Today was a sad day.
Some of the things I knew true for long came undone.
This is a book my Chotomama (maternal uncle) wrote. Its titled “Amaar Desh, Amaar Bidesh”. Simple-sounding, but craftily worded. (Very)Roughly it translates to “My Country, Foreign unto me” [one possible translation].
It is a personal recollection of his roots, as a kid, of the place where he was born, now Bangladesh. East Pakistan was born when India was partitioned in 1947. East Pakistan later became independent of Pakistan, and is now known as Bangladesh.
The preface declares,
“This story offers no deep insight. Nor is one warranted. A ten-year old does not possess a deep insight. He only possesses memories of love. Of houses, playgrounds, festivals, trees, shrubbery, ponds, lakes, rivers, bazaars, schools — that’s what he can see even today.”
I had never read anything penned by Chotomama until today. He was a respected journalist and the President of the Indian Journalists’ Association at one time. I am liking his style. Its very lucid, gripping. Not unnecessarily emotional. Not flowery. Not wordy. No metaphors. As if somebody is talking straight from the heart to you across the table with two cups of coffee as the only witnesses.
I came to read how my maternal great grandfather, Rajkumar Das, went from riches to rags, blind and bankrupt on his deathbed, lost all his money to his brother’s sons. How my great grandmother, Khemankari Das, had to spend her last years in a mud hut, and later at the mercy of her selfish relatives (who begat her husband’s wealth). How she would, unable to bear the agony, would seek shelter with my grandmother, Kusumkumari GhoshChowdhury, who herself, widowed and displaced from Bangladesh as a pauper was struggling to keep herself and her five kids alive. My grandma would have to grudgingly send her back to her in-laws, writing them letters, pleading them not to let the old woman die on the streets. Also amusing stories of how Rajkumar’s son, Chittaranjan, having failed to keep jobs, joined the British (?) Indian Army, and his subsequent episodes of facing Japanese submarines in the Red Sea.
I did not know most of these stories. For whatever reasons, I had only been told about the grand life of Rajkumar Das when he was rich.
Chotomama has been paralysed following a massive stroke for about four years now. He made the effort to send me a signed copy of the book released late last month. His handwriting really looks like a kid’s now.