[ultimate_heading main_heading=”Plait Nexus by Runa Bandyopadhyay – Issue.XXXII : September 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=””]a short story…[/ultimate_heading]

Ms. Runa Bandyopadhyay is an innovative Bengali poet, story writer and reviewer from West Bengal, India. She is working as Scientific Officer in Bhabha Atomic Research Center, Mumbai, India. She focused on alternative literary pursuits and experimenting with contemporary poetic language. She writes regularly in various Bengali Little Magazines. Her first poetry book Aseemer Khelaghor (Playroom of Infinite) is published from Kaurab in the year of 2011. After that she authored the poetry books, Nilumbala Chha Anna (Six penny of Hawker), Tamas Journal (Journal of Dark), Poroborti Songbad (The Next News). Her review anthology Antarbarti Pangkti (Between the Lines) and Tamoser Alokbhromon (Light-Travel of Dark) published from Kaurab Publication in the year of 2012 and 2017 respectively. She also authored collection of stories: Parankotha (Word of bosom) published by Sristisukh Prokashoni, and Benibandhan (Compact Braiding).


Plait Nexus


Ajanta had so long been sailing smoothly in life. While she had busied herself in attending to the duties towards her family as well as office quite satisfactorily, time seemed to have flit beyond her knowledge. She has never care to know how that bygone time was nor has she enquired about her own well-being during those past years.

That day it was raining in torrents. It seemed that the sky had vowed to shed all its tears in this inauspicious hour of the winter. The shades of the evening eclipsed the holiday morning. Anuj having left for market, Ajanta stepped to the covered portico. The sky seemed to have smeared its entire expanse with a nostalgic perfume. An unheard music tinkled in the footsteps of rain drops. The mind turned apathetic. Ajanta stared at the incessant rainfall for sometimes, and then, all on a sudden, wrote a poem in her diary. Not a couple of line, she composed a full length poem. She wrote the poem, so to say, not with full consciousness. She seemed to have composed it in a poetic spree. But the moment she completed her composition, gone was that obsession, yet the mind seemed to be inebriated with some strange indefinable trance. She gazed at the letters with a dozed hush. And at that very moment Anuj appeared in the portico saying,

-‘After a good deal of hunting I’ve been able to gather these spring onions. It is such an obscure place that one can hardly taste one’s favourite dish even during the plenty of winter vegetables.’

Ajanta closed her diary with a smart sweep and appeared to return to the reality from the world of creation. Somehow she uttered,

-‘well, it’s good’

-‘Mind it you must not ask Halima to cook these spring onions.’

By the time Anuj had drawn a chair and seated himself on it Ajanta composing herself greatly, said,

-‘It’s good that you’ve been able to collect your favourite eatable, but what’s wrong with Halima’s cooking?’

-‘Bah! Have you forgotten that last year she cooked that highly palatable spring onion so distastefully?”

-‘Strange! It’s beyond my capacity to remember the taste of a particular food item for a whole year’

-‘Yet you can bear in mind the lines of poems effortlessly?’

-‘Poetry and spring onion! It’s only you who can make such an absurd comparison.

The sound of a mild laughter resounded in the balcony. While conversing with Anuj she prepared a glass of lemon juice and gave it to him. Anuj was in holiday mood. As Ajanta got into the kitchen Anuj said in a louder voice, ‘Yesterday Buban was speaking of fish-fry. So I’ve brought the flat-fish in the frill. Take care of that please.’


Books and books, heaps of books- that is the only fancy Ajanta has cherished in her life. She has purchased books with the money she has been able to save from the expenses of maintaining the family. She reads them like a glutton, so to say. Whatever book she gets at hand she first swallows it and then appreciates. The book becomes her constant companion – at meal time, during leisure and at her bed time. The entire book- its getup, pages and back cover – everything turns greasy with the fish soup, tamarind condiment or fried gram. At times it becomes decayed with the floor dust or garden soil. Then she places it in the book shelf with other books after dusting it thoroughly with great affection. Ajanta has a great fascination for a book shelf with glass setting, so that she could see the books directly.  According to her, storing books in a wooden cupboard means to suffocate them. Anuj calls her crazy, ‘Books and suffocation! Simply ludicrous!’ But to Ajanta books are very much alive. Yet owing to circumstantial obstacle her desire remains unfulfilled. That she can afford money for buying books is more than enough to her. And a library, to boot! Simply a mare’s nest to her inordinate ambition!

