Friday, July 19, 2013

DRS adds to the Glorious Uncertainty of Test Cricket

Hot Spot is literally in hot spot again. While in the first test, Hot Spot couldn't conclusively state that Trott had nicked the ball onto his pads since the television replays showed a clear deflection in the trajectory of the ball, from off-and-middle to middle-and-leg, as it went pass Trott's bat. The field umpire Alim Dar had declared at first that  Trott was not out. Later he had to reluctantly overrule that decision as reviewed by the third umpire Erasmus based on the straight-on Hot-Spot camera.

 It was only later that Warren Brennan, the inventor of the Hot Spot technology that uses thermal imaging & simulation software to spot the faintest nicks, apologized that the side-on camera was not ready when Trott came in immediately after Root was out  as that specific camera was still replaying Root's dismissal. I thought that the streaming data from a digital camera is archived and replayed from that archive and anyway the time available after a batsman's dismissal and the new batsman's arrival, taking guard & being ready is between 3-5 minutes. Further advertisements anyway take over the "bonus-time." Brennan's statement is as inconclusive as his invented technology.

Now consider the dismissal of Joe Root in the second test. Ryan Harris's delivery sneaked through the tiny space between Root's bat and pad and crashed on his pads. The on-field umpire, Dharamsena gave him out but Root pressed for a review. The straight-on camera as well as the  side-on camera (it was working this time around) picked up a faint nick from the bat as well as the brush on the pad but they still couldn't say conclusively whether the ball hit the bat or the pad first. One tiny hot-spot on the pad , that showed up via the side-on camera , and was in front of 3 big ones seemed to suggest that the ball hit  the  pad first although the same camera failed to show the nick on the bat since the inside-edge of the bat was hidden to this camera. Now the suggestion that the ball kissed the pad first before it brushed through both his bat and pad,  was possibly more probable but was surely not a 100% perfect decision since the cameras failed to either show both "hits" on the same camera or to show evidences such as time-stamps of the hot-spot impacts. Root's challenge was turned down and he was declared out, again.

The point is Hot Spot has its blind spots besides malfunctioning of equipment and/or of the operators, poor quality of equipment etc. Even if  an attempt is being made to plug the thermal loopholes by simulation, the same would have its intrinsic error and will not be 100%. Besides, the Indian team, Dhoni & BCCI have long been pointing out that the simulated trajectory of a cricket ball , played out by Hawk Eye, in varying type of pitches is error prone as the ball will normally have 8-10 feet to travel , in varying wind conditions, after it hits the pitch. Supporting the Indian point of view; Adam Gilchrist in a recent article suggests that questioning the decision of the test-match umpires, in the first place, is against the spirit of the game.  He feels that the Decision Review System (DRS) is the problem and not the solution.

The Decision Review System (DRS) , with its inherent imperfections, is not making the job of cricketers & captains any simpler. Least of all that of the umpires. It's the latter that are being put into hot spots, literally. ICC's clarification that the correctness of decisions has improved by 5.5% from 90.3% , with the help of DRS, reveals  more on the errors of the on-field umpires (nearly 10%)  than it hides  the inadequacies of the DRS and hot-spot technology.

It's time that the ICC does a fresh review of  DRS and bring back the old charm of a test match, built with its own uncertainties. A part of the latter will stem from the umpires; whose decisions on-field whether to review or not will need to be accepted by all instead of holding up a game for endless minutes as the third umpire pores over inconclusive images made out of  ill-equipped technologies.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Headless Torso (Chapter 3)

Introduction and Chapter 1 : Inner Chamber, here.
Chapter 2 : Pollen in the air , here.

                     Headless Torso (translation of a novel by Shaibal Mitra)

                          Chapter 3 : I want to become a communist
The reason as to why student unions of all kinds of ideologies, whether leftist , rightist or centrist, avoided Kalpalata wasn’t unknown to me. She seemed as familiar as she appeared to be a stranger. It was my good fortune that I wasn’t drawn into any kind of discussion with her on matters concerning students’ politics. In spite of her being in the close circle of Pranabesh Sen; who was a student leader of  Students’ Block, the student union of Forward Block; nobody was aware  as to why Kalpalata had one afternoon slapped   Pranabesh. Either of Pranabesh or Kalpalata had refused to speak on the subject. Once  Kalpalata had downright insulted Surjo , leader of our students’ unions, in front of a host of students, both male and female. She had said, “ Surjo’da, you have taken eight years to complete a four year degree course. It’s been a year since you have passed the B.A undergraduate course. Why have you not been able to get over your fascination with the college life? Why do you come to the college, daily? What attracts you here? Have you not been able to get admitted to the university?”

