Serendipity and After/33
a novel about publishing of a novel
Jessore is no new town to me. It’s my district down. I’ve written this name in my address all the time since my childhood. I have visited it at least thrice on different occasions. My maternal uncle’s house is just a few kilometers away from this town. Soon after my SSC, I wanted to study my HSC in Michael Madhusudan Dutta College situated in here. But my father dismissed my idea.
I was roaming around the town in a somewhat aimless fashion. It was about eight in the morning. There was not a soul in sight. The town was sleeping like a log. Shops and establishments were closed. So when would the hustle and bustle of the town start?
Then it struck me. Could it be that the townspeople had all left in fear of the army? I stopped and scanned some resident houses. They were all padlocked from outside. Somewhere there were more than one lock. I got goose bumps. I had a chill running down my spine. I had a sense of heaviness spread all over my body. I was transfixed.
Then I saw a private bus appearing all on a sudden and come towards me. I lifted my hand reflexively. It stopped but at a good distance past me. I saw a man beckoning me with his right hand.
I almost ran up to the bus and got in. There was a family of five sitting in their seats: a middle-aged gentleman, his wife, and three children aged 5–12, and a big luggage on the floor.
“What were you doing there?” the gentleman asked me.
“I’m on my way back home. I’m returning from my university.”
“Where’s your home?”
“Don’t you know what happened at Magura? Some days ago the people trapped three Pakistani soldiers and killed them. They showcased the bodies in Nomani Maidan and celebrated over it. Do you know Nomani Maidan?”
I said, “Yes. This is just one minute from my old school, by the river Nabaganga.”
“Now the Pak army has come in to revenge it. Yesterday it shot one Pirubabu in front of the police station and kicked his body into the drain.”
I know Pirubabu very well. A businessman — tall, fair-complexioned, quint-eyed. I have seen him walk around the town with a swagger. He represented the Saha businessman community of the town. My father has many patients among them. But I’ve a visceral hatred towards them. They have hardly any education beyond simple accounting math, but they enjoy the privilege of both property and wealth, and dominate over our small sub-divisional town.
“Any other news?”
“The army arrested a college lecturer. Nero sir. Do you know him?”
“He’s my English teacher in college. He’s a Marxist and very popular among students.”
“Which part of the town do you live?”
“We actually live in a village five kilometers away from the town, but my father has a clinic in the town.”
“So, your father is a doctor?”
The bus stopped at a crossing. The gentleman said to me,“You’ve to get down here and take some transport to reach your village.”
“Where are you to, uncle?” I responded.
“To the border. Actually, we are leaving the country. We live near Khulna. The army is already in there. I decided to hire a taxi to leave with our belongings. But there was no taxi. So I booked this bus to take us to the border.”
“Would you mind if I go with you up to the border?”
“No problem. I like you. When I saw you standing out there, I knew you were in big trouble. So I asked the driver to stop and take you in.”
“So kind of you, uncle.”
In less than an hour, we reached the border. I’ve never seen any border in my life, so I was curious about it. But it looked like funny. Some buildings here including a custom office, but there was no personnel there. This is Petrapole border. I was walking with a crowd and came across a bamboo fence. We all crossed it easily. We now enter no man’s land. A little walk, and then there is another fence and same set of buildings, but there were uniformed men and border security people here. It’s Benapole. There’s no checking. They don’t even look at us.
So, this is border! Ha.
I find the whole arrangement so childish. It seems like one of History’s bad jokes when they bifurcated a whole great land into two small lands just by a divider as weak and untenable as a bamboo fence.
Arin Basu, do you like my use of Shaala — common Bengal expletive — in the last installment? I saw you highlighted it.
Tessa, my text gets a new dimension with your highlight. Thanks.