Serendipity – A Short Story written by Abhishek Das

“Every threat bestows a hidden opportunity dear son. You must endure a positive outlook towards life. “The words of the pious pirbaba seems to be wavering like a smog in the mind of young Rajat amidst the scorching heat of August, Kolkata.

Rajat Majumdar is a young graduate of this generation, has got his  so-called degree in Mechanical Engineering from a private engineering college of Kolkata, is yet to get a good job from his campus placement. He commemorates a compulsive conversation which he has experienced with his elder brother, Kuntal a month before.

15th August 2007, Asansol, West Bengal.

Kuntal: “You seem to be so stoic about your career.”

Rajat: “What do you mean dada?”

Kuntal: “I am a Chemical Engineer. Due to dearth of any proper placement in my own field I made my mind to pursue an alternative career in Information Technology. What made you think to quit IT placements in your college?”

Rajat: “Its not like that. I dare to wait than to choose an alternative and unhappy career like you did.”

Kuntal: “What make you feel that I am unhappy?”

Rajat: “Your recent decision of leaving IT industry and pursuing MBA.”

Kuntal: “You are such a freak Bhai. MBA will give a damn boost to my career. After reaching a certain age and experience you will come to know that every decision in life is based upon self-improvement rather than self-satisfaction.”

Rajat: “That’s the point. I will never adjust with my self-satisfaction like you did. I believe that will feel me more pensive.”   

Kuntal: “Why don’t  you  take a short leave and visit Grandpa’s place in Haridwar?”

Rajat: “What’s the point? Any damn vacation can’t fill my void heart with happiness.”

Kuntal: “Every threat bestows a hidden opportunity. Lets have a positive outlook towards life. Just follow what I say, Champ. There is nothing harm in it.”

Despite every difference in choices and preferences, Rajat  and  Kuntal shares a common bonding of mutual- cooperation and empathy. Rajat considers his elder brother(5 years) as his friend-cum-philosopher in life. The similarity in the words of Pir baba and his elder brother makes him believe in serendipitous life.

14th September 2007, Mughal Sarai junction, 6:45 a.m

Rajat: “Give me a cup of tea Bhaiyya. Do fast. The train is about to leave the station.”

Tea-seller: “I have to serve others. Its First come First Serve.”

Rajat saw that the next tea stall is the railway canteen, so he decides to proceed over there. 

Rajat: “Bhaaiyya, one tea.”

Tea-Seller: “Wait.”

 Rajat buys a bottle of Bisleri and a packet of fruit-cake and gives a 100 rupees note.

Tea-seller: “Kya Bhai? Its impossible to bring the balance at this early hour. Give me 68 rupees  khulla.”

Rajat checked his purse. Only 100 rupees and 500 rupees notes. An unwanted dispute  between the two strangers ultimately results in  train leaving the station without his conscious cognizance. Rajat feels totally flabbergasted and aghast at this sudden incident.

In utter disgust he calls his father. The entire incident is like a shock to his entire family. His father is a retired Electrical Engineer in Indian Railways(RDSO).  He tries to recollect some memory at this hour of crisis and then speaks: “You have two choices. 1> Wait for some hours and check for the next train towards Haridwar 2> Pay a visit to one of my colleague Ajay Banerjee  in Varanasi , a one-hour journey from Mughal-Sarai.”

Rajat checks from the railway enquiry that the next train towards Haridwar is at 10:45 pm, 18 hours prolonged waiting time which is quite tedious as his entire luggage is left in the train. So he reluctantly chooses to pay a short visit to Varanasi.

Varanasi (city of temples) is located at the eastern bank of river Ganga. Rajat feels a sigh of relief after reaching the desired destination.

10:10 a.m., Varanasi Railway station.

Rajat: “Hey, what’s the fare to Gadulia?”

Rikshaw-puller: “Bengali?”

Rajat : “Yes.”

Rickshaw-puller: “45 rupees”

Rajat: “Let’s go.”

On the way to the desired destination, he comes to know about the veracity of that strange enquiry. The rick-shaw puller unveils that he is a Bengali too. He says that this is quite ‘odd man out’, as most of them falls under Bihari community. So he chooses not to hoodwink his fellow Bengali mate.

Rajat tries to have a glimpse of Varanasi city – densely populated city with markets, temples, mosques. Bulls, Cows  hindering his journey every now and then. It seems to be as congested as Dalhousie of Kolkata. After surpassing many lanes and by-lanes he finally reaches his destination.

He gets a gracious welcome from Ajay uncle, whom he is meeting for the first time. The house looks like a typical ‘kella’ of UP origin, having open corridor and big terrace. There is a big cowshed at the backyard. It seems that he has taken a visit to a typical Hindi-Bhojpuri feature film.

