Set in the backdrop of the picturesque location of Shillong, this enthralling love story recounts the transition of an unconfident youngman, Ashutosh, to a confident person. Divided into a series of three parts, in the first part the author entrancingly depicts the insecurities of the young lad as a student, in a very-relatable and vivid description, from his final year of school to his college days.
By Dr. Saumya Shankar Chowdhury | Illustration by Sid Ghosh
Ashutosh looked at the small mirror in the bathroom. The size of the mirror was in proportion to the four feet by six feet bathroom. He was not sure if his father could have afforded a larger mirror. He had stepped into an age where he regularly found faults with his parents, more so with his father. But his poor results in the board exams had left him with little ammunition to attack them. He had to settle for a lesser known college with the back benchers of his class, most of whom were repeaters who had entered the college with no plans for the next day.
Ashutosh was now increasingly seen as a pretender who memorized Vivekananda’s teachings but got a supplementary in his school finals. After the exams when he had an extended break, Ashutosh dreamt of a seat in the prestigious colleges of Shillong. He was from a Bengali medium school, but read ‘The Statesman’ regularly albeit borrowed from a neighbour to spruce up his English. This was a long term plan with an objective to converse with his new friends in the upmarket colleges and polish his diction. He would then try his hand at the plays organised by the Shakespeare Society, earning accolades from august gatherings in the State Library Hall. But the dreams died a slow but sure death since the day he received his marksheet. The uniformity of the low scores paralleled his downward slide in self-esteem and in the eyes of his peers.
His mother had put a plate of steaming rice and a bowl of fried vegetables on the small dining table in the kitchen. Ashutosh quickly put on his clothes. It was too cold for a bath. He adjusted his pullover and combed his hair before muttering a word of prayer for his food. His mother placed a small helping of Shidol Chutney in his plate. It was hot and pungent; the chillies would make his eyes smart. He would feel an itching sensation in his scalp almost as if the dandruff on his hair was being made to forcibly dance to thetune of the dry fish paste. After a while he would smack his lips, secretly wishing he had more, and sniff his right hand in revisiting the taste.
Ashutosh took a sheaf of papers which he had purchased for a rupee,and a fountain pen and started for the college on foot. The ragging period was over and as he kept mostly to himself, the seniors did not trouble him anymore. He opened his umbrella and folded the ends of his trousers. It was raining, but not so heavily. He climbed the steep road in Kenches Trace as a few yellow and black Ambassador Taxis passed him. He stopped by Montu’s shop and bought a paan with zarda, the number 132 of a particular brand being his favourite. He put the paan in his mouth and lighted a Capstan, poorer by half a rupee but richer by a new found self-confidence which would invariably be spent by the time he walked back home.
Ashutosh was late for his class. The Logic lecture was on. In Shillong colleges, one referred to professors by their initials and students either wereunaware of their real names or didn’t bother to find them out. It would either be a ’ND’ or ‘BD’ or an ‘AB’. Rarely would it contain three letters, and even if they originally did, it would be shortened to the customary two letters forconvenience. He could hear the baritone of one such three lettered gentleman from the gate itself. He folded his umbrella, now dripping wet, and ran to the class. The professor didn’t pay any attention to him as he silently stole through the front door while the former was perched on the high platform, his erect spine and plain hips facing the class, writing some terms on the black board which were as alien to the blank faces on the front rows as to the garrulous back benchers.
To be continued
What's Your Reaction?
Dr. Chowdhury is an avid writer, who in his professional life is a medico for the past 20 years, currently with a Central government Public Sector Undertaking. His first anthology of short stories, Barak To Doyang, was published by the National Library, Guwahati, in 2012. Besides writing, he has a keen interest in music.