Categories
Ghumi Stories

Table Tale

Nabanita Sengupta gives us a glimpse of life in a sleepy little town, long before social-distancing set in

Those were the days of large-hearted people, living in homes with large windows and even larger balconies and sleeping in large beds. Life was different, quite unlike the matchbox sized measured lifestyle of modern society. Raya, growing up in those times, was used to that free flowing largeness of existence, not necessarily reflected always in their material possessions. Their house, as she always remembered it later, had huge windows in each of the two rooms, that were themselves not too big. A large part of both the rooms was taken up by a bed each, larger than what you find in the furnished apartments of today. Sitting far from Ghumi now, Raya often wonders at the disproportionate decor of their homes in those days.

Raya’s father was particularly large hearted when it came to hospitality. Raya doesn’t remember a single month when they did not have relatives visiting them. It was something they looked forward too as well. Though it meant cramped living spaces and queuing up for the solitary toilet, the fun compensated for all the inconveniences.  And since her mom was an excellent cook, guests also meant lip smacking delicacies. If it were not the relatives visiting from other cities, there were local friends gathering for an evening adda*.

Luchi

Since both her parents loved large gatherings, most of the weekends saw their friends and families coming over for evening tea. And those teas were almost as elaborate as dinners. Occasions were numerous too – a visit from someone’s kin, end of children’s examinations, someone’s return from a travel or simply because they felt like meeting up. Raya loved to see the women, her mother’s friends huddling in the kitchen, rolling out luchi* or spreading dosa* batter, laying out plates and also serving the juiciest pieces of gossip with equal élan. Or at times, they would be just pouring out their woes in the warmth of a bonhomie and empathy of like-minded friends.

Dosa

Occasionally, men too helped out with food but mostly, kitchen was a space that these women kept for themselves. And children let go their boisterous spirits and ran around the house, laughing at the silliest of pretexts. At the end of such gatherings, Raya found her parents dead tired yet thoroughly contented with the day.

But there was a small glitch that at times interrupted the pleasant flow of these gatherings. And like every small issue that festers into something foul if left untreated, this onetoo took an unpleasant turn. Raya’s mother refused to entertain any guest till they had a new dining table, large enough to accommodate at least eight people. The one that they had now was a table for four, ancient and somehow supporting itself on wobbly legs. It posed a threat to the food that was heaped on it during such gatherings. Raya’s parents, especially her mother, were one of those kind spirits of the yester world who believed in smothering their guests with delicacies. And all painstakingly cooked by her! Her culinary skill was much appreciated. But the process of sitting around the table to eat had to be executed with utmost care, taking into consideration its rundown condition.

Those were the days before the instant gratification provided by plastic money and a ready credit offered by banks. Each purchase required careful planning because anything bought was considered to be an investment for a lifetime. The quality of the product was the most important criteria because durability was a must. Disposability had not yet become the norm. So, after almost a month of deliberations and discussions, Raya’s father went to the carpenter to place his order. Unlike big cities, small town Ghumi did not have any readymade furniture stores. In a place with a three thousand odd population, it would not have been commercially viable.

Raya knew that placing the order for the table would mean a visit from Mr. Sankar of Universal Furnishings to take the required measurements over umpteen cups of tea and discussions ranging from the cold war to children’s education. Just one-eighth of the entire conversation time would be dedicated to the discussion about the furniture to be made, its design and details. Raya enjoyed these conversations which seemed to move along serpentine tracks, changing courses or moving in circles, but always animated.The precocious mind of the little girl remoulded the adult discussions that she heard with utmost focusto give them a place in her own world of fantasies. So Shanker uncle’s visit was always one that Raya looked forward to.

And this had always been the ritual with every piece of furniture they procured. This table was not going to be an exception either. After the ritual of ‘ordering’ the table came the proverbial waiting period. Everyone in Ghumi knew what this wait meant. Normal deadlines never worked for Mr. Shanker and there was no account of the time that he would take to finish a product. If it was not a labour crisis, it would be some illness at home or some major existential crisis that would always upset the so-called deadlines of Mr. Shanker.No queries, no amount of harsh words or coaxing could affect the middle-aged proprietor of Universal Furnishing;he bore them all with equal fortitude and a smiling demeanour. But his products were of an excellent quality and that was what had helped him survive in his trade. The Ghumians had long resigned themselves to the fate of waiting.

