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International Writers Magazine: Blood
Shomoy Duhshomoy (Time, Bad Times)
(Translated by V Ramaswamy, Calcutta.)
up, Adris eyes first went to the table top, and then to
the letter in red print kept there. Mind blank, Adri gazed at
it for a long while, and eventually realised how futile it was
for him to just gaze like this.
then turned his eyes and looked at the calendar. The picture swayed
in the gentle breeze. Twenty-second of April, nineteen sixty seven swayed.
How much time was left now? It must be seven, half past seven. It would
begin at nine in the evening, some fourteen hours or so remained. In
these fourteen hours he had to decide about the present - not a present,
a gift of love.
Want a cigarette! He picked up the cigarette packet with his left hand
and lit one. Adri didnt feel like getting out of bed just yet.
He puffed on the cigarette a few times and blew out the smoke into the
room. Wasnt everything of his slowly coming to an end: ambition,
joy, health, poetry, Ramola
What remained other than just this
Charminar cigarette? He looked at the cigarette and laughed. Adri laughs
away. Holding the cigarette near his ear theres a kind of hiss
of the cigarette burning which he really likes to hear. It also strikes
him that its like life itself was burning away with the sound.
Adris eyes wavered here and there searching for something all
over the room, and not finding it wandered around restlessly. Bright
sunlight outside, but he didnt feel like getting up. Just lying,
clinging to the bed. Adri realised he wasnt in good shape nowadays.
Long ago he used to worry about this, not so now. What was the use of
worrying unnecessarily about oneself? As long as it was running let
it run, after that, one day, pop, die without anyone knowing. No demands
from anyone, no dues. But was it really so? Was the world really so
resource-less for him? Adri tries to take his mind to another subject.
Being exposed before oneself was a frightful thing.
The morning advanced. Adri was still lying in bed. And as he lay he
kept thinking. Ramola had once said, look, this unworldly attitude of
yours towards everything will be your destruction. He hadnt thought
about this so seriously then; now he understands. He realises how true
this was, and how cruel. If someone had said that Adri had killed himself
it wouldnt be untrue. Yet there wasnt really any reason
behind this, it wasnt inevitable.
Lying in bed and thinking Adri was doing too much of that these
days. Simply too much. Why was he winding up his life? Job! So many
people couldnt get jobs but how many people wasted their
lives like this?! Nobody had all their aspirations fulfilled, that wasnt
possible either. But no one left everything and idled because of that.
Hadnt Ramola spoken about this to him so many times? Look Adri,
do something, how much longer can we go on like this?
He hadnt replied to that. Eyes eager, Ramola had looked intently
at him, waiting for some response. Say something Adri, at least say
yes or no or anything. He had silently puffed away at a cigarette, only
the lengthening shadows of twilight over the river Gangas bosom
deepened. He had thought about it. Actually no reply was possible on
such matters. He had certainly tried. If he didnt get a job what
could he do? If he got a job he was willing to marry Ramola. But if
he didnt, well then what more could he do? And as far as Ramola
was concerned, well, he had never asked Ramola to come close to him;
neither did he have a hand in her going away.
Perhaps each day had been insufferable for Ramola. He could understand
that. She had said, youre terribly cruel Adri, stone-hearted,
theres no life in you, no compassion, tenderness, love, affection,
nothing whatsoever. Actually, maybe that was the truth. Every kind of
human feeling in his being had been exhausted, was coming to an end.
But what was Adri to do? He didnt blame Ramola either. She had
borne a lot. She had stood waiting patiently for him so many times.
How many times had Adri failed to keep an appointment? So many times
he hadnt even spoken properly to her because he didnt feel
like it. How many times she had stood waiting and waiting in front of
a cinema hall, looking repeatedly at her watch, and finally crushed
the two tickets into a ball and thrown it away angrily and returned
home, face smarting, and once home fallen to her bed and sobbed her
Meeting him after that she had fiercely asserted her right to demand
a proper explanation, she wanted to know. And in reply Adri had merely
affected a smile, I didnt feel like it, didnt go. Adri realises
how such an explanation wouldve hurt a womans heart, but
he was helpless, he had no options. He could have made up something,
but what was the point in that? Rather, it was best that Ramola became
acquainted with this character of his, which was best for both of them.
