Reminiscences from Dawn to Dusk : Ranjit
(Translated by Amrita Ghosh from R.K. Roychoudharys
Bengali novel "Usha Theke Shayanhe" Calcutta:
N. E. Publishers, 1999.)
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
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 fathers 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 brothers 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
isnt 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 districts 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 havent really lost anything; obtained
everything that I was worth for.