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That Patch of Green Behind the Bright Yellow House -- A Snippet of Life

Discussion in 'Snippets of Life (Non-Fiction)' started by ojaantrik, Jan 4, 2015.

  1. ojaantrik

    ojaantrik IL Hall of Fame

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    As I was saying, Kamala Bastralaya exists no more at the corner of Manoharpukur Road and Rashbehari Avenue, but the roads themselves are yet to disappear. In fact, even though aged, they continue to bear the stigma of the names assigned to them at their birth. Unlike wizened old cities that is, like Chennai and Thiruvananthapuram, or Kolkata itself for that matter.

    As you walkacross Rashbehari Avenue from North to South, near the corner that never fails to extracta sigh out of me, you part company with the lilting twists and turns of Manoharpukur Road and walk into Lake View Road which leads you straight on to the Dhakuria Lakes. In the language of mathematics, if Manoharpukur Road were to be viewed as an n[SUP]th [/SUP]order polynomial curve, then Lake View Road is the closest approximation to strict linearity. A no nonsense look so to speak that it has borne since the day at least that I was carried home displaying unmistakable signs of a new born baby. At the intersection of Lake View Road and Jatin Das Road, where JelokaBhavantowers still much to my disbelief, you need to take a sharp left turn and move eastwards along Jatin Das Road, past the pink building that used to belong to a grumpy old man (whostuck to his single minded grouse against youngsters till the last day he lived that they didn't look after the stray dogs of the locality), till it forks out into a left and a right branch. Around four buildings down the right branch stands a three storied white washed bungalow and it was to the rented ground floor apartment in the front of this building that I transformed into a biped from a quadruped and even learnt the first few human noises I managed to produce.
    OJ.jpg

    Like JelokaBhavan, the total changelessness of the building took me by surprise as I was walking recently down this stretch of Jatin Das Road. How many of the occupants of the premises as I knew them are still a part of the temporal world I didn't venture to guess as I stood across the street and viewed the windows that I was so familiar with in the distant past. The perspective then was different though, for I used to stand inside my home and watched the world outside instead of being a part of that same outside as I was now. I wondered if it was I instead that was now the object of scrutiny. Unlikely I thought of course, for the shutters were firmly pulled down.

    Perhaps this building had seen too much for too long to be interested anymore in mortal happenings. The multi-storied condominium that stared back at the older house with supreme disdain today was not there when I had started life in the white building. In its stead, there was a green plot of land surrounded by a waist level wall on three sides, a playground for children in those lost afternoons. On the far side, beyond the boundary wall there used to be a yellow, two storied house occupied by a Chinese family that has now disappeared along with the house itself. It was the back of the building that faced our dwelling and my mind to this day cannot resist the temptation of climbing up the rusty spiral staircase that clung to its wall and disappeared through a door into a world of mystery. The morning sun that rose behind my home lit up the yellow house with its first rays and this is invariably the picture I have associated since childhood with the arrival of mornings. The back of a sunlit yellow house standing next to the patch of a green playground.


    The green bid us good bye with the arrival of Dr. Sen who built up his residence on that plot of land. The yellow house disappeared too behind Dr. Sen's construction and our playgroundspilled over to the pavements and the street. Soon neighbourly relationships grew up and Dr. Sen's youngest son, Sudip or Bachchu, and I turned into playmates. His eldest son, Prateep-da, was still finishing his medical degree and at some point of time he left his home for foreign shores to earn an FRCS degree from Edinburgh.

    It was the second of his sons, Sunip, who stood out amongst the three brothers. Not because of his achievements, but for his handicaps. Unlike his two brothers, both of whom were good sportsmen, Sunip, or Sunip-da to me given our age difference, suffered from a serious ailment, related I think to his heart. His mother used to visit our home often as ladies used to in those days of yore. And my mother learnt vaguely about the problem, perhaps the only problem, this upper middle class household was afflicted by. Sunip-da had to be kept under perpetual medical care and was strictly forbidden from undertaking physically arduous tasks. The result was that while his brothers went for medical and engineering degrees, Sunip-da was sent to an Art School. I have no idea how deft he was as a painter, but he managed to clear his exams to the best of my recollection.

