Friday, August 15, 2008

Good Samaritan ? (Concluding Part)

“Hello?” my mother answered the phone with a tired and anxious voice with all the drama happening in the morning.
“Thamma (Grandma), Rini here! How are you? What has happened? Your voice is sounding so tired? Baba was supposed to come to you today. Has he arrived?” said Rini, my daughter, from USA in one breath.

Rini and I are best friends. After I lost my wife in 1998, misunderstanding cropped up between us for sometime. It, however, got resolved with the passage of time and when we could appreciate each other’s grief. Now I am having the dual responsibility of being her father and mother and she is my darling daughter. We are friend, philosopher and guide to each other. We share all our secrets which might have bearing on each other, skipping the ones which are mostly irrelevant. Finding me behaving like an unguided missile, Rini even tried to arrange a match for me and finally gave up when she found me absolutely unmarriageable.

“Rini, I am OK. Just now I got a phone call from Bapi that he has landed in Kolkata and coming home. One Kashmiri girl is also coming with him” conveyed my mother.
“Whaaat? Baba never told me anything about any Kashmiri girl? When did this happen?” Rini was more bothered about receiving the information via her grandma than the information itself.
“I hope things are really not that serious. Bapi apparently met her to-day at Delhi airport. She was going to Bangladesh via Kolkata. Bapi is bringing her home since she is all alone and her flight to Bangladesh is later in the evening” assured my mother banking on her residual confidence in me.
“Knowing my father, it sounds plausible. Let me get the information directly from the horse’s mouth. Don’t worry Thamma, I will take care” assured Rini though not very confident herself.

My mobile started ringing and seeing Rini’s name I was elated.
“Hello! Rini sona (Bengali equivalent of darling) how are you? I am already in Kolkata and driving down” I said with all the sweetness in my voice.
“Is she there with you? Say it in Bengali.” Rini’s voice was cold as steel.
“Yes! Farzana also knows Bengali” I wanted to clarify.
Hearing her name Farzana also turned towards me.
“Oh! What a coincidence! If it is at all a coincidence in the first place” Rini was mimicking. “Anyway, just answer me in Yes or NO. Is she good looking?” added Rini with expectation in her voice.
“Wonderful! I knew you will never make a wrong selection!” Rini was mocking. “Is she above fifty?” she added, trying to discard any further possibilities.
“Above forty?”
“Above thirty?”
“Above twenty?”
“Yes! You are correct”.
“Thank GOD, you have not picked up a teenager!” replied Rini sardonically. “Anyway, I hope there is nothing between two of you, otherwise you would have told me before” said Rini with some confidence, being my daughter for a long time. “Give me a ring when you are free. Bye!” added Rini some what relieved after her grueling interrogation.
“My daughter” I said with a smile while still thinking about my recent conversation with Rini.
“You told me that your daughter is in USA?” asked Farzana suspiciously.
“The call was from USA only” I replied.
“How she could know about me?” Asked Farzana, still suspicious.
“Probably she rang up her grandma in the morning which she normally does at least thrice a week and her grandma might have conveyed the news” I could only guess.
“Oh!” remarked Farzana and again resorted to gazing out of the window.
Within another few minutes we reached my mother’s place. As soon as our car reached the portico, the guard came running adjusting his belt and the opened door on Farzana’s side. As Farzana stepped out the guard was regretting why he did not have a shave in the morning!

“Please bring the luggage” I told Harvans and took the lift with Farzana. My mother’s flat is on the fourth floor. When I rang the bell, it was answered by my mother’s maid Mina, a Bengal-Bihar joint venture, beaming from ear to ear with sparkling eyes as if she was seeing the seventh wonder of the world!

My mother as usual was seated on her sofa in her living room and was reading a news paper. She greeted Farzana with a smile and gestured her to sit near her. I was surprised to see that instead of normal “Adab” Farzana greeted my mother with folded hand and said “Namaste”! From my mother’s smiling face I was convinced that Farzana had already been taken into her fold and I have done the right thing in bringing her home. They started conversing in Bengali.

My sister, Ilu was, however, not so gullible and was still little suspicious. She started asking Farzana lot of questions as if to verify her credentials!

It was already 10 AM and I did not have much time left for my meeting. After having a cup of tea brought by Mina who was very eager to join the gossip, I got up and told my mother “Ma, I have a meeting at 11 AM. I must change immediately and head for the office. I will also not be coming for lunch. Farzana will take lunch with you and then take some rest. Harvans will drop her to airport at 6 PM”. By then Farzana was quite at home with the ladies.

I was ready within half an hour. Before I took leave, I just wanted to check Farzana’s schedule and ask “Farzana could you please check your flight time once again and confirm?”
“I am sure it is at 8:20 PM” muttered Farzana but started digging her hand bag for the air ticket, may be just to satisfy me. She handed over the ticket to me without seeing. I took a brief look at the ticket and exclaimed in surprise “Farzana, here it is written 2:20 PM and not 8:20PM!” Farzana literally snatched the ticket from me, had a look and almost came to tears just thinking that if I hadn’t checked she would have missed the flight!

