Shah Alam, my friend!

Biswanath Bhattacharya

March 11, 2023, 12:06:15   

Shah Alam, my friend!

I believe that friendship grows in school only and thereafter,  we grow acquaintances but not friends.  It may not be true for others. It is my individual perception and therefore, should not be generalised. 

In school only, we will pick up one or at best two boys to be our friends throughout our life
Immediately after our migration from East Pakistan, I went to Dharmanagar Junior Basic school and thereafter to  Bir Bikram Institution but our duration at stay at Dharmanagar was only nine months and therefore, I could not pick up any real friend. Lots of people may want to ride with you in the limo, but what you want is someone who will take the bus with you when the limbo breaks down. 
From Dharmanagar we came to Sonamura and  I was enrolled in Class VI in the Nabadwip Chandra (NC) Institution, my alma mater . 

The boy who caught my imagination was Kazi Shah Alam, a boy from the famous Kazi Family of Sonamura. A very lean thin boy -dark dusky and brunette.  Whereas I was a bit fatty- just nourished with milk and honey of East Pakistan . I was vey fair too with reddish complexion. 

The opposites always attract. Shah Alam attracted me like a magnet. There was another boy Krishnananda (Krishana) Laskar. He was undoubtedly one of my  best friends but not the like of Shah Alam . Shah Alam was my spit image of my soul . 

I used to finish my studies by 8 AM in the morning. I finished and I ran to the houses of Shah Alam. The parents and his only brother treated me like their son only. I had free access to their kitchen. Similarly , my parents used to treat Shah Alam as their own son- no difference , whatsoever. My grandmother was a Brahmin widow, but she also never restricted Shah Alam’s access into your kitchen. I had a feeling that my mother used to love Shah Alam more than me.

After school was over, we went to the same playground. In the moonlit light, we were invariably by the bank of the river Gomati and  Shah Alam with a  bamboo flute.

When I was promoted to Class IX, my father had to go to Kolkata unavoidably for a year and we also accompanied him.

After our return from Kolkata, I immediately rushed to their house only to find that their house have been occupied by one Saha Family . I did not feel the pangs of partition immediately after my birth in 1950 but I did feel it in 1964.

I returned home sobbing, and my grandmother consoled me . I became ill, my parents became highly anxious and I was brought to Agartala for treatment.

Shah Alam’s condition was no way better, as I heard later on.  The tears used to wet his pillow in East Pakistan, His mother was bent on seeing me. She urged my friend to come to Sonamura, locate me and see by himself how I was. When I heard it, tears automatically flew to my cheeks. 

I have heard that the pangs of separation in the childhood does not last that long but in my case, it lasted for ever . One kiss lasts a moment. But a thousand kisses can last a lifetime. A bond that is forged in an instant and cherished for a decade. A bond that neither time nor distance can break. A bond that will last forever. 

It is altogether a different story that my friend found me out after long 56 years at Agartala, The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched — they must be felt with friends. To the world you may be just one person but to that  one person you may be the world. 

Friendship is the hardest thing in the world to explain. It’s not something you learn in school. But if you haven’t learned the meaning of friendship, you really haven’t learned anything.

I have a desire to write my association with Shah Alam and others in the school preferably in Bengali. Mother language is like breast milk. Language is the blood of the soul into which thought run and out of which they grow You can effectively put everything you feel in more poignant way. Tagore long ago described mother tongue as ‘Mother’s milk’. Like mother’s milk, mother tongue is also a nourisher, it nourishes the health of our culture.

I am not boasting. My proficiency in Bengali is much better than in English. I used to write Bengali essays for my students at Sonamura. One Shaym Manikya Lodh  of Sonamura Matri Bhandar who was my student recited over the phone one of the Bengali Essays written by me. While I bow down to the elephantine Memory of Shyam,  I also could not believe that it was written by me. I may try thousand times, but I shall never be able to write like that. I am nothing special, of this, I am sure. I am a common man with common thoughts, and I've led a common life. There are no monuments dedicated to me and my name will soon be forgotten, but I've loved another with all my heart and soul, and to me, this has always been enough... 
Shah Alam is, and always has been in my dream and continues to live in my memory so long as I live!