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. He also writes haikus which are receiving popularity among the readers. 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.
Short story by Manab Manik
Now comes the turn of packing.
From this house to that, from this house to that. Life is so. I began packing. This packing is reminder of George, Harris and Jerome in Jerome K. Jerome’s ‘Packing’. Isn’t it? No, no, all I have to pack myself and not for any tour. Very early in the morning I began to pack every article in bags one after another. While packing very carefully all the dresses of almirah, wife’s gold ornaments, some dresses of my little daughter (my wife with daughter being in her father’s home) and all the important documents of my studies in a few bags, all of a sudden, a photo-album caught my hands. And then…..
Past as if began to float in my memory. The album-pages one by one reminded me of college and varsity days. The hypnotizing and mesmerizing thoughts of professors of Jadavpur University and alumni of Oxford began floating in my mind. The image of Rimi Chattopadhyay in the very first page of the album became bright. The incessant question-answer episode between Ganesh (known as Sourav to all) and Shobha Chattopadhyay, a talented professor of Jadavpur University, appeared live in memory. It was February 21, 2008 and simultaneously International Mother Language Day. Sourav i.e Ganesh became hero to all. Then I turned over another album-page —
a dim and blurred image. That photo of the album made my eyes tearful. Nothing could I see for some time. That photo…….. I became silent for a while. Now ‘Memory-Boat’ looked at me. It is a painting, painted by Dinabandhu whom we lovingly called ‘Bandhu'(friend). “Let the glow-worms of memory glow as the evening-stars” —- I vividly remember this line. How eager, how desirous, how willing my heart to turn again to those days !!! Is it possible to go back in spite of having wishes? Elliot’s lines from ‘Ash Wednesday’ float and float in my mind—
“Because I do not hope to turn again,
Because I do not hope,
Because I do not hope to turn…”
(With long breath) Time is history !!! The five year old son of my house-owner shut the gate in such a way as if I was startled. Past and present, past and present. In thinking these I lost future. I do remember Shelley’s line “We look before and after.” ‘Home’ is necessary, very necessary.
I awoke and after some time I began packing again. I put aside that album. Then came to my hands some exhausted calendars. Opening, I see the image of the goddess Kali, strangely dim and blurred, again torn. I thought of throwing it away. When I was about to tear, suddenly a voice came to my ears, “Heh you ! Are you throwing these images? You pray to Kali, the mother too much.” “Who? Who?” Hearing this, I was startled. No one was seen. I thought it to be a mistake. Now, without throwing those away, I concentrated my mind on other articles. A lot of things ! How many shall I carry? So, I began to omit some. What a strange work! What shall I take and what shall I throw away? What I want to throw away, gazes and gazes me. During book-packing, a note on Samuel Beckett’s play ‘Waiting for Godot’ turned over the memory-leaves of my college life. How nice, how heavenly touch of hands on the note!!! That note is a mirror now. My three years’ history at Midnapore College flashed in that mirror. A friend of our class fed me sweets. On that day her father came. All of a sudden, the car-horn shook me and as if I woke up from a trance.
I forgot the flow of time. An album and a note are priceless wealth to me. Here the car-driver calls and calls me, “Brother, packing done? Heh brother? Come here. It’s too late.” I couldn’t but respond, “Going brother. A little more please.”
One by one my fond articles like Montmorency in Jerome’s story ‘Packing’ fully spoilt my work of packing. Just as the birds fly from one nest to another, my condition is also the same. Finally, when I completed packing, the clock sounded twelve. Here the driver was reddened with anger.
With the packed articles I set out for another home to give shelter to my wife and daughter under the roof of a home. Wherever I stay, only snarling and snarling, snarling and snarling. Don’t do this. Don’t do that. Don’t hang your dresses here and so on.You will be startled, if I relate another episode. The house-owner gifted me a wall clock. While leaving his home, I had to return it. Even I was fined and charged Rs 1000/- for not cleaning his rooms properly, though I watered them with soap-dust, cleaned fully. Gift is a memory. But that memory left scratches and deeper wounds in my mind. Oh ! it’s better to forget those.
Now, a home is very necessary. A dwelling place is very necessary. It’s home, a dwelling place, that is built by hearts not by hands, that is safe from the disguised fangs, that is free from do’s and don’ts, that is free from snarling and snarling, snarling and snarling, that is safe from worms and howling storm. Fear at my heart….Fear for other…..Fear for worms. How strange the surrounding world with venomous snakes. I am filled with home-thoughts. Only a home, only a roof for shelter and free cemented walls of love to live.