Sanjoy was encountering difficulty in locating himself. It was a vague state of drift for him in the horizon of a twilight state with a haloed section above and a shaded zone below. In the shaded zone stood Protibha, his companion of last sixty years; his wife. She was staring expectantly at him along with Monisha- their daughter, Soumya- their younger son and Subroto- their son-in-law. Protibha was begging him to come down; her hands folded in prayer. Sanjay was indecisive; he was not sure whether to descend. Some vague, unknown voices were uttering something like ‘cancer’, the very word he dreaded. He was not sure whether the dreaded thing concerned him. If it did, he knew the thing to be painful. He had seen someone suffering the pain of cancer in past but could not spot the victim; might be someone close to him. He dared not risking getting down. In the haloed zone were waiting a few figures with outstretched hands; obscure, yet recognisable: Purnachandra- his father, Sarala- his mother, Juthika, Jonmejoy and Ranojoy- his elder sister and brothers. In addition, there was a toddler as well; it was Surya! His long lost son! Sanjoy’s entire being was experiencing an excruciating pain. He looked up. Purnachandra and Sarala were smiling. “Come up son,” they urged in unison, “you just have to cross the line; there is no pain over here.” Sanjay knew that the people above had died at different periods. Am I going to die? He wondered. Or have I died already? He decided to fly up above; but… something….something was amiss. There was something that would not let him join the party above. He tried to recollect what it was.
“Baba, baba!” a faint and yet distinct voice reached his ears, “I am here. Open your eyes.” Sanjay felt the familiar touch on his forehead. He remembered all of a sudden with a jolt; the same soothing touch, the same reassuring voice; it was Turya, his elder son; his own ‘Telemachus’. Sanjay slowly opened his eyes amongst murmurs from those present around. There were his near and dears, and there were the medical attendants, attired in nerve-wrecking whites. Turya was there standing beside his bed with his comforting, warm smile. Nikita, Turya’s wife, stood sombre a little away.
“He has come to his senses after two and a half days, we’d started losing hope,” said Protibha, amongst sobs of relief.
Sanjoy was gradually recalling everything. On that eventful day he was on a mental journey reminiscing the eventful eighty-five years of his life and fondly remembered how he had struggled through most part of it. Ruminating the bygone years had been one of his favourite preoccupations of late. He cherished at how he never surrendered under any circumstance. The more the intensity, the more he had enjoyed the challenge. Maybe he did not make a great man; but he could call himself a man after all. The voyage that started from a small countryside in East Bengal long, long ago was akin to a river going through its sinuous course with its share of obstacles and barrages to trace out its way by sheer zeal for life. No wrong means were taken, no wrong did was done consciously and possible helps were extended to others when it mattered. A small goal was set and had been accomplished. He was feeling at a point like Ulysses who had ‘touched the happy isles’ and had a growing feeling that Turya was his ‘Telemachus’ in whom he saw his own reflection; the same zest to overcome it all. It was at that point he experienced a sharp pain in his stomach and he vomited before everything blackened upon him.
Fifty-six year old Turya wore a charming personality in his swarthy face. He excused himself from the room and went to the chamber of Dr Sushil Mohanty, the doctor in charge of Sanjay.
Dr Mohanty is a physician about Turya’s age with somewhat fidgety demeanour.
“I am Dr Turya Banerjee,” Turya introduced himself. “ Sanjoy Banerjee, your patient is my father.”
“Oh, the ex-postmaster?” there was a wry smile on Dr. Mohanty. “I remember the case. You are a medical doctor I presume.”
“That’s right,” answered Turya, “I work for a PSU.”
“I have a feeling that your father’s days are numbered. I suspect a carcinoma of gall bladder,” said Dr Mohanty in a grim fashion.
“May I know your basis of suspicion?”
“Well, the abdominal sonography is pretty suggestive.”
“Can I have a look?”
“Why, of course,” Dr Mohanty pressed a bell and asked for the same.
Turya looked at the film. “Have you gone for a CT Scan?” he asked.
“We are planning for one once he gains his consciousness,” Dr Mohanty said.
“What did the doctor say, Turi?” asked an anxious Protibha calling Sanjay aside once Turya had returned.
As a doctor, Turya had come across the questions of anxious relations many a time. Only difference this time was the patient in question was his father. His reply, however, did not falter much from the norm. “Nothing much really; but we have to go through a few more tests.” He was prepared for the worst himself.
