Painful Telephone Call
Short story by: Manab Manik
Atanu teaches English in a school. Occasionally in leisure time he writes too. On 30th January just at 6 p.m he is busy in writing. At this time, suddenly a telephone call came. An unknown number floated on mobile screen. Receiving the call, Atanu said,
(In shaking voice) “Ha-a–a-lo! A-a-ta-a-nu?”
“Yes, who’s speaking?”
“I’m Supriya speaking.”
“Oh you? Tell. Are you well?”
“No. A shocking news to give you – – – -”
(Stopping her) “What? What news? What happened?”
(Crying) “Prerana is no more.”
(Startled) “What do you mean? What ‘re you speaking?”
“Yes. Prerana is no more. She passed away the last night.”
After this, the telephonic talk ended. Atanu goes on saying “Hallo! Hallo!” Atanu’s friend Supriya who teaches English at Rishi Rajnarayan Balika Vidyalaya, phoned Atanu. Prerana was a very good friend of Atanu. This shocking news to Atanu was as if ‘a bolt from the blue’. It quaked Atanu’s heart like earthquake. He cannot believe this news. With tearful eyes Atanu as if began to float in joyous days of the past. One by one the memory-chapters as if began to turn over.
It was September 1, 2004 —- the first class in Midnapore College. Atanu and Prerana become good friends on that very day. During introducing episode all stare at Prerana. For she got 793 marks in Higher Secondary Exam from Arts section. Atanu vividly remembers the valuable words of Amal Kanti Babu in the first class. Then, slowly Atanu-Prerana friendship became deeper. Atanu is fully an ordinary boy coming from village. So, all made him an object of fun. For Atanu was a very good friend of Prerana.
Everyday they would meet while entering into the college from the back gate. With charming smiles both of them would come to college. Atanu vividly memorializes that day when Prerana’s father came and fed him sweets.
Prerana excelled well in studies. And Atanu was very industrious. During vacation when Prerana came home, she told Atanu to phone her via her land phone number (03228 — 268715). Even in the third year very often Prerana began to stay at home. And she told Atanu to send the notes of studies through postal system. Atanu would send them by regestry posts. Even today he has kept many receipts with care. The names of Prerana, her father and address are still shining brightly.
In the beginning of 2007 Prerana gave Atanu her mobile number. Even today Atanu vividly remembers that number 99333125…. Very often Atanu would phone and Prerana too would phone Atanu. Atanu got Prerana as the best friend. What a beautiful smile she would give! Even today Atanu remembers Prerana.
Still Atanu has kept many a memory of Prerana. She would write a good hand. The note ‘post war disillusionment’ on Beckett’s play ‘Waiting for Godot’ is shining and shining still.
While reading at university the distance between Atanu and Prerana as if enhanced. Atanu was as if carrying Chalice in his heart. He loved Prerana too much. This love was just like the love of Petrarch and Laura. In Atanu-Prerana friendship there came as if a crack. There was no talk between them because of ‘aviman’. One day in the class room of university Prerana tried to graft their friendship once again. But there was no response from Atanu. Again and again, Atanu is reminded of Prerana’s roll numbers 17 at Vidyasagar University and 112 at Midnapore College. Her face is floating and floating in Atanu’s mind.
Thinking all these, Atanu forgets that Prerana is no more. For Atanu, Prerana is only inspiration. In Time’s course she has gone to another place, another man’s home. Atanu as if forgot the very reality. Just then words came floating from another telephone —-
“Hallo! Hallo Atanu?”
“Yes speaking. Who’s speaking?”
“Tell. Are you well?”
“Why? What happened?”
“Our friend who taught at Bhabanipur Girls’ High School, is no more”.
The very words of Supriya were repeated by Anirban.
“What do you mean? What happened?”
“She’s passed away. The unborn babe of hers too went away.”
“But how? Hallo! Hallo! Hallo!……….”
The conversation ended for disconnection. Atanu as if quaked a little and began to think of Prerana. Prerana is as if away, far away from the world of time —– in the Heavenly City. The ending of J.M.Synge’s ‘Riders to the Sea’ as if began to float in Atanu’s mind —– “No man at all can be living forever and we must be satisfied.” Sometimes not accepting such death, he is thinking of Owen’s line — “Was it for this the clay grew tall?”
That painful telephone call as if altered the equation of life. Prerana is no more. She has left some memories that will live in Atanu’s mind, everyone’s mind forever. Bhabanipur Girls’ High School will miss her. The students will never come across their favourite ma’am. She will never receive any call from her smart-phone.
Once again with tearful eyes Atanu went on speaking in vain —- “Hallo Anirban! Hallo! Hallo! ……….”
Note: The Bengali word ‘aviman’ cannot be easily translated into English. It may be a starange feeling mixed with love and anger.
About the author:
Manab Manik is a bilingual poet and short story writer whose poems and stories have been published in India, Australia, Canada, USA, Belgium both online and print. His poetry books ‘Dreams Shattered and Other Poems’ and ‘My Poetic Offering’ published in 2019 have got great critical responses in India and beyond. His stories like Wilde’s and Tagore’s draw tears of the readers. Recently Manab is teaching English literature at Mugbasan Hakkania High School about 70 miles away from Kolkata in India.