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Identity

Identity

11 mins 16.8K 11 mins 16.8K

I am Sambit Dutta - twenty-one years of age, a second-year student of Delhi IIT. My father Sekhar Dutta is an IPS Officer, mother Mohini serves as a Sub-Editor in a woman's magazine. My surname belongs to two communities i.e. Bengalee as well as Punjabee. Incidentally or accidentally, I have both the identity & entity. My father is a Bengalee & mother a Punjabee; surprisingly both are having the same family name. My Grandfather served in West Bengal state police department, retired as a constable, grandmother used to stay in the village. My grandparents put all their efforts to bring up their only child. My father married without the sole consent of my grandfather. Inter-community love-marriage; rather it was an unforeseen gaffe for a conservative Bengalee family. Yet he accepted and surrendered due to my grandmother’s tears.

My Thkurda Sashibhusan Dutta proposed my name, in my mukhebhat. Sambit (consciousness) was the brightest lamp among seven-Pradeep; other six names were proposed by different people, didi , masi, kaka ... My mother got annoyed for not considering her proposed name ‘Pramjit.’ None of my maternal uncle were present in that ceremony. Elder one was in Canada and younger in Bangalore. My Dadu retired as an IG, BSF, stays in Noida, near Delhi; also could not impart his blessings physically.

My father served in West Bengal for about ten years before being transferred to Tripura, Madhya Pradesh and finally to Delhi. However, I was born and spent my childhood in West Bengal. Despite the fact, yet I am less Bengalee than Punjabee in true sense an identity-less creature. I do like to speak more father tongue (as much as I recollect) with the amalgamation of phonetic dialects, but it appeared cripple and funny pronunciation. I ought to become a polyglot without a distinction rather the blend of English, Hindi & Punjabi. I do find my passion with Bengali songs and music than others including western music. I remember those auspicious folklores, Thakuma used to sing in the evening especially when I used to be inexplicable to her by my mischievous acts. One winter morning with dozing eyes I came to know that Thakuma was no more. Death had dragged her to give relief from long-suffering of incurable chronic disease. We rushed to our village Banshberia to pay our last tributes to her. I compelled my uncle to take me to the burning Ghat. I took part in the obsequies. When the corpse was under cremation with a bundle of logs, I got scared by seeing the haughty flames. My grandfather embraced me and told by showing the whirled smoke vanishing in the sky, “There is your Thakuma, going to heaven by sitting on the chariot of Indra.” I could observe nothing.

One evening Thkurda was looked gloomy, he was sitting idle on the veranda by keeping open ‘Ramkrishna Kathamrita’ (the collection of the sermon and preaches by the Guru of Swami Vivekananda). He was not even responding to my commotion. I hugged him from the back and whispered,” If you do not speak I will shout rigorously.” Suddenly with a heavenly smile, he embraced me and emotionally asked with a very low tone, “Promise, you would shoulder me to the Burning-Ghat after my Death?” Without a succumbed thought I assured him, “Wherever I am in the world, I would.” After the first death anniversary of my grandmother, Thkurda started living with us at our Alipur, residence in Kolkata. We had a widespread lawn, barring a portico with vanity. The mezzanine roof supported by four pillars on the doorway; pillars almost covered by bougainvillea. The Old British made Gothic pattern Building could never put me in curiosity. However, the landscape, open space, garden used to offer esplanade and ample of opportunity to the young and old-boy to amuse ourselves together. Despite the presence of gardener and caretaker, Thkurda was also concerned for kitchen garden and vegetation in our premises. It used to cost awkward embarrassment to Thkurda , with the tough schedule and awesome discipline imposed by my mother. Often I listened to hot exchanges between my parents, which I could never follow nor tried. Sometimes there used to be an unusual calm at home. I was accustomed to get-togethers, kitty-party and the regular visit of my mother’s friends and associates. Thkurda was a friend, philosopher, and guide to me. Those days, I heard many stories from him oriented with folks, epics, and history of human values; many a times it repeated, on my demands.

