Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Mukherjeenama

It's that time of the year again, for the 34th time. This calls for an article, preferably related to my birth.

I was born a Mukherjee. We Mukherjees are plenty in number, and possibly outnumber most other Bengali surnames. Unlike myself, some of them have actually managed to etch their respective names in history. We have our variants: of them, Mookarjea comes first in the telephone directory, while Mukherji holds the rear. We have Mukhopadhyay (also Mukhopadhyaya) and Mukhuti (Mukhoti, Mukhati) as variants.

In short, we have been there since the birth of civilisation. Okay, that was an exaggeration, but we've been around for about a millennium. We're also supposed to have descended from Bharadwaj (whose achievements are mentioned in details here).

But this is not about Mukherjees in general. This is about the top-notch Mukherjees who have made the surname immortal over the years. Mukherjees who have made us proud: Mukherjees who have made me proud of my surname.

Once again, the number of slots is limited. All lists are supposed to consist of eleven names, and this shall not be an exception. It has been a very tough ask, and on another day I might have chosen some very different names.

Here we go, then, in chronological order:

1. Krittibas Ojha Mukhoti, 1398 - 1468
We Bengalis are fortunate, in the sense that quality authors have taken the initiative to translate both epics in our language. However, it had all triggered off with Krittibas.

He was born a Mukhoti (Mukherjee), and his claim to fame remains the Bangla translation of Ramayan. However, it's possibly the only Bangla book to have passed the test of time - it's still been read all over the state, and five hundred years is no joke.

The style is lucid, and given the era, quite gripping. He doesn't miss out on the details, and most importantly, the language is colloquial enough to reach out the illiterate interiors of the state. Even in 2011.

The prose Mahabharats have turned out to be more popular. But it still remains the most-read Ramayan.

It's incredible that the first printed version of the book came out only in 1802: people actually had been memorising the book and spreading it to make it popular, state-wide, for three hundred and fifty years. Beat that.

2. Sir Ashutosh Mookerjee, 1864 - 1924
Sir Ashutosh was so ahead of his times in terms of university-education that most people couldn't really relate to his moves. He set up an innumerable number of graduate programmes, thereby revolutionising the entire structure of Calcutta University. He even went to the extent of getting eminent European professors to teach at the university. He removed all caste, creed, race and gender restrictions - for both students and the faculty, something that was unthinkable a hundred years back. It was because of him that education in Bengal had reached the zenith it had in the early 20th century. And that involved a single-handed battle against the British, defying their attempts to take control over the education in Bengal. This earned him the title Banglar Bagh - The Tiger of Bengal.

Add to that the facts that he was elected the President of the Asiatic Society and the National Library committees. The fact that he was the Judge of the Calcutta High Court. And he had a moustache unmatched in the history of the Mukherjees.

3. Jatindranath Mukherjee, 1879 - 1915
If Sir Ashutosh was the named The Tiger of Bengal, Jatindranath Mukherjee was also known as Bagha, or Tiger Jatin. And this time it wasn't really a metaphor - he was really attacked by a Royal Bengal Tiger. He was severely wounded, but he managed to kill the tiger with just a minuscule dagger. Hence the name.

If he hadn't done anything else, Jatindranath would possibly still remained an immortal in the illustrious history of us Mukherjees. Sadly, his humongous contribution to the freedom struggle has remained almost unknown outside Bengal and Orissa.

Along with Manabendra Nath Roy (later to be joined by Rash Behari Bose), he set up a nationwide organisation of revolutionaries. He was arrested twice, but had to be acquitted on both occasions. Without launching any direct attack, he planned sudden blows on the British (this included setting up a bomb factory near Deoghar); he met the German Consul in Kolkata, seeking for help; and was made the Commander-in-Chief of the entire Indian revolutionary forces. He sent Roy to Batavia to negotiate a deal with the Germans, and had he lived through the first World War, history might have been written otherwise.

However, he was sought out, and was killed in a high-intensity armed battle with the British police, led by the infamous Charles Tegart, at Balasore on 9th September 1915. Tegart, known for his emotional ruthlessness, had himself commented that had Jatin been a British, he would have had his statue next to Nelson at Trafalgar Square.