Immediately we both started dialing different numbers in our mobiles……. Farzana to her mother in Kashmir to enquire about the mix-up …….. and me to our branch manager at Kolkata office to arrange for a separate car to take her to airport.

After a brief tempest in Urdu with her mother, Farzana said with tears on her eyes “Mother said she tried for this earlier flight but settled for the evening flight when travelled agent told her that the earlier flight is full. She did not know that the travelled agent did arrange for the earlier flight as originally requested”
“Don’t worry! Thank God that you didn’t miss your flight. A separate car will come for you by 11:30 AM and you must leave for the airport latest by 12 O’clock. An authorized porter will take your luggage up to the check in counter. The car rental company and the driver have been instructed accordingly” I assured Farzana.
“Thank you very much, Mr. Sengupta for all the trouble you have taken”.
“That’s alright. It is already 10:30 AM and I must leave now. I don’t think I will be able to meet you before your departure. Take care and Khuda-hafez!” I told Farzana.
“Khuda-hafez!” said Farzana startled, with a rare smile on her face.
I then took leave from my mother and left for office.

Through out the day I was extremely busy. But before I got bogged down I advised our office secretary to check about the car and to ensure no further mix-up.
When I returned home at 6 PM, I was told by mother that Farzana left at 11:30 AM after a quick meal. Mina was, however, bubbling with excitement to tell me in details. “Kaku (Uncle), your friend removed her churni (Mina didn’t have any idea about Hijab!) after you left. She had such a nice brown hair! Since we did not have much time, I just made egg curry for her and she relished it. Is she coming back once again?” Mina was excited.
“Mina, it is very nice that Farzana liked your cooking, but there is no chance that she might come back again” I replied without elaborating to Mina that I just happened to meet Farzana only today at the Delhi airport!

After the tiring day, I took a bath and was having a cup of tea when my mobile started ringing. I picked it up and found the call is from an unknown number.
“Hello?” I asked, little unsure.
“Am I speaking to Mr. Sengupta?” the unknown caller asked.
“Good Evening! Mr. Sengupta, I am Rahim Khan from Kashmir; Farzana’s father. Do you remember me?”
“Of course Mr. Rahim Khan. I do remember you. Good Evening to you. How is Farzana? Has she reached Bangladesh safely?”
“Yes, she has reached safely. She just rang up from Dhaka. She specifically requested us to inform you immediately. She told us in details what all happened! She is all praise for your family and particularly your mother & you!”
“Oh, Mr. Khan! That’s all right. What I did, I feel you would have also done the same for my daughter under the similar circumstances”.
“That’s for sure, but good gestures are becoming very rare these days. Mr. Sengupta, if you happen to visit Kashmir, please be my guest. You have won a friend” Mr. Khan said quite emotionally.
“Thank you very much Mr. Khan. Now you are also having a friend in Kolkata! Do visit us if you come to Kolkata”
“Khuda-hafez, Mr. Sengupta”
“Khuda-hafez, Mr. Rahim Khan”

After the phone call I was just pondering over the whole incident from the morning. I was sure that most of you may not support my action, but probably like the proverbial squirrel helping mythological Rama to make the bridge across the ocean, I might have helped, in my small way, in building a bridge for a different purpose.

There was some music being played in our adjacent flat. Subconsciously I started humming the tune. Then I realized it was “Knowing me, knowing you….” I like ABBA.


doannie said...

Hi Mr.Sengupta,

Great story! Looking forward to reading your upcoming blogs:)

biplab said...

dear annie, thanks that you liked the story. while you were away i posted some blog. hope you could read them with your busy schedule.

jdrhere said...

all said & done....that's like a great captain ! aye aye Sir :)

biplab said...

jdrhere, of course there is a saying like "hati ki danth aur marad ki bath" but the captain should not be congratulated only for reaching the destination unless the seamanship is proper

PeeGee said...

seconding jdr.. aye aye captain... :) carry on.. shall we say?

biplab said...

peegee, thanks! hope you are not having the hangover of "follow the leader" we used to play in our childhood (though our childhoods could be far apart!). i always like your original comments

jdrhere said...

oye oye captain...
seconding peegee, carry on..

biplab said...

jdrhere, not really! when i retired, i got the best complement from one of my colleague when he recently sent me an e-mail saying "..... good leaders make more leaders and not more made us leaders but not followers...."

Indrabhom said...


As usual, good stuff!

The story takes on a special meaning when we consider the current situation in Kashmir..

Keep writing..


Indrabhom said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
biplab said...

indra, thanks for your comments. rini also told me the same (through e-mail). besides building the bridge what i wanted to convey that whatever we are, at the end of the day we are some-body's children, some-body's parents, some-body's siblings and above all we are human-beings with finer feelings. jayanta is annoyed with me because of the line ".most of you may not support my action.." his comment "KNOW THY FRIENDS". i agree.

Nirjhorini said...

A very well-told anecdote Kaku. I do think both you and Farzana were very gullible about each other - glad everything worked out the way they di. :-)
Please keep blogging.

biplab said...

kamalika, yes it was very strange but true. the story could have had a very different ending. i feel body language does matter in our decision.

Unknown said...

loved the story and particulary the lines "...being my daughter for a long time" keep writing.