Before Kalpalata could restart her tirade, Surjo had turned around and  hastily walked away. Kalpalata’s girlfriends had almost rolled on the floor, laughing hysterically. The sound of their laughter had even caught the surprised attention of the students spread out in small groups farther away inside  the college premises.  The closing bells of the college had just then rung aloud. Students had started thronging out of the college. That departure of Surjo had been his last as he never again returned to college. Kalpalata hadn’t been wrong. During those times, student leaders were reluctant to leave the college. Their classmates, who were younger  to them by many years, would address them as “uncle” behind their backs & speculated  when they’d get a chance to address them as “grandpa.” Of course, the leaders, whenever  they heard such remarks, didn’t pay any attention. Surjo hadn’t taken his “expulsion” from college  very sportingly. He suspected that I was behind the move to instigate Kalpalata and her friends. Obviously, his suspicion was unfounded. I didn’t have enough influence on Kalpalata to use her for my selfish motivations. On the contrary, just the opposite had happened. Kalapalata had actually used me to drive away Surjo from the college and also to fetch Arindam to a predetermined address. Had I not read Kalpalata’s letter to Arindam, I wouldn’t have understood her plan. Sitting at my study-table  in the silence of the midnight;  I realized that even though Kalpalata hadn’t been able to read Arindam’s intentions , Arindam had been successful in  reaching the depths of  her psyche. How did an unnoticeable, quiet guy like Arindam manage to tame Kalpalata was beyond my understanding. I was of the impression that only Kalpalata could throw some light on that matter. I didn’t have any other option but to visit Kalpalata if I wanted to find out about Arindam’s present whereabouts or his wellbeing. The ghost of Arindam at last  settled on me, permanently.   
For three to four days, I wasn’t able to get hold of Kalpalata at the college in spite of looking out for her everywhere. Multiple people had multiple opinions on the number of days Kalpalata had attended college after the food movement.  I wasn’t able to get any clear information. I didn’t want to delay matters further. That same week on a saturday evening, I nervously arrived at  Kalpalata’s house in Sovabazar. Her house was a traditionally-styled  double-storied one surrounded by high walls with iron gates. The main door was a huge double-flanked wooden one with chiseled decorative figures. On the right side, there was a well-polished bronze name plate inscribed with her lawyer father’s name. Her father was among the top lawyers in the criminal court. Accosted by the durwan I reached her drawing room , that seemingly belonged to the era of Lord Clive, and got almost drowned as I sat on the soft cushions of the sofa. The floor was adorned with triangular shaped black and white marble tiles. Huge paintings hung  from bronze chains on the wall and the air in the room smelt of a bygone era. Just when I was sweating away on the sofa; Kalpalata,  with her long hair arranged in a bun that rested just over her shoulder, entered the room.  She was wearing a white cotton sari adorned  with blue dots .Her fair skinned face looked oily and tiny drops of sweats rested on her sharp, conical nostrils. Although it seemed that Kalpalata had almost run in a hurry  down the stairs, she didn’t let her expressions betray that. Kalpalata came near the sofa and asked, “You! So suddenly?”

I didn’t like her question. It carried within itself a casual strain of indifference, of a disregard. Kalpalata wouldn’t be unaware of my fifteen days of imprisonment. She never mentioned a word of it. Even if the intention was to enquire about Arindam, a twenty-one year old boy could surely have some little expectations of being welcomed. I too had the same hopes. The memories of Dakshineswar , from fourteen months ago, were burning inside me. Just one casual question from Kalpalata brushed away all hopes into thin air. Rising from the sofa, I said to Kalpalata, “ I need to speak to you.”
-Speak to me ?

Lightly wiping away the droplets of sweat from her forehead & nose with her sari’s ornamented border, Kalpalata looked at me for a moment and said, “Take your seat.”
As I took my seat , Kalpalata  sat on a cushioned chair in a relaxed manner. She asked, “Would you like some tea?”

