Gour Mallar

Debayudh Chatterjee

[ Gaur Mallar by Agni Roy - Translated into English by Debayudh Chatterjee ]



final decade of the twentieth century has just begun its run. We would
soon realize that the world is essentially a little hamlet. Satellite
channels have almost pervaded our households. The essence of old world
politics was still ubiquitous in the tattered posters and graffiti on
the backside walls of union rooms across colleges. The peripheries of
the canteen were rejoiced by the Dark Side of the Moon, reminiscences of
the Woodstock Festival, and the music of Ali Akbar.

In these
coordinates of time and space shall we locate the monochromatic beings
of our poetic drama, replete with the rain, moonshine, and
misunderstandings of juvenilia. There are a few murders and a bit of
bloodshed as well. For the lack of better evidence, we must suppose that
these confessions, conversations, and the poetics of assassination pour
from a cloud floating from the territories of Muhammad Ali Park.
Therefore, to the clouds must they return.

Index of Characters


in the canteen. Steals the spotlight in any conversation. But recluse
by mannerism. Could be identified by the halo of his smile that appears
to be a howl under scrutiny. He is clad in a kurta and a pair of jeans
for the time being. His tote bag contains a sonnet cycle and a chillum.


seasons within the realm of particle physics. Nocturnal by mood.
Survives simply because the laboratory and library exist. If there be
anything that amazes him except mathematics, then that is the
overflowing spell of music. He is in correspondence with a few American
universities. His merit is knocking at the doors of the first world.


old proverb goes as when she sits near the Arts Library, even the pulse
rates of the antiquated trees undergo a rise. To call her beautiful is
an understatement. A brilliant student of English literature, her
mastery in Indian classical music has earned her a silent majority of
fans. Apparently a snob, though she was in tears when the corporation
sent a van to pick up two stray mongrels. She evokes so many sighs and
regrets that, however, are never able to stir her.


poet. Doesn’t generally show his manuscript to anyone. But when Aritra
bumped into his line, ‘I feel like putting my household on fire to see
if the flowers have bloomed in the campus’, they became friends. They
have read Hart Crane together. He is either ignored or a third umpire in
this poetic drama. He has a third eye and Aritra is aware of that.


to look after the student union, teach a few kids and do a bit of
welfare, though manages her peace of mind very well. Her laughter is
nothing less than a song. Probably, leaves behind the darkness of a
lower middleclass household in the alleys of her neighbourhood. She
dreams of finishing her studies as soon as possible to secure a job and
ensure that her sisters get an opportunity to study. Nobody else knows
what her family members do.


classmate at the Physics department. Remains scattered like coins as he
gives in to each whim. No recognisable ambition. Street smart and knows
his drugs well.


Mostly drowsy, but
finishes her work. No accusations of being perturbed by whatever that’s
happening around her. Rumours say that an accomplished groom has already
been fixed for her. Would board the flight abroad right after
graduation. But before that, she will tie the knot.

Time and Place

tremendously cold December night. Add a few bouts of rain to that.
These college kids have come to visit Shantiniketan to enjoy the Poush
festival. Not that their parents are entirely aware of their rendezvous.
At least, it is nothing short of an adventure for Shreemoyee and
Debjani. Aritra is a common friend; all their guardians are familiar
with him. The girls were not acquainted to the other boys until they
boarded the train together.

Now, after a few hours of knowing each
other, we can see them walking from Goalpara towards Ratanpalli. Not in
the same rhythm though. They are changing companions as they are
walking. Let us be introduced to them and spend a while together.
Thereafter, we may dump them in the stream of time and move on.



Is this evening an episode from a novel? Or from a thriller film? Or is
it something that really happened and shall transpire with the evening
leaving no traces behind?

Shreemoyee (absent minded as
usual):  It needs no saying that traces will not remain. Though the
semantics of the ripples created once a stone is thrown into a pond are
ephemeral, I wouldn’t say I have ever been on a tour so momentary and

Apala: Momentary, I agree. But is it legit to tag it to be puzzling?

Shreemoyee: What else but puzzling? Only the lines on our palms know what future has in store for them.

Apala: We all trust Aritra. He knows where to draw the line as much as when to throw the sand in the wind.

Then again, to have secured consent from our families, it must have
been in our stars. It would have taken at least a few years for me to
share the vast meadows of the Kopai at night with all of you here.

