On a long drive..

Smarajit Kanungoe

July 20, 2021, 13:39:50   

In early eighties, I was in a Class XII school in a small muffosil town teaching mathematics .It was a very small township bordering Bangladesh ,having only one important road stretching from north to south of the town ; banks, schools, PS , bazaar etc , all by the side of this road only. I was alone and rented a small accommodation, hardly fifty yards from my school. It was a small room of fifteen by fifteen feet , bamboo made structure with thatched roof ,veranda on both sides and a separate kitchen .A local woman was also engaged for cooking two times.
I was fully new to this location and its environment. Though I was recruited for senior classes, the Head master asked me to teach in morning section only. Some of my senior colleagues commented that, perhaps, I might not be qualified enough to teach in senior classes so I was given primary classes. But , these background 'music' created did not bother me since I was too happy living in a plain area , it was rather a new experience for me to live in Bengali populated area after living around a long time in the hills of Arunachal Pradesh or in Upper Assam. Two more teachers, Sanjoy Dutta and Bimal Deb, from Silchar(Asam) were also appointed , one for English and the other for Life-science. In the evening almost daily we three would meet in Sanjoy 's house and gossip with our heart's contents .Slowly we were invited to our students' houses for tea etc , attending informal/ formal meeting of various committees and thus , within a short span of time we got into a social relationship in that township .Sanjoy ,smarter than we two, in a month or so , could find out an uncle from his mother's side , one Sri Choudhury , in the town. Sri Choudhury had a small shop-cum-residence at the end of the bazaar .So, mostly in the evening Sanjoy would go to bazaar and make it a point to visit them also . After a few months or so , he became almost a regular visitor to his new found uncle's house. Sri Choudhury had a niece, Pinki, studying BA in the local college and my friend , Sanjoy , was asked to coach her as and when required before her exam. Sanjoy was more than happy finding some means to kill his 'quality' time in the evening .Unfortunately; she lost her mother only a few months earlier following a terminal disease. She had one younger sister also reading class VI. Gradually Pinki became known to us also as our friend's student of English literature. Incidentally, she was related to my landlady also , her mother’s immediate cousin which I did not know earlier. One day she came to see her aunty and spent some more time in my room only .I had a small arrangement for tea in my bed room itself. I had no furniture as such in my bachelor-room; it was simply a cot and a long bench for all purposes. On the first day I was rather confused asking her to sit down, but she gracefully sat on my bench only instead of bed since I had nothing else to offer. She was very lively and had an ‘inducing ‘effect on everybody. In one late afternoon, .one of my students of class XII was taking a note from me on calculus, sitting in that bench, all of a sudden she came inside pushing aside the screen from the veranda. Immediately I saw a question in the boy’s eye. To keep the suspense at rest , I told my student that she was landlady’s niece and came simply to wish me .In some other occasions also she did come to my rented house once the classes were over since it was the shortest way to go her home .She would spent simply five to ten minutes with me but would leave a fresh air in my room or thought for a longer  period . I was confused if she had developed any other meaning of her coming to me. Meanwhile, Sanjoy stopped visiting her for coaching and perhaps for a small time there was 'tense' relation also for some petty reasons. One day my landlady asked me if I had any interest on her niece, Pinki. I flatly told her that, perhaps, Sanjoy had a relation. One day in the late afternoon, just before the dusk, . I was going for the market, suddenly I saw her, with some other girls of her age , coming from the opposite direction, might be after seeing a popular Utpal Dutta's movie going on in a local hall. Seeing me on the  road that too in the opposite side of the road ,she started looking at me with an open and hearty smile. I did not know how to reciprocate such gesture on that point of time because of my position as a teacher in that small township. I could not keep away her smiley gesture from my mind for a long time. Her house was in the outskirt of the town in a Govt Qtrs in Airport. Her father was a very soft spoken and perfect gentleman. One day she told me that her younger sister was being disturbed by a student of class IX who happened to be our student as well as her aunt’s relative from her husband's side. However, it was a very small matter. In another day she told me that one of her classmate from Kamalpur had proposed her and that if I could help her in taking a decision on this. I made a detailed observation what could be the future of a simple graduate in the event of her getting involved into it and that the demerits of getting into classmate-affairs. On my advice she could understand its 'narrowness' and that her 'runway' should be big enough to accept bigger 'Air-craft'. For a month or so , I used to go to a place closer to her residence to teach a few chapters of calculus to a student of class XII on a very personal request in the evening, twice in a week..She was my senior colleague's daughter.  In one such evening, after my 'coaching', I just made a walk toward her house unmindfully which was hardly about two hundred yards away, but did not go inside as I thought my going at night might be thought in other way. 
I came to this place directly from the hills of Arunachal Pradesh where I was serving for about three years. it was a different place altogether in all aspects of life , man to man relation ,communication of all types were very formal and for a short time only as long as you were there; whereas here life was so open , you could talk to someone in your own language ,human relations are more informal and personal , a continuing process as you would be here only.
As I was too lonely and from a different social setup, perhaps , it might be simply a sudden 'impulse' to see her for sharing a few moments with her or just to have a walk with her on that evening... nothing too serious. I restrained myself and came back home. A few days afterwards it was Durga Puja , my school was on vacation ., and I went to upper Assam to see my parents and brothers who were there. On my arrival back after a month or so , she came to meet me in my rented house and did 'pronam' as it was the first meeting after Bijoya Dasami. She had wide respect for me, never uttered anything irrational or unbecoming of my position as a senior man to her. Perhaps she knew that I was a bit more senior and should not be 'targeted' upon. Meanwhile, many changes took place. I left the job at that school and joined in Revenue department. Sanjoy also left the job and joined a central unit in Assam. In the mid-eighties, a few years later, while I was in Shillong undergoing basic training for State police service, surprisingly, I got an envelope from my friend Sanjoy stating that he had married Pinki and in the same letter she also wrote me that I should bless their marriage and that because of very short time she could not inform me earlier. After that I was not in touch with her directly. However , Sanjoy came to my place , my home in a number of times while visiting the capital on official visits. Many a time , Sanjoy would ring up and ask his wife to continue with me. She was too formal and cordial. Next time , in mid-nineties, I was in an outlying District HQs and she came to see her relatives in the same location. She knew that I was there. As it was vacation my family was also there with me in my official residence. It was an old residence with big boundary wall , portico for car , barracks for security guards etc. She came to visit us. She came on her own, stayed with us for some time, and took lunch with us. In the afternoon I drove her back to her relative's house in the town itself. It was a happy get together. In the midst of everything she told me in the car while returning that she had a simple desire to go for a long drive with me sitting by my side in a gypsy and that I should drive the car. I did not commit anything, simply smiled away. 
After a month or so , she again came to attend a marriage in the family in the same location and visited me . My family was away at the capital for my daughter's schooling. On that occasion, I fulfilled her dream asking the security car to follow us from a distance as I was not too 'at home' at driving and someone else should restrain us from a distance. She was dressed in a gorgeous silk-saree with a befitting ‘hair-do’ along with necessary accessories, as if to 'win' someone. In the car , she told about many things of her likes and dislikes in life. She kept on talking while I was simply a listener .It was a different feeling altogether to go for a long drive with a lady so known but not of 'own'. On the way there was a small village market near Indo-Bangla border . We made a round in the market , stopped at a road side tea stall and lastly visited a Shiva Temple . We prayed together for the welfare of both the families. It was an wonderful afternoon with someone not related but at the same time cannot also be done away with. That was the last.  

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