4. Sir Birendranath Mookerjee, 1899 - 1982
Typically mentioned everywhere as the husband of Lady Ranu, Tagore's romantic interest associate and one of the most coveted belles in contemporary Bengal, Sir Biren (as he's popularly known) was undoubtedly the one of the greatest, if not the greatest, industrialist Bengal has ever produced.

He became the Chairman of the Steel Corporation of Bengal, which helped set up IISCO at Burnpur (and was later merged into IISCO). In 1953 IISCO became the first private sector company to be sanctioned a loan (worth $31.5 millions) from World Bank. He was sanctioned two subsequent loans in 1956 and 1961. Such was the performance of IISCO that all three loans were repaid ahead of time.

By the early 1960s, Sir Biren ensured that IISCO generated a consistent annual dividend of over 15%. It was then that the dark days crept in; labour problems ensued; and by 1972 IISCO was acquired by the Government. Sir Biren fell a victim to the era; we were possibly not good enough to deserve him.

5. Dr Balai Chand Mukhopadhyay, 1899 - 1979
Mukherjees and culture have typically gone hand in hand over the years (my blog is an exception; not an example). When I tried to create the list, this is where I encountered the stiffest of competitions: authors.

With the likes of Troilokyonath, Shankar and Shirshendu (and to a lesser extent, Bibhutibhushan and Prabhatkumar) have thrived in their respective styles and earned their place in the rich history of Bangla literature, none of them could match the throne where we usually like to place Banaphool, hardly ever referred to by his full name, the uncrowned king of Bangla short stories. He has faced stiff competition, but has emerged (I know that this is a subjective aspect) as the champion of his genre.

The brilliance of Banaphool lay in his curt, lean approach to short stories. They were objective in nature: not a single word was used unnecessarily or out of place. They were intense, and when you were through with the final word, the story would probably hit you hard with a hammer of sorts. Some stories lasted merely a page. Some even less than that. And yet...

Mind you, other than the 586 short stories, he also wrote sixty novels, five full-length and numerous one-act plays, and thousands of poems. While we boast of multitasking, Banaphool had achieved all this while being a full-time doctor.

Two years before his death he even ended up winning the Filmfare Award for Hrishikesh Mukherjee's Arjun Pandit.


6. Syama Prasad Mookerjee, 1901 - 1953
When I started making this list I had never imagined that I shall accommodate a father-and-son combination. Sir Ashutosh, however, had a son whose achievements forced me to keep him on the list.

SP Mookerjee started his career as the Finance Minister of Bengal in 1942. He later emerged as a spokesperson for the Hindus, and became the President of the Hindu Mahasabha in 1944. He strongly opposed the divisive agenda of the Muslim League, and demanded equal rights for people of all religions. Unlike most religious leaders, SP Mookerjee demonstrated a surprisingly tolerant attitude towards the Muslims, even through the riots. He had opposed the 1947 partition vehemently, but in vain.

After Independence, he became the Minister of Industry and Supply, but resigned in 1950 as a protest to Nehru's tolerant attitude towards Pakistan and the fact that Hindu immigrants had streamed into India as a result of Pakistan's religious policies. He founded the the BJS (Bharatiya Jana Sangh) in 1951, which favoured free-market economics from day one, as opposed to Nehru's socialist policies. BJS also tried to bring egalitarian rights for people of all religions across the country.

When INC took a decision to announce Kashmir as a special country (with a separate flag and a separate Prime Minister, and making people carry ID cards), BJS opposed the policy vehemently, and managed to thwart it successfully.

However, while launching the protest, he was arrested in Kashmir, and died under mysterious circumstances (he was administered penicillin despite the fact that he had informed the doctor of being allergic to it). There were cries for an investigation to his death, but Nehru had passed his death as "normal". As normal as Fardeen Khan making a profession as an actor, I presume.