It’s not unusual to lose temper for those who are lifelong accustomed to hearing only “Yes,” when they hear a “No.” Even after noticing the re-emergence of droplets of sweat on Kalpalat’s strikingly fair face, I didn’t pay any heed. I wanted to leave the place as soon as I had fulfilled my purpose. I asked Kalpalata, “ Do you know anything about Arindam?”
-His whereabouts or his address?
-Address of his house in Bali?

Kalpalata was silent for a few moments before asking me, “ What gave you the idea that I’ll have information about Arindam?”

Brushing aside her question I said, “If I have Arindam’s address at Bali, I’d like to visit him.”
-Arindam isn’t there.
-Who all are there?
-His cousin sister, her husband and their children.
-Can I get that address?

Looking at me for a second, Kalpalata got up and went to the end of the room near a cupboard. She brought out a diary from the cupboard , leafed through its pages and stopped at a page. She copied the address on a small piece of paper, put the diary back in the cupboard and brought out an envelope . Handing  me the small piece of paper , she said, “This is Arindam’s address in Bali.”
Pausing for a moment, she said , “ I have enquired. Arindam is not present there.”

-His sister will surely have some news about Arindam.
Kalpalata resettled on her chair. She said, “ Along with Arindam's house address at Chandrakona, I’d got three more addresses at Bardhaman, Murshidabad, Nadia from his Bali address. All of them are his relatives’ homes. Two sisters stay in two addresses. They may not be his own sisters but they love him like their own brother and their kids too adore their uncle. Whenever Arindam gets any opportunity, he visits his sisters’ homes. But right now, he isn’t there in any of those places.”

Although Kalpalata’s tone was casual , I could feel that her marbled drawing-room was trembling. I enquired, “Has Arindam met with any accident?”
-How do you know?

She handed me the envelope she was brought out from the cupboard and said, “This is a letter from Arindam. Read it if you wish to.”
I read the letter. In reply to three long letters from Kalpalata, Arindam had penned a seven-line letter. I knew about the content of the letter. But I read it still. Arindam was seriously thinking about how to change the world and was reading a lot of material on the subject. My gaze was fixed for a long time at the last line that was highlighted by a red-coloured pencil . It read , “I want to become a communist.” I couldn’t tell her that irrespective of his desire to change the world, there is a always a possibility for Arindam to die in the process or to meet with an accident .  It wasn’t also proper to tell that. I too was a kid then. I hardly knew anything. I kept quite that I had in my possession Kalpalata’s four-page letter in reply to Arindam’s seven-line letter. Even Arindam wasn’t aware about the misplacement of that letter.

Inserting the letter back into the envelope, I returned it to Kalpalata.  She said, “Arindam has kept his tabla at his Bali address. His sister is of the opinion that Arindam will return for the tabla. “
After remaining silent for a second, Kalpalata again said, “ I am also of the same opinion.”

Why? I couldn’t ask her that although I had wished to. Although I wasn’t clear about what Kalpalata said, the last line of Arindam’s  letter started buzzing like a fly in my head. Taking leave from her drawing room as I got back on the road, a question was playing incessantly in my mind. Why does Arindam want to become a communist? Will he be able to become one? I was unable to figure out as to why he will  require his pair of  tabla in order to become a communist.

End of Chapter 3
To be continued.

Also Read
Introduction and Chapter 1 :Inner Chamber
                              Chapter 2 : Pollen in theair

Copyright of translation : JAS 2013

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Meghey Dhaka Tara (Star obscured by clouds)- review of a film by Dr. Kamaleswar Mukherjee

Although at the onset of Megeh Dhaka Tara , the Director Dr. Kamaleshwar Mukherjee states that the story line is fictional and has no direct or indirect connection with any character, living or dead; even the crow scavenging at  Kolkata’s depleting garbage dumps knows that the Meghe Dhaka Tara is largely based on the life and works of the late maverick filmmaker  of Bengal, Ritwik Ghatak.  

