Bengal – A Study on Fortune

[ Excerpted from An Intimate History of Bengal, Pritam Bhattacharyya, Wordsmith University Press, 2009 ]

Behind every fortune, there is a Crime – Balzac as quoted in The Godfather

 An intriguing Question

 In 1800s and onward, a small group of native fortune hunters in Bengal acquired legendery wealth through land, trading, managing businesses and becoming the investor (angelic and banking), secretary, interpreter and cross cultural consultant of the architects of the British Indian Empire. They were the diwans and they were a class wholly new in India. Two hundred years later, as a class, they resemble that of the contemporary IT-barons of India – notably Mr. Murthy, Mr. Premji and now behind bar – Mr. Raju. Most of these diwans made their wealth through trading, speculation, investment and catering to the various needs to the traders who were waiting in the wings to become the ruler of the vast sub-continent. However, all of them re-invested their gold and paper wealth into buying land and soon they became zamindars and wealth of few were too high to be contained by the title zamindar, so they were called Rajah or king. It is easy to consider why they re-invested their capital into land – to get social status or as Mumford says – to get access to the social ladder and elevators.

Historical records in the form of diaries of both the English and native people of the period, newspaper articles and literature, urban legends indicate that this legendery wealth dissipated itself without laying the foundation of more lasting and interlocked wealth generation schemes. For example, what are the reasons of those rajahs or diwans leaving dynastic legacies of institution like Kuhn, Warburg or Morgan although in terms of shrewdness, cunning, industry, greed and acumen, they were no less than those individuals? So what are the reasons? Nationalistic, anti-imperialistic, anti-all-except-my-faith group has standard reasons: British Imperialism and its designs. Since childhood, I was fed this theory in different variants and I believed it. But as I grew up, doubts arose and as I met more and more people of Bengal and ived as a resident, I was convinced that this theory is not only partial and biased, it has its shades to put many uncomfortable things under the carpet in name of self-love and nationalistic fervour.

This short book would formulate this query within a historical backdrop and then end with a real story of a Bengali wealthy family in the time period of 1975-1995.

The East and the West

 There is an increasing trend to belittle the achievements of white men and to amplify the negatives. Unfortunately, a dangerous form of historical amnesia has pervaded Western academia – both in Europe and United States and a guilt syndrome is slowly leaking to make young white men and women either weak and apologetic or senseless and libertine. It appears that the ‘shopkeeper’ inside Anglo-Saxon character has got better of the whole Man. In Bengal, the apology and guilt gets inverted and one finds a continuous whining and complaining. This forces me to re-utter my rebuttal in response to the generally accepted theory by the ‘intellectuals’ of Bengal that British made us learn English to make us clerks – ‘As if, it were not, instead of becoming English speaking clerks, we would have launched another Maurya Empire?’The judgement of history is beyond foreclosure.

Back to our intriguing question: Why did the fabulous wealth of a small pool of people in Bengal have dissipated inspite of having the promise and potential of laying the foundation of much broader and influencing wealth and power? For example, why did the wealth of Prince Dwarikanath (grandfather of Tagore) vanish in fifty years instead of being diversified into other areas?

For economic and other reasons, one can see the works of the career historians or professors and they have lots of theory and propositions. In Marxist and Marks and Spencers Bengal, there are more exotic theories going under the name of feminist, sub-altern etc. There are plenty of well-read and well-intentioned people there to analyse this question.

I would carefully avoid this path. I would dare to say this that most of these theorists (save some exceptions) have done little sadhana to qualify to handle this question. Most might not have even read চৈতন্যচরিতামৃত – ignoring this as a kind of quasi-religious text. But this same text gives an exact description of their enterprise: They don’t do গ্রন্থ-অনুভব and are পড়ুয়া-অধম। The text written some three four hundred years ago could foresee as why one day, premier educational institutions, including Dwarik’s grandson’s বিশ্বভারতী would become such a nasty চন্ডীমন্ডপ consisting of mostly পড়ুয়া-অধম।

My answer to this question, in its essence, is to ackowledge a fact which is the most critical aspect  of Bengal’s history: There is a fundamental difference between an Eastern mind and Western Mind in relation to  t everything of significance. It is not possible to determine which is better or superior, it can only be analysed as which one is suitable for a certain historical time. Hence, any Bengali of having slightest originality or original thinking considered west as a partner and appealed to the whole Man of West. Conversely, the more চন্ডীমন্ডপ oriented a man is, the more little man, hollow-man one is, he appeals to the small man of the West. Swami Vivekananda, Tagore, Srila Prabhupada: three Benglis of last two hundred years have a commonality: they all architected a functional organization of global scale and scope. All three, inspite of varying and antagonistic world-views and visions could choose their workmen from both the East and West.

The Lost Wealth

One Bengali author and historian – Mr. Binoy Ghosh has been singular in asking this question of the lost wealth or the missing opportunity of Bengal. I would like to extend his theory, while in agreement with his core hypothesis that the opportunity was lost because of the social situation – a part of it was due to British imperial interest. British imperial interest tenaciously blocked any futuristic investment by the natives in the area of railways, steel, shipping lines, telegraph and aviation. But this is not the whole picture. I would like to put the following causes, more intangible and relate to the fundamental difference of East-West mind as mentioned earlier:

  • The climate of Bengal: it never challenges, it only soothes.
  • The fertility of Bengal: Bengal’s prolific fertility of the land made biological living a very easy affair.
  • Bengal’s climate’s motherly pull could never trigger any feeling of ‘ruling and subduing nature’ – without this spirit industrial revolution would not have been possible.
  • The concept of God for Bengal was Nature and Nature’s God as soon as Buddhism went weak. With this conception, to subdue Nature in any form did not have the full sanction of the inner consciousness.
  • In all historical ages, power for an ordinary Bengali was the entity that could provide law and order – hence it even allowed the excesses of those entities that could provide it, as long as bearable.

The absence of the attitude to ‘subdue and control Nature’ never brought to the minds of the wealthy any vision to plan and continuing to control nature, i.e future as well. This attitude in the best minds gave rise of most of the unifying ideas and in worst minds – a kind of fatal resignation and তামসিক homeliness.  Hence, every Bengali of any worth shines so brilliantly in the general তামসিক homeliness. The climate and ethos also provided the Bengali men with a high pitch romantic spirit. In higher individual this has given rise to one of the greatest lyrical and passional literatures. To the lesser and degraded ones, it has created a crave for sensuality and কামুকতা (not raw lust or rut or burning flesh) for opposite sex and in some cases, high degree of neutering of manliness. Outsiders, even simple professionals in our IT factories can even detect this neutering of manliness where the termagnet of a wife controls the whole house as well as the poor man’s everything, including his purse and will to donate.

To conclude, Bengal has been the feminine womb in which all virile civilization has been forced to inseminate in all historical ages. She has been a womb of great fertility but she commanded a terrible price as well from the inseminating agencies: lack of vigour. Its last inseminator has been International Communism and to a sober mind, well versed in the way how Communism propounds the theory to subdue nature and its interpretation of power, Contemporary Bengal is a living example as how the seed has lost the vigour and power by the mellowness of the womb.