7. Hemanta Kumar Mukhopadhyay, 1920 - 1989
There's a saying in the Kolkata film industry: Chatterjees act and Mukherjees sing. Indeed, with the likes of Sandhya, Arati, Manabendra and Satinath, it's not much of an exaggeration.

None of them match Hemanta, though, in terms of pure success. Matched only by Manna Dey as the leading Bangla playback singer and one of the greatest composers as well.

I suppose it's pointless, trying to elaborate on Hemanta's skills. It would suffice to say that "আমার গানের স্বরলিপি লেখা রবে, পান্থ পাখির কূজন কাকলি ঘিরে; আগামী পৃথিবী কান পেতে তুমি শোনো, আমি যদি আর নাই আসি হেথা ফিরে, তবু আমার গানের স্বরলিপি লেখা রবে" (my music shall linger forever; the birds shall chirp my tunes, long after I'm there - a pathetic translation) still holds. And shall hold forever.

8. Hrishikesh Mukherjee, 1922 - 2006
Musafir. Anari. Chhaya. Anuradha. Anupama. Satyakam. Guddi. Anand. Bawarchi. Abhimaan. Namak Haraam. Mili. Chupke Chupke. Arjun Pandit. Naukri. Gol Maal. Naram Garam. Bemisaal. Kissi Se Na KehnaRang Birangi.

Enough said, I suppose.

9. Pranab Kumar Mukherjee, 1935 -
The oldest of the living lot.

Pranab Mukherjee is in the fifth decade of his political career. He began as a member of the Rajya Sabha in 1969, and was re-elected four more times. He joined the cabinet as Union Deputy Minister, Industrial Development. I wasn't even born then. And he's still around, after being Minister for Defence, Finance, External Affairs, Revenue, Shipping, Transport, Communication, Economic Affairs, Commerce and Industry over the years.

He was the Finance Minister from 1982 to 1984, and in 1984 he was awarded the Best Finance Minister in the world by Euromoney. In the same year he was the chairperson of the Group of 24 representing the IMF and the World Bank.

There was a phase of lull with Congress losing its throne, but he came back strongly as an External Affairs Minister from 1995 to 1996. As a result he was voted Outstanding Parliamentarian.

Currently, he is simultaneously the Finance Minister, and a Senior Member of the Cabinet Committees on Economic Affairs, Infrastructure, Parliamentary Affairs, Political Affairs, Prices, Security, Unique Identification Authority of India and World Trade Organization.

As late as 2010 he was named Finance Minister of the Year for Asia by Emerging Markets (the World Bank newspaper) and Finance Minister of the Year by The Banker.

Makes it sound like Duracell, doesn't he?

10. Jaidip Mukerjea, 1942 -
There had to be a sports representative, and this is where things went miserably wrong. I'd have loved to include a cricketer, and I ransacked Cricinfo for the want of one, but the best I could find was Saradindu Mukherjee. Though he took a hat-trick on his first-class debut (that had sealed the Ranji semifinal for us) and had played for India, three ODIs hardly seem good enough for anyone to make it to the list. Mind you, there exists an Annapurna Mukherjee who had played three matches for Singapore, against UAE, Bangladesh and hold your breath, China.

So I decided to go for tennis. Jaidip Mukerjea had won the National Junior Championship, and became runner-up at the Wimbledon Junior in 1960. He did made it to the fourth round of six Grand Slams (US Open 1962, Wimbledon 1963, 1964 and 1966, and French Open 1965 and 1966).

We had lost our first Davis Cup final in 1966 to Australia by the convincing margin of 1-4; however, our solitary victory came when Mukerjea, in tandem with Ramanathan Krishnan, managed to defeat John Newcombe and Tony Roche.


His performances made him the only Mukherjee variant till date to have won an Arjuna award. Much later, he pursued a career as a non-playing captain for our Davis Cup team.

11. Rani Mukherji, 1978 -
Joy Mukherjee, despite having won the Most Imaginative and Innovative Naming Father Award by naming his sons Boy and Toy, wouldn't make the cut as an actor. And I won't even mention his brother Deb, and neither Sharbani or Tanisha Mukherjee.

