen. Only Charu Majumder has avoided arrest. Leaders like Kanu Sanyal, Sushital Roy Choudhury, Asim Chatterjee, all in prison, were critical of Charu Majumder, of his policy of killing, of finishing off. It was not murder which Mao had meant. His idea was to neutralise, to grab power and not indiscriminate killing. But the realisation came too late. Now it was a phase for retaliation, eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth. The CPM cadres are killing three for each of their party boys killed. Congress cadres are combing localities to butcher the whole lot of Naxals, the police too is not far behind. Having the slightest Naxal connection would put one's life in jeopardy. Shameek was younger than Atin but he knew of Atin Majumder. Though he was never a leader but now posters are being written about him, thinking him to be dead. Red salute to Atin Majumder,

though if he were to return now, nobody would be there to welcome him with flowers. Knives or guns or the prison cell awaited him. Atin has given his cycle to Shameek, one could not go to office in a cycle, particularly to negotiate twenty-two miles was out of the question. These are reasons to convince himself, to get over the guilty feeling about buying a car. The car has been paid off, it looks as good as new. Atin just loves it. This Christmas he will go for a long drive for the first time. Siddhartha has invited them to New York for two days. Then to Buffalo to attend the big party thrown by Panchuda and Shanta boudi. They will visit Niagara Falls and proceed to Toronto. Sharmila's cousin Sumi would join them, and they will pick up Oli from Maryland. Where are you off to for the holidays? This is a constant refrain here right from the first week of December. Everybody looks forward to it, like our Puja holidays. Their annual vacation to Deoghar was stopped because of Dada's death. One death had changed a lot of things. Having cleaned his car, Atin went to his room and made a big breakfast of two eggs, salami, four pieces of toast, two cups of coffee and a piece of cake. He skips lunch or has sandwiches. It makes you feel lighter. In his new job Atin has to work hard. Their lab is much bigger than the university lab. He has his dinner with Sharmila, either eats out or at her apartment. Now Sumi is quite friendly with Atin but most evenings she is out with her steady boyfriend, a Marathi boy. From office he goes straight to Sharmila's apartment. Today they were eating out. Atin parked his car then ran to the porch. He shook the snow from his shoes. It was minus ten, already it has started snowing. Sumi in a new hairstyle and a lovely blue overcoat came out. Her boyfriend Vijay Sathe is a good painter, he has been drawing her portrait. Atin offered to give her a lift. How generous of you! In honour of the new car, is it? No, thanks, I won't disturb the lovebirds. Won't be back before ten. Atin insisted. But we are going out, Sharmila has some shopping to do. We can drop you at Vijay's. Sumi did not bother to reply. Instead she gave Atin an odd look. Go face the music. She laughed and ran down the stairs, leaving Atin rather bewildered. Sharmila was still in a light housecoat, a book lay on the bed, the TV was on. She opened the door and flopped on the bed again. I thought you wanted to go shopping? Atin asked. Sharmila kept staring at him as though she was looking at him for the first time. Girls can be most mysterious at times. The room was quite warm. Atin took off his overcoat, the jacket even the sweater. What is the matter with you? He asked. Not feeling well?

Bablu, come sit by me. He took off his shoes and stretched on the bed. If you don't feel like going out that is fine with me. Bablu, suppose I were to die all on a sudden? Atin was going to kiss her but he stopped half way. He gave her a searching look, no there was no trace of illness. If you die then you just get lost. But why this death wish all on a sudden? She just clung to him with all her might, pressing her face on his. Atin was at a loss for words. Actually he wanted to give her a good piece of his mind but it might cause her to call him a male chauvinist. He just caressed her back but she broke away and rushed to the bathroom. Lying flat on his back Atin lit a cigarette and tried to make some sense of this illogical behaviour, something only women are capable of. Has he, unknowingly offended her? May be it was Oli, some remark by her over the phone. The two of them are good friends, have long phone conversations. Frowning, Atin felt at a loss. What should be done now? He was suddenly angry. What nonsense is this? After all he is coming after a long drive along icy roads, after a hard day's work, hungry and fagged out and she is playing some silly game. He felt like banging on the closed bathroom door but just at that moment Sharmila came out. Let us go out, she spoke normally. I have to buy a few things. While she changed Atin rummaged the fridge and found some left overs like dal, spaghetti, prawn. He took a few sips from a beer can. Downstairs, he wiped the windscreen of his car and asked casually. May I know why her majesty is in a foul temper today? Sharmila touched his cheek. Bablu, I love you very very very much. But I am afraid I have done something wrong without telling you. What is it? I can't tell you. Please don't insist. Later may be. Hey, you haven't fastened the seat belt. You fasten yours. They turned to the downtown. In spite of the snowfall the streets were crowded. The shops were dazzling with illumination. Live Santa Clauses were entertaining kids in front of some shops. Sharmila leaned against Atin, who was greatly relieved by the symptoms of her affection. So Oli has not told her anything. It must be something quite insignificant that had upset Sharmila. She could be quite silly at times, but that was part of her charm. In this oversensitiveness she was very much like Oli. I wish I could go to mother and confide to her, murmured Sharmila, talking to herself. I have never kept anything from her, she knows about you too. But how can I tell her about this?