Shree, let’s not give way to philosophical allusions. Whatever that
happened in the train was pure flesh and blood. That bearded Physics
major seems like Socrates straight out of the books. Out of the world he
is, perhaps from Mars. Then again, just before the train crossed
Burdwan, he stared at you as if you were a painting by Matisse. He
wouldn’t even fathom if his heart was stolen...

(Shreemoyee doesn’t seem to hear. She is in a haze. She slows down.)

Aritra (has crossed the others as he has increased his pace): The sky here is as blue as Debjani’s Denims.

Quite romantic, very well. But to speak the truth, Ari, do you not
think that the night will be as black as the hash we scored on the
train? Ah, a bit of that would have brought heaven on earth.

Fuck the poetics of narcotics and get straight to the point. Hunger is
screeching in my stomach like a rat and I’m wondering where we would put
up for the night. Shall there be a continental dinner and honey pie for

Aritra (As if to announce, still stoned from
the pot consumed before): Friends, Romans, and countrymen, there is an
empty house waiting for you all. Walk a bit more and you shall have
nectar, honey, and bread, the warmth of the room heater and anything
else you’d like. That’s all that I and you need to know. The rest
depends on scotch and Debjani.

(Collective support. One can’t figure out who’s ahead or lagging behind because of the darkness)

Debjani: I’m bored of this crap, of this darkness, and mosquitoes. I need a hot shower asap. And subsequently, a nap.

Let us reach first and please do not make trouble before that. Let the
others do whatever they want, but the abodes of the Bauls tonight shall I
haunt and see if I can find a partner to meditate. Or see if this
hullaboo is at all real or fake.

Their boisterous rally
finally reaches a two-storied house. There are a few yards in the back
and front, a few flowers embellishing the garden. The path to the door
is paved with cobblestones. A balcony adjoins the house. The old couple
in charge of the establishment are fast asleep. Aritra forbids his
companions to not make a noise. They enter one by one.

them freshen up and begin another chapter. Meanwhile, let us go back to
another night, a few months ago at the college fest.  


wintry night at the college fest. Pandit Bhimsen Joshi is on the stage,
rendering the tender notes of the raga Gour mallar. There is thunder in
the hall, there are clouds roaring as well. As the evening merged into
the night, Bhimsen began with another song.

Aritra went out for a
smoke and saw Shreemoyee standing alone a foot away and listening to the
performance. Although her heart was immersed in the music, her mind was
toying with Aritra. The music is out of bounds.

Do notes have colours, Aritra? A hue outside our range? Do you feel at
all? I do. For instance, right now, I believe that there’s a fiery red
ball in proximity with the blue and shall soon burn the entire city
down. All my memories have been extinguished. Nothing in front and none
in the back, I’m born everyday to be in flames soon after. I hear
someone calling out to me, to plunge into saudade and rise up to

Aritra: Not often, but once a while do I know
that you have been left here alone to spend a few days like a pen. You
do not belong to this campus, not even to the world. You glimmer with
the stars and I do not know what shall happen to you over time. Who
knows whose muse you’d eventually be and who deserves to be your partner
in crime.

Shreemoyee: You are bloody garrulous. I’m
not a poet. But when the night strums E major and returns to C, I feel
I’m done with things. It’s time to pack up. Your moment has transpired.
glory be to the game of hearts!

Aritra: Let me note
down the lines, dear poetess of the Greeks. Glory be to the music, to
the incorrigible geeks! If you were a little girl, I’ll be your red

Shreemoyee: Stop shitting around and be of some use. Our
chauffer is on leave and it’s too late for the busses to ply. Find me a
cab or take me home. All by myself, I’m reluctant to fly.

Such a rare opportunity! I have hit the deck tonight. Give me a few
minutes, I’ll get done with my work here and shall accompany you in your

Shreemoyee: Flirtation is an art, Aritra. Only
if you knew, you could have at least picked up Grendel’s mother by
writing a line or two. I’d have applauded you for sure.

went back home together that night. Shreemoyee flouted her own rules
and was decked up for the show. She wore her mother’s saree, kohl, and a
lovely bindi to go with that. Such magic realism prompted Aritra to
light a candle in him. The taxi driver adhered by poetic justice took a
longer time to reach Golf Green. Shreemoyee got down and was eager to
pay the bill before she disappeared in the prose of her apartment.

ventured on conjuring his plans since that night. He decided to arrange
that trip to Shantiniketan and looked for an opportunity, in the
solitary expanse of Kopai, to tell Shreemoyee whatever he had to say. An
immortal moment was all that he craved for, nothing before or after it.




us go back to that balcony Shantiniketan once again where they are now
scattered. They’ve had dinner. Now it is time for a few pegs of vodka.