One afternoon two of my maternal side’s distant relatives visited our quarter. Both were staying abroad since long. Thkurda was in the kitchen garden, on the left-hand side after main entrance, curing some newly germinated saplings of cauliflower, onion etc. I was puzzling him with my ocean of queries about plants and their origin. One woman among them enquired my mother, “Who is that old guy?” She replied in negligence, “Mali, from Dutta’s village having none in the world”. Perhaps, Thkurda could understand only one word, Mali. Next morning, we went to Dum Dum Airport to see-off our relatives. When we were back in the afternoon after some shopping in the New Market, I could not find Thkurda . Initially, everyone thought he must be roaming a nearby park, shop or gossiping with some fellow-feeling man. Even in the late afternoon, he did not return, my mother become bit anxious. My father rushed to the home at twilight and was shouting in worry. No clue had been found in Thkurda ’s room. He left home with only what he was wearing. Father synthesized his power and position to find out Thkurda . Next morning search was on, to all probable place and relatives homes. All the efforts went in vain. After few days, I could realize I was missing Thkurda in every moment of my life, those folklores, the bravery stories of epic heroes, the knowledge of plants and herbs, astronomical recognition, more and more.

Gradually with the dynamism of life and time, Thkurda ,’s influence and memories fainted away. During my boarding-school days in Dehradun, I used to be a jealous-nudge when I found someone with his/her grandparents. After finishing high school, I joined my parents in Delhi. The transition from adolescence to youth opened up new rationality also revealed the obsession towards opposite sex, sentiment accelerated the chauvinism, motivation to explore and defy. It was Swami Vivekananda’s selected essay influenced me a lot to be an odd into the trend stream of life. My mother was trying to converge and push me into the world of career and only career; often I deferred with her.

One morning while returning from walk to our RK Puram residence, I could find an old man sitting near Gate No. 3, in October with moderate temperature and relative humidity the rugged dressed man was trying to shield him like a cocoon with a wrapper. His drapers were insufficient to his will. A small torn bag was lying beside him carelessly. His complete gray hair virtually appeared like a bouquet over a rock or a cemetery, keeping the head between two knees; he was trying to find comfort in the pleasant morning. I paused with mere curiosity; perhaps I felt pity with the distressed human being. I approached and enquired, “Are you alright? Where are you from? Are you in search of anyone?” He glanced at me with an aimless calm, but with an inquisitive eye signaling oblivion, again embarked to his ease. An obsessive synergy occupied me for rest of the furlong way to home.

My motorbike did not pass thru Gate No. 3, on the way to college. My friends planned for a matinee movie in PVR Saket. I was undone in the classes and decided to return home. While entering through gate No.3, I could not find the old man whom I saw in the morning. With an unknown circumvent I stopped my motorbike to locate him. I could find the man about fifty meters away from the previous position. He was lying with a different posture on the footpath by wrapping dirty old bed sheets; flies were hovering over his mouth. I could not control my passion, approached him and touched his hand by kneeling down. It was warm but beyond expected temperature, he winked once. The man was still alive and suffering from high fever must be hungry too. An unscrupulous thought occupied me, had this man been my Thkurda …! Hurriedly I went home and brought some roti and sabji (kept for me), wrapped with aluminum foil and a bottle of water by ignoring the questionnaires of our cook. The old man was unable to eat those foodstuffs. He consumed only a meager portion could gulp little water. He was not in a position to reply any of my queries to disclose his Identity. I thought PCM might give him some relief, but there was no medicine shop nearby, I lingered the idea ... Some resident of Sector 9 & 10 and few trespassers glanced at me with a careless but curious eye.

