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Monday, October 22, 2007



On the other side of sixty, serene, frail and still beautiful Sudha considered herself to be a poet. she could create pictures with words and she thought those pictures were poems, small, beautiful and sentimental. Some of them were green some red and most of them were blue . The whole day she sits by her window, looking vacantly and wistfully out in the streets where there are people, young and old, rich or poor, beautiful or ugly, loitering, standing or hurrying. From the first floor, the forms below do not seem too distant. She wrapped the shawl tightly round her shoulders to keep away the cold wind blowing from the North. It is December, 2003.

Nearly forty-five to fifty years back, on a wintry afternoon Sudha & Binodini were on their way back from school. Two days more and the school will close for Christmas .The chill wintry wind pierced the part of their exposed skin making it brittle. Both of them were wearing blue cardigan on their school uniform but winter those days’ mused Sudha were really cold, much colder than what it is today.

Binodini was new to their school. She came to the town with her parents only a year back. Binodini’s father was a government official, so they learnt, and a very high official with a lot of influence.

So long Sudha was the first girl of their class. She was the apple of her teachers’ eye so to speak. But, Binodini, to her dismay, turned out to be a better student. Binodini was not only better in studies but she was also a very good athlete too. Sudha was becoming extremely jealous of Binodini, or we may say Sudha was upset that she was loosing ground to this new girl. Sudha used to write poems and they were not bad either. Sudha’s father Mr Bankim Roy worked with a publishing house and he had promised his daughter that he would soon publish her poems in a book form.

Sudha declared happily –Papa is going to publish my poems in a book form. Secretly she felt superior to Binodini. After all writing poetry needs a lot of talent and not everybody can do that if they wanted to.

Really ! Binodini sounded wistful.

Yes and papa says there will be my picture too in the book.

I also write poems and every body says they are very good- Binodini said tentatively and then added in an uncertain voice- will your papa publish my poems also?

Sudha started walking very fast and almost ran the rest of the distance leaving a baffled Binodini behind.

Why should Binodini write poetry too ! Why cant she leave some place for Sudha, Ever since Binodini joined their school Binodini had dethroned Sudha. Bright, supple and boyish Binodini has become the first girl, the best player, the class monitor and now she says she can write poetry too Sudha must do something to stop this girl from writing poetry.

At school however Sudha struggled hard to keep her cool and make it up with Binodini. She went out of her way to be friendly and wanted to see her poems. The unsuspecting Binodini was only too glad to oblige and she promised to bring her diary. The next day Binodini bought a beautiful read diary. It was a hard bound diary with golden borders. Inside binodini had written in her small and round handwriting some twenty poems in black ink.

If you let me take it home, I would show them to my father. He might publish a book for you too- ventured Sudha.

Binodini was so excited and also so happy- Oh you are so nice, Sudha. From today you are my best friend. I would dedicate my book to you only- Binodini exclaimed.

The phone started ringing. Its shrill sound cut into the smooth thread of her memory like a sharp razor. After all these years, these memories are almost as fresh as if they happened only yesterday . These are the lanes and by lanes that Sudha travels every day without fail, remembering every small detail, stopping at every hurdle, looking carefully at every corner- “who can it be”- Sudha came back to the present with a jerk , pushed the chair back.

Rima’s shrill voice forced Sudha to keep the receiver away from her ear- Didu what are you doing? Still seating by the window? Is my pullover ready?

A faint smile lighted up Sudha’s face, softened by her love for the owner of the voice at the other end –“No darling the buttoning and seaming are to be done yet.”
Do it quick Didu- next week we are going to Shimla from school.- A very demanding and bubbly voice indeed; Sudha could almost visualize the pout accompanying it
Ok dear come tomorrow evening - it will be ready for you.

Next morning before the first period a very buoyant Binodini approached Sudha =” Here are my poems” Binodini gave her a hard bound beautiful red diary with golden border.
I will give it to my Papa –Sudha said solemnly.

