Harathi Nimeshaath Kaala Sarvam

Time

Almost 12 days have rolled by since Achintya left for his divine abode and most of us have returned to our daily chores and normal life.

I am Time……

I am Time, I do not wait for anyone. I cannot stop, I cannot be stopped. I just flow from the past to the present to the future.

The blog that I wrote on Achintya evoked responses from many friends, colleagues, acquaintances and I am sure each one of us who wrote about Achintya could visualize him while doing so. The all pervading Achintya would have been with all of us who wrote about him. There are many who also responded to me on whatsapp instead of writing at the site.

I am Time…….

On that day on which I wrote the blog on Achintya I had woken up early with a lot of chatter in my mind. Everything about Achintya had been coming back to me and taking up its own space in my mind and many of them moving down to the heart.

It was a difficult moment.

I realized that I had to get it out.

Therefore, I started writing about Achintya and I wrote in a trance till the mind had settled down and I could breathe easy and think easy.

I am Time……..

Many called it “ A  wonderful Obituary“ but it was not meant to be an Obituary at all. I could not have written an Obituary on Achintya.

As Suman Ganguly wrote “We are all Achintya”.  “I can still hear him laugh….. Ha …. Ha…. Ha”

How can there be an obituary.

Many people wrote a lot of things about Achintya and I would sit and read all that everyone had written Once, twice, thrice, many times.  He was there, he was laughing……..he was everywhere……………..

I am Time…………..

It would be apt for me to now create the essence of Achintya through the thoughts, feelings and emotions of everyone.

  1. Humility was definitely one aspect of Achintya everyone talked about. His feet never left the ground and that his why perhaps he leaves his foot prints.
  2. The simplicity of his thoughts and his calmness and  composure stood out to everybody. He just took it in his stride.
  3. He led his life devoid of conflicts and chose to be humane and just not human.
  4. He always seemed eager to help all and sundry. The helping hand was always kept extended for anyone who wanted to hold it.
  5. He carried no rancour.
  6. Most of us did re-visit his evergreen smile breaking through the barriers of life. The smile that stuck to him as if it was embedded into him.
  7. His intelligence shone to everybody and many thought that his potential remained largely un utilized.
  8. There was lot of mention of his hospitality too.

Specially for the family and for many it started with shock and disbelief and from there to belief and thereby to acceptance and then grief settled in……. But time intervened….

I am Time…….

The past moved on to the present and to the future. Anon and Yonder and the distant thunder no matter what they bring, time steps in, lifts you up and carries you away into the future, there is no wait, no halt just a journey….. I am time….. I will transpose you and not leave you in your present and / or in your past….

Time is the best healer. It will heal for the family too.

However, there will come moments when Achintya will come back in talks and discussions and the mind will go back in time… For the Wife and the Son Achintya will keep coming back even though time will keep pulling them into the future.

I am Time…….

The ways colleagues and friends have stood up and continue to do so has been commendable. The least one can do is to hold the hands of the bereaved family and walk them into the future and allow time to heal.

The Son will go back to his studies and one day meet his calling. He shall blossom into a fine young man and do well in life and everyone through him would again see Achintya. More so Rakhee for whom the blooming of Arijit into Achintya would be for her a home coming, a return to the past….

And somewhere in the firmament a star will twinkle brighter and we will know who that star is……God knows some day when we keep looking at the sky the Star might just smile back at us……………

But I am Time……………..

Sunset and evening star
And one clear call for me!
And may there be no moaning of the bar,
When I put out to sea,

But such a tide as moving seems asleep,
Too full for sound and foam,
When that which drew from out the boundless deep
Turns again home.

Twilight and evening bell,
And after that the dark!
And may there be no sadness of farewell,
When I embark;

For though from out our bourne of Time and Place
The flood may bear me far,
I hope to see my Pilot face to face
When I have crossed the bar.

 

Advertisements

Om Shanti Shanti Om

Main Pic

News of deaths are not infrequent in today’s world. Many die every day around the world and many of these deaths don’t move us and even those that move us do so momentarily, after all we are human beings and we do feel sad about say a bus accident, a terrorist bombing killing innocents and so on and so forth.

We all know that while life may be uncertain the only certainty that comes complimentary with life is death.

Even then there come deaths which shake us badly and shake us to the very core.

18th of September, 2018 was one such day.

I was in office and into a meeting when Ratan Sengupta, an old and senior ex colleague of mine, called me. Being in a meeting I was unable to take the call. It was then that Ratan da texted me and I reproduce the language of the text verbatim:

“ Achintya Mallik Passed way today morning at Mumbai”

My return call to Ratan da and a few more colleagues / ex colleagues / friends confirmed the news.

On the fateful day Achintya went through his usual morning routine, had breakfast, packed his lunch and left for office. He took an auto from Hiranandani Gardens, Powai to the Kanjur Marg station ( from where he would board the train for office ), stepped out of the auto and collapsed. The auto driver and a few passers by propped him up by the road side and used his mobile to make a few calls on the basis of last few numbers dialed and the speed of technology carried the news through calls, texts and whatsapp messages everywhere.