Anyway, once the order was given and the advance paid, the gloomy cloud slowly faded away from Raya’s home and once again her mother agreed to have their regular guests for weekend evenings. As she served them food on the rickety table, she maintained her calm in the hope of a new one in the near future. The guests too continued with their cautious handling of both the food and the table.

After a long wait, that day also arrived when the ‘table’ entered Raya’s life. Five employees of Mr. Sankar came with a huge cardboard wrapping and four table legs tied together. They worked for almost an hour to fit the ‘table’ and once done, Raya and her parents were left speechless! A six feet by five feet dining table was not what one got to see every day and that too in an apartment measuring only 800 square feet. The ‘table’ took up almost whole of the room leaving little space for anything else.The ratio of the room size to that of the ‘table’ accentuated the latter’s hugeness. Raya cast a furtive glance at her mother and could immediately detect a sign that spelt danger. She just waited for the catastrophe to happen. But Shankar was perhaps a magician, to her complete disbelief, no tsunami shook their house that day! To her mother’s complete disbelief and boiling anger, Mr. Sankar had just one thing to say – “Bhabhi*, I thought you wanted it large! It is large enough to accommodate a dozen diners comfortably and more so if need be. You can also put it to other kind of uses.” The last sentence left her completely flabbergasted and was one of the rarest occasions where Raya saw her mother totally tongue tied. The ‘table’ came to stay though they did not even know what Mr. Sankar had meant by ‘other uses’.

But they did not have to wait long for the answer. Later that week when six of Raya’s cousins from Kolkata sprang a surprise visit on them, the ‘table’ happily got converted into a makeshift bed too. Since there were only two beds in the house, one for themselves and another for guests, one of her cousins, in awe of that huge ‘table’, suggested that two of them could sleep on it. Raya’s mother who had already given up any rational expectation from this giant of a wooden construct did not even bother to argue. And the ‘table’ happily went on to serve its ‘other’ purposes.

*Adda: An informal conversation

*Luchi: Deep-fried bread of fine flour popular in Bengal

*Dosa: Pancake originally from Southern states of India, made of ground rice and pulses

*Bhabhi: sister-in-law, a common form of addressing a woman acquaintance in Hindi speaking areas.

Dr. Nabanita Sengupta is an Assistant Professor in English at Sarsuna College Kolkata. She is a creative writer, a research scholar and a translator. Her areas of interest are Translation Studies, Women Studies, Nineteenth century Women’s writings, etc. She has been involved with translation projects of Sahitya Akademi and Viswa Bharati. Her creative writings, reviews and features have been variously published art Prachya Review, SETU, Muse India, Coldnoon, Café Dissensus, NewsMinute.in, News18.com and Different Truths. She has presented many research papers in India and abroad.

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PLEASE NOTE: ARTICLES CAN ONLY BE REPRODUCED IN OTHER SITES WITH DUE ACKNOWLEDGEMENT TO BORDERLESS JOURNAL. 

Categories
Ghumi Stories

A Night too Long

By Nabanita Sengupta

As the train eased itself into the dimly lit station, Purnima peeped out of the door of her compartment. The only bulb tiredly glowing in front of the station office at Ghumi did not do much to dispel darkness. In fact, to Purnima the lonely electric light seemed to highlight the blanket of darkness ahead rather than erase it. Once the train jangled to a complete stop, she descended the three iron steps at the compartment door to get down to the platform. Her brother-in-law rolled the luggage towards her and she quickly pulled them down on the platform. The month old infant, her own flesh and blood and the reason for her being in Calcutta for so many months, was happily sleeping in her sister-in-law’s arms. She was grateful to this elderly couple who had accompanied her from the city to help her during this long journey.

She helped each of them descend before the train hissed and heaved itself into reluctant motion, puffing a lung full of smoke along with tiny specks of coal dust, onwards into the darkness lying ahead. The station was unusually quiet and Kishore was nowhere to be seen. Probably he was on his way, Purnima thought to herself, a little embarrassed by his lack of punctuality at such a time.

