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Different Hues - Chapter 6

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Half Truth ~


I was seventeen then. I was in class XI. Attending weddings, borrowing the silk sarees from Ma’s wardrobe, secretly reading novels from Desh and Anandabazar magazines in the afternoons, were few of my attractions then. 

When I got invited for my friend’s sister’s marriage  I was too thrilled. It was in the beginning of the May, hot and sultry, even the wedding houses in Calcutta did not have air-cons then. But we never cared. We were always laughing and hardly cribbing about the weather and such sundry things.

The excitement of wearing Ma’s green and silver Banarasi saree for the first time, the joy of looking older than the actual age, in a fake plait, decked in jasmine and hanging below the hips, the new found glory in wearing a dozen glass bangles in each hand and a matching bindi, made me surely forget everything else, that day. 

We weren't exactly allowed to go out late in the evenings and if we had to, we were mostly escorted by either of the parents. Birthday parties were usually all early evening affairs. This was the first wedding invitation where I was going to attend without chaperoned by the parents and this was the first late evening outing with friends for me.

The strains of the ‘shehnai’, the intoxicating fragrance of the roses, the marigolds and the night jasmines, the music of the laughter, floating around, the aroma of fish fry and biriyani rice from the caterer’s kitchen, transported me to some fairy land in no time. I kept staring at my friend’s sister for long, she looked like a queen in her bridal finery, I thought and that was the first time that I secretly desired to get married, if only for getting a chance to be decked up in a brocade saree and that transparent tissue veil, to have those sandalwood patterns, drawn on my forehead and my hands tinkling in glittery bangles.

I was seventeen. I was wonder struck by the aura and the ambiance of that magical evening. I had totally forgotten about my curfew time, I wished that the Cindrella evening would go on and on. We had no mobile phones to get reminder calls from parents but I remember that I used to wear a wrist watch all the time. As soon as my eyes fell on the round dial of the HMT watch, I froze. It was 9.30 almost, well past the scheduled hour, for me to go back home.

I gathered the pallu of the saree, wrapped it around the waist and managing the long danglers and the fake plait, I started running down the stairs. The landing between the first and second floor, was very crowded, I had to halt. And as I looked up, I saw Him. There stood in grey trousers and sky blue half sleeved shirt, the man of my dreams, Nil Lohith! I had spent so many of my lazy afternoons with only his novels as my company. In front of me, was smiling there, none but my favourite writer and poet, Sunil Gangopadhyay, who remained to his readers, forever young and twenty seven.

I did not know what struck me. I felt a shiver, my throat suddenly went dry. My heart pounded fast, I could almost hear beats of the Durgapuja ’dhaak’. He was looking at me straight, bemused at my bewilderment. His eyes, behind the glasses were twinkling in smile. I somehow gathered the courage to speak. My voice trembled, I still said, ‘May I have your autograph, please?’

I started to sweat, next. I knew that I didn’t have either a piece of a paper or a pen. Sunil laughed.

‘What is the hurry?’, he asked.

‘No I have to leave. My father would get angry otherwise.’ I muttered.

He brought out a fountain pen from his shirt pocket and before I realised anything, took my palm, the left one.  He wrote a line and signed. I was seventeen. I was in a hurry to return home. My father’s angry face was the only thing that I could think that moment.I ran down the stairs, I did not stop nor did I look back.​

‘Why are you leaving now Nira, I have just come’, the words written in Bengali kept glowing before my eyes and as I splashed water on my face to remove the foundation and the eyeliner, before going to bed, the writing faded on its own. I was in class XI then, I had to go to school next morning. I wanted to talk to my friends, I was desperate to tell them. We didn't have phone cameras for instant clicks but I was restless to share. I waited for the morning to come. I learnt to remain sleepless in joy for the first time, that night.

A few of my friends believed my story next day, few just laughed it off. I too had no time then to sit back and ponder on that chance encounter. At that age distractions were too many. That was the time when we were falling in and out of love with every footballer and cricketer and those hunks, staring at us from the filmi posters.  I moved on fast like all teenagers do, I found many other reasons to stay up all night and cry for.

That was some more than thirty years back. I loved reading Sunil’s poems but I wasn’t exactly in love with Nil Lohith the novelist any more. It was couple of years ago and I was vacating my Ma’s house after her death.  While disposing off her belongings, I stumbled upon a few old magazines. I started flipping through the yellowed pages simply out of habit and accidentally I paused upon one of Sunil’s poem, written many decades ago. .. 

“Hurrying down the stairs I remember 

That I haven’t said what was most important

Love is an intense promise, like magical embrace

Rancor, yet bound in truth – my eyes burn

Standing on the steps.

These lips have told Neera....”

I sat there still for minutes, embracing the old magazine, close to my chest. I must go and meet the poet once, I cross the house, where he lives everyday almost, I thought. That never happened of course. But I started re-reading all his stories and poems once more. I fell in love once more, not only with the poet but my entire adolescence, the best time of my life.

 I realised that some relationships, some liking, some intoxication of life are not to be described in words and trumpeted around but to be just felt, cherished and carried within.


About the column : Champa's column :"Different Hues"  will reflect on various aspects of Relationships. 

About the Author : Champa Srinivasan is a Post Graduate in English Literature from Jadavpur University. She taught in a college under the Calcutta University for many years and had to give it up once her family started getting scattered. She now keeps herself busy, designing leather items for her family owned export business. She keeps travelling between her two homes and loves to write about her mother, her childhood days and her children, as her past time.

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This brought me to tears...

Given he is no more, you will always carry this memory. You will always be Nira. Saving this for every wistful afternoon


Thank you

Pritha, you bring back the tears to my eyes again. Believe me or not, the way I cried, hearing his death news, it did surprise my family a lot. For me the feeling was almost same like losing a parent one more time or perhaps even something more.
Bond between a writer and his reader is very difficult to express in words indeed. Only those of us have felt it, we know.


I totally can relate

.. even reading this comment gave me goosebumps.. I have not been as fortunate as you to have met someone of that calibre but very real people have often inspired by ramblings.. losing them physically or metaphorically has always left me a with a sense of loss.. thank you again for sharing one of the deepest corners of your soul..


Pritha :)

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