The Story of a Wealthy Family in Industrial Bengal – 1975-1995

 A three brother family came to an iron-coal-steel industry dominated area in the 1950s – immediately after the partition from East Bengal. Three brothers made a fortune by becoming Government suppliers of men and material for the industry by early eighties. Their fortune owe its origin into three factors: Nehru and independent India’s massive drive for nationalized industries, volatile and nascent communist rule in Bengal, raw vigour, enterprise and a will, unparalysed by moral qualms to succeed in terms of cash-power, social-power and local controlling power. They succeeded in all the three. There was strong arm as well – acquired, cultured and cultivated and which in turn was used to secure contracts, becoming the de-facto HR of many of those industries, controlling local police and law apparatus – a mini, more open and less ambitious Mafiosi – The Family. The whole entrepenerial energy of a generation flew into the channels of securing Govt contracts, licenses and greasing the palm of officials at all levels. The newly anointed communist leadership found its lion’s share of cadres from this group whose only opportunity, as long as they are based in the geography was to somehow become related with the Government – either as an agent or as a double agent.

One of the scions of the Family narrated me the story of the family[1] – a 40 odd member House consisting of near relatives, domestic help, drivers, workers, security men and an entourage of men coming and going for various purposes. The brothers remained as a HUF (Hindu Undivided Family) with a patriarach commanding Don like status. Two brothers were like capo regimes or commanders. Common threats were Income Tax Raids, Dacoits, an unbending officer in the steel factory, an honest Police Officer, some political boss gone against for some ommission. Allies were none except those who come for their own interest. A whole bathtub filled with some 10 kg fishes were brought because some boy wanted to eat some fish. A truckload of cold drinks was brought because some bouma felt thirsty. There were many charities, help, and celebrations – all on personal levels (and non-institutional), many instances of  of a large heart  in helping a needy person in the form of cash or kind. Family grew – boys who were happy catching fish from the make-shift pond  now were grown up to get a piece of action and independence. The patriarch found that the wives of the brothers were asking, via media as what happens in the future. The kingdom either needs to be divided with proper power structure or there would be no end of   a subterrenean unrest, apathy and suspicion. The patriarch and other two brother’s vision were too concentrated, too focussed on the small area on which they were comfortable, powerful and unchallenged. They did not diversify their funds nor tried to cultivate influence in Calcutta, the last resort of all the ambitions of a Bengali with some amount of vigour and life.

By early nineties, as soon as Indian Economic Liberalization started, one of the basic  pillars –closed economy and its attendant safety from all external entrants   The Family was divided and the old guards were not having any idea as how to tackle the new situation. There was another formidable and strange cash flow opened up: American Dollar in terms of software and IT export. The multiplication of * 45 and rather clean money were in stark contrast with the money coming with coal-dust, iron rust and slime. The Family had no diversified business. The allies of interest became double agents and seed of discord sown. They played both ways and benefitted both ways. Many business secrets were leaked intentionally and then money for silence was asked for. In few years, most of their business contacts were not sure whom to rely and how long. In parallel, litigation sprang like mushrooms.

The foot-soldiers of the business learnt this from their higher-ups and by 1996/97, the decisive blow was struck. In couple of months, the old patriarch lost his prestige; successors instead of looking towards the future with rapt attention nostalgically remembered the good old days like the ঠাকুরদা story of Tagore. Few left the House and went outside Bengal to make a career (my narrator was one such) and many lived in the old mansion, surrounded by more powerful relatives and many tangled litigations. From 1975 to 1995, in the twenty years, from a House, the family transformed into another address in a street which once upon a time was identified by postman and policeman by the surname of the House.

Moral of the Story: Behind every Fortune, there is a crime[1]

In the height of their power, their asset in terms of today’s value of money could have been   some 100 crores of Indian Rupees. In 1980s, they could have easily diversified into Calcutta, Bombay or in other areas. But they did nothing of this kind. The money and muscle they had could have easily given them access to more fertile areas but enjoying  the local and immediate power did not allow them to see it.

Secondly, there was no institutional idea behind the business or business assets. It was a royalty which depended as much as on the prestige of the Head as well as on his and successor’s capability

Thirdly, there was the বাঙালী চন্ডীমন্ডপ in the form of immediate external environment which has little capability to envision anything but extremely adept to guide the powerful in a way most suitable to its own খুচরা and petty interest.

Finally, the romantic and emotional streak in Bengal which in its pure form is heavenly and angelic. But as soon as soon as the situation demanded leadership, vision and very objective stand – these virtues became vitriol to injure one another.

From Particular to the General

 I started with a question as why legendary wealth of Bengal oligarchs dissipated itself without any trace or significance in future. I provided some outline and my core thesis that it is in the nature of things in Bengal (East) and cannot be counteracted. I tried to narrate and penetrate a real story of real people of a real geography. I tried to draw some parallels and I leave the rest to the readers and also to the scion whose story and  lunch  triggered this whole book to be written, somewhat in a hurry.

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Sketch of a Waiting Room by Ms. Anuska Bhattacharyya

[ With deliverance coming from the skies of Bengal, Wordcon introduces its youngest author – Ms. Anuskha, a student of class X – a student of De Nobili, Dhanbad and a resident. She aspires to be a Professor, after being tutored at King’s College, London. Her idol is Dr. APJ Kalam and more interesting, she says, her only principle in life is : “Time is the best master but the worst servant.”]
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It had been an evening of interesting and surprising experience. I was sitting in a waiting room of Bangalore city railway station. I was going home for Diwali and Vijaya Dashami. The Chennai mail starts at 22:45 and it was just 21:00 hours. So I had a couple of hours to kill. I had to come early as my uncle left for Delhi by Rajdhani that left at 20:30. I intended to spend an hour at the internet cafe but the centre- guy told me that he would shut down at 21:00 but would take the fee of one hour from me.

So I decided to try the waiting room. I had seen it from outside as the Chennai mail invariably came at platform 1. It looked okay.

The waiting room was large with sufficient number of chairs – all in good condition. The room was reasonably clean and well-ventilated. It did not stink as I had expected. I looked for a chair under the fan and luckily found one. I settled down,took out my recently bought iPod shuffle and started listening to my assortment of music from Ravi Shankar to Arijit Singh.

I looked around and realized how true it is that a railway station or a train travel provides you with a microcosm of India that very few places can provide you with. I saw a Rajasthani lady feeding her child in her lap and at the same time was smoking a beedi. A Tamil couple involved in discussion, some adolescents were busy cracking jokes at each other. Some were on the floor oblivious to the noise outside. At a distance I saw a well-dressed man arguing with a porter for not being able to handle his suitcase properly. As a result the suitcase was dropped down from his head breaking into two pieces. At the same time a policeman came on a beat and settled their matter. The porter was apologizing again and again. Some workers who were taking break in a corner too looked at them with keen interest.

Just then an announcement was made that the Chennai mail was to arrive at platform 8. I got impatient and hurriedly arranged a porter to carry my luggage as it was too much. After the regular haggling we reached the consensus and he efficiently did his job to take the luggage right inside the train. When I paid him the amount he said to me in English,”Thank u Madam…have a nice journey “and darted away to catch his next customer.
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Editor’s Note : Very minor soft-brush editing done – most of the edits being making the telegraphic words “u”, “frm”, “fr” into English.