How long could it continue after that? Adri had realised it wouldnt
last much longer like this, it couldnt.
And it didnt either. Ramola gradually stopped coming, stopped
meeting him, and ultimately all contact was erased. And after so long,
suddenly, yesterday evening, this letter, Ramolas wedding invitation.
Adri gazed for a long time at this colourful letter printed in red ink.
His mind wandered again and again, but he didnt want to be exposed
in his own eyes. That would be a terrible thing.
It was getting late, must be half past eight or nine perhaps, he should
get up now. But whats to be achieved by getting up? Adri continues
lying and brooding. Would be nice to get a cup of tea! But he was just
as fine without it too. Adri lit another cigarette. Actually this laziness,
this lying silently in bed was his only consolation. Puffing on his
cigarette he saw the spiders web on the wall. The walls of this
room hadnt been whitewashed in ages. In many places the plaster
had broken leaving ugly gaping holes. But Adri was unable to focus his
mind on such externals.
His eyes kept darting to yesterdays letter. Had Ramola invited
him in order to hurt him? Or just like that? She knew someone in this
world called Adrikumar Roy, she had thought it fit to invite him, and
so she had. Since yesterday evening he had been experiencing a great
unease, hadnt slept well at all at night. Adri realised he wasnt
being able to deal with this as easily as he should have. Somewhere,
something was happening, was about to happen. However much he tried
to be indifferent to everything, somehow he wasnt quite able to.
All night long hed had a bizarre dream. A dark-skinned man had
signalled to him to come for coffee; he had descended, for a long time,
down a stairway towards some underground chamber. Eventually they had
reached a cold, dark chamber. He and that boy had been drinking coffee.
Suddenly the room was filled with terrible smoke. Adri had tried to
escape but couldnt find the stairs. Smoke everywhere, he was choking
in the smoke, and amidst that smoke he had been searching frantically
for the stairs. Adri tried to remember the dream. Why did he have such
a dream? Was this some repressed desire in his subconscious?
The plain truth was that howsoever indifferent he tried to be, he had
felt just the opposite in the dream. In his bid to survive he had been
searching frantically, like a madman, for the stairs. Adri didnt
want to think any more than this. He knew well enough there would be
no way out if he was exposed before himself.
Even though Adri didnt want to probe such matters too deeply,
nevertheless he did understand a little. Since yesterday was he able
to be as detached as before? And what was the use of being so? It was
best to calmly admit to whatever shake-up was coming. Best in the sense
that his true picture would thus be exposed, and whatever else might
happen, it was after all a fact that a kind of apathy was at work inside
him. Whatever might happen, that force would remain at the foundation
of everything. So if he thought about Ramola today
if he sent
a specific present for Ramola he had been so preoccupied since
yesterday precisely about what hed give! So where did matters
stand then? Adri shook himself. Matters didnt stand anywhere;
it was merely one days exception, and nothing else.
Puffing on another newly lit cigarette all of Adris enthusiasm
subsided. He should give something. When she had invited him, reciprocating
that was only a gesture of civility. But to think so much about that
- what was there to be so excited about, as hed been since last
night? But yes, it was proper to give something, though that should
not be like anyone else. Adri was unique in this world; there was only
one Adrikumar Roy in this world. If he died, just this one person alone
would die. The gift too should be just as unique.
But he might just as well not give anything; it was just as well not
to worry about all this. Someone called Ramola, he had known her once,
what was there to be civil about? Would anybody point their finger at
him and say: despite being invited by Ramola Adri didnt reciprocate?
No one would say that, wouldnt say anything. The matter was so
trivial that after a couple of days he himself would forget about the
whole incident. Hence there was no need to think so much about it.