About what? I can't tell her over the telephone. It has to be whispered at night, lying next to her. She will understand. Take a trip home: You will be through with your research this September. Take a six-week break. Are you mad? I can't leave you for a minute. If I die I want you to be by me. Stop this nonsense. Let us be practical. I have problems but you can easily take a five to six week holiday. No question of my going alone. Let us talk about our New York plan. Have you had another talk with Siddhartha? Yes, he called me at the office. We are going for a vacation in December so you can easily take a trip home in January. I will book a seat for you. You are feeling homesick. I am not going home. Are we going to put up at Siddhartha's apartment, so many of us? Vijay will be going too. Siddhartha will see to it. Have you talked to Oli? Does she know when we are leaving? You phone her tonight. Why can't you do that? It is always me. She never calls me. You want to tell your mother something yet refuse to go home, what does this mean? Will you park near that shoe store, please. To find a parking place is a big problem. Atin stayed in the car, making slow rounds in case the police came to tick him off. Shopping is not his cup of tea. Sharmila made sorties to three shops after which they went to a Chinese restaurant, at the back of the old Plaza, run by two old ladies. They found Vijay and Sumi with some more friends. Atin found no way to avoid them though he wanted to be alone with Sharmila. Vijay, a friendly sort stood up to call them. Come and join us, he shouted. A carafe of red wine was brought on the table. The other couple was a Maharashtrian. Sharmila struck an instant rapport with them but Atin felt ill at ease. After the meal Atin caught Sumi near the spiral staircase which went down to the washroom. He had gone there to smoke. What are you to up to? He demanded as Sumi emerged from the toilet. Me? What have I done? Asked Sumi. Why did you tell me go face the music? What is the matter?

Sumi smiled. Sorry, I should not have said that. Actually you are a very unlucky guy to get hitched so soon. Hasn't Sejdi told you? She is speaking in riddles. She wants to go visit her mother but the next moment she refuses. What is it? Sumi took her time to wipe her mouth. Then she said, how much longer are you going to wait? Can she propose? Marry? Yes. Is this the first time you are hearing the word? Or don't you believe in the institution of marriage? I never bother about those things. But what is the big hurry to get married? If you want my opinion marry her in a couple of months. It can be done in the community hall. That is how Anil Sahani and Durga got married. After it is over Sejdi will take time to get over. She is very soft, not like me. After what is over? Abortion! It will have a psychological impact. The word hit Atin like a blow. He stared blankly, uncomprehending. Sumi went on. You should have taken protection. You are not even aware that Sejdi has conceived. It has been two months. Conceived? What do you mean? Atin asked like an idiot. Don't go on saying what do you mean, what do you mean? What do you think you are, a child? All men are like that, shirkers. She is not having her periods for the last two months. For a twenty-six year old, Atin was ignorant about the female body and its mysterious ways. Period! He again asked in innocent wonder. What happens if it stops? The urine test showed positive. An early curettage will not involve any risk. Luckily it is legal now, otherwise she would have had to go to Europe. Vijay has a doctor friend. He will have it done after Christmas. By now the whole thing had registered. Atin, his eyes bulging, sprang towards Sumi. Clutching her shoulder he growled. Curettage? Indeed! Kill it, right? Who says so? Who has dared? A white woman coming down the stairs saw one coloured youth attacking a coloured girl and looked the other way. Let go, Sumi snapped. Have you gone mad? His face unusually bright, eyes glowing, Atin went on, Why was I not told? Who had given the order to kill? I warn you.

Pushing him away Sumi said. Don't be childish, Babluda. You should have married her. What is the way out now? An early abortion is not risky. Go now, kneel before my sister and ask for her hand. She left, leaving Atin dumbfounded. So his child is growing in Sharmila's womb. He is a father. Beads of perspiration stood on his forehead, his head in a whirlwind. He never thought of this possibility during the passionate acts of intimacy. He marched upstairs, gave Sharmila a piercing look and ordered, get up. We are going home. As he tried to put some money on the table, Vijay held his hand, Want to start a fight? That was an old joke. A fight decides who is to foot the bill. But Sharmila pleaded, Let us stay. Bablu, why don't you sit down. Sumi winked at Sharmila. Atin was almost dragging Sharmila out of her chair. Outside the restaurant, Atin turned his angry eyes on her, I am going to tear you to pieces. You don't know me. I think I do, Sharmila smiled sweetly. Why didn't you tell me before? I was so confused myself. When Sumi told me about the urine test and I did it, I could not believe my eyes. Aren't you supposed to tell me everything? That thing about stopping of period? How could I? It would have amounted to saying I am pregnant, so marry me. You had said that you won't marry without telling your parents. So I decided to wait. We can't go home now. So the abortion is only alternative. No! roared Atin. He held Sharmila's hand in a tight grip as though he would break it. You won't. Like hell you won't. Please stop shouting, Bablu. There is just no other way. It is quite safe, believe me. Pushing her roughly inside the car, Atin barked. So I am not entitled to an opinion, is it? My child. I don't want any funny business. We are getting married this week. Right here. Bursting into a sob, Sharmila said, but how can I, without telling my mother? I can't, I can't. Please Bablu. All his bravado gone, Atin began hitting his head on the steering wheel and howled in a way he had never cried since his birth. Even Sharmila stopped in amazement at the childlike outburst of her stubborn lover. In a vain attempt to stop him she patted his back and kept saying, Stop it, please, stop it. I am going to burn this car. Atin went on, I will quit my job, never meet you, I will get lost. I am a worthless bounder, my life has no value, no meaning . . . Khuku, the worst part is even you have not understood me.

