Short Story By Humayun Ahmed : Roopa
“You wanna hear an interesting story bro ?”
I looked at the man with some surprise . I just met him- and it was not much of a meeting . He asked me if I was waiting for the train . I said , “ yes” and being polite also asked him where he was going
With a smiling face he said , “ I am not going anywhere . I’ve come to receive my wife ……she is coming from chittagong . The train’s two hours late . I don’t feel like going back . Going home and coming back again….. thought I would wait .”
That was all we knew about each other . Inspite of this little acquaintance when someone asks you , “you wanna hear an interesting story bro” , you should be a little surprised . I am not really interested in hearing tales from strangers . Also I have noticed from my days of experience that - stories that begin with being said that they are interesting , is never really interesting at all .
I said nothing and went silent . If the guy’s intelligent he would read the meaning of my silence . If not , I would have to hear this story for sure .
It seemed that he wasn’t an intelligent man at all . He took out a case of betel leaves from his pocket and while arranging them started his story –
“ You must be really annoyed with me .Well , you should be … a total stranger has started a story with such vigour . But you know what ? Today’s a really special day for me . On this special day I feel like telling my funny story to someone . If you permit – may I start ?
“ Okay .”
“ You like paan ( betel leaves)”
“ No thanks”
“ Try one , its sweet . You would like it .”
“ Along with your story , do you also offer everyone paan on this special day ?”
He laughed , heartily . He was like forty . Very handsome . The exceedingly white pajama-panjabi he was wearing suited him so nicely. It seemed like he had groomed himself well for his wife .
----- “It was about twenty years ago . I was doing my honors at Dhaka university – in physics . You may not be seeing me clearly as its dark here . If it was bright you would know that I am a really handsome man . Twenty years ago I looked like a prince . Students even used to call me – the prince . Funny thing is girls didn’t pay me any kind of attention . I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed the fact – women are never really attracted to a man’s beauty . They notice everything about a guy – but not his beauty . In my college life no girl approached me ever . I myself never did it too . Cause , I have stammering problems . My words get stuck .”
I stopped him and said , “ I’m not seeing any kind of stammering . You are speaking fine .”
“ My stammering got cured after my marriage . Before that it was really bad . I tried many treatments – speaking with marbels in my mouth , homeopathic meds , amulets from psychics everything . Whatever – getting back to the story , my subsidiary was in maths and chemistry . At the chemistry subsidiary , I saw a girl who left me grasping for air . She had such a sweet face ! Long eyelashes , shadowy eyes . Eyes which were aways smiling . Bro , have you ever fallen in love ?”
“ Not really ….”
“ If you haven’t ever fallen in love , I might not be able to make you understand my mental status from that time . I became completely ill after seeing her the first day . Couldn’t sleep all night . … throat was becoming dry again and again from extreme thirst . I drank water and strolled across the balcony of Mohsin hall .
I had two subsdidary classes a week . I felt like crying from anger and sorrow. Would it hurt to have one subsidiary class a day ? Two , fifty minute classes a week meant a total of hundred minutes . These hundred minutes pass away in a blink . Also , this girl skipped classes a lot . Sometimes it happened that she missed classes for two consecutive weeks . During that time I felt like jumping down from the roof of Mohsin hall and put an end to all my pain and sufferings . You would never understand what tremendous pain it was ! Because , you have never fallen in love .”
“ You didn’t say the girl’s name , what was her name ?”
“ Her name was Roopa . I really didn’t really knew her name at that time . Forget name – I knew nothing about her . I didn’t even knew her department . I only knew that she had a subsidiary in chemistry and that she used to come in a black Moris minor . The number of the car was – VOA 8781.”
“ Didn’t you try to find anything about her ?”
“ No. I didn’t . Because , I always feared that if I enquired I would come to know that- she was having an affair with someone else . You would understand if I tell you about one day - At the end of subsidiary class I suddenly noticed she was smiling and chatting with another guy . My whole body started trembling . It felt like I would faint and fall down . I came back missing all the classes and within moments my whole body was trembling with fever .”
“ Strange !”