So far Ajanta has confined herself to the reading of books only. Sometimes during midday, bathed in the warm sunshine she has enjoyed her solitary hours with books as desired companion. Sometimes drunk with the crimson light of the departing sun she has played wild pranks with the living letters in the book. Sometimes, again, during the dreamy nocturnal hours immersed in the illuminating moonshine cloudlets floating about she has been played the lunatic with the characters in the books. Yet she has never dreamt of becoming a writer. But that rain-bathed morning broke all her barrier. Since then she has been writing ceaselessly on – poems, stories, essays. Her subject of writing seems to be endless. Where was hidden so much of creative pain? In which cave did so much word conceal them? But everything went on secretly. To whom would she open her mind? Be he a friend or husband Anuj is all in all to her, but to converse with him about her writing?  It’s simply impossible to Ajanta.

Anuj is out an out a normal man. He is a perfect connoisseur of food, an honest office employee and a dutiful family man. His only hobby is to read newspaper in the morning, watching TV in the evening and indulge in some sexual activities at night. But, no doubt, as a husband and father he is both responsible and dutiful. With his wife and son he has been enjoying a happy-go-lucky family life. Their family is well-furnished and well-knit. There is, it seems, no scar at all. They have been moving along the path of life in an atmosphere of happiness.

During her childhood she would often hear her father say, ‘A family is a place where human have to play the role of a masker.’ Whenever she heard it from her father the grotesque spectacle of that man who would dress himself as Shiva or Kali would flash back in her mind. And she laughed a hearty laugh. It seems that laugh is retaliating on her today. She has been realizing at every steps of her family life that observation of assuming the role of a masker in the family life. Yet the pulling that family-yoke doesn’t come to a halt. Astonishing indeed!

The boat had been plying in the wave-less river of its own accord. Her life got into crisis as soon as it came to the public that she had started writing. A story written by Ajanta was published in a juvenile magazine. To give a pleasant surprise to Anuj she entered into the drawing room with that magazine. Anuj was then absorbed in listening to the TV news. During an ad-interval she handed the magazine to Anuj and said bashfully,

-‘Look, my story has been published in this magazine.’

-‘Your story? What do you mean? Who has written about you?’

-‘Why should I be the subject matter of writing?’


Ajanta’s voice trembled slightly. Yet she acquired strength to say,

– ‘it’s a composition of mine.’

-‘You have written? What do you mean?’

With her head bowed down Ajanta kept on wrapping her hand with the corner of her sari. How would she make him understand what it meant? Anuj sat down to dine with a long face. Today Ajanta herself had cooked the chilli chicken. But how could a man relish its taste with a long face? Ajanta was unable to understand where his anger had actually struck root? Glum dinner period being over Anuj went to the balcony and sat there. He has a taste for smoking a cigar before bedtime. Ajanta came to the balcony with light steps, stood behind his chair and said,

-‘Have you been angry with me?’

A harsh word came out from Anuj’s voice,


-‘Then why didn’t you make any comment?’

-‘What should I comment? Did you wait for my comment?’

-‘No, but the fact is…’

Anuj interrupted her, saying pungently, ‘The fact is that you wanted to show the people in every nook and corner of the world what a genius you’re as a writer.’

Ajanta shuddered to the core. Then did he…… Everything in her brain went topsy-turvy. She was at a loss to think how she would react. She left the place silently, came to bedroom and laydown on the bed. Her glance fell on the face of the naughty boy pretended on the cover of that magazine lying on the side table. The boy was still then laughing with his elevated front teeth. She flew into a rage quite unaccountably. She got up from the bed in no time and with a furious malice she tore the magazine to pieces. But how strange! The moment the torn pieces fell on the floor she became inexplicably compassionate for them. Her eyes became tearful. She stooped down and picked up those pieces with great care from the floor. She was yet to pick up the remaining few pieces of the torn magazine when Anuj got into the room. With great irritation he flared up, ‘What new drama have you started at bedtime?’ Ajanta was startled. The torn pieces fell off from her hands and spread in the floor. The switched-on fan flew a few pieces in the air. They were, as it were, flying on their dreamy wings. Ajanta stared at those pieces, entranced. Anuj was still then grumbling at a stretch. But not a single word reached her ears. She could only hear the inaudible sound of those flying words. She was visualizing the surging waves of words in millions. They were sinking and floating in turn. It seemed to be the boat of a remote world. It appeared that an unseen bird was invited them to embark on voyage for the forlorn outlet of an unseen river by an empty boat.


