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Fiction

A Second of Stillness

By Jintu Gitarth
Translated from Assamese by Harsita Hiya
Two college dropouts exploring their relationship are exposed by a vengeful visitor in Jintu Gitarth's short story.

The trees were dry and brown, the earth and sky buried under layers of dust. 

With Ankur in the backseat, Diganta maneuvered his scooter through the dust clouds. The recent flood had left the paved road bumpy. Whenever the scooter leaped across potholes, Ankur grabbed Diganta tighter. They rode past the crowds, leaving behind even the smaller villages. Now, unending fields covered either side of the road, empty and lonely. Up ahead loomed a row of hills, seemingly moving further away as they approached.

The setting sun scattered its last rays along the far edge of the fields.

This was what they had set out in search of. A glimpse of nature at its best. A scene that could rend the monotony of their daily life. Somewhere on this quest down a new path, they had come across a living symbol of eternity. Two trees growing as one in the middle of a huge field. Once they had spread their roots, their trunks had united, climbing toward the sky together. The trees looked worn down, battered by winter and the lashing of strong winds. 

Diganta stopped the bike, making his way down one of the little lanes across the field. He touched the dusty trunks and sighed. Ankur came to his side and placed a hand on his. It was as if a thousand bees had started buzzing about them as they looked into each other’s eyes. There was no need to say a word. Side by side, they sat down under the trees in silence.

The cold wind carried dust everywhere. Under a boundless sky stretching across the horizon, enveloped in a silence spanning miles, Diganta sat beside his favorite person. He gazed at Ankur’s bronze skin and faint stubble. The familiar smell of crape jasmines wafted from his body.

How could he hypnotize him so?

Diganta had remained Ankur’s shadow through their lower primary school days, when they had shared the same bench, to now, when they had both decided to bid college adieu.

Why? Diganta asked himself. Why was he hell-bent on staying trapped in this vortex, however enchanting it seemed?

But as always, it was silence that embraced him in answer.

Darkness crept in, and the shadows stretched around them. Soon, the sky was filled with bats. 

“Time to go,” Ankur said, slowly getting back to his feet.

“What next?” 

“We’ll have to think of something.” 

Before long, they were on their way, heading back down the same path. 

Or was it, perhaps, a new one entirely?

Ankur’s family did not take the news well. He was, after all, the son of a lower primary school vice-principal deciding to drop out! That night, he had to go without dinner at home. Diganta sat him down to eat at his house.

The two lived freely over the next few days.

Visiting the trees became their daily ritual. They would sit under their shade, calmly enjoying the fleeting sunsets.  Watching the sky bury its face in the faraway hills, they contemplated the meaning of life and the universe. 

“They’ll bear new leaves soon, you’ll see!” said Diganta one day. “Then we’ll know what trees they are.”

“Oh, come on,” said Ankur. “They’re done for. They’re going to die.”

“They won’t. They won’t,” Diganta whispered to himself, caressing the trunks.

In the days that followed, Ankur started doing something strange. On their visits, he started carrying a medium-sized water drum so he could water the base of the trees. Diganta laughed about it at first, but eventually began helping him out. A madness, perhaps, had consumed them both.

*

The seasons changed soon enough. Light rains came down from the sky, drenching the earth and washing away the dust.

Ankur managed to get a job as a computer teacher in a coaching academy in town. Soon after he joined, he began getting offers to tutor students at home.

As Ankur ran out of afternoons to spend with him, Diganta’s life turned barren, each day becoming indistinguishable from the other.

He took out all his old and dirty brushes, returned to his paint jars after a long time. During the last flood, he and his family had been forced to leave their house and take shelter in a relief camp for several days. A number of his books and notebooks had been ruined, as well as many of his pencils, brushes, and acrylic jars. The Tinixuti river had known no mercy that year. Along with their belongings, it had washed away the colors of their life. So many had lost their lives! Scores of livestock had gone to a watery grave. The dank, rotting stench left behind by the flood had, for many days afterward, engulfed their lives, smothering Diganta’s love for art. In these lonely afternoons, he made his way back to colors. 

As earnestly as they had all looked for tortoise eggs as children, sifting through the sand on the banks of the Tinixuti, he began rooting about in his memories, trying to find pieces of what he had lost on paper. He let paint express all his apprehension and wounded pride.

In the middle of it all came Jayanta. A distant relative. A brother-in-law of sorts. He had come to stay for a while with Diganta’s family. A theater man, he had arrived in their town to oversee a drama workshop. For the better part of the day, he remained busy with these duties, but in the afternoons, he always made time to come and watch Diganta at work, caressing his paintings as if he were unearthing unspoken stories within them. 

As the days went by, Jayanta’s fingers began to wander. At first, they drifted from paper to palette, slowly moving on to the brush, and from there, the lean fingers that held it. The day Diganta took him along on a visit to the riverbank, Jayanta put his arm around his shoulder as they sat atop a rock in Vasundhari Hills. He kept rubbing his back. Once, he even grabbed his waist. 

The weather took a turn for the worse. There was no sign of rain in the days to follow, and every field grew dry. The people had suffered greatly after the last flood had damaged their crops. A drought now would leave them all starving. The whole town started talking about the matter. Diganta, away from it all, was trapped in a nightmare every afternoon. When Ankur sent a few art students his way, he got busy working with the kids, glad to at last have an excuse to avoid Jayanta.