The time of death could have been around 8.55 AM or so maybe 9.00 AM. At around 8.45 AM he had sent the following whatsapp message  in his friends group. Perhaps the last communication of his life.

 

Last Whatsapp

His colleagues from National Insurance Mumbai rushed to the spot, retrieved him and carried him to the Hirandani Hospital where he was declared “Brought Dead”

At 56 a life had come to an end sending tremors of sadness among friends and foes ( He had none ) and leaving the family devastated.

I perhaps  met him for the first time in the year 1996 and was not impressed at first sight. Here was a boy in very simple attire who hardly spoke, always smiled at anything and everything and seemed to be too casual about his demeanour and gait. He did not fit in my own muddle-headed description of an officer.

Gradually we became personal friends first, family friends later and realized how wrong and in-accurate my first impression had been. Hiding behind the shadows  of what I just described was a highly intelligent, calm and composed human being. A person who was an Aeronautical Engineer from IIT, highly efficient and capable at his work, had not the slightest airs about anything, could smile away  even at the very tense of situations and who was always eager to help anyone and everyone.

What amazed me was the purity of his heart and intentions and his uncanny ability to face any situation in office or personal life with a calmness of composure and a patent smile that went on to become a hallmark of Achintya. In many of my trying situations in life just his presence beside me had always been a great pacifier.

His wife Rakhi would always jocularly tell my wife that they were a unique husband and wife who never had a fight. You know why……………No matter what happened and no matter how angry Rakhi would be Achintya would never fight back, never utter a word, never try to defend himself and in his own hallmark style  just stay calm and silent with that patent smile of his hanging on his lips. In the absence of fuel, therefore. the fight would die at birth or get nipped in the bud.

Many a times I even thought that this was perhaps the only grievance Rakhi had about her husband that she never succeeded in engaging him in a heated argument or debate.

Once my father fell seriously ill and was hospitalized. The situation was serious as he was passing blood with his urine. I had decided to stay at the hospital but the situation being tense I needed company. I called Achintya and he was there in a jiffy. He spent two days and two nights at the hospital and every night we would sleep together on the floor and get up to attend to my father when required. During these two nights  my father kept passing blood with his urine and as advised by the doctor we would collect my father’s urine in bottles for testing the next day.

During those days Achintya was like my own brother helping me to collect the urine without any sense of disgust or disdain. His mere presence was soothing enough to make me believe that my father would come out of this and come out he did.

I walked out of the hospital not only with my father but also with a sense of great respect for this man. Whenever I have thought of him the one image that would always cross my mind was his presence at the hospital beside me. Even as I write this I can visualize the hospital room with my father on the hospital bed and Achintya and me in the room on the floor trying to catch up with some sleep.

In those days, mid nineties , he would smoke a lot — a habit which he discarded in a couple of years. Most of the times I would borrow cigarettes from him and on many occasions out of the pack of ten I would end up smoking Seven/eight leaving only three/two for Achintya. One day he told me, jokingly of course, that he would calculate the number of cigarettes I took from him and find out the monthly amount which I was blowing away at his expense. Not to be let down by this I retorted back saying that he should consider himself lucky that I left for him the two or three cigarettes which should be accounted as his savings. This was a cause of much laughter amongst us and the joke went around our office and our colleagues too and many would actually pull Achintya’s leg saying that Prantik was actually ensuring a savings for him instead of an expense.

He lived his life in a very simple way. Extravagance, the lure of consumerism and brands never touched him. He spent what was needed, made no compromises on his spending when required and at the same time was never an extravagant or an impulsive spender.

I have seen him struggle with his finances in a big way when he decided to buy an apartment at Kolkata. He surrendered all his Life Insurance Policies, channelized his savings, took a House Building Loan from the Company and bought a small flat at Garia, Kolkata. The flat was small, short of space but abounding in love and hospitality. Whenever we went to the flat both Achintya and Rakhi would go overboard to ensure that we were comfortable, felt at home and that we never left without a very fulfilling and wholesome meal.

I never heard him complain about anything. Not even about his job. Many a times I thought that God had forgotten to put the word complaint into his being. He was as comfortable in an over crowded bus or train as he was in a limousine. He could happily sleep on the floor in the absence of a bed and I gradually realized that life could never disturb him, definitely not on the outside. If there was some disturbance or turmoil inside it never came out.

He was a great father and a great family man too. He brought up his son in the most practical way possible and Guddu eventually went on to study at Ramakrishna Mission Narendrapur, Jadavpur University and eventually went abroad to Spain, France and Germany for his higher studies. I met him after long recently following the demise and he had blossomed into a man of 24. He appeared calm, quiet and composed as well, a trait which I am sure got passed onto him from Achintya and Rakhi.

Achintya was proud of his son and you could sense the pride whenever he spoke about Guddu. I am sure he did not speak about Guddu much to many people. It was not his habit to talk about the accomplishments of his son. When he spoke about Guddu to me he would always refer to Guddu as “Shriman” and this world echoes in the hollow recesses of my memory now.