 This small township in the undivided Bihar, tucked away in a quiet corner of the Chhota Nagpur plateau was never a very busy place. Yet at any given time there would be some twenty to thirty people on the platform including passengers, idlers and beggars. But today, it was just themselves and a young man with his pretty wife they had met on train. All, except the blissfully sleeping baby, were quite disturbed by the unnatural and eerie silence that had enveloped the platform. Only the baby felt secured, comfortable in the arms of those who absolutely adored her. From where this small party of stranded travellers stood, even the station office at a distance gave a despondent look.

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Purnima felt uneasy. Already post pregnancy blues and the long journey by train had claimed a heavy toll on her body and mind. Added to it was the unusual calm at the platform and Kishore’s absence. It became a bit more than she could handle; yet she had no option. The tensed and bewildered looks on the other faces belied to her their state of mind and she realised that she had to think of something fast; only she could lead them to a safe place, the only safe place she could now think of — her home. It must have been the bundled infant that she was cradling near her bosom that gave her the required strength and clarity of mind.

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Mind has its own way of conjuring things and right at that time she found herself going back to those bloody images that were splashed all over newspapers and television in Calcutta during her stay with her parents there. Riot had exposed its ruthless claws all over the country and the city of her maidenhood too had fallen prey to the monster. Still Calcutta was comparatively less affected, being far away from the epicentre of all troubles.

The Prime Minister had been assassinated and the entire country was ablaze with hate crimes. One man’s action escalated into a prejudice against an entire race and suddenly no one knew who could be trusted. But Purnima had her faith in Ghumi. She was relieved that Kishore, her husband, had returned to the calm and peaceful township of Ghumi, where he worked. There at least nothing could disturb the peace. She could never associate violence with that beautiful township of krishnachuras* and palash*.

Her first journey to Ghumi as a newlywed was still vivid in her mind. It was the beginning of her love story with a place that only deepened with the passing months. In spite of being a thoroughly city bred girl, it did not take her long to succumb to the unique charm that this place had to offer.

Flanked by a river and a hill, Ghumi was as fresh and vibrant as a teenager living a life of bounty as well as discipline. The residents were tied together in a disciplinarian regime, strictly maintained by the regular factory shifts. Since each and everyone drew their livelihood from the factory and its corresponding offices, they had to follow the pattern of life set by it.

To a newcomer like her, such intrusion seemed annoying yet reassuring. Purnima was not much fond of the factory siren that signalled change of shifts for its employees and also decided her everyday routine; yet as a new wife, she felt a grudging gratitude towards those bellowing giants for maintaining regularity in their lives. In the first few months of her unsupervised domesticity, away from both sets of parents and in the land of her husband’s work, the factory siren took up the role of the mother-in-law, ensuring an order amidst the desired and novel anarchy of this new phase of their conjugality. Since then, in the past few years that she has been living in Ghumi, she township drew her into the radius of its unique aura.

It was her mini-India — within a radius of a kilometre from her house, Purnima had made friends with a Malayali aunty, a Punjabi family and another Gujarati one. Apart from that, there were a few families from Bengal and Uttar Pradesh too. All these were people who had relocated from their hometowns in the different states of the country to earn a living in Ghumi.

The women from these houses would often meet for afternoon sessions of tea and gossip. They would return to their houses only when the siren sounded the end of the evening shift — time for their husbands’ homecoming. They would gossip about the latest neighbourhood scandals or about home remedies, and even new recipes. Purnima learnt how to cook various snacks from these ladies. It was an idyllic life where even discords didnot survive for long. At times she wondered at the harmony that this life offered. Was it some fairy tale that she was living through? The happy princess in her abode before the witch struck!

Her years in Calcutta had not been too happy, punctuated by bitter family feuds regarding property ownership and a latent competition that marked every lifestyle change — be it a for new television set or a new vehicle or acquiring a telephone connection. All these acquisitions of consumer items were not just simple moments of joy but at times, of one-upmanship as well. The city droned on like a bumble bee in a monotony of its self-imposed rat race and Purnima never felt herself anything more than an inconsequential entity in a sea of other humans. In contrast, Ghumi in its simplicity became the home she had always wished for. Its peaceful air enticed her to its fold to the point that she completely fell for its utopian charm.

