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LOST IDENTITY

One day Nilendu asked "Surekha, now it is your turn to suggest where you want to go? Of course you don't have much option! You have to choose either Shimla or Uti. Which one you want to select? This will be our last LTC." Surekha was busy in the kitchen. She did not hear properly as she had just put some oil in the hot frying pan for some special dish. She retorted " What do you mean by that! No other third place! Earlier, I told you several times that we would like to visit Jaipur again before you retire from your job! You agreed and now telling absurd!" Nilendu said " Same old place! Think, will you like to go the same p-lace? For what? You like to see the changes whatever has occurred during the last 25 years! Or what?"

Surekha was irritated and answered "Why not? And should I ask you, you don't have any interest to see the changes that have occurred? You don't want to see your old Jaipur? We could visit our landlord there, we could go to Durga Bari, Ajmeri gate and where and where not! Who knows, this may be our last opportunity!" Nilendu remained silent for a while and said ".. We have moved around all important places in Rajasthan in several occasions but one place is still remained left." After a pause he continued . " We have not visited one famous fort, although in connection with field visit I had been very near to it in the Barmer district."

 

Surekha excitedly said ". Then in that case you can include this place also, besides Jaipur. That will be wonderful and what I guess, this place is Sonar kella, the great Golden fort at Jaisalmer! Is not it?" Nilendu replied ". Yes, it is Jaisalmer - the famous desert place with the Golden fort. . We have not visited this place so far! We have visited Jodhpur and even Barmer but did not visit this place." . She did not allow him to complete " In fact, you might have visited the other places but I have visited none..". Nilendu immediately rectified himself and said ". Oh, yes! During those days you had not come in my life! I was talking of my premarriage days.O.K. Is it alright now?'' Surekha was pacified and was happy inside for correcting Nilendu's statement.

Everything was settled and decision was taken to travel to Jaisalmer via Delhi by Rajdhani Express from Howrah and then to Jaisalmer by Jodhpur Express from Delhi. The train left Old Delhi Station in scheduled time. Nilendu and Surekha occupied their sleeper seats and were happy for every arrangement. A Japanese couple of young age was also traveling in the same coupe of four. Nilendu, however, managed his seat in the window sides for the day time. When the train left the Station it was around 2-30 p.m. Surekha was anxious to know the arrival time at Jaipur Railway Station. The train was to cross around 10-30 p.m. In fact, her traveling to Jaisalmer, it appears, is an adjustment for visiting Jaipur. She said, " Today night I will not sleep. I will continue to sit here, as I feel comfortable." Nilendu laughed and said ".. Why? Surekha why don't you speak out that you don't want to take any chance to miss Jaipur Station? You will definitely be able to glimpse and moreover we will come and stay for a few days here. Then, why such anxiety"! She became angry and replied " So what! Can I not have a glimpse of the same old Railway Station after a gap of 25 years or so! !" Nilendu fumbled and replied ".. Of course yes! But I was wondering why should you not have an attraction for a significant tourist place, not visited earlier! All the time you are showing interest for Jaipur only! Please think of Jaisalmer too..". They were exchanging mild hot talks between them. The Japanese couple was busy with themselves. They were so deeply engrossed with themselves that, as if, even the fall of the earth can separate them by an inch.

Surekha said ". See what a love! They don't even look around! It is we, that may feel shy but not they! Can you guess where are they going?" Nilendu told ".. May be Jaipur or may even be our destination.. We will know their destination by tomorrow morning only! If Jaipur, then tonight itself they will get down. otherwise will continue the journey with us.". Surekha sharply reacted and said " . Why? They may even get down at Jodhpur! As to the best of my knowledge, that place is also equally attractive and significant from historical point of view! and the train perhaps will reach there in the early morning tomorrow...!" Nilendu got a jolt. He thought Surekha would not be interested in the journey route and she may not know Jodhpur would be coming enrooted. Who knows, if she would pursue for halt at Jodhpur too. His assumption was correct. Surekha did not leave the matter there. She continued ". Your planning is very poor. . We too could have dropped at Jodhpur at least for a day. The heaven would not have fallen and I am sure, you would get hundred and one means to go to your Jaisalmer from Jodhpur. We have not visited this place either and that too when we are traveling the same route!"