    The mother was certainly not an impartial person and, though she did not display aversion towards her physically well-equipped sons, she was more than preoccupiedwithSunip-da's health. And Sunip-da did need all the attention in the world, given his telltale look of sickness. The contrast with the brothers was quite obvious. They were tall and well-structured, while Sunip-da was short and emaciated, his thick myopic glasses providing supporting evidence of his fragility vis-à-vis a world he lacked the equipment to cope with.

    The Sens were wonderful neighbours who, despite their material success compared to others in the locality, were good friends, always ready to extend a helping handas we were growing up through school and college.

    Bachchu was two years senior to me. I was probably doing my Bachelor's degree in college and Bachchu finishing his engineering coursewhen Dahlia metamorphosed from a girl to a young woman. A woman that bloomed with a vengeance, doing full justice to her name. She lived with her family right next door to the Sens and Bachchu had fallen head over heels in love. This was open secret to all, but there were problems that loomed large for him. Dahlia was a Brahmin, one of the prettiest anyone had ever come across, and Bachchu, though handsome, was not a Brahmin by any stretch of imagination. Hence, there were complicationsthat one heard of, emanating from the direction of Dahlia's family. But Bachchu was a sportsman who played his best to win. Fortunately for him though, Dahlia reciprocated with a gay abandon and Bachchu was soon the firm owner of her heart, but her father or mother (or whoever else I know not) were not yet ready to play ball with either Romeo or Juliet.

    And Dahlia kept on blooming ever brighter as the days progressed. Marriage proposals were jamming up their living room as Bachchu agonized under a cloak of dark silence. Although Dahlia was his forever, I suppose he was not yet ready to elope. We youngsters were already familiar with their secret rendezvous spots, though we didn't know the plans that were hatching between the two.



    Affairs concerning the heart have a propensity to afflict without bias. Consequently, as Bachchu's roaring relationship with Dahlia was travelling at supersonic speed, the heart patient in his household, Sunip-da, was passing through a turmoil of his own. Except for the fact that no Dahlia had as yet shown up in his life. The result was that the entire world full of budding womankind turned into potential Dahlias in Sunip-da’s eyes. He didn't exactly chase girls, but the way he was staring at all the girls in the neighbourhood made their parents wary. And the wariest of all was his own mother. Given the state of his ailing heart, the specialists had advised against marrying him off. But ailing or not, his heart wailed loud and clear and made it difficult for his parents, especially his mother, to stick to the doctor's prescription of strict celibacy. The eldest brother, Pratip-da, must have been married by then. It was Sunip-da's turn and Bachchu the youngest was finding it embarrassing to bring up the question of his wedding before his elder brother was married off. This was a tough situation. For Dahlia, as I said, was not in a position to wait much longer.

    But then one day, Mrs. Sen came over to our home with an invitation card announcing Sunip-da's marriage. A marriage it seems had been arranged, a risky matter as she told my mother. But it could not be avoided anymore if Sunip-da was to be kept away from a lunatic asylum. And one balmy evening,Sunip-da dressed up as a bridegroom, set off on a trip to marriage-land, accompanied by all the young people the family knew and I still remember the great feast we enjoyed that evening. In fact, the wedding reception was arranged in a hall located three houses down Kamala Bastralaya! Walking distance from my home too.

    There was great fun and frolic and Sunip-da was smiling at last. He came back home with his young bride, whose name unfortunately I cannot remember any longer. But I do recall that she was pregnant soon after the wedding, which was only to be expected, given the state to which Sunip-da had been reduced during bachelorhood.

    Bachchu probably was feeling more and more relieved, now that the barrier in his home front had receded. But it was exactly at this juncture of events that Sunip-da died. Leaving behind a wife and an unborn child. No one found out the exact details of the cause of death, but it appeared that he had slipped past a step while coming down the staircase. He rolled down to the ground floor losing consciousness, a loss that remained doggedly uncompensated. They put him inside a ventilator of sorts, or whatever it was that used to ventilate in those bygone days, without success. Dr. Sen, with all his medical connections, failed to bring his son back to life.

    A pall of gloom had settled on that evening on the right arm of Jatin Das Road, with neighbours standing in silence on the road adjoining Dr. Sen's house. The silence was so thick that one could cut it with a knife. Then the time came to liftSunip-da’s lifeless body and start towards the crematorium. Following Bengali custom, someone gave the lead: BalaHari, Hari Bol. This was almost a cue for a piercing cry, an all paralysing scream produced by Sunip-da's mother. I can still remember vividly what she had said repeatedly on that dismal occasion. With whatever strength she had at her disposal, she kept on demanding: Where are you taking him, where are you taking him, where are you taking him, no, no, where are you taking him ...?

