February 26, 2014

The Final Act - Soumalya Chakraborty

One doesn’t usually associate hospitals with banquet halls. The smell of disinfectant, white uniforms, a looming specter of gloom and seemingly insensitive brisk activity in the face of it hardly gels with the gaiety and high spirits of a party. Yet, today, the small meeting room adjoining the medical college’s department of surgery wore a festive air. The doctors, nurses and departmental staff were dressed for an occasion. The room itself appeared to have shed its skin of professionalism with tables laid out for dinner and a decorated cardboard cutout adorning the wall.

“Farewell Dr. Amita Chowdhury. We thank you for 25 dedicated years and wish you the best in your future endeavors”-the cutout proclaimed.

Dr. Amita Chowdhury was one of the most respected trauma surgeons among the Indian medical fraternity. Her’s had been a decorated career with visits to almost every major medical facility in India and several notable ones abroad. Today, she was retiring after serving as the head of the surgical department for 6 years and 19 years as a surgeon preceding that.

After the customary felicitations and vote of thanks, it was time for informal discussions over dinner. “Dr. Chowdhury,” asked her colleague Dr. Saha, “we all know you must have handled hundreds of cases. Yet, if we ask you to recollect one which stood out from the rest, would you be able to pick one?”

Dr. Chowdhury took a sip of water and smiled. 

“Very easily”, she replied.

“Really? Can we know more?” several guests turned to her with inquisitive looks.

“Sure. It was when I attended to an actor by the name of Suhas Mitra 10 years back”

“Suhas Mitra? The actor who died in an accident?”, Dr. Saha quipped. 

“Yes, the same. He was still alive when they brought him here.”

“So you could not save him and yet this is the case you remember?” another guest remarked, surprised.

“Well, it would be tricky to say that I ‘couldn’t’ save him. In fact, when he was brought in, I felt he had a chance. But above all our expertise, experience and medical advancements, there’s human will. Suhas could not be saved simply because he did not WANT to be saved” Dr. Chowdhury replied in a slow and even tone.

The gathering fell silent as the celebrated surgeon looked out of the window. The air of festivity was replaced by the familiar smell and sounds of the hospital as she travelled 10 years back to that eventful night.

“Doctor, the patient has gained consciousness. He wishes to talk to you”, the nurse had come running and out of breath.

“Has anybody from his family been informed?”, Dr. Chowdhury sprang to her feet.

“Yes, the Police have already informed them but he doesn’t want to see anybody else”

Dr. Chowdhury hurried to the ICU where Suhas Mitra had been brought in. For a moment, she tried to picture her mother who usually sat glued to the television set in the evening lapping up primetime tele-serials. Suhas was a regular fixture in most of them. She wondered how her mother would react to this news.

Arriving at Suhas’s bedside, Dr. Chowdhury flashed him a smile. Suhas’s handsome face was contorted in pain, but he managed a weak smile back.

“So Mr. Hero is back to his senses?” Dr. Chowdhury said, “Well, you’ll be fine in no time”

“I am sorry to disappoint you doctor”, Suhas replied. “Yes, I am in my senses. Actually, I have never been so awake and alive in a long time as I am now. But at the same time, I want this to be my final moment. I have no intention of “being fine” as you put it”

Dr. Chowdhury frowned, “Why is that Mr. Mitra? Don’t you want your fame and stardom? I heard apparently you are being signed on for movies?”

Suhas smiled, “What you call fame and stardom has become an all-consuming curse for me. A force which has robbed me of who I am. Each day as I look in the mirror, I see a different person. Situations baffle me as I am left wondering which reaction to choose from the dozens I have rehearsed. Before answering any question, I first have to ponder which person among the many within me would be the best one to answer it.

I see a different picture of me in every eye that turns towards me. To make them happy, I must pour myself in a new mould for every stranger I talk to. I am supposed to be Suhas but I am also Prabhat, Raj, Ayan, Achintyo and so many others. I can’t take it doctor. I can’t exist as a stack of trump cards each bearing the stats of a different person. To destroy the cards, the whole deck must disappear.

I made up my mind while returning from the studio today. As I was driving along E.M bypass, I saw the perfect opportunity to rid myself of the cacophony of voices within me. As I swerved my car and headed straight for the concrete wall lining the road, I could finally recognize the face in the mirror the instant before the collision. In that moment of finality, all masks dissolved and I saw the real Suhas beneath them.

You could say it was the moment I took my life, but it was also the moment I lived as myself after a long time”

Dr. Chowdhury sat beside the bed, speechless. As the narration reached its conclusion, she felt she could see the light going out of Suhas’s eyes.

The waiters arrived to take clear the empty plates, jolting her back to the present.

“We gave him a sedative that night, but he never woke up the next morning”, she ended her story.

“Your driver is waiting downstairs Madam”, the gatekeeper had come up to fetch her.

Bidding farewell to all the known and unknown faces, Dr. Amita Chowdhury walked out of the room, leaving a spellbound audience to reminisce about a failed case which perhaps held the most important lesson of all.
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Soumalya Chakraborty

About the author: Soumalya Chakraborty did his Masters in English Literature from University of Hyderabad and have been here since 2006. He currently works in a Gaming company as a Project Manager. Though professionally he is not into literature but reading and writing have always been an integral part of his life and will continue to be. Soumalya joined Bengalis in Hyderabad actively in 2011 and for him it's been a blast so far with all the friends. He has organised activities and has participated in. The networking he made in Bengalis in Hyderabad has benefited him till now. 