Set in the period during late 1960s when Naxalite turmoil had engulfed the intelligentsia of Bengal & Calcutta , the story is placed metaphorically at a mental asylum in Calcutta. The protagonist Neelkantha is an award-winning but commercially unsuccessful film maker  and also an alcoholic, who  has been admitted in the asylum by his wife to treat him for his addiction. While trying to delve into the psyche of Neelkantha in order to understand the root cause of his addiction, the Doctor in charge of the hospital gets gradually drawn in by the talented Neelkantha’s account of the background of his life and his works both in theater and films. Neelkantha talks about his childhood in East Bengal , the riverine delta of Padma, the great Bengal famine of 1943, the migration to Calcutta of West Bengal, the separation of Bengal, the oppression of the colonial rulers on the protesting farmers, the inevitable emergence of the people’s theater by  a group of committed artists ,theater workers, film makers; the influence of Brecht, Gorky etc. on the art-forms of  people theater; the struggle for livelihood &  the consequent conflicts with ideology. The Doctor is still clueless whether Neelkantha’s addiction is an inspiration for his creativity or merely an expression of his frustration at his commercial failure. Neelkantha’s angst, his uncompromising stance of using art as a weapon to fight the oppressive arms of the state on behalf of the people or his conviction that he can  betray everything excepting his beliefs & thoughts   get to re-express themselves at the asylum when he decides to stage a play with the inmates of the asylum. In between there is a  police raid & an identification parade of the inmates (which the Doctor protests calling it ironically “an insane act” ) in the asylum looking for a fugitive Naxalite which angers Neelkantha but doesn’t deter him from smuggling in bottles of alcohol with the help of some of his inmates. The Doctor upgrades his treatment for Neelkantha  from medications  to Electric shocks but can’t calm down Neelkantha as he struggles, shouts, cajoles, pleads, chides  to motivate the inmates of the mental asylum for staging the play. The play is finally staged and the film ends with Neelkantha going out of the backstage to an open field with Phulmoni ( a raped tribal girl & a mental patient)  as if liberated, finally. 

The film constantly moves between 1943 and 1969 as Neelkantha describes his life , his failure to earn money, the loss of most  of his comrades and friends to lure and lucre of commercial films, his running battle with addiction and his love for the common man , the mentally-tortured  man. In a way Meghe Dhaka Tara sets to the viewers a background to explain  the sustenance of leftist philosophy, although deviated in principles, in Bengal. The devastation of the famine ; the uprooting of  significant population of Bengal during 1943, 1947 & 1971; the oppression of the state , the conflict between communists and nationalists are portrayed thoughtfully and artfully in Neelkantha’s accounts to the Doctor.
Meghe Dhaka Tara is pictured in Black and White and brings back the romance of B/W pictures, the juxtapositions of light and shadow and inscribes an archival quality to a story that the director claims is neither a documentary nor a biopic. But the crow at the garbage dump realizes that the movie is heavily inspired by Ritwik’s Ghatak last movie, “Jukti, Tokko, Golpo,” not only in its narrative but also in the names of the characters as well as in some of its shots & frames. Like the dancers in black during that play in the asylum or the dream sequence which shows the killing of the protagonist in the Sal forest caught as he was in a crossfire between the naxalites and the police.

The soundtrack is excellent and the selection & rendition of background songs (moder kono desh nai or bondor, bondor etc.) are   superb. Debojyoti Mishra’s fantastic music just blends seamlessly with the film. The editing is structured as it flashes the symbols and the cinematic moments (which are in plenty) without dwelling on each of them for eternity.
A mention must be made of Shaswata Chatterjee , who  was simply marvelous in his portrayal of Neelkantha and deserves a national award. The restrained acting of Abir Chatterjee as the Doctor and that of the supporting actress Ananya Chatterjee as Neelkantha’s wife , Durga can’t escape an ordinary viewer’s acclaim.   

There are other characters in the movie which the crow alleges are inspired by other notable personalities such as filmmakers  like Mrinal Sen & Hrishikesh Mukherje; actors like Shobha Sen, Kali Bannerjee, Bijon Bhattachrya, Charuprakash Ghosh, Supriya Devi;  music directors like Salil Chowdhury  etc. But the viewers will be disappointed if they are bent on identifying them during the movie for the the director hardly dwells on sketching their characters.

Overall, Meghe Dekha Tara was an audaciously unique audio-visual experience for a Bengali movie goer in a time when well-packaged  spoofs  or irrelevant urban angst set in high-rises of Calcutta are being heralded as new age films. Most importantly, the movie evokes rational thinking as strongly as emotional feeling among the viewers. Kudos to director Kamaleswar Mukhopadhyay for showing the audacity to make his fourth film, Meghe Dhaka Tara and I , for one, will be waiting with anticipation for his fifth venture, Chander Pahar based on Bibhutibhashan Bandopadhya’s novel of the same name.