Now he could lie in bed for a long time without thinking about anything,
without worrying about anything. He could stare at the things at the
room and smoke any number of cigarettes. But Adri couldnt remain
lying like this for very long. An uneasiness within kept pricking him.
He puffed at the cigarette and threw it away to the corner of the room.
That burnt away there for a while, smoke rose, and finally it extinguished
and became a heap of ash.
Adri realised it was becoming increasingly difficult for him to find
release from all this. It was this lying in bed that led to all kinds
of thoughts crowding into his head. It was much safer to roam around.
There would be no specific direction, just wandering around wherever
his eyes went.
Despite wanting to get up Adri idled for some more time. Random images
of Ramolas face came to mind. A host of tiny memories came and
crowded his thoughts. Finally Adri pulled himself up. Outside - the
terrible April sun. The doors of those from the lodging who left for
office at ten were locked. He went down the stairs. Where was he going?
Lost in thought, Adri descended, turned to the left once to relieve
himself, and then went directly to the road outside. He was still wearing
the trousers from yesterday, he hadnt changed. His face was unshaven.
Adri had felt it with his hands but didnt shave. What was the
point, what was the point doing all this?
Coming out into the road he saw the sun was beating down. In the lane,
kids were playing marbles. There was a bit of shade there. A crow flew
down from somewhere and alighted on the broken wall, looked this way
and that a few times and cawed loudly, and then flew away. Adri turned
the corner and came to the tramline now.
Where was he going, in which direction? He could get by without thinking
about that, after all he was moving in some direction. A tram, crammed
with people, passed by, swayingly. The people hung from outside too,
so skilfully. A double-decker bus went by clouding the whole place with
black smoke. At the kerb a cars horn was stuck, a black car of
an old model. The horn blared unbearably, as if the place was falling
apart in that incessant noise. People were crowding around, the curious
public. Adri found it very amusing. The driver was frantically pressing
this side and that side of the car, the noise just didnt stop.
The traffic policeman who had been standing at the kerb, umbrella in
hand, moved forward. Adri didnt wait there heck, dont
He crossed the road. Quite a few people at the bus-stop, wearing freshly-laundered
clothes, waiting anxious-faced for the bus. The whole world was really
so busy, all engrossed in its duties, and in their midst he alone had
Amazing! He alone in this wide world would have no important
work, hed never have to be busy like them and rush around. Adri
felt an ache somewhere. He could see it was good for him in a way. He
had no debts in the world, no responsibilities. This wandering around
aimlessly, this silent, unperturbed life-saga
life was just passing
by, would come to an end too one day.
But from yesterday Ramola kept entering his thoughts. Amazing
Ramola was deeply embedded despite everything. He hadnt been able
to keep thoughts about Ramola at bay. Adri felt quite annoyed now.
Adri appeared really helpless then in that sunny pavement. How like
a lifeless puppet he was being assailed by such thoughts. Angrily Adri
searched his pockets for a cigarette. There werent any. Fortunately
his wallet was in his pocket. The whole of last night he had felt a
mild ache on his left side. Now he realised he hadnt taken out
his wallet last night and that had been under his chest all night. Amazing!
Nothing seemed to have an impact on him nowadays. Life was moving along
He stood in front of a paan shop, held out a few coins and was about
to ask for cigarettes when he saw his face floating in the mirror in
front. What a sight he was! Whose image was this? Adri was quite unrecognizable.
Just as well, what was the point in being in good health, what was the
point in being of sound mind, what was the use of worrying about all
this? He lit a cigarette and gustily blew out a mouthful of smoke towards
the mirror. He heard someone calling his name.
Looking all around, he saw Abani waving out and calling him from across
the street. Why Abani now, hed simply bother him ... He had been
an intimate friend once, how like a stranger he had become now.