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February 2, 2014

Revolution - Soumalya Chakraborty



No revolutionary struggle could be greater than the effort of jostling through the crowd in a Kolkata bus to get off at his/her destination, thought Amit as he resigned himself to his daily ordeal for the umpteenth time. After the usual pushing, shoving and getting yelled at for trampling over someone’s foot, Amit was out. Patting his pockets to make sure his wallet and cellphone had not been picked, he made his way to the college.

Amit was a second year student of History who had recently been bitten by the political bug. Throughout his first year, he was aloof owing to his reserved nature and warning from parents not to dabble in “useless rajneeti”. However, long hours spent with friends and professors over global politics and the role of students in it had gradually influenced Amit into doing his bit to improve society and being a part of the revolution for change. He had taken his first hesitant steps into the college union room where the seniors had immediately taken him under their wing. 6 months later, he was a dedicated soldier of his chosen political faction.

This morning as he walked into the campus, the flags, hoardings and graffiti immediately caught his attention. What was going on? Strangely, Amit was not aware of any agenda for the day!

His class was scheduled to begin in 10 minutes, but Amit decided to head straight for the Union room.

“Hey Amit!, where were you man? We were calling you since last night but no response?” the irritated voice of Sudeshna di greeted him. Everyone seemed busy making preparations for a demonstration-getting placards and festoons ready.

Amit checked his phone-10 missed calls! 

“Oh Shit”, I am so sorry Sudeshna di. I forgot to switch on the ringer yesterday. Phone was in silent mode”

“Be more responsible Amit! We needed you to set these flags and posters up last night. The first year kids would lose interest if we seniors show no accountability. Anyways, round your class up. As you know, our party chief would be speaking today on the failure of the government in controlling price rise. Prices of essential commodities are going beyond the reach of our poor and middle-class and it’s important we highlight our displeasure at this atrocity.  We would be marching to the parade ground after ongoing classes are over. Get as many classmates as you can. Stop them from going home”

Amit rushed to the classroom but the professor hadn’t arrived yet. Some students, having heard of the upcoming procession, had left for home already. He managed to convince 12 of his classmates about the urgency of the agenda and why they should join the protest against this corrupt, thieving government.

“What’s happening Amit bhai? No classes today?” asked Madan da, the college gatekeeper as the procession made its way out of the gates. Amit, proudly at the forefront of the group along with senior union members, smiled at him.  “Madan da, what’s the use of mugging up books when the government is bleeding us dry every day? We should join the protest to make our lives better. In fact, you should join us too”  “Na bhai! I don’t understand such things. From my childhood this seems to be the norm. Governments change but nothing improves” Madan da said wistfully. 

“But go ahead. My blessings are with you and I will be happy if you youngsters can really do something about it”

The gathering, speeches and dispersion took till late evening. A tired Amit got off the bus near Princep ghat to take the ferry to Howrah station. As he made his way over the circular railway track, something caught his attention.

In a clearing near the track, a small crowd had gathered. Two men stood at the head of a table which stationed a large vessel of hot, steaming “khichuri”. The people in the crowd held banana leaves on which the men were serving them. 

Curious, Amit made his way to the crowd. One of the two men serving food looked familiar. On getting closer, Amit exclaimed,

“Madan da!”

“What are you doing here?”

Madan da smiled, “Arre Amit bhai! Well every Wednesday we organize a small feast for the poor, homeless people who live in and around here. I am a member of this local club. We contribute some money every month and cook whatever we can”

“It’s hardly enough. Just this small bowl of khichuri and that too, once a week. But we don’t have the means to do any more. You look tired after the hectic day bhai, want something to eat?”

Amit surveyed the queue of expectant, hungry faces. A quick glance also made him aware of the look of intense satisfaction and happiness in the eyes of those who had been served.

“Some other time Madan da. I gotta go now. See you tomorrow”, Amit mumbled and walked back to the jetty beside the river.

In his mind, Amit saw the faces of thousands of people who had turned up for the minister’s speech today. The bored, disinterested and irritated looks on their faces receded to oblivion when compared with the happiness of the 30-35 odd people whom his college gatekeeper had served.

As the ferry made its way across the Ganges, Amit, the budding revolutionary and a popular soldier of his college union, raised his right hand in salute to this unknown, obscure soldier who had already achieved what was still a dream for him.

Amit looked back at the receding Princep ghat jetty and smiled, “Teach me ‘revolution’ Madan da!”
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Soumalya Chakraborty

About the author: Soumalya Chakraborty did his Masters in English Literature from University of Hyderabad and have been here since 2006. He currently works in a Gaming company as a Project Manager. Though professionally he is not into literature but reading and writing have always been an integral part of his life and will continue to be. Soumalya joined Bengalis in Hyderabad actively in 2011 and for him it's been a blast so far with all the friends. He has organised activities and has participated in. The networking he made in Bengalis in Hyderabad has benefited him till now. 





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