A CT Scan of abdomen was done and a few more blood examinations were performed. Turya called a cancer specialist friend of him practicing at Rourkela itself, a few kilometres away from this hospital, for his opinion. The doctors had a mini-conference together. They discussed in their special jargon for a while.
“Hey, Turi,” said Arijit, the specialist class-mate finally with a touch of smile at the corner of his lips, “your old man is going to last a little longer than suspected. I don’t think it is a cancer. It’s a case of stone in GB only with sludge. At the same time, a surgery is not a good choice right now taking his compromised pulmonary functions into consideration. He should improve considerably with proper diet and drugs. Everything permitting, a surgery can be considered at a later stage.”
True to the words of Arijit, Sanjoy improved gradually with treatment and there was a sense of relief in the household, albeit temporary. Then, what in life ever is permanent? Sanjoy got discharged after a couple of days.
Sanjoy started walking a bit in the house and sitting on his favourite armchair in the porch of his house in the evening. Yes, his house, with what it all started, he reflected. Long back at twelve or so he had seen a small concrete house with floral patterns in his ancestral village of Khalishkhali in Khulna District of the then unified Bengal. In his boyish imagination it had felt like a dream house. The owner of the house was one Amol Kumar Mitra who had retired after working in the post offices. Sanjay wanted to work in the post offices as well and posses such a house once he retired. This innocuous desire curiously had carried him towards the goal with unwavering precision and on his retirement, he had built the small house at a corner of the steel city of Rourkela, his place of work for a considerable period of his life. It was built about twenty five years back. Lot of water has flown through the Brahmani (the local river) since then. Both his sons have remained away pursuing their jobs. His only daughter and son-in-law have made their own apartment on the first floor of the house; thereby providing much needed moral support to the aging couple.
How long does a person live? Or should I say, should live? Sanjay wondered. By any standard, I am a ripe old man, scheduled to topple anytime. Three of my brothers and sisters have already left for their heavenly abodes. I was almost gone and in any case, my days are numbered. Should I live a purposeless life? Should this extension of life be futile? He still remembered the famous lines of Tennyson he read in his school:
“How dull it is to pause, to make an end,
To rust unburnish’d, not to shine in use!
As tho’ to breathe were life! Life piled on life
Were all too little,…”
Sanjoy is bestowed with a photographic memory. Like the lines of his favourite ballad, he remembers all the lines of his life along with the small prints and punctuations therein to every single detail.
But what can I do at this age? Sanjay kept pondering before he came out with something. Do my experiences carry any value to the current generation? I am history all right to the present generation of my grand children. Then, history is like the roots of a tree. How can the foliage of present survive without the root of past? Then suddenly remorse was written large over his face. He had tried telling his tales to his grandchildren. They listened half-heartedly; they had more important businesses like attending to their friends and getting hooked to the social networking sites. Moreover, Sanjay’s tales remained interrupted with bouts of cough and wheeze. But I’m sure there is a substance in my life from which others can pick up a few leaves. Then there are events concerning international and national importance. It is a life little away from ordinary for sure. It must reach at least a few others. Later on, they can share the same with the posterity. Sanjay’s determination started taking shape once more. I will chronicle the important dates and events in a diary. Then I will tell the rest to Bidhubhushan, my nephew and leave the rest to him. He is a literary author apart from being a blogger and freelance journalist; he can give it a shape presentable enough to the audience.
Sanjoy started with zeal andstarted chronicling the events in his diary. His health improved drastically and there was a glitter in his eyes that went amiss since a considerable period.
Bidhubhushan went through the diary once Sanjay was finished. He came all the way from Kolkata and stayed back a few days to listen to Sanjay. Sanjay poured his heart out having found a sincere audience after so many years. Bidhubhushan kept scribbling shorthand scripts on his notebook.
“Sanju-kaka,” said an impressed Bidhubhushan, “I will not make a story out of it. Rather I will make it a tale of facts without changing a thing including the names of the characters therein. I am also going to make a confession at the outset of the book to the same effect so that our audience does not take it to be an imagination of mine. In any case, I possibly couldn’t have imagined better than this. It is indeed a story worth mentioning and worth having an audience.”
Sanjoy felt the extended lease of life granted to him worth its salt. A book was on the making!