A Non-sense Novelette
The First Stumble
It was only after two of his poems were published in a renowned National weekly, that Srirup took a break and went to Nischindapur for an extended stay at home.
His journey in the train and the bus was disappointingly uneventful and nothing like that he had faintly hoped for. People gave him side glances, but showed no sign of recognition. He would have liked to discuss poetry with some of the more enlightened, but the appearance of his co-passengers thoroughly discouraged him.
But in his village lane, he nearly ducked behind a tree, when he was confronted by two of his old acquaintances who, to his total displeasure, had the habit of ragging him on every pretext.
Chandu was relieved to note that his school buddies approached him almost with a touch of reverence. “How long is the plan to stay?” asked one. This indirect speech gave Chandu immense pleasure, though he would have loved to have been addressed as Srirup. Chandu uttered some polite poetic greetings and proceeded towards his home like a grave old man lost in his own thoughts.
His father was unsure whether to frown at his son’s newfound profile with his mop of unruly hair floating about in every direction. Chandu’s mother’s not so subtle hint of urgently summoning the village barber was promptly suppressed by his father. No doubt, the emergence of Srirup from down to earth Chandu had suitably impressed his parents.
His Napoleonic leisurely walks in the evening were eagerly awaited by the villagers who argued about the immense possibilities of Bengal discovering Nischindapur through Srirup.
The first odd note was struck when Chandu went to the neighbouring village to meet his beloved Nani.
Instead of Nani he first came across her father Balaram, who, in spite of his trade rivalry with his father, always had a soft corner for Chandu.
Balaram, a huge man who was rumoured to be able to lift his overfed calves in a jiffy, caught hold of Chandu by the scruff of the neck and pulled him inside the cattle shed.
“What is this I see, Chandu? No rump,” he lovingly patted this nonexistent part of Chandu’s anatomy, “look at my calves. See how fat they are. What has happened to you? Doesn’t your father send you enough money? Are you sick or what?”
Since childhood Chandu was in awe of this large man and had never felt at ease in his presence. His serene countenance had already taken a downward stumble and he feebly reasoned, “I have a touch of poetic anorexic nervosa.”
Balaram was visibly perturbed. He thought he knew all bovine and most human ailments, but this was clearly beyond his knowledge.
“Is it contagious?” Balaram gave an anxious glance at his calves and firmly hurried Chandu outside the cattle shed.
“Consult a good doctor. I know a veterinary surgeon who has done wonders with my declining appetite.” Looking at Chandu he wondered, “Maybe some avian doctor would be more appropriate.”
The real discordant note was struck the next day when his old college mate Bishtupada, now a dyspeptic English teacher in the village school, paid him a visit.
Gulping tea distastefully with a smacking sound he conversed, “how is the B. Com. coming along? Chandu mumbled incoherently while swatting a non-existent fly. His friend mused for a long time and then said, “Read your last poem. Good.” Chandu was beginning to glow when Bishtu continued, “Reading Wordsworth eh!”
Next day Chandu returned to his den in Calcutta.
(To be continued)