JAS rating : 9 out of 10         

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Headless Torso (Chapter 2)

Read Chapter 1 : Inner Chamber, here
                                        Headless Torso  (translation of a novel by Shaibal Mitra) 
                                       Chapter ,2  : Pollen in the air

The food movement was over within a fortnight and along with hundreds of political prisoners, I too was released from jail. Next day I got a hero’s reception in the college. Girls from junior classes made a beeline to visit me. The whole day was spent in letting them to meet me. Two of my ex-leaders, Surjo Ghoshal and Uday Sen, also came and met me. Surjo patted me on my back. Uday of course was still singing paeans about Keshut leaves. Amidst all the commotion and praises around me , I wanted to know about Arindam. However I did not notice any posters or wall-writings promising to remember Arindam, the martyr, for eternity. A tad  relieved, I still had no news about Arindam.

Only a few of his class mates actually knew the taciturn Arindam. It was pretty hard to access  those who knew him. Even Bibhash, who was aware of Arindam’s mastery on the tabla , had left six months ago after completing his course. Piecing together small bits of information from a few , I found out that  his full name was Arindam Moulik. Not Sanyal or Bhowmik, his surname was actually Moulik. Out of the three Arindams, whose deaths were reported in the newspaper, I had guessed  that at least two were not our Arindam. I had doubts about the third who was reported dead in Medinipur & whose surname was not mentioned. Even knowing that his real name was Arindam Moulik didn’t help in clearing those doubts.  I tried to arrange the events logically. If the dead Arindam from Medinipur  was our Arindam Moulik then by this time news would definitely have reached the college. Since it hadn’t , it implied that our Arindam was not dead. He is alive.

During the tumultuous days of the food movement, many had noticed Arindam in several places though not in Calcutta. Descriptions from such eye witnesses started reaching me. It was not possible for me to figure out how much of those descriptions were confabulated. Along with the workers of the Hindmotor factory, Arindam had been sighted fighting the police after blocking the west-side level crossing at the Konnagar railway station. Possibly so. Later he had moved away from that place. Forty-eight hours later, he had been sighted again in Asansol. Although his address in Asansol wasn’t known, a few notified that he had stayed over the next night at a cheap hotel in Mahajantuli, a red light area of Bardhaman, alone. From Bardhaman, he had been to Medinipur. Arindam had been present  during sporadic  clashes of students against the police  that occurred for two consecutive evenings in Medinipur. The one to notice him in Medinipur was Noushad Ali. Noushad was Arindam’s schoolmate. After describing to me in detail about the clashes in Medinipur, Noushad said to me that the Arindam who was shot dead by the police in Medinipur didn’t have Moulik as his surname. After the movement had become subdued, Arindam along with Noushad had left Medinipur for Shalboni. Noushad had then put Arindam on a bus going towards Chandrakona and had himself started for Calcutta.

Although various bits of news made me completely directionless about Arindam’s whereabouts, I had half a feeling that he was still alive. Another week passed with my attending various meetings & gatherings commemorating my release from prison. Classes resumed in the college and students started drifting in.  Only Arindam remained absent. Each day before leaving for college, I would expect Arindam to arrive and hoped to meet him.

Arindam never came. Thoughts about meeting him would evaporate in thin air. Fresh doubts started creeping in my mind; whether Arindam was still alive. Seven days later , from among my stack of old papers, I fished out and dusted the unread Communist Manifesto & the other three books and placed them on my table. I hadn’t read the communist manifesto excepting for the first and the last lines. I had even forgotten the names of the other three books. I read them again. (1) The Origin of the  Family, Personal Property and the State by Frederick Engels . (2) The State & Revolution  by V.I. Lenin (3) From Opium war to Liberation  by Israel Epstein.