He bought another flat at New Town, Kolkata and a big one this time, a 3 BHK Flat and proudly took me one day to show me the flat during its construction stage. The slabs were casted and the construction was on. He felt happy and relieved to have eventually managed to buy a decent sized flat. He would have never known then that in future he would not be there to enjoy the flat he so proudly acquired..

Quite some time ago when he was posted at Dumka he had met with a serious accident but pulled through it. He was transferred to Mumbai recently and stayed for long at the guest house. Eventually took up a Company Flat at Powai and shifted Rakhi only recently ( just about 20/25/35 days before his death ).

They had both called us and it was their desire that this year we would celebrate the Durga Puja at Mumbai together. My wife told Rakhi that she should now enjoy her life without tension as Guddu was doing well with his Doctorate abroad and so on and so forth. Rakhi said who knew what tension the future brings. None of us knew then that in the very immediate future Achintya would just drop dead in the most bizaare way and in the most untimely fashion.

As a group, ex colleagues and friends from National we had met a few months back at a club at Mumbai. Organised by Bhaskar and Sumona we had a wonderful evening and dinner together. Bhaskar, Subhankar, Amitabh, Sumona, Achintya and yours truly.

While this group in their fifties was largely discussing about retired life and pension Achintya was talking about getting transferred to another city in a few years which would allow him to savour in the flavour of  another city of India as a part of his job.

The entire team of National pitched in to support on hearing about his death. Everything from the post mortem to the funeral was handled by colleagues and friends who loved him. They stood firm, they consoled and they cried. They are still around trying to help the family through this phase of crisis.

When the body was brought to the Cremation Ground at Vikhroli and laid supine on the slab it was decorated and embellished with flowers, garlands , incense and smeared with Ghee. What an Irony. The man who shied away from Public glare and all sorts of embellishments in life was decorated, embellished and garlanded in death.

I could not muster up the courage to look at the body. However, there is on thing I am sure of, that even in death just as in life, his lips would still have been curved up in that patent smile of his.

During the three days after the death, Rakhi would cling to my wife and cry. She kept hoping against hope that Achintya might just call or might just ring the bell and walk in. She  held my hand and said

“Prantik da is he really gone”. I couldn’t reply because I was not sure if he was really gone. He seemed all around me with his inimitable smile.

Achintya knew Rakhi since she was in class XI. They had an affair and a marriage. One fine morning Achintya just walked up to Rakhi and said “Lets get married tomorrow”. This simple girl from the suburbs of Kolkata just obliged and thereby began a journey of togetherness “In Filmy Style” says Rakhi…….. looks blank, drops a tear or two and says

“ He passed way in Filmy Style too is it not”

Paramita and me didn’t have an answer again.

When I left Kolkata we were not in regular touch with Achintya and Rakhi but in touch we were though a bit infrequently.

He kept a tab of my whereabouts, my life, my children and so did I. For all these years I have been trying to find one moment when Achintya was angry or had a fight. I haven’t yet been able to find one. All those who happen to read this and who also knew Achintya to them I say…. I am looking for a single moment when he was angry and shouting and fighting. If you find any such a moment do let me know….

There are many memories, many incidents and recounting all of them would take up a life time of blogging for me.

Achintya very soon we will join you. We have to because that is the certainty of life. Friends and Foes ( did you have any? ) alike. We will meet again and we will start again like the inimitable smile which never left you, like the candle and the wind, like the rubber flip flops which you used to wear, like the wills navy cut packets, like the home that you built brick by brick with layers and layers of love and caring, like the car that you bought like the book on Aviation Insurance that you wrote but never gave me a copy, like the fried fish you ordered for me when I visited you in office.

There was a gathering long overdue. Subroto and Mallika, Joydeep, Suman, Debasish and Dolly, Me and Paramita, You and Rakhi.

There was so much of life left in you. How could you just leave mate?  How could you just throw away your wicket.  There are many more overs to go and many more runs to make. I look up from the Non Strikers’ end but don’t see you. I look all around and don’t see you. You have already walked into the Pavillion and disappeared.

I am blank, I am stranded at the Non Strikers end, I look at the horizon and hope for bad light……… at least for now.

In Hinduism we believe in the passing away of the soul and in the cycle of death and rebirth till we attain Moksha. Will Achintya be reborn? I don’t know. Will Achintya attain Moksha? I don’t know. Will I hear is voice again? I know I wont….

 

Agni Dahe na Jare                                          ( That which fire cannot burn )

Shastre chende na jare                                 ( That which weapons cannot pierce )

Na Hanyate ayee Hanyaman Sharire          ( Immortal in this mortal body )

P.S: The obituary written by friends is reproduced below.

In Remembrance

Remembrance Pic

QUOTE

It is said that good men are so loved by God, they get called to the heavens earlier.

Mr Achintya Mallick (6th December 1962 – 18th September 2018) was a great employee, a better father, and a best friend to many. 

