There is always a light

There is always a light
Don't be afraid if you are alone or surrounded by darkness. In some part of the world, the day has just begun. There is a always a light waiting for you to find your way to touch its radiance.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The Retreat

By Deepanjana Sarkar
Kolkata, India

She closed the door of her house may be for the last time. It was 2 PM and Maria, stopped by for a while and gave a last glance at the flower pots in her small portico before she finally turned around towards the lane never to return.  She has lived in this house for more than 40 years, and loved her abode perhaps more than anything else. She never thought she would ever leave her house, where she lived every moment of her past 41 years with her wonderful, jovial family.She turned, around, perhaps not to turn back ever. ‘Taxi’, she called up.
 “Kothaye jaben?(where would you want to go?) – The driver asked. Maria, slowly shut the door of the taxi with tearful eyes. She would never come back here. She did not respond as if she didn’t hear the driver. “Apni kothaye jaben mashima( where would you want to go?)?”- The driver asked again, with a bit raised voice as if Maria was deaf. Suddenly back in her senses, she replied quietly - ‘I have places to go!’ She indeed has several places to visit before she finally reaches her destination, but she doesn’t really know where to start from. The driver, a middle aged man, was somewhat baffled at Maria’s answer, and was saying something on his own with an evident awe in his tone. Manoj, the driver is driving taxi for the past 20 years, and has come across several kinds of people. He has helped many people to reach their destinations. But Maria’s destination(s) was somewhat different. Manoj has never come across anyone who is somewhat directionless, may be lost like Maria.

Manoj comes from a very small village called Balia near Varanasi. He came to Kolkata with his parents when he was only 7 years of age. Manoj takes pride in saying that he has big roof over his head. He means the sky. After coming to Kolkata he has spent more than 10 years at different footpaths for which he has no qualms. He has worked in small tea shops, carried heavy loads on his head, bought and sold newspapers and other petty iron and plastic stuffs before finally taking to driving the taxi. Manoj had forever wanted to drive a taxi because he has always cherished experiencing life, observing various kinds of people and he thinks the only way to do that silently is by driving taxi. He has traveled far and wide, in and out of West Bengal. Maria was quite surprised to know when Manoj told her about his fascination of driving during the night time. He has a different view altogether about life in darkness. According to him “agar life dekhna hain to andhere me nikalna chahiye; ujale mein sab kuch chhup jaata hain.” He has indeed seen various shades of people during the night, which have fascinated him on occasions and also made him shed tears on some other occasions. Many love stories have matured in his taxi, whereas many couples have also parted their ways, may be forever. He has visited places during the last election along with the party cadres and claims to know many unknown things, which are never flashed in public. Manoj’s story is indeed fascinating, which had diverted Maria’s mind for a while.

The traffic was reasonably thin and the Taxi ran down the Lower Circular Road, before it took to Landsdown road. Maria wants to go to Hajra Road. She asked the driver to stop in front of a house, which is at least 100 yrs old if not more. “This is the house where I was born and spent my childhood” – said Maria, looking at the house, somewhat lost in bundle of nostalgia. She has several vivid memories of this house, of her childhood – a colorful childhood which was full of dreams, love and vibrancies. Maria was a very cheerful and adorable child, being the youngest of all siblings.

The house has been taken by the promoters, who would shortly knock it down, and so will be demolished all of Maria’s childhood memories. No one stays in this house anymore; Maria has lost everyone from her maternal and paternal side. The last one to go was her elder brother who never married and was staying alone in this age old building. Maria wanted to take a last walk inside the house, to rejuvenate her memories, but decided not to do so; perhaps she wanted to loosen all bonding for ever.

The driver was still amazed and could not understand what Maria was searching for and where was she destined to go. Maria was still in her thoughts and had leaned her head against the window of the taxi perhaps lost in her life – the life in which she has lost everything. Tears would not stop falling from her eyes. It was until the driver asked her “Ebar kothaye jabo mashima”( where would you want to go now?)? – She was in a different world altogether. Suddenly that reminds her that she has to go to her school, her alma mater.

Maria had studied in Alipur Multipurpose School. She was equally adorable to her teachers and friends. With a wide smile on her face, she would always greet everyone. Her lovely big eyes were full of dreams, yet an unusual spark was there in them. She would speak with her eyes, speak all those untold things, may be about her imaginations, her dreams, her life, in which she wanted to be all free.  Even though she was mischievous on occasions, she was immensely hard working and proactive in everything she did. Maria got down the taxi and preferred to walk down the school ground straight to the verandah. The lawns on the sides, the mango tree, and the ground surrounded her with fresh set of memories all over again. She was visualizing the lunch break, when all of them would skip their food and just run out of the classroom to play. One glance of the mango tree reminded her of climbing the walls of the school for plucking mangoes with Anasua and Sohini. Maria loved the never-ending sky, the sky which has no limits, no boundaries.

 The rainy days would enthrall Maria the most. She loved rains and the occasions of getting drenched would excite her. Her heart would dance out of delight. Maria had always loved the smell of nature, the gentle stroke of rain, the romance of mild monsoon breeze. She felt being touched by someone she craved for. On one such day Maria realized, that she had fallen in love. That night she could not sleep and had thought only about Sharfaraz.

