Some Friends Are Forever
“Trust me, Bappa, the girl is a gem. I …I really enjoyed spending the time with her. We had phuchkas together from a roadside vendor. There is something about her that I can’t put a finger to …..”
On a bright afternoon, Subho, back from Jiaganj, was confiding in me. He had recently met his wife-to-be and his skyrocketing excitement was understandable. Whether his face was flushing more or the shining wrist watch he had bought recently, I wasn’t sure.
The year was 1990. His marriage with the same girl was finalized. My late brother-in-law, Subho’s father, didn’t mind spending lavishly on the occasion of the marriage ceremony of his second son. I may be wrong about the number but nearly six hundred people got invited to the marriage. I will though remember the wedding for a number of reasons. Firstly, it cemented the bonding between us Threesome (Subho, Bhaiya and me). So much so that we became nearly inseparable. Secondly, the days of the wedding were like a dream that I had no desire of being awakened out of. Thirdly, just before Subho’s marriage, I got a job offer from the Royal Government of Bhutan. An offer that I gleefully accepted, much against the wish of my family.
Subho’s wedding was attended by our common friends like Pradip,Tapan and even Debu, not to speak about Subho’s friends who had become my friends (there were nearly a hundred of them invited). The grandiose affair lasted for a little more than a week. It goes without saying that any grand affair at the Bhatta Bari meant a lot of eating, drinking and merry making.
I can still see through my mind’s eye the night of the Madhu Jamini (marital consummation). You may not believe it, dear Reader, but Subho being what he has been over the years, some close relatives had, as a kind of tit-for-tat, had a microphone set up in his room amongst the heaps of wreaths, garlands and Rajnigandha sticks used for decorating the room!
I can still see Subho calling me, as it was time for him to retire to bed at the end of what must have been a tiring day – calling me to spend the night in his room along with his newly-wedded wife and him! Possibly, he is the first and last bhagne who displayed such an attitude born out of a lot of love for and trust in his mama (uncle)!
We had to go to Baharampur for Subho’s Boubhat (the day when there is a party thrown from the side of the bride’s parents). As Bhaiya and I accompanied Subho, we had a whale of a time during our stay at his in-laws’. They were nice people and treated us like maharajas in their spacious, three-storied house.
Subho’s marriage will also be etched in my memory for another reason. On the night of the Boubhat, Subho introduced me to Shampa, a close relative of Rita, Subho’s wife. We spent a lot of time that night talking to each other, while sitting beside the bride and groom. The girl, besides being quite bright (She was pursuing her B.A. in Psychology or English from the famous Presidency College, Calcutta.) had loads of sweetness about her. I also shared with Shampa that hypnotic night a story called “Slap” that I had written. Shampa, as intended, was very impressed with the story.
From Beharampur, Bhaiya went to someplace and the separation was a downer of sorts. Before the departure, Subho’s in-laws offered Bhaiya and me, new shirts and pants pieces as per the prevailing custom in many parts of Bengal even today. But when we met in Jiaganj again after a few days, our happiness was filled to the brim.
On the day, I was to return to Kolkata, Subho standing in Bardi’s room, took his favourite watch off his hand and offered it to me. He had a number of wrist-watches as wedding gifts, he told me. I knew how fond Subho was of the watch and what it must have meant to him to be offering it to me like that. I was reluctant at first but then Bardi’s persistent nagging left no choice for me. Bardi kept on reminding me how happy Subho would be to see his Mama wearing that watch on his hand. I accepted it with a guilty heart. Some, years down the line another bhaipo (brother’s son, Ayan, touched a chord in my heart by replicating the same gesture. I seemed to have lost my watch the day after Ayan’s marriage at their Garia residence. Ayan brought a handful of watches that he had received as wedding gifts and asked me to select any one from amongst them. It was boudi, his mother that time prompting.
As I had already had a job offer from Bhutan, we all knew that we were going our separate ways in search of our separate destinies after the marriage. Naturally, behind all the facade of apparent happiness and glee, we threesome had a weary, heavy heart. On the day, I was to board the train for the return journey to Kolkata as Subho took his watch off and put it on my hand, I felt like I was leaving a part of myself behind in Jiaganj, that something would never be the same again. My pain must have found its way up from deep down and flowed out through the eyes like I was a lost child. Subho put his hands around me and a moment later, Bhaiya put his his hands around Subho and me And then all three of us were crying in a spontaneous, inexplicable display of emotion and camaraderie.
Strange as it may seem right now, nine years later when I got married, by a strange stroke of luck, Subho had already sirred two daughters while Bhaiya had lost touch with us.
I consider myself extremely lucky to have been blessed with such nephews like Gutuda, Subho, Chandan and Kaltu ( the youngest bro of Subho) and a host of other nephews and nieces. No wonder, I never felt the need to make friends with others.