These were the easy parts. The tough bit was a choice between Kajol and Rani Mukherji. It was a photofinish in the end, and Rani won it. Mind you, it might have been Kajol on another day.

After a string of movies that were either terrible or flop or as in the case of most, both, came 2004. She acted in three movies: Yuva, in which she turned out to the be the stellar performer despite a nominal role; Hum Tum, a movie that helped her display a whole array of emotions; and Veer Zaara, a ridiculous movie where her performance was the only bright aspect.
She followed these in 2005 included overhyped but much-appreciated Black, the immensely popular Bunty aur Babli and the award-winning Paheli; six movies in a row turned her career on its head. Rani had arrived. She was winning hearts, she was putting up versatile performances, she was winning awards, and suddenly she was the biggest name in Bollywood.
And then, without any warning, her career plummeted again as she somehow went back to bad-or-flop-or-both mode for five years. After getting into a hibernation of sorts, she made a comeback with a startling performance in No One Killed Jessica in 2010 - and it finally seems that she's back on track.

***

Making the list wasn't easy. I must acknowledge Somnath's (if a Mukherjee doesn't help a fellow Mukherjee, who would?) contribution in making my selection a lot easier.

All of these are, indeed, great names. They are true stars in their respective fields. While creating the list, I have mentioned a few Mukherjees who didn't make the cut. However, I suppose, there exists one ridiculous Mukherjee that needs to be mentioned here.

You cannot classify him as a great. He's ridiculous, to be honest. But life somehow would have been so much less enjoyable, had he not been around. He, in my opinion, is perhaps the most enjoyable Mukherjee that ever was. Check for yourself.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

"Avada Kedavra!" cried Warner Brothers.

For whatever reason, IBN Live decided to publish this. You can see it here.

*********************************************************************************

And Harry Potter fell dead.

A decade's worth of anticipation, along with Ms Rowling's efforts, and our dreams that grew around The Boy Who Lived and He Who Must Not be Named. In one single effort.

With a swish and a flick, Warner Brothers uttered the magic words. And there lay Harry Potter, dead, across thousands of screens across the world, all at the same time.

The worst Potter movie ever made. Period.

I suppose the movie might still turn out to be a raging hit among people who have not read the series. They would love the corpse because they shall never know what it was like when it was alive. But as for us, the diehard fans who have the books more than Hermione has read Hogwarts: A History, this was nothing short of our scarred hero being gangraped, mutilated, murdered.

I went to catch the first show at Bioscope, Axis Mall at 2.10 PM. The show got cancelled because I was the only spectator available. I went back for the 4.15 PM. I could sacrifice watching it on 3D, but I couldn't have sacrificed watching it on the first day.

And they gave me this, in return.

Warning: The rest of the article contains spoilers

Where did it all go wrong, then? Let's start at the very beginning:


1. The Hallows. Or rather, the absence of them.
The movie, as Warner Brother has conveniently forgotten, is called Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. This was supposed to imply that the movie would be about the hallows. A lot shall be told about them (in addition to Xen Lovegood's narration in the first part), about what purpose they serve, about how they are nobler when compared to horcruxes, about how Dumbledore had pursued them at some point of time. The term was used once in the movie, in a casual conversation between Harry and Mr Ollivander (who never came into the picture in the books as far as hallows were concerned).
Additionally,
(i) we never got to know that the cute-looking stone that Harry dropped was the resurrection stone, and was one of the hallows; I'm sure it confused a lot of people who weren't aware of the story;
(ii) we never got to know that the Elder Wand was one of the hallows; that the fact that Dumbledore had performed "extraordinary magic" with the wand had a lot to do with the fact that the wand was uber-special;
(iii) we never got to know that that Harry's invisibility cloak was one of the hallows, either; it was always portrayed as another cloak - we never got to know that it was special.


2. Harry's wand.
Harry did show Bellatrix and Draco's wands to Mr Ollivander. However, it never struck him to show his own mutilated wand to the greatest wandmaker in Britain and ask whether a repair was possible. This ruined the fact that the wand was beyond repair using normal magic, and it would take the Elder Wand to fix it.
It did not matter in the end, though. Harry never attempted to repair it anyway. He spent the rest of his life without a wand, I presume. Abbe, Voldy ko maar daala, ab wand se kya lena-dena?