Sharfaraz was a handsome man in his early twenties, while Maria had just completed her higher secondary. Yes, Sharfaraz was a Muslim and Maria a Christian. Though she was scared of her family, she never felt any guilt deep down for being secretly in love with a man who belonged to a different religion. Maria always wanted to fly in her thoughts, she knew no bindings and wanted to lead a life free from any shackles. That night Maria felt a strange restlessness deep inside, something which, she could not define to anybody, not even Aditi, her best friend ever since childhood. With Aditi she has shared almost everything. Maria stepped into womanhood, even before she could realize. The world around her seemed more colourful and vibrant; the breeze carried a mild whiff in it – the fragrance of love.

Maria started going to college and opted for English Literature as her subject. A die hard romantic at heart, she loved to express herself, her feelings and the best way she could do so was in words. She was in love with words, their magic and romance. Her love for literature made her immerse more in her love with Sharfaraz. They would meet almost everyday after college and discuss various things. She was deeply mesmerized by the way Sharfaraz recited poems of Robert Frost, Tennyson, Dickinson and Tagore, Jibanananda Das simultaneously. Deshapriya Park was the place, which reminded her of her romance with Sharfaraz. They would sit for hours under the open blue sky and lost into each other’s eyes. Maria wants to sit there for a moment now. Even before she realized, it was half past eight.
Maria’s life was flowing like a river, which knew no obstacles, no ups and downs, but she was not destined to be like this. She had to face the truth now and divulge her relationship with Sharfaraz to her family. Maria cried for days and spent sleepless nights. One fine morning Maria disclosed the biggest truth of her life to her mother. “Have you gone out of your senses Maria?” – was her spontaneous yet angry response. Maria could feel the pain of her mother, yet she could do nothing. She cried silently deep inside, while her tears flowed down her cheeks, like the river, resembling her life till date.

Maria could not imagine living without Sharfaraz. He was her life. It was a cold December morning, when Maria had silently walked out of her father’s house. Her father had abandoned her for marrying a Muslim. Sharfaraz had always empathized with Maria’s grief. He had rubbed her tears whenever they discussed about her parents. Life has to go on in its own pace. 3 years had passed after they had married and meanwhile Shahid was born. Maria was happy in her small little household, with a caring and loving husband and the new bundle of joy in their life. She would remain busy throughout the day taking care of Shahid, feeding him, and playing with him, while Sharfaraz was busy settling down his auction house. His shop in Park Street had furniture, some of which were more than hundred years old. The one quality of Sharfaraz, which has always attracted Maria towards him more and more is his refined taste, whether in books or in household stuffs. Even though a businessman by profession, he is a well read person. When it came to choose his line of business, he preferred to choose something, which was unique. Hence he chose old furniture. Before starting his business, Sharfaraz has traveled and read extensively. He has read enough history to know about the whereabouts of old furniture and the history and techniques of auction.

Sharfaraz never imposed his religious beliefs on Maria and has always appreciated the idea of Maria practicing her religion and he his own. For all these reasons Sharfaraz has earned countless respects from Maria. He has showered endless love on her, which perhaps had even been successful to a considerable extent to forget her grief of loosing her family forever.

Maria was lost in her own world of imaginations and dreams. She wanted everyone around her to be free from any bias. She was thinking all these sitting in the graveyard where her husband and son were sleeping the longest sleep of their life. Yes, she had lost both in an accident, and that day she became alone all over again and alone forever. Shahid had passed away a few days before his marriage. “Mom, I don’t want to die, I want to live my life”, was his last request to Maria, while in hospital. But, she could do nothing to keep the last appeal of her son other than feeling the most helpless person in this big world. Shahid had severe internal bleeding due to the accident. Suddenly she could feel that someone was standing behind her. She turned around to see that the taxi driver stood silently behind her, from when she does not know. He was speechless and did not know what to say. Maria turned around slowly with a quiet smile on her face and asked “what are you thinking?” Perhaps he does not really know what he is thinking. He was calm and sat beside Maria and asked “aapni ekhon kothaye jaben? (where will you go now?)” It was 10:30 PM. Maria hardly has any strength to get up and get inside the taxi. The driver lends her a helping hand to get up and she sits inside the taxi with a sense of deep emptiness. Maria is tired! She closes her eyes and faintly tells the driver “My ultimate destination is Binapani Old Age Home at Garia”. The driver turned back once just to see tears flowing down her eyes incessantly.

Yes, Maria would spend the rest of her life in this Old Age home. As the taxi was running down the Eastern Bypass speedily, he turned on the radio, which incidentally played Tagore’s “Shesh Kothaye, Shesh Kothaye, Ki ache sheshe pother….” No one knew what was there at the end of Maria’s road of life. Maria stepped out of the taxi and asked the fare before she took her luggage to enter her final destination of her life. The driver can’t think of asking for money from Maria as he thought that Maria had given more than enough he can live the rest of his life with. The clock struck 12 AM. A new day has started along with it perhaps also a new journey…. 


  1. It was a beautiful 15 minutes journey.Though i was thinking Maria wd prolly be breathing her last in the taxi.It is never easy on the heart and mind to take a trip on memory lanes,and considering the ordeals she had gone thru in the recent times.
    But the ending was surprisingly cheerful,greeting in a new tomorrow has an aroma of hope in it.It was very touching,if one cd connect to Maria.

  2. Thanks Videshini for your encouragingly lovely comments.

  3. How touching! Well written Deepanjana!

  4. Very nice. I thought it was going to be depressing but it ended in a very touching note. Love the lonely chair. Must say that the design elements on the mag are very artistically chosen.

  5. just awesome!!!!!!

  6. Very beautifully written.

  7. Excellent, For a while, I became oblivious to things around me. Amazingly written. This makes one think, how sharp a lane can take a turn to, leaving behind every little thing.
    Beautiful work.

  8. Thank you all...