Sunday, September 20, 2015


It was 2007, in the first year of my college, I met him. He was a year senior, and was always in the midst of things (mainly football) - the one you could call the popular kind, but I remember him watching me on that day, the very first day as if he was waiting for me.

My first year, when I arrived in the city, I was a bit lost- I was told by everyone back in my little country home- not to trust anyone in the city, especially the ones who spoke good English. So I was rather a reticent kid of eighteen who didn’t speak much and only observed- ‘I had that innocent look’ as one girlfriend once pointed out. I don’t know what it was but after a month or so when I used to sit in the portico with my classmates, he once came over and started talking with me- I kept in mind what my folks back home said- ‘no politics’ because that's what seniors did and so I was a bit disappointed when he started asking me- if I was into any sports. Soon he introduced me to his bunch of footballer friends and I really started enjoying my college life. He always maintained a certain distance with people, even with his footballer buddies and that was really evident. It was through him that I met a lot of girls too and being confused initially - I was sure that he wasn’t sleeping with anybody- he was distant and never cared and the girls liked that, well most of them- the mysterious guy and all that shit. Naturally they confided in me and I was falling in and out of love every other day- but I was still shy to make any move on anyone. Among them I really liked one of the girls, who would later become someone else's girlfriend but that's another story.

He introduced me to Jack Kerouac, Bengali folklore, the untold history of Mughals and what not, and he would sometimes stay back at my PG and we would listen to The Doors and everything would be fine. I remember how great a footballer he was and through all my time I had seen him play, he was never tackled by any of the opponents- he was that good, and I also felt that he underplayed himself- as if he knew how good he was so he didn’t want to ruin the competition, he didn't want the others resign to their fate.

He continued his post-graduation and while doing that I invited him over to my country home up in the North of Bengal- Silmora. He had never invited me to his place in all those years of living in the city and I always figured it had something to do with domestic strife at his place, but then he never talked much about himself and I really didn’t know who he had at his home. He always had something interesting to say without backing it up with evidence or narrating the source- and that's what I think was the most peculiar of his characters and the most unnerving one, it got me worked up. I will get there. You will see what I mean.

My college time girlfriend had a problem with him- she once accused me of having sexual relations with him- all in good humor.
When I invited him over to North Bengal, he gave me a look that was mixed both in emotions and a sort of existential nothingness- somewhere in between- which bothered me a lot, I don't know why, like he was hoping this day would come. To be honest in college I was the only person he spent time with, he would tell me all these strange stories about old Bengal and it’s dacoits and the murders of family members because of greed- he seemed to know so much. He told me a lot about Silmora- where I came from (because obviously I had told him everything about me) and I asked him where he had read all of that and he named some obscure Bengali book that I could never find.

I don't remember much from his visit though, because nothing happened, he became much more withdrawn, he would wake up early in the morning and disappear in the village and you could find him with a book on the other side of the jheel that was by our house. My parents liked him because of his habit of waking up early in the morning and he was much more verbose than usual with them, as if he hypnotized them in liking him. 
It was one of these days while returning to our home, I looked at the house from the other side of the jheel, it was almost sundown and Silmora is the most beautiful at sundown when the silhouettes are long. He suddenly looked at me and told me that- 'There's a man trapped under your house, he needs to be free.' I didn't say anything because it was pointless and I would only be answered back with silence. I wondered if he had read it in some book- or if he was imagining up a story. Or may be both.   

After I left college I lost in touch with him, and I heard he dropped out and disappeared somewhere. I haven't thought about him much since then and it was a bit of a shock for me because he never left any trace- to be honest he was the one who ditched me, and I was always egoistic enough not to ask around about him- if I didn’t knew, nobody knew, not even the fucking authorities. So many years in the city and I didn’t even know where he lived. It’s funny how much a man could not tell you if he doesn’t want to tell you.

Five years have gone by since then and my parents have shifted to the city, our old country home remains locked in a mist of weed and country snakes, and a few days ago I visited it to just to do the yearly maintenance and cleaning. It was then, I don't know why I suddenly remembered what he had said to me years ago, about a man buried beneath our house. In that empty house it was an eerie thought. I couldn't sleep that night and I had a "le cauchemar" which is a classy nightmare and so I woke up all alone in the night  and thought about him and our time in college. I felt the dark moonllit plains of Silmora folding up on me and it was then I realized how I had actually once wanted to touch him but couldn't.

It was long ago and we were in my PG and he had probably read me out a Walt Whitman poem and I just wanted to touch his hand when he looked away, but I had only felt air - cold air.