He saw how Abani, fatigueless, scampered past the speeding cars like
a nimble horse and came to him. He came and shook his shoulder
hey man, what have you done to yourself, cant even recognise you.
Adri observed him, well kempt appearance, as if health was overflowing
from his body. Adri wondered why he didnt feel jealous looking
at Abani. Some time back, when Abani hadnt got the job in the
bank, how skinny he had been. It was evident he was really happy now.
And with this thought Adri wondered what it meant to be happy. How did
one have to be to be considered happy? Wasnt he happy? Was he
unhappy? He didnt feel that way. Abani was saying Hey man,
why arent you saying anything? You used to chat a little before!
Whats up? Have you stopped even that now? Adri laughed. Laughingly
he greets Abani, says whats happening with you? As Abani pulls
him by his hand Adri gazes at him. Abani says come on, lets sit
somewhere, good that we met, need to talk to you.
After they sat down at a teashop Abani lit an expensive cigarette and
blew out smoke. Adri sees Abanis eyes contracted in pleasure.
Offered a cigarette, he too lit up. Looks, sees the folds on Abanis
neck, the immaculately shaven face. Abani was saying something. He lifts
his face and looks towards Abani. Hes saying youve remained
the vagabond you were Adri, you dont feel sorrow, dont feel
Do you know Trilochan is now the chief of a top-class
firm, a salary of something like two thousand rupees
Can you imagine Adri, this Trilochan once used
to beg and smoke bidis from you, and you
Adri sees that Abani gapes at his face and stops talking. Abani has
realised that it was pointless telling him all this. Amazing! Why does
Abani grasp everything so slowly
And so whats your news
Adri now has to say something like
this. Abani says nothing at alls happened to me pal, still stuck
in that branch. Adri sees that Abani looks frightfully unhappy right
now. Abani is not happy with his job. Abani now wants to be Trilochan.
But Adri will never want to be like Abani. Adri realised how it troubled
Abani to think about Trilochan. But Adri felt no pain. Adri didnt
want to be Abani. He didnt want to be Trilochan. He didnt
feel troubled inside, felt no pain. No feelings.
On Abanis ordering the waiter came and gave two cups of tea, hot
tea. Adri watched the smoke rise. So Abani wasnt happy either.
Robust, brimming with youthful vigour, wonderful smart clothes, meticulously
shaven face, expensive cigarettes and yet Abani too wasnt
happy. But was he happy, or wasnt he happy? What did the word
"happy" mean? Adri hears Abani saying something again. He
looked at Abanis face. Why was Abani staring at him? What was
he looking at? Hey pal, what news of Ramola? Hearing this Adri realised
someone had rung a bell inside him, it rang ding dong! So he couldnt
forget about Ramola! A newspaper lay in front. Adri picked it up and
After all this time why Ramola again? Who was Ramola? He didnt
know any Ramola. Adri turned towards Abani and laughed. Why, whats
the matter? After all this time why Ramola again? Ramola is just a girls
name, some girls name, no more than that
Abani was speaking
again, saying something, do you know Ramolas marrying a professor?
But what did that matter to Adri? Let a girl called Ramola marry a professor
or a businessman, how did that concern him? He should give her a present,
that all, only so far
Abani wants to say something more. Adri
saw that Abani was now feeling sad for him. Like a true friend Abani
felt for him. But nothing in the world mattered at all to Adri. Why
couldnt Abani understand this? But yes, this Adri was alone in
the world. No good, no bad, no grief, no sorrow, and just one responsibility,
one duty ahead of him: to send a present of some sort tonight at the
Having admitted this much, Adri feels relieved. Adri wonders how much
more was left to be exposed before him. He looks at Abani whos
saying something now
youre an amazing chap Adri, you dont
feel the slightest sadness
Abani stops midway, perhaps he thinks
its futile telling him. Adri felt ill at ease. He pored over the
newspaper. A plane crash somewhere reported in big, bold type. Finance
Plop, ssssss, glug glug. Thats all!
