Original : (Assamese) Parthapratim
Translation : Bibekananda Choudhury

I am running short of breathe, and my walking has become slack in the reverse order. As I turned back to return home, I understood that, not even one-tenth of the zeal with which I started when I came out today remains at this moment. But, still, as I must get back, I started retracing my steps without wasting time. Not with the gait of a health conscious youth, but with the bashful grace of a newly wed bride.

The brisk morning walk or jogging undertaken by me is not for my health conscious, ever young mind, it is only because of my heartthrob Ina. She has suddenly discovered that mounds of fat have started hanging down from the once handsome body of her father, and some side effects of obesity has already manifested. That was the end of my cosy morning nap, potato-butter got banished from my plate and what not. My only offspring Ina got herself admitted this time in the Medical College and she has found a sample patient in me to apply her freshly learnt theories of medical science. And, I too, always an obedient father, am obeying this order coming from her like an obedient soldier in the battlefield.

Perhaps my life is a little bit more simple than normal. As I don’t dare to claim that any special effort from my end was there concerning every important event in my life like my studies, job, marriage etc., it is more pathetic as regards to my body. For every person the body and the mind are the only two things that are their own. Leave aside the mind. I can’t remain happy with my body as I wish. Like now I have come out for jogging relinquishing the early morning warmth of the quilt because of not being able to refuse Ina, though I have no personal complaint against the additional fats getting deposited and making my midriff broader.

Actually I didn’t have any complaint ever regarding my body. If I was skinny, no problem. If I was fatty, still all right. I decided during my youth that, even though I may worry over all other matters, I shall never fret about my physique until and unless I fall sick. I was running fine like that.

I didn’t have to toil a lot to remember, what was the source of all the hullabaloo about the amount of flesh on my body? But I myself laugh, what power did such an ordinary coat possess – that it made me skinny at one time, and plump at the other at its will. It was not a magic to be shrugged off.

Truly speaking, it was a magic garb. A sizeable part of my bitter-sweet memory is associated with this special coat. And also there is proof of sheer intelligence of my dearest wife. The coat had been a memento of an important part of my life and a teacher that gave a damn fool like me the lesson of a lifetime.

I don’t remember the face of the girl vividly. But I haven’t forgotten anything involving her. I met her when I was twenty seven or twenty eight. And, as it happens usually, we fell in love head over heels. Oh! What a swell time we had together! I laughed as she laughed. I cried when she did. Actually both of us were in the seventh heaven. Our friends used to laugh at us – are you the only pair in the world to have fallen in love? We reacted – so you all are feeling jealous?

I first encountered her when she was a university student. Then she winded up her studies and joined a college as a lecturer. She pondered for a couple of days to decide a befitting present for me from her first salary. Then she literally dragged me to Rakhra Brothers - the famous tailor in the town. Without ever listening to my arguments and pleas she bought a rather costly piece in the prevailing market and forced me to give measurements. And that was it. After a fortnight her love embraced my torso in the form of a coat.

I have, indeed, put on a sizeable number of new clothings since my childhood. But I did not experience the excitement in any other case as I did when I put the coat on. It is for those special ones to understand the feelings. She exclaimed as she saw me in the coat for the first time … my only worry, if you become a little plump what will happen? The coat will have to be thrown away. Then her voice turned commanding – you cannot ever become plump. It’s my order.

When the entire world laughs at me pointing at my frailness, my sweetheart says that she finds me extremely handsome like that. She says she has an obsession for the skinny folks. May be. How much do I know about human psychology? The only thing I know is that, she likes me more just because I am lean. And, what else do I want? I prayed silently, so that I may never become plump.

But these halcyon days remained for about three years only. Generally in such cases the father or muscle flexing elder brother stands in between. But here the entire ruckus was started by the mother. Why would I marry my daughter off to a mere clerk? Not in this life. And what is so special about him? He is less educated than my daughter, draws less salary, and look at his physique-as if all the germs in the world have made their abode in his stomach. And it was one of those moments when the girls become too devoted to their mother. Coincidently, one of her colleague had been after her for quite some time now – so the marriage band got invited soon to play. And immediately, my love story ended right there.

I destroyed everything that was associated with our love episode. But that coat survived. Just because it was tucked at the bottom of the trunk - the season being high summer. It escaped from being destroyed or thrown away due to my reluctance to delve into its contents. And my wife remained attached to me like a drop of gum by the time it was winter. I mean I tied the knot too.

I committed a mistake – by confessing everything in detail about my love affair to my newlywed wife like a devoted husband. And, when one day, after the injury inflicted by the ditching in my love affair got somewhat healed and I took out the coat, put out in the sun, dusted and put on – I should have watched the face of my wife. But I didn’t. I didn’t realise that there was anything to watch.