That night sudha went tiptoed into her father’s study. ‘Papa- may I seat on your table and fill my pen with ink from your inkpot please?”
“Ok dear! But be very careful. Don’t mess up things. I have important papers there”.
“No papa, I will be careful”
Sudha took the inkpot from Papa’s desk opened the diary and emptied a generous portion of the blue-black liquid on it and watched with satisfaction the river of blue ink engulfing the little creations like raindrops.

Binodini could not belief her ears- but how, but why.
“I am so sorry,” Sudha made an angelic face, so innocent, so devoid of guilt that poor Binodini never could imagine the treachery hidden behind it “ feel like a murderer. Papa asked me to put the diary on his desk- but how was I to know that he had forgotten to put the lid on the inkpot. The whole inkpot overturned and all your poems have been washed away.” Sudha brought tears to her eyes.

Binodini was shell shocked. Of course , it was an accident but still Sudha could have been a little more careful. Throughout the school session Binodini kept by herself refusing to talk to anybody. She did not volunteer to solve any of the problems posed by their maths teacher, arousing a lot of curiosity among her class maters and a lot of concern on the part of her teacher. When she reached home, Binodini went straight to her room and jumped on her bed face down and sobbed her heart out. Binodini’s mother however was a very practical woman. She stroked her head gently and said “look here child don’t cry and don’t lose heart. You must try to remember what you wrote and try to reconstruct them once again. Take it as a challenge. If you could write those twenty poems at such a young age, you would definitely be able to write many more as you grow up. Next time be very careful when you give anybody your writings to read. First make a copy and keep it with you then you can easily give them to whoever you like. So do get up, wipe your tears and start again from this moment.”

Down the street corner came a little procession, four people carrying a body and the rest walked solemnly behind chanting- Ram Naam Satya Hai, Raam Naam Satya Hai. The strong smell of incense reached Sudha even up at her first floor window.

Ram Naam Satya Hai, Raam Naam Satya Hai- They were taking Papa to the burning ghat. Sudha looked fascinatingly at the body covered with white sheet, garlanded and incense burning at his feet. Sudha was only fourteen and already an orphan. Sudha’s mother died while giving birth to their only child. Her father never married again. Sudha lived with her father and her widowed grandmother. That fateful morning she was called back from school at the second session. Sudha came back with Shekharkaku, who was absolutely silent throughout the journey from school. Sudha asked so many times as to the reason why she was being taken home suddenly. The thought never crossed her mind that something so dreadful could have happened to her father. She learnt later from grandma that her father suddenly collapsed on the way to office at the bus stand. People there recognized him and bought him home. Their family doctor was called and he pronounced him dead. Family and friends were informed, preparations were made for the funeral and Sudha was brought back from school.

Somebody had decorated his forehead with sandalwood paste , had covered his body with spotless white sheet . They had also put on a lot of white flowers on him. People were touching the his feet which were sticking out of the cover. Someone took Sudha and asked her touch his feet. Mechanically Sudha stooped low and touched his feet and instantly drew back shocked. Her father was cold as ice. She took a step back and clutched her grandma like she was lost .
They started taking up the bamboo stretcher that he was lying on and murmured under their breath ‘Ram naam satya hai…” She stared blankly and uncomprehendingly at the little procession taking away with them the most precious thing in her life and strangely enough the first thing that struck her was that her book of poem would now never be published.

Sudha spotted the postman. She was already at the doorstep when the postman pushed the bell. Ms Sudha Rani Saha, 15 Chandramoni Lane, Kolkata 700020, the name and address written neatly in her own hand stared back at her. Sudha tore open the envelope a sadistic smile hovering on her face-

The Editor sends his complements for your contribution but regrets his inability to reproduce the poems.

Sudha opened her father’s chest of drawers and carefully put the note alongside the ones collected since he died.

She came back to her study. The next post would come only at about 4 pm. There is enough time to finish reading Binodini’s latest Book of Poems

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