Don't, Bablu, for god's sake. Can I live without you even for a single day? You know Sumi and the others assured me that abortion is no problem at this stage. His face wet with tears, Atin said, his tone as miserable as if he has never known happiness, Khuku, I am a good for nothing fellow. My brother, my brilliant brother drowned because of me. I have killed a man with my own hands to save Manikda. I am a killer and now I am on my way to kill my own child. I remain a killer. Is this life worth living? Without a word Sharmila caressed his face fondly. Then she confessed. It is not that I want it either. I want to die. Come on, let us both end of our lives. Atin perked up. You mean it? Yes, that is it. We will open the gas and swallow some sleeping pills, it won't hurt . . . If you say so. Come let's. Today. Sharmila placed her face against Atin's chest. I would like to be with you always. Whatever you say . . . Atin placed his hand on Sharmila's abdomen. No, no, I don't want the baby to die. I can only kill myself. You must live, you and the baby. I will explain everything to Ma, she will understand, said Sharmila slowly. No matter what people say, we will get married here. Yes, Siddhartha will make all arrangements. He has a lot of contact in New York. We will go to a marriage registrar. But it is holiday season. Does not matter. We will stay on after the New Year. What about your parents? There is no time now. I will tell them later. They wiped their tears. For two determined adults nothing can be a hurdle. Hew foolish of them to think of suicide or infanticide. They came to Atin's apartment. Atin rang up Siddhartha but it went on ringing. Atin decided to call him the next day. You must tell Oli when she should expect us, suggested Sharmila. Yes, you better call her, hesitated Atin. No Bablu, you should tell her, Sharmila insisted. Atin dialed her number. After a conversation in English Atin turned to Sharmila. I don't understand this. That artist lady said Oli has gone back to India. But how can that be? Has she moved to another house?

No, the lady repeated, she has left for India But that is impossible. It has only been a few months, and without telling us! When was the last time I talked to her? Sharmila tried to think back. Was it last Monday? No, Sunday, eight days ago. She never told me. OK, let us call Papiya. Papiya was a Bangladeshi neighbour of Oli in Maryland. She was surprised that Sharmila did not know. Oli had left in a chartered flight four days ago, she told her. The ticket was booked a month ago. She is not coming back. She bade good bye to everybody else except Atin and Sharmila. I don't know this Shounak. Sighed Atin after a long silence. I hope he will be kind to a simple nice girl like Oli. She was in such a hurry to get back to Shaunak. Khuku, I have no secrets from you except one. It would be unfair not to let you know. I had a relationship with Oli. I know. The way she looked at you, the way she forced herself to smile. But we never had, I mean it was nothing physical. Does it matter? She is in love with you, she came here only for you but I have taken you away from her. That question does not arise at all. She could not wait for me. She has Shounak now, she told me so herself. But I don't blame her, there was just no way I could keep in touch. Got to go now. Sharmila stood up. Go? Where? Atin said in great surprise. Home. I think we should take some time to think it over. Stay with me tonight. Atin caught hold of her hand. Sharmila forced herself free. Just because I am pregnant, you have to marry me! For shame. I have hurt Oli, how can I ever forget that? She is so much better than me. Bring her back, at whatever cost. Atin held her hands. Wrong, wrong. I do not matter to Oli any more. Shaunak means more to her. I don't want to disturb her. You are all I have, Khuku. He dragged her to the mirror. You are just not my lover but the mother of my child. Let us give him or her a good life, he or she can go back home, I will live through our child. Let me live, Khuku, please. They stood before the mirror, their foreheads touching and shed tears together.

Epilogue

1

ON certain days which come very rarely, the sunset sky just before the onset of dusk takes on a
splendid glow, the rays of the sun can be seen streaming down almost like the milky way. It is so exquisite as to seem out of this world. On such afternoons old people should not budge out of doors. It is the law of nature. The seuli flowers do not blossom in the month of Magh, cuckoos are silent in summer, the breeze comes to a standstill in late autumn, in the same way there are change of seasons in human life. One has to accept them. On such an afternoon Pratap Majumder stood idly watching the traffic from his verandah, all by himself in the house and decided to go out. Nobody would be coming home, the thought lay heavy on his mind. He was finding the loneliness too heavy, almost unbearable. Technically he was an old man now, known as Dadu to the neighbourhood boys instead of the earlier Kakababu. Except for the white hair there was no visible sign of aging in his body, his muscles were tight, he did not use a stick as most Bengalis of his age used to at one time. He always dressed well in his trousers and shoes before going out, it was against his nature to sport slippers like the present generation. The only reason he was considered old was that he was now retired. The chance-built chance-erected city built by the British was showing signs of rotting already, brought up as it was on a tottering foundation. The roads were subsiding, old palaces looked shabby, the new ones, done without proper planning were a monstrosity. The patchy cosmetic cleaning reminded Pratap of the heavily made up face of an aging prostitute. Not that the image came to him from experience, he was deeply impressed by the painting of a Parisian artist whose name he has forgotten. The suburbs were even shabbier. The influx of refugees after partition has faded from public memory but like the residue of a flood after the water has receded, the shanties remain, a haphazard growth of human habitation. The temporary thatches have been replaced by brick structures but they do not look like homes with a sentimental history, they are just places to squeeze in somehow. Pratap was allergic to these suburban colonies but not to the residents. Human beings, their ups and downs fascinate him, almost like a gambler pondering over profit and loss. He has great respect for those people who survive and rise against heavy odds. Against his own wishes but persuaded, goaded and ordered by his wife, he too has built a house in one of the suburbs he detested, spending all his provident fund money. Most of his working life was spent in rented homes and if he had his way he would have spent the rest of his life that way. He joked to his friends that in important matters like Peace Treaty between Soviet Russia and the