Nilendu understood her point. He did not want to contest her in this issue. He meekly said ". Actually nothing much is there to visit at Jodhpur excepting Umaid Bhavan Palace. that too only a portion of it, because most part is being utilized for Hotel and residence for princely people.." Surekha replied, " . That way no place is worth for visiting! What is there to see, after all! But people still love to get rid of their monotonous routine life.". Nilendu agreed to this and added ". Yes you are correct, people love to move around. they perhaps like to see and feel the history and the scenic beauties of the places.. The palaces, the fort, the artifacts, sculptor and the all, perhaps take the individuals to the historical time! It is something like to become nostalgic at times with their own past days.". Surekha smiled and told ". Again you want to remind me of my passion for Jaipur! You think, I cannot understand your cleverness! ." Nilendu posed to give up. The two were then deepened with the moments and events of their past days. The train was running fast, it was not making any halt at the smaller Stations. The sound of the wheel was rolling down the time. The Sun was set and the evening crawled with glittering stars in the sky. The Japanese couple was silent; both were looking through the window and observing the hilly landscape, the returning herds of cows and goats and the flocking flying birds in the horizon!

Soon after the darkness of the night became more denser and the train entered Jaipur Railway Station. The platform was full of crowd; passengers were running with luggage and all around the bright light appeared life full and enchanting. But Nilendu and Surekha were spell bound! They were observing through the side windows and were murmuring ' what a change!' Those days, it was a single storied Railway Station, now it has been converted to a gorgeous double storied one! The walls and the Platforms are shining, the old look of stony walls are no more! In one corner of the building where dining hall used to be located, it appears, it is no more there!

Nilendu whispered ". Look, that is the corner where we used to dine in several occasions and after which we used to slip to the bypass road leading to "c" scheme. do you remember Surekha. that first floor flat where we used to live initially and shifted later?" Srekha whispered more and said ". Now you see, why I was waiting so eagerly.. It is really very difficult to identify the same old Railway Station of Jaipur!" Meanwhile the train began to leave the platform slowly and an excited shout was being heard inside the compartment. The voice was of the Japanee lady's. She was shouting excitedly and calling the attendant for help. Nilendu got up from the seat and ran near to the door, he saw her husband running with the moving train and finally could get in. What a relief for every body who were watching him! The lady was worried and it appeared she was very unhappy. She was expressing her annoyance and the man was in very awkward position and he was trying to explain the situation. The other passengers were also amused; they were enjoying their conversations. The train speeded up and the crowd slowly dispersed to their respective seats. By that time the dinner was served, Nilendu and Surekha after finishing it went to sleep. Others were still awakened and slowly the compartment was becoming silent. The corridor lights were put off, the train was moving fast in the soil of Rajasthan.

It was late in the morning when Nilendu and Surekha got up. Yes, they have covered a long distance from Jaipur and the train halted at Pokhran. It is quite a big Railway Station and it is a junction. Beyond the Railway Station, in the outskirt of Pokhran,a desert look prevails. Scattered bushes and sand covered rocks are seen all around. This is the place where nuclear Test was conducted for the first time in India. From here, Jaisalmer will be two and a half hour journey. Many of the passengers have already got down at Jodhpur when Nilendu and Surekha were in deep sleep. Meanwhile a boy got in their compartment and tried to converse with the Japanese couple. It seems they too were interested and were enquiring about the accommodation and other information about Jaisalmer from him. His name, he told is Raju. He was fluent in English as well as in Hindi. He was actually a hotel agent. Nilendu too started talking with him and settled for a hotel for their accommodation. From the Hotel window beautiful golden color Fort was distinctly visible at the crest of the Tricut Hills. They were moved with the sight, as if, a dreamland appeared all before them! Next day they had gone inside the fort and found the age old city still bubbling with energy and aristocracy. The same day they visited the other nearby Tourist spots, the Fossil Park was one of them. What a wonder! Fossilized wooden trunk of more than 180 m. years were displayed and kept preserved. The barren hills and hillocks with vast sand dunes are all evidences of the geological past with a solitary look! The entire area was under sea during the Jurassic period before 180 m. years or so!

The next day the same Japanese couple was seen at Sam, a part of Thar desert. It was a wonderful experience! Nilendu and Surekha had a camel ride for about two kilometer from the roadside to the spot of Sam, a place about 40 kms from Jaisalmer. All around it was the desert of sand. Thousands and thousands of Sand dunes were all around! To cross those dunes by camel is a lifetime experience! Surekha was panicky, all the time was afraid of falling from the back of the camel and a complete solitary place made her helpless, family sick and was in search of Nilendu in another camel. The Japanese couple was seen to jump, giggle, and run along the hillcrests. They were waving hands to them, Surekha also waved her hands and joined in the excitement. She got back her life on reaching the terminal point of the Riding! In the evening they started returning to Jaisalmer by the waiting car. The Japanese couple has come from Shanti Niketan, they are doing some postdoctoral research there. They came this side for a holiday trip. They liked Jaisalmer so much that they thought of staying back there for a few more days. Nilendu and Surekha, however, left Jaisalmer the next day for Jaipur.

