The unwithered smile.

On a sunny afternoon, I accompanied my sister for her performance at Nandan for Rabindranath Tagore’s birthday celebrations. Nandan has always been a super favorite place for me as it is the hub of different forms of cultural exhibits. I was basically accompanying my sister to capture a video of her performance. I secured the front seat with a decent view of the stage. The heat was unbearable and my sweat almost drenched me entirely. I noticed a small tea stall and decided to have some chilled lemon ice tea. As I was walking towards the stall, a man called out to me saying “Didibhai (little girl), would you like to read a story of an unheard village and of its people?” I immediately turned and saw an old man wearing gerua (red-ochre) coloured clothes and sitting on a marble slab. He had a few copies of books written in Bengali beside him.

I walked up to him and sat next to him. The first thing I noticed was his smile. He had no teeth. He wore these glasses which looked really old and a bit worn out. He carried a small bag made of jeans and his watch was something my grand dad would wear in his times. I looked at him and said “Dadu (Granddad), I cannot read bengali.” But I surely would buy the book and let my mother translate it for me. He smiled and immediately started to turn the pages of the book. He flipped to the page where the price was mentioned. He said please take the book. I will give you a 20 rupees discount on this. He turned the book over and said, he had written this book a few years back. The name of the book was Rakhi Purnima – undersigned by Kiron Kumar Nag, on top of it was his photo. It was a younger version of him – almost 20 years ago. A chai wala approached us with his piping hot tea pot and a few plastic cups and lemons hanging from his basket. I ordered two cups. Offered one to Dadu and kept mine in the side as it was really hot.

He continued speaking about how he discovered a small village of few people and lived there for almost 20 years. He knew each person so well and found them so interesting, that he decided to write about them. He was a former teacher by profession at Rohora Ramkrishna Mission school. He published his first book called “Mrituhin” which was also about the people of the village and sold a whopping 6000 copies in the first quarter. This book of his sold 3000 copies up until now.

What I could not understand was why this man, who was 82 years old, an author of several hot cakes selling books, was sitting in the scorching heat and selling his own books that too on discount?!!! So I asked him not being able to contain my curiosity anymore. He smiled and replied saying, do you know how expensive it is to hire a publisher, pay them to sell your hardwork and then pay rent to keep an establishment, etc? I nodded. He smiled and then asked me if I had a pen. I borrowed it from the woman sitting next to him. He took the last sip of his tea and signed the first page of the book for me.
“Sneher Rima ke (Dear Rima),”

Suddenly I heard a lot of singing in the background, and realised the program had started. My sister would totally murder me if the video did not happen. I opened my purse. Paid him exactly the amount that was mentioned in the book and took his leave.

After the program, I introduced him to my sister. He spoke a little about Rabindranath’s music and how much he loves them compared to Nazrul. I went back home and asked mom to read a little about him. He was quite a celebrity of his times. He appeared in Doordarshan for his poetry, recitations, and more. I assume he is unmarried and dedicated his life to writing and literature.

If you ever visit Nandan, please look out for this sweet man. He can lighten up your day with his UNWITHERED SMILE.

 

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