I was aware of the reason as to  why I wasn’t inclined  now to read the same books which, for ten times each day, I had planned to read during my fifteen days of imprisonment. During the prison days, the news of deaths of the three Arindams had strongly motivated me to plan to read the books. The inspiration emanating from the martyred Arindam had been considerably diluted when I became aware,after my release, that Arindam may have been alive. Yet, I couldn’t completely get rid of  the pressure to read. I planned to start with the one on the Opium war. There was a story in that book and also a riveting style . The last book that I planned to read was  the dry &  theoretical “The State & Revolution.” Arindam had meticulously read each book,  underlining sentences with a red pencil. He had made reading easy for me by highlighting important sentences. Just by reading those highlighted lines, I could read all the three books and spare myself a lot of effort. But since the book on the opium war appeared interesting, I guessed that I would read it from end to end.

My eyes caught a red-pencilled line from the “The Origin of the Family, Personal property and the State” .  “There isn’t any need to criminalise  women who trade their bodies for livelihood. On the contrary, they have put the entire male fraternity on the stands  of a criminal court.”

Reading this line, I was reminded of an evening at the world famous brothel at Sonagachi. A few months after taking admission in the college, I had been to Sonagachi along with two friends to fulfill the desires of our youth. We were walking along a road named Durgacharan Mitra street. It was slightly beyond dusk. The street lights were coming on. Some of the double storied  and triple storied houses on both sides of the street were dark while some had lights  inside. Along with my two friends, Adhir and Deepak, we kept  walking as if the we knew the entire area by heart. Our hearts were beating fast and we could barely make eye contact.  At the crossing, a well-lit Paan shop caught my attention. I had never seen a Paan shop so well arranged with mirrors on each of its walls. Apart from the mirrors, the walls of the Paan shop had pictures of  Radha-Krishna deities, of  Netaji Subhash Bose & that of the actress Vaijayantimala ; fixed on polished wooden frames. Fat  garlands made from fresh flowers, similar to those seen in garland-exchange ceremony in weddings, were hanging from the pictures. On both sides of the Paan deck, were dozens of half-bloomed Rajanigandha sticks. It was unimaginable to see so much of flowers in a Paan shop. Inspite of our earnest desire, we couldn’t even lift our heads and look at the women standing at the doorways on both sides of the street. Noticing our immaturity, they were giggling and falling over each other. Our ears went crimson red in shame. Dipak muttered a sniggering “whore” under his breadth. That word just got embedded in my psyche. After nearly three years, while reading a few lines from the book “ The Origin of the Family, Personal property and the State,”  the obscenity  “whore” reappeared in my head.  I felt extremely uneasy. If Arindam had been present, I would have discussed the very next day,the acceptability of the word “Whore” in line with the opinion of Engels. Will Arindam be coming tomorrow to College?

 While unmindfully turning over the pages,  a letter encased in an envelope slipped out from the end part  in my hands. The letter was pressed uneven , having stayed for more than a  year under a stack of text books and papers. I didn’t realize that there was a letter inside the book even when I had held the book. If I had not turned over the pages, the letter would have remained invisible.  On the envelope, it was written “Arindam.”

Only “Arindam” was written without the surname. Neither was there any address nor any postage mark. Obviously the letter hadn’t been posted. I realized that someone had handed over the letter to Arindam. After reading the letter, Arindam would have kept it inside the book.  While giving me the book , Arindam would’ve forgotten about the letter. And so the letter had stayed inside the book. Although I wasn’t sure if I would ever get a chance to return his book to Arindam ; I couldn’t resist the temptation to read the letter only because the name  “Arindam” was written on the envelope. While taking out & opening the once-folded , two-page letter  from the yellowish envelope, I noticed  at first the womanly handwriting. Although the envelope had the name Arindam, the letter started without any name or salutation. Only a hyphen mark and then a blank line. The letter started from the next line. I became  more curious to know the name of the letter’s writer than its content. At the middle of the fourth page, where the letter ended, my gaze was fixed at the name of the sender. I looked at it for a few moments. Kalpalata had written the letter. It was a love letter, without any doubt. I didn’t have the faintest idea that Kalpalata could write love-letters. As a matter of fact, she had penned the letter immediately the day after she had been with me to Dakshineswar. The date at the top of the page indicated so. It was a touchy letter, written by someone who felt offended. Kalpalata had written that she had felt insulted after receiving a seven-line reply to her three long letters. The language of the letter vividly indicated that Kalpalata felt more hurt than insulted. Alongside, she had written certain things , after reading  which  I felt like sinking underground  in shame. Kalpalata had written , “excepting for you, there isn’t a single boy in the class with whom I can converse. The majority are greedy and fake while the rest are idiots. It pains me to observe that most  boys are not even decent human beings.”