Udayan:  It’s getting late. Let’s return to the fair. Else you’ll be drunk very soon.

I’m game, I’m prepared to go out. I haven’t changed into pyjamas, nor
drunk too much strout. But however I shall comb my hair, do you guys
have five minutes to spare?

Udayan: I’ve heard midnight
Ikebanas are beautiful in Japan. But here, in Tagore’s own land, the
hibiscus has it’s day. Let your tresses be let loose, I prefer them that

They continue their banter as they arrange to go
out. Shreemoyee was sitting on a chair in the corner. Pramit came and
sat beside her.

Shreemoyee: When I see you in college,
you seem so grumpy . Why so grave? Are your mathematics and outer sky so
inadvertent to escape? What if we are digits? Finite or infinite? Shall
we last then? At least see through the night?

(taken aback, as those words were spoken to him):  So you have noticed
me in college? Of course I can’t escape your eyes, the campus is too
small. But I do not hang out in the canteen. Aritra brought me here.
Now, it seems, it hasn’t been wasted.

Wasted? That is so ugly a word. In the wasteland of Kolkata, what can
you carry forward? Are our lives not indebted to the diamonds twinkling
in the sky? Our battles, accomplishments, and our blood, do they mean
nothing, nothing at all? What do we take back as we walk along? What do
they mean, these brawls?

Pramit: What I find wasted is
myself. The free flow of vodka is speaking now. I haven’t got a chance
to sit so close to you. The sky is sitting beside us now. The moments
are fulfilled, you know I hardly drink. But nothing has been wasted
that’s what I think.

Pramit is taken aback by his drunkenness. He chooses to be silent.

What’s cooking, scientist? You never speak a word in college. Let them
be, Aritra, let us leave. We cannot allow such a night to go untrodden.
Get up guys, let’s make a move now and listen to a few songs and then
we’ll figure out how...

Pramit doesn’t move. Shreemoyee seems to not have heard what Udayan said. Thus the rest leave without them.

The path that lies ahead like our lives is long and dark. What they
call civilized and social is but a game of tic-tac-toe. Aritra, what are
the rules of the game? Do they keep changing time and again? The
referees change, the players alter. Though we keep making the moves, we
rise up and falter. Our destinies have been fixed, ages ago. Like
Sisyphus, let us shove the rocks and see how far we go. Such an amazing
long march towards failure is ours!

Aritra: Perhaps
all our lives are in the same crossroads since eternity. A bit of it has
worn out with time, the rest glistens in the golden sun. In our family
our insects, they all come and go, sticking cellophane on our lips. The
wisest owl sits and watches it all like an ill open that predicted man’s
fall. Our lives are insured but never secure. And yet we return at the
day’s end to seek more.

Udayan: Sins are transmitted
into our lives through words. The bard alone knows that neither there is
sleep nor respite. We are like dishes waiting to be washed again. The
winds of change will carry you to Dante’s inferno where words prove too
banal to be true. Leave it alone and let us sit by the fire and be at
one with music, be high on life and weed for this night shall never
return again.

 Everything else will come out in tomorrow’s Khoai daily and we’ll know for sure that nothing is in vain.

everyone was soaked into that gathering, Aritra came out in the
midnight with a drum beating incessantly in the silent highways of his
heart. He had to disclose what was pending to Shreemoyee. The door was
just a few yards away. The moon regained its glory once the clouds were
gone. This is the treacherous light that deceives the birds of the dawn.
The balcony is still shrouded by a fog. No one seems visible, though
one can hear a melancholy strain from the backyard. After a few steps,
Aritra couldn’t move. He stood fixed like a wax effigy. It was his
destiny to be frozen in wonder tonight.

Shreemoyee is sitting on a
couch and singing a raga. Was it Gour mallar? Is she really singing or
caressing the tunes? Not simply the notes; Pramit is on his knees in
front of her. Pramit, the nerd, the topper, who never stepped into the
thresholds of any woman before. The shackles of Shreemoyee’s erudition
are shattering in the moonlight. All of it happened in the acquaintance
of an evening! They’re drawing themselves close to each other.

is gazing at that frame. Isn’t it spellbinding? He cannot step back
despite he wants to. His feet, like a tree, have plunged their roots
deep into the earth beneath him, into the darkness devoid of light and
air enmeshing the civilization for centuries.

Aritra desperately goes through his pockets in search of a cigarette. 

The End