With an abrupt and forceful sweep the barrier of secrecy shattered. The articles written by Ajanta beyond everybody’s knowledge came to light. After doing all her duties to the family as well as office the little time she could manage to find she devoted herself to the world of creation. She was unable to perceive that the apparently happy key of her family was slowly slipping out of her hand.

Ajanta’s composition don’t move Anuj even an inch from his standpoint,

‘Why have you got yourself engaged in writing nonsensical things as soon as you return from office? Intolerable!’

– ‘Today Buban will not have to engage in daily routine of studies, so…’

-‘So you sit down to write rubbishes since you’ve no domestic duties to do? What do you think of yourself?’

-‘In fact to finish writing this article……’

-‘Let your article go to hell. You’re leaving no stone unturned to busy yourself in writing so that readers in the world appreciate your writings. On the pretext that you have no domestic duties you are simply wasting time. Nonsense!’

Man devotes himself in writing in order that other people read them…this argument had so far been beyond her thinking. She’s no doubt back dated. She’s rather late in understanding the naked reality. And when she comes to understand that she can’t accept it. How is this nature of mind? She’s unable to fathom this flow of thought. Her mind becomes hostile. She can no more concentrate in writing. Yet, pulling a long face she remains seated on the chair.

What urges man to write? Ajanta thinks over the issue. If the question is put in a different way – when does man feel inclined to write? She’s, of course, conversant with a particular reply to this question. A river flows in the mind of a man. Its movement is very strange. At times it assumes the form of a tranquil river. Sometimes, again it inundates man’s interior with its surging waves. Yet again it entangles his mind with its serpentine plait nexus. The juvenile simplicity gradually assumes complexity while encountering the inroads of stark realities. There’re marks of blows all over his person. And an anonymous pain nestles in the very bosom of that river. It’s alien and indefinable pain. At times the strange wave comes surging from the infinite horizon. The river becomes turbulent. Then he fails to control himself. The onslaught of the dumb swelling waves snaps all restrained of his mind, and forces words to sally forth spontaneously in thousands. Words, only words. Pages get filled up with black, small letters.

Ajanta reminisces her childhood. Her father writings were published in a little magazine. When her father brought that magazine every member in the family surrounded him and sat listening to his published article. The greater portion of that article was beyond her comprehension. Yet she caressed the printed words of her father’s writing. She felt beckoning of a phenomenal world in that. What amused her most was her mother’s activity at that time. When we brother and sister would sit around him, her mother wouldn’t join them at all. If we call her she would say, ‘Tut! Tut! Is it worthy of listening to? Haven’t I any household work to do? She was then unable to understand whether that was a slighting tendency or pride under the cover of shyness. Yet when father was reading his composition that busy housewife would move about that assemblage on some pretext or other almost always, leaving aside her important household works! Sometimes she would dust the books on the shelf, sometimes she would ask father whether he would take tea. Father would say smiling,

-‘Minu, rather you, too, sit down beside Sonai’

-‘Pooh! Haven’t I any work to do?

It was her father who has kindled in her the passion for reading books. What a delight it was for her to copy in her exercise book her favourite poems of Noble laureate Rabindranath Tagore, while having sunbath in the winter midday sun. Sometimes in the evening reading session of Tagore’s poems used to be there. During reading Karnakunti Songbad (The news of Karna and Kunti) it was customary that while Ajanta would recite the role of Kunti her father would recite as Karna. Ajanta would give air to herself on the day when her elder brother had to play the role of a passive listener. The very next day her brother would find out such a poem in which Ajanta had no role. That was, as if, inebriating pastime in the midst musical time, measure and harmony.