Today, however, the children had not come over. It was Nauka Puja—the day of boat worship—and everyone was participating. Diganta did not feel like going out. He took out his brushes and paints, wanting to drown in a whirlpool of emotion with every coat he applied. Over the past week, he had been routinely forced to yield to Jayanta. Jayanta, who would turn into a deadly snake at nightfall. Restless with thirst. Flicking his tongue as he lapped up his victim. Throughout it all, Diganta would keep his eyes shut, gritting his teeth as he lay frozen. How tired he was of pretending to be asleep every night!

He watched the sky grow dark beyond the window, his brushstrokes slowly giving birth to a pair of lonely trees standing in a valley. The colors unlatched memories, bringing back the smell of afternoons gone by. He could almost see Ankur getting up from under the tree and rushing to embrace him.

At that moment, Diganta felt someone grab him from behind. Lips pressed down on his neck. Turning around in shock, his eyes met Jayanta’s. He felt as if his blood was on fire. Throwing away his brushes, he wrenched himself free from Jayanta and stormed out, returning moments later with his scooter. 

“Sit,” he told him.

“Where to?” asked Jayanta, taken aback.

“I’m telling you to sit. So, just sit.”

Jayanta settled down on the backseat without a word. Piercing the gloom outside, Diganta’s scooter charged forward, carrying Jayanta to the old field. Finding himself in a deserted expanse, Jayanta looked around in fear. Diganta walked down and embraced the trees. Tiny new leaves had sprouted on them, he observed. The very same trees that had been dry for as long as he could remember! Diganta wanted to cry tears of happiness. He forgot everything he wanted to show and say to Jayanta. In the hazy light of the evening, he snapped as many pictures as he could, sending them to Ankur. Ankur must have been waiting for his message. He immediately answered with an emoji. A few stars flickered to life above. With a dumbfounded Jayanta sitting behind him, Diganta rode back home on his scooter, cutting through the dust.

*

One by one, stars lit up the entire sky. Ankur and Diganta walked underneath them. On the other side of the river, the Adi people were celebrating Nauka Puja. They did so every year, hoping to pray away floods and droughts. 

The boys walked hand in hand into the still forest, making their way to the Puja site. Surrounded by sals, gamhars, and crown flower trees, the Adis sat in a circle. The light of the lamps burning about them had clothed the scene in a mystical glow. On a little banana stem boat decorated with various flowers, they made their wishes, then released a pigeon. Everyone started to pray in silence. No sound other than the flapping of wings could be heard for miles around them. 

But no, even in this silence, transplanted by the earth and sky, Diganta could hear the pounding inside him. He felt as if the pigeon had flown straight into his heart and was now beating its wings against all his senses. This flapping and fluttering grew faster as Ankur’s hand came to rest on his. In the flickering light of the lamps, Diganta explored anew a pair of eyes he had known all his life. 

He got up and left quietly, following those eyes into an earthy, grassy cave of sensation. Slashing through the silence, Diganta climbed a mountain of frenzy. Until the stars had hidden themselves away and the bending and swaying trees had managed to awaken them, he remained consumed. Climbing. Descending. Drowning over and over.

Neither of them heard the rustling behind them.

*

Dark clouds loomed large up above. An overcast sky squared up against the winds sweeping across the plains.

Jayanta had gone away that morning, leaving behind him a malevolent storm. A storm hell-bent on shattering not only two lives but also their families. The video, now being forwarded across cell phones, had left Ankur and Diganta in shreds. They had been caned and thrown out of their homes, their books and clothes hurled after them in the courtyard, Diganta’s vibrant paintings all destroyed. Picking up the pieces of his ruined art and dreams, he fell into step beside Ankur, heading down an old, familiar path.

They arrived in front of the twin trees, making their way through the fierce storm. Drenched to their bones, they settled down under them. Despite the thunderous rain they could hear each other’s heartbeats.

“We’ll leave,” they whispered to each other. “There must be a land we can go to. A land with people like us.”

As if to shine a light on this truth, a searing bolt of lightning illuminated the sky. A second later, the whole earth shivered and screamed. Ankur and Diganta retreated into each other.

A ribbon of lightning carrying all seven hues of the rainbow descended from the sky, wrapping itself around them. They stepped forward, floating up in the air. Under a pair of now-dead trees, they left behind a lifetime of torment, heading to a vast and peaceful plain.


© 2022 by Jintu Gitarth. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2023 by Harsita Hiya. All rights reserved.

English Assamese (Original)

The trees were dry and brown, the earth and sky buried under layers of dust. 

With Ankur in the backseat, Diganta maneuvered his scooter through the dust clouds. The recent flood had left the paved road bumpy. Whenever the scooter leaped across potholes, Ankur grabbed Diganta tighter. They rode past the crowds, leaving behind even the smaller villages. Now, unending fields covered either side of the road, empty and lonely. Up ahead loomed a row of hills, seemingly moving further away as they approached.

The setting sun scattered its last rays along the far edge of the fields.

This was what they had set out in search of. A glimpse of nature at its best. A scene that could rend the monotony of their daily life. Somewhere on this quest down a new path, they had come across a living symbol of eternity. Two trees growing as one in the middle of a huge field. Once they had spread their roots, their trunks had united, climbing toward the sky together. The trees looked worn down, battered by winter and the lashing of strong winds. 

Diganta stopped the bike, making his way down one of the little lanes across the field. He touched the dusty trunks and sighed. Ankur came to his side and placed a hand on his. It was as if a thousand bees had started buzzing about them as they looked into each other’s eyes. There was no need to say a word. Side by side, they sat down under the trees in silence.

