Despite what the old man promised, the tale he was to tell wasn’t short. There were numerous digressions, there was a lot of history lessons, of the freedom movement, of Mahatma Gandhi’s arrival in Pandu port, of the partition, of river navigation, of this British officer called Northbrook, of LLB courses at Oxford, of a Irish girl named Kathleen, of hunting rabbits…
Sitting on the corner of the empty restaurant, sipping the sweet tea, Mihir would later repeat the story to Aminur, this time without the frills, just the basics.
It involved a 27-year-old, a ‘foreign-returned’, bilat pherot as they were called, just back in the country after four years in Oxford, England, a scion of landed gentry. And he was ready to leave for England again, this time for good. He had a job waiting for him, and someone who loved him dearly. He had made up his mind. Tonight was the night, as he sat there in the far corner of Pandu port, looking at the placid waters of the mighty river, like a giant fast asleep, and the steamboat floating in the fog, which will take him away from this land which was his home. The port was dark, without a hint of life. He remembered another port, faraway in Liverpool, which he will see again in a month’s time — always buzzing with people, always inviting.
He was so engrossed with his thoughts he had no idea that an old man had arrived there and sat next to him.
“Grandfather, not sleeping? You’ll have to get up early tomorrow. The boat leaves at seven,” he said.
“And what if you don’t want to get into the boat?”
“Then you shouldn’t be here. You should be at your home,” the young man said.
“My home is a wreck. It’s been destroyed and I cannot fix it on my own.”
The young man wanted to say something comforting, something like don’t worry, everything will be all right. He choked. Something inside him had started a rebellion against his very judgment. He was leaving in a few hours, and as the time inched closer, his doubts began to mount.
“So, what are you planning to do?”
“I’m looking for someone to help me. Someone like you.”
“Someone like me?”
“Yes, someone who is intelligent and educated; someone, who can help and willing to do so.”
[Part of a story I was working on; I wanted to tell a small digression, which threatened to become a tale on its own. So I had to stop. Someday, hopefully, I will pickup the thread and finish the tale.]