While, taking a siesta after having a sumptuous Litti-choka and Rabri, he finds someone about his age has come  with evening tea. The most interesting part is that the person is from opposite gender.

Lady: “Excuse me.”

Rajat (half-asleep): “Yes.”

Lady: “Papa has sent this snacks(Samosa) and saffron tea for you.”

Rajat: “I am overwhelmed.”

After taking the tea, Rajat comes downstairs to have a chat with Ajay uncle. He finds his daughter instead. He comes to know that her name is Pooja and she is reading in 2nd yr, Sanskrit honours, Varanasi Hindu University.
Rajat: “Sanskrit honors. Oh my God!”

Pooja: “What’s the point of this expression?”

Rajat: “Actually Sanskrit and me are the best foes since childhood.”

Pooja: “You must have tried to learn the subject without knowing its hidden beauty.”

Rajat: “Sanskrit and beautiful! You are kidding.”

Pooja: “Tomorrow, I will take you to my university. You will develop a new idea about Sanskrit. It’s a promise.”

Rajat: “Really?”

Rajat experiences a sleepless night that day  for the following reasons:

1. He has to stay 5 more days in Varanasi and that too as a guest among some strangers.

2. He has got only Rs 1000 to spend in the coming days as his entire luggage and debit card are left with the train which are yet to  be recovered with his father’s(ex Railway employee) assistance.

3. Pooja effect.

The next morning he shares a rickshaw seat with Pooja. After reaching the historic Varanasi Hindu University, she leads him to a vast library. She introduces Rajat to Dr. Anwar Hossain, Sanskrit professor. Dr. Hossain tells him about the beauty of Sanskrit language. Being a Sanksrit learner, one can easily decipher the meaning of  mantras and slokas throughout India. He justifies that Sanskrit has two parts: Tatsama and Tatbhava. Sanskrit is thousands years older than Urdu, as a matter of fact lots of the Urdu words are derived from Tatbhava part of Sanskrit. He gives him a brief description about Ganga-Jamuna-Tehzeeb and Sanskrit being the inevitable part of it.

The conversation occurs for 1 hour between the two and Rajat leaves the prestigious university garnering some insight about Sanskrit. Rajat feels proud for Pooja. Her taste, perception and advance viewpoint.

After bidding erudite Dr. Hussain and flamboyant Pooja at the university campus, Rajat chooses to walk through the busy streets of Varanasi. He observes  that people of Beneras greets one another with “Har Har Mahadev”. There are innumerable number of stalls selling Fruit juice, Rabri, Halwai, Chaats, Banarasi Pan, Banarasi Saree, Handlooms  stalls spreading everywhere. People are happy in their humble lifestyle, cracking jokes and making mockery of others. The city might look congested ,unhygienic outside-in but it is very transparent and amusing  inside-out.

Rajat sleeps quietly at that night. Next morning at around 5’o clock he finds someone knocking at his door.

Pooja: “Get up Yaar.”  

Rajat: “Pooja! What are doing at this hour ?”

Pooja: “Are you really a  Bengali?”

Rajat (waking up): “Any doubt!!”

Pooja: No. Today is Mahasaptami. There are few Bengali Households inhabiting at Bangalitolla near Dasawamedh Ghat. So if you want, join me and my friends. We are going to watch the auspicious ceremony of Mahasaptami in Dasaswamedh Ghat.

Rajat: “Ohho!! I am really an idiot. How could I forget such an important matter?”

Pooja: “Hmm.. Hurry up.. We have to reach there by 5: 30 am .There are only a few households left to perform this ceremony.”

Meanwhile, Rajat finds himself among a group of people witty and happy in their life .

He encounters that two of them named Arpan and Satyaki are Bengali who resides at Varanasi since their birth. Both of them are B.Tech  from the same college , one of them has got a decent job  and while the other one is waiting eagerly for placement.

Rajat is quite amazed how can two persons (successful and unsuccessful) momentarily shares the similar bond of happiness.         

Rajat feels gay to find the ‘banana leaf bath’ ceremony of Mahasaptami at the holy Ganges of Varanasi .

While returning, Pooja excuses her friend s to move on, while she and Rajat decides to spend some time at the banks of River Ganges. Pooja has got quite an attractive figure. 5 ft 5 inches tall ,fair complexion. She looks good in her printed salwar-kameez with a mark of kumkum which is still a custom at this part of the country. She urges Rajat to have a short river ride to Ramnagar fort.