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Author

“The EMI Life” by Mallikaa Chaatterjee

The EMI Life

One fine morning when I was sipping my hot cup of tea like any other day and was day dreaming of going to the Himalayas to beat the heat of summer, I got a call. My friend of past 18 years was calling me. Though it was my “me-time” and the time to avoid any calls but as it was one of  my close friends and so I took the call and all I could hear was “sobs” and some swear words. It took me some time to calm him down and to console him by saying in next 30 minutes I would be there with him.

I drove to his flat which was in a high-rise complex. The flat was fully furnished with all modern amenities bought from all parts of the world. He was working with a TOP IT company of India and had spent most of his career abroad in different parts of world on various projects that the company had allocated him. He used to find projects by bidding to get into that team ( it is the rule of a company, while sitting in bench as reserve, it is employee’s duty to bid on various projects through company’s portal and if one can break through, I mean, if the order is acquired, then the employee will be made project lead or manager of that project and he/she will be sent to that location).

Almost all the people of our country study with  this single dream in mind, “One day I shall join this XYZ or ABC company and will soon fly to the USA, the UK or Australia and my life will be set.”

Anyway, coming back to the present situation: I went up to the 9th floor where my friend stayed and knocked at the door. His 9 years old daughter opened the door and I was shocked –  my friend, his wife were crying like baby rolling over the floor. I thought that some serious accident had happened.  When I asked them, he showed me a letter; well it was a pink slip or in short it was a termination letter from the company. I became quiet while looking at the letter and allowed them cry for some time as it was needed and I went on thinking while seeing beautiful water land from  their balcony.

How things change with time !  Every seed of destruction gives birth to a new creation and vice versa. It started with introducing computer in late 80s, when many people who were not ready for change lost their jobs but a huge number of jobs were created for younger generation and almost for 2 decades huge employment has taken place in these IT companies. Now after two decades we are standing in front of the same mirror but in a more horrific condition.

As for myself, I never chased white collar IT job.  Instead I wanted to make difference in the society we are living in. So, I tried out something else. I never had credit card, I don’t buy anything in credit, my needs and wants are realistic. My friend who is crying today, bought a very high end car in just two years after joining an IT giant, but became prematurely bald, bought designer furniture but was diagnosed with high BP, bought two flats within 7 years and was diagnosed with diabetes, kidney problem, eye problem and was diagnosed to be suffering from mild depression. His attitude also indicated the same. He used to party every week-end, sometimes used to take me but my life style didn’t allow much of this and so I avoided it as much as I could. Long tours, short tours etc were very common to them but he used to look always lost. I wanted to ask him many times but didn’t “You have everything but where is that sparkle in your eyes when you were in college ?”

Today I came to know the reason; his life was going on EMI, house EMI, Cars EMI, all electronics gadgets EMI, Parties, outing, tours, travelling, and birth day parties – all were on EMIs. Now with pink slip he doesn’t know how to breathe because his breathing was on EMI !

It was a bubble that had been forming for two decades and that had to burst some day or the other, and it did. Today people who are so used to urbanization and high-end life style that they forget the thin line of difference between Reality and Utopia. It’s good that the bubble has burst, let the cry grow louder so that everybody can face the reality and take a route to live life fully without selling one’s very soul to EMI.

Job cuts are natural phenomenon which had happened earlier, will continue to happen. One has to choose the right path, one has to have a right vision, the right motive to live life realistically. Grow from inside and not from outside.


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Mallikaa Chaatterjee, Guest Writer, chattmallika@gmail.com

[A full time entrepreneur by choice with MCA degree to back my knowledge base and industry experience of 9 years to back my skill who gave birth to GOOD CAUSE TECHNOLOGIES; a 360 degree tech company catering across the globe. A full time mother and also a full time wife define me as a person and as a business woman too.]

 

 

Book Review – Teen Paharer Katha [ 3 stories in Bengali – “Stories of three mountains” by Chitran Choudhury

Review Context

In 1991 (Collapse of the Soviet Union), I was a hormone driven  17 year old heterogeneous male. In 2008 (Credit Crisis), I was thinking of putting my leisure into some channel. In the seventeen years from the collapse of the Soviet Union to the near collapse of World financial system, one thing in India became scarce – leisure. Middle aged corporate men talked more of the conflict between life and livelihood instead of “adda, amateur drama, novels, films and such frills of life.”

The author informs us of his profession and we first wonder how he could manage to get time to complete the project. Many prisoners of the cubicle nation might get inspiration from this. This is a virtue of the book immediately discerned from the flyleaf itself.

Reviewing a work of fiction can only be termed as “recording of reader’s reaction”.  In that reaction also, the most-important aspect is how the work has “re-created” things inside and things of outside. The review below follows this philosophy.

The language is excellent – simple, clear and highly readable. The last story – নীলান্তিকা, I liked most. The story has been told with a great restraint from the author’s side and the natural landscape s no longer a part of the narration but a character itself, i.e. having autonomy in the narration.

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1. The 2nd story appears, from the middle segment to the end of lengthening the “thinking of a story part” ; more dialogues between characters instead of narration by the author would have brought more three-dimensional aspect to the characters.

2. The first story  followed the framework of many stories with “urban, tallish complex and longish car, weekend scotch, aspiring but a bit bored” class of contemporary Calcutta but when the reader expected something obvious, the story takes a very dark and sinister turn of events – completely unexpected. The epilogue is darker still when the female protagonist is forced to take a turn which is pure evolutionary instinct as evolutionary biology tells us.

3. The female character of the first story  – a kind of heartlessly rational and survival-focused organism is in direct contrast to the pivotal character নীলান্তিকা who  chooses, not by rationality but by pure instinct something completely against better survival. She validates and redeems the wisdom of Pascal – “Heart has a reason which reason will never comprehend.”

4. The stories tell me something between the lines – an oblique hint on the excess of 70s in Bengal – the landscape is also part of the Mother Nature – something which not only soothes but appears in double role in the cosmic drama – as a female form, it charms and soothes us but at the same time, it is also focused on betraying us. All the characters in the novel get solace and peace as well as endanger themselves in those landscapes – literally and psychologically.

Tagore and Globalization of Bengal

This post is from An Intimate History of Bengal, published by Wordsmith University Press  ( $ 12.99) and was written in 2006. After a decade, I revisited the book (for the next edition) and find that in this decade, the process of re-barbarization has progressed in Bengal. Study of Tagore remains important, not for those who will be carried by the dominant current.

