Serendipity and After/52

a novel about publishing of a novel

Mr and Mrs Das welcomed me at the gate. They were expecting me any moment. So they got out the moment I pressed the calling bell. They were simple, unpretentious fellows, just like Swarup, and I liked them instantly.

Kakima went to her kitchen and returned with luchi and chholar dal in a plate. “Take it,” she said, “Luchis are still hot.” I was hungry. We took tea together after my breakfast.

It was a two-storied house. They lived in the ground floor. The first floor was for the guests. Most of the year it remained closed for lack of any guests.

So I was the guest now. It was actually a small furnished flat covering just a portion of the roof. From the roof you could overview a clean, well-ordered locality nestled among green trees and shrubs. So salubrious! No noise anywhere. Fresh air,and free of pollution.

I spent the whole time reading Pharmacology. I memorized the long list of anthelminthics among other things and wondered how many of these drugs I would really write from the list if I ever practiced medicine.

It was a hell of a good time. Kakima treated me with all kinds of delicious Bengali foods from preparations of banana flowers to sukto to hilsa fish peppered with mustard dusts. And they never disturbed me. We talked only when we ate.

The week passed off in a whoosh as it were.

When it was time to part, I touched their feet. Kakima did a weird thing. She kissed me on my forehead. “God bless you, baba.”

Mr Das said, “When you decide to write something long and profound, you can think of this house. It will give you the solitude that such writing demands.”

But as I left them and made my way to reach the station, I thought of the police looking for me. I rang up Swarup yesterday. “Yes, you can come now,” he had said to me.

It was a journey of about one hour and a half. It took another fifteen minutes from Sealdah to reach my hostel. I saw Swarup first. “Is everything okay?” I asked him.

“Absolutely okay.”

“But Swarup, I can’t figure out why the police didn’t come here. Moni-da couldn’t be wrong.”

“The police also fears about the backlash.”

We talked for a long time. I praised Kakima and raved about her hospitality. I told him about how I gorged on foods that she took so much trouble to cook herself.

“So I sent you to the right place?” Swarup said to me.

“Yes, Swarup. It’s so kind of you. I always count on you in times of crisis.”

We ate our dinner together in the mess. We talked again for sometime. Then I climbed the stairs to reach my room at second floor.

I had a dream in the night. It was a tumultuous scene. A rough-looking man was shouting and demanding some explanation from me. I was trying hard to explain, but he would not accept any reason. He pushed me hard at some point of our argument. I woke up out of my dream.

I was still in a sleepy state, but I could see a seven-footer of a person — smart, well-shaven — standing beside my bed. He looked like Calcutta police in plain clothes.

“Who are you?” I asked him.

“I’m Banerjee, From Bowbazar police station.”

My hear missed a bit. My sleepy state was over in an instant.

“What do you want?”

“I would like to talk with you.”

“Do you want to arrest me? I must talk with the president of our students’ union.’

“You needn’t do that. Let us just go outside and have some talk,” he said in a somewhat friendly tone.

We got out of my room and stood face to face in the balcony beside a railing. The hostel had not yet woken up to its daily bustle.

“How was your tour at Kalyani?” he asked me casually. “I saw you return at 8 PM last night, but didn’t disturb you. You were tired from the journey.”

I felt unsettled and nervous. So he must have come to the hostel in my absence. And he was keeping a watch. How did Swarup miss out on noticing this seven- footer?

“Please start your interrogation,” I said to him.

“I’ll not interrogate you. I’ll cross-check some data.”

“Yes?”

“Is your father a doctor?”

“Yes.”

“He lives in Bangladesh.”

“Yes, my family lives there.”

“Are you an Indian citizen?”

“Yes.”

“You’ve no relation with your father or family?”

“I object. Why do you ask me these personal questions?”

“Okay. Do you support your medical studies by journalism?”

“Yes, I do. Is it any crime?”

“So what do you want to do, now that your Caldust stint is over?”

“I’ve not thought about it yet. There’s an exam after one week. I may go back to freelancing after that.”

“So I presume you would not visit Caldust office any more.”

“Why would I? It’s over for me.”

“Can you assure me that you’re not going to visit that place again?”

“Yes, of course.”

“Thank you. You can now go back to your room.”

He was about to leave, but then turned to me and said, “I’ll make them cough up two months’ salary as final settlement. You can expect it in a day or two.”

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Arin Basu, Thanks for your response. Subho mahaastami to you and your family.

Tessa, mark-john clifford, SF Ali, Thanks for your continuous support.

Thin Man, Could you squeeze in some time yet to read this? I hope you’ll read this chapter at least.