Great advertisement: a girl drops a sherbet tablet, plop into
a glass of water, with an ssssss sound the tablet dissolves in the water
and makes a sherbet, glug glug the girl drinks it all up. Thats
all and all cold! More advertisements
donate blood at the blood
bank to help the sick. Adris eyes were held there.
Abani was saying something but nothing registered. Got it, got the present!
Adri hadnt imagined it would come to him so easily. He wanted
to jump up! Giving a gift for Ramolas wedding was no longer a
problem for him: hed give her a bottle of blood as a gift, his
own blood! He only had to get the blood out of himself and put it into
a bottle, and then deliver it at the marriage hall. Not a sari, not
a pressure cooker, not an iron, nor even a book but blood, his
own fresh warm blood! What better thing than this could he give Ramola!
Adri realised he felt a tremendous excitement within himself now, or
at least he wanted to be excited. It would be something original and
elemental, everyone would be stunned! If it had been an earlier age
he would have cut open his breast with a sword and taken out his blood.
But times were different now, it was only proper for everything to be
in keeping with the times.
Adri was thinking. He couldnt remain sitting there any more. He
put down the newspaper. What was that Abani was saying, what did he
want to say? But he couldnt sit here any longer. Im off
Abani, I need to
He saw Abani gaping at him in astonishment.
He came out of the tea-shop.
It was certainly past noon, and he hadnt bathed or eaten. So what,
he didnt like all that. Terribly hot sun. As if the whole world
was replete. Very few people were out on the road now. A fire engine
went by clanging dang dang!. Two people were waiting for a bus at the
bus-stop. Someone was purposefully setting up his shoe-shop on the pavement.
He was looking, walking, taking in everything blankly. A ringing inside
his head Ill present my own blood for Ramolas marriage,
Ill give a blood-gift, blood
A fire-engine went by again. All the cars suddenly came to a halt, made
way. Some fire nearby, or it could be something else. He walked on.
As he walked he looked, and as he looked he walked.
Adri was walking along extremely absentmindedly, in no particular direction,
without any aim. Finally he realised his legs ached, his head felt heavy.
He felt he had walked for a long time, almost an age. Where had he come
to now? Looking around he saw he had left the tramline far behind, left
behind the major thoroughfare. This was probably near the city fringe,
dust in the air. He wondered why hed come here. Wondering, he
looked all around, and then he discovered to his great surprise that
he had indeed come a long, long way, and this was the way to Ramolas
Standing under the shade of a shop there Adri thought how despite being
so indifferent he hadnt been able to chase away Ramola from his
mind. How helpless Adri was before this thing called the mind. He thought
now about giving blood. He thought about all that he had done since
morning. Thinking thus he realised nothing was that easy, there was
no escaping from oneself. Or from ones mind. Overwhelmed, Adri
stood there for a long time. He looked extremely helpless and pathetic
now, like wan sunlight. He was smoking a cigarette disinterestedly,
smoking just for the sake of smoking, standing there as he had nothing
Coming back to his own after that, he called out to a pedestrian and
asked what time it was, because he felt he had walked for a very long
time and was extremely tired. Hearing the time he recalled that he hadnt
bathed today, hadnt eaten, he had got out of bed and straightaway
gone out to the road. And it was late afternoon now. After this the
afternoon too would pass, it would be evening, evening would turn to
night, night to midnight. Yet time or bad times wouldnt produce
any feeling in him, hed be standing just like this, or would be
walking, or thinking, just thinking and thinking. There would be no
end to such thought. The busy world would eventually tire and slump
but Adrikumar Roy would be thinking, because Adris thought had
neither beginning nor end. And with that Adri stirred somewhat and told
himself he would do something for today. He forced himself to think
about doing something to get the blood now, because it would soon be
meaning, it was time.
A lorry went by making a frightful noise; the road ahead was filled
with dust. A boy screamed his lungs out from some house. The sun fell
on the opposite pavement, producing a kind of melancholy colour. Adri,
true to habit, felt nothing at all. He just walked on with his feet
along that pavement in shadow. After a while suddenly coming upon a
doctors chamber Adri came to a halt with a start.