US, or the future Prime Minister of India, his opinion was the last word in the domestic front. But in trivial matters like how his earnings should be spent his wife takes the decision. The white two-storied building stood a little away from the Jadavpur bus depot, on a lane to the right of the Krishna Glass Factory, the fourth house from the corner. He was proud of the house. At long last he was the owner of a plot of land, not a homeless refugee any more. It was a comforting thought. The humiliation of being served a notice by the landlord was gone forever. Moreover, he needed rooms for the children who, hopefully would visit them off and on. The ground floor had three shops and a garage though Pratap did not have a car of his own. He lived on the upper floor. Today he was alone. Mamata was visiting their daughter at Hardwar, it was the day off for Nanu, the domestic help. Pratap was unmindful by nature so he double-checked the locks before going out. It was a beautiful day but instead of relishing it Pratap had a sudden feeling of the uselessness of his own life. Such a dangerous thought was obsessing him quite often. He needed company to get over it. But where could he go except at Bimanbehari's. It was the only house he could visit as often as he wished but he wanted to restrict his visits to not more than once a month, as though it was too precious like a Kashmiri shawl, would not stand a lot of wear and tear. He walked up to the bus stop. His habitual frugality stopped him from taking a taxi. A building was coming up. He watched it with a newfound interest developed after his own involvement with construction. A middle-aged workman came down the ladder. He had an impressive personality in spite of his lungi and torn vest. He collected his tools in a bag and started to walk away and soon disappeared in the crowd. Where did he live, wondered Pratap. Do all these people building mansions for others have a place of their own? This sad looking workman who just left, will he be back tomorrow? If he doesn't somebody else is sure to carry on his job. The building will take shape, people will fill in all the flats, and happiness will be there. This is the law of the world. For absolutely no reason whatever, Pratap felt the sad looking workman was his twin brother. A strong breeze and a pink glow in the sky made him wonder if a storm was on the way. He loved the widespread sweep of sudden gusts in the countryside, swaying huge trees, making bullock carts run helter skelter. In the concrete jungle of a city storms take on a different look. As he was crossing the road, a man in a dhoti and shirt gave him a knowing look but Pratap could not remember where he had met him. Unwilling to waste his time in useless talk, he looked away. His eyes fell on the show window of a sari shop, to a yellow mannequin and his heart missed a beat . . . It was exactly a replica of Sulekha. In one's busy working life there is hardly any time for brooding over the past. After a breathless run of fifty years or so, one takes a break, and looks back and wonders how he could survive such a dangerous journey. How was it that I did not go under! From the dim stretch of the past, certain bright and familiar faces emerge.

Where did Sulekha go, such a lively, spirited, lovely woman? She was just not the wife of Pratap's brother-in-law, she was loveliness incarnate, and they had a very special relationship. Perhaps the world does not deserve the likes of her. Why did she put an end to such a beautiful life Pratap failed to understand. A criminal waste! Tridib too has not been heard of since. His life is a total ruin. It has been more than twenty years. Pratap did not see her again after they left for Delhi, her memory was hidden in some deep corner of the mind. Nobody mentioned her any more. But perhaps all is not lost. Who would have thought that she would reappears as a mannequin in a shop at Jadavpur. Who was the artist who had visualised her exact likeness? Pratap had an uncontrollable desire to meet that man. How are you, sir! It was a tallish man in dhoti and shirt. The voice rang a bell. He had to deal with this man in connection with the buying of three ceiling fans. Out of the three, two did not turn fast enough to drive the mosquitoes away. Instigated by his wife, Pratap had gone to the go-down to have them changed. This man who was in charge had asked him to come after a week as that particular type was not in stock. Pratap, already sour for being forced to do the unpleasant task, coming in a taxi all the way, lost his temper. Blood rushed to his face, he used strong words demanding immediate replacement. Otherwise I am going to take you to court, he had declared firmly. The man could have been equally rude, but he spoke apologetically. You are getting angry, sir. You must be having high blood pressure. Please have a seat. Would you like a cold drink? They are having a go slow movement at the factory, what is there for us to do sir. If you do not mind sir, are you a Leo, I mean in astrological sign? I have this hobby of guessing people's astrological types from their face . . . In all the trips that Pratap was obliged to take to that place, the company of this person had helped. He certainly was different, studying the relation between stars and human destiny, in a dark and dingy godown. He had made some queer observations about his past and future. Pratap had no faith in astrology but he enjoyed talking to him. He did not know his name, just the face looked familiar. It was unlikely that this man remembered Pratap's name and address yet he accosted him as though they were close acquaintances. How are you sir? He asked. I hope the fans are not giving trouble. If you do not mind sir, may I ask you something? Have you been feeling depressed lately? Feel kind of empty inside? My humble advice to you sir, please don't take root vegetables like potatoes, onions, ginger, and radishes — avoid them strictly. You are still under the influence of Jupiter. Amused, Pratap shirked the question. Is your home in the vicinity? Home? I have no home, replied the man indifferently. The home I used to have was on the other side, gobbled up by Nehru and Jinnah Saheb. Pratap persisted. Where do you live, on this side I mean. Way past Garia. I have taken annual leave, want to visit the ashram of Raman Maharshi.

