Part – I Summary
Binay, now lying on the bug infested rope-sewn cot, surrounded by unplastered walls on the third floor of Ghosh Babu’s house in Kumarganchi, realised that for the first time he was completely alone.
Approximately 6 months ago, Binay’s father, Ram Sarveshvar Jha, had received Binay’s appointment letter from the Indian Railways. Due to glaucoma in his eyes, he could not fully read what was written on the envelope, but after tilting the envelope at an unnatural angle, and with enough stress on his eyeballs, he had identified that it was a letter from the Government of India. Due to his own derivation that a communication from the government could only mean trouble he had sent the neighbor’s kid to go and fetch Binay. Binay had, at once, identified that it was an appointment letter. He had then bowed down to touch his father’s feet, to receive his blessings and had announced to his parents – “hamara railway mein ho gaya.”(I have been selected in the railways). The mother had looked up in the sky with folded hands, The father’s troubled face had lit up with happiness and pride. And Binay had run off to the streets announcing every one of his employment.
Part – II
So today was the first day of the employment. It had taken six months for the documentation to be completed. First, he was required to send the excruciatingly detailed forms that had accompanied the appointment letter. They asked for virtually everything about him – his place of birth, his father’s place of birth, the specific date on which he graduated from college, nationality, religion, caste and so on. Some facts he had to ask his parents for confirmation – whether anyone in the family had been imprisoned for criminal conduct, whether someone in the family was diabetic. Then, when these forms had been filled and signed, they were required to be attested by a high-rank holding officer in the bureaucracy, which, thanks to his father’s pre-retirement government job, was completed in only three trips to the District Magistrate’s Office, an achievement in itself actually. Two months after the forms had been dispatched; a Police Inspector and a Constable had showed up on the door of the Jha family for a ‘verification’ of all the information that had been disclosed in those arduously long forms, because as was the ‘process’. They’d welcomed themselves inside the house, sat on the wooden cot lying on the family’s verandah. Tea was ordered, some basic questions followed which Binay and his father answered with gusto. The tea and questions both had ended soon and so had the Jha’s’ gusto. The cops had then, unabashedly, asked for a kickback, a bribe for doing their duty, to smoothen the process, to eliminate any ‘unwanted’ delays. The Jha’s had obliged, because, again, as was the ‘process’. And then, four months later, another letter had arrived, this time directing Binay to report in a week’s time at Head Quarters of the Eastern Railways situated in Kolkata.
The second letter brought with it both gloom and delight in the family. The parents were content of seeing a better future for their son but were also grieved by the pain of parting with him. The delight was palpable, but the grief was hidden. It would have been unnatural for the father to show any emotions, and so it remained concealed, as always. The mother was occupied by the chores of preparing for her son’s life away from home and had no time for emotions. Two days were spent in shopping for banal objects of daily use – a soap case, toothbrush, mosquito coils, etc. The following two days were spent in preparing every dry snack she knew of that would last for an elongated period of time – Bhoonja, Thekua, Nimki, Laddu, etc. And, it took the whole of the fifth day to pack up all that was amassed. On the sixth day, the family reached the Darbhanga Railway Station 3 hours before the train’s arrival time. They waited there on the platform till the train came, and bid farewell to their son with smiling faces and teary eyes.