Sunday, September 5

Atanu and me

Atanu and me.

That night seems to linger in my memory like a rain-stained window pane. Abstruse in interpreting what are the absolute delineations on the other side , but clear enough to form a hazed impression on a juvenile mind. All I reconstruct are just slivers, those effigies of Ma Kali and Loknath baba being packed along with those newspaper-folded boxes of spices. That large green box where mother had packed all bed-sheets and pillows together, doing the cumbrous task alone with a little bit of help from me. It was a dry night of 1995 , and my five year short life-span had never encountered a night long insomnia and a journey at the back of a truck. Almost all other trifles of that night has passed in evanescence. The night when my grandfather ,after a month of contemplation, made a self-gratifying decision of moving back to Siuri, the place he had fallen in love with when he was handsome.

I don’t think my grandfather could have figured out then, what a scrumptious but also dichotomous life he had conceived for me. Where Durgapur and the village called Parsimulia had entwined with each other to weave a world of reality vis-a-vis fantasy for me . A world where on one side existed those paunchy history and geography books , but on the other side was fire-flies, load-sheddings, rather mela, jilipis, khelna gaari and Atanu.

His real name is Manu. Atanu was the name gifted by my mother. He was born on the same year , I had seen Siuri for the first time ie 1995. My mother often enquires whether I remember Atanu sleeping peacefully in his grandmothers lap, that black koshti-pathor coloured infant. I politely say that I was just five, and when you are five , the only impressions that are immuted in your memories are of objects that are humungous , like a truck , a bridge or objects that are contrastingly out of place like a Romeo-juliet paperback in a stack of India-today magazines.A dark –tanned child is too dimunitive and commonplace . A platitude. I remember his face since he was five . The only efficacy in his silhouette type body was his eyes . The reason why I have loved reading “The kite runner”. I can never imagine how a person in the other quarter of the world had so perfectly described , the acquaintance I shared with Atanu. Or maybe a good book always stirs your imagination and sketches few things , that were just languid connections , so brightly that you are confounded by the astounding resemblance with the book.

The tree beside that pond where a thousand fireflies used to gather. Peeking through its branches those tiny lights of Tilpara barrage could be seen. That sand house made on the river bed of Mayurakshi, that mango tree which broke my leg while climbing, Atanu has been there in every incident . He was never a friend,this, my society had taught me. Cause there was so much sartorial, monetary and caste contrast. A Brahmin and a bairagi were never the same. This idea had been sown when I was born and had sprouted into a fully grown tree with its source too deep-routed to throw away. I remember once , mocking him for the way bairagis were cremated . In a standing-posture. I laughed aloud at the way he squatted on the paddy fields for clearing his bowels.
My day in siuri started with his satiric laugh beside my bedside. Mine started at 10 and he went to work in the paddy fields at 5 . He could never figure out the laziness and the munificence of my mother in letting me sleep. Hence the laugh. “Dodo kaka” when will you wake up ? We will have to enact the last day of Mahabharat today.

Religion had changed just one thing in the village. Oblivious of maths and science, the only thing that a village boy learns by heart is those two epics , whose authenticity is often questioned. Atanu had an edge over this strand of history, whenever a conscending situation came. He knew `who was who` in Ramayana more than anyone else. He never disagreed when it came to the endowment of roles. Hanuman , my best friend had the priority job of finding Sita , killing Ravana was a job to be thought of later. He had made me a bow and arrow, whose arrows were often hurled at him when I was angry , and he was satisfied with the gada . I still remembered the frequency of my unending laughter when I figured out that the smeared poster which his grandmother worshipped as Ram-Sita , was that of Arun Govil and his co-actress whose name I cant recall. Ignorance is bliss.

I still remember the day he first got a sip of Coca-cola. The way he punched his head to stop that fizziness in his stomache had been an item of humour in our family whenever we needed a light environment.
I last met Atanu 3 years ago , the day his sister died.She had been burnt-to-death by her husband. He had fled from the village.I still remember Manu`s misty eyes as he promised me ,he would grow up to be a policeman so that he could catch that scoundrel alive. A quicksilver conversation between two immature and impractical boys. But that small incident has silted all my thoughts revolving Manu with guilt. Guilt that I wasn’t just a toy of entertainment to him as he was to me , an escape from books ,from studies. I was his mentor ,that was what he thought. Maybe his brother.

I didn’t realize the trauma and helplessness that flowed under his statement for a long time. I have heard he is studying in class 11 and is flourishing in his studies. Maybe siuri in parallel with Atanu is the only reason that I have that slight knoll of literature and fantasizing in me amidst that unending plain land of Crap-studies.God help him.

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