Sunday, August 10, 2008

Good Samaritan? (Part III)

“OK” said Farzana with a half smile and with a tone conveying resignation to her fate and started pushing her trolley forward.
“Why don’t we switch; you take my strolley and let me push your trolley?” I said out of courtesy.
“No! It is OK” said Farzana with finality in her voice.
As soon we came out of the arrival lounge, my driver Harvans came running.
“Good Morning, Sir. May I help you?” said Harvans and tried to take the strolley from me.
Harvans is a burly sardar and was assigned to me by the rental car company for the last seven years. His nature was diametrically opposite to his physic. He was a thorough gentleman, extremely polite and courteous. He was my friend, philosopher and guide and used to take me under his fold whenever I came to Kolkata to visit my mother. He knew all my clients, my friends of all sexes, all my relatives and whoever I needed to meet or visit!
“Good Morning, Harvans! How are you? I replied and then added “Harvans, please take the trolley from Memsab (Lady)”.
Harvans was aghast! He had never seen me coming out of Kolkata airport with any lady not known to him. Not only Farzana was unknown but I could read that her beauty made Harvans completely nervous and confused!
“Good Morning, Memsab!” he said nervously and took the trolley from Farzana. Farzana did not object. When we came to car drop zone, Harvans told us to wait and brought the car from the parking area in a run. Once our luggage was properly loaded and we were comfortable inside the car I told Harvans” Harvans let’s go home first and then we will go to office probably after an hour”
“Shall we not go first to Hotel, Sir?” asked Harvans, looking at me through the rear view mirror with nervousness still written on his face.
“Which Hotel, Harvans?” I enquired.
“Sir, shall we not drop Memsab first?” asked Harvans politely.
“Memsab is going with us to our house” I replied.
Harvan’s shocked reaction was quite dramatic and he just managed to avoid the lamppost! “OK, Sir.” He said nervously. He was sure that something had gone wrong somewhere.

The house where my mother stays is by the side of Eastern Metropolitan by pass, a high way, on the south-eastern fringe of Kolkata. E.M by pass is connected to Kolkata airport via VIP road and a by pass high way skirting the Salt Lake City. The road connection was excellent but it used to take about an hour to reach my mother’s house from the airport. After driving a kilometer from the airport, Harvans took left turn to enter the by pass high way.

Since leaving the airport, Farzana had been looking through the window without uttering a word.
“Have you been to Kolkata before?” I asked just to start the conversation and make her feel at home.
“Only to Kolkata airport. I was always taking an earlier flight and never came out of the airport” replied Farzana without turning her head.
“Are you sure that you are not booked in that flight this time as well?” I wanted to be sure.
“My mother told me that she did try for the same flight, but could not get the reservation” replied Farzana.
“Then it is OK. By the way my name is Biplab Sengupta. You might have seen it in my business card”.
“O yes, I did. I am Farzana” Farzana said, turning her head and rewarding me with a very rare smile.
“Yes, I saw it on your boarding card”.
“Are you visiting Bangladesh to meet any relatives?” I enquired.
“No, no. I am studying there. I am a third year medical student in Dhaka University”.
“But why in Bangladesh and not in India?” I enquired without hiding my surprise.
“It is much cheaper there. Moreover they have a medical college exclusively for girls with hostels inside the compound. It is very secure” explained Farzana. “Also it is much easier to get admission there” added Farzana.
“Since you are already in Dhaka for last three years, have you picked up any Bengali?” I enquired.
“I can understand it quite well. I can also speak, but only a little” replied Farzana.
“Are you carrying some instrument? Your luggage was very heavy.” I enquired.
“No, no. I am just carrying medical books. They are cheaper here. Also they are in short supply in our college library” replied Farzana with a shy smile.

I was quite impressed with her economic considerations. Must be business people, I thought! I suddenly remembered that it was already 9:15 AM and I had not yet called my mother!