When they reached Jaipur, it was early morning. They thought of putting up in a Hotel near to the Railway Station. To their utter astonishment they found that innumerable hotels have come up in the nearby area at Banipark locality. Their last long duration of stay of Jaipur was at this locality only. During those days the area was not congested, a lot multiple buildings have completely changed the previous look. The Circular Park, near to which they settled a hotel, is now beautifully decorated with fancied garden chairs, fountains, flowers and lights. The collect orate office is still there. The house where they used to reside is not very far from this place. They thought of visiting their old house after visiting Nahargarh and Jaigarh forts besides Ram Nivas Bagh, Ajmeri Gate, and what and what not of their old intimate places of interest.

They were moving together and more and more were getting spell bound in the drastic changes. All most all the Cinema halls in city have been replaced by multistoried building for multinational Companies. Even the 'Polo victory' Picture hall could not escape from the Changes. It was in the verge of demolition! All appeared new, the old, it appears has gone to the shadows of time! Among all these changes they were really very happy to see same old Statue Circle and the Motidungri. However, a Birla Temple has come up very near to the Motidungri hill. Through the whole day they walked down the main market and the other known places and in the evening they planned to visit their old house and the Landlord. They bought some sweet packets and in the after noon walked down the street, which used to be their daily path for office and marketing. Alas! They were not able to identify anything. The either side of the road is full of huge multistoried buildings; only the same Siva Temple at the junction of the road still continues to remain. After taking a turn they were just to reach their old resident. This turn was to enter the lane from the main road. Yes! The third one in the right row was their residence! The same lawn with waist height outer wall, the same gate and yes, adjacent to the gate the same small cemented verandah with a small water tap- every thing appears to be the same! The window of the kitchen covered with same wire net and inside the lit room with dim light appeared before them the lost 25 years! Only change however, a construction of another floor in the open roof! They were hesitant to enter through the gate! Who knows! Who are staying now!

Nilendu said " Let us go to the land lord from the other side. We should avoid this side entry." By that time, there were tears in Surekha's eyes; she whispered, " See, the court yard remains to be the same! Our baby used to ply her tri cycle here! You remember, Maima and Aparna used to come and all the time used to hope for their turn!"
Nilendu laughed and said ". They too must be settled with their family like our baby. let us go to meet Mr.Goel from the other side."

Both of them took a turn and went to the main entrance gate. The streetlight was just on, from the gate an old couple was seen sitting below the shed of the land lord's apartment. Are they not Mr & Mrs Goel? Vision is not very distinct from here. There was some strange feeling inside the chest. A painful feeling was crawling through the throat! How fresh the memory remains but there was no direct contact for the last 25 years or so with the landlord! During their stay they developed a strong family bondage. How they will react to see them after a long period? How is Sangita, their youngest daughter? How are her two brothers? All must be well. Are all in fine health and mind? Surekha caught hold of Nilendu's hand and whispered ". Are they not Goels? What you say? Are you not able to identify them? Nilendu, if they are Goels, they must be very old now! Is not it?" Nilendu kept quite for long. The sound of construction work in the opposite side was mingling with that of the Siva Temple! The old buildings of the construction site were getting demolished. He slowly turned back and pulled Surekha and said " Let us go to the park, do you not hear the sound of the temple bell? It is not time to visit some one." They still could feel the presence of Adar, Swadesh, Bhaskar are coming out of the same Complex of construction, as if, all ready to go to adjacent Durgabari where Biplab, Gautam, Sujit and others are waiting for the stage rehearsal for the drama to be staged in the ensuing puja festival.


Contributing Story Teller :
Asimendu Bandopadhyay uses his free time in writing. He has developed a writing style revealing the bondage of nature and the life. He wants to share & communicate those events of his own with the readers for their valuable feelings and interactions. The author was working as a Director in Geological Survey of India in the last phase of his service career. In his younger days worked in various field of geology with background of foreign training in United Kingdom under United Nations Development Programme Scheme in Marine Exploration. He gathered vast experience both in land and Ocean. Active participation as Chief Scientist in as many as 15 different geological cruises in the Bay of Bengal is in his credit. He took part in search of Fe-Mn nodules cruising 45 days at a stretch in sea in the Indian Ocean in Skandy Surveyor, a Norwegian Research Vessel. Published scientific papers in national and international journals. Besides scientific milieu, came across many human-inhuman experiences. Vast field of Rajasthan, the place of desert and his initial placement in the job ended in the deep sea through majestic happenings covering human feelings and scientific search. Email: asimendubandopadhyay@yahoo.co.in


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