While reminiscing her childhood days, she became nostalgic. To translate her creative imagination in black letters her pen itself would start moving on a white blank page. The shame that wanted to outlive with the pangs of agony in mind oozing out from the soiled self-respect swallowed all her being. When the hero of her story has reached an intricate junction of life Buban came all on a sudden, saying, ‘I am unable to solve this sums Mom, even after great efforts. Help me please.’ Ajanta stopped writing and came forward to help her son.

Buban has grown up and reached the adolescent period of his life before her eyes. Just a year or two ago it was the same Buban as would roll in laughter while listening to Hunkomukho Hangla (A repulsive greedy of food with a face of Hookah), (a poem from a book of poetry named Abol Tabol (Nonsense), written by Sukumar Ray). And he would say, ‘Read one more poem Mom.’ He himself can’t read Bengali. To an emigrant Bengali to Mumbai, this ignorance is perhaps the cause of her secret mental affliction. She’s unable to enthuse her succeeding to read her favourite Bengali writings. While Buban was reading the English version of Feluda (Name of the detective of a detective series written by Satyajit Ray), if he was asked how he liked reading the book Babun would simply remark, ‘Interesting!’. But Ajanta couldn’t appreciate Feluda which she has read during her adolescent period by that single English word. During his early stage of learning she had tried her utmost to teach Bengali to Buban. But while having promotion to higher classes in school with ever increasing efforts and devotion time has slipped past him. Anuj too didn’t like that his son should waste time by learning Bengali. So Buban was unable to learn Bengali. So long he would read a page from any book of Lila Majumder (The famous Bengali Juvenile story writer) Buban would finish reading at least ten pages of harry potter. So the embankment of patience broke down on both sides. He forgot in no time the few Bengali letters he had learnt. Only a strong pain would root in the depth of Ajanta’s heart.

‘Mom, in the school Madam has told me to get all these ten formulas of maths by heart.’ Buban’s call dragged her down to the world of naked reality from her obsession – where there’s neither any childhood nor any adolescence between life and death, where there’s only upstairs journey, where there’re only stepping to go upstairs.

Ajanta said, ‘Well Buban, try to understand my point. Here in this chapter there’re only two or three formulas at best. You can find out the remaining formulas from them. Why will you memorize all of them unnecessarily?’ How could Ajanta make him understand that maths can’t be worked out by memorizing formulas, they’re to be done by intelligence? Whenever she went to imprint this truth in Buban’s mind, Anuj would interrupt, ‘To derive in the examination will all the sums be finished?’ That’s true. Only understanding the methods of doing the maths will not do. To encounter the demon of fairy tales named Examination is the real battle. The excellence of a student will be ascertained from the fact- how much time he has taken to end that battle? Who’s going to judge whether that battle has been done by fair means or foul? Ajanta thinks – will not that successful candidate feel qualms of conscience within himself?


At dawn a flock of sparrows come and perch on the window of the bedroom. In such a town

of concrete the chirping of birds is hardly audible.  At night Ajanta places a bowl with some rice outside the window. The twitter of the sparrows awakens her from sleep. They take rice with their beaks, rub them with each other and seem to speak something. Standing at the window silently Ajanta watches them. That day opening his sleepy eyes Anuj’s gaze fell on Ajanta and he was astonished. It was the same Ajanta, yet Anuj couldn’t understand in what kind of emotion her mind remained obsessed. And at times that veil of mystery would madden him and taunted her,

-‘What nonsense! Are you really thinking of writing a poem in such early morning? Aren’t you aware that Buban will have to go to school today?’

Was it that small birds stopped their twittering in the face of the strange words that came spattered from the world of human beings? How could the winged birds understand the nexus of a family? Heaps of questions started accumulating in the core of her heart. Her inner world got overcast with clouds of sentiment. She cried a halt to the thoughts of account of receipt and payment and started doing her worldly duties in right earnest. Again she lost herself in the world of creative thought as she stood before the boiling milk on the gas oven. The line of a poem by some poet surfaced on her mind – ‘if your eyes become moistened with tears in a very hostile hour…..’

