Khoob Bhalo Theko Bandhu ! খুব ভালো থেকো বন্ধু

Some six decades ago a child was born to Mrs. and Capt.Ghosh of “Kanta Griha” at Cuttack. I remember him some four years or so after his birth as Tokon or more correctly Tuhin Kanta Ghosh! Strangely numerous trivia – happy, funny and sad blink in colors bright, or grained when I sit and gape at a table across drowned with laughter and uncut bonhomie…

An angular, sharp-cut, thin boy in starched Uniform, well ironed, one size larger, perhaps anticipating quick and uneconomic physical growth, lots of oil in the hair (Maha Bhringaraj?) that most Bengalis put, if they had active Calcutta connections. Yes, that is how I recall! Ah, and his Cycle which was from the “Lost and Missing” list of the” Great Rayman Circus”. At least, that is how we made fun of his unique ship of narrow roads, humps and potholes. This one had a high perch that let your legs dangle like washed trousers of a clothesline on a windy day. The seat was rock-hard solid made to ensure”Brahmacharya” (celibacy) forever. A skilled juggler or a talented circus clown could ride this one and yes, have the entire audience applaud or be in splits. So could our very own Tokon .It was to keep friends from borrowing that he lent this specialty once in a while. All who tasted her delights had a sorry date with the devil. The sordid aftermath was a screamy bruised story of scratches, painful scars and lots of Tincture-of-Iodine. The tiny me, never touched this vaulting horse both for its weight and size. I was no gymnast, either!

He was blessed with a style known as:”Ghosh Riyaaz” natural to all the scions of Kanta Griha.On any given day the early morning or in the evenings the heritage house used to morph into an acoustic “Woodstockian Special”- a frenetic chattercomb, abuzz with the flutter and flight of whining adolescents, hovering dragon flies droning at the fount wells of wisdom. Astonished onlookers used to discover boys and girls of different age groups (the Ghosh’s were a joint family of several brothers and their children) engaged in the esoteric ritual of “mugging”: the art of memorising in different pitches, scales, tonal variations without affecting the concentration and focus of the other brother, sisters and cousins while quite literally, rubbing shoulders with each other. Yes if you are thinking of the “sargam” you are close but not quite. Memorex, that wonder drug for never-to-forget-anything is said to have been inspired from around this area! Do not however get the wrong notes here.Khukumadi,Manudi,Govindada,Tenten,Babua, Khoko,Rumni,Munmun,Buchkuni et all were uncut costly stones waiting to be burnished.Even before Wilma Rudolph had become a World champion, the pretty girls of Kanta Griha were setting many a sports field on fire in this little nook of Cuttack. As for the parents: distinguished lawyers and policemen instilling enough law and order to this human menagerie.

Tokon, the proverbial good boy could ill afford not to study. His marks were never a reflection of his sincere efforts and this caused a nagging self-doubt. He kept his head above the water though. The delinquents were mistakenly happy to have him as one of their own. He sat in the back benches.True.But; it was this deceptive quality that stood him in good stead. His effective and practical intelligence made him “a lambi race kaa ghodaa”. (A Derby horse?).Not many knew, Mr.Saunders,the Anglo-Indian English Teacher, lived longer, despite a troubled heart for mercifully not having known that the ‘chokra boy-Tuhin'(street urchin) had been graded first in the Sunday English Essay Competitions at the famous “Ali Tuitions” akin to the Rau’s IAS Study Circle of yore! The dreaded Senior Cambridge came and Tokon did not get his deserved grades as it was widely believed that the Hindi teacher had given him disgraceful marks bringing down his overall assessment for not having taken the mandatory tuitions.

Not many would have known either that he had also begun his career of social activism as Secretary of Naujawan Club (which boasted an active membership of 9 only) around this time. He had the unique distinction of having welcomed and escorted many future politicians on his much abused cycle-carrier !The early musical bands and their talents  like Mohd Habib and  Sangita Mahapatro of Cuttack had treaded gratefully the sacred portals of this unknown club. He had learnt early how to get along with the trendy and famous.

The Arts seem to have disappointed Tokon enough to help him make his first far thinking commercial-career move. A Bengali thinking of money was “Chi-Chi” and doing business was “kelenkari”(disaster). He had made his move .An early bird. Was he? Having graduated from Commerce he moved away to “Calcutta and Mamar Baadi.”He struggled with his Cost Accountancy while adjusting the Books-of- Accounts. The Marwaris, the big financial firms, Simon and Carves, Construction, Real Estate and Infrastructure, remote settlements, god-forsaken locations, cooking for self and colleagues by turn, washing clothes always, far away from friends and family must have taken its toll. The grind was hard but he silently plodded on. He was his own man always.

Things had begun to change. We met him only on occasions and during short leaves or extended holidays. We missed him while he missed us more. In any case that is how we thought it was.But; he never spoke or made a mention. His heart remained unseen to some friends as it missed many beats. The arteries of blood supply and oxygen choked. Later and in time, the sick heart healed with clinical care and Tokon came out singed and chastened. Maybe, a trifle frightened too. Doctors and medicine became a part of his life, like destiny. Friends had gotten married since and moved on.