3. The destiny of the Elder Wand.
The Elder Wand was not returned to Dumbledore's grave. It never went back to its rightful owner - possibly the greatest wizard of all times. Our hero decided to snap it and throw the pieces away (without attempting to repair his own wand, I repeat). This was oddly reminiscent of Karisma Kapoor throwing stones at God for making her fall in love with Shah Rukh Khan in Dil to Paagal Hai.


4. How were the giants killed?
The movie showed one (two?) giants in Voldemort's army. We were shown how Harry and Co. escaped close deaths in the hands of a giant by running between its legs. What we never got to see was how they were defeated. WB just had to show giants (and acromantulae), I presume, but didn't find thwarting giants a scene worth showing.
Since wizards cannot affect giants easily, Grawp attacking them and Buckbeak and the thestrals (thereby increasing greatly Hagrid's role in the war) having a go at their eyes was a scene I was really looking forward to. WB omitted that. The giants got bored and left in the end, I presume.


5. McGonagall and her strange command.
From the very beginning of the series, McGonagall had come across as a strict teacher, but a very good human being. She had been rigid at times, but she CANNOT, I repeat, CANNOT ask Filch to send the Slytherins to the dungeons. McGonagall CANNOT do anything like that to any student.
Why did you not bother to read the series, David Yates?


6. The Prince's Tale.
I had possibly expected too much of Hollywood as far as one of my favourite chapters of the series was concerned. In the end, it turned out to be too quick, mushy and vague for anyone to understand.
We never got to know how Dumbledore had guided Snape throughout the seventh year. Not a single sentence on that. No one got to know how Snape acted the way he did. What should have been one of the emotional climaxes turned out to be a typically Hollywoodish damp squib. That was the closest I came to hurling a shoe at the screen in anguish, but the concept of returning barefoot wasn't too appealing.


7. Nagini.
The book: Voldemort would body-bind Neville. Set him on fire. The spell would be lifted. Neville, thanks to his bravery, now becomes eligible to bring out Gryffindor's sword out of the sorting hat, and in one go, decapitated Nagini. The war resumed.
Result: gave me goosebumps at about eight in the morning; I was reading nonstop, with a couple of hours of sleep squeezed in between.
The movie: Neville pulled out the sword out of the sorting hat all right, but no apparent valid reason. As everyone (Bellatrix included) was already dead and Voldemort was caught in a loooooooooooong duel with Harry, Nagini chased Ron and Hermione throughout the castle (why?). The moment it cornered them and was about to pounce upon them, Neville appeared out of nowhere, and did the decapitation bit just in the nick of time.
Result: I yawned.


8. The Crabbe-Zabini mystery.
Tendulkar had decided to skip the recently concluded India-West Indies series. As a result, VVS Laxman batted at four and Virat Kohli was included.
Jamie Waylett (playing Crabbe in all the first seven movies) wasn't possibly available, but Josh Herdman (Goyle) was. So, instead of Crabbe, Goyle became the one to cast Fiendfyre and get killed. But there needed to be another Slytherin in the scene, so in stepped Blaise Zabini.
Cool. Too cool for words.


9. Three scenes.
Three of my most eagerly anticipated scenes were omitted. All of them had given me emotional upheavals while reading, and in my opinion they would have helped improve the standard of the trash of a movie by at least ten times:
(i) the return of Percy Weasley, and the reactions of the entire Weasley family to that; one of the most emotional scene in the series...
(ii) The Order of the Phoenix setting up base: Kingsley providing clear instructions on how to control the four towers, and putting Fred and George in charge of the passages; the set-up would have given the audience the feeling of the beginning of a war and would have had them at the edges of their seats;
(iii) Trelawney joining the fray, smashing Death Eaters with her massive glass orbs; the scene had made me visualise Emma Thompson, and I had paused reading to laugh out loud, despite the tension.