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An Intimate History of Bengal

BOOK XVI

CALCUTTA, CULTURE CLAIRVOYANCE: TAGORE AND GLOBALIZATION OF BENGAL

The Pre-Conception: Tagore as an Artist and as an Institution

This BOOK owes its existence, in a mixed way to the efforts of my Housing Co-operative in organizing a cultural programme to mark the birthday of Rabindranath Thakur, wrongly but conveniently called Tagore. We will use this misnomer to call him all along, which has dual advantage; first of all it modulates the concept of Bengali-association with him and secondly, it de-modulates the eulogizing epithets bestowed on him quite liberally for a surprisingly long period of time. Any discussion centered on Tagore, in order to remain consistency has to be selective and focused due to the very width of the personality and   gravitation of it. Majority of commentators fall into the subtle trap of losing the distinction between Tagore, the person and Tagore, the institution. Hence, many commentators, otherwise quite sincere, learned and having the virtue of objectivity criticize the person Tagore for the inconsistencies of the institution Tagore. On the other hand, institutional evaluation or the use of the institution called Tagore projects a personality-cult which later generation of rebel poets deplored as worship (Rabindra-Puja). Readers may like to read the small volume authored by Buddhadev Basu where he discusses those issues from an objective standpoint without sacrificing the historical connection he shares with the subject. What makes his work interesting is the fact that Buddhadev as a poet and a critique was a very sensitive man not to have ignored the forces that were shaping poetry in other parts of the world. To him and perhaps to him alone goes the credit of this signal service to Bengali literature and it is no wonder why he could write an essay like Ek Grishe Dui Kabi ( Two poets in the same summer) where he discusses the works of two ‘poets‘ of the same country but of different type : Dostoevsky and Chekhov. In this petite volume on Tagore, there appears more substance and signposts for posterity than are to be found in the formidable array of works done on the subject, by individual or by the Institution Tagore founded in Bolpur.

On 9th May this year, I have been passing my days of royal luxury in a flat at Purbachal Housing Complex, Saltlake, Calcutta. With family in vacation, my father in his visit to North Calcutta and I have no office to go, I decided to spend my time in home, wasting time in anticipation as Bertrand Russell has provided the piece of wisdom – Wasted time is not Waste of Time. As I was wasting my time, Tagore reminded me that it is his birthday as songs after song wafted in the air, as if soaking the strength of the May sun, becoming stronger each minute. The songs were coming from a stage which was some two hundred yards away from my second floor window. Tagore, I remembered had passed quite a considerable part of his youth in doing things which in typical Bengali society would be considered either worthless or waste of time. My self-love urged me to discover the parallel between Tagore‘s free-wheeling life on the boat of the river Padda and mine own spent in speculation in this East Calcutta suburb. By coincidence, after two days, Bengal was going to polls, one of the historic ones not in terms of the results but in terms of the cause behind the result that had been speculated upon

            Since 1960s, the frontline literary artists of Bengal started to ponder over the relevance of Tagore in future. For some, this thought   was nothing short of a blasphemy and the opposition came most from the Institutional Tagore-scholars. Buddhadev, while writing about the imitations and imitators of Tagore gave a honourable coup-de-grace – ‘Having sacrificed themselves in the flaming sun (Rabi-tap), they have provided next generation with a necessary and useful warning‘. These imitations were nothing unique for Tagore or for Bengal. As soon as flame of creativity shines stronger, lesser lights tend to borrow. However, in case of Tagore it was the flame of a true genius, a genius which finally consumed the bearer of the gift and also the lesser gifted ones who came in close quarters, personally or institutionally. At certain point in the literary history of Bengal and among some honourable men and women, Tagore‘s work approached the applicability of that of Homer as regarded by the classical Greeks that all wisdom can be found in Homer. As logical mind as that of Greeks could have thought that Homer has something for everything. Homeric odes were sung and consumed not as an artistic product alone but as narrating process of knowledge, wisdom and many other desirable things which we don’t demand from literature anymore now. However, Homer became part and parcel of the Greek world and wherever Greeks went they carried their Homer. At the matured period of classical Greece in 4th century BCE, Homer was synonymous with the idea that was called Greece. The Bengali colonists did the same as late as 1980s with sincerity and conviction. Later, it became a form of habit, having little to do with any inner conviction or internalization or even identification.

Bearing in mind the fundamental differences that remain between classical Greeks and Bengali mind and situation, the colonization process has some interesting parallel. From 1880 to 1930s – these fifty years witnessed some of the grand crystallization of historical deposits in the history of Bengal. In this half a century, her past Buddhist tradition, her reinterpretation of Bhakti spearheaded by Sree Chaitanya and her interaction with Europe through British ambassadorship provided a throbbing scene which was pregnant to give birth to highly unique personalities. Literature, one of the strongest and most sensitive areas of Bengal‘s psyche found in Tagore a culmination of all these forces. In this way, Tagore the artist functioned like fractal image of tradition where local historical tradition of last thousand years found a complex and convoluted space. His syncretism could seamlessly travel from the domains of Chandalika (Buddhist) to Bhanusingha (Vaishnav Lyrical poetry) and Bramho-sangeet (the monotheism). It is interesting to note that he had reconciled and could persuade us through the artistic instrument of willing-suspension-of-disbelief of the fundamentally different philosophical ramifications underlying these traditions. This power of persuasion has been the most profound aspect of the Tagore the person or Tagore as an artist. If he were born in other cultural space-time, he would have done the same synthetic persuasion. His songs, a part of his short stories and a selected part of his poetry symbolize this power of persuasion at the deepest level. Aided by a remarkable gift on language, he became the architect-builder and craftsman of Bengali language. It is a logical confirmation that today, after a century after he wrote those works, his works of persuasion at the deepest level never ceases to fascinate us.

However, as soon as we study the institution Tagore where he was a political activist, a strategist in terms of practical methods of swaraj, a patriot or nationalist, builder of institution and as soon as he took his greatest gift as an aid of persuasion in these areas, we could always find almost exactly opposite results. This remains at the root of his failure as a novelist, as an artist who failed to mirror the agony of his time and for some Western critics, – a boudoir poet.

During my stay in London as a student last year, I could read a columnist in The Guardian, while writing about Nobel winners bracketed Tagore with Pearl Buck under the heading – who are not read anymore and are not part of any living tradition.  Off came a reprimand from the Bishop of Oxford who justly rebuked the author for his euro-centricism and extolled the virtues of lush mysticism of Tagore‘s poetry. This action-reaction sequence has an interesting lesson: his syncretism as an artist or an institution has a more lasting appeal than one of the artistic hallmarks of portraying the agony of the age. In this way, the characters of his novels have little life, they raise no singularities on existential issues, they speak no truth which only a novel can utter[1][1] and they smell too much of design and craftsmanship and have no element of fantastic in them. On the other hand, in his short stories, he was guided by his own spirit and his conscious and unconscious efforts gave birth to certain characters and sequences that are unique in Bengali literature. They represent what Tagore the artist always tried and succeeded and Tagore the institution has failed most often: to re-present the eternal human dilemma.

Buddhadev has drawn our attention to the historical setting of Tagore‘s mind while being active as an artist. He argues that in his artistic geography, he was citizen of another historical time. This capacity remains his greatest strength and greatest weakness, depending on the form of his art and what his readers or critics are looking for. The fault was not Tagore‘s, nor Tagore was ignorant of the complaints of his readers. Being acutely self-aware, he was sensitive to his relevance also for the next generations to come. But when the setting is right, when the historical age or the theme is beyond and pervading all or any historical time, Tagore becomes the chosen instrument of melody and yearning and we could detect a melting of the creator with the creation. To the language, to the landscape and to the mind of Bengal, he gave the idea and hope that the universe reflects here too, in spite of our repeated folly of spinning a web of homilies and familiarity. If the entire landmass of Bengal in some geological aeon goes under the sea or some catastrophe destroys the land and the people altogether, if entire Bengali language is forgotten, still it is possible to convey the essence of the land and its people from his work. His life as a creative artist was an intense laser beam which opened a new channel between the retina of the eye and the mind‘s eye and once that‘s opened, the language and the meaning never remained the same. Also, this new faculty, actually a miracle, in course of time became something so natural that it has been taken for granted. We will focus our discussion on the relationship between the Bengal landscape and Tagore as a creative artist. He has been an intimate artist of Bengal and instead of going into the bemoaning discussion as why or why not young people read him today, we would discuss some of the current trends having influence on this landscape, to which the greatest poet of the post-Tagore generation would like to have eternal return.