Do drop in one day, said Pratap. He gave him directions to his own house, much to his own surprise. This man is not my social equal — he contemplated. Am I getting weaker? Losing out? Beginning to believe in astrology? Anyway, he seems to be nice company, not after money. Mamata would be happy to meet an amateur astrologer. Two minibuses pulled up, one after the other. Pratap chose the second one because of a young woman in a pink sari getting into it. Pratap admired the perfect symmetry of her feet, the red slipper, a part of her leg revealing a batter soft texture of the calf muscles. This has been an old habit, to select a good-looking woman in a public transport he was travelling in. Now at the age of sixty-seven, he felt no qualm, this was one way of appreciating the spirit of beauty. From the back she looked somewhat like Sulekha. For no reason Sulekha was not far from his mind today. Pratap chose a back seat; he did not want to get closer or even to have a glimpse of her face. He was reminded of an interview published in a newspaper of a ninety-four year old Gandhian social worker. When asked about the secrets of his monastic life, the old man had given an interesting answer. I have not had any intercourse with a woman in the last sixty years, I am dedicated to the service of the country, have not allowed any other thought to distract me. Personal desires have never had a place in my life. But let me be perfectly truthful. Even at this age the sight of a beautiful woman makes me antagonistic to the other males near her. I want them to move back and allow her to come to me and talk to me. How would you define this feeling? Call it restraint or desire? This was exactly what Pratap used to feel about Sulekha. Talking to her was pure happiness. Who would have guessed that at that age an old man can have that kind of desire. It was the truth, however unnerving. Getting down at the Hazra crossing, Pratap was obliged to walk, stepping carefully over the dug up road — a preparation for the underground metro. Why do they take so much time, wondered Pratap. Nothing seems to work on time. The afternoon sky had wrought a change in him, he alternated between cheerfulness and depression, like the ebb and flow in a river. He paused as he reached Bimanbehari's gate. This is not where he had wanted to come. The idea of looking at the sunset from the riverside had crossed his mind once. He liked to sit all by himself by the Ganga where chances of meeting acquaintances were rare. The gate Bimanbehari was obliged to put up for reasons of security looked incongruous, hiding the open ground from view. The Naxals used to be very active in this area. The durwan came up to him and saluted respectfully. How are you Saheb? He asked. Pratap nodded and made the usual inquiries about health. If it were not for the durwan, he would have slipped away quietly. Now he was obliged to enter. Opening the gate, the durwan informed him, Babu and Ma have left for Krishnanagar that morning.

Pratap looked pale as though he has been insulted. It seemed to him like a betrayal. Biman must have driven down, he could have asked me. He forgot that his telephone was out of order for the last month, and they have been out of touch for quite some time. Please come in, saheb, said the durwan. No, I don't think I will. When are they coming back? The news that Bimanbehari will be there for a week made Pratap even more furious. This was the perfect time for him to take a trip, Mamata was not likely to come back before two weeks. Pratap had no particular work in Calcutta. So Biman too has been ignoring him? Who is left then? Friends drop off as people grow older, and Pratap has never been particularly sociable in nature. Lately he was having serious fights with Mamata. He was getting more isolated every day. Just as he was turning back to go a sweet musical voice rang out, Pratap kaka! The two sisters loaded with packets were getting down from a taxi. All his displeasure gone, Pratap beamed. Where had the two butterflies gone? To paradise, pat came the answer from Buli, who had filled up now but was as jolly as ever. She did not treat Pratap with the extra respect due to an older person. May I know why you were turning to go? Since nobody was home. When did you get here from Bombay? Day before yesterday, I have a TV recording tomorrow. Sujan Singh, will you carry these packets? Come let us go in, Pratap kaka. Oli paid the taxi and smiled at Pratap. She had the same slim and tall figure, now she wore glasses. Buli had made a name as a singer. Now after marriage she lived in Bombay but visited Calcutta quite often. This time I am staying for a couple of weeks. Can we make that trip to Sunderban? You are a big liar. You had promised to book a launch for us, remember? Both the sisters were keen to take a trip to the Sunderbans. The father of the present director of the tiger project was a colleague of Pratap, and he had promised the sisters but somehow the trip never materialised. You did not remind me, did you? He put a counter charge to Buli. I like that, demurred Buli. You never came this way. You live so far away now. You must let me know when you are coming. I have moved to a godforsaken place. Come on, said Oli. Jadavpur is not that far from here. Baba was complaining that you hardly ever come. A telegram came from Krishnanagar last evening and Baba had to rush. He wanted to send you a message. But the court hearing was this afternoon, so Baba had no time.

That was a logical explanation. Oli was quick to sense that Pratap was hurt. They were having a court case about the joint property. I have not been to your new house, complained Buli. Tell Kakima that I will be coming tomorrow, after the TV recording. She must make peas kachuri for me. Your Kakima is in Hardwar. Why? All by herself! You must have fought with her. Your Kakima is a free individual now, said Pratap sarcastically. Let make a move now. Have got some work to do. Work can wait. Have a cup of tea first. Oli touched his arm. Oli was the only person who could dictate to Pratap. They went up the stairs to the office room, which has now been partitioned. Oli occupied one of the three chambers. The business has expanded, three people worked for Bimanbehari. He had wanted his friend to take charge of the administration but Pratap did not want to have a business relation taint their friendship. He gave the excuse that he wanted to enjoy his retirement. Let me go and make the tea, said Oli. Jagadish is not home. I hate the tea Parul's mother makes. Pratap was particular about his tea. He had not enjoyed the tea made by Parul's mother, the last time he was here. Oli has not forgotten that. She is very observant. She keeps herself busy, teaching in a college, helping her father in the publication business, she also finds time for social work. She went over to Pratap's place if his visits were infrequent. One day Mamata was suddenly taken very ill. Pratap's family physician was away, he was in a fix. Oli suddenly appeared like an angel and took charge. Mamata was taken to a nursing home. For everything Mamata depended on Oli. But she avoided Bablu when he was here, though she was very friendly with Sharmila. She entered with the tea tray. Pratap felt so guilty, he lowered his eyes.