“ Ofcourse strange. I went on like this for two whole years . My studies had gone to hell . Then one day I did something very courageous . I took the address of her house from the chauffeur of the Moris minor . Then I wrote a letter to her without addressing her by name . I don’t remember now what I wrote exactly but the summary was- I wanted to marry her . She must agree . Till she does , I would go on without any food or water and sit infront of her house …. according to newpaper lingo it was something like a “going on a hunger strike till death”...Do you think the story’s interesting ?”
“ Yeah , I do . What happened next . Did you post the letter ?”
“ No . I took it myself . I gave it to the watchman of the house and said , 'Isn’t there a young lady in this house who studies at the university – give this to her.' The watchman took away the letter like a good boy and came back after a few moments saying that , ‘Madam says she doesn’t know you’ . I said , ‘she is right... but the thing is I know her and that’s enough .’
Saying so I stood in front of the gate as if fixing myself there permanently…..you know – an act of extreme madness. At that time my head was literally not in the right place. Logic had failed. Whatever, from nine am to four pm I stood infront of the gate without much incident . I noticed that some curious eyes were following me from the window on the second floor .
At four pm a man came out of the house and said in a strict voice , “ Enough craziness. Go home now”
I replied even more strictly , “ I won’t go..”
‘ I am informing the police. They would take you away .”
“ No problem . Inform them .”
“ You rascal ! Didn’t you find any better place for this stupidity?”
“ Why are you being rude , Sir ? I am not being rude ….”
The man went back inside burning with anger. Right after that it started raining . Cats and dogs . I kept getting wet impassively . Along with that I understood , I was going to get a fever . After burning in the sun all day, this cold rain will be intolerable . That time a reckless attitude had come – let happen anything. Hunger , tiredness made me exhausted . Sometimes I was feeling like I would faint and fall down right then.
In the meantime I had managed to draw the attention of the curious people around me . Many of them were asking , ‘What happened ?’ ‘Why are you getting wet standing here ?’ I told each of them , ‘Don’t worry about me . I’m just a mad man .’
Someone too might have been informed about this strange incident over telephone , from the girl’s house . Three car came to their house . Passengers of the car stared at me angrily for a several minutes and entered the house .
It was nine pm . The rain didn’t stop for a moment . I was burning with fever . Couldn’t stand straight . I sat down spreading my legs . The watchman came and whispered to me , “ Boss wants to inform the police , madam ( boss’ daughter) is not agreeing . She is crying a lot seeing your condition . Sit tight man .”
I sat tight .
It was eleven pm . A light lit up in their balcony . The girl came out opening the door . Behind her all the other members of the house . None of them came down from the balcony . She came towards me alone . She stood infront of me and said in a very soft voice , “ Why are you acting so crazy ?”
I kept staring at her thunderstruck . Because , this girl was not that girl . This was some other girl . I haven’t seen her in my life . The chauffeur of the Moris minor had given me the wrong address . Maybe , he did it intentionally .
She said in a soft voice , “ Come on . Come inside . There’s dinner at the table . Come on ,will you …”
I stood up , tried to say , Sorry Don’t mind … I made a mistake … you are not that girl , you are someone else . Looking into her eyes filled with affection , it was not possible to say such a thing . No woman ever… looked at me with such affection .
I was’nt being able to walk straight from the intensity of the fever . The girl said , “ I think you’re sick . Take my hand . Don’t worry .”
Everyone of the house stood at the balcony , staring at us with angry eyes . Ignoring all those angry eyes the girl held out her hand . The Lord hasn’t given man the power to ignore that deepest love , the love with which she held out her hand . I hold her hand . Has been holding it for this past twenty years . Sometimes I get a feeling of restlessness. I have this urge to tell my wife this story of a mistake . I can’t . In those times I find some stranger like you …. tell the story … because I know, this story , would never reach my wife . Okay bro , I would be going now . My train has arrived .”
The man stood up . In the distance the lights of the train was being visible . A rumbling noise was coming from the tracks . The train has really arrived .
About the author
Humayun Ahmed (13 November 1948 – 19 July 2012) was an extremely popular writer of bengali literature , His works include - flash fictions , novels , dramas , science fictions etc . He was also renowned film maker . He received multiple awards for his work but more importantly he received the love and respect of normal people .