Mallick Da, as he was fondly called, will always be remembered for his soft, humble nature, which gracefully hid the sheer volume of talent and knowledge he held. Nobody ever saw him scold anyone, no matter how grave a crime or insubordination someone committed. He always had a way of getting people to turn around, find a better path, and love their life. And he always did it with a smile on his face.

While nothing can ever fill the void left behind by him, we vow to carry forward his legacy and his teachings, so that the world can be blessed with more people who think and care like him.

We pray for his soul to rest in peace, and hope that his family is able to cope with this untimely accident…

Our deepest condolences are with his family…

With heartfelt sorrow:

          FRIENDS

UNQUOTE

Passing of a soul foretold- A Chronicle

It was the winter of 2004. Early January. Kolkata however is not famous for its severe  winters and the winter of 2004 was not different. It was cold enough for the elderly, pleasant enough for the young, just about enough to bring out sweaters and shawls and allow picnickers to revel.

There was no profuse sweating ,no killing humidity, no garrulous rainfall. It was the season of book fairs, film festivals, week end breaks. The biriyani was easier digested and hot chocolates made a comeback. The morning sun was soothing to the body and christmas had just got over having handed the baton to the new year and another calendar year to the Doctor.

The day before the death Doctor Mitra felt fine. In the morning he sat at the lovely balcony of his house, read the newspaper and sipped on to his tea. The morning sun bathing him and caressing him. He felt nice and cosy. He had a shawl draped around him. His conventional dark greyish shawl which made him feel cosy. Inspite of his weakning heart and his age of 84 he loved this morning ritual of the balcony of his two storeyed house. Many a passerby in the street below wished him and he exchanged pleasentaries with them.

Dr Saha was a regular ” late morning” walker. At his age of 79 he felt no need to rush early into his morning walk. 7.30 AM was a good time for him to leave and return by about 8.30 AM or so. The day before the death he started off in his usual round and route. Stopping once below the balcony of Dr Mitra, as was his routine. This day too he shouted out to Dr Mitra. ” Hello Doctor Mittir , what are the headlines for today” . “Nothing new” said Dr Mitra . “Some news on Vote on Account , one of the coldest winters reported at Kokkata @ 9.4 degrees ” went on Dr Mitra. ” Yes this winter is colder ” agreed Dr Saha. They then chatted for a while and then Dr Saha went ahead with his morning walk and Dr Mitra continued with his newspaper reading.

The day before the death Mrs Mitra got up early.She always got up early. She had to make tea for Doctor Mitra and for her eldest son Babu. She would follow it up with breakfast preparations. She decided on Luchi and subzi for breakfast. In any case Dr Mitra had wanted to have Luchi and subzi today. She was a bit reluctant because she thought that such deep fried preparation was perhaps not good for Dr Mitra’s heart but she fought the reluctance back with the thought of allowing the old man, who had always enjoyed his food, his choice of food. More so, as she felt that she could pack the same for her elder son Babu towards his office lunch. That saved her the arduous task of trying to make something else for Babu and in any case Babu liked Luchi for his office lunch pack too.

The day before the death the elder son Babu went about his own routine of getting up, having his tea, quick breakfast, bath , pick up his lunch box and rush to office. He and his friend Chandan, also his neighbour, took the 8 AM Chartered bus together. To the bus stop from the house was a five minute brisk walk. Chandan as usual walked faster than Babu and Babu was always trying to keep pace with him. The bus was on time and once settled inside the bus Babu’s thoughts veered to the pending tasks at office. There were two important claim files to be attended to, there was a discussion on the structure of the presentation to be made to a client and so on.

The day before the death the younger son Bunti had to rush to the factory at odd hours to attend to a breakdown. His job location being far away from Kolkata he always made it a point to call his parents Dr Mitra and Mrs Mitra daily. He particulary would check on his father who had survived two mild heart attacks in the past. However today was different. The breakdown at the plant was serious and he realized he would have a long day perhaps spilling over to the night.

Dr Mitra finished reading the newspaper and strolled in from the balcony to enjoy his breakfast which he ate with great satisfaction post which he opened his file of investments to review them and later in the afternoon decided to walk down to the bank near his house for some work. Dr Saha in the meantime had gone to his chamber to attend to his patients. Dr Mrs Roy a gyanecologist and neighbour of Dr Mitra had a Ceaserian to attend to and she was preparing herself for the OT. Mrs Mitra was supervising the maids and preparing for lunch, Babu had just made an office note on the first claim file and put it up to his manager for approval, Bunti was inside the plant giving directions to his foreman. The breakdown had halted production and it was important to get the plant up and running soon. Chandan had a lot to attend in office and was busy.

The afternoon before the death was thus mundane in nature. There was nothing unusual about the afternoon. No storm, no rain, no hail, no breaking news. Nothing really to disturb the routine.

