|The Money Carpet (standard:fantasy, 4442 words)|
|Author: abhijit dasgupta||Added: Feb 19 2006||Views/Reads: 1834/1461||Story vote: 0.00 (0 votes)|
|It;s an India specific story about the angst of a young newspaper reporter who is a romantic at heart and plays fantasy games of music with a pavement dweller.|
THE MONEY CARPET By Abhijit Dasgupta Anirban always thought he was like a flower. Small, pink, slightly soiled, the sort you see lying unheeded beside some trees in a park or on desolate roads, trampled upon by some indifferent traveller. Or, as later Anirban reasoned, one of those which would have fallen off from a handmade garland without anybody noticing the difference. When he was a child, barely a boy of six or seven perhaps, Anirban, tiny and pink himself, used to sit beside his mother who cooked the two-member family meal in an old, worn-out stove; from time to time, even as he listened wide-eyed to the stories that Ma told him, he picked from the broken, chipped aluminium bowl which he always kept beside him and where his mother kept serving him whatever she was cooking. It could be a spoonful of steaming, frugal vegetable soup or may be, just a few oily, potato chips. Sometimes, on better days, chingri bhaja, the almost friendly-sounding Bengali equivalent of small, little-as-grains fried prawns. Anirban relished these small offerings immensely. They added spice to the tales that he heard on those days he didn't go to school. Which was every Thursday and Sunday. Anirban, friendless even at that age, looked forward to those hot forenoons in Kolkata, the easternmost, impoverished city of India which had attained cult status after Dominique Lapierre's City of Joy or, for better reasons, for its association with Mother Teresa. He had never seen his father. During one of those oily, potato-chipped humid story sessions, made more interesting for the young boy by the wet sweat falling off his pink, bare back and forcing his glasses down every time he bent to pick a morsel, Ma, as he simply, like all children his age and at all times in Kolkata where he lived, called the woman who gave him birth, had told him his father's story. Anirban found no particular interest in the man's life who had sired him.Even at that tender age, failures forced him to look the other way. His father had been a clerk with the Food Corporation of India, came over as a refugee from East Pakistan much before the riots, married Ma when he shouldn't have, and died of a strange, undiagonised illness shortly after his son was born. His father was 43 years when Ma was widowed without a penny to fall back on. She was 32. But Anirban was fascinated by one little story which Ma told him about the man whom he never got to call Baba. When Anirban was born at the Campbell Hospital, now named after the famous Dr Nilratan Sarkar, and even as the tiny, pink baby lay sleeping in the dormitory cot beside his mother, his father, who had spent the better part of the day borrowing money from relatives and friends to buy medicines for his frail, anaemic wife, had arrived for a first look at his son. Ma always told this story without changing a word; it was as if she had, like a born actress playing out her part, memorised the lines. Even the pauses, the blank, faraway looks at suitable intervals, the moist eyes, one hand bent with indifference towards the cooking pot, another stretched over her knee, always touching some part of his body when she spoke; it was, as if, she was in some sort of a communion. Sometimes, Anirban tried his own little tests; he would shift his leg or his hand where Ma would be touching him. In an instant, she would reach out to another part of her son. Anirban was convinced that this was not coincidental. His father, a shy man, had entered the Campbell dormitory. Ma would tell Anirban later that he wouldn't even look at his son. Natural shyness, may be. Nobody else in the packed dorm gave them any attention. There were too many babies lying around, anyway. And far too many relatives and new parents. They were alone. The frail woman with a smile for her husband and pride in her eyes; the man, who had just become a father but had no means to celebrate, had carried just a packet with him. A small, tiny, brown wrapper sort of thing, usually reserved for flowers and sweets with little dreams inside them, like those which the temple priest forces on you before you enter the sanctum sanctora. Tied with thin, red strings that Ma always used when Click here to read the rest of this story (380 more lines)
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