2

AS the car came to a halt near the New Jersey turnpike, Siddhartha lit a cigarette and resumed
his story. His real name is Abhaycharan Dey. He went on. He comes from Harrison Road in Calcutta, now known as Mahatma Gandhi Road. He is the son of a cloth merchant, Subarnabanik by caste, of Vaishnab sect. He was a student of Scottish Church College, one-year junior to Subhas Bose, Netaji Subhas, no other. Good god, that old? Atin exclaimed. But how do you know all this?

He started translating the Gita with notes and printed them. Once he went to a sadhu of the Gouriya Math. That sadhu had asked him to spread the message of Sri Chaitanya to those who could not read Hindi or Bengali. I will take the tunnel. had religious sessions at home. Since when have we started being interested in temples and shrines? Just to give you an idea of the background. Atin lightly. opened shops in Calcutta and Allahabad. That is nothing unusual.Met him once. eventually started his own business. I hope you know where that is? Cut it short. did not even take tea. But this man was adamant. He would sit in front of a teashop and push-sell it. had children. With no money. editor. It is a fantastic story. His wife. persuaded by a friend. The story goes that his family never approved of his obsession with religion. He was in his mid-fifties then. Abhaycharan left home. Was his English good enough? Well in those days graduates knew English fairly well. Frowned Siddhartha. Siddhartha started the car. That sadhu of the Gouriya Math said something. He had to tour a lot. are you? . Actually Abhaycharan was not interested in family life any more. nor any warm clothing he carried on his self-imposed mission. Being a Vaishnab he was vegetarian. There are businessmen who give donations to keep their conscience clear. His father got him a job in a medicine firm run by a Bengali. But as time went on. Breaking journey at Calcutta. which impressed him deeply. but wrote in a somewhat bombastic style. Boycott British degrees — that sort of thing. It is a massive phenomenon. we should know about. Possibly in the third week. The next one. proofreader as well as salesman. went to him just out of curiosity. Cracked. don't worry. You do have all sorts. You are supposed to take a right turn here. a bit cranky about religion. in a country ruled by the British. but they don't last. One does not leave his wife for such a silly reason. — will drop you to the airport in time. He was the writer. Atin reminded him. You are an educated young man — why don't you spread the message of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu across the world? That of course was an absurd proposition in the nineteen twenties. Abhaycharan turned more religious. Eventually he left his family. Right. I am not talking about the religious angle. she would have opted for the latter. got married. Abhaycharan left college without getting a degree — may be influenced by the anti-British sentiments sweeping the country in those days. He would write letters arid approach people for financial help and got some. Humbug! Scoffed Atin. When is your next trip to China? After I am back from Canada. put up in a free guesthouse and started a journal in English called Back to Godhead. Keeping this in mind. It is an unbelievable real-life adventure story. unlike him was so fond of tea that if asked to choose between her husband and tea.

you know. Oh boy. He had no idea of the place but he knew that he was here to conquer America. Nipa would spend the weekend with her. with sandalwood paste marks on the forehead. One of the owners of the Scindia Steamship Line. she had at one time donated some money for his Gita publication. a cloth cap on his clean-shaven head. rented a room in the YMCA hostel where Abhaycharan stayed but came over with his brass cooker to Gopal's house to cook. This is a remarkable conquest story by a man who landed here with only eight dollars. I have never been to China. He had a wonderful memory for names.Impossible. Equipped with just a suitcase. Agarwal who obtained a sponsorship from his son Gopal in Pennsylvania. Siddhartha went on. Would you like to hear the rest of the story? How did the old man finally land in America? Atin was mildly curious. I saw it on T. nearing seventy was determined to go to the States alone. Initially that Gopal. he decided to spread the message to the West. Leaning back on his seat. In that case I might tag along with your trip. Day before yesterday thousands of youngsters.V. propagating religion was downright absurd. Just five days at Shanghai! Ticket is via Tokyo. Undaunted Abhaycharan came down to Bombay and met Sumati Morarji. He landed at Brooklyn port in saffron sadhu attire. He had eight dollars in his pocket and carried a lot of his own pamphlets. The next hurdle was the ticket. Just rice and dal and won the heart of Gopal’s wife Sally through this unique vegetarian meal. Did he carry enough food to last him his entire stay? No idea. always with the umbrella. This he obtained through a business contact. a garland of beads and a pair of white rubber shoes — a strange spectacle. Many used to have a look at this peculiar sadhu. How do you know all these details? I took the trouble of finding out. no scope for going to India. Sheer willpower. You have been to China twice. Been around? Seen the countryside? The Chinese are very fussy. but go he must. Would you do me a favour. I have absolutely no time of my own. some sporting pigtails danced in the streets of Manhattan. You know how worried Sharmila gets. Abhaycharan set out on his journey. That was two years before I came here. After selling his journal and Gita translations for fifteen years. an umbrella and some pressed rice. The most important thing was getting a visa. Siddhartha? Ron is running fever. stopping all traffic. do check on him while I am gone. They might send me to Hong Kong. . son of Agarwal. He was under the impression that all the food one gets in America is either beef or pork. That this man in a dhoti and kurta. Finally he was given a passage in one of Scindia ships. one Mr. look at the traffic jam ahead. But Abhaycharan was ready to risk his life. He had no resources but a method of his own. How could the old man get so many followers? That is my point. The shipping tycoon! That's right.

