If you love, adore the moon. If you rob, steal a camel.

Stories for the Long Silk Road

Friday, August 29, 2014

Anuradha Bhattacharyya: BIG MAX

Som did not know how to go about it. He left it to chance. He came across Nalini as a witty, willful girl and he was afraid that it would be difficult to steer things round to his way. However, one day, he extended his friendship to her and the next day he asked her out for a walk. In this way the two of them became palls. But Som wanted more …

Early one evening, as the two of them walked aimlessly in the crowded streets of Kolkata, their conversation turns from books to themselves. Nalini says,

See he’s wearing the same T-shirt. Som smiles, she continues,

No, the collar is just your opposite.

Som laughs, Ya, mine’s pink.

Where are you taking me?

To Big Max.

You’ll get to see the cell-phone-girl? They laugh,

May be your Xavarian will be in there too.

What was he like? I mean, how tall. Did he have a beard?

He looked like he didn’t shave that day.

So you won’t know him if he shaves.

I don’t care, says Nalini with a toss of her head.

I wonder what he wanted. Probably lying about himself.

I was wary.

Ya, you should be careful.

At that time I was literally praying that you’d come out.

What’s my coming out got to do with it?

Why, he’d at least shut up then. After receiving no reply from Som, who was concentrating on the street, she says,

But he did mention Gaurav.

Said he knew him.

Wanted him. So I asked him to go to the college. What could I do if he wanted a book from Gaurav?

But he didn’t move.

What’s wrong today? There’s another copy.

What copy?


That’s a pink one, isn’t it?

It’s faded.

Both of them fall silent. The busses make it hard for them to hear each other. They shout at the top of their voices confident that no one but they could hear what they were saying. But by now they had covered more than four kilometers after leaving the bus. Nalini was getting tired. Som was also breathless; he is barely audible when he says,

Shall we go there?

I was thinking something.


Something. Nalini giggles.


They were also wearing the same pink and white stripes, even the jeans, but you look most handsome.

Uh uh.

They laugh loudly, almost forcefully.


Why what?


Come this way.

Hold my hand.


And you are my uncle.


Hold my hand!

This girl.

Okay brother. Now hold.

Don’t you think one can tell by the way we walk …

That we’re not brother and sister? Our faces don’t match.

Som remains quiet. He was thinking hard. She continues,

That’s why I said uncle!

I can’t look an uncle.

Even an infant can be an uncle.

No, I am an uncle but I don’t look …

You look my brother?

Not really. By the way we walk … don’t you think … we look different?

They turn into a side street which she can’t recognize. She looks up at him and asks,

We are not going to Big Max? They were nowhere near Big Max, the famous restaurant on Palk Street in Kolkata.

No. I said we’ll go to that place.

You said Big Max!

Initially I said that, but I told you when we turned this way.

You tell half the things to yourself. Now tell me: where are we going? We’ve been walking too long already. I’m tired.

You get tired very soon, don’t you?

I don’t have your long legs.

I wish you had more stamina.

Your hands are very spongy.



Soft, Som corrects her.

There’s too much flesh, red flesh. I haven’t touched such a fleshy hand before.

Not mine before?

I mean except yours.

See, I’m a soft man.

In palmistry …

Damn your palmistry.

No no, listen first.

It says flabby palms are a sign of deceptive character.


Yes. Contact with you will be disastrous for me.

For once – it is right. Saying this, he laughs without laughter in his heart. His heart squirms.

It doesn’t say that!

It says I’m deceptive.

Yes. Like you haven’t told me where we’re going.

You’ll see.

She is pretty. He sees Nalini looking at a girl wearing black.

Hm? Nice legs.

Go after her.

He laughs again with an effort and says, For once …

Now she looks up at his face and turns pale. She does not laugh. He continues,

So? For once you’ve shown correct sense. Shall I go after her?

Go. And after a while she adds,

I know.


Your company is disastrous to me.

I’m dangerous! D A N G E R O U S !

It was a long silence before Som resumes,

Anyway. He can see Nalini thoughtful. Then she says,

I think that man is the same one.


There, speaking on the phone. I think he’s the same one.

Which one? That’s an older man, out there. That one?

No-o not the Xavarian. That’s the one who talked to me in the BCL.

You never told me about him.

I forgot. He came up to me and asked for the book I was holding. Almost snatched.

Why did you let him?!

I didn’t! He asked, ‘are you taking it?’ I said, ‘yes, I think so’ and held on to it. But he almost snatched it and had a look inside.


The book. It was The Heart of Darkness and he asked if I was in M.A. English. I said ‘what are you in’ without answering and he said research in something and got away. Didn’t I do the right thing?

You should be careful.

I think I must wear faded dresses and put oil in my hair.

He looks much older. Probably lied to you.

Maybe it’s not the same man. I didn’t even look at his face.

Hah !?

Som can’t tell what she was thinking, but he finds that she has screwed up her nose and her gait has become slower. He turns round the next bend and waits for her to catch up with him. Then she says with a forced smile,

I’m getting scared of everybody.

Including me?

Uh, except you.

1 comment:

  1. Anuradha, sorry i have missed out the mam from your name.The story is great and very well written.congrats and best wishes.


Silk Road Mantra

by Suchoon Mo

bury me not

in the lone Silk Road

I go and go

from west to east

I go and go

from east to west

bury me not

in the lone Silk Road


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