The cold wind carried dust everywhere. Under a boundless sky stretching across the horizon, enveloped in a silence spanning miles, Diganta sat beside his favorite person. He gazed at Ankur’s bronze skin and faint stubble. The familiar smell of crape jasmines wafted from his body.

How could he hypnotize him so?

Diganta had remained Ankur’s shadow through their lower primary school days, when they had shared the same bench, to now, when they had both decided to bid college adieu.

Why? Diganta asked himself. Why was he hell-bent on staying trapped in this vortex, however enchanting it seemed?

But as always, it was silence that embraced him in answer.

Darkness crept in, and the shadows stretched around them. Soon, the sky was filled with bats. 

“Time to go,” Ankur said, slowly getting back to his feet.

“What next?” 

“We’ll have to think of something.” 

Before long, they were on their way, heading back down the same path. 

Or was it, perhaps, a new one entirely?

Ankur’s family did not take the news well. He was, after all, the son of a lower primary school vice-principal deciding to drop out! That night, he had to go without dinner at home. Diganta sat him down to eat at his house.

The two lived freely over the next few days.

Visiting the trees became their daily ritual. They would sit under their shade, calmly enjoying the fleeting sunsets.  Watching the sky bury its face in the faraway hills, they contemplated the meaning of life and the universe. 

“They’ll bear new leaves soon, you’ll see!” said Diganta one day. “Then we’ll know what trees they are.”

“Oh, come on,” said Ankur. “They’re done for. They’re going to die.”

“They won’t. They won’t,” Diganta whispered to himself, caressing the trunks.

In the days that followed, Ankur started doing something strange. On their visits, he started carrying a medium-sized water drum so he could water the base of the trees. Diganta laughed about it at first, but eventually began helping him out. A madness, perhaps, had consumed them both.

*

The seasons changed soon enough. Light rains came down from the sky, drenching the earth and washing away the dust.

Ankur managed to get a job as a computer teacher in a coaching academy in town. Soon after he joined, he began getting offers to tutor students at home.

As Ankur ran out of afternoons to spend with him, Diganta’s life turned barren, each day becoming indistinguishable from the other.

He took out all his old and dirty brushes, returned to his paint jars after a long time. During the last flood, he and his family had been forced to leave their house and take shelter in a relief camp for several days. A number of his books and notebooks had been ruined, as well as many of his pencils, brushes, and acrylic jars. The Tinixuti river had known no mercy that year. Along with their belongings, it had washed away the colors of their life. So many had lost their lives! Scores of livestock had gone to a watery grave. The dank, rotting stench left behind by the flood had, for many days afterward, engulfed their lives, smothering Diganta’s love for art. In these lonely afternoons, he made his way back to colors. 

As earnestly as they had all looked for tortoise eggs as children, sifting through the sand on the banks of the Tinixuti, he began rooting about in his memories, trying to find pieces of what he had lost on paper. He let paint express all his apprehension and wounded pride.

In the middle of it all came Jayanta. A distant relative. A brother-in-law of sorts. He had come to stay for a while with Diganta’s family. A theater man, he had arrived in their town to oversee a drama workshop. For the better part of the day, he remained busy with these duties, but in the afternoons, he always made time to come and watch Diganta at work, caressing his paintings as if he were unearthing unspoken stories within them. 

As the days went by, Jayanta’s fingers began to wander. At first, they drifted from paper to palette, slowly moving on to the brush, and from there, the lean fingers that held it. The day Diganta took him along on a visit to the riverbank, Jayanta put his arm around his shoulder as they sat atop a rock in Vasundhari Hills. He kept rubbing his back. Once, he even grabbed his waist. 

The weather took a turn for the worse. There was no sign of rain in the days to follow, and every field grew dry. The people had suffered greatly after the last flood had damaged their crops. A drought now would leave them all starving. The whole town started talking about the matter. Diganta, away from it all, was trapped in a nightmare every afternoon. When Ankur sent a few art students his way, he got busy working with the kids, glad to at last have an excuse to avoid Jayanta.

Today, however, the children had not come over. It was Nauka Puja—the day of boat worship—and everyone was participating. Diganta did not feel like going out. He took out his brushes and paints, wanting to drown in a whirlpool of emotion with every coat he applied. Over the past week, he had been routinely forced to yield to Jayanta. Jayanta, who would turn into a deadly snake at nightfall. Restless with thirst. Flicking his tongue as he lapped up his victim. Throughout it all, Diganta would keep his eyes shut, gritting his teeth as he lay frozen. How tired he was of pretending to be asleep every night!

He watched the sky grow dark beyond the window, his brushstrokes slowly giving birth to a pair of lonely trees standing in a valley. The colors unlatched memories, bringing back the smell of afternoons gone by. He could almost see Ankur getting up from under the tree and rushing to embrace him.

At that moment, Diganta felt someone grab him from behind. Lips pressed down on his neck. Turning around in shock, his eyes met Jayanta’s. He felt as if his blood was on fire. Throwing away his brushes, he wrenched himself free from Jayanta and stormed out, returning moments later with his scooter. 

“Sit,” he told him.

“Where to?” asked Jayanta, taken aback.

“I’m telling you to sit. So, just sit.”