 But the vibes that emanated from the railway platform at that moment was very different from those feelings that she had long nurtured in her heart. She pulled herself back to the present. Asking the group to wait, she called the young man away from his pretty wife to accompany her to the station master’s office. But the futility of that feeble attempt was visible to them even before they reached there — the two roomed structure was not only abandoned but also brutally vandalised. She suddenly felt a chill down her spine.

Where was Kishore? The import of his absence from the station only now hit her fully and she had to lean against the nearest wall to steady herself. The young man accompanying her wanted to help, but the habitual shyness of an introvert male confronting a strange woman left him at a complete loss. He merely stood at one side and kept looking at his toe. It took a few minutes for Purnima to regain composure. After all, her precious little one was still wrapped in a bundle of clothes close to her bosom. She could not let go so easily, not without an earnest effort.

Her house was about fifteen minutes walk from the station and she had to take them all there in safety. Yes all, including the unknown couple whom they had known only for the duration of that journey and their familiarity was just a few stray conversations old. She realised that she could not leave this couple stranded in the middle of nowhere, with no one coming to pick them up. Perhaps, it is in such difficult times that we come to terms with the humanitarian soul lying within us. She had long realised that they were new to this place so now she finally asked the man — where will you go from here?

—      I have no idea. My uncle was supposed to pick us up but as you can see he too hasn’t arrived!

I think we should stay here and catch the next train home, he added after a thought.

Purnima returned to the rest of the party, the young man in tow, and asked all of them to follow her, completely disregarding the conversation she had a few moments ago. They walked through a narrow lane along the railway tracks, unsure about the dangers lurking along the main road. Worries regarding her absent husband made her stomach lurch vehemently. The lane was dark and full of stones, but as it was along the railway lines, every now and then, there were abandoned compartments left unattended. Purnima felt those might provide them with a shelter if the need arose. They moved quietly, making as less noise as possible, their eyes forced to take in the devastation and ruin all around.

The cloth shop near the station was fully torched, only rubbles lay scattered around — deceased witnesses of Mr. Balwinder Singh’s once thriving entrepreneurship. Purnima stood routed to the spot for some time. Tears of pain, fear and anger trickled down – just a few months ago, before visiting her parents, Balwinder bhaiya* had helped her select dress material for all her cousins. He was a nice man, a bit shortly built for an average Punjabi male. Perhaps, to compensate for that, he sported a huge turban, which Purnima always felt, was precariously balanced on his head. This could not have been a minor clash.

The road smelled of burnt clothes and plastics amidst the pervasive silence. Recollecting herself and mentally preparing for further bleak scenes ahead, she stubbornly prodded forward with the infant in her arms. The rest followed her, as if in a trance. But the rest of the journey did not present them with any more distressing sights except a few uprooted light posts and a couple of battered vehicles as a reminder of the simmering violence.

Purnima, in spite of all her worries about her husband and their own safety, could not help wondering about Jaspreet aunty, her next door neighbour. The fate of Balwinder’s shop had pointed out to her the vulnerability of Jaspreet aunty and her family. The two women of unequal age had spent so many carefree evenings together — Purnima listening to the elder one’s bawdy Punjabi folk songs and reeling with laughter — that Jaspreet had become an irreplaceable part of her life at Ghumi. What had become of them in this world where everything had suddenly turned so ghastly and unreal! All through her way home, Purnima  prayed hard. She prayed for her family; she prayed for Jaspreet aunty’s family and for all those she knew.

As this tired party reached her home, everything was dark inside. She could sense human presence within, so asking everyone to wait; she slowly tiptoed to the door and pushed it. It opened by itself but she could not see anybody. Just as she was about to switch on the lights near the door, a hand stopped her.