10. The Dumbledore saga.
I had always thought that The Life and Lies of Albus Dumbledore was worth being converted into a full-length feature film. Instead, they never cared to dig deep into the history of the Dumbledores: the Albus-Aberforth strained relationship, Arianna's death, Dumbledore's quest for the hallows. Nothing. But then, Tom Riddle's past was not very clearly narrated - where does Dumbledore's past stand in comparison?
And as for Gellert Grindelwald - who's that?


11. No moldification.
The brilliant Peeves song ("We did it, we bashed them, wee Potter's the one / And Voldy's gone moldy, so now let's have fun!"), which proved to be such a relief from the packed tension, was omitted.
It was fitting, though. There was no tension to be relieved of in the first place. Harry and Voldemort grabbing each other and falling from top of a tower amidst a stream of black doesn't really build up tension. And neither does Harry uttering the famous line "Let's end the way it started, Tom." Thank goodness it wasn't "Let's go for a dive, Tommy."
Why did they not use the song, even during the end credits? :(


12. After the war.
The book: Voldemort is killed in front of a packed audience. All of Hogwarts cheer in unison. Everyone celebrates. Even my back turns to an obtuse angle from an acute one. Peeves goes berserk. They throw food in Grawp's mouth. An exhausted Harry decides to retire to the headmaster's room, where all the Hogwarts headmasters, Dumbledore included, join in a standing ovation. Harry has a long conversation with Dumbledore, filling in whatever gaps were there in the plot, and the reader is left content.
The movie: Voldemort is killed in a vague open land. Harry snaps the Elder Wand and throws them away. Period. No celebrations.

***

Lists are almost always supposed to be made in XIs (or at most XIIs, accommodating a substitute fielder). But I decided that there was another aspect that could simply not be left out.


13. The scene where I laughed out really loud.
Plot deviations are obvious in any movie. Anyone does that for the sake of the movie. There have been major plot deviations in the first seven movies that had driven me insane. But this one was so pathetic that I actually laughed out loud:
When the war started, the four major professors were expected to protect Hogwarts. McGonagall did her bit and summoned the suits of armour to protect the castle (which, in my friend Somnath's opinion, were reminiscent of Mummy 3 - released in Hindi as Dragon Badshah ka Maqbara). Then the professors united and cast spells to put a three-dimensional barrier to protect Hogwarts. McGonagall. Flitwick. Slughorn. And, hold your breath, not Pomona Sprout, but MOLLY WEASLEY. Dropped in for a casual visit, I presume.
That was actually the moment where I gave up hope of all kind, and sat back, laughing. Even Neville luring Fenrir Greyback and team to a ridiculous landslide failed to infuriate me any further.

***

As my friend Apoorva has mentioned, the credits clearly mention "based on the book by JK Rowling". I had perhaps set my expectations to too high.

It's a good thing that had rated it PG-13. Children shouldn't be allowed to witness butchery, savagery, gore. More so when dreams and expectations get raped and murdered.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Security stuff

My office is (possibly) the smallest in a quite big office complex. This means that the pool-car (office-cab, as per corporate jargon), has to undergo a string of security checks to enter the compound. Typically this involves
  1. Asking the driver to open the bonnet and then inspect it manually; 
  2. Asking the driver to open the boot and then inspect it manually;
  3. Placing a device that looks like a stick with a mirror at one end to inspect the bottom of the car.
The car I'm given right now is a Tata Venture, which helps me bypass points 1 and 2. But this is what intrigues me. Of course, security checks are crucial, especially since 26/11. But how effective are these checks?

For a moment, consider yourself a terrorist travelling in a Tata Venture. You have two options:
  1. Carrying a bomb or firearms inside the car and pass safely, or
  2. Using Fevikwik or Dendrite to stick the bomb underneath the car and get caught.
Which option would you choose?

***

As a great man had once claimed, airports are not the prettiest aspects of a common man's life. The worst part of them, especially over the past ten years, has been security check. The removal of jackets and shoes; taking laptops out of bags; disposal of bottles of water; suspicious looks at, well, let's not get racial here.

