Tuesday, 19 August 2014

My latest short story published by Writers Asylum (Aug 2014)


My latest short story 'Pobon and the Hazarika Household' has been published by Writers Asylum

Synopsis of the story: It is about Pobon, a domestic help at a household in Guwahati, and how lives connect at that household.

An excerpt:

He had worked in the Hazarika household for fifteen years. The mornings began early with him opening the huge lock on the gate, sweeping the entire periphery of the house, watering the plants, dusting, sweeping and mopping the double-storied house, washing the car, taking his bath and then attending to tasks like chopping the vegetables, cleaning the fish, washing the utensils and clothes, etc. In times when finding a reliable domestic help in Guwahati was becoming a pain, Pobon was like a blessing to the Hazarika household. Reba Hazarika’s brother, a manager at the Sessa Tea Estate in Dibrugarh, was the Samaritan who sent Pobon, the tea garden “boy” who was already thirty five years of age when he came. 
Mrigen Hazarika and Reba Hazarika took an instant liking to this honest man, who worked without complain, was always cheerful and thought of himself as a member of the family. When Prerona, the eldest Hazarika daughter, came on holidays with her American husband, Pobon would spruce up the garden and gather fruits and vegetables in advance, not letting anyone eat them. “These are for Prerona Baideo and her husband,” he would say, “And you will get to eat these only when they arrive.” When Momi, the second Hazarika daughter, came home on weekends, Pobon would have prepared jars of delicacies like narikal ladoo, til pitha and narikal pitha for her to be taken to her house at the Gauhati University campus. Both she and her husband taught Botany at the university. Gaurav, the youngest of Mrigen and Reba Hazarika’s three children, would get up in the mornings calling out for Pobon and stealthily pass on a ten rupee note to him, so as not to catch the attention of his parents, to fetch him cigarettes from the shop at the mouth of the road. The cigarettes, he would then, smoke in the bathroom attached to his room and flush out the butt in the commode. And on days when Gaurav came back home with the smell of alcohol in his breath, Pobon would quietly let him in and tell his parents that the lad had eaten and gone off to sleep.
Every Sunday morning, Pobon would carry two bags and leave for the Beltola Sunday market with Mrigen Hazarika. They would return with the week’s vegetables. Reba Hazarika only had to go to the prayer room after her bath. Pobon would have kept a bucket of water ready for Reba Hazarika to clean the tiny prayer room with; and he would also pick flowers from the garden and keep them ready for Reba Hazarika to offer them to the Gods and Goddesses. Such were the rituals in the Hazarika’s lives and thus was how Pobon an integral part of every ritual. After a year or two of Pobon’s arrival, when familiarity shed all formalities, Pobon had to bear the harsh words of the Hazarika men and women too. With the years, just as the feeling that Pobon would now not go anywhere else settled in, he was increasingly nagged and shouted at for this and that. Never by Prerona though; which is why she and her American husband remained Pobon’s favorite till the end. Fifteen years passed by and Pobon became indispensable to the household, even after the harsh words and a little clumsiness on his part at times. And then one day, just like that, he disappeared.

An evening with extraordinary women at Sonagachi, Kolkata. 2 April 2017.

I was in Kolkata yesterday to attend a consultation on the Child Labour Act, at the West Bengal National University of Juridical Sciences w...