After lunch Dr Mitra had his medicines and settled into his Siesta. Before he did that he spent some time reading a novel. He was nearing the end and the suspense leading up to the climax was intriguing him. He decided to leave the last chapter for the morrow. Going into siesta thinking of the climax, which was still unknown, was , as per him, the readers’ delight. Mrs Mitra was winding up her work for the day, organising and cleaning the kitchen. She too loved her afternoon nap. It was a much needed rest from the din and bustle of activity of the morning.

Soon the afternoon dissolved into evening and Dr Mitra settled down to watch TV, Dr Saha was getting ready for a family get together, Chandan and Babu had started back home from office, the breakdown at the plant was taken care of but Bunti decided to stay on till normalcy of production returned, Mrs Mitra was relaxing at the balcony waiting for her son to arrive back from office after which her chores would again begin.

The night before the death it was all quiet at the Mitra household. Dinner was laid out at 10 PM just after Dr Mitra had had an early dinner. Mita Babu’s wife had also served early dinner to the two kids who had been sent off to sleep. The kids were too young and early to bed was the norm for them as set by Mita. Mita, Babu and Mrs Mitra then sat down for dinner. The talk at the dinner table was usual a bit about everything, a bit about the kids , a bit about Bunti, a bit about Dr Mitra’s health…. a bit about everything really. Finally they all retired for the day and the Mitra household had gone into slumber for the night.

Dr Mitra felt that the night was slightly colder as he needed two blankets today. He checked the usual things by his bed side. A glass of water, sorbitrate tablets, his pullover which he would need as he got up in the morning and his slippers just below the bed.

Chandan got the phone call at 7.30 the next morning and rushed.

Mita had rushed to Dr Mrs Roy at 7.35 the next morning. She rushed too.

Bunti got the call around 8.00 AM and rushed to his home to plan for the immediate journey to Kolkata.

Dr Saha during his usual morning walk found the balcony empty and rushed in.

Mrs Mitra had discovered him lying in the bathroom and thought he had fallen. She rushed to call her son Babu who was taking bath. Mita heard Mrs Mitra scream and rushed.

Babu cut short his bath and rushed out.

Dr Mitra had got up at his usual time. He had his glass of water, got out of his bed, wore his pullover, took the sorbitrate tablet wrapping in his hand and went into the bathroom to wash his face and brush. Inside the bathroom he felt a numbness and a pressure on his chest. Being a doctor himself he had an inkling. He tore upon the tablet wrapper and fell to the floor littering the tablets all around him.

Babu found him on the bathroom floor and tried to pump his heart. He also quickly called Chandan.

But it was late.. The SOUL HAD PASSED AWAY…..

But for the Indian Railways…….

IMG_3859

It was perhaps the summer of 1978. Definitely it was summer as Babu could recall that he was wearing a half shirt and his father was wearing a half shirt too. No mist was getting formed from exhaled breaths and no one was in woolens. It was definitely summer. Sitting in 2018 and thinking of 1978 that is forty years ago was not easy but certain incidents get etched in your memory and when you think of them and travel into the past they unfold like the images in a Kaleidoscope. They are now unfolding for Babu.

It was leading upto summer vacations and soon the school and the hostel would close for a month. The students were generally happy as their parents would come to pick them up and for a month or so they would enjoy the comfort of home and home food. The hosteliers , of course, always wanted to come back soon as the hostel was more fun and the roving eyes of parents were not always on them. Hostel life pranks and such nuances probably had a greater endearing charm so punctuations of home stay were fine but their hearts eventually fell for the hostel life.

On the D Day Babus father came to pick him up as well. Babus father being in the railways had the luxury of a cosy railway rest house whenever he came and Babu along with his bedding and trunk would first normally accompany him to the rest house. There he would take some rest , have a delightful meal attended to by butlers and leave the rest house only minutes before the scheduled time of the train. Most of the railway men were known to Babus father and one important ritual was to get a trunk call through to Mom and speak to her and sense the delight in her voice. Her ebullience and happiness would be palpable in the phone itself driven by the news of Babus home coming for the vacation.

In those days for reaching home Babu had to change trains at a place called Barauni. Father and Babu boarded the train and settled down. The train was scheduled to reach Barauni at around late morning the next day from where they were supposed to change trains for Sonepur. Babu and his father got down at Barauni only to realize that the connecting train was scheduled to leave in the next five minutes. A coolie was summoned quickly and they had to make a dash to the other platform. The coolie first, followed  by father and Babu. Father got in the compartment followed by the coolie but as Babu was about to get in the train took off. There was a melee at the door as many other people rushed to board and Babu was knocked aside. He watched helplessly as the train sped away, his father inside trying to pull the chain to stop the train, Babu lost in reverie and struck by nothingness. Had he discerned a small glint of tear in his fathers eyes as the train sped away.

The train was gone and Babu just about 13 years old was suddenly stranded at a railway platform with no clue what to do. He sauntered down the platform , found a bench and sat down. His mind was blank and in hind sight luckily so as that prevented any sort of action from Babu.

