Thursday, December 6, 2012

A Meander Through Memory After Death

A Meander Through Memory After Death

-        Saptarshi Basu

                               ( A piece of fiction )

       ‘Sahib, do we have such bombs in India’ Shantaram enquired with his funny idiotic look. I was getting highly annoyed as he was frequently stopping me with his bullshit questions. I looked around and the owl was still there, still trying to look through us for the humans. The abandoned machineries still kept their silence. Naren, you don’t have much choice after death, calm down, I said to myself. If this old piece of shit has the guts to ask me the same question while I walked alive, I would have surely taught him a good lesson. Asking about nuclear bomb to Naren Shekhawat, bloody slum dweller, doesn’t he know who I am? 

‘Didn’t you read newspapers, Shantaram’ my irritation was now reaching a peak. ‘Yes Sahib, we use to read the Lokjanbharti which was pasted on the walls of the nearby railway station. But it was mostly political news about what the local government did for us…new health plans, roads, drinking water, compensation to the poor…things which never got to us and things which they said was successfully completed. Years before the factory killed us, it was making us ill day after day. The factory sludge mixed with the drinking water made it undrinkable. But the paper said on our behalf that we were extremely happy and doing really well. Mostly it was full with all such stuffs’. ‘To answer you’ I cleared my throat and raised my voice a bit ‘yes India is highly capable of such things. And I was the pioneer of such nuclear experiments…be patient and we will come to it eventually’. I shortened my speech, flushing out the residual anger and went ahead with my tale.

                                                                       I took admission in Physics in Broadway University. My personal inclination, if you ask was same as of Seigo- Literature. But then Mamaji emphasized that to have a flourishing career you need to study science .By flourishing he meant money. Since Mamaji was a faculty of physics, my parents went ahead with his decision thinking it would be easier for me to get an admission. The same old Indian mentality! Anyways, leave it and so my fate was sealed- Physics. The initial days at the college happened to be a strenuous struggle for me .From my very childhood, I always dwelled within myself listening to the noises inside my head. Apart from Seigo, I didn’t have much of a friend in Shikohima. The sombre thoughts of my family also troubled me. In the lecturer classes where the professors taught different subjects ranging from magnetism to theory of relativity, I used to sit beside Li Mei exchanging smiling glances occasionally. Both being from the other side of the world, somewhere we connected.
                                                                       Rodney marsh was my first American friend in college. We use to call him Rod. Texas born, Rod completed his high school from Godchurch Institute in Arlington and then took up physics at Broadway. A tall lanky guy with auburn hair, he had the air of a Hollywood star. It was only from Rod that I came to know that most of his friends treated ‘Japs’ as virtually subhuman beasts. The hatred had grown more taking shape of inferno in American’s heart after the Pedlar Harbour incident. I explained to Rod that basically I was an Indian and that my family had migrated to Japan very recently. I had to alter my ancestral history a bit to avoid being bullied and harassed by other students. Li Mei always kept quite but attentively listened to all our conversations. I once asked her what her opinion was about war and she shrugged at the very mentioning of it. I was surprised that such a soft girl like her had a horrible past. Li Mei’s grandfather died fighting in Manchuria. We were sitting on the college lawn where white butterflies sat on the grass flowers. I quietly listened as she described how the Kwantung army bombarded a railway station near Huanggutun, a plot to kill the Manchurian warlord Zhang Zuolin. Tan Chungui, Li Mei’s grandfather was his general and personal bodyguard. I was shaken with fear as Li Mei described how he lost his two hands in the explosion and how the enemy soldiers dragged his still alive body, pissed on it and beheaded him. His head was then posted atop a bamboo pole as a sign of victory. I still remember the day when she told the story. She cried continuously for half an hour on my lap. I felt it was somewhere deep within, piercing her each moment blooding her soul. I didn’t had much to console her .I remained silent slowly caressing her light black hair.

             Shantaram looked eager and I felt he wanted to share his thoughts. Although I was least bothered about his opinion, I allowed him to vomit up his rural illiterate feelings. ‘Sahib, I have heard of Chinese chicken manchurian….Salim Mia used to prepare the best in whole of Mauthganj. During diwali, we all gathered near his Firdous Dhaba gobbling up chowmein with chicken manchurian. Are you speaking of that Manchurian, Sahib. But never thought there was a nation called Manchuria’. I could clearly see him drooling at the very thought of food. Now, that is the basic problem of these almost naked, half-fed, skinny, lice infested clan. They will just hear a word from god knows where and think they know everything. ‘Shantaram’ I tried to be as polite as possible ‘Manchuria is not chicken manchurian for heaven’s sake, it’s a place near China's eastern seaboard almost barren’. Shantaram had now got more confused, I could see. ‘Then why so much fight, Sahib over a barren piece of land’. ‘Because of natural resources. Manchuria had enormous reserve of iron, coking coal, soybeans, salt and above all the land in itself was one of the major attractions’. I rebuked myself for the futile attempt of explaining world politics to the rustic shanty dweller and returned to my story.

