Death of a Reader

Banaphul (Balaichand Mukhopadhyay) was the King of Bengali short stories – according to me. I tried to translate one of his stories.

Almost ten years back.
I was waiting for train at Asansol station. Another person was sitting beside me. He had a book in his hand. It was a thick novel. After we began chatting, I came to know that he had to wait the whole day for his train.
My train was supposed to arrive in three hours.
Both of us were Bengali.
Hence, within five minutes I asked him, “May I see the book once?”
“Oh yes, why not?” – I received the answer as I expected.
I possessed the book immediately as he handed it over.
It was an afternoon of the intoleranly scorching summer.
We were sitting under the tin roof of Asansol station.
Nothing could bother any longer.
It was a wonderful novel.
The owner of the book looked at me once with the corner of his eyes. A line appeared between his eyebrows for a moment. He took out a time table then and concentrated in that.
I continued reading breathlessly.
Excellent book!
In fact, I did not read such an appealing novel before.
The lines were almost whipping me.

***

Two hours passed.
The owner of the book browsed through the time table several times in the meantime. Finally he looked at me and told, “I think it is almost time for your train – so…” he cleared his throat once.
I was immersed in the book.
Once I took a quick look at my watch. It was still one hour left for my train. The book was left over a half. I did not want to waste time by talking. Again I concentrated in the book. I was devouring it.
Wonderful book!
That one hour almost flew away.
The bell for my train rang.
The large part of the book was still left unread.
I turned aggressive.
I said, “I will go by next train – not going to leave before finishing this book.”
The owner of the book coughed once and went silent after this.
The train left – I continued reading.
But I could not finish it – a few pages at the end of the book were torn.
I said to the owner of the book, “Oh – so many pages of the book are torn! What a shame! You could tell me before!”

The man only gazed at me in response. I noticed the veins on his forehead bulging.
***
I found the book once again after ten years.
It was the in-law’s place of my niece. I accompanied her to her home and was supposed to come back that day only. But my attraction for the book made me stay back.
I picked up the book from shelf; began reading once again. I decided to start anew instead of reading arbitrarily from the end.
I felt bizarre after a few pages.
I turned the cover – was it the same book? – It was the same!
Again I started – But another few pages of reading brought me the same feeling –something seemed wrong!
Yet I continued.
After some time I realized my inability to carry on reading anymore.
Was it the same book which I was reading breathlessly in the scorching summer afternoon in Asansol station?
How could an author write such a rubbish!
It was not at all possible to finish it!
I could not even realise when the curious reader of ten years back had died.
I could not finish the book this time as well.

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