In the meantime Father was speeding away in the train which would stop next at Sonepur only three hours away. He was tremendously agitated and constantly thinking of ways to locate and retrieve Babu. Getting down at Sonepur and catching another train back was a matter of seven to eight hours that too if immediate connections were available.No, he had to activate the railway network.

Meanwhile after sitting on the bench for long Babu fell asleep on the bench. He must have dozed off for at least two hours or more. He was woken up by two gentlemen who were enquiring his name and whereabouts.He was terrified, he had heard about child trafficking and other such things and withdrew from them giving them a false name and stating that he was waiting for the next train. The gentlemen eventually left. They appeared perplexed but Babu didnt care. He was happy getting rid of them. Considering safety first Babu moved to another bench at another end of the platform and settled himself there. He was fairly ensconced thus when after about fifteen minutes he found the two gentleman returning , this time with a third gentleman who was quite well dressed and appeared the Senior of the two. This well dressed man approached Babu held his hand and tugged Babu along. This man looked decent and well groomed and Babu did not resist. Along the way this well dressed man quipped about the other two getlemen as being foolish and irresponsible.

Babu was brought to the Station Masters room and this gentleman turned out to be the Station Master himself. Babu was now relieved. The Station Master placed a trunk call and on connection passed on the receiver to Babu. On the other end was Dad. Dad advised Babu to stay calm and just follow what the Station Master said.

The Station Master ordered some tea and snacks. The next train to Sonepur was due in another half an hour. All arrangements were made and when the train came in Babu was put into the guards compartment in the custody of the train guards who were advised to handover Babu specifically to Dad at Sonepur.

Dad was eagerly waiting at Sonepur as the train chugged in. Babu was reunited with Dad.

An ordeal thus ended.

What if Dad was not in the railways?

What if the Station Master had not come himself?

What if Babu had sauntered out of the platform and into the city?

40 years and Babu has no answers yet……..but for the Indian Railways…

Clarion Call: Back To Base

We were happy and merry, we had a spring in our steps, our stomachs were full and our capital was restored.

We decided to walk to the station and eventually return to base. We were dishevelled, dirty, stinking and weary but happy and cheerful. Enquiries revealed a train at around 5 PM which could take us back. We decided to take that by mamaging the TTE with some money. Being late afternoon we had enough time and in the interlude Vivek ended up making friends with a Sardarji , a senior army man who was travelling with his unit and was to take the same train we had decided upon. The officer soon became friendly with us, introduced us to many of the jawans and also treated us with Tea and snacks. As he was conversing with us we told him our story which really amused him and he eventually offered us to travel in the special compartment which was specially booked for the army men.

Since that meant the luxury of free travel we all agreed.

However, just half an hour before the train arrived Sridip took us all aside and sowed serious doubts in our mind as regards travelling with a bunch of army men. Even when I recount this now I cant help but laugh out loud as to how stupid, naive and gullible we were in our thoughts and wisdom.

As per Sridip army men due to their difficult postings and long periods away from their family tended to be largely homosexual and once inside their compartment we were easy prey to their lust. Sridips way of telling and expressing made the narration a stark reality and an impending peril and the more we discussed it the more we believed it and the more it scared us. We finally decided to drop out much to the surprise of the army officer who was urging us to board when the train came in and we were looking the other way and Vivek was trying to explain to him in Punjabi that we wanted to take a later train and so on and so forth.

Finally when the train chugged out it took our fears away with it and we were left to look at another train which was coming in around 930 PM. We eventually took this night train by managing the TTE at Rs 90/- and setlled down at various vantage points inside. We largely fell asleep.

Early morning we reached Khagra station from where we took rickshaws to the hostel. We reached sometime late in the morning and were quickly surrounded by eager, worried and angry faces. We were missing for three days and set alarm bells ringing. Snehangshu who had left us at Malda had gone back to his native place instead of returning home and the only information the inmates had was through Jhilik who had returned from Siliguri.

The warden took us aside and gave us a piece of his mind but we could sense that he was relieved on seeing us hail and hearty.

ALL WAS WELL.

Till this day when we friends catch up this trip definitely forms a part of our discussions. It is now a great memory. All the members of this trip have also passed on this incident to their children and by word of mouth this incident lives and breathes as it gets passed through our children to their friends and through us to our friends and acquaintances. Writing it down has been a great and fulfilling experience.

Till date I feel GOD travelled with us too, taking care of us whenever the need arose.

On the way back in the train when we were all stinking at different degrees Saibal and Dhruva had coined a name for each of us relating to the extent and degree of stink of each… I cant remember the names. ” Gandhachudamani” was one. I dare not translate it.

Unfortunately Dhruva is no more. GOD beckoned him too early.

While narrating this I had forgotten that he is no more as he was living in flesh and blood with me through the narrative.

Now the stark reality hits me. RIP…..MAN….

Clarion Call: Homeward Bound

Slumber makes good bedfellows with tired minds and tired bodies. Minor irritants like the twists and turns of a hilly road, blasts of cool breeze, the jerks and jolts of an otherwise creaky bus et al get ignored. However the circadian rythm of hunger pangs create a threshold, a point beyond which slumber fails and hunger takes over and the other irritants , so encouraged, sneak in too.