    Like all fateful evenings, this one too was over and morning arrived as it never fails to. Dr. Sen's family slowly found back its strength to face up to life and begin to hope too as the day of the baby's arrival approached. Sunip-da's young widow was often visible on their first floor balcony, vacantly staring at the street.

    The baby to be born was not the only hope that was being cherished in that family of course. For Bachchu still had his Dahlia to be shifted over from the neighbouring building to his own. His task was now ever harder to accomplish. Even if Dahlia's parents were to agree, it was no easy task to raise the question of a wedding with his own parents. How Bachchu managed to solve the problem I can't tell. But Sunip-da's child was yet to be born, when Dr. Sen arrived at our home with a fresh wedding invitation. He was crying more than smiling, but he had to do what had to be done, for Bachchumust have put his foot down.

    The wedding ceremony turned out to be a simple affair despite their means, and compared especially to the revelry surrounding Sunip-da's wedding less than a year earlier. This was inevitable, since the yet to be grandparents barely managed to remain floating in their sea of sorrow, as time, cruel time kept the human drama alive.

    I looked up again at the white house that had seen it all, andwhich I hadn't. I left India for a distant destination before this tale had reached its denouement. But Einstein had told us, the universe with its space and time components tends to bend back on itself. No wonder therefore that I had come across a friend from this area, Tapas, many years later. He was visiting his daughter in Delhi and dropped by to see me at my office. As expected, the conversation veered on to the days gone by. And I asked him about the rest of the story as it had unfolded in Dr. Sen's home.

    As I heard him out, I realized that some tragedies at least continue without end. It seems that Sunip-da's wife gave birth to a son who became the apple of his grandparents' eyes. They doted on him, which was natural, but the doting crossed bounds of propriety. He turned into a hopelessly pampered boy by the time he reached his adolescence. He grew up into a local dada of sorts, one with no future to look forward to at all as far as people could make out. At some point and as expected, Dr. Sen and his wife passed away and probably property disputes followed. The house was sold off and the condominium whose shadow I stood under came up in its place. Tapas didn't know where Bachchu and Pratip-da had gone away to, but whatever their destinations might have been, they had lost all touch with the right arm of Jatin Das Road.

    Perhaps the story is over now, but an epilogue is still in order. Back in Rashbehari Avenue, I was sitting one day inside a shop purchasing a wall clock I think. Suddenly, as I looked out of the shop, I saw Bachchu passing by. An elderly, much changed Bachchu. Closely behind him was Dahlia, who bloomed no longer. Two middle aged persons going their way. I could have rushed out of the shop to greet them. But I didn't and I don't know what prevented me. They were probably a part of my bygone past. That past was no more revivable than Sunipda himself.

    That was the last I saw of the family.

    Like Manoharpukur Road, Rashbehari Avenue, Lake View Road and Jatin Das Road, the whitewashed house I was facing has survived the ravages of time. It had witnessed children playing on that patch of green beyond which stood the yellow house. And it had seen the rise and fall of the Sen family.

    Like Sunip-da, the yellow house where the Chinese family had lived is itself no more of course, but unlike him, it still shines brightly in my memory. That's where mornings will always begin for the rest of my own life.
     

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  2. satchitananda

    satchitananda Moderator Staff Member IL Hall of Fame

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    Happy New Year OJ-da.

    What a nostalgic trip down memory lane! Enjoyed reading the narrative. Your snippets always have a way of taking the reader along with you with your vivid words into an enchanted world with all the joys and pains and drama that accompanies day to day life.

    Thanks a ton for sharing this wonderful story with us OJ-da.
     
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  3. Kamalji

    Kamalji IL Hall of Fame

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    Dear OJ,
    the master has returned to indus, wow.Welcome back OJ.

    it was great speaking to u the other day and to Cheeniya too, and is it my speaking to u that inspired u to come back, with a bang with this lovely piece.what a family and what characters, we feel them before us.

    this problem , of the younger ones waiting for the elders to get married is very common, specially if the girl is older, and cant be married, if she is manglik and finding the groom is getting harder, and the ones below, they get good matches, but cant do much, till the elder one gets married, and yes these problems do crop up.