Even in the dark she knew it was Kishore. Assuring him of her silence and comprehension, she quietly went out to bring the rest of the party in. If Kishore was surprised to see the unknown couple, he kept quiet. In silence he escorted everyone to the bedroom and asked them to wait. Taking their baby from his wife he held both of them close, in a warm embrace of happiness and relief. As they hugged each other, they could feel chunks of weariness slowly melting away from their bodies, rejuvenating them. He did not want to let go, but quickly controlled his emotions and took her along with the baby to the next room, leaving the rest behind. The tired passengers had found a safe haven in his home but he needed his wife and child for something more important.

Unable to leave that night to escort his family home, Kishore had remained rooted to their front window as soon as he heard the train whistle carried into his house through the quiet of the night. After the longest half an hour of his life, he could spot his wife with their baby huddling cautiously along with his brother and sister-in-law. There was another couple too whom he could not identify.

He realised, his wife must have brought them home in absence of any other alternative. He did not mind. After all, in such times, providing a safe stay was all he could do. And God knows, he had been trying to do that since morning. As that tired party approached the gate, he moved away from the window and kept the front door opened. He wanted to keep noise at its minimum, not sure if any miscreants were still around. So he quietly stood by the door, waiting for Purnima to step in. Thankfully, Purnima too was cautious enough.

This morning’s events had rattled him completely. It was in broad daylight that a group of armed men attacked Jaspreet aunty’s house. By then he knew about the fate of Balwinder. So, he had forced the mother and her young son to shift into his house a little before those hooligans broke in. And what a sensible decision it proved to be! He knew his house won’t be spared the search too, so he quickly gave the boy a rough haircut and asked aunty to dress in Purnima’s clothes, complete with sindoor and bangles. Thankfully, the men did not look under the beds or they would have discovered chunks of hair hastily shoved under it. As the men approached his door, Kishore recognised Vimal, a nearby house help, among the hooligans; for a moment he dreaded that his little ruse will be discovered.

But then he saw recognition followed by understanding flicker quickly across Vimal’s eyes when the unruly group entered his house. Kishore at once realised they were safe. There was probably still some humanity left — Vimal did not reveal the identity of his employer. There had been times when Jaspreet aunty would send medicines for his mother or some goodies for his sister. She had even helped him with his father’s funeral. It was his turn to return those acts of kindness today. So Jaspreet aunty passed on as an elderly relative of Kishore, waiting for his wife and the baby – a little deceit of kindness that tied the two men from two diverse strata of society in a secret, unbreakable pact. The rest of the frustrated crowd smashed across his table and glass showcase before leaving to hunt for fresh targets, displeased at having to return empty handed.

Purnima could not believe what she saw when she followed Kishore to the other room! Lying huddled on her bed was Jaspreet aunty. The lady who would always be clad in bright hued loose kaftans or chiffon salwar kameez was lying on her bed wearing a simple beige coloured cotton sari!

Her teenage son was sitting by her side with his head hung low, shorn of its neatly tied turban; in its place stood a set of unevenly cropped hair as if the barber has left his job midway. He did not even look up at her, too embarrassed at his new condition. When Jaspreet aunty looked at her, the eyes were blank – the shock of the morning incident had drained all emotions out of them. Purnima stood looking at them aghast, tears involuntarily sliding down her cheeks. She needed no explanation to understand what had happened. She moved to the window and peeped out — the ravaged bungalow of the Singh’s stood still, waiting for its inmates’ return. Jaspreet aunty called her near and held on to her tightly: “Your uncle is safe, currently under the factory’s protection. Tomorrow the factory along with the paramilitary is going to mobilise a protection and anti-riot force. We shall be safe, but we shall never be the same again”.

Her last line kept echoing in Purnima’s ears. She thrust her baby into the old woman’s arms and watched her frail and furrowed face gradually light up. Tears of love welled up in the eyes which even a while ago were so blank and dry.

“You are my child’s Jassi nani* and my dearest aunt and that can never change. Ghumi can never fail us. Keep faith,” Purnima asserted wholeheartedly.

As the old woman and her son started playing with the infant, Purnima suddenly felt a huge weight lifted off her shoulders and tiredness take over as she slumped down in peaceful fatigue beside the bed. The siren announced the beginning of night shift and Purnima felt assured that her world would return to being the same again, irrespective of its scars.