The most intriguing aspect, though, is the list of items one cannot carry on an aircarft as carry-on baggage. Golf clubs are fine, but the list mysteriously includes items like bows and arrows. This made me visualise:

Consider a terrorist or a hijacker, boarding an aircraft. He carries a bow, and behind him, a quiver of arrows. He accommodates the entire package within the minuscule space (built under the assumption that a position as vertical as possible and legs bent at an acute angle at the knees are the most preferred position for the average individual) allotted to every everyone.

Now, he tries to hijack the aircraft. He slowly walks out, possibly pushing his neighbour quite roughly (in case our hero had a window or a middle seat). He takes position, takes out his arrow of choice from his quiver, takes his own time to pull the bowstring, takes aim casually at one individual (with several people behind him) and asks the flight to be taken to the interiors of Tibet instead of Delhi.

Or, if the hijacker is really ambitious, he possibly goes up to the cockpit (is it just me, or does everyone else find the word obscene as well?), with an aircraft full of passengers behind him, takes aim at the pilot (and not his crew, since it's only one bow), and commands him...

Sunday, July 3, 2011

গোল্ডস্পট

আমি থাম্‌স্‌ আপ খেতে ভালোবাসতাম।
ঐ মেয়েটা গোল্ডস্পট খেত।

আমি খেতাম রঙের মাথায়, স্ট্র ছাড়া, সোজা বোতল থেকে। খেয়েই ঢেঁকুর তুলতাম, সশব্দে।
ঐ মেয়েটা এতই ইয়ে, যে ওর মা ওকে দুটো স্ট্র দিয়ে দিত, যাতে তাড়াতাড়ি শেষ হয়। অত আস্তে খেলে ঢেঁকুর ওঠার কথা নয়, তাই  ওরও উঠত না। হাঁটতে হাঁটতে ব্রিজ অবধি গিয়ে হয়ত একটা ছোট্ট মেয়েলি ঢেঁকুর তুলত।

আমার বাড়ির ত্রিসীমানায় অবশ্য কোনো ব্রিজ ছিল না।

আমি বাড়িতে ঘণ্টার পর ঘণ্টা চুপচাপ বই পড়তাম। ঐ মেয়েটার বাড়ির পাশেই ছিল একটা মাঠ, বিশাল মাঠ। অতবড় মাঠ আমাদের পাড়ায় ছিল না। মাঠে মেয়েটা সাংঘাতিক জোরে ছুটত - কেউ ওর সঙ্গে পেরে উঠত না।

ঐ মাঠটায় কৃষ্ণচূড়া গাছ ছিল একটা। আমি তখন কৃষ্ণচূড়া গাছ চিনতামই না - আমটাম ছাড়া গাছ এমনিই চিনতাম না বিশেষ। ঐ গাছটা দেখে মেয়েটা কির'ম উদাস হয়ে যেত।

আমি খুব ইন্দ্রজাল কমিক্‌স্‌ পড়তাম। বাবা বাজারের শিশি-বোতলওয়ালার থেকে নিয়ে আসত, গোছা-গোছা, সেকেন্ডহ্যান্ড। ওর বাবা ওর জন্য আনত অমরচিত্রকথা, বাসস্ট্যান্ডের কাছের একটা অদ্ভুত বিচ্ছিন্ন দ্বীপের মত দোকান থেকে, যার আশেপাশে আর কোনও দোকান নেই।

এই মেয়েটা সাংঘাতিক দুষ্টু ছিল। একবার সেই বালতির ভেতর ব্যাটারিতে চলা নৌকো দেখছিল। ওর মা একটু অন্যমনস্ক হয়েছে, ব্যাস্‌! অমনি এদিক-সেদিক ঘুরতে চলল! মা ভাববে, টেনশন করবে, সে নিয়ে মাথাব্যথা নেই, চলল। অনেক ঘুরেটুরে "ভাবল", মা যে কোঅপারেটিভটা থেকে জিনিসপত্র কেনে, সেখানে যাই। ভাবল। যেন কত ভাবার বয়স হয়েছে ওর! ভাগ্যিস ছেলেধরার হাতে পড়েনি!