Globalization and Landscape of Bengal:

The core competence of Bengal, in spite of all complex rhetoric and marketing communications remains her land, her geography and her fields. Modern technology, in spite of its formidable power cannot add another Bengal in the globe although it can destroy it in a violent frenzy or through slow degeneration. Since the age of empires in India, fertility of Bengal‘s land has been the major agenda in the policy of conquest, colonization, settlement or exit[2][2]. This Bengal includes East and West Bengal alike. Forever washed in the water of the sky and water of the innumerable of large and small rivers, biological sustenance was never a problem in the land. If it was, it was always the greed or the inefficiency of the people who controlled the generation or distribution of the produce. It is a miracle that for last two hundred years or so, this landscape could maintain a low-cost, abundant and healthy supply of elements required for biological sustenance. There is a major debate raging now in the land as to whether using the farmland for industrial expansion will bring public good or not. This debate is important and more important is to define the co-ordinate of the participant in order to escape the follies of sentimentalism and conditioned response so common in the land today. Another interesting experiment is to imagine Tagore as a participant in this debate, separately as an artist and an individual and then trace his reaction. This exercise would also bring an important aspect on the larger theme – Tagore in the Globalized Bengal. Before undertaking that exercise, there remains a little task of analyzing various choices of positions a commentator of Bengal can take up, including me.

Nirad C Chaudhri had informed us, while rating five of the greatest Bengalis, certain yardsticks and strangely, he argues that all of them share a trait common – they are all un-Bengali. We may also argue that the first criterion of attaining greatness for a Bengali is to shed his Bengali conditioning. This is applicable in a general way, said long ago by the Master of Galilee – A prophet is seldom respected in his homeland.  After a continuous struggle with the position of myself as a student of the cultural history of Bengal, I had undergone a process of evolution which has left me with few options lately. I would briefly narrate this process of evolution. My first position was that of intense identification, i.e. an insider. In this position, the greatest danger is that of being sucked into the staid pool of chandimantap culture of Bengal which tends to make one critical about everything else except that of one‘s own belief systems and cultural make-up. The next was that of an observer without qualification and there comes a bigger challenge – experience teaches me that in this land, an observer needs to be always aware of the fact that he is dealing in much deeper waters. He always stands a chance to deceive himself simply because under the simplicity of these people lies a complex net of historical forces and being acutely unaware of history, they deny it more, only to confirm its presence. The next position was that of intellectual modeler and it was discarded as I soon found that these people, highly sensual and sentimental in nature are governed less by intellect than by feeling. In this process, I tried to look into the land with the eyes and mind-set of an observer who might have come here on an assignment and has no contract or obligation whatsoever to respect any of the belief systems of the land. One implicit element in this kind of position has a necessary power equation and I have no qualms to declare that mine is essentially an aristocratic position where I am acutely aware of the divisive line between my acquired world-view and the view that could have come from a natural association. Since I am not bound by the obligations of a judge, a curator or a researcher with grant or a media professional, I may always retain the autonomy of my position. I have few ears to please than my own fancy. The greatest admiration that people have here if an individual can maintain his own fancy and these is the people who are also the target for criticism for the chandipantap culturists. This group of people can be found everywhere here – in the Offices, in the shops, in schools and colleges, in LIG, MIG, HIG (Low, Medium, High Income group) colonies. They believe that if things are fine in their own little world, then the world must be running alright. It never crosses their mind that their little world (sukhi grihakon[3][3]) might have been intimately connected with the larger world. This group also radiates a most despicable form of irritation and they carry it with them. This group constitutes the largest proportion of the population and since this irritation is quite impotent, no revolution so much worshipped by the Bengali elite of earlier generation would ever take place here. I have heard Asoke Mitra‘s lament [4][4] but cannot sympathize as readily with him on his lament on the general loss of quality in contemporary Bengali poetry.

Tagore – the aristocrat by birth and aristocrat by temperament had to deal with this mass of people all through his life and interaction in Bengal. His aristocracy has the characteristics of ownership and that is the reason why he could call any human product as his own irrespective of its origin in time and geography. Amarty Sen, in his essay on Gandhi and Tagore in The Argumentative Indian has brought this feature of Tagore‘s attitude that permeate his views on nationalism, civilization conflict and cultural exchanges[5][5].  Tagore himself was well read in Kalidas and he was fond of a Sanskrit word and concept – Jananatar-sauhridani – it is impossible to convey the soft and subtle sweetness of Sanskrit but it roughly means friendship between one person and another. He would not have been surprised while finding the stark contrast between the pogrom of Gujrat and the liberal spirit of Bengal. He would have approved Nirad‘s displeasure of the naming of Bangladesh for Bengal[6][6] or Bangla-desh had an integral cultural and existential unit in his mind. When the poet bestows the artistic gift to Nawalkishore – Nawalkishore tomai dilam bhuvan-dangar math – this is no Bengal or India, he is offering the whole world – not the globe and globalization of any variant but what signifies in the Sanskrit verse – Vasudwiva Kutumbakam, Swdesha Bhuvana-Trayam. It is no wonder that Gandhi and Tagore would have to have a radical disagreement over the contribution of Western Civilization in view of the contemporary situation of India under the colonial rule or mis-rule of the English – one of the pre-eminent representatives of the European Civilization. For Gandhi as a mass-leader and that too of the mass of India, it was politically and temperamentally impossible to be aware of the distinction between the European Civilization and the English administrators of India, petty or big. Tagore always did. He gave a very practical advice to his countrymen that there is a distinction and that distinction is fundamental, that lies between the English spirit and the behaviour and policy of English colonists in India.[7][7] Applying this concept with regards to India, he grasped the highly significant aspect of contemporary Indian attitude to India‘s ancient past. In one of his essays, he mocks the attitude of some of the elites proclaiming the so-called Aryan heritage mixed-up with a hotchpotch of spirituality, science, and technology and we-have-done-it-all-prehistorically. It was the reaction to this attitude that James Mill had to observe that any Hindu pundit would come in contact with modern scientific and technological ideas and immediately find those in their own books.[8][8] I have heard this hotchpotch and this variation of themes so many times from many educated and respectable people that I wonder how heroic was for him to escape those follies. For him, India‘s ancient tradition was as much as connected with him as that of other civilizations and other cultures. He was also well-aware that to consider us as the Aryans is equivalent to comparing the mammoth with the elephant. It is not false and being half-truth and shaded truth is more dangerous if taken without proper critical and common sense attitude. Hence, his globalization was of a variety which is equally mysterious to the champion of Hindu pasts of the past days as well as those of the present. His loneliness is his own making and that provides the clue why he is being considered not a living tradition by certain commentators. These commentators are not insincere nor all of them have very shallow knowledge about him and his works, but it is the difference of the quality of thought and perception that lies at the root of underlining the observation.

