Reminiscences from Dawn to Dusk : Ranjit Kumar Roychoudhary

(Translated by Amrita Ghosh from R.K. Roychoudhary’s Bengali novel "Usha Theke Shayanhe" Calcutta: N. E. Publishers, 1999.)

Chapter one

A Chiaroscuro of memories is etched in my mind. When I first started writing, my mind always drifted back to an unknown place where memories were hoarded and heaped together in some corner, waiting to be reclaimed. Childhood, house, and village every little piece lay dormant yet acutely alive in those recesses of eternity.

Small boats with their masts fluttering against the wind, made their daily journey across the heart of the village river and strains of local songs matched the waves splashing over the ghats. A curved road twisted its path across the fields from my home. As I now look back at everything, events and things seem temporal in this life. I would never return to that land, my home, never touch the earth of the countryside. Sometimes I wonder why these memories so forcefully cloud the mind, in this slaughterhouse of change.

My father had started building a house on the ancestral land, and a large area was excavated for this purpose. After some days of grueling work, a human skeleton was exhumed from the earth. It was a sign portending evil and ill luck, and the construction was left unattended midway. There was some large space for a backyard and father had wished to dig out a pond there. That too was in its initial phase when the skeleton was found. Shortly, this unfinished pond was filled up with murky waters from the rain and slimy marshes grew all over it. Later, father built a huge house in the west side of the village, with the desired pond. When we started living in that house, I was two years old. This house also saw the birth of my two sisters and four brothers. My youngest brother died two days before the death of my mother. The eldest of my next three brothers, was diagnosed with typhoid and died when he was ten years old. His immediate brother also incurred the disease but finally managed to escape. He still lives, reaching a little over seventy now, without much of the physical curses of ageing or bulk.

Father used to keep certain objects in his vicinity, for his daily use and they were extremely valuable to him. There was one knife from Kanchan Nagar and a pair of scissors from Meerut, which he especially bought from there. These two objects were kept in a special place and father even had a unique way of placing them. Our entire household had many kinds of knives and scissors but we could never find them when someone needed one. So in father’s absence, we used to go to his secret place and use those objects. But every time he took a look at the way they were kept, he understood that someone had used his precious items. He made it very clear that we were tainting them by our touch. This incident invariably led to some instances of sudden rage; some slaps on our backs and we would flee to the outside courtyard.

Sometime back, that knife was accidentally found in my elder brother’s old, rusted tin trunk. We both looked at the knife silently for few moments. Both of us tried hard to stop the gathering tears, as tiny drops crowded at the corner of the eyes. And now as I write, my brother isn’t there either, but I can almost feel that moment locked in memory forever.

My great grandfather had initially started his life in this village, after building a house near the banks of the river. A trench was built in those days, all around the house to secure the house from robbers and dacoits. My great-great grandfather and his brother had arrived in this village from the distant village of Raipur. The nearest, populous town was Jashore district’s Bothkhana town, now in Bangladesh. This town of Bothkhana had been my initial ancestral place where I can trace back my familial history of a hundred years. Jashore district was in itself spread out in various branches of the Khulna villages. Surrounding towns were Ganganandapur, Raipur and Chandipur, where I was born.

I found out from the local history of Khulna that my great ancestral roots had established themselves somewhere in Bothkhana. However, I never found out how the title of “Roychoudhary” was ascribed to my ancestors, whether it was from the Mughal era or later. Gradually our “zamindar” title also vanished, and there is no denying that it helped us find ourselves without the label.

The wheel of time turns, countries shrink, along with a shrinking world; and people get a chance to know each other in a closer, perhaps different light. Now in retrospect, I think, maybe I haven’t really lost anything; obtained everything that I was worth for.








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