Our marriage was solemnised on the first week of December. When, by end January, I put on the coat while getting ready to visit a friend, words flew out of my wife’s lips like bullets – yes, yes, you should wrap it around your body even while sleeping. Definitely, why not. It was presented with such deep love indeed! Now I understand, why have not you got the suit length given to you at the marriage ceremony from my parents stitched up yet?

I feigned not to have understood anything. Just spoke lightly a few words to explain that it was nothing different from my other pieces of clothings and set out. How do I explain her that my pocket was literally empty to pay the stitching charges of the coat? With the meager earning of a clerk – I was highly in debt immediately after marriage. And, also, the stitching charge for a coat is much higher than the cost of the cloth itself. It is difficult to explain such things to the newlywed bride.

Next time she fetched the coat herself and helped me put on by her own. … Really, the fitting is superb. She circled around me once watching me closely from every angle. Only one problem. If you gain a little weight it will just not fit.

That’s right. I said feeling relaxed, thinking that the dark cloud had moved away... The one who gave it to me also said, I must not become fatter ever. Otherwise the coat will have to be thrown away.

My dull wit did not fathom that this casual comment will have such far fetched repercussions. From the very next day, the care of my wife towards my meals increased to an unimaginable level. Quantity of rice on my plate increased gradually, the person who actually despised sweets was ‘lovingly’ force-fed with that from even my better half’s share, and potato and butter became the regular menu in every dish. I tried to resist lightly – I shall become plump if you keep on feeding me like that. My wife just smiled coyly .. I actually like a man with a little plump physique. And I am the one to reap the benefit of your good physique.

Next winter proved that her sincere efforts did not go in vain. It had not been cold enough yet to put on a coat, but one such evening she fetched the coat and gave me – wear it before you venture out. You might catch a cold.

It appears a bit tight. I said without any complexity.

I should have watched the expression on my wife’s face at that moment. But I didn’t. Had I looked I would have seen the delighted smile of one winning a battle.

I remembered, on the day of delivery the tailor said, we have kept provision to adjust it by half an inch. If you gain weight in future, bring around the coat. So I did. But even that half inch extension could not save the remnants of my love episode. The half inch extension was washed away like dried grass by the swelling force of the flood of yearlong sincere efforts of my wife. My wife made out a door mat from its cloth and placed it by bedside to rub our feet dry and clean. I also used it. I was afraid that she had been watching all the time whether I touch it with my feet or not.

After that my menu again turned monotonous. If I left half my food on the plate, no one bothered. If I say I won’t take sweets, that’s fine. I don’t like butter - ok, so many people do.

I didn’t find it too unpleasant. At least I won’t have to face any unpleasant situation on the matter of my past love. By this time my physique too took a good shape. But alas! That good shape didn’t remain so in its place for a long time. Even without the special care from my wife it kept on growing and today it has reached such a formidable state that in the morbid fear of untimely demise of my daughter’s father I was pulled out of bed at dawn and pushed out of the house to jog.

I felt pity thinking of my condition. I had been so skinny once upon a time. Then I was happy, my beloved was happy - but my beloved’s mother was unhappy. After marriage, I was skinny - I had been happy, my wife unhappy. I became healthier - I was happy, my wife was also happy. Now that I was plump - I was happy, Ina unhappy.

I sat down on a chair after returning home and stayed like that for quite sometime. Ina came out and hugged me tightly - I love you papa. Just walk a little more from tomorrow, ok.

Please give me some relief, darling. I requested her pleadingly. Let there be a little extra flesh on the body, what is the great harm?

No, no, no. Ina appeared firm to oppose my words. I won’t listen to any argument. I do not like plump, fatty person at all. And, I can’t bear to see my handsome father become plump. You must become lean, papa, it’s my order.

About the author: Mr. Parthapratim Tamuly is an entrepreneur and is presently associated with printing industry. Presently at the right side of forty, he has penned some thirty odd short stories and a maiden novel Yatrik.

Address: Parthaprotim Tamuly, Partha Imprint, Narikalguri, Degaon, District – Golaghat.

About the translator: Bibekananda Choudhury, an electrical engineer by profession, has completed his MS from BITS-Pilani in Systems and Information. He has also earned a diploma in French language from Gauhati University. He has got published works (both original and translated) in Assamese, Bengali & English in popular periodicals and newspapers. His translated poems has been published in 'Indian Literature', ‘Poets International’, Poetry International’, Rupsi Bangla, etc.  'Suryakatha', the  Bengali adaptation done by him of the Assamese novelette in verse in the same title by Prayag Saikia was well accepted. His English translated publications include – one short story collection and four poetry collections and one Information Book on Kaziranga, apart from few others in manuscript form. He hails from Bongaigaon and presently stays at Guwahati. [Read More]

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