*krishnachuras : brightly coloured flowering tree

*palash: red flowering tree

*bhaiya: brother, an affectionate and respectful term used in India

*Jassi nani: Jassi grandmother, Jassi being the short form of Jaspreet

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Dr. Nabanita Sengupta is an Assistant Professor in English at Sarsuna College Kolkata. She is a creative writer, a research scholar and a translator. Her areas of interest are Translation Studies, Women Studies, Nineteenth century Women’s writings, etc. She has been involved with translation projects of Sahitya Akademi and Viswa Bharati. Her creative writings, reviews and features have been variously published art Prachya Review, SETU, Muse India, Coldnoon, Café Dissensus, NewsMinute.in, News18.com and Different Truths. She has presented many research papers in India and abroad.

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PLEASE NOTE: ARTICLES CAN ONLY BE REPRODUCED IN OTHER SITES WITH DUE ACKNOWLEDGEMENT TO BORDERLESS JOURNAL. 

Categories
Ghumi Stories

Nostalgia

By Nabanita Sengupta

I

He spends his days painting his beloved Ghumi – a riot of colours bursts upon his canvas, pouring out the passion he has for the place. I admire the way his brush moves, the way a picture takes shape yet I feel sorry for him. For the solitary life that he has chosen for himself, though he is happy in it. His paintings too have attained a maturity that his clients all over the world much appreciate. Also, it is because of this quirk in him that I have got this lucrative job as a caregiver and my future is almost taken care of. Not just that, I enjoy taking care of him too! It gives a purpose to my lonely life.

II

I have to revisit my origin — the place that had nurtured me for the first fifteen years of my life before I plunged into the real world. Yes real world I said. Because Ghumi was not exactly real. It was almost like a simulation for the real thing — like those driving lessons you know you can take on your computer screen before the actual driving? It was like that.

Rough edges of dangers padded off in a very large extended family. That place was my whole world and a place that I had to leave for the real one; because Ghumi did not hold back anyone. It trained you, taught you, helped you with important inputs for sustainability but ultimately let you go. And exactly at sixteen! That age when the world was either pink or black and very rarely white or grey. That age when either you could be wallowing in romance or rattling off revolution or even both, in a mission to change the world. So it was at that volatile age that we were all simply shot out of Ghumi high on ‘we are the world’ motto to various higher educational institutions across country. And we did survive.

Ghumi, I knew had the solution to my problem. A place that I had not visited for almost twenty years! A place where I had painted the first canvas of my life — a hill with many greens. Ghumi had taught me colours in a way no art teacher could. She lovingly made me aware of the nuances of various shades of a single colour. She was the muse for the budding artist within me. In fact, I feel that the artist in me was Ghumi’s gift. Even now that I am successful as an artist, I feel Ghumi’s colours predominate my palette. My canvases carry a madness of mahua, a glimpse of the huge saal, dark green of the jamun and so much more. 

So much has changed since those early days — in the world, in my life. Yet I have not been able to unhinge myself from her. Of late the association with that place has grown so strong that it is becoming difficult for me to ignore. I have begun neglecting my paintings, my studio and even my wife.

There are spans when I would drown in a deep melancholy, stretching even to days. Neither medication, nor counseling helped much. Geeta, my better half, had been quite understanding and patient to my mood swings and neglect. Initially she had tried to talk it out with me but after a few attempts, she left me to myself. So when I told her that I must go to Ghumi to find a solution, she too supported me. In fact the idea had been initially suggested by her.

III

That was a moment so special — the moment when my feet touched Ghumi after such a long time! What happiness! I felt energised. I wished I could be all around the place all at once but of course my emotions needed to be controlled. Geeta did not come, in spite of my repeated requests. Instead she asked my assistant, Rohit to accompany me. I was grateful for Geeta’s motivation behind this entire Ghumi idea, for inspiring me to embark on it. After a long time I passionately made love to her that night after I booked the tickets. It was overwhelming, and when she was almost spent, I could smell in her the mahua, that intoxicating scent which was so much a part of my Ghumi days. Her face was flushed with the colours of flaming Palash. For one last time I inhaled her deeply and fell into one peaceful slumber. That night, I had one of the most restful nights — soundest sleep in my life.  