আমার মতই মেয়েটা র‍্যাশন দোকানে যেত। আমাদের র‍্যাশন দোকানে যের'ম গোল কমলা লজেন্স পাওয়া যেত, ওদেরটায় পাওয়া যেত হলুদ লজেন্স, মাছের মত দেখতে। খুব শস্তা, খুব সাধারণ, আজকালকার বাচ্চারা ছুঁড়েই ফেলে দেবে হয়ত! কিন্তু ও আমারই মত ভালবাসত লজেন্স খেতে।

আমি এই মেয়েটার স্বপ্ন অনেকবার দেখেছি। কিন্তু ওকে চিনতে পারিনি।

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কাল স্বপ্নে আমি ওর বাড়ির সামনে গেছিলাম। স্বপ্নেই দেখা, তাই মেয়েটার আমাকে চিনতে পারার কথা নয় আদৌ। কিন্তু পারল দেখলাম। একটু বড় হয়েছে, পালিয়ে কোঅপারেটিভ যাওয়ার সময়কার থেকে। কিন্তু মুখটা একইরকম আছে। ও বুড়ি হলেও বোধহয় একইরকম দেখতে থাকবে। বা হয়ত ও বুড়ি হবেইনা - স্বপ্ন তো!

"তুমি?"

আমি ক্যাবলার মত দাঁড়িয়ে রইলাম, আর পায়ের কড়ে আঙুল দিয়ে চটি চটকাতে চেষ্টা করলাম।

"কি হল? বাড়ি এলে, কথা বলবে না?"

আবার চুপ। বাড়ির সামনে বাগান, ভেতরে দোলনা, সবই আছে, কিন্তু হলুদ রংটা নেই আর। একটু অস্বস্তি হচ্ছিল।

"চলো। কুলফি খাওয়াবে?"

"আমার অত পয়সা নেই।" বারো বছর বয়েসের ছেলের হাতে অত পয়সা থাকেও না।

"ঘটিগরম খাওয়ানোর পয়সা আছে?"

মাথা নাড়লাম।

সামনের সেই বিশাল মাঠটায় গেলাম। সমুদ্রের মত বড় মাঠ, কোনো শেষ নেই। সমুদ্রের মত গর্জনও। কিন্তু ও হাত ধরতেই অদ্ভুত শান্ত, চুপচাপ সব। সেই গাছটার নিচে বসলাম, যার নাম ও বলেছিল কৃষ্ণচূড়া, আর আমি কখনও দেখিনি বলে নাম জানতাম না।

তারপর সূর্য ডুবে গেল, আর অন্ধকার হল। আর ঘুম ভেঙে গেল।

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মেয়েটা নির্ঘাত বড় হয়ে গেছে এতদিনে। ঘটিগরম বা অন্যকিছু খেয়ে ঝাল লাগে হয়ত, তারপর গোল্ডস্পট খোঁজে। গোল্ডস্পট তো আর পাওয়া যায় না আজকাল। হয়ত মাজা খায়, বা স্লাইস।

মাঠটা নিশ্চয়ই আছে কোথাও। কোথায়, জানি না। বা হয়ত বাড়ি হয়ে গেছে। ব্রিজ ভেঙে হয়ত মেট্রো স্টেশন বা কিছু। পরেরবার স্বপ্নে বাসের রূট দেখার চেষ্টা করব, বা দোকানের সাইনবোর্ড। তবে দেখলে চিনতে পারব। পারবই। আর বাড়িটাও।

আর তখন জিজ্ঞেস করব, "সেই মেয়েটা আছে?"

যদি জিজ্ঞেস করে "কোন্‌ মেয়েটা? নাম কি?"

বলব, "নাম জানিনা, কিন্তু ঐ যে, গোল্ডস্পট খেত, লজেন্সের র‍্যাপার ব্রিজের ফুটো দিয়ে ফেলত, ভীষণ জোরে ছুটত, আর ছোটবেলায় একবার বাজারে হারিয়ে গেছিল?"

ওরা পারবে, বলতে?


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