a ramshackle typewriter and a tape recorder. everybody was in a tearing hurry. It has become a religious empire covering even UK. Abhaycharan had changed his name first to Bhaktivedantaswami and later to Prabhupada. The proceeds from his books and pamphlets. Meanwhile they had entered the brightly-lit Lincoln tunnel. After about a month in Butler. they had to leave their shoes outside. Prabhupada had no earthly belongings to call his own except a trunk full of books. But tell me Siddhartha. Canada. That was his Krishna temple. I must admit it is a spectacular success story. Abhaycharan had a feel of American people. you are going to be my first official trustee. The food was vegetarian. That shop space and the adjoining apartment developed into an ashram. Now almost every city in the US has an ISKCON temple. no drug. we are going to set up an organisation for Krishna thoughts. including Allen Ginsberg with his group. drink even cigarettes were not allowed inside. Well. He had no idea of where his next meal would come from but he carried on nevertheless. Siddhartha. Siddhartha went on with the rest of the story. Prabhupada after an equally disastrous stint in an attic was back on the streets. It is mind-boggling. Atin laughed out aloud thinking it to be a joke. Michael Grant. Some had suggested the name God Consciousness but Prabhupada insisted on Krishna. In spite of the austerity. everywhere. the last one a gift from his followers. still on the same topic went on. He rented a tiny room for seventy-two dollars where he sang kirtans and spoke to disciples. Just imagine an aging middle class businessman from India accomplished all this. was a singer. The cars were speeding. The seventy-year old man was not to give up. are you leaning towards spiritualism? . A burglar broke in one day and took away everything. This room is not very far from the place we lived in at Lower East Side. The young generation was looking for a new philosophy in the all-pervading shadow of Vietnam War. determined to proclaim the glory of Krishna till his last breath. One of his kirtan fans. He had a return ticket with him. On his initiative a shop space was rented in Second Avenue. France. That is where ISKCON was established — International Society for Krishna Consciousness. people came in to join in the prayer and kirtan. They discovered a new kind of music in his kirtan played with the rhythm of cymbals. under the sea. his following increased. Siddhartha was serious. He could have returned home but he was made not of ordinary stuff. and Krishna it will be. Then the Hippies joined. Japan. A smart young Indian named Dr. That is what actually happened. Rammurti Mishra who ran a Yoga studio and organised Indian concerts gave him shelter but soon they parted ways. Seventy-two dollars plus food! Where did he get the money.Meanwhile the traffic started moving though at snail's pace. The next step was singing of Harekrishna songs in Washington Park. He had come to this country to familiarise the Americans with the name of Krishna. Already people interested in India and Indian philosophy knew him. Prabhupada gave the broker a set of Bhagavat Gita and declared. He needed a bigger pasture and moved to New York. one accident could result in a chain of smashed cars but nobody seemed to bother.

just earning and spending.No. Kush. I do not find any Indian in the ISKCON rallies — they are all whites. Why do you flare up at the mere mention of religion? If somebody finds peace that way. He has not budged from his standpoint. I look at it from a different angle. Our children have no interest in the country of their origin. Any organisation in the name of religion is bound to degenerate into sects and sectarian trouble. Anuradha. this philosophy has an appeal because it is different. You are impressed by the fact that an ordinary Bengali is heading such a big organisation. the way the Black population is taking to Islam. face the consequences. I am not thinking of that. I do not see it that way. We must do away with religion altogether if you want the ultimate good of all the people. nothing whatsoever. And look at us. sexually permissive race. I am talking of people of our background and education. idiot. Atin. I don't find a single Black in the rallies. Do such lofty ideals have any meaning for those who do not get two square meals a day. Go then. Think of the inner significance. women don sari. And this old man is injecting Indian culture into thousands of young Americans. The basic principle of Islam is equality. We are in a hurry to change our names. You are being simplistic. This is not just a craze. This Prabhupada came here penniless with only his conviction to steer him. buying a new house. I have decided to go back. The men shave their heads. He has made vegetarians out of a meat eating. Your brain washing is total. The answer is pretty simple. I know what is wrong with you. I find it rather peculiar. . Look at us. We insist on wearing a tie. . what is wrong with it? It is a fact that millions and millions find solace in religion. His disciples all have Indian names like Mukunda. is that it? Frankly. Do you call this life? This has become an obsession with me. nor a roof over their heads? To the White people who rule the world and are kind of tired of plenty. imposed sexual morality on them. Everybody calls me Sid in office. . join them if they are ready to take you. And the basics of Hindu religion are renouncing the world. which can be used as opium still! Religion rejected by us is now selling for a good price in the west. Who says we have rejected religion? Have you gone mad? I am sorry to say you do not know your own country. life is an illusion and all such hocus-pocus. Not Indian culture. All Muslims have equal rights and the right to fight for it. talk ill of our own country. He came here with the specific object of taking the name of Krishna to foreigners . You have a rigid mind. It is not just some philosophy explained in archaic English. Kamala. I am sorry. get initiated. changing the model of a car. but religion. brotherhood. speak in English with our children. What amazes me is the height one can achieve by one's own conviction. No conviction. Prabhupada was not keen to bring solace to the most exploited class.