It is now natural and interesting to review two questions which are not important for Tagore anymore but for us.[9][9]  Firstly: how the globalized and globalizing Bengalis would continue to find Tagore in their intellectual and cultural life? Secondly: how significant and relevant the ideas of Tagore will remain in this globalized environment?  In the next two sections these two questions will be tackled, not from a scholarly standpoint but from circumspection and observation, much of it personal and acquired while working within the contemporary environment of Bengal.

[1][1] Milan Kundera commenting on the Truth of Novel. He argues that the truth of novel is that which only novel can unveil or discover. I find this definition most appropriate for such a highly complex art form like novel.

[2][2] I read in the newspaper that the Central Government of India is thinking of passing a law to forbid any agricultural land to be handed over to private industrial houses to build industries. In case of Bengal, it seems that there is no such land which is not cultivatable. This is an evidence which adds fuel to the highly charged debate of  building up a car factory by Tatas in Singur.

[3][3] Literally means Happy House-Corner and I have discovered in the streets that there is a magazine goes by this name.

[4][4] Kabita theke Michile – Collected Essays by Asoke Mitra meaning From poetry to procession.

[5][5] Gandhi and Tagore – The Argumentative Indian

[6][6] As quoted by Taslima Nasreen in her essays – Diwakhandita – Part 2

[7][7] Choto o Boro – Kalantar

[8][8] Amartya Sen as quoting in The Argumentative Indian.

[9][9] Buddhadev Basu paraphrased while he spoke about the lack of quality translation of Tagores work and the loss thereof.

Awaiting Togetherness

During my day­-to­-day chores my mind is like a to­-do list. It has number of tasks assigned to it and as the day passes by, I complete my tasks one by one. But when I finally hit my head on the pillow, when I have a tired mind, when I have no work to do, that is when those thoughts which I want to forget surfaces back. My sleepless nights is not because of my insomnia, it is because I have these thoughts, one leading to another and it goes on and on. Its like a story in my head which is difficult for me to express in words, as the feeling cannot be relived because that special moment of ours is gone. When I go through those infinite memories I shared with that special someone, it is all in my mind but what I am doing really is just gaping at the wall right in front of me.

All of the world’s romances start when eyes meet and you feel, and therefore what you end up missing the most, is the warmth of those eyes, how comfortable they made you feel. So you look at their pictures, whatever you have, whatever you can lay your hands on and you just look, hoping for some miracle to happen, hoping for you to get back together. You think about your past, more than once, more than twice, maybe more than a million number of times, you think think of all the mistakes you made that led you to your present situation and you also think how can you make your future better and still be in each others lives. You wait for days, for months, for years for it to happen when you finally realize you are waiting for something that will never come.

Gaping at the dark wall

In this room ill-lit

My mind hovers over those endless topics

Ignoring which I move on

Spending the lighted part of the day

All of it just to settle to those warm eyes.

Warmth of those eyes

Which have settled down on me

A million number of times,

Which have said the words you never dared to say

Out loud, which once carried everything I wanted to

See.

Those warm eyes, the warmth of which

I seem to have forgotten

For its been ages

Since I last met them

Warmth, warmth which I just see and try to relive

In those dead pictures of yours

Whatsapp dp or sometimes facebook profile

But,

These dead pictures complete my day

For in this dark ill-lit room

Gaping at the dark wall

My mind hovers over those endless topics

And finally comes to rest,

When it looks at you.

those eyes, everything starts with that one eye-contact

when you know this is something special.

those eyes, which made promises never meant to be made.

those eyes which felt sad when things were falling apart,

those eyes, which said “i am sorry” and probably “i miss you” too;

“i miss you” which i always wanted to hear but seems we have lost the meaning

of them.

long long long ago.

in this dark ill-lit room

my mind hovers over those endless topics,

topics of our gone past, our sad present and questionable future.

i look at you, the virtual you

in a hope

that miles away, you feel what i am feeling

sitting in this dark room.

in a hope

that the next moment will be a surprise,

a surprise that will never come.

– by Sanya Sawlani

Agatha Christie and an Interview with a Translator

In their culturally richer days, Bengali middle and upper-middle class invested money, time, love and attention on translating world literature into Bengali. Poirot, Sherlock Holmes, Monte Cristo, Captain Nemo, Pip, Copperfield, Jude and Sue, Peter Bezukhov, Raskolnikov, Gulliver, Alice and many more characters and their  exploits we learnt (at least me) through Bengali translations. Being a functional translator and agency owner in  translation industry for a decade, I can well appreciate the great effort those translators of Bengal have put – to create new windows in our mind.

The situation is changed. Bengali literary translation does lack passionate and potent lovers as translators. Without this aspect of love, it is impossible to inseminate life into bhasa-sharir. 

Yesterday, we had a book launch in Prime Infoserv’s office at DL-124, Salt Lake. The book was Greatest Stories of Agatha Christie  – translated into Bengali by Mr. Balaknath Bhattacharyya.   After the launch and mistimukh, I thought of conducting a brief interview life discussion with him and an extract is given below :

20150618_165746_Richtone(HDR)
Mr. BN Bhattacharyya with the book – আগাথা ক্রিষ্টির শ্রেষ্ঠ গল্প

Me:  Congratulations ! What made you undertake this onerous task ?

BN : I have checked few prevailing Bengali translations of Agatha Christie’s stories and most of them blatantly ‘cheat’ the reader. The translators drop paragraphs, translate word by word, violating the structural machinery of the target (Bengali) language and sometimes you wonder whether you are reading Bengali at all ! Some translations do not respect chronological consistency and structural coherence. The translations do not communicate and these translations reinforce the old adage : Translator as traitor ! I thought of translation these stories in a way I thought they should be and I felt in the beginning that I could do better.

20150618_172105
The মিষ্টিমুখ after the launch

Me : How long did it take ?

BN: All combined, it took 3 months to compete the 220 + pages book.  I started first writing in a diary and later directly typed using Avro Bengali keyboard.

Me: Any future or shall I say, immediately next project ?

BN : I intend to translate the Miss Marple series of works by Ms. Christie.

Me: As a translator, what were your core objectives ?

BN: Faithfulness  to the original text and to tell the story within the structure and style of Bengali language so that the reader finds a good flow in communication and the hall mark of these stories of Christie – a pulsating tension and curiosity as what happens next get properly communicated.  These stories are not mere detective stories, they have passed the test of time and hence a treasure of all men and women who read for pleasure and joy.