In the midway, Rajat gives a melancholy look at his surroundings. Situating thousands of kilometer away from the natives with river Ganges at the vicinity and the beautiful girl sitting upfront he realizes that life is capriciously wonderful . All the momentary failures falls pity at the golden hand of serendipitous time Rajat has started to feel  Pooja as  someone special in his life. The Durgapuja festival seems more fabulous at of her serendipitous presence  with  pleasant  Autumn weather adding a bit of sensuality at the backdrop.

17th September (Mahasthami ) 10:10 am

Pooja: “I have a brought a Sherwani for you. Do the favor and come fast.”

Rajat: “Come on. I cannot accept gift from you.”

Pooja(chuckling) : “Its not a gift Sir. I have brought it from Satyaki.”

Rajat : “Ohh !!But Why this undue favor?”

Pooja : “Mann Kya baath mein. Come fast nor you will miss something quite exciting.”

After a few minutes they are heading towards Dasaswamedh Ghat. Rajat has not seen anything like this. Around twenty two twenty five priests, each standing at separate podium doing Ganga Arati with the playing of drums, shells, bells at the backdrop. The entire conjoined area is lighted up and there are hundreds of people hearing to the Ganga Arati with tears in their eyes. A pandit is chanting slokas dedicated to Lord Shiva.

Rajat: “What is he saying?”

Pooja: “Everything in life happens for a reason. One must not lost his way due to sudden failure. By God’s grace everything is possible. There is a subtle opportunity in every threat.”

Rajat: “When will you take me to Lord Viswanath Temple?”

Pooja: “Anytime. Lets go tomorrow morning.”

Lord Viswanath temple is very pious in Hindu religion. It’s believed he is Swamabhu. The person who has breathed last in Varanasi and has done one’s last rites in the Manikarnika Ghat has liberated his/her soul from the circle of Birth and Death. He has attained the state of Moksha. Lord Viswanath bestows a sacred place in the heart of every Hindu. The Gyanbapi masjid is located just beside the temple, speaks of secularism and pluralism. Varanasi is also famous for Viswanath Gali. The lane is a mystery in itself. One will find Lord Viswanath temple , Maa Annapurna temple, Varanasi Saree, Pan Masala, handlooms, Sweets  .

The city of Varanasi is believed to be located atop the trishul of Lord Shiva.

19th September, 5:30 pm Dasaswamwedh Ghat.

Pooja: “Today is Vijaya Dashami. Lets go for a boat-ride and visit all the ghats of Varanasi.”

Rajat: “Is it so? Lets go.”

Pooja: “There are 88 ghats in Varanasi.Every ghat has its own story. Some ghats belong to Holkars, Schindias, Bhosles, Peshwas. There is Manikarnika ghat where funeral runs inexhaustibly.”

After a certain time Rajat gets a glimpse of ‘Durga Bishorjon’ ceremony, also called Bijoya Dashami. Sparkles of light and beating of drums gives a divine feeling at the vicinity of twilight saga of Varanasi.

Without any precaution, Rajat holds Pooja’s hand and say “Happy Dussera dear”

Pooja: “Same to you. Happy Bijoya Dashami.”

Rajat: “My pleasure.”

Pooja(lending Cadbury silk): “Kuch meetha ho jaye.”

Rajat is least expectant of this kind of sensual emotion.

Rajat: “I don’t  know, if you are in a relationship with anyone. I don’t know how do you feel about me? It’s too early to say those magical words. But Pooja, will you be my best friend for this life?”

Pooja  just keeps smiling without uttering anything.

20th September , 6:10 pm , Railway station

Rajat: “Bye Pooja. Take Care.”

Pooja: “You too. May I say something.”

Rajat: “What?”

Pooja(chuckling): “Nothing as serious. I will never forget the moments spent with you. Life is capricious. I don’t know whether we will get another chance of meeting like this. But, one thing I must commit honestly.I have never encounter with such a happy-go-lucky and sober Bengali before.”

Rajat: “You must come to Asansol. I will lead you to Mython and Massangore dams. You will like it a lot.”

Pooja: “I am planning to go my aunt’s place in Kolkata this December.”

Rajat: “Ok.Then. I will come for sure.”

And the train leaves the station bidding adios to Pooja and Varanasi .

Denizen of Dreamland

About Denizen of Dreamland

I am Denizen of Dreamland, born and brought up in cosmopolitan South kolkata. Since childhood I do prefer to make certain necessary and unnecessary changes in my day to day life as anything monotonous bores me a philosophy towards life is "Living it through moments without being too critical and skeptical towards it". I have an analytical and empathetic mind which helps me to understand and retrospect any situation or any individual in an unique way.


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