“Yes, he is a well-paid gentleman; lives in a posh area of Kolkata! Comes here pretty often”, the waiter said. Mr. Sen was intrigued by this man’s appearance; a common face in Flury’s every morning. A businessman he was and being one in Kolkata makes you pretty rich. In his last three month’s stay he had seen this man quite a number of times in this shop, taking the window seat that opens up across the street, aligned by those British era restaurants and pubs that still attract the locals and tourists alike.
After paying his bill Mr. Sen left for his office. He was the Editor of a renowned English newspaper of Kolkata. While crossing the road he took a glimpse of the man, sitting by the window. He seemed to be lost in some deep thoughts, as if analysing the movements and mobility around him, the yellow cabs honking across the road, the white dressed officers, the chic women, the convent school girls, the British architecture, but something..something was bothering him..something that even wealth failed to pacify perhaps, and Mr.Sen was pretty sure about that.
Chilly Friday mornings, around 10:30 a.m., almost nearing the end of another week, Mr. Sen could clearly feel and view the city, as she was drooling and dozing after a long week comprising of hectic work schedules, sleepless nights, work pressure, presentations, meeting the deadlines and delivering an excellent performance. Yet, the city somehow managed to gear up for another day, for another battle, for another life. She never fails, despite the hurdles; she dresses up every day with a smile, leaving behind the boredom and tiredness, to face new challenges. She manages so every time.
“Ah, lazy winter mornings!” Mr. Sen exclaimed. He entered the same shop and somehow deep within he knew that the man would be there, he always was. ” Morning Mr. Sen,” said the waiter. “Good morning Ali, so he isn’t here yet?” asked Mr. Sen. “He will be Sir, in a few minutes”, Ali replied with a smirk. Mr. Sen ordered his usual course of breakfast. While he delved deep in the morning paper, a rugged voice from the other corner broke his concentration. Mr.Sen knew his much awaited morning attraction enveloped by mystery was there, the man beside the window. He was adamant to approach him this time.
As Mr.Sen was walking towards the man, he noticed how well dressed he was. A blue shirt tucked in, off-white pants, a leather watch with a big dial, clean shaven, well built, hair back-brushed, “A handsome man indeed!” Mr.Sen told himself, ”wonder why he comes here all alone.”
“Ha ha ha that was a funny article you wrote on the elections Mr.Sen!”, “So what’s your take on the current political situation of Bengal?” Mr.Sen asked the man while sharing a cup of tea with him at his table. “Nothing, all vote-bank politics Mr.Sen”, the man said. Not one hour had passed and they seemed to be like two high school friends meeting after ages, talking about food, scotch, Oly-Pub, Mocambo, Calcutta club, films, politics, the tension reigning in the state and so on. “So that’s like being a huge share owner? How do you manage everything all by yourself with your wife being a famous singer in this city, she must be busy the whole day? How do you manage?” Mr.Sen enquired.
“She is extremely supportive. Even after her shows, a tiring day, she returns home with a smile, and lights up the whole house. Yes, I do my job diligently, meeting the deadlines, the presentations, handling clients; you know structuring and restructuring the outlines of the company for further progress. And yes people do ask me at times that it must be hard to face the market demands and company policies all alone, for my wife is hardly at home to provide a shoulder to me, and a little bit of this and a little bit of that” the man said.
“You are lucky indeed. My sole memory of a woman, who took this great care of me, is that of my mother. Since her death, I’ve been taking care of myself and moreover, my hectic job keeps me busy, someday here someday there” Mr.Sen said. “A traveler and pretty good at that Mr.Sen” the man replied with a smile.
“So why is it that this successful businessman living in Ballygunje comes all alone for breakfast?” Mr.Sen asked with crouched eyebrows. “Well you see how it works in the glamour industry, their day begins at night. Therefore why bother her early in the morning?” the man replied confidently. “Absolutely!” replied Mr. Sen. “Ah, I better get going Mr.Sen. It was a pleasure meeting you. Carry on mesmerising the people with your golden articles.” the man stood up and was about to leave.
“Oh, by the way, your wife’s new album, she is with this new singer right? The music is indeed soulful. May god bless both of you”, Mr.Sen exclaimed.
“Thank you Mr.Sen. Hope to see you soon”, the man stood up and left.
“People in love always look good.”
It’s well past midnight. He thought of putting things in order, rearranging everything physically and emotionally; from rearranging the broken pieces of bone-china to the broken pieces of their hearts by giving her a surprise in order to make things work.
A woman’s voice dictated, “I am done with few other papers the lawyer had asked us to sign. They are on the bed. When are you going to finish them?”
He didn’t answer. While arranging the cupboard, he discovered a napkin, few words, a heart, a known handwriting, a haiku and his sign.
The woman exclaimed, “Well there’s nothing to look at it so deeply. I was a fool back then. Devil’s snare. Just put it on the table so that I can burn it with my own hands tomorrow, put it on the table will you? Or just return it to me so that I can throw it away. Just do what I say! Such falsified emotions!”
“Exactly, In fact I just did what you said,” he said smiling and returned the signed napkin.
Bits and pieces fell on the floor.
Photography By: Ved Dubhashi