Siddhartha had been harping on it. a retired History Professor. mostly unpleasant kept flooding in. He wanted to be with his father. The coast was clear and Atin was just waiting for this opportunity. But Atin did not mind. Now from his talks it looked like he was planning to go back. That is what they indulge in. smiled Atin. but it is backbiting and jealousy just for the sake of it. which had made headlines in today's paper because of the traffic jam it had caused. Have you ever seen disinterested jealousy? He had asked Atin. This is not your America sir. but she went back to her flat in Calcutta. Siddhartha was the only child. After Emergency Indira Gandhi lost and the Left Front came to power in West Bengal. But the incident so upset Siddhartha's mother that she refused to stay here. and he told her. But he felt distracted. We have lived all our life here. Was his wife Nipa or his children of no consequence to him? Evidently his father's death had affected him. The local trains were packed to full. But the Calcutta he went back to was a different city. All cases against political prisoners were withdrawn.You had a bit too much last night it seems. Siddhartha seemed determined. His parents had been living with him in his fairly large house. Was he looking for a father figure in Prabhupada? Atin is not impressed by the conquest of religious gurus. Ron was yet to be born. was the constant refrain. Anita. An accident is an accident after all. They just had a five-year old daughter. He used to be such fun to be with but he has changed after the unfortunate accident. Memories. no room. and made fun of others who wanted to work. But the subject took him back to Calcutta. he wanted his mother to live with them. They are no good. Their Kalighat house had more space. That job at the Drug Research Laboratory still gave him the creeps. It was Thanksgiving. make him forget the loss of his other son. They are not going to gain from it. His father. the flight was not due for some time so he opened his file with details of the business deal he was to attend to and which was sure to bring him a promotion if handled well. Sharmila was willing. studious type was run over by a car on the highway. After all the idea was to live with the family. There was no hurry. The hangover is still there. speaking for the entire country to the likes of Atin and Siddhartha. Atin had no idea that his father's flat in Selimpur was so small. it could have happened in Calcutta. And the meanest forms of jealousy! Siddhartha too had the same kind of experience. Atin of course had a murder case against him but by some manoeuvering Bimanbehari managed to put him in the other category and the case was withdrawn. a silent. Ever since they started the topic of the ISKCON. . people crowding near the door shouted. no room. The pollution bothered Sharmila. she would have preferred to live in Jamshedpur but Atin would not hear of it. Nobody worked. He refused a job offer from TISCO. He dropped Atin at the JFK airport. Was he thinking of staying with his mother? Atin hated such cheap sentiments. but Atin had a flight to Chicago. it is just a matter of getting used. a holiday. Don't you remember your experience last time you went back? I am ready to make another experiment. Siddhartha was deeply hurt.

she could climb stairs and often went up to the terrace to catch a glimpse of her grandchildren and son who avoided all contact with her. Monju lived with her mother. Sharmila wants to go home this year. Of his five surviving children. Oli! Even now the very thought of her sent warm blood rushing through his veins. Going back indeed. They did not get along at all. Atin was pained to see Kaushik and Pompom. He was taken to London for treatment but nothing worked. closing his file. in either his destiny or yours. Shamsul Alam's body was found floating in the adjoining tank. he greeted her affectionately. so you are back. Atin got up. Maliha Begum in spite of her age was quite fit. Two days before the terrible incidents took place. they are coming. there were repairs to be done to the house.He could have gone through it all if he had friends. away from the second daughter-in-law Zubaida. My darling daughter. But he had none. two kitchens. Alam Saheb uttered ominous words. but I am afraid there is no sukh. two toilets and a large courtyard. 3 ONLY a few people lived in the Segun Bagicha mansion. He read books and newspapers. Siddhartha's job took him to Durgapur. She went for a visit three years ago. flop down on the floor and mutter in fright. Monju's nineteen-year old son was the only male member in a household of three women. Kamrujjaman — all those who fought for liberty will have to go. He often made such terrible predictions. one was living abroad. he declared calmly. So Siddhartha was having a sentimental phase. May be next year. so cheerful and radiant. could recognise people but lapsed into incoherence from time to time. It is nice to be nostalgic from far. A wall divided the house into two parts. no happiness. He could not go through a single line. He has to be given a piece of his mind. He can't make it this year too. When Sheikh Mujib and his family were killed. . two verandahs. It was not clear if it was accident or suicide. He would take refuge in the corner of a room. Where is Sukhu Mian? You have called him Sukhu. Anger was all he felt towards her. it cost a lot. Good. which used to resound with the hub of human voices at one time. two married daughters lived in Chittagong and Rajshahi. The security check call came on through the public address system. Maliha Begum preferred to live separately. without Atin. Maliha Begum's portion had five bedrooms. Mansur Ahmed. When Monju came to visit him after returning from Calcutta. Monju's father Samsul Alam. Syed Nazrul. But the person who had hurt him most was Oli. they are coming. The next to go would be Tajjuddin. suffered from acute mental instability in his old age.

This wonderful instrument could simulate sounds of the harmonium. and violin. The recording is at four. The voice at the other end snapped. Can you sing to me now? Since you never ask me home . Monira lived with her. a celebrity singer. replied Monju. Her face. I remember. Monju sat with a Japanese synthesiser Kamal had brought her. esraj. tanpura. For a long time she had lived with the expectation that Sirajul would come back like thousands of women in the country who had lost their dear ones in the war. It was ten in the morning. red with embarrassment bit her tongue. she had nobody else to go to. Stop fooling Monira — call her. . Monira. Protest call by all opposition parties. What is it for? Oh come on. Hasn't he told you? Malek has not come. What? Cancelled? No recording today! There is a strike. Monju went on practicing. To deal with the TV. Every time she played it. piano. Monju was in no mood for this kind of talk. you won't get transport. Though Monju did not like to leave her music practice she could not very well ignore Kamal. she announced. against the firing on students of Comilla. It has been cancelled. Are you in a good mood today? Ji. Kamal Saheb. Bilquis Banu is busy. the studio is not available tomorrow. Monira rushed out of another room. she was asked for autographs in shops and market places. But Monju rarely went out. a young