Me: Nicely spoken. Many thanks for your invitation, refreshments, signed book-gift and time for this interview. I hope this is a nice beginning for your new career as a translator and we shall wait to meet Ms Marple in Bengali through your pen (or keyboard)

———————————————————-

আগাথা ক্রিষ্টির শ্রেষ্ঠ গল্প / ভাষান্তর – বালকনাথ ভট্টাচার্য ; ISBN : 978-81-88163-42-7

             আনন্দ প্রকাশন, কলকাতা, প্রথম প্রকাশ – বৈশাখ 2015 

Mr. Bhattacharyya can be contacted at bhattacharyyabn@yahoo.com

WEARY WOMAN

Sore feet against the rough gravel march endlessly on, We tired, desperate women walk miles every morn. Need for water forces us- the taps are brimming with sewage, Our reddish eyes welling with tears of anguish and justifiable rage. Our husbands –unemployed drunkards; abuse and ill-treat us, The memsahibs curse at us for laziness- tell us not to whine and fuss. Our children need to be sent to school; the memsahib will want sweeping, Nobody cares for the hearts of poor women; in despair and agony, weeping. The glib politicians make us promises of water cooingly every year, In hope, we vote; yet, we still must, the crushing problem, endure. Yet, we still taste scorching heat of day, as we trudge along, Shoving and bustling for a bucket of water through the swarming throng. Our rights taken away from us, yet no voice to complain, Crushed by the WHAT voices; those that prefer to ignore pain. Men in suits, why do you not see us, standing here, sweat on brow? Well- dressed women- of our sufferings, what do you know? Unheard and neglected, our voices trailing off amidst the din, Struggling against a suffocating system, against which we cannot win. A resource that ought to be ours- yet, one we must strive to get, Our spirits sink in sorrow- the lines on face tauten with anxiety and fret. Now standing in the memsahib’s kitchen, watching the pearly jet from the tap, Her little son is playing with the paper- boats in a bowl of water on her lap. I watch hungrily as the water splashes noisily; parched tongue gropes, While hands clench with fury at the unfairness, the heart still hopes… – by Siddharth Srinivasan

Where the earth bleeds blue

I don’t remember how I came here. The knowledge of the road only known to a chosen few. I remember opening my eyes to see two tall hills, the tallest, till all your eyes could see. Between the two tallest hills ran a sparkling blue stream. The grey pebbles separating the sparkling blue of the stream from the lush green of the trees, one would seldom see civilians roaming around freely. The only people moving around within a 10 mile radius were men, skins darkened by the sun, usually sporting a small coarse dark beard and always with an AK-47. These men voluntarily living away from home and fighting for what they accept, a common cause. To kill someone, one had to always say ‘neel senar joy’, a sacred tradition as considered.

It has been almost five years, since I first set my foot in these jungles. Before I did that, my father, brother and both uncles had already martyred their lives to the cause, the same I am part of right now. It was only a matter of time, for me to follow his footsteps. At the age of 15, I joined the blue army or locally known as ‘neel sena’. The only cost of joining-leave with your death. But the person who almost single handedly inspired me to join the blue army most was Boro.

Boro had gained almost a cult status in the neighbouring villages. A pacifist between his brothers and antagonist for the zamindars and industrialists. How he single-handedly fought off twenty Zamindar’s men, still remains one of the most discussed happenings in our village; at least that was so the last time I was home.

Here, at the blue camp or neel dera as it was locally known as, Boro was the only other from my village. We used to occasionally meet up and discuss places, where to put up the next blockage or which minister or businessman to target next. They were all the same, some selling coal, some iron, some copper and some adivasi land (that was quite profitable as well) and these people were easiest to get money out of since they mostly had it in black, but so you would think. Taking money out of these hardened criminals was always tougher than innocent civilians. But that was not what we were after, the easy money.

Boro was like a big brother to me. He was the one would listen to me and share his ideas and principles. In him, I kept my faith.One afternoon, Boro told me ‘Pack your kit, we are going in for the big kill.’Being only a field apprentice, unaware of the codes, I asked ‘What big kill?’

‘Don’t ask question, just get ready, jaldi!’ (Fast)

Ironically neel sena does not wear blue, but a green overall with no pockets. It is rumoured that a blue solider either gets shot or his pockets get caught (by the tree branches), one can guess which is more embarrassing. By the time we reached, it was already dark. The roadblock was already set up and we were just in time. It were only a matter of minutes that the white ambassador would halt, or so was the plan. A walkie-talkie confirmed that the car had entered the valley. All cars stop at the roadblock, they know it’s a certain death otherwise. And so did this one.

There were three inside, the driver and two sitting behind. I had witnessed dozens of roadblocks but this one was different, it had a different air to it. We maintained silence for quite some time, this doesn’t usually happen. Khurpa the camp leader approached the car.

Without a single remorse, he uttered the words ‘neel senar joy’ and shot the man, the driver and the third member. Wait! This is not how we go about missions. There is always a negotiation! We are redistributors, rebels and outlaws, but not murderers. As I neared the white ambassador now with glasses red with splashes, I recognized the face. The man sitting behind was a minister, in his early thirties, short hair and the khadi shirt which had now stopped draining blood. I have seen him earlier, in the camp TV, a strong man of principles, liked as well as disliked for his stand on anticorruption issues, also a man with strong opinions against the Blue movement. On the other side a kid, barely half my age, the bullet through the side of his temple implied that he had not been woken up from his dreams when he was put into another.

Khurpa came to me, while I was still lost in the illusionary peaceful gaze of the child. He knew about this, everyone must have known about this, we always do.

‘Wake up kid! Help me push this car to the ditch’, his voice echoed in my mind.

He shook me twice before I came back to my senses.

A knee jerk reaction to the existing authority governing my actions, burst my mind with thousands of questions full of anger and disgust. My mind was set-run. Run anywhere but from this terrible place with terrible people. People calling behind me to stop. I ran and ran, until I no more could.

No food, no water, it felt like it had been hours. Honestly, I didn’t know where I was running, it could be towards the camp itself. It was almost dawn till I heard a familiar voice calling my name. It was Boro! He was here, maybe he too had left the camp after the gruesome murder and came trying to follow my trail. Two heads are always better than one. He was alone, hence trustable. I called out his name. In response he screamed ‘neel senar joy’. Somewhere behind me, I heard two gunshots. My eyes closed slowly as the numbness of the bullets grasped me and I fell to the ground. Maybe there was a tear in my eye as it blurred the vision and dulled my imagination.

— by Ishan Banerjee

THE CONFESSION OF A HOUSEWIFE

It was the fall. The yards were filled with dry leaves. I, Sarah Catherine James, am a housewife to Richard James and merely a sexual affair to Richard’s friend, Jonathan. And that’s not the start, this is where I end my life. I am going to die, just like the leaves in the fall.

And now, the start: Richard proposed me, it was the best day of my life, I was more than ready to marry him, and we were wife and husband after ending our 2 years of relationship. The starting days were normal. We were broke, since we married at 19. We worked hard, just for ourselves, just for our food and our graduation. We graduated at 21. Richard got a new job and he seemingly was busy. It was not too late that I also got a job. My job was to take care of the house. My job was to eat, sleep and clean the house. I was vexed, I was tired of it, and my husband got a promotion. I knew it was going to get harder. I talked to him to reduce his work and spend time with me. He was nice to be with me on Sundays, but not alone, he had to get his friends and play cards all the time. I got used to the routine, and I never asked anything else. Not that I wanted sex, we had it a lot of times..I needed love, it was hard for him to give the love I wanted.

I was getting lonely, frustrated and yet, I had to maintain the marriage, and so I had to carry on with this same routine, until one day. It was Sunday, he came along with his friends and there was a new one. My husband came to me smiling, he introduced – “Sarah, this is Jonathan and Jonathan, this is my wife Sarah.” Jonathan was fair and had a slight athletic build. His blue eyes and his brown hair could grab anyone’s attention. His voice was soft, and slightly hard to hear. And he continued – ” You know what? She just makes the best pancakes ever. Sarah, could you make some, darling?”. I smiled and agreed, my husband left to play the game. At least, his friend was nice enough to thank me.

