[ultimate_heading main_heading=”Short Story by Paban Chakraborty – Issue.XXXIV : November 2017 ” main_heading_color=”#1e73be” sub_heading_color=”#8224e3″ spacer=”line_with_icon” spacer_position=”bottom” line_style=”dotted” line_height=”1″ line_color=”#1e73be” icon_type=”custom” icon_img=”id^48|url^http://ashvamegh.net/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Ashvamegh-ICO.jpg|caption^null|alt^Ashvamegh Journal Icon|title^Ashvamegh ICO|description^null” img_width=”48″ main_heading_style=”font-weight:bold;” main_heading_font_size=”desktop:34px;” line_width=”3″ margin_design_tab_text=””]from the lands…[/ultimate_heading]

Paban Chakraborty is a research scholar at the University of Calcutta in the Department of English. He has published short stories and poems in university magazines such as ‘Pangea’ and written book reviews for Bengali magazines. He also has many research articles to his name in international journals.



The Match-maker

. . . Putting out the dying candle Yogesh Babu took off his glasses and went to bed. To him going to sleep only meant putting out the light and staring at the dark abyss around him, his thoughts searching for a ray of light. With the first light of dawn, he would get up and go about his work. If someone looked at his eyes long enough through the glasses it would be possible to see that his vision has stopped somewhere, no life, no movement, only a hollow essence gaping forth with an ageless speculation. He always carried his umbrella irrespective of the weather, it was his support, and he relied on it as a father would rely on his son in old age. Without it, he felt naked, ashamed. Ask anyone in the locality and you will find the same description of him. The same dirty half-torn blue shirt, the plague-stricken spectacles, the hair oily and plaited, and the umbrella. Nobody will forget the umbrella. Everybody respected him. It was not unnatural. There was a strange aura around him that inspired a second look and a deep reverence. What it was or is escapes my vocabulary as words are only half the idea.

Yogesh Babu was a matchmaker. Bengalis have this long tradition of matchmaking. A man and a woman would blindly consent to the bonds of happiness based only on the ideology of a healthy social marriage.  Charming culture these Bengalis have. A man would run around all day with a thousand photos from one corner of the city to the other. The parents would be relieved to see him, they need not bother, and they knew that he would find the perfect match for their children. He arranged everything and would not rest till the marriage was done and the crying wife left her parents’ home. The irony of life is greater than the stories. Yogesh Babu was never able to marry off his own daughters. One died in a fire when his old house at Tollygunge burned to ashes. The other one went mad and is still the companion of his sad, old days. She was his favourite, the most beautiful girl in the neighbourhood. He always dreamt of the perfect match for her but that tragicomic day never came. Her incessant screams at night still ring violently in his ears. It’s not that he doesn’t feel tired but he is afraid to shut his eyes. The horror repeats itself in his dreams. The screams have abated but his fear will go with him to the grave. He kept her in the side room close to him and not in some asylum as he still dreamt of her recovery… hope springs eternal. At the end of the day, he would return to his little hut in Behala and spend another dreadful night on his bed. . . .

This was one of those nights. The next day was a big day for him- the marriage of another perfect match he has made. The girl from Howrah and the boy from Kolkata. He has seen to everything- their signs match well, both are from good families, the girl a teacher in a primary school and the boy a government clerk… the parents are happy and all is according to the will of the divine.

With the first light, he went out into the silent pavements to take care of the ordeal he has taken. Everything was perfect except for the pundit who was late and the ‘lagna’ was passing. So he had to run here and there and finally, the pundit arrived and with him, he took his first relaxed breath of the day. But there were so many other things to take care of and he kept running around. The food was good, the shehnai better and the guests the best. Some ate and congratulated the couple and some congratulated and then ate. The lights, the sounds, the laughter and the disaster of a typical Bengali wedding was present . . .

Yogesh Babu was present too. Two women were talking about the upcoming fashion of matrimonial sites…

-“who needs the matchmaker nowadays? I say let the children decide.”

-“yes, you are right. These sites are really wonderful…”

-“my cousin’s girl got a perfect match off the internet. A doctor.”

-“o how wonderful…”

Yogesh Babu cannot compete with the new age, an age of cosmopolitan weddings, the age of contractual ceremonies with classy décor and world-class champagne. He was a point of stasis amidst these waves. His hourglass has stopped somewhere with forgotten sands of time.

  Yogesh Babu paid no attention to the conversation. He already knew that his matchmaking days were almost over. He wanted to retire from this glamour world to his little abode with his mad daughter. This happiness was getting too much for him. He has made hundreds of matches in his lifetime but his glorious career seemed incomplete to him now and futile all the practices of marriage. He wanted to go back to his lifeless bed and for once sleep in peace. He wanted to close his eyes. He looked at the couple, the pundit was chanting the mantras, and the fire burning, fuming, dying and again burning. He closed his eyes for once and a drop of tear rolled down his fleshless cheek.

-“oh! Nandita, how much I want to see you up there…” he muttered and being conscious of his surroundings again he wiped his tears hurriedly.

Someone came and put one hand over his shoulders and said,

-“why don’t you go and eat Yogesh Babu, the food is great. Do eat the rasgullas, they’re really good. Ha ha do eat, do eat… ”

He went away patting him on the back. But Yogesh Babu has eaten so many rasgullas in his life that one more would not go down his throat, one by one they have become bitter and tasteless. He got up to go back to her sweet, mad daughter with the maddening hope of her recovery. But hope is only the balmy essence of the pain of living . . .