By Subham Talukder
Dedicated to Miss Asli Eti
My father, always wanted me to be an Englishman. People who knew him used to say he often praised his fortune because our Bengali surname ‘Paul’ sounded like of foreigners.
After I was born, he was on a mission to remove the entire atmosphere of Bengal from near our house, so no breeze could influence us and make me a Bangali. But how can a gene undergo mutation in his favourable surrounding?
Childhood amnesia generally starts after the age of four. But, it started much earlier in me as some organs in the disabled people perform much better than in any ordinary person.
He pitched his cycle and paralleled his leg in the path which leads to our garden. His eyes went to the two posters which were stuck to our premises wall. Keeping his cycle on its stand he stood in front of the two posters. The poster on his left was a car commercial and an immobile glance was enough to certify it was in Bangla. He did not take his pupil any further but used his hands to tear it off. He scrambled the paper and threw it next to the high drain which separates our house with the bushes at the side of the road.
He was putting his hands forward to dethrone the adjacent poster and constipating like a murder of two-twin royal brothers. He numbed seeing the other was a step-brother, even if they were beholding the same kingdom. The other poster was in English, advertisement of a spoken English coaching. He allowed it to reign over his wall and moved towards his cycle. He was going to pick up its stand when his assimilative attitude, which now has formed his ideology said him, a few words are still visible from the poster.
He returned to the bush and stamped it with his shoes until he was satisfied to eradicate all the words. He entered to our house with his cycle and started questioning Ma about me. She said I was asleep. I was laying on a blue and orange rubber-cloth and a thin tiny quilt, specially created for me by some old rags, placed over me. We feel cooler when we sleep. Two small bedside pillows guarded me like pillars. My mother had been in the kitchen and she feared I would start crawling if I wake up in her absence.
My father sat on a wooden chair with the newspaper and jerked it to open its further folds. He started reading the articles loudly.
My mother came running to her and said ‘Will you not even spare him in sleep?’ in Bengali.
‘Huss! How many times will I have to remind you to talk in English? I am planting seeds of English in him when he sleeps, so the tree can grow when he wakes up’
Not due to voice, but I believed I was sleeping for long that I disturbed from my sleep. I stared at the ceiling of the tiny mosquito net inside which I was resting. The ceiling had colourful rotating toys opening like a flower when my mother applied the key, dropping from the top. These colourful plastics were the only things which gave me anyway.
My mother noticed me and came to take me out from the mosquito net to her lap. She started cuddling me and embossed me on her chest as in Bengali phonetics. My father terms it to be fancier and commands to address me in English.
When he returned from the office he gave me English alphabet blocks to play. But I was not interested in those streaks and preferred lustrous swords or the drummer monkey, which I preferred only for its puny appearance.
The husband-wife in my house shared (rather tried to share) their bonds in English. When my father found Ma watching any Bengali cinema, he found out the remote and switched to any English newsreader or foreign serial.
My father after channelizing the audio from the television to ears of all of us moved to the porch for the sake of smoking. He shakes the packet and chooses a cigarette and puts it on his lips. My mother chased him from behind ‘Why don’t you understand that English is not for us? It is for the documentaries… We feel an affinity to our home, our motherland by our mother tongue. I can’t fit myself in English, I can’t feel myself, not even you or my child. When will this spectre get down from your head?’…
My father just listens. He flatters the Cigarette packet by beating it on his palm. When he rotates the packet he finds something written on it in Bengali. He gets disgusted and throws the packet down from the balcony.
Words of my mother were getting unrecognised till my 4th birthday when my relatives found out that I was not able to speak a sentence or understood others’ commands. Much to my father’s surprise how foolish he was, he didn’t notice that I was not able to produce a single the word properly but childish babbling.
My parents decided to take me to the doctor. An ENT. We entered his chamber sharp at 7 (he still opens his chamber at the same time) in the evening by taking an appointment before 10 days. The well-renowned doctor had an F.R.C.S degree on his walls. His foreign degrees, his medical achievements and professional awards were glorifying his chamber walls and cupboards in his cabin where he hardly visits a month. The doctor had a well-tuned foreign accent though he could be resembled to be an Indian. A man becomes more of his country’s when he lives in foreign. Soon after diagnosing me, the doctor declared me to be born deaf and dumb. My body doesn’t allow me to listen to the world and hence produce something of my own.
My mother bursts with tears. My father was thinking more of his hardworking which eventually you wasted. I was unable to understand the reason of the remorse I saw in the eyes of my parents that day. Fortunately, making no expressions was legal for me that day.
My father’s eyes went to a small bust of Rabindranath Tagore kept on the table of the medical practitioner. He was astounded to see a UK specialised doctor keeping a symbol of his soil on his desk.
The Doctor seemed peaceful while he spoke. He said ‘Better that no one can spoil his ownness. Let him not get influenced by the outside world and get adulterated. Let the soul speak’.
The bust of Tagore kept on glowing from the table.
About the Author:
Subham Talukder, born on 3rd January 2003 was the youngest novelist in India in December 2016 for his debut novel named ‘It’s a different story’. He is also the author of ‘I want to tell something’. He is the only Indian writer at Horla. His short stories have been adapted into various audio and short films. He is also the filmmaker of several short films and Web series which has been nominated for several international awards. His short stories regularly appear in several International and Indigenous journals.