Thursday, March 7, 2013


-         Saptarshi Basu

                                                      (a piece of fiction)

My father once said - for people like us, it’s not the food what makes you strong but your hope. The day it dies, you are gone.

Walking back on that crimson evening with neon lights passing by, I suddenly remembered him. A man of few words he was, and plentiful beatings. His acute bony structure swayed back and forth like a bamboo tree in that alcoholic trance as he kept on beating me. Till both the stick and the man would succumb. To pressures of unknown dimensions.The last time I saw him, his silent legs swayed like a pendulum from our ceiling fan. Perhaps, his hopes died that day. As for me, it was now on all time high. Arjun Sir has accepted to look at my manuscript contradicting Mallick Da’s prophecy. Also, my faith on the present government exceeded my faith on myself. Million dollar investments, new factories, special packages for the poor – the banners coloured the wind with good news. I dreamt of extinction of my dreadful days. Then I looked at my watch and birds flying home, and panicked. I might miss the appointment with Dr. Shetty at Amherst clinic, I thought. I walked rapidly to the bus stand. I took the shortest path while meandering through narrow streets. I saw a young couple kiss in that broken light of the evening, and I cursed the whole generation. A generation without shame. A generation too bold. They fear nothing, and they respect nothing.I ran like a leopard at the glimpse of the bus and hung myself at the foot-stand. Sweaty bodies cling to each other in home returning rush. Like a swarm of mosquitoes over an oil-stricken head. Flat buttocks and bulged bottoms sharply pointed towards the pavement. I elbowed a few fat men and grumbling women, squeezing myself inside. Somewhere, I was deeply happy. Even after a gloomy sale something fruitful happened today. The bus moved in halts while remaining tilted to one side. Like an absent minded professor on his evening walk. I dreamt of uninterrupted happiness. The prospect of having the prosperity of three square meals a day .Of perfumed smell of freshly bought school books for Binu. Of a life less ordinary. ‘Dada, please stand properly’ the petite girl with small conical breasts and long eyelashes scolded me. I was standing on one leg next to her. Her face grimaced as she measured me carefully. With such abundant happiness in my heart, I was in no mood for a skirmish. I turned back to the right side where hungry smell of freshly baked samosa wafted inside the bus.

                               The hunger was growling inside as I came down from the bus .But with just six rupees left with me, I had little option left. I went to a nearby tea stall and drank vigorously from the jug. Water soothed my empty stomach a bit. I lighted a bidi and walked briskly towards the clinic. Dusk slowly engulfed the shallowing brightness. Street lights reflected on speeding car windows. Like your past haunting and taunting you and speeding away in the present .The milky white appearance of Amherst clinic looked grey in that gloomy darkness as I entered. Rich cars were parked on the alley beside petite fashioned bushes. The bushes looked like little children hiding in the dark .Rich people with rich cars. I walked into the general ward and waited just outside Dr. Shetty’s chamber. Tired ailing faces roamed on the corridors. Some howling and screeching ones lay on the floor. Poor people with rich diseases. Fat nurses with uncovered legs roamed and ran up and down .With serious expressions and jumping heart. A child kept playing with the IN and OUT outside the doctor’s chamber. His mother concentrating on her makeup while periodically threatening her son. Rich people with rich diseases. Their names formed strangely inside the mouth of the matron and spitted out at the top of her voice. Mr.C  Aslaaam , Mr C  Aslaaam, Mr K  Mooonshi ,Mrs. S  Bannorjeee... . I was thinking how to manage without the doctor’s fee when the attendant called me in. A gorgeously clad bulky lady was coming out and I squeezed myself by her side. The doctor was in all smiles looking at me. ‘Hey, how are you PannaLal, sit...sit...and how is Binu’ while scrubbing something deep inside his mouth with a toothpick. ‘Well, Sir...very good Sir...With all your blessings, Sir’ suddenly I was at a loss of words. ‘See PannaLal, I must say Binu’s case is a promising one. We shouldn’t lose hope.’ Dr Shetty stood up from his chair and called for the attendant. ‘Tea?’ he asked and I humbly refused. Drinking tea without the doctor fees didn’t seem like a good idea. ‘See...all we need is the money’ he again started. ‘So when are you thinking of getting all the money for the operation’ .I was always weak in maths, weak in most of the subjects I must say. That complex calculation was too tough for me. I dropped out at class ten after my father’s suicide. I feebly smiled at the doctor and said that I was trying hard. ‘You must’ he increased a few decibels and then suddenly looked immersed in his thoughts. I was thinking how to break the word of the missing fees to him. I already knew the futility of this visit but happened to succumb to the doctor’s fixed check-up dates. Only that the patient was not with me today. I was watching those smiling faces of children in the posters hung all across the room, when suddenly he spoke again. ‘I think, you shouldn’t do any further delay. If the operation is done immediately, Binu can walk, go to school, and enjoy his life. Think this way’ he said, pressed his lower lip with the upper and stopped. His gaze was now fixed on me. I was feeling guilty you know, of being a father. Of being a helpless father. I felt weak in my head. Baba, will I ever go to school?  - Those words of Binu again started pestering me .Vibrating on the hollow walls of my head. ‘PannaLal, are you listening?’ the doctor raised his voice. ‘Yes Sir, yes Sir...very well Sir...I, Sir...try, Sir...’. And then in that final moment of truth, I had to say about the missing fees. I begged, pleaded almost went to his legs. ‘Ok, ok...bring it next time’ he made an angry face and called the attendant. ‘Call the next patient in’ he ordered. I rubbed the dust off my glazed trousers and left.