Jayanta settled down on the backseat without a word. Piercing the gloom outside, Diganta’s scooter charged forward, carrying Jayanta to the old field. Finding himself in a deserted expanse, Jayanta looked around in fear. Diganta walked down and embraced the trees. Tiny new leaves had sprouted on them, he observed. The very same trees that had been dry for as long as he could remember! Diganta wanted to cry tears of happiness. He forgot everything he wanted to show and say to Jayanta. In the hazy light of the evening, he snapped as many pictures as he could, sending them to Ankur. Ankur must have been waiting for his message. He immediately answered with an emoji. A few stars flickered to life above. With a dumbfounded Jayanta sitting behind him, Diganta rode back home on his scooter, cutting through the dust.

*

One by one, stars lit up the entire sky. Ankur and Diganta walked underneath them. On the other side of the river, the Adi people were celebrating Nauka Puja. They did so every year, hoping to pray away floods and droughts. 

The boys walked hand in hand into the still forest, making their way to the Puja site. Surrounded by sals, gamhars, and crown flower trees, the Adis sat in a circle. The light of the lamps burning about them had clothed the scene in a mystical glow. On a little banana stem boat decorated with various flowers, they made their wishes, then released a pigeon. Everyone started to pray in silence. No sound other than the flapping of wings could be heard for miles around them. 

But no, even in this silence, transplanted by the earth and sky, Diganta could hear the pounding inside him. He felt as if the pigeon had flown straight into his heart and was now beating its wings against all his senses. This flapping and fluttering grew faster as Ankur’s hand came to rest on his. In the flickering light of the lamps, Diganta explored anew a pair of eyes he had known all his life. 

He got up and left quietly, following those eyes into an earthy, grassy cave of sensation. Slashing through the silence, Diganta climbed a mountain of frenzy. Until the stars had hidden themselves away and the bending and swaying trees had managed to awaken them, he remained consumed. Climbing. Descending. Drowning over and over.

Neither of them heard the rustling behind them.

*

Dark clouds loomed large up above. An overcast sky squared up against the winds sweeping across the plains.

Jayanta had gone away that morning, leaving behind him a malevolent storm. A storm hell-bent on shattering not only two lives but also their families. The video, now being forwarded across cell phones, had left Ankur and Diganta in shreds. They had been caned and thrown out of their homes, their books and clothes hurled after them in the courtyard, Diganta’s vibrant paintings all destroyed. Picking up the pieces of his ruined art and dreams, he fell into step beside Ankur, heading down an old, familiar path.

They arrived in front of the twin trees, making their way through the fierce storm. Drenched to their bones, they settled down under them. Despite the thunderous rain they could hear each other’s heartbeats.

“We’ll leave,” they whispered to each other. “There must be a land we can go to. A land with people like us.”

As if to shine a light on this truth, a searing bolt of lightning illuminated the sky. A second later, the whole earth shivered and screamed. Ankur and Diganta retreated into each other.

A ribbon of lightning carrying all seven hues of the rainbow descended from the sky, wrapping itself around them. They stepped forward, floating up in the air. Under a pair of now-dead trees, they left behind a lifetime of torment, heading to a vast and peaceful plain.


© 2022 by Jintu Gitarth. By arrangement with the author. Translation © 2023 by Harsita Hiya. All rights reserved.

নৈশব্দৰ এপৰ আৰু হাহাকাৰৰ এহাজাৰ

গছবোৰে শুকান ৰং ধাৰণ কৰিছে৷

আকাশ বতাহ সকলোতে ধূলিৰ তৰপ৷এই ধূলিৰ তৰপৰ মাজেৰেই স্কুটী চলাইছে দিগন্তই৷ তাৰ পাছফালে অংকুৰ৷বাটটো পকী যদিও যোৱা বানে মহতিয়াই থৈ গৈছে৷ ঠায়ে ঠায়ে ওখোৰা মোখোৰা৷গাতবোৰত স্কুটীখনে জঁপিয়াব লওঁতেই বাৰে বাৰে খামুচি ধৰিছে অংকুৰে৷ দুয়ো কেতিয়াবাই পাৰ হৈ আহিছে জনপদ৷সৰু সৰু গাওঁবোৰ৷এতিয়া বাটটোৰ  দুই পাৰে কেৱল বিস্তৃত পথাৰহে দেখা গৈছে৷ উদং আৰু একক৷ সমুখত ক্ৰমে ক্ৰমে দূৰলৈ গৈ থকা পাহাৰৰ লানি৷

পথাৰৰ দূৰ সীমনাত ছিটিকি পৰিছিল বুঢ়া বেলিৰ শেষ ৰং৷

ঠিক এই অপৰূপ নৈসৰ্গৰ সন্ধানতেই ওলাই আহিছিল দুয়োটা৷দিনদিয়েক একঘেয়েমিক ঝা ঝাকৈ কাটি পেলাব পৰা নতুন কিবা এটা বিচাৰি৷আহৰণ আৰু অন্বেষণৰ এই অভিনৱ যাত্ৰা পথতেই হঠাৎ দুয়ো পই গ’ল এক কাল-অৱধি জীৱন্ত সূচক৷সুবিশাল পথাৰৰ মাজত অকলে থিয় দি ৰোৱা এহালি যুৰীয়া গছ৷শিপাৰ পৰা ওলায়েই গছ দুডাল মিলি পৰিছে আৰু ক্ৰমে ক্ৰমে আকাশ ধীয়াইছে এডাল হৈ৷শেষ শীতৰ চাবুক আৰু শুকান বতাহৰ প্ৰকোপত গছ দুডালৰ অৱস্থা আছিল একেবাৰে বিপন্ন৷ ইতিমধ্যে গাড়ী ৰখাই বকিয়ালৈ নামি অহা দিগন্ত ইসইসাই উঠিল৷ধূলিয়ে চামনি বন্ধা গছডালৰ গাত লাহেকৈ হাত থ’লে সি৷তাৰ হাতৰ ওপৰতে হাত থ’লেহি  অংকুৰে৷দুয়ো দুয়োৰে চকুলৈ চালে৷ লহমাৰ ভিতৰতে যেন এজাক মৌমাখিয়ে দুয়োকে আগুৰি ধৰিলেহি৷ একো কোৱাৰ প্ৰয়োজন নাছিল৷ দুয়ো নিৰৱে গছ দুডালৰ গুৰিত বহিল৷

