The Passerby

Written for Friday Fictioneers. Friday Fictioneers is a Flash fiction community curated by the wonderful Rochelle Wisoff. In response to the photo prompt tinged with a subcontinental feel by Shaktiki Sharma here’s…

The Passerby

The old man first sees him on the front stairs. Later that day the boy wanders the halls of the Zamindar Bari. At noon the old man eats rice and mashed potato, the boy sitting beside him.

“Do you remember the Durga-pujas; rangoli, kasha, conch, crimson vermilion and the people?”

A faint laughter echoes from somewhere. The old man listens and for a moment almost hears the ululation of invisible women of the house.

Cicadas start to sing as evening gathers in the moss covered inner courtyard. The boy has disappeared.

On their journey to elsewhere, they sometimes return home.

*

P.S. 1: Zamindaris were abolished soon after the independence of India. All around Bangladesh these majestic palaces sit in various states of disrepair, their former occupants scattered through out the subcontinent. Starting from the partition to 1971 war of liberation, Hindus of Bangladesh are in a slow exodus to India. Their homes and estates taken over by the state and given away to someone else. A survey recently stated No Hindus will be left in 30 years in Bangladesh. As a Hindu and as a Bangladeshi I feel worried about the future.

P.S. 2: There are three Bangla words used here: Zamindar Bari: the palace of the Zamindars, Durga Puja:  an annual Hindu festival in the Indian subcontinent that reveres the goddess Durga, Kasha: a brass musical instrument like cymbal, Rangoli: that’s what the picture below is called…

rangoli12341477492607_big

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39 thoughts on “The Passerby

  1. This is stunning writing, Tamal. I love the way you relate the interaction between the boy and the old man, the way in which the last sentence implies that just because something (or someone) is gone it doesn’t mean that they are lost…

    And the note makes the story even more powerful. I understand the worry.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Interesting glimpse into a bit of culture I don’t know much about. I like the contrast between the generations; the old man will always remember more, and miss more, than the young boy, for whom today is normal; today is all that has ever been.

    Like

  3. Your writing has a dream-like (poetic?) quality that reflects the dreams in your stories. I love that. I was really confused by the cultural references. The notes helped. I’m still confused by “.. rangoli, kasha, conch, crimson vermilion and the people?”

    The photo is so beautiful. I loved the overall impression of the whole post. Keep writing!

    Liked by 1 person

    • These are essential (at least in my opinion) parts of the Durga Puja. Rangoli is a decoration with color full patterns in front of the statue of the goddess or during any celebration in a Hindu household. Kasha is a Brass instrument that is played with “Dhak”- a kind of big drum. These two instruments are part and parcel of any cultural or religious celebration of Greater Bengal (both in India & Bangladesh). Blowing the conch shell beginning of any Puja (Prayer or Ritual) is customary. The Vermilion or Sindur is a red pigment that is part and percell of a married Hindu women, much like western engagement rings but more sacred in concept. At the seventh day of Durga Puja Hindu women smear vermilion on each other. Durga puja is signified by these sights and sounds and these sights and sounds loose their significance if not expressed in their native tongue. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. […] I wrote this for Rochelle Wisoff‘s FridayFictioneers as a 100 word story. But the premise and the themes demanded expansion. I finally got around to it now. For a bit of context about this tale and meaning of those Bengali words read the original  Passerby . […]

    Like

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