Everybody has to live amidst the world wide waves. The spark originating from those vibrating waves comes splashing on the bank of mind. Their creation is meant for their absolute surrender. Still some experience those sparks, some don’t. He who experienced the spark gives birth to poems. ‘Today also you spoil the milk. In which world do you live? Are you really interested in maintaining a family life? Or……’

Anuj’s reproach brought Ajanta back to the world of reality. Frankly speaking it was a great offence. How could the boiling milk overflow and spill over the milk pot although she stood before it? She became really vexed with herself.

That day Buban sat to dine as usual with his favourite book ‘Famous Five’. The boy‘s very much fond of reading story books. He has inherited this hobby as legacy if, of course, inheritance is evaluated from his mother’s side. Story books are strictly prohibited in his parental lineage. Why should a healthy minded man read anything other than newspaper and other things essential in practical life? Only eccentric fellows read novels stories or poems. Anuj can never understand where man’s hands and feet grows if he reads them. According to Ajant, these so called healthy minded people can see only man’s hands and feet. They can never realize that man too can spread wings and fly. While reading story books Buban at times will invariably forget to take his food. Anuj flared up, ‘Take your food instead of swallowing all this trash.’ Out of sheer aversion Anuj hooked at Ajanta and said, ‘Don’t try to teach him rubbish if you can’t teach anything useful. But please don’t spoil his future by injecting him injurious fads.’

Poor Buban! He looked at his father with speechless eyes. He gave distinct hint with his dreamy eyes that he had been growing up and was no more a child. After closing the book he kept it by his side and ate up his meal. Mixing rice with fish curry Ajanta took her meal with her head bowed down. A few drops of tears trickled down her eyes and got mixed up with the rice unwittingly.

Her heart burdened with the assemblage of innumerable words smarts under a spurring impulse of creativity. Words in her heart become fervently restless to find an outlet from the dungeon of mind. But they can’t be voluble; they only get accumulated in her bosom silently. As they heap up they undo the equilibrium of pressure and temperature and sally forth like melted lava. White pages by slow degrees become studded with black letters. Night deepens. Ajanta sits on the window silently. The lilting music rolling from one note to another, stirred up by the midnight dream resounds in the musical instrument of mind. That discordant sensitiveness comes back time and again. Those musical notes seem to surrender and touch her inmost being silently.


That day was Saturday. When Buban came back from school Ajanta noticed that Buban was looking gloomy. She asked, ‘Hallo Buban! What’s wrong with you? Have you been taken to task by your Madam?’ Buban silently handed over to her the mark-sheet of the annual examination. Ajanta was unable to fathom his mind. Yet she looked over the mark-sheet and discovered a red mark under the marks of mathematics. She understood that he had been putting on a long face because of that red mark. She said smiling, ‘So what? There’s only one red mark in the mark-sheet.’ Buban is bit reserved. But that day it appeared that he was totally dumb. Without saying anything to him Ajanta wanted to give Buban some more time so that he could recover himself. Keeping the air of perfect normalcy she said, ‘Go and wash your hands and face. By the time I’m going to make your meal ready.’

But unfortunate Buban got no time to recover. He could have come back to his usual self had he been allowed some more time to recover. That very day during dinner the sound of the beating war drum rent the air, ‘It’s due to you that Buban is spoiling his future career. Leaving aside the books of school syllabus he engages himself in reading story books all the time, and the inevitable has happened. How do you expect that he’ll succeed in the examination instead of getting plucked? Such a son will defame our family in the society.’

With her head bent down Ajanta was listening to Anuj. Suddenly at the sound of pushing the chair she raised her head and found that Buban is departing by leaving his dinner. Still not a single word did she utter.

And that day from the very early hours of the morning Buban was fell ill. He was running a high temperature.  But he was not affected with either cough or cold. It was simply a high fever. All clinical tests were done and he was given antibiotic for seven days at a stretch. Though there was remission in his fever he seemed to be in a languishing state. He wouldn’t utter a single word. Now the doctor pressurized Buban’s parents with some queries,

‘Has there been any mental tension in him?’

Ajanta remained silent. Anuj came up to answer the quarries,

-‘If tension is taken into account he has failed in the examination.’

