Nibaran went on with his daily life, but deep inside his only wish is to be a successful writer. He finally manages to go to a publishing house and meet a publisher. The second part of this awesome series reveals whether Nibaran’s meeting with the publisher ends with a positive or negative note……so to know more lets go through this stunning series by the author Dr. Saumya Shankar Chowdhury!
Illustration by Sid Ghosh
Libaran reached the veranda of his house and found that his father’s pair of sandals was lying unattended. He shouted to him the need of borrowing the sandals and without waiting for a reply put on his father’s pair. He took a piece of newspaper and wrapped his sandal in it. He would give it to the cobbler on the way, he told himself. He ran down the hill to the railway track and didn’t think of anything else other than the treacherous terrain, where a single false step could translate into broken bones. Puffing and panting, all due to the consumption from which he had been suffering for quite some time, Nibaran stopped by the cobbler, and pausing for a thankful ten seconds or so, he spoke to the man. After careful inspection of the footwear, the cobbler announced that it would cost him twelve annas. Nibaran nodded and crossed the empty railway track to the other side to catch a bus to Pan Bazaar, a distance of three miles.
A green coloured A.S.T.C. bus came up the road. He waved at it, but the bus didn’t stop. He understood the reason as the bus was a ‘Biswabidyalay Seva’ or University service and had limited stops. He didn’t have to wait long though as a CITY bus soon stopped near him. He boarded the near empty bus and paid the thirty paisa fare to Pan Bazaar. He was lost in his thoughts and let out a curse when he found that he didn’t carry his TB card; he would have to forgo his injection for the week. He was already late for the Medical and could not go back home to get the card. He would waste precious time. But without the card it would be difficult to get the injection. It was a deadly disease. He would have to plead with the overburdened nurses who were too busy to spare a thought for poor patients or wretched ones like him.
The bus stopped at Kalipur, Santipur, Bharalumukh, Machkhowa and Fancy Bazaar at regular intervals. The traffic was thin, but the regular stops meant that a distance of three miles was covered in thirty minutes. He got down at the Pan Bazaar Medical stoppage and crossed the road. He sprinted to the back gate and ran to the dispensary. A crowd was disbursing and he barely managed to catch the attention of the elderly matron, who recognized him to be a familiar face in the bi weekly streptomycin injection parade and shouted to him to hurry. She asked him for his card but Nibaran was too terrified to reply. The matron shouted to him and asked him to bring the card in the next visit which would be Tuesday, and tersely directed him to lower his trousers so as to inject the painful drug in his hip. The nurse was harsh with her words but an expert in her art and he did not feel the pain as she completed the job. The smells of disinfectants and various medicines were nauseating as Nibaran was surprised to find that there was no teardrop rolling down his hollow cheeks as was the rule on previous occasions.
He slowly came out of the room and walked down the corridor towards the gate opposite the police station, one hand still rubbing the site of injection in his hip. He was not as ashamed of his faded trousers as he was for failing to produce the card. He had left before the matron could say anything more. Nibaran walked towards the publishers’ corner in this part of the town. There were a lot of book sellers, printing presses and distributors, all displaying various signboards, most of which proudly lay claim to many a bestseller in this part of the country in the local language. The signboards bore the names ‘Baruah’, or a ‘Chowdhury’ or even a ‘Dutta’ and all claimed to be pioneers or reputed in their chosen vocation. Nibaran was lost in the smells of paper, glue, pencil wood, Sulekha or a Chelpark inkpot, fountain pens, the racks and racks of leather bound books, hardbound ones, paperbacks…all from different parts of the world, which made the rows and rows of bookshops in Pan Bazaar as attractive and appealing to him as a sweet shop would be to a child.
“Are you the owner of this dukaan?”Nibaran asked the dhoti clad middle aged bespectacled gentleman at the counter of one such bookshop. He felt a bit embarrassed as he did not find the right word for the bookshop. The man nodded. Nibaran didn’t fail to notice that three fingers of his right hand were maimed. There was not a single customer in the shop. An old man, probably a help, sat bored on one of the stools. The bookshop catered to readers in the vernacular language. The wave of resurgence in the state had left a dent in many other businesses in the state but the book sellers were spared.
Probably long hours of being locked up in their homes as offices, colleges and schools closed for most days of a month and the lack of a medium of entertainment had led to a surge in the readership in the state. Nibaran’s case was a perfect example of this renaissance. The state had a burgeoning youth population. The movement was given the leadership and the direction by the youth. College and university students did not limit their reading to political pamphlets. They drew inspiration from the great works in their language and the works of the new writers flooded the market. But the scene in the bookshop with the help perched on the stool itching to puff at his beedi which his dhoti clad employer would not allow, gave an altogether different picture. There was a distinct lack of enthusiasm. The weather was hot and humid.
There were very few trees in that particular row of the book shops. At this time of the day most eyelids drooped heavily longing for a siesta. An infectious yawn from one of the owners could lead to an epidemic of temporary downing of the shutters.
“Err…I have come to make an enquiry,” Nibaran spoke hesitatingly. The dhoti clad owner with the imperfect fingers nodded, but the look was one of contempt.
“A friend of mine wants to publish a book! A novel!”Nibaran was terrified to announce his literary skills. He however decided to give it his best shot, “it is going to be a social novel. About a teacher’sson and the helplessness he faces in the midst of this political and mass movement. At least three thousand copies needs to be in the market.’’
“Do you have the manuscript?”the owner finally spoke.
“No! Not at the moment. It is not ready as yet. But it will be soon. Can I come in a couple of weeks?
To be continued
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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.