    Superb one really , u transported me to kolkotta, a city i never knew, but now i know pretty well, thanks to u.

    Do keep writing my friend, u make our day.

    Regards

    kamal
     
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  4. Aria

    Aria New IL'ite

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    Dear OJ,


    The unwavering reason for my FB being the third entry though I chanced on this post the day you posted (holds good for other posts where probably I've never responded) is that you are redoubtable, yes formidable to me that I judder when I think of ack-ing your post. Where and how do I even respond to this literary luminary.


    As Satchi highlighted, I doubt if it is a pen or a brush you hold to sketch vignette of sepia days. There are posts that depict poignancy but educe pity, that express hilarity but elicit grimace. You are someone who take the readers on a frenzied ride of emotions that it is impossible to express when one gets off from the rollercoaster and feebly mumble "ineffable". You outstand here for various reasons but you still reign here for only one reason unexceptionable writing. I'm being very selfish here. Do write more, one day I'll be able to type a commensurate feedback.
     
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  5. Viswamitra

    Viswamitra IL Hall of Fame

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    Dear Sri Ojaantrik:

    What a lovely recall of your past experiences with great language and catchy love story. When you started off with Kamala Bastralaya, I thought it was a related experience but apparently other than the location, KB has no relevance in this post.

    I am not sure whether your objective is to keep your writing skills sharp at this age but I see clearly a peripheral benefit you derive by recalling your childhood experience. You keep your memory strong.

    Let me address first the tragedy that struck the Dr.Sen's family. What a nerve-wrecking experience it should be for the young widow to lose a husband so quickly after the marriage especially in the yesteryear when remarriage is farfetched. No wonder, the whole family pampered the child of the lost son to make up for the love he would have enjoyed from his non-existing father.

    Bachchu's love story is so attractive especially when we think of the years in which it happened. Your friends' circle should be one heck of a disciplined group to keep that secret away from the parents.

    I wonder what made you not to call Bachchu when you happened to see him pass by after so many years. Perhaps, you enjoyed a magnificent life of Bachchu so much so that you don't want to hear any sad part of his life.

    I am not sure how you feel every time you see the apartment complex replacing the old traditional house you had seen always as a young boy. As Kamalji, your posts bring Calcutta in front of my eyes, a city I had never been to.

    Viswa
     
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  6. Balajee

    Balajee IL Hall of Fame

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    IJ welcome back. another moving trip down the memory lane after Kamala Bastralaya.
     
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  7. ojaantrik

    ojaantrik IL Hall of Fame

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    Dear Satchi,

    I have been missing IL. It took me a while to attend to other matters and return back here. I admit that this piece was written in a hurry and I sent back a revised version to Cheeniya requesting him to replace the one you read. I am away from Kolkata now and the revision I sent was itself not too clean. I need to work on this a little more after returing back home. And then I will put it up on my website instead of troubling Cheeniya further. I am glad that you liked the nostalgia of the composition. I am moving back in time. This is what age does to you invariably.

    Love.

    oj-da
     
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  8. satchitananda

    satchitananda Moderator Staff Member IL Hall of Fame

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    OJ-da, I am already there, moving back in time. I am often chastised by my older sib who tells me I need to live in the present, but I am quite happy to exist in any period of time that my mind takes me too and where I find some peace and happiness. :-D
     
  9. ojaantrik

    ojaantrik IL Hall of Fame

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    Dear Kamal,

    It was wonderful to speak to you the other day. And you are dead right that you made me feel as nostalgic about IL as I do about the world I wrote on. I need to revise things a bit more. Let''s see..We are already planning our trip. We tie it up with Luck now and Varanasi.

    All the best.

    oj
     
  10. kelly1966

    kelly1966 Platinum IL'ite

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    Dear Oj Kaku
    HAPPY NEWYEAR!!!
    it is always a treat to read your snippets!!.. loved the description of old Kolkatta.. got me thinking of My Father in law's house was in Ballegunge Place not too far from Rasbehari.. lovely shopping at Gariahat and the Bedouin chicken rolls!!.. HMMM..
    BUT kaku.. I wish yopu had gone and met Bacchu and Dahlia.. they would've felt good too
    Kerman
     
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