I was out of flour, and I was not going to move my ass out of the house, just to make my husband’s friend a pancake. I went to my husband, handed him over a slip, and no, he won’t stop playing, he wants to stay there itself. I rushed out, I was furious, I took the slip,money, I left to buy. His new friend wanted to accompany me. I suppose he was trying to be nice. I agreed, there was no reason to not.

“I am sorry. It was my fault to tell that I liked pancakes. I didn’t expect this.”

“No need to apologize, it’s not like you wanted it. I don’t have a problem.”

“I heard, you were married in college. Was he always into cards or just a new habit of his?”

“Oh, don’t ask me. He’s lost a lot in this and thanks to that, we just cancelled many of our dates. At least, after we got married, he worked very hard to maintain the marriage and his studies. ” I smiled.

“How far is this mart, we are heading to? Oh, by the way, you’re blushing.”

“Sorry, it’s just at the end of the street.” I smiled again.

We reached the mart, bought the stuff. Jonathan brought home all the ingredients. I went to the kitchen, without looking at Richard. I had sufficient items to make a lunch for everyone. I asked everyone to come to the dining table. Richard, Swift(another one of his friends) and Jonathan helped me in setting up the table. The lunch didn’t matter. What they wanted was the beer. Not that my food was bad, it’s just that the men couldn’t complete a dinner without beer. I just told them to go get the beer themselves. I was cold, but it did work. They all went to buy beer for themselves. Actually, they all went to the bar. It was fine with me. I’ll pretend it’s just another working day to him.

I was sleeping, until there was a call on the line. Guess who? It was Jonathan.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to wake you up.”
“No problem. Why aren’t you with them?”
“I am done. I don’t drink a lot, also I had to drive home. Uh, may I come in?”
“Sorry, let me just…come back to my senses.”

I ran to the hall, opened the door for Jonathan. I gave him a seat and sat there with him. A few moments of ‘alone’, and what do you expect from a lonely housewife? No, we didn’t kiss, neither did we talk. Just sitting together for a while, silently talking through heart, talking about each other’s desires, silently, without a word. We both knew, we were going to do something bad sooner or later.

2 months passed and Jonathan became his best friend, also mine. If Richard and I didn’t have fights, we could have stayed best friends. Now, he’s my affair. I know he’s using me for his physical desires. But at least, he’s noticing me. We would just wait for my husband to leave for the office. Initially everything is fun, my marriage, my affair….everything. Until, I got pregnant and that’s not because of my husband. This whole nine months, I could not find a trace of Jonathan on Sundays or on any other day. He just disappeared. He didn’t answer my calls. I understood, that was it. Just like any man, he also abandoned
me as soon as he knew he’s going to be a father.

I had a girl, her name Jennifer, since it started with’ J’. That should remind me of my mistakes everyday. Jonathan started appearing again, now, not as my husband’s Sunday friend. But, as a molester…as a black-mailer, he came to the house everyday. I was scared, what if my husband knew whose baby she was. He used me, with that excuse, everyday and sometimes, even when my husband was home. He insisted, he persuaded, he forced me to come out of the house, to his place. It got worse, when he got his friends too.

My daughter was growing up. She’s 5 now, and Jonathan didn’t stop yet. For 5 years, I have been his slave. This already affected my marriage, my husband’s starting to have doubts. He’s been getting angry, not that he’s just hurting me, he’s also hurting himself and the baby.

Jennifer, her gentle smile, was slowly turning into a disappointed frown. Her face, her scars, all of them, were making me remember my mistakes. It was time to face the truth. I had to get rid of Jonathan, rebuild my marriage and give my kid a happy life.

“I am not going to listen to you anymore. Leave me alone. If you are going to blackmail me with the truth. So be it, I myself am going to tell the truth to him. You can get the hell out my life now.”
I turned around to leave his house. He dragged me back. He pushed me onto his bed. I was scared, but to my shock….
“I am sorry, but don’t tell this to your husband. Please, he’s going to desert my daughter.”
He was crying. No matter what he did to me, he loved his daughter. I was happy, but again, I could not be with him anymore. I had to get rid of him. But I couldn’t and I don’t know why.

“Okay, promise me that you won’t use me. Promise that you will take care of your daughter. You will come home to love her.”
“Sure, I promise.”
I came home, I was happy, but again it’s Sunday and I am scared what my husband would do today.
“Sarah, come here. Cook me something NOW and I am going to kill you if it’s going to taste bad. My friends are coming and you better bring the beer before they arrive.”

My daughter was sleeping and it’s nice that she is. She didn’t have to listen to all of this. I silently went around, took the car keys and went to the bar to get the beer first and then, all of the ingredients. By the time I came back, his friends were back. Even Jonathan.

The food was served, but this time, it’s just me and Jonathan doing the serving.

We had our relation back, and I meant, the relation with Jonathan. The routine changed from ‘eat, sleep and clean the house’ to a very gross, indecent affair. It was not very long, that Jennifer got to know about our affair. We made love at the house, locking her in her room. I soon realized the reason I didn’t get rid of him back then. I was lonely, just like the time my husband went working. My daughter now 13, hates me more than Richard.

She hated her life, having been born to us. Slowly, I even realized Jonathan had me in mind, he never wanted the child. Jennifer was unwanted to neither of the men. I was unwanted to Richard and Jennifer. Richard was unwanted to me and Jonathan. Jonathan was unwanted to Richard and Jennifer.

How do I know, I am unwanted? This is the conversation my daughter had with Richard.

“Dad, she comes around with him all the time”

“Who is he?”

“I don’t know, but she walks around all the time with him, She does stuff with him”

“You wait. Let me check it myself”

The whole family got destroyed, just because of a simple affair. I asked Jonathan to take me to a date, all of a sudden, to check if at least, he loved me.

“Tell me, do you like me?”

“Yeah, I always did.” He rubbed his legs around mine under the table. When I looked at him, he winked. I knew he was lying.

“Would you marry me, if I left Richard?”

After a long pause..”Uhh, yes”

He’s lying. He can’t even hide his lies.”So be it, I am going to file a divorce tomorrow.”

“NO” His face was filled with terror. “Let’s have some more time together.”

“No, we are going to marry”

“Please, let me think of it. I am not sure if I should do this.”

“You had no problem telling me that you loved me, you have no problem in telling that you want tomarry me. But you just have the problem when I say the same?”

“How can I believe you, how am I going to marry a lady who’s had an affair?” He blurted out.

“So I am just a slut. who you can use whenever you want to? I am just a thing for you, you don’t love me,you just love sex. Leave me alone from now.”

I rushed out of the Cafe. He chased me, he caught me tight…”Please, give me time.”

“No…just leave me alone. You are just using me and now, you are just harassing me. Leave me alone.

People started to gather around. I shouted for help. He pushed me away. I had to go. I was sad, I was crying. No one cared.

::And now, I, Sarah Catherine James, husband of Richard James and merely a sexual affair to Jonathan Carrie, am going to end my life here and now. Just, like the leaves in the fall.

– by Vennam Vaibhav