FRAGRANCE (1970)

Original in Assamese: Dr Bhabendra Nath Saikia
Translation: Bibekananda Choudhury


The story dates back to some twenty years from now. In those days, the town lawyers were much more aristocratic than that of now; but the primary school teachers had been poorer than that of todays.

Primary teacher Karuna was poorer than the other contemporary teachers. Because, after his long period of suffering from mild fever and cough, the owner of his school, Kutubuddin Saheb removed him from the job in the apprehension that he has been suffering from tuberculosis.

Master Saheb took to tuition on both morning and evening shifts. In the morning he used to teach Manik, the eight year old son of advocate Manoranjan. Master Saheb’s own son Pabitra was also eight years old at that time. He wished earnestly to take care of his studies too. But he could hardly manage time. He discussed the matter with the wife of advocate Manoranjan and settled that Pabitra would often accompany him to the advocate’s house. He would just sit in a corner and lend an ear to what is being taught to Manik.

In the beginning Pabitra was very hesitant to walk on the slippery concrete floor of the huge mansion of advocate Manoranjan. At that time in the morning Advocate’s wife gave her two and half year old son a hot bath and then smeared on her palms a little amount of purest butter given to the advocate by his clients and massaged the little son for quite some time. Massage over, it was time for her to enter into the kitchen. At that juncture, the two and half year old little boy created problem. There was no one at home to look after him either. Because it was the period when all the children remain busy in studies. So wife of advocate Manoranjan asked Pabitra to hold the baby on his lap and strictly directed him not to release him on the floor. She found it illogical for the baby to get smeared with the dust on the floor after toiling with him for the bathe and subsequent massage. After some days, Pabitra fell seriously ill. His fever subsided only after three days. His physical condition was quite pathetic. A certain compounder advised Karuna master to feed him with nutritious food like butter to recuperate. Karuna master accordingly relayed the information to Manoranjan advocate. The advocate’s wife then handed him a small amount of butter wrapped in a piece of paper. Putting the first mouthful of cooked rice mixed with butter Pabitra commented, - Ma, this butter smells like that of a baby of big shots, isn’t it? His mother did not know whether he was right.



About the author: Dr. Bhabendra Nath Saikia (1932– 2003) was a novelist, short story writer and film director from Assam. He won many literary awards, including Sahitya Academy (1976), Rajat Kamal Award (1978) for the film Sandhyarag and was also recognised with the Padma Shri. He is recognised as one of the top ranking writers of Assam. Many stories have been translated into English, Bengali, Hindi, Telugu, Malayalam, Marathi, Gujarati etc. He had also written a large number of plays for All India Radio (AIR).

The plays Kolahal, Durbhiksha and Itihaas were taken up by the AIR as national plays. Kolahal was selected for broadcast from foreign centres. He has been associated actively with the stage as a playwright and director. He has written many plays for 'Mobile Theatre' of Assam, and a number of One Act Plays.

He had directed eight feature films. Seven out of his eight films have been selected for Indian Panorama Section of the International Film Festival of India. He was adjudged as one of the "Twenty one Great Assamese Persons of the twentieth century" in a literary weekly news magazine of Assam. He has been actively involved with famous Assamese Mobile Theater industry most notably with Abahan Theater.

About the translator-author: 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.

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