My mother is always a little different from others of her generation. At the age of 85 and even with her frail health she was still spending at least five hours for Puja (holy rituals), but remained absolutely liberal and pragmatic in all her ideas. She always had equal respect for all religions and never bothered about the cast system. In our childhood we had everything except any supply of money. My mother, however, in joint venture with my father, who was great in his own right, gave me and my six sisters the opportunity to grow up with dignity in a most congenial and liberal atmosphere. It was heartening to see how she could control all of us without raising her voice and not resorting to any tantrums.

Unless I am sitting next to her, she would expect a phone call from me everyday latest by 7:30 AM. One hour grace when I used to be in Europe. For lesser mortals it would be better not to call her on her wireless number till 8:30 AM, otherwise you might hear “I am expecting Bapi’s (my pet name) call any moment. Please ring up later” like a recorded message.

“Ma, Bapi here, how are you?” I asked her through my mobile.
“You are late today in calling?” my mother asked for the explanation.
“Ma, I took 6:30 AM flight today from Delhi. In that wee hour you must have been in deep slumber and dreaming about me only. I did not want to disturb you in your dream!” I explained.
“You must have landed at least fifteen minutes back. Was the flight delayed? Is everything all right?” enquired my mother anxiously.
“Ma, everything is alright. I just wanted to give you some news. I met a Kashmiri girl in Delhi airport. She is taking the evening flight to Bangladesh. So instead of her waiting in the airport all alone, I am bringing her home so that she can spend some time with you. Her name is Farzana and she knows Bengali. Probably she could use Rini’s room. I will, however, be leaving for my office by 10:30 AM. Is it OK with you?” I replied with an asking note.
“Yes, it’s OK” replied my mother in a tone that sounded a little unsure.
“OK then. We will be reaching home within another half an hour” I replied and hung up.

I discovered later that since she was staying alone, my mother was a little unsure of receiving and entertaining a stranger all by herself and rang up one of my sister, “Ilu” who stayed nearby to join her immediately.
“Ilu, Bapi just now told me that he is coming home with a Kashmiri girl…..” started my mother.
“WHAAT? What do you mean? How long has this been going on? You never told us anything before?” rattled Ilu in a state of shock without letting my mother finish her sentence.
“I don’t thing it is that serious as yet. Bapi told me that he met her in Delhi airport” replied my mother.
“Are you sure it is not an alibi? Probably dada (elder brother) just wants you to see the girl. How old is she?” Ilu was very agitated.
“I really do not know her age. Anyway, if possible, please come immediately” replied my mother.
“Don’t worry. I will reach within fifteen minutes” replied Ilu and hung up.
My mother replaced the receiver slowly on the cradle with anxiety taking a grip on her, when the phone started ringing. [To be continued……]


jdrhere said...

how prolific ! muchas gracias, captainji :)
what a thread to keep your readers on tenterhooks!
can we expect any 'independence week ishpishal' post?

biplab said...

jdrhere, why not! i promise a special post in "Independence week"

Nirjhorini said...

Kaku -
You are proving the old saying "Shundor mukher joy sarbatra" all over again. :-) Can totally understand Thamma's trepidation. Can't wait for the next episode.

biplab said...

Kamalika, otherwise also i feel, i would have helped but then it would not have become such a story.

PeeGee said...

ha ha... now we have a typical "Ilu di" WOW... you are just so calcutta... :)

Nirjhorini said...

I am sure you would have helped nevertheless - your daughter is carrying forward the same tradition. :-)

biplab said...

peegee, as i have explained elsewhere, all the incidents and characters (names some time changed)in my blogs are for real. I might continue with fiction when i run out of personal experience or it could be too controversial to be shown as personal experience.

biplab said...

kamalika, after all we are Indians. in our school there was an article by S.Wazed Ali called "Bharatbarsha" where there was line "... sai tradition somane chol cheya"

jdrhere said...

Independence week ?
you mean 15th stretched till 17th & then explode like a bubblegum??
anyway, better late than never...goes the adage :)

biplab said...

jdrhere, wait till the sun is up