As the Liberation Movement gained momentum, Nibaran too gained confidence as a budding novelist-gathering resources for his novel and putting them in words. But behind the success of his endeavour there was a shocking truth. In the final and concluding part of the series Nibaran’s nature –both as a person and a writer- is revealed……….!
By Dr.Saumya Shankar Chowdhury | Illustration by Sid Ghosh
Nibaran could hardly believe he could speak so much in one meeting. He was pleased with himself. After all he was a budding writer. To keep up the new found confidence, Nibaran purchased a few pens, a pot of ink and some carbon sheets. He also had a moment of cheap pleasure derived from the imprint of the typing girl on one side of the carbon sheets. From that day onwards Nibaran immersed himself in his writings and would usually take great care not to let anybody on to his secret.
Oblivious to the feverish momentum of the movement with the possibility of a democratic government round the corner, Nibaran would write and dream, dream and then again write. Mona had given him enough food for thought. The typing girl in the carbon sheet was a welcome distraction. He began to fill the sheets with lucid prose, rarely intimidated by the voluminous work. His character had taken the shape of a firebrand revolutionary. He filled them with quotations of great writers and somehow managed to stitch together a novella of contemporary characters, careful not to refer to any politician and yet have aliases to have casual resemblance which he would later declare as purely coincidental.
The writings of the fortnight were a rebirth for the shy, reticent Nibaran!
The festive season was over and the shops had reopened. Nibaran made a few trips to the bookstore and each successive excursion was treated with increasing respect due to a budding writer. He provided glimpses of his work to the publisher who in turn secretly referred them to a lecturer who replied in the affirmative adding that the manuscript had to be edited professionally. A potential bestseller was in the offing.
A few months had passed. The book was released in the week preceding Durga puja that year. The publisher had paid him five hundred rupees and promised a thousand more if the sales picked up. ‘Biplobi‘or ‘Revolutionary’ was critically acclaimed as a work very contemporary and fresh from a debutant writer. The critics although not exactly flattering in their words did not actually give it thumbs down. The publisher admitted that he was surprised when big names in the Assamese literature agreed to go through the complimentary copies and write reviews.
Nibaran slowly rose in the eyes of his parents, sister and the neighbourhood. Ever since the episode in Mona’s house, he had purposefully maintained a distance from her. Mona had gone to her village with her mother and was not around for a couple of months.
Diwali brought in a sense of foreboding guilt. The people were not sure whether to take part in the festivities or protest in silence. Although the celebrations were muted as the administration had called for a ban on the bursting of crackers, the neighbourhood had lighted lamps illuminating the hill on the side where Nibaran lived. The valley echoed with the occasional burst of the distant cracker which sent a shiver down many a spine, the elders mistaking those for a stray explosion or a gunshot, the youngsters clapping in glee as if relishing the exotic taste of a forbidden fruit.
Nibaran as usual kept to himself and sat in the veranda on his father’s chair, gazing at the lights and concocting new ideas for a potential novel. There was load shedding and his family members had gone visiting in the neighbourhood as was the custom in the pre television days. He was startled to find a cold hand on his eyes from behind, but the familiar feminine smell relaxed him, bringing over a wave of pleasure, exciting and tingling his already frayed nerves. The word ‘Mona’ escaped from his lips. The graceful hands were entwined on his chest from behind. Nibaran was not all that prepared for such a rendezvous. He gently disentangled himself from the embrace much to the displeasure of Mona.
“Don’t you know we are going to get married?” she said to a red faced Nibaran. Buoyant by a newfound success and rejuvenated by the completion of the streptomycin injections, Nibaran was not flustered by her words and on the contrary had been secretly preparing himself for such a showdown. He did look at her in the eyes in the moonlit evening as he stood before her in deathly silence. He looked ghostly to Mona, but his inner resolve was masked by the outwardly appearance.
“There is nothing to worry. Ma and Mahi, both are well aware of our future”, Mona spoke slowly after what seemed an eternity.
“There is no future”, Nibaran spoke slowly but in a sure and firm voice, letting the few words in the verdict giving sentence sink on Mona slowly. But the girl was perhaps cleverer than what Nibaran had assumed her to be. She gave a short laugh, careful not to be loud so as to attract any undue attention of the neighbours. With both her hands, she cradled his face and in a half mocking-half sensuous tone spelt the death rattle for Nibaran.
“I met dada in the village. He had come one night to see us. He has read your book. At first he was very upset with you, angry to a point of killing you. You have copied everything from dada’s diaries and notebooks. I explained to him that you had taken my permission to publish what dada would not have been able to in his underground life. I told him after all you are going to be my husband and he calmed down.”
Mona paused to note that Nibaran’s face in the moonlight was slowly darkening, a cloud settling over his new found confidence, her words paralysing his whole being, “I knew youwere a coward since the day I found you copying his notebooks in the dead of the afternoon and you didn’t even have the decency to inform me that you have used all his thoughts, given flight to his ideas, and tried to make a name for yourself from his works. You are not a revolutionary, but a copycat, ‘Biplobi’ is not your cup of tea….it never was and never will be.” Nibaran almost felt relieved that her acerbic outburst was over but the final blow was yet to come.
“Don’t worry! Your secret and life is safe with me as long as you…”Mona stopped mid-sentence and snapped her fingers in a gesture to convey that Nibaran was under her bidding, her spell,”…..as long as you do whatever I say. And I will make a man out of you for that…”
There was a sudden sound of crackers bursting in the vicinity followed by a temporary lull in the noise made by the insects. The humming picked up and the lights came on signalling the end of the load shedding. Nibaran slumped in his chair. This time, his face had a steely edge to it but his inner turmoil was penetrating through his defences. He calmed himself with the thought that he had all the material for a potential new novel.
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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.