He recalled he didnt know much about giving blood, hed merely
heard about this. Doctors would surely be able to help him in this regard.
Pondering about such things he paused a bit, and then stepped right
in. Inside, the doctor sat wearing rectangular-frame spectacles. A ray
of light from outside seemed to be fixed on the spectacle lens. Seeing
Adri he nodded his rectangular-spectacle wearing head and said, sit
Adri sat down and was about to explain his predicament, but he saw the
doctor trying to examine him, putting the stethoscope to his chest,
pulling up his eyelids, looking at his tongue, his face becoming increasingly
grave, and before he could say anything rectangular-face began speaking,
any fever every now and then?
the doctor. What was the use of worrying unnecessarily about ones
health? My matters something else.
Interrupted, the doctor stared at him. He tried as much as he could
to explain to the doctor. He needed a bottle of blood, he wanted to
give his own blood and this should be filled in a bottle, sealed and
portable. After explaining everything he realised the doctor hadnt
grasped it. The doctor was staring in astonishment at his face, gaping
but like this
Adri listened and after
trying to explain the whole thing afresh to the doctor he noticed the
doctors forehead was too creased, his lips were moving, and he
delivered some long sermon in doctors jargon. Not understanding
a thing Adri gazed on, he looked at the brown tube of the stethoscope
lying on the table top, he saw Dr Probir Roychoudhary, M.B.B.S. written
on the note pad, he saw the curtain of the doctors chamber swaying
in the breeze, he saw the lengthy shadow of the doctor fixed on the
wall, and after seeing all this and once again trying to find Dr Probirs
eyes behind the spectacles on his brow, he heard the doctor again going
on about something. He was about to ask him, Doctor
was now looking directly at his face and laughing.
The reflected light from his spectacles puzzled Adris eyes. The
doctor spoke, Adri heard the doctor speaking
Adri made an effort to speak, he wanted to explain that
he needed a bottle of blood, it was very important; after all he wanted
to give his own blood. In great despair Adri wanted to say all this,
he wanted to explain he needed it badly.
As the doctor now lowered his face very close to Adris face, Adri
was somewhat embarrassed. The light reflecting like a searchlight from
his spectacles searched for his face. Are you crazy mister
like this! Realising it was hopeless Adri shoved his
hands into the pockets of his trousers, clenched his fists there, opened
them, clenched again, opened again, and thus emerged outside.
Outside, he saw it was a brilliant evening. What did it matter whether
he got the blood or not? He turned his back to the sunlight and walked
ahead. Adri could feel the acute weakness in his body. Nowadays he became
breathless after just a little effort. So let it, Adri consoled himself.
He wouldnt worry too much about such things, let things be, as
long as he was ticking hed tick on, when it became difficult to
tick hed die. The plop! sound when a fruit fell from a tree, a
gentle sound like that, and then everything would be over. No one to
grieve over him, nobody would be concerned.
Shuffling along Adri now stood over an old, abandoned culvert. From
there, the station in the distance appeared desolate. There was gentle
sunlight now on the stations tin roof and over the houses in the
distance. A person swift-footedly crossed the rail-tracks and advanced
towards the station. It would be twilight soon. There was soft sunlight
in the sky, and a pleasant breeze was blowing. Adri thought surely one
train or the other comes to this station sometime in the evening. And
so he waited upon that ancient culvert to see the evening train.
This is a translation of the original Bengali short story "Shomoy
Duhshomoy" by Subimal Misra, a critically acclaimed Bengali writer
of India. The story is anthologised in Subimal Misras Anti-golpo
songroho (Anti-stories collection), Bitorko, Calcutta, 1999.
Translated by V Ramaswamy, Calcutta.
Subimal Misra (translated by V Ramaswamy)
trying to have the perfect dream?
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