ফেৰফেৰ বতাহত উৰা ধূলি, দিগন্ত বিয়পা বিশাল ব্যাপ্ত ব্যোম, সহস্ৰ যোজনৰ নৈশব্দ আৰু তাৰ মাজত, এয়া তাৰ প্ৰিয় পুৰুষ বহি আছে তাৰ ওচৰত৷দিগন্তই লাহেকৈ অংকুৰলৈ চালে৷কাহৰ বাচনৰ দৰেই গাৰ ৰং, দুগালত অলপ অলপ দাঢ়িৰ ৰেশ আৰু কথনা ফুলৰ দৰে এই শৰীৰি গোন্ধ! কি এনে সন্মোহন আছে এই পুৰুষৰ? এল পি স্কুলত একেখন বেঞ্চত বহাৰ পৰা আজি কলেজ বাদ দিয়া দিনটোলৈকে সকলোতে সি কেৱল অনুকৰণ কৰিছে তাক৷কিয়? কিয় সি বাৰে বাৰে ময়াপী পকনীয়া এটাত পাক খাই পৰিব খোজে?

বাৰে বাৰে সি নিজকে সোধে; আৰু বাৰে বাৰে শূন্যতাক আকলন কৰে৷

আন্ধাৰৰ ছাঁ দীঘল হৈ আহিব ধৰিছিল৷

আকাশত বাহৰ পৰা ওলাই অহা বাদুলীৰ জাক দেখা গৈছিল৷

লাহেকৈ অংকুৰ উঠিল আৰু ক’লে — ব’লা যাওঁ৷

ইয়াৰ পাছত?

দেখা যাব৷ কিবা এটাতো কৰিবই লাগিব৷

এটা সময়ত দুয়ো উলটি আহিল৷অহা বাটেৰেই৷

নে বোধৰ অন্য এটা বাটেৰে?

এল পি স্কুলৰ ছেকেণ্ড মাষ্টৰৰ পুতেকে কলেজ এৰি দিয়াতো একধৰণৰ ডাঙৰ কথাই আছিল৷ সেই ৰাতি আৰু অংকুৰৰ ঘৰত ভাত খোৱা নহ’ল৷ দিগন্তই এক প্ৰকাৰ দম দিয়েই তাক ঘৰলৈ মাতি আনিলে আৰু ভাতৰ পাতত বহুৱাই দিলে৷

তাৰ পাছৰ দিনবোৰ আছিল মুকলি৷

এই দিনবোৰত দুয়ো গছজোপাৰ ওচৰলৈ অহাটো একপ্ৰকাৰ ৰুটিনেই হৈ আহিল৷ বেলি লয় যাব ধৰা মূহুৰ্মূহু পলবোৰত দুয়ো বহি থাকে৷ নিৰৱে৷নে পাহাৰবোৰৰ সিপাৰে মুখ গুজি লোৱা বিশাল ব্যাপ্ত ব্যোমৰ সমুখত অন্বেষণ কৰে জীৱন আৰু জগতৰ অৰ্থ! তাৰ মাজতে এদিন খুব আশাৰে দিগন্তই কৈ উঠিল — এই গছডালত কুহিপাত ওলাব৷ চাবা৷ তেতিয়া গম পাম, কি বা গছ এইহাল৷

—ধেই৷ এই হালৰ দেখোন অৱস্থাই নাই৷ মৰিবই এই হাল৷

অংকুৰে পাতলাই কৈ উঠে৷

দিগন্তই গছডালৰ গাত হাত ফুৰায়, আৰু বাৰে বাৰে নিজকে নিজে কয় — নমৰে নমৰে৷

তাৰ পাছৰ কেইদিনত অংকুৰে অদ্ভুত কাম এটি কৰিলে৷সি সদায় আহোঁতে মজলীয়া ড্ৰাম এটাত পানী লৈ আহে, আৰু গছ দুজোপাৰ গুৰিত ঢালিবলৈ ল’লে৷প্ৰথম প্ৰথম দিগন্তৰ হাঁহিয়েই উঠিছিল৷পাছলৈ অৱশ্যে সিও লাগি মেলি দিবলৈ ল’লে৷সেয়া কিজানি দুইটাৰ একধৰণৰ বলিয়ালিয়েই আছিল৷