Every word was piercing me like a needle. My heart was burning. I was feeling afraid to even guess as to how much of myself was exposed to Kalpalata. The fact that  it was only Kalpalata who had stubbornly hung on to her introduction to Arindam on that cultural evening ; was evident from reading the letter. Although, her relationship with Arindam may not have been one sided. As per Kalpalata’s letter; Arindam had mesmerized everyone when he had played Kalpalata’s  sister, Indulekha’s violin during one evening when he had visited her house. When did all this happen? I had never come to know. Kalpalata had written , “ While reading your letter, I came to know that you are a fan of Netaji Subhash and you also want to become a communist. You have written , I want to become a communist. In order to stress on the last line , you’ve underlined it with a red pencil. Is it possible to ride two boats at once?  My maternal uncle , who is a Subhash-fan is always at loggerheads with my paternal uncle, who is a communist. Both of them are idealist and honest. I love both of them , equally. Why does it have to be so? I believe you can be simultaneously  a Subhash-fan as well as a communist. Its not easy. But you can do it. And no one else can. At our house that evening, when you had played Indulekha’s violin ; you made such an impression on  everybody that none has forgotten it ever since. I too was surprised. A person who can play with equal dexterity two diverse instruments such as  a violin and a tabla , can he not  merge two ideologically different positions? Surely he can. Can’t we talk for a longer duration one day?”  

While reading the letter, a recollection of an evening appeared before my eyes. From College street to Dakshineswar, the ringing of bells during the evening-prayer at the Dakshineswar temple, riding a boat over the Ganga in the evening twilight to go to Belurmath, back to Dakshineswar, the temple-top in semi-darkness, prayer-bells ringing inside, a small-but-neat restaurant outside the temple complex, two people facing each other in a cubicle guarded with green curtains, Kalpalata and I, every moment, every spoken word reappeared vividly in my mind. Kalpalata was talking. Since Kalpalata could speak better, I had passed that role to her and remained silent myself. I was listening to her.

I didn’t have any dreams surrounding  Kalpalata. I had still not learned to dream then. I didn’t know even how to dream. She was in one class junior to me.  At the time of her admission, I had been present at the admission office. With one look towards her, I had understood that one of the top five beautiful girls  of the college was getting admitted. I had still not realized that she was actually the most beautiful when looked at from all angles, literal and metaphorical. Later, I had come to know that she was not a dumb beauty. She had more talent than her looks. She was truly intelligent. An easy beauty. I had helped her fill up the admission form. She didn’t seek my help. She didn’t need my help. I hadn’t realized then her reason for taking my help. I realized it later. She was pretending to take my help in order to know the extent of my stupidity. I had this idea even before reading Arindam’s letter. While reading her letter to Arindam, I realized once again the pain of being an idiot.  

I was trying to  analyze every moment  of that evening-trip to Dakshineswar. I couldn’t remember any stupid act of mine. While walking alongside I had been careful to avoid body contact, I had talked freely and there hadn’t been any indication of extra-friendliness in my behavior. While alighting from the shaky  boat at the Belurghat, Kalpalata had  extended her hand. I had held it and left it the moment she found her feet on solid ground at the ghat. Inside the curtained cubicle, I hadn’t uttered a single romantic word. Did I boast about myself? No, I didn’t.  There wasn’t anything to boast about me, anyway. Maybe since I hadn’t learnt to dream yet, I had nothing much to boast about. I was like a Lilliput besides the convent-educated Kalpalata. Kalpalata could speak English as good as an English lady. Further, she wouldn’t utter a single English word when conversing in Bengali.  Hidden beneath her friendly nature, there was an element of haughtiness. When she would recount funny encounters between his uncles (one of whom was a Subhash fan and later became a Central cabinet minister and the other was a top communist leader), I could distinctly feel a strong undercurrent of  pride. Even while sitting inside the green-curtained cubicle, I would feel the heat of her haughtiness. I was in loss for words. There was so much distance between us that I didn’t have any opportunity to do anything downright stupid.

End of Chapter 2.
To be continued.

Chapter 1: Inner Chamber

Copyright of translation : JAS 2013