And The Journey Begins
And The Journey Begins25 mins 416 25 mins 416
I was getting late & didn’t want to miss the train. I had pressed the driver to up the speed. As I was crossing the Howrah bridge, I gathered a view of the jostle of yellow cabs, the ferry on the Ganges, the reddish Howrah station at my hindsight & of course the majestic steel structure… Howrah bridge itself hovering over the Ganges. All put together in a single frame it’s a majestic view something that creates awe & lets you relax at the moment. It seems as if time stands still. It makes you wonder what’s the rush for? We all simply can breathe & live the moment. With the last 3 days back at campus, I had almost re-lived my 4 years spent in the city… the city of joy… Oh, Calcutta! So splendid were the times spent, it’s strange though I never wanted to settle down here. Memories as they say also bring about a lot of pain, confusion along with them. After a moment of pause, I realized I must catch the train. I thanked my yellow cabbie that he had made it in time. As I stepped down & handed him the fare, I prepped for a run. The usual platform is 23 for Shatabdi express as I knew, and I rushed as I had only 5 minutes left. After missing my last train at Mumbai for Howrah, I had promised myself I would never miss another one again.
As I had just settled at my seat C-23, the train whistle blew. So, I had finally delivered on my self-promise. I usually don’t prefer to travel on trains anymore although they had been such an important part of my journey life. I still remember my first Mumbai trip from Howrah via train. And again, when you want to go home from Kolkata, my Cuttack, the silver city, I guess train journeys are best. The 2 seats beside me were vacant. I assumed it is to empty as the train didn’t seem fully occupied. My last 3 days had brought back baggage of memories of my 4 wonderful years spent at the Jadavpur University campus. And I was going home after a long hiatus. I had been avoiding coming Home for the last couple of years to avoid unnecessary questions. But this time Mom made me promise to come home when she learned of my plan of joining Alumni meet at Jadavpur University. So, I couldn’t deny her. I was anyways exhausted, and a short trip back home was the exact relaxation that I needed to clear up my thoughts. I decided to take a short nap before Kharagpur arrived.
As the Kharagpur station arrived, I got down to have Aloo-dum, my favorite dish. This was one of my regular practice whenever I went home during my engineering days. I rate this Aloo dum to be the 2nd best in India, of course, the 1st position goes to Cuttack… my favorite combo staple ‘Dahibara aloodum’. As I got back to my seat on the train, I found a lady along with a kid seated beside my seat. I entered my seat & sat down. I don’t know but I had a strange feeling that I couldn’t decipher.
After a few moments, the lady spoke: ‘It’s Jeet, right?
I grinned with a smile & replied: Yeah, I didn’t know people had started recognizing my face
You see I was an author whose 1st book ‘Life Love Luck’ itself had become a national bestseller. I had penned it down during my engineering days only. But I got it to be printed while I was working. I had passed out of Jadavpur university in mechanical engineering stream in 2007. I had been selected while on campus in the recruitment drive of ‘Mahindra & Mahindra’. I had 2 passions… automobiles & books. So, while I worked at my 1st passion in the city of Dreams i.e. Mumbai, I got connected with a lot of exciting people through corporate parties. It was during such networking that I had come across my 1st publisher ‘Vrinda’. An inspiring lady that she was, when she came to know about my draft, she encouraged me to go ahead for it. So, after 4 years at corporate, when my 1st book got published in 2011, it fetched rave reviews from critics & readers alike. I traveled extensively in India to promote the same. With the success of my book & realization of my 2nd passion as an author, I finally bid adieu to corporate life & settled as an author in Mumbai. I also adapted my nickname ‘Jeet’ as my author's name. Very few close friends only would know that. But I had never thought people to recognize me by my face, as I had never done really any interviews or owned any online channels. Further my success as an author was short-lived, as the next 6 books that I wrote in the next years, none of them fetched any appreciation, neither from readers nor from critics. For the last 2 years, I was back to corporate. Thanks to my ex-colleague who had become my senior now for taking me back in M&M. I was someone who worked on sourcing auto components & vendor management, and I was very good at that in my 1st tenure itself. So, getting back into the race, I had presumed well but with this long hiatus, I had been left back in the race. So, in order to make up for the same, I was planning for pursuing MBA & was preparing for it simultaneously. I still had another story drafted, something not of my regular genre, but I never wanted to discuss it with anyone. I had taken up myself as defeated as an author. So, this lady recognizing me had surprised me.