ঋতু সলনি হ’ব ধৰিছিল৷

দুই এজাক পাতলীয়া বৰষুণে পৃথিৱী ধুৱাই গৈছিল৷

কমি আহিছিল ধূলিৰ প্ৰকোপ৷

তেনে দিনতেই  টাউনৰ একাডেমিখনত অংকুৰে  চাকৰি এটা পাই গ’ল৷কম্পিউটাৰ শিক্ষকৰ চাকৰি৷লগে লগেই টিউশ্যন কেইটামানো পাবলৈ ধৰিলে সি৷এতিয়া আৰু দিগন্তৰ লগত ওলাই যাব পৰাকৈ তাৰ হাতত আবেলিবোৰ বাকী নাথাকিল৷

দিগন্তৰ আবেলিবোৰ হৈ আহিছিল একক৷ উদং৷ শূইন৷

এই মুঠি মুঠি শূন্যতাক ভৰাই পেলাবলৈ সি উলিয়াই ল’লে পুৰণি ৰঙৰ টেমা, ধূলি মাকতিৰে ভৰি পৰা ব্ৰাছ৷বহুদিনৰ মূৰত সি ছবিত হাত দিয়ে৷যোৱা বানত বহুদিনৰ কাৰণে ঘৰ বাৰী এৰি সিঁহতে শিবিৰত থাকিবলগীয়া হৈছিল৷ তাৰ বহু কিতাপ পত্ৰ পানীত নষ্ট হৈ গৈছিল৷ নষ্ট হৈ গৈছিল এক্ৰেলিকৰ ঝাৰ, বহু বিধ ব্ৰাছ, পেঞ্চিল৷ তিনিসুঁতিয়ে সেইবাৰ একেবাৰে কালন্তক ৰূপেই ধাৰণ কৰিছিল৷অকল বয় বস্তুৱেই উটুৱাই নিছিল নে? তিনিসুঁতিয়ে উটুৱাই নিছিল সিহঁতৰ জীৱনৰ ৰংবোৰো৷কত মানুহ মৰিল!কত গো-ছাগল উটি গ’ল! বহুদিনলৈ বতাহত থাকি যোৱা কেচেমা কেচেম গোন্ধত পোত গৈছিল সিহঁতৰ জীৱন৷ পোত গৈছিল তাৰ ছবিৰ প্ৰতি থকা ৰাপ৷অথচ এতিয়া এই উদং একক আবেলিবোৰত সি পুনৰ উলিয়াই ল’লে ৰৈ যোৱা ৰং আৰু ব্ৰাছবোৰ৷তিনিসুঁতিৰ পাৰৰ বালি খান্দি কাছকণী বিচৰাৰ দৰেই  সি স্মৃতিৰ বালি খান্দি খণ্ডহৰৰ টুকুৰা কিছুমান কাগজত বিচাৰিবলৈ ধৰিলে৷

তাৰ অস্থিৰতা আৰু অভিমানৰ সমস্ত সংবোধনসি ৰংবোৰক সঁপি দিবলৈ ধৰিলে৷

সেই দিনবোৰতে আৱিৰ্ভাৱ ঘটিল জয়ন্তৰ৷দূৰ সম্পৰ্কীয় ভিনিহিয়েক জয়ন্ত কেইদিনমানৰ কাৰণে সিঁহতৰ ঘৰত থকাকৈ আহিল৷ জয়ন্ত আছিল নাটকৰ মানুহ৷ টাউনত নাটকৰ কৰ্মশালা এখন চলাবলৈ আহিছে জয়ন্তই৷ দিনৰ বেলা কৰ্মশালাত থাকি জয়ন্ত গুচি আহে আৰু আবেলিবোৰত তাৰ ছবি অঁকা কাম চায় ৷ সি অঁকা ছবিবোৰত হাত বুলাই বুলাই জয়ন্তই যেন অশ্ৰুত কাহিনী কিছুমানৰ সন্ধান কৰিলে৷ সন্ধানী হাতখন ক্ৰমে ক্ৰমে উঠি আহিল ৰংবোৰলৈ৷ ৰংবোৰৰ পৰা ব্ৰাছডাললৈ। ব্ৰাছৰ পৰা ব্ৰাছডাল ধৰি থকা তাৰ লাহী আঙুলিবোৰলৈও৷তিনিসুঁতিৰ পাৰলৈ ফুৰিবলৈ যাওঁতে, বসুন্ধৰী পাহাৰৰ জীৱন্ত শিলবোৰত বহোঁতে জয়ন্তই বাৰে বাৰে হাত থ’লে তাৰ কান্ধত, তাৰ পিঠিত, তাৰ কঁকালত

বতৰে মোট সলাইছিল ৷

বহুদিনলৈ বৰষুণৰ কোনো সম্ভাৱনা নাছিল৷

পথাৰৰ বুকু হৈ আহিছিল কৰকৰীয়া৷

তিনিসুঁতিৰ বানত যোৱা বাৰ খেতি নষ্ট হোৱাৰ পাছত মানুহমখাৰ বিলাই বিপত্তিৰ সীমা নাইকিয়া হৈছিল৷এইবাৰ যদি খৰাঙত পৰে মানুহ নাখাই মৰিব লাগিব৷এই কেইদিন সকলোৱে তাকেই পাতি আছে৷এই সকলোৰে পৰা আঁতৰত দিগন্ত ৰৈ গৈছে দ্বিধা-দন্দ্ব-সংশয়েৰে জৰ্জৰিত আবেলি কিছুমানত৷ অংকুৰে তাক ছবিৰ টিউশ্যন দুটামান গোটাই দিছে৷কণ কণ ল’ৰা ছোৱালীকেইটি অহাৰে পৰা সি জয়ন্তৰ পৰা আঁতৰি থাকিবলৈ সুযোগ এটি পাইছে৷