Families grew and shifted while Tokon learnt to live all by himself. Kanta Griha went nuclear. His parents having passed away Tushar, his older brother and Boudi Kaberi with their son Abhinandan were his immediate and constant companions. He had his closed group of friend who still hung on at Cuttack like Subuda, Pappu’s and Dula’s family with his favorite Mashima and friend –of-friends Gopi.Slowly he gathered the pieces together and re-located at Cuttack together with the lonely silences and occasional bonhomies.A birthday of the new born of a long forgotten cousin, or a groupie session in mindless drinking, abusive gossip or aimless travel with friends, marriage feasts or funerals became his staple. He had hit the mid-forties by then. A happy best-man,always.He became the shoulder to  rest your head on when tired and frustrated, the trusting ear to most complaining wives and naughty husbands, the person to go to for the errant and disturbed young. He seemed to have begun to enjoy his single status and the freedom of being unfettered. It was a kind of paradoxical rite of passage. He was just like everyone else. Only sans wife…

All of this seems to have happened a while ago. Now most of us friends and family are not becoming any the younger. Some of us unforgivably lonely. Some tired of nagging husbands or worrying wives. Some still unhappy with the bank balances, or of children doing worse than themselves. Some still find the selfies not good enough for their wilting alpha-egos and fall victim to flighty fancies of what-could-have-been. In sum – still to make peace with their own lives.

Tokon, on the contrary meets more people than before, has more girl friends than the number of days in a year, is more sought after and trusted, sees and travels to more places than your nearest Travel Counsellor,laughs louder than I have heard myself to do ever, looks and wears better and seems good enough for many marriages! And, Yes! What is even better is that he does enjoy doing his own laundry and is not lonely. He is the renowned doctor without an MBBS managing, a flourishing diagnostic clinic. More importantly, his heart is doing well and is very large when last seen.

That said, I cannot forget, however one lunch day at Kanta Griha when Mashima (his mother) had said while serving”Tomraa shob keyoo to Bandhur Biyer Khata Bhableynaa? Ekhon to Anek Deri hoye gaychey.”(You all, never thought about the marriage of your friend? Now it has become very late).The pain of a Mashima haunts to make me sad one more time. Tokon, when asked now, however chuckles.

From L to R Niloo,Gopi,Sashi,Laloo and Tokon

Khoob Bhalo Theko Bandhu ! (Be Hale, Always Friend)

‪#‎Sing Muhammad‬ : Another Song

Comings and goings are the thing of a mortal world.There are no Gods.We all know.Yet,some in their passing make many to rub their eyes in disbelief,stir themselves,sit up to take notice.One such was this beautiful face of the boxing gloves !
Who of my generation, before or after could have not shared an incandescent glee when each time he had boxer after boxer flat on the ring mat .The pathetic sight of the defeated limbs, tired and bruised body on wobbly legs and a sullen slouch after having gotten up almost after a trippy dream.To behold the mesmeric presence of a silken superior,a silent assassin who felled many an adversary without spilling much blood to revel upon, in a gory gladiatorial sport.Would it then, be too much to praise him as a Gentleman of the Ring.?
Better still who would forget the Cassius Clay

ali 1
Young Cassius Clay At the Olympics and the Victory podium

rechristening himself as Muhammad ,making faces at the mighty White Americans in their own backyard and happily going to jail much before most had found Vietnam  to be no war of their own ! For this is how I remember him as a child,a hero who articulated what I could not speak or put words to.He was the big brother who had answered my silent prayers and  had bashed and shut bullying mouths of the Americans or the British : my Black Param Yodhya. A modern Eklavya ?
.I felt like a proud coward who was happy when he saw his tormentor beaten in a street fight or classroom. He made us believe that Americans were paper tigers with their nuclear bombs even when we or our kind had none.Ho Chi Minh,General Giap ,the guerilla commander, the Vietnamese were the greatest whom we came to recognise. Curiously their courageous sagas were brought home  and into our fiery, but infant hearts largely through this man and his much abused mouth.We woke up to the blatant oppression and the indignities of inhumanity subjected on other people and saw in them a shared history struggle and common destinies.
Our small worlds started to become bigger.We got to understand better the pungent wit in the nonplussed interviewee(Dhritiman Chatterjee) when he instinctively reacted to the question on the most important event of the times to be, “the victory of the Vietnamese and not the landing on the moon” in the movie” Pratidwandi”. The Interviewing Board in mock disdain and with clipped accents of the Brown Sahib had famously questioned then, “Are you a communist’?

I shall never know whether you were one.For many believe in their fond minds you were like Spartacus who cared for the weak.May you keep your boxing gloves on for your fight is unfinished yet.And they go well beyond those mortal 15 rounds !

Fare thee, Well !ali 2