That surely must have been the case with me as I opened my eyes and looked around to find the others awake too. Too weary for conversation of any sort I looked around. The bus had descended from the mountains on to the plains, the breeze had a lesser bite , the dawn had painted the horizon with a lovely orangish hue and above all we had never discussed where to alight. Too tired to bring up the discussion I decided to stay on mute mode and perhaps carry on till the bus reached its final destination.

Caught between an aching body, a blank mind and a hungry stomach I was numb and had just allowed fatigue to take over when I heard Saibal and Alok urging us to shake ourselves up and prepare to get down. As if triggered into a chain reaction everyone of us was on our feet and we had soon alighted the bus with Vivek and Saibal thanking the driver profusely for his generosity. Beyond us and across the road where we had alighted there was quite an open ground and a temple with an upraised platform. We all decided to go to the temple. The temple complex was nice and clean and the temple itself was on a large elevated marble basement. The place was nice and clean and we all settled down there. The marble floor was comfortable and there was a tubewell nearby which helped us wash and clean ourselves a bit and also provided us with much needed drinking water.

A banana tree within the temple complex was sighted blooming with almost ripe bananas and was attacked immediately. Cool drinking water, and about one and a half banana each brought great respite and thus un disturbed and un perturbed in this serene surrounding and at a holy and religious place we one by one collapsed on the marble floor and fell asleep again.

IMG_5503

When I woke up I found Sridip, Dhruva, Alok and Saibal missing. I learnt that Sridip had been able to remember the name and para ( a particular location generally in a residential area ) of a relative and along with Dhruva in tow had ventured out to trace him. Alok along with Saibal had gone out with fervour and hope to no-one-knew- where.

The remaining of us could only wait with Vivek suggesting that we could try and do some manual labour (( carrying bricks: in the distance a building construction was going on and daily labourers had lined up looking for days work and the contractor was recruting them one by one for the day after fixing up the dihadi ( a term used for the rate for the day )) by lining up for work like the daily wagers and earn some money to see us through. We even walked up to the Contractor only to scurry back without the gumption of trying to attempt the ask though in the bargain I could manage a few beedis from one of the labours and gleefuly lit one and spread out again on the marble floor of the temple. We had our fits and bouts of conversation interspersed with dozing off when at around 12 Noon we spotted Dhruva and Sridip running towards the temple excited and brimming from ear to ear. They had brought great news. They had located the relative, fed them a cock and bull story of how we had come here to participate in a volley ball tournament, had got mugged and robbed on the way and were in desperate condition. The relative had wanted to come along for help, was cajoled not to and eventually in the end parting with INR 200 to help our cause of going back to the hostel. Sridip and Dhruva had got some breakfast there too and had also brought few apples for us.

This was great news. We almost had our capital back and also some food so the celebration was impromptu only to be interrupted by Alok and Saibal who had just come in to announce that lunch was organised and we needed to quickly follow them and follow their instructions to the T.

In hindsight I feel that our silent prayers at the temple might have done it, Till date I have not been able to find any other valid explanation except that there was a divine intervention.

On the way to our luncheon destination we heard the story. Alok generally frequented a “MATH” ( A monastic order of Hindus. There are various MATHS in India. A parallel can be drawn to Buddhist monastries maybe ) at his native place.

A brainwave sent him on the look out for a similar ” MATH” / a branch/ an affiliate etc and he ended up finding one. Refernce to certain monks and names at his native place established his credentials and his story about our having run out of money while coming to participate in a tournament evoked sympathy and thereby an invitation for lunch.

As we reached the ” MATH” we were greeted with warmth. The Head Monk himself came out to welcome us and Alok fell on a  “Sashtang  Dandavat” ( A form of prostration wherein the devotee lies fully prostrate at the feet of an idol or spiritual leader with arms outstretched towards the idol/leader/guru ) and we followed suit in awkward fashion. It would have looked like quite a comedy sequence to onlookers with seven people suddenly collapsing to the ground in unsion.

We were blessed profusely by the monks, sympathised on our predicament and led to lunch after washing our hand and feet. We sat down on the floor with other monks for the lunch.

Till date I cannot forget the meal. It was like sharing a meal with GOD. The food was simple and extremely tasty. The meal was filling replete with warm milk, hot steamed rice, two extremely tasty curries, lentil and salads, some pickles and chutney ( an indian sauce made in various ways ) , papad ( crisp, generally disc shaped food made from seasoned dough usually of gram flour ) and lots and lots of love.  We were famished and this was heaven. The conversation with monks was kept by Alok. In any case we were under strict instructions from him to speak less lest we contradicted each others versions.

After such a Godly meal we left after courteous exchanges with a great feeling of love and respect and with our faith in humanity restored. Alok stood out as the hero of the day.

Our stomachs were full and we had money too…. Happy Days Were Here Again.

We broke into a song as we started our walk towards the Siliguri station…..