আজি পিছে ল’ৰা ছোৱালীকেইটি অহা নাই৷ নৌকা পূজাৰ আবেলি৷সব তাতে উবুৰি খাই পৰিছে৷ দিগন্তৰ আৰু ওলাই যাবলৈ মন নগ’ল৷ সি ব্ৰাছ, ৰং উলিয়াই ল’লে৷কোট মাৰি মাৰি সি বুৰ যাব খোজে ভাৱনাৰ চাকনৈয়াত৷যোৱা এসপ্তাহে সি ৰাতি ৰাতি ধাৰণ কৰিবলগীয়া হৈছে জয়ন্তক৷ ৰাতি হ’লেই জয়ন্ত হৈ উঠে যুগৰ বাসনাৰে আতুৰ এডাল কালসৰ্প৷ লহ লহ জিভা মেলি তাক এফালৰ পৰা লেহন কৰিব ধৰে৷ জোৰকৈ চকু মুদি, দাঁত চেপি সি পৰি থাকে৷ টোপনি অহাৰ ভাও ধৰি ধৰি সি ভাগৰি পৰে৷

খিৰিকীৰে সিপাৰে আকাশ গোমা হৈ আহিছিল৷

আকাশত পানীগছা কিছুমানে গাঙঠি বান্ধিছিল

তাৰ ৰঙৰ ষ্ট্ৰোকত লাহে লাহে উদ্ভাসিত হৈ আহে পাহাৰৰ পাদদেশৰ এহালি অকলশৰীয়া গছ৷স্মৃতিৰ তলা খুলি ৰংবোৰে লৈ আহে পুৰণি আবেলিৰ গোন্ধ৷এইমাত্ৰ যেন গছজোপাৰ গুৰিৰ পৰা উঠি আহিব অংকুৰ আৰু তাক সাৱটি ল’ব৷হঠাতেই তাক আচৰিত কৰি সাৱটি ধৰিলেহি পাছফালৰ পৰা৷গলত লগাই দিলে আঁতুৰ ওঁঠ৷আচম্বিতে ঘূৰি চাই সি আৱিষ্কাৰ কৰে জয়ন্তক৷তাৰ তেজৰ সোঁতত ভমভমকৈ যেন জুঁই জ্বলিল৷ সি ধহ কৰে দলিয়াই পেলালে হাতৰ ব্ৰাছ, পিঠিত লাগি ধৰা জয়ন্তক৷ ধহধহকৈ গৈ স্কুটী উলিয়ালে আৰু ক’লে — বহা৷

ক’লৈ যোৱা ? , আচৰিত হৈ জয়ন্তই সুধিলে৷

বহিব কৈছোঁ, বহা।

জয়ন্তই নিঃশব্দে তাৰ পাছফালে বহিল৷গোমা আকাশ আৰু পৃথিৱীৰ মাজেৰে দিগন্তই হৰহৰাই স্কুটী চলাই জয়ন্তক লৈ যায় পুৰণি ঠাইলৈ৷ জনপদহীন বিশাল পথাৰৰ মাজত জয়ন্তই সভয়ে ইফালে সিফালে চালে৷দিগন্তই ইতিমধ্যেই নামি গৈছে বকিয়াইদি আৰু সাৱট মাৰি ধৰিছে গছ দুজোপাক৷কোন কাহানিবাই শুকাই যোৱা গছহালৰ এতিয়া অকণ অকণ আগলি পাত ওলাইছে৷দিগন্তৰ আনন্দতে চকুপানী ওলাই আহিব খুজিলে৷ সি জয়ন্তক দেখুৱাব খোজা, ক’ব খোজা সকলো পাহৰি পেলালে৷ সায়াহ্নৰ সেই আলো ছায়াৰ মাজত সি টপাটপ ফটো কেইখনমান তুলিলে আৰু অংকুৰলৈ পঠিয়াই দিলে৷ অংকুৰে হয়তো তাৰ মেছেজলৈয়ে অতদিনে বাট চাই আছিল৷লগে লগে তালৈ ইম’জী এটা পঠিয়াই দিলে৷ আকাশত দুই এটা তৰা উজ্বলি উঠিব ধৰিছিল৷ধূলিৰ তৰপ ফালি দিগন্তৰ স্কুটী উৰি যায়৷ পাছফালে বহি থাকে হতবাক জয়ন্ত৷