                                       Mamaji disliked Li Mei from the very first day she came to our house in south west Jordon. We were having a quite stroll down the swirling road dwindling down towards the Greencity Park. It was a beautiful evening with an orange sky. Li Mei was feeling cold so I offered my Carhartt winter coat to her. It was a gift from Mamaji after few days of my arrival in Utah. A black furred one, long down to the knees and a hood on top. I invited Li Mei for a cup of coffee. As we entered,I was surprised to see Mamaji at home at 6 pm in the evening. Generally his official hours spread quite late .At times, I used to dine alone and go to sleep. Later Mamaji asked me if something was going between us and I fearfully said no. ‘Naren, I hope you concentrate more on your studies. Off late I am getting disturbing feedback about you. And stop hanging out with that noodle chic’ he kept it short.  I could clearly gaze the anger in his eyes through the Scotch glass in his hand.

       Indeed, my performance was ailing mostly due to my lack of interest in physics rather than mixing with Li Mei. The images of beautiful times I spend in shikohima also pained me at times hindering my concentration. But I couldn’t tell that to Mamaji as already he had done a lot for me. I held him in high regard at the depths of my heart and always acknowledged his help. Mamaji was a widower having lost his wife in an accident. It happened almost five years back before I came to live with him. He never re-married till his death. I had heard from my mother that Mamaji was married to the only daughter of Jon Sorenson, a stinking rich American owning a real estate conglomerate. It was Sorenson who gave a new turn to Mamaji’s fortune wheel. After his death, the whole wealth was passed on to her daughter and eventually to Mamaji when Mrs. Jacqueline Chouhan died pathetically on the Timpanogos highway near the Utah-Arizona border. Mamaji continued his job as a lecturer in Broadway University rather than joining Jon Corporation which he now owned. Mathew uncle took care of all the day to day operations. It was only from him that I came to know it was not an accident. At a celebration night held by Mamaji for having got a promotion, a drunken Mr. Wilson reeking with alcohol had sipped the crucial information to me before rushing to toilet with severe bouts of vomiting.

                             My father use to write once a month reminding me of my responsibilities .Being a strict authoritarian, his letter started with the family doing quite well and contained a elongated list of  preaching and advices for me. My mother seldom wrote and somewhere I terribly missed her love in my father’s letters.  Seigo kept his promise of writing two letters each week. From him I came to know that the Ebisukou festival where people bought good luck charms has passed away and the flower festival was approaching. ‘Naka’ he used to call me by that name.Shantaram who was unexpectedly quite for a long time, giggled. ‘Sahib, he called you Naka ….haaa…haaa’ he burst out laughing. Annoyed, I told him that Naka meant fire in Japanese. Seigo wrote ‘I really missed you on Yokaichi kite flying competition. Remember Naka, how we use to buy those enormous dragon kites from Mituashi’s shop. We use to run at the very site of a falling kite. I didn’t compete this time. Didn’t feel like. Without you those colourful kites with long tails has no meaning. I watched those boys from the nearby Shimusiko colony sprinting to grab the prized catch and it reminded me of you. How it is in America. You know, Last week I read 'The Adventures of Tom Sawyer' by Mark Twain. How are your studies going on? I heard things are worsening rapidly. We have got accustomed to the sight of the American aircrafts hovering above us all the time. The Japanese army have lost bitterly in the battle of Iwo Jima .I heard that our brothers fought valiantly. Even local civilians joined the war. The fight last around two months but then luck was not at our side. One thing is good though, the battle might now come to an end soon but the fate of the Emperor still hangs in loom’. I read the letter for the second time. A silent tear dropped on the bluish mail making a rounded patch. Folding it, I kept the letter preciously in the folder specially meant for Seigo. I looked out of the window .Sun soaked in the greenish trees with purple bloom. I checked the date and it said April, 1945. Somewhere, in the utmost hidden chambers of the nuclear lab, Little Lad was slowly gaining power. An enormous power to kill a million sinners as we have all sinned. 

My friend Rod who watched the event in television later said that the purple mushroom cloud which almost touched heaven after the bomb was dropped was quite an interesting sight.


Saptarshi Basu, a Gold Medallist in Mechanical Engineering, has been in the IT industry for the last 8 years and he has worked for the top 3 IT companies of India (INFOSYS,TCS & WIPRO). However, writing has always been his first love and passion. His debut novel Love {Logic} and the God's Algorithm is now a national best-seller in Infibeam, a premier online store. His second novelAutumn in My Heart, published by Vitasta Publishing with Times group launched in november'11, has already created a lot of stir due to its theme on homosexuality. Visit his website for more information

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