To be continued..

 

 

 

 

 

Clarion Call……Siliguri

I was awakened by a beam of sunlight. I blinked, rubbed my eyes, found myself on the floor of what looked like a train. Few more seconds of eye rubbing and reality sunk in. The train was moving on , the speed was slower. I got up and nudged the others awake. We were into the second day now.

We went to the door and peered out. Various railway lines were converging and diverging, the country side had given away to an urban landscape, the train was slowing down and it was imminenet that a station was approaching. By now everyone of the gang was awake. We all felt and obviously looked shabby, dirty and unkempt.

Slowly the train entered the station and we finally alighted at Siliguri and were ushered out, without a problem. Once outside the station we were clueless where to head to when Jhilik suggested that we go to the Siliguri Tourism office as it opened early and also had a biggish reception for seating people as well as clean wash rooms which could help with our morning chores. At the tourism office we took turns to wash up a bit and freshen up while someone from the gang kept the officials engaged with queries on sightseeing and tourism opportunities. Utpal was the last and when he announced bowels cleared we were ready  to move out of the office.

Our stomachs were cleared so to say and Jhilik had even had a shower using his shirt as the towel. There was no tooth paste on us so we had to contend ourselves with a bit of washing the mouth with water and save Jhilik we were all without a bath and shave. However shaving was not something that mattered to Dhruva as he was sporting a beard.

Thus slightly freshened up and taking count of money which stood at INR 120/- we decided to walk down towards the bus and taxi stand. The bus and taxi stand were crowded with regular commuters and passengers. Being slightly early into the tourist season tourists had not yet started arriving. We spotted a minibus half full with the driver and helper calling out for people for Kalimpong. Before others could even realize Sridip , Alok and Saibal had started negotiating with the driver for a trip to Kalimpong.

The regular fare was around INR 30/- per head but the trio bargained for all of us for INR 30/- coaxing and cajoling and taking advantage of the fact that this was off season and that we were students and the bus was not filling up in any case and that God would really bless the driver for helping students and so on and so forth.

However at this point in time Jhilik panicked. He wanted to go back and urged us all to do so. How will you guys return with hardly any money left? He bellowed. He was booed down collectively , called a coward and Alok and Vivek gave him a good lecture on how one should live in the present and not think of the future. Jhilik was in no mood for sermon and returned it with the choicest expletives and got back more in return. The driver caught in the cross fire of this verbal  duel quickly planted himself on his drivers seat and started honking madly and we thought he would drive away and so jumped in with Sridip throwing his final volley of abuses as he hung out of the bus at its footboard. Jhilik had already started walking away from the bus and the bus had started off too.

We settled down and started enjoying the journey. The bus crossed the Teesta Bridge and soon began its journey upwards through the winding mountain road. The hills emerged in their splendour, the winding road looked magical, the weather gradually started getting cooler and cooler , the long trees looked gorgeous and the cliffs, gorges and occasional mountain streams made our hearts rejoice

The bus was largely filled with locals who got a bit friendly with us. One of them passed around a few apples which we devoured instantly as it brought some relief to our hungry stomachs.

The bus reached Kalimpong sometime late afternnon. We alighted to be greeted by bit of cold weather, floating clouds, lush green hills and our hearts soared in excitement. Hunger had to be satisfied first and a small tea stall made our day by providing us with bread and tea at a very cheap rate. Hunger satisfied it was but felt apt that we should make the trip worthwhile by trying out a bit of sightseeing. Shivering in the cold but warm in the heart we approached a tourist jeep and the driver agreed to take us around Kalimpong at INR 30/- and cover the seven ponits. It was fun and the driver even shared a small bottle of rum with us which kept the cold at bay.

We enjoyed the sightseeing and followed it up with a group photo shoot ( the studio owner agreed to send the photographs to us by VPP wherein we could pay on receipt of the photographs at the stated address).

It was getting dark and we decided to return back to Siliguri. Stock taking showed up a meagre balance of INR 30/-. Enquiries at the bus stand revealed that the last bus had left. We were stranded and worried now. No money , no food and no place to stay at a hill station which was getting colder and colder as the night drew in. Desparate and frantic efforts and enquiries revealed that one local bus driver could manage for us shelter at a school for the night and we could then take the early morning bus. We had resigned to the fate when suddenly there emerged from the crowd  ( our predicament had drawn in many onlookers and sympathisers and being a very lean tourist season everyone had a lot of time to spend on us ) a jeep driver stating that there is a bus which comes in at around 11 PM from a place called Rangli ( dont know if I remember the name right now ) provided the weather is good.

That was a chance we had to take and we planted ourselves in a tea stall waiting with bated breath for the bus to arrive. Arrive it did sometime around midnight and we jumped in. We got seats towards the last row and settled down only to realize that the bus had its rear windshield broken and cold air was floating in. We collapsed one over the other in our seats exhausted and shivering and one by one fell asleep………..

At least…. so to say we were homeward bound……

TO BE CONTINUED…