The doctor knitted his brow and said,

-‘Admitted that he has failed in the exam, but that can’t accord his so much deterioration. You have surely……..’

Anuj interrupted and cried out rather harshly,

-‘See, whatever step parents take it’s for the wellbeing of their son. Isn’t it quite natural in lieu of praising him he’ll be chastised if he fails?’

-‘Well, AnujBabu, There must be, I think, a limit to such reproach. Abain there is no guarantee that the boy will succeed if he is harshly treated. Anyway I have nothing more to do. You should better consult with the psychiatrist Dr. Ajita chakraborty and seek her opinion.

They started visiting Dr. Chakraborty with Buban a number of times. But Buban remained as before. There was no improvement. He neither talked nor would go to play. He lay all the time, covering his eyes with one of his hands. At times he would sit at the window and with his eyes fixed towards the distant horizon. He seemed to be lost in the world of some incomprehensible thought. Despite his passion for reading story books he wouldn’t care to touch a book even. How thin he had grown within such a short period. The memory of her second uncle flashed across Ajanta’s mind. Brayed by his sensitiveness he lost all his memory of the past. An alien fear made her restless. She was unable to understand in which corner of this tender-aged boy’s soft mind he had received the shock. While thinking of her next course of action she discovered a way of personal experiment. But the experiment has to be conducted secretly from Anuj.

Seeing that Buban had fallen asleep she visited a local book stall. While glancing over the books she chanced to find out Rabindranath Tagore’s My Boyhood Days. The attractive getup by the book charmed her eyes. She at once decided to buy the book. Ajanta wanted to test the adolescence of the new generation with the inherent lesson of the story book. By feeding Buban Musambi juice in the afternoon Ajanta left the book silently beside his pillow and left the room. She peeped in to notice from outside the room whether Buban was reading the book. But he kept himself away from the book because of some mysterious sentimentalism.

A couple of days were passed by. But on the third day she observed that Buban was turning over the pages of that book. In the end his temptation for reading that new book got the better of him. A ray of hope began to shimmer in Ajanta’s mind. The measure adopted by her would either succeed or fail.

Right on the fifth day Buban resumed conversing, ‘Mom, Mom where are you?’ She fell a pleasant sensation humming in her heart. She seemed to hear the same call of ‘Mom’ as Buban during his childhood used to give. Yet she pretended to remain normal by that call and said, ‘Hallo my son! Do you want to say something?’

Despite her utterance, Ajanta stopped her movement as she looked at Buban. The book had remained open in his emaciated hand. Yet his eyes were looking exceptionally bright. It appeared to Ajanta that the light of the sun had illuminated her house again after a century.

-‘Have you gone through this book, Mom?’

-‘Many a time. But I’ve read the book in Bengali. Can I read English like you?’

Buban was smiling. Yes, he was smiling after so many days. She felt the glaring light of thousands of chandelier illuminating her inmost being. Yet the arrow of apprehension had remained stuck to her mind.

On his return from Office when Anuj discovered Buban in the drawing room he was taken aback.

-‘How are you now, my son?’

Buban had been lying on the sofa. In the CD player that Ajanta had put on a musical raga, named ‘Desh’, was being played in the sitar. The soft sound of an indigenous musical note was ringing sweetly in the air. Buban got up as he heard the query of his father. Instead of a reply he said abruptly,

-‘Father, do you know I’ve read a very interesting book.’

-‘What’s the book?’

-‘Look, father, its Tagore’s My Boyhood Days.

Sitting beside Buban as Anuj looked at the book the wrinkles on his forehead gradually smoothed. A delicate smile was visible in his lips. Stroking his hand lightly in the head of Buban he said,

-‘Well, my son, you’ve done the right thing’

Ajanta heaved a sigh of relief. Buban appeared to be in a great talking mood. Looking at his father he said,

-‘Have you read the book, father?’

-‘Perhaps I’ve gone through the book. Can I bear it in mind anymore?’

-‘Father, do you know that the great poet, Rabindranath Tagore would very often play truant? Isn’t it funny?’

Buban giggled. It appeared that a light of joy forcing its way through an era of darkness had lit up his tender face. Anuj raised his eyes and stared at Ajanta. Profound gratefulness was sallying forth from that look.


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