Adventures of Tarapad Bakshi - R. K. Roychoudhary (Taken from the novel Reminiscences from Dawn to Dusk)

There was a boy named Tarapad Bakshi in my class. He belonged to the same village and his elder brother Kalidas was one year senior to us in the same school. Kalidas was a good student and passed matriculation with what in those days was known as 'letters,' first division rank. But after matriculation he couldn't continue his studies. With the help of a police officer in our village, he entered the police force and rose up to the rank of an inspector. Soon after, he slowly removed himself, away from the village affairs. Perhaps we were not good enough for him anymore. I remember, Kalidas' dad was almost a second version of my father- child beating was also his forte.

Tarapad once left home and showed his rebellion against his father's tortures. It had been a few days after his disappearance and no news of him were heard anywhere. Rasiklal Bakshi didn't exactly seem very perturbed or anxious to find his son. Maybe he had an inkling about the extent his son could go to in any circumstance. Yet Tarapad exceeded everyone's expectation this time, as we learnt about it later. After a month of his disappearance, Rasiklal received a letter from someone in Calcutta. Tarapad was living with a gentleman in Calcutta and the letter stated that he would make arrangements for his safe return to the village. This letter may also have contained some suitable advice because after Tarapad's return, both he and his brother experienced a marked change in their father's behavior.

I hadn't yet seen Calcutta in those days. Leave aside Calcutta, I hadn't even seen a train or boarded one. After Tarapad returned to the village, he became the famous raconteur of our friend's circle. He would narrate stories from his incredible escapade and we would to sit under the peepal tree all afternoon listening to him in rapt attention.

A train was 'one furlong' long, we were told; the word 'furlong' was new to me and I used to repeat it to myself several times, thrilled with the sound of the word in my own ears. The whole idea of a train carrying passengers to a fixed destination was unbelievable to all of us. Some of us even cried out in astonishment-"Now don't give us your hoard of lies!" That he hadn't lied was clear to me shortly, when for the first time I visited Calcutta for my cousin's wedding.

It was Tarapad's first trip to Calcutta as well. It was really a mystery how a helpless, young, village-boy like him reached the far-away dreamlike city of Calcutta. We were all curious to know the details but after he unraveled the story, faint seeds of doubt were raised in our minds.

There was a spot in our village for the launch of jetties at the river banks. That morning, Tarapad walked to the river ghats and boarded a jetty without anyone's notice. It was a hot, breezy afternoon and he soon fell asleep on the deck with his crumpled bag of clothes lying beside him. When he woke up, the liner had reached its destination and Tarapad got off with the other passengers. Pangs of hunger clawed within him as he realized, he hadn't eaten a morsel throughout the day. He noticed the nearby railway tracks- series of iron planks adjoined together in lined structures. At first he didn't understand what these meant, but remembered a picture of this kind in some book, he had read years ago. The main station was not too far away and Tarapad walked to a nearby tea-stall with his new acquaintances from the ship. Soon the inevitable happened- someone asked him for his share of money for lunch and when they learnt that he had none, they beat him up and threw him out of the shop. Lost and forlorn, Tarapad sat at one corner of the station, thinking for a long time. The events of the entire day had made him weary and his present situation seemed unreal. The afternoon heat put a strange lull around the station and Tarapad sat there listless, huddled in a corner.

The station clock struck three, and within minutes the midday's drowsy station sprung back to life. Masses of people suddenly seemed to appear from every corner of the station, restless and waiting. Tarapad saw a huge train with its bulky gait slowly puffing its way toward the station with an immense noise of grating steel. It was the first time he had seen a train. Crowds thronged the small, raised doorways of the train as it gradually came to a complete halt. The air was invaded by the screams of hawkers selling tea, sweetmeats, silvery chains and colored glass bangles. Coolies with deep red turbans swiftly made their way through the narrow compartments of the train. Tarapad acted quickly and slipped into a compartment which looked scarcely populated. In those days, trains had four class compartment sections- first, second, inter and third. Tarapad looked around the compartment and gathered his clothes-sack at one corner of the floor. The train finally started moving and soon he fell asleep again, rocked by the swinging motion. When Tarapad woke up, the train had come to a stop. It was almost empty and few last passengers were also getting off. Tarapad didn't know what to do; he sat watching the people leave the train. Then an elderly gentleman, dressed in dark clothes approached him. "Don't you want to get off the train?" With Tarapad's silence, the questions increased. "Where are you going son? Let me see your ticket." Tarapad almost choked with fear and started crying in front of the gentleman.









Web graphics and design by Smita Maitra Digital Art by Kabir Kashyap