IV

Ghumi hadn’t changed much. The factory, the school, the pond — they just looked the same. Even trees had an ancient charm. Like the Lotus-Eaters of Homer, they wove their magic spell upon me. I was mesmerized, forgetting almost everything of my city life. My studio, my wife — they remained a faraway reality for me. I relived my childhood with a gusto that was almost unthinkable. I put up at a guesthouse that had come up in the recent years — one of the few changes that marked the face of Ghumi. The other new additions that I saw were a quaint little cafe, a print-out and photocopy shop, a private bank and a few ATMs. 

It was a three-day trip that I started finding inadequate. But of course, there was Geeta and the studio to return to. Caught in the web of a modern lifestyle, how long a holiday could I afford! But what if I stayed back! I was hit hard by this sudden thought — staying back, and why not. But of course, there was Geeta who was waiting for my return. In the soft afternoon of Ghumi, amid the eucalyptus and sal trees, she seemed to belong to another life. 

I pushed back my fanciful thoughts and putting on my track pants and tee, ventured out alone. Though I had Rohit with me, I was planning to do more of self-exploration. What did he know of my love affair with this place! I wanted to visit those new places that had sprouted upon the face of my old Ghumi and see how much change they had wrought upon her character. 

A desire for a steaming mug of coffee took me towards the cafe. ‘Ghumi Tales’ — that’s what it was called. In the low light of the setting sun it looked more mysterious, as if there was a lot hidden within it. I was drawn towards it. Though a new addition, it had somehow blended with the character of Ghumi. 

That night I made a call asking Geeta to cancel my return tickets. I needed to feel the place a bit more. I would perhaps, one day return to her, after I have made peace with myself.

V

I am Geetanjali, Arun’s Geeta. We have been married for the past six years and I could feel this coming gradually. At first it was nostalgia, a general remembrance of the past. But slowly it turned into an obsession. He stopped most of his activities, spoke only of Ghumi and lived in it. I changed my role in his life — from friend to lover to wife to a caregiver. I knew he needed support, I needed help too. There was no one I knew who could help me — psychiatrist visits were out of question — I knew I could not convince him. Rahul appeared as a Godsend.

As a psychologist and a childhood friend, he listened to my problems attentively. It was he who first made me aware of the terms ‘terminal nostalgia’ and ‘restorative nostalgia’ in which a person wants to recreate his past and wants to live in that period. He said Arun’s was a case of such extreme ‘restorative nostalgia’ which was pushing him towards clinical depression.

I looked at him aghast! How could Arun, one of the most successful artists of his times, one whose career graph was showing a steep rise, become like this? I raged and ranted and cursed my luck — all through Rahul held my hand. I loved Arun but was becoming dependent on Rahul.

The last straw in our relationship was when Arun made love to me comparing me to Ghumi! I could not take it anymore. I refused to go to Ghumi with him but made my secret preparations with Rahul to keep an eye on him from here.

Once there, I could feel the calmness in him, the distractions much lesser. The phone call regarding extension of his stay at Ghumi was as anticipated one; hence I had made arrangements with one of the local elderly women to take care of him during his stay there. For a long-term stay, he would need a proper house with a set up for his studio. Reena aunty, the woman I spoke to had assured me that she would take charge of everything, I would just need to pay for the expenses. I am more at peace now. I have understood that Arun does not need me — we would merely be hindrances in the lives we want to lead. He has found the Land of Lotus Eaters. Nothing perhaps can take him back or make him happy if not Ghumi.

Dr. Nabanita Sengupta is an Assistant Professor in English at Sarsuna College Kolkata. She is a creative writer, a research scholar and a translator. Her areas of interest are Translation Studies, Women Studies, Nineteenth century Women’s writings, etc. She has been involved with Translation Projects of Sahitya Akademi and Viswa Bharati. Her creative writings, reviews and features have been variously published art Prachya Review, SETU, Muse India, Coldnoon, Café Dissensus, NewsMinute.in, News18.com and Different Truths. She has presented many research papers in India and abroad.

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