Original in Assamese: Sankab Kausik Barua
Translation: Bibekananda Choudhury

The elderly gentleman narrated the story that appeared like a fiction–

He is much older to me but our relation is like a close friend. I use to talk with him fairly regularly in a jovial way, but topics of current times and matters relating to the society obviously find place there. He is quite conscious and often expresses his annoyance over the issues dividing the society. The person who is associated with a huge responsibility in the field of vehicle repair also bothers about repairing the society. That day too, the issue surrounding the beef imbroglio featured in our discussion.

Suddenly he appeared lost in thought. The avian mind stretched its wings to fly to a part of his past that he always savoured .. he narrated the fiction-like story that touches ones heart. Let us listen to the story in first person from Sri P C Taye:

After completing my Pre-Degree from Kanoi College, Dibrugarh in mid 70s, I pursued a course of Technical Diploma in Aircraft Maintenance from Delhi. Thereafter, I joined the Indian Air Force. It was the early eighties. But I was suffering from a serious eye ailment during the training period. I was admitted to the Air Force hospital at Delhi. There I was advised bed rest for three months –that too, lying in the hospital bed. As I fell ill while on duty so my regular salary was ensured during this period. There appeared to be no problem if one observes superficially. But the problem was, I hailed from a middle class family from the interior area of Dibrugarh district and I had no friend or relative in Delhi at that time who could visit me. The question of anyone visiting me from home was out of point. As I was a twenty-five year old youth then, it appeared to me like a punishment to remain lying on hospital bed for long three months that seemed endless. There was no mobile, television was a far cry. Any letter posted from home took about a month to reach and vice versa. My mental condition was beyond description in such a situation. Result– extreme depression.

Right at that juncture, a South Indian youth was admitted to the bed adjacent to me. This Air Force youth was also afflicted with the same eye problem as I had been. Being in the same age bracket, a bond of friendship grew up between the duo. One cousin of this South Indian youth named Anthony happened to stay in Delhi. This elder sister used to visit him often. The situation took such a turn with passing time that we didn’t realise when her number of ailing brothers increased to two from one and the exact juncture I acquired a sister. Whatever she used to fetch for Anthony, she used to get for me too- rather she made it a point to offer me first. I entered into a unique sphere of bond.

Time passed by. We too progressed towards recovery. Then one day, Anthony’s sister came and told– It is Christmas the day after, both of you take permission from the authority to come to our place and stay the entire day. We would celebrate.
I didn’t say anything but on the Christmas day I explained him, ‘Look, it is a family get together. An entirely private affair. How do I fit there? Don’t mar the celebration. Don’t bother about me. You celebrate and enjoy. Go.’ Actually I didn’t feel like disturbing them; another deterrent factor was the language– I would not understand a single syllable that they’d be discussing. Anthony was very firm in taking me initially but he had to give up to my stubbornness.

Anthony, who was supposed to return by late evening, arrived at noon carrying two huge tiffin carriers at lunchtime, his face livid with anger. Reason– he was castigated strongly by his sister for failing to get me and was sent off early as I was left alone. Not only that, he was not served food there and he had to carry the food for both of us.

I apologized sincerely for all the trouble he had to face for my denial and set foot to the canteen to gorge on the food. In fact it was a feast. There had been so many items that the tiny cabin allotted to us did not provide enough space to lay the items together.

In due course, we got fully recovered and it so happened that both Anthony and myself was discharged on the same day. A form was to be filled at the time of discharge as per Departmental Rules. As I was busy in packing, I asked Anthony to fill it up for me too. As I took it to put my sign, my eyes stopped at the box stating Religion. He entered Christian. I just struck off the word and wrote Hindu – smiled at his perplexed gaze and said ‘I am Hindu’.

He stared at me for a long time. ‘Then why did you accompany me to the Church?’ he was practically in shock.

‘I was suffering from depression after I was sent off to hospital– practically it was like solitary confinement. I like the ambience of the Church, enjoy the serenity inside. That’s why.’ I replied with all simplicity.

 ‘And your name- P C Taye? The title? It doesn’t appear Hindu?’ he was far from convinced.

I explained that I belong a community called Mising, Taye is our family title. I couldn’t comprehend what he made out of my explanation of belonging to the Mising community as he hardly had any idea about Assam. With extreme apprehension he launched the final assault– ‘Do you know what you had during Christmas?’

‘Yes’, I replied with confidence.
‘You take beef in spite of being a Hindu?’ he asked with disbelief.
‘No. That was the first and last occasion.’
‘I offered you out of ignorance. But why did you take even after you realized?’ His dilemma was evident.

‘The way your sister sent me the food with pure love, forget about beef– I would smilingly partake poison too. If I had made it known to you after I realized, your sister would have been extremely hurt thinking that she was guilty of feeding a Hindu brother something forbidden in his religion. This day of celebration would have remained a black day for her forever. She did not send all these knowingly, it was sent with utmost love in the belief that I would enjoy it. I would forget the taste of beef, but how can I forget the love your elder sister bestowed on me.
Saying, ‘Now, Mr. Barua, I have narrated you one the true stories of my life, do whatever you want to’, Mr. Taye brought finally the curtain down to the story that appeared like fiction.
Both of us remained silent for a long time.
Silence speaks a lot at times.

One thing that struck my mind during this juncture when the beef imbroglio is shaking the country– if everyone could think-understand like this gentleman so many of the world problem would just vamoose in a moment.

But in these days of communal frenzy who would listen to such heartwarming stories? Who would care to weigh in the scale of heart and brain the problems plaguing the society and the silvery prospects.

About the author: The author, Sankab Kaushik Baruah is serving as Chief Sub-Editor in Janambhoomi, an Assamese daily newspaper and he has the credit of publishing a good numbers of books.

About the translator: The translator-author, Bibekananda Choudhury, an electrical engineer by profession, has completed his MS from BITSPilani 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.

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