Next Morning being Sunday I got up late, with a mysterious morning dreams. It almost squeezed my heart, yet I was unable to recollect the sequence. About quarter past ten, it struck my mind; the octogenarian-man suffering from high fever lying on the footpath. I had to give him PCM. I refused to take holiday breakfast with my parents and came out in my tracksuit and jogging shoes. My mother gently rebuked me, for the irresponsible obscure, might be the repercussion of yesterday’s stubborn act, oriented with poking by the maidservant. I strode up towards gate no. 3 by seeing an MCD vehicle. Before I reached the spot, the vehicle moved. A morning-walker who was observing the incident, confirmed, “A beggar’s corpse was carried away by the MCD vehicle. The person perhaps died at the break of dawn. A newspaper vendor noticed the man growling for his last breath. He informed to the nearby police post. Later police found him dead.” I walked down to the spot where the man was lying, his bag had gone missing; some papers, one old notebook a few marble were scattered. I picked up a few marbles and the notebook. Absent-mindedly I turned the notebook pages, it perhaps written in Bengali, the language I learned for a few days in my childhood. I could recognize the script, but it was Greek to me. Squabbled with a long breath, I could foresee a prophecy. Repentance and guilty conscious has beholden my ego. I returned home with heavy heart and those insignias. In the afternoon, I preferred to be in self-styled captivity with Aurobindo Ghosh’s ‘Life Divine’.

At eight in the evening with a nostalgic metaphor, I walked down to my friend Aroop’s house, despite knowing the fact he will not be available at home. His mother appears to me like idol Durga. Her love, blessings, passion, and teaching inspired me to develop my confidence whenever I am in distress. By observing my gesture, she smiled and asked, “Had some misunderstanding at home?” I unhesitatingly replied with a flat tone,” No!” Instead of asking a further question, she went into the kitchen and had come out instantaneously. By putting a small bowl on center-table, she asked, “This is your favorite Ghoogni, have it.” Nothing convinced me I was preoccupied. I interrupted masima, “I am upset since morning.” She smiled and replied,” I know.” I could not control myself anymore, enquired with bit annoyance, “How do you know?” She replied without a second thought,” Your restlessness divulges so!” I looked at her eyes those were unruffled, convincing and excusing with motherly touch and kinship. Pausing for a while, I described the total incident since yester-morning, including the death of the strange old man. Surprisingly she enquired, “Why are you feeling blameworthy?” I replied,” I don’t know!” At once, it came to my mind; the notebook was with me, what the MCD people did not care. I took out the notebook, “Masima, perhaps the scripts are in Bengali; please have a look.” She accepted with keenness and turned the pages one after another without any change in facial expression. I become impatient after a few minutes, “Tell me something? “ She smiled with an indication ‘keep patience for few more moments.’ She broke her silence with a long breath, “The poor old man, traveled all the way from West Bengal to Delhi to meet his beloved ‘Mana’ who lives in R K Puram, Delhi.” I impatiently enquired, “What is his name?” Masima turned the page again and replied, “Perhaps Sashi… Dutta, pages are torn over here...” I stood from the couch as an electrified man, “Sashibhusan Dutta my Thkurda ?” I have questioned her in a single breath, “Please check where from he hailed?” After a pause, she replied, from Banshberia, Hooghly.” I cried vividly, ‘It was none but Thkurda , I failed to recognize him and discharge my duties even as a human being” Masima tried to console me, “Look, Sambit, you may be mistaken! Anyways do not jump into conclusion.” I acclaimed ‘Mana’ it is me, Thkurda used to address me and those marbles, Thkurda promised me to gift, to restrict my intolerable acts?” Masima silently put her hand on my head.

I reached home late night and did not have dinner. It was a sleepless breathtaking hour of darkness with the doldrums. Next Morning, when Papa was back from Tennis court I proposed, “I want to go hostel.” He could not ignore my confidence and plea, thus affirmed with a grudge, “If you are comfortable and vowed to study better for your career, I have nothing to say.” Mom asked me with a diffident approach, “What made you think to leave home; I don’t think you are facilitated less?” I replied, “In search of Identity!”

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Legends:

Thkurda —Paternal Grandfather, Mukhebgat :-Rice feeding ceremony for a child of aging between 5 to 9 months in Bengali custom. Pradeep- earthen-lamp-pot, Thakumaa- Paternal Grand Mother, Kaka- Uncle, Didi- Elder sister Dadu – Maternal Grandfather, Mali-Gardener Ghoogny- Special Grams curry (veg & non-veg). Sabji- Vegetables Curry, Masima- respectable address to an aged woman. (Maternal aunt), Mana- address a small child with generous nickname


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