আকাশত এটি দুটিকৈ অনেক তৰাই লাহে লাহে মুখ টিপিয়াব লৈছিল৷ এই তৰাবোৰৰ তলেৰেই খোজ লৈছে দিগন্ত আৰু অংকুৰে৷তিনিসুঁতিৰ সিপাৰৰ আদিসকলে আজি নৌকা পূজা পাতিছে৷বছৰটোলৈ বান নাহক, খৰাঙত নুশুকাওক প্ৰতিবছৰে আদিহঁতে এই পূজা পাতে৷ নৈশব্দত জাহ যোৱা অৰণ্যৰ মাজত সিহঁতে হাতত হাত থৈ পূজাথলী পালেগৈ৷শাল, গমাৰী আৰু আকণে আৱৰা অৰণ্যৰ মাজত ঘূৰণীয়াকৈ বহিছে মানুহবোৰ৷এহাত আঁতৰে আঁতৰে জলক তবক জলক তবক কৰা চাকিৰ পোহৰত আধিভৌতিক হৈ উঠিছে চৌপাশৰ দৃশ্যপট৷ৰকম ৰকম ফুলেৰে সজ্জিত কলৰ নৌকাত মানস কৰি এৰি দিয়া হৈছে পাৰ চৰাই৷এইবাৰ আটায়ে মৌন হৈ প্ৰাৰ্থনা কৰিবলৈ ল’লে৷এতিয়া আৰু পাৰযোৰাৰ পাখিৰ ঢপঢপ শব্দৰ বাদে আন একো শুনা নগ’ল৷নহয়, চৌপাশৰ এই আকাশ পৃথিৱী যুগপৎভাৱে শালি পেলোৱা নৈশব্দৰ মাজতো দিগন্তই ঠিকেই শুনিলে কলিজাৰ ঢপঢপ শব্দৰ৷ভাব হ’ল, যেন পাৰ চৰাইটো উৰি আহি বহি লৈছে তাৰ কলিজাত , আৰু বাৰে বাৰে তাৰ চেতনাত পাখি কোবাইছে- ঢপঢপ ঢপঢপ কৰে৷সেই ঢপঢপনিক বঢ়াই তাৰ হাতৰ ওপৰলৈ উঠি আহিল এখন হাত৷চাকিৰ তিৰতিৰ কম্পিত পোহৰত সি নতুনকৈ আৱিষ্কাৰ কৰিলে আশৈশৱ পৰিচিত চকুহালি৷ সেই চকুহালিক অনুসৰণ কৰিয়েই সি নিঃশব্দে উঠি আহিল, আৰু সোমাই পৰিল গহন বনৰ এক অতিসংবেদী পাৰ্থিৱ গুহাত৷ নৈশব্দৰ সেই এপৰক ঝা ঝাকৈ কাটি সি আৰোহণ কৰিবলৈ ল’লে সহস্ৰ হাহাকাৰেৰে উন্মুখ পাহাৰ এটা ৷অযুত তৰাই মুখ লুকুৱাই নোলোৱালৈকে, গছবোৰে হাওলি জগাই নিদিয়ালৈকে সি মজি থাকিল আৰোহন-অৱৰোহন-অৱগাহনৰ পুনঃপুনঃ বৃত্তটোত৷

 

আকাশত মেঘ জমিছে৷

বৰষুণৰ সম্ভাৱনাৰে মুখৰ আকাশ আৰু বতাহে কোবোৱা পৃথিৱী ৰৈ আছিল যুগপৎ প্ৰতিদ্বন্দ্ব্বীৰ দৰে৷

আজি পুৱা জয়ন্ত গুচি গৈছে৷এৰি থৈ গৈছে এজাক কুটিল ধুমুহা৷সেই ধুমুহাজাকে এতিয়া অফলিয়াই সফলিয়াই তচনচ কৰি পেলাব খুজিছে দুটা জীৱন৷ দুখন ঘৰ৷ম’বাইলে ম’বাইলে বিয়পি পৰা সেই ভয়ংকৰ ভিডিঅ’ই ফালি ছিৰাছিৰ কৰি পেলাইছে দিগন্ত আৰু অংকুৰক৷চলি খৰিৰে কোবাই কোবাই দুয়োটাকে উলিয়াই দিছে ঘৰৰ পৰা৷চোতালত দলিয়াই পেলাইছে দুয়োৰে কিতাপ, কাপোৰ৷টুকুৰা টুকুৰ হৈ গৈছে দিগন্তৰ ৰঙত ডুব যোৱা ছবিবোৰ৷টুকুৰা টুকুৰা ছবি নে সপোনবোৰ লৈ দুয়ো এতিয়া খোজ থৈছে একেটা বাটত৷ পুৰণি চিনাকী বাটত ৷

সৌৱা প্ৰচণ্ড বতাহ আৰু বৰষুণৰ মাজেৰে তিতি বুৰি জুৰুলি জুপুৰি হৈ দুয়ো আহি বহিছেহি চিনাকি গছহালৰ গুৰিত৷হুৰহুৰ বৰষুণৰ মাজতো সিঁহতে ইটোৱে সিটোৰ বুকুৰ ঢপঢপ ধ্বনি ঠিকেই শুনা পালে৷ইটোৱে সিটোৰ কাণত ফুচফুচাই উঠিল — গুছি যাম৷কৰবাততো থাকিব আমাৰ দেশ৷আমাৰ দৰে মানুহ৷

হয়তো বোধৰ সেই সত্যক উদ্দীপিত কৰিবলৈয়ে আকাশত উজ্বলি উঠিল এডাল তীক্ষ্ণ বিজুলী ৰেখা৷কেইটামান লহমাৰ পাছতে নিয়তিয়ে আকাশ বতাহ কঁপাই হাওৰিয়াই উঠিল৷নিৰ্জন প্ৰান্তত দুয়ো ইটো সিটোৰ বুকুত সোমাই পৰিল৷

আচৰিতধৰণে আকাশৰ পৰা নামি আহিল এডাল সাতোৰঙী বিজুলী ৰছী৷ৰছীডালে দুয়োকে আলফুলে মেৰিয়াই ধৰিলে৷ এয়া, দুয়ো ক্ৰমে বতাহত খোজ দিছম৷পাৰাপাৰহীন নৈশব্দৰ এক উপত্যকালৈ৷আৰু পাছফালে এৰি গৈছে এহাল মৃত গছৰ তলৰ সহস্ৰ বছৰৰ হাহাকাৰ৷

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