She replied: No, it’s not like that
I: Then how come you recognized me as ‘Jeet’?
She: I know your name is Manojit & adapted your nickname ‘Jeet’ as your author's name when you wrote books.
I: How come you know that it’s known to very few people
She: I have read all your books & all your books carry a photograph of yours as well at the back cover with a brief background of yours
I: Oh, I get it
She: But that’s not how I recognized you
I: Yeah, because how would you know my real name
She: Don’t you remember me? I am Sarbani. I was your batchmate only at Jadavpur University. I was from the Computer engineering stream.
I: Oh, sorry. It’s been a long time, maybe I will take a few moments to recollect
She: It’s OK
I: Hey so you had been to this Alumni meet then that got wrapped back yesterday.
She: I had got the invite. But no, I couldn’t manage
I: Oh, but why? It was such a good event, finally, after 12 years we had an official alumni meet & it was great catching up with people
She: Household duties become a priority. My daughter is only 10 years old & needs me constantly with her. So, it wasn’t possible
I: Oh. So that’s your daughter, nice. What’s her name?
She: Her name is Naina, ‘Naina’ say hello to uncle
I: She’s pretty
I: So where are you traveling?
She: No along with my husband. He would board from Jaipur station
I: Ok. So, your husband works there
She: Yeah, he works in JSW
I: So, on a vacation?
She: Yeah short family trip
I: Don’t mind my saying, I mean I know Bongs have this annual Puri trip ritual, but how come you are traveling in this hot summer? I mean it would be too humid in May
She: Naina had her summer vacations & she needed a trip. Further, she needs to see her dad.
I: Oh, so you don’t stay with your husband?
She: No, I stay with my in-laws at Kharagpur. We meet often though as he keeps taking a small break to visit family. Naina loves her dad too much.
I thought, kids yeah. The same holds true… a daughter will cling on to his father a son would to his mother. Growing up I had a lot of fundamental issues with my dad. But mom, she would always stand by me. I still remember when I had told them of my decision to quit job & become an author, how irritated dad had become. But my mom, she stood beside my decision. Now when I think of my father’s argument then, I think might be he was right. As we men mature down age, we realize fathers speak less and they don’t want you to end as failures. So, they have a different viewpoint than yours and we end up creating differences. See finally he was right, I did end up as a failure. Since then he has never reacted to my decisions whatever it has been, for e.g. me getting back to a job or preparing for an MBA? Somehow, I think he has a part in me becoming self-made as I am. When 2 years back, I told them my decision of not getting married at, he didn’t even blink. Love, relationships, responsibility, settling down, family all had become so vague to me in recent times. But that was a catastrophic decision for my mom. She broke down. Ever since then I have avoided my home visits. I know, once I reach home, she would bring up this issue, but I have been missing her so much that I couldn’t avoid it this time.
After a brief silence she spoke again: So, did you recollect me?
I: Oh yeah, Sarbani Chatterjee, topper of computer stream. You see I took time, but my memory is still good.
She: It may be because you are just back from the alumni meet.
I smirked & replied: But we never much amongst us during college days. I mean you were a topper, but you were amongst the silent ones as well.
She: Yeah but may that be because you never noticed me. Because I can clearly recollect that during those days the only person you were interested in the computer stream was ‘Eesha’. You would speak to her for hours, keep hanging with her or her group
She had touched a nerve of mine. “Eesha’ was a memory that I wanted to forget but couldn’t help it. I had felt that awesome ‘only her made for me’ kind of feeling on our 1st induction day itself of engineering. And since then I had made her a part of my timeline. There wasn’t a thing that I hadn’t attempted at wooing her. I was not much of a talker, but I started striking conversations with her close friends who could get me closer to her. Though I was an average student, I had risen my ranks in leadership in mechanical stream. This ensured my active participation in all major college events of which she was a part also. And given my ever-growing reference circle, all had seemed as sailing through. I had been to her home as well & family was well acquainted with me. So, when I had the M&M offer in my hand, I finally expressed my feelings to her. In all these 4 years she had been friends with a lot of boys, but the entire college knew she only held me close. I had thought of a beautiful destiny, but my dreams were about to be shattered. She denied any feelings for me stating that she never thought of me ‘anything more than a close friend’. She could never reciprocate any such feeling for me & I was her type. You see she was born with a silver spoon, she was the daughter of one of the reputed businessmen of Kolkata. She was beautiful & intelligent. So even though she had spent a lot of time with me on bike rides, and even though I spent almost half of the monthly expenses on her companionship, she thought of me as no match for her & only friend-zoned me. This gave her the security as no one else would disturb her as well as someone who can take care of her small chores during study days i.e. books, notes, etc. She always wanted a lavish life for herself, rides in SUV’s & settling abroad, that was her dream. Given her family status, she always was not a big deal finding a perfect match for her. For the last 6 years, she had settled down in the US with her husband & had started a family even. I keep following her on Facebook even though I am not on her friend list. This makes me feel even more frustrated.
She: What happened, you got silent?
She: So how is Eesha doing?
I: I don’t know. I have heard that she got married & settled in the US.
She: Anyways, so who all else made it to the Alumni meet?
I: I don’t know how many you would recollect. But Anirudha, Madhab, Jagat, Rahul, Amit, Sujit, Farhan were there from a mechanical stream. Arun, Vyankatesh, Jyotika, Nikhil, Vishal, Avantika were there from the electronics stream. Pankaj, Rashmi, Veena, Anamika, Rakesh, Subhojeet were there from your computer stream. In fact, Aniruddha had initiated this meet & with the help of a few from each stream planned & organized this. Subhojit helped with funds & arrangements.
She: There’s no point asking, I hope everyone is doing well. But you would like to share any interesting progress for any of them?
I: Everyone is doing fine for themselves. Anirudha has got into active politics. Subhojeet has his own start-up now. Most of them are settled in other parts & had traveled to Kolkata for this meet. I guess it also served as a right break for most to visit home in lieu of this meet.
She: So, you all must have had a lot of fun
I: Yeah, it served as a great platform to recollect our college memories. We boozed late at night, rode bikes, smoked, dined at biryanis… even went to the Kali ghat. Everything just likes the old days.
She: Great, but was there any concrete stuff planned for these alumni meet?
I: It was basically interacting amongst us & learning from each other that how we have grown up & gone different ways being from the same engineering batch. It was also about sharing the same to current batch & giving them a perspective of life by reflecting upon ours. Each of us had a session where we interacted.
She: Great, so tell me about your session.
I: I was supposed to basically deliver my note on my transition as an author from being a mechanical engineer. But I don’t think it was neither necessary nor effective.
She: Why do you think so?
I: I don’t know if you know, that apart from my 1st book which became a national bestseller, all other books of mine failed. For the last 2 years, I am back in Job. Even though I have another draft ready, I don’t have the intention of finishing it. In short, I think of myself as a loser & I don’t think I can influence anyone positively.
She: It all depends on how you think. At least you have become a much better public speaker & conversationalist than you were ever before.
I: How can you say that
She: I have read all your books. I would opine you write great stories. But you must be able to differentiate what is that work in your 1st book & not others
I: I know that I keep writing only in the genre of romance that doesn’t end happily
She: Is it only that?
I: There’s something else as well which I admitted during these alumni meet as well publicly.
She: And what’s that?
I: There is someone else as well who is responsible for my 1st book success
She: And who is that & how?
I: I had started writing my 1st book during my final year of engineering days. But somehow despite writing the entire story I couldn’t give it a perfect ending. I still remember it was during the convocation drama practice, I must have left my diary on a nearby table alone for 3-4 hours. When I returned & picked my note, I found someone else had finished my story. It was a perfect ending, an ending that fills you with hopes & dreams. Later when the book got published, I only gave finishing touches to the original draft while everything else remained the same. I could never write down a similar ending to my stories thereafter.
She: So, did you realize who helped you with the ending? Maybe you can take a cue from them now
I: I don’t know. That day almost half of the college was sitting as an audience during the practice. It was difficult to fathom who could be that helpful stranger. One of the major reasons why I disclosed this secret during this alumni meet was, I thought I could get to know that person & thank him & ask him to help one more time with my current story.
She: So, did you get to know?
I: Nope, no one resurfaced. Anyways since I have planned to drop this idea of my next book, so doesn’t matter anymore.
She: Shoo you never heard from that person anymore?
I: Enough with the interrogation. You can’t expect me to speak my heart out to a stranger
She got silent.
I: Anyways how come to a topper like you did nothing for her career? What was the point of such dedication in studies then?
I was trying to rub her ego as I had got disturbed by then.
She politely replied: I was the only daughter of my dad who worked in Govt office. He had no one else than me as my mother had passed away when I was a kid & I had no other siblings. So, in a way, we were both dependent on each other. Post my engineering I had joined a small IT firm. But while into my 2nd-year stint, my dad was diagnosed with cancer. My dad got worried about me & wanted to get me married ASAP. I obliged. He fixed my marriage with Subhendu who the son of his close friend was. I had known Subhendu during my childhood days as our houses were 2 blocks away in Kharagpur. When I met him, I found he had grown into a decent man, not handsome though which I anyways knew before as I remembered him from childhood. He had done his engineering from NIT, Durgapur; coincidentally he’s a mechanical also. He put forward one & only condition that I couldn’t my job post marriage as he wanted his wife to take care of his family. Thus, I agreed.
I suddenly took pity on her.
She: Since Naina came into our lives, I anyways got full busy with household chores. But I completed my M. Tech in distance learning. And I take tuition classes for engineering aspirants at my home in the evening. You see there are not many competitive resources available in small towns. So apart from the additional income, it gives me great satisfaction in trying to nurture young minds.
I was now taken aback. A batch topper who could compete & succeed but left the race for family responsibility & now finds meaningful ways to her own life. I was ashamed at myself & realized how come I never endure such positivity in life.
I questioned: What about your dad?
She: He passed away 2 years after my daughter was born. But he did go in peace.
I: I am extremely sorry Sarbani. Your positivity inspires me now & makes me feel terribly bad for my behavior. I will share with you the letter from my stranger friend.
She: It's Ok, don’t bother. What letter?
I: My stranger friend had written me one letter at the end of our engineering days. I got it similarly inside my note which I had left outside during my M&M interview schedule.
She: Leave it, there’s no point sharing it with me something personal.
I: No, I want to because till now I have never shared with anyone. I can share it with a person like you who has such a positive outlook on life.
She: So, you carry that letter always? Now you are going to read it to me?
I: I always keep its copy in my purse. I remember each & every word of the letter. Its importance grew when I sunk. I have re-read it so many times when I am lost in my negative thoughts. I can simply tell you every word without reading it, but it’s better if you have a read. Here, looks.
The small note read:
“Dear Jeet, I am your shy stranger who helped you with the ending of your story. I hope you liked it completely. If you are pondering why did I help you, it’s simply because I love you. And if you ponder why didn’t I confess it in the open. The reason is, I know you are absolutely in love with someone else. There’s no way you can reciprocate my love & anyways I have always believed that true love means wishing the best for your loved ones, that may all their dreams come true, just the way our parents love us, selflessly. So here while you are sitting for your interview at M&M, I am sure you will fulfill your 1st passion of joining an automobile industry. And while you are at it, I would also wish you all the best in proposing to Eesha. May you both become a lovely couple & have a happy future life. I would also wish you all the best for your 2nd passion because I know someday you will make a great author. Just remember never let go of hopes & dreams.
And just a clue as to why I wrote this note today because I am someone from your batch whom you didn’t even notice. So maybe we will never gate to meet again unless fate intertwines.”
The note didn’t even carry a signature.
She: Hmmm. So, what is your future?
I: I don’t know. One thing I know she is a she, 2nd she is from our batch. If I could have met her, I could have cleared things up
She: Why did you want to meet her? I mean were you going to propose her or what?
I: No not like that. She somehow knew me in a complete sense. Her notes did fill me with positivity. May be meeting her, I could have sorted out my own life.
I: Anyways I would have never proposed her as I don’t plan to settle down at all
She: Why is it so?
I: I have lost all sense of purpose in life. Relationship & responsibility are huge drowned for me. I need to get back in the race. I am anyways planning for pursuing MBA. So, no time for this stuff now.
She: Is your family Ok with it
I: Will see
We both fell silent for a few minutes. It was anyways through much of an emotional roller coaster ride for me.
Then she spoke: I need 2 favors from you if you oblige
I: Yeah say
She: Are you carrying your unfinished story with you? Could you give me that to read?
I: But why
She: I am a fan of your writing. Since you won’t finish it anymore, So I will never get a chance to read it. So, if you would share, I would like to have a read at your last story. It will help me pass the journey time as well.
I: Ok Sarbani. I wouldn’t have liked to share it with anyone. But since you have listened so patiently to me & have sparked me with your positive comments, I can make an exception.
I: What’s the 2nd?
She: My husband will board from Jaipur station as I told you. But he has a confirmed seat in a different compartment. His seat is B25. So, once he boards would you exchange your seat with him. Naina would love to sit beside her dad.
I: That’s not an issue at all. Now since you are going to read, I am also going to rest as I haven’t had much of asleep last night. Here takes the draft of my unfinished story. Just remember to wake me up from my nap, once Jaipur station arrives.
I handed over the draft to her & closed my eyes.
Time must have passed by & it must have been a few hours.
Sarbani waked me up: Hey Jaipur station is arriving
I opened my eyes: Yeah
She stared out of the windowpane into the sky: It might rain
I: Though I am a ‘Pluviophile’ but rains in scorching summer May, that’s impossible
She: What’s pluviophile?
I: Someone who loves rain & finds joy & peace when it rains
She: Oh. You never know
As the station started to draw, she pointed out: That’s Suvendu
I looked & realized, yeah, he wasn’t a good-looking man but maybe a great human being which made this lady so dedicated towards him.
I started to get off: I will leave for the next compartment, you can ask him to board in this compartment directly
She: Would you like to meet him?
I: Not required
She: Here, your draft. I liked the story. I hope it sees the open someday.
I: Thanks, let’s see
She: So, would you like to stay in touch?
I: I don’t think exchanging phone numbers would be a great idea, as I know for sure I would never call you. I rarely stay in touch with people anymore. But you could add me on Facebook.
She: I don’t have a Facebook account. The day I open one, I would send you a friend request.
I: Ok. It was nice talking to you Srabani. I opened my heart after a long time to someone & you had been a patient listener.
She: I was also very happy to meet u Jeet & listen to you. Hope we will meet sometime soon
I collected my draft, waved to her daughter & left for the next compartment as the train screeched to a halt at the station.
Cuttack station was arriving, and as my old regular habit, I was standing at the door to have a view of the city. When you enter Cuttack in the evening, you catch a glimpse of the old city surrounded by its river on both sides, & the street lights shining along the ring road, its light-reflecting upon the waters. It’s a beautiful view & makes you fall in love with the city. I always point out that no other city looks so beautiful when arriving in railways, maybe each one of us finds something unique in our hometowns where we grew up.
As I boarded out of the train onto the platform, I thought of seeing Srabani once again to bid a final goodbye. But then I let go of the idea, figuring that she must be happy talking with his husband whom she was meeting after a long time.
I had called upon my best friend from school days Amrit to drop me at home. Amrit was like a brother to me who had simply settled down here in the comfort of home, not seeking to pursue large metropolitans & their noise as he would point out. He had passed out from local engineering college in the electrical stream & was deputed with state electricity board. He got married 4 years back & had a beautiful daughter now. He was my ‘go-to-man’ whenever I would come home. He had already informed me that he was going to be late by 15 mins, So I had to wait.
As I came out of the station with still my draft clutched in my arms, a man shouted out: Hey brother, look. Seems some note is falling out of your book. As I collected the note from falling out, I was amazed to see someone had penned my story further. I went through it & I realized it was again a perfect ending none like I could have written down. The handwriting was something that I instantly recognized, it was that of my strange helping lady. I took a glance at the note that was left with my heartbeat pulse racing.
The note read:
“Dear Jeet, as you pointed out, the difference in your 1st book & all others that you wrote later is in the ending. While your 1st book ending was something that spread, happiness, love, hope & dreams… all that you wrote later ended in misery, suffering & pain. I understand you wrote it from a practical point of view. But you must also acknowledge that human lives will always have both Joy & sorrow as part of life. Enduring the pain & still smiling through is what is ‘being human’. You can’t compare yourself with the lives of others. Everyone lives through different yardsticks. We don’t know what pain one goes through, we only see their smile. So eventually every great book, however, the odds may be ends up with hope.
Just because your relationship with Eesha didn’t materialize, doesn’t mean you should give up on love. See around you, your family & friends love you a lot. Reciprocate their feelings & give life a chance. Who knows, your best partner may be still awaiting you. Your plans for doing an MBA are perfectly fine. Don’t be in a rush, neither should you be in a race. You are unique, enjoy your individuality. You are doing perfectly Ok & in your own due time, you would reach your professional goals as well. Don’t give up on your writing. Once you can synergize yourself with hope, you will find flawless writing in your stories.
Now that you have come to know that, I was your mystery girl, I hope our path crosses once again someday. I loved you but never expected reciprocation from you. I married Suvendu & I am deeply fond of him & my family. I loved my dad & now I am making most of my life in a meaningful way as much I can. We can’t shape our destiny, but we can keep giving our best. The only thing that lets us steer in our life is love, family, dreams & hope. So never let go of it.
I hope you find this ending as perfect you wanted it to be. I hope this book sees the light of the day. I hope you keep writing as well as achieve heights of corporate success. But tomorrow being 21st May i.e. your birthday, above all, I wish that you find your belief back again in dreams & hope.”
It was signed this time, yours Srabani.
My eyes were filled with tears. I could feel a lump around my throat. I realized she was the lady for my success & I wouldn’t have even treated her fairly during my whole journey. I never know what odds she has faced & what she has sacrificed, but neither she complained, nor she demanded. She knew & remembered every tiny detail of mine but never sought any gratification, which tells about her unconditional love for me. Now when I think, I can see her clearly gazing towards me shyly whenever she would catch a view of me during those. She had those beautiful expressive eyes, but I could never realize that then. And yet she bears no pain of unrequited love & only wished me happiness instead. Despite her not making a successful career, she is not bothered about peers. She is making the most of her life in a meaningful way as it can be.
She had taught me a great lesson about life. I just wished her happiness & thought maybe we would come across someday. May she would open a Facebook account & send me a friend request. I just wanted to rush back home & hold my mom and dad. Yes, she had filled me with hope, made me realize the importance of family & opened my eyes to dream again.
As I heard Amrit calling me out, I also heard thunder from the sky. As I looked up above, it started to rain. Yes, hope has reached me.