                                         I reached our bustee, our slum somewhat around nine. Eyes heavy with sleep, head reeling, my legs painfully darted in the muddy dust. Endless darkness wrapped our pigeonholes where even your shadow leaves you alone. The thick air smelled of fart, daylong sweat and cries of domestic violence. Tired, drunken husbands assaulting the modesty of their wives. Trying to eliminate their day long shame by shaming their wives. Erasing inflicted insults with inflicted pain .A few scuffles, catfights here and there. Some hand rickshaws called it a day and waited silently for the next morning. A thick stagnant cloud emerged from its footstand. Madan and Mukul were sitting there, sporadically emitting balls of dense smoke. The clogged municipal drain carried bits of everything and remained undulated. Like a dead green snake.The smell coming out of it was mixed and confusing. As I crossed the cowshed which stood at the junction, I stopped .Painful cries of Mangala, the Bihari Doodhwala’s wife pierced the silence of the night. It goes on night after night. Somewhere in my heart, I have a fondness for her. I don’t know how it grew, but looking at her deep kajal -filled bovine eyes my heart occasionally skips a beat. Her enormous asset inside her crisp silk blouse is also an attraction. Her gait very much resembles Budhia- their cow. Sluggish, dreamy, peaceful. Months later, when hell broke loose on my life’s boundary, I felt her softness on one sudden winged evening. When tenderness burst into flower and the worm waited to return in my doomed life.

                          A few children along with their mothers responded to the call of nature behind the bushes and shrubs. I could hear their grunts, groan and moaning. I thought of Binu and mother .They would be eagerly waiting for me. And for their dinner. I neglected a few friendly calls coming from behind and briskly walked to Nimai Da’s shop. Six rotis, a shady looking curry and a bottle of Fifty Up- our economical country liquor. Mostly, this was my night’s ration. I cajoled Nimai Da to add the amount to my already humongous pending credit and ran home.  

                    Shadows of hunger smeared my walls as I entered. The damp smell of half-dried vests and underpants welcomed me home .Binu lovingly took my bag away and searched for an invisible candy. Binu shaped autumn cloud searching for a candy. My mother cried, shouted and complained for the water problem moving into its sixth day. I emptied her bed pan in the drain. Then Binu and I sat for dinner, and mother took it in the bed. Silence proceeded. There was a lot of ambition packed into my hot little room. Binu with his elephant shaped autumn cloud ambition, me with my erotic novel ambition and mother with her early death ambition. The dinner was finished off quickly and then Binu silently went to bed. ‘How was your day, Baba’ he asked. As I went to kiss him goodnight. A soft tired smile laced his face reminding me of her mother.  I smiled and said it was good. Same question, same answer. Night after night. Father and son. Asking him to close his eyes, I stroked his hair for a few minutes. Thinking about Bakul and her fairy tales. Her sleepy voice. Binu wouldn’t sleep without them. That rich prince who came on a large white horse with wide wings, that princess who was kidnapped. All such stories. With happy ending always. Where at the end, evil loses and good wins. Within minutes, Binu was deeply breathing, his eyes closed, his mind roaming on a dreamy land .Binu shaped autumn cloud watering soft yellow flowers at heaven’s door. Giant sized insect shadows hovered on my walls. Busy burning themselves on the flickering flame .I put out the kerosene lamp and made two large pegs in the moonlight. While silently watching the moon playing hide and seek behind the Gulmohar tree. In that moonlight all trees glistened naked and dark as if they had unclothed themselves, and the green things on earth seemed to hum with greenness. Just after finishing off the first one, a loud bang occurred on my door. I opened and saw Babu standing irritated. He has come to take me to Bula Di,our local Counciller for complaining about the troublesome water supply. He quickly came inside and finished my second peg as I searched a decent dress. My underwear kept for drying from the very morning was still wet. I cursed my luck .For not finding a proper dress for such an important visit. A woman is very much needed at home to do all such stuffs. Like drying your underwear and cooking for you. I got hold of a torn pyjama and a pale looking shirt and changed into it. I thought of applying perfume on my sweaty body but the bottle was empty. Perhaps, it was empty for endless times. And then we went straight to Councillor Bula Di’s decorated office.

About Myself:

Saptarshi Basu, a Gold Medallist in Mechanical Engineering, has been in IT industry for last 8 years and has worked for the top 3 IT companies of India (INFOSYS,TCS & WIPRO). However, writing has always been first love, his 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 Novel , AUTUMN IN MY HEART published by Vitasta Publishing with Times group (Times of India) launched in november'11 has already created a lot of stir due on causes of broken heart and homosexuality.

                                              Saptarshi Basu does motivational speaking and was invited from Jaipur Engineering College and Research Centre (JECRC) to address their Annual National Tech-Fest Renaissance -March, 2012.He was also invited as a guest poet to international Poetry festival at Guntur, India.

                              Blogging and travelling are the biggest pursuit of him.He had subsequently travelled and lived in London, Toronto, San Francisco, Dubai till he came back to Kolkata, his hometown.

                Saptarshi Basu also does screenplay writing for movies and writes columns for some online magazines like Asiacha- an international journal, museindia and others .

His children’s fiction ‘ The Zoo-break Adventures’ has been taken up by a renowned international animation company to be made into an animated series.


The novels have been widely reviewed by media in leading newspapers like The Hindu, Times of India, The Telegraph, Mumbai Mirror, Political and business Daily and others.
A comprehensive list with pics is given here: