Bamboo Flower, a novel – Part 46
By Akendra Sana
“Bamboo Flower”, serialized here, is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously and any resemblance to any actual person, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental
contd.. from previous Sunday
He found it easier to think about such past of his cousins than to think of his immediate problems. However, did he ever think how they could be passing their days and, more nights during their underground years, he wondered now. There were many stories of hardships in very inhospitable terrain. And well, their adversaries, the security forces he could not help thinking, if they were not relatively more comfortable physically but the value of life was the same. Was it not a constant battle against time and space for his cousins during those days? It was running away from one district to another, from one state border to another and of course, there were the inevitable crossings of the international borders whenever the situations became hot, they told him.
He was not sure where he had heard this but it remained with him. It was about banana trees being used as rafts to cross water bodies and then on reaching the other shore the same banana trees, at least those tender parts inside were used to satisfy hunger. It went on to say that, banana tree juice was also used to quench thirst when drinking water was scarce.
Then someone had also said that a full meal could last for sixteen hours before the next meal. However, water was required more often, he went on to say. All these stories were doing the rounds during those days of turmoil.
Rajen had been recording all these stories in his mind out of sheer curiosity and interest even though he never knew if any of these information were of any use to him.
He reached the office a little before ten o’clock. As he settled down to his desk, he kept thinking about his two cousins - the lives they had had and now the adjustments.
Then it did not take long for him to be prepared for the meeting with Nini. He soon began to think of Nini and the prospect of having to meet her a little later in a very different atmosphere.
What kind of relationship this was, he could not say. Was it only a case of lust in very strange circumstances or was there something to it, he could not explain. And, had she not rather behaved strange when they reached the hotel the previous day? There were questions he would not find answers.
At exactly eleven o’clock, Yaima, the office peon ushered in Nini. For a while, he thought she was somebody else. Although there was not much difference in the way she looked, she seemed to have definitely taken more care to appear formal. She had used light coloured trousers and a quarter sleeved black silk shirts whose hem just about touched the belt she used for her trousers. The light gold chain that only encircled her shapely smooth neck was the only addition he noticed. She of course had her bag.
As soon as she took the chair facing him, she said, ‘I have spoken to the Assistant Editor about my work and that I would be sending every fortnight stories you may wish to use. I hope this arrangement meets your approval.’
This was absolutely a mouthful, he told himself. He was more than puzzled. Forget a hello; there wasn’t any reference to their past meeting. He smiled. What else could he do, he was to tell himself later. When he was about to say something, Priyo walked in.
Now the conversation could only be business.
It did not take time for her to spell out her details with Priyo noting down on his pad. This was strange because Priyo on his own would not have come with his pad. He immediately knew that she had arranged all this. Why she would be different here, he asked himself.
What intrigued him now was what all she must have told Priyo. It was obvious that whatever working arrangement was to be made out, she wanted it done in his presence because all that she had Priyo written down could have been done at Priyo’s desk and could later be brought to him.
When all details were taken note of, she extended her hand, first to him then to Priyo and she stood up to leave.
Once again, Rajen was lost. There were many things he wanted to say. There was Priyo, which was of no help. He could not find anything to say which could be spoken in front of Priyo. The only thing they shared was looks and of course, the office coffee they had with Priyo.
As she left, she made sure that Rajen did not even see her off properly. She stood up and made quick steps towards the main entrance. Rajen could only abruptly stand up from his chair and did not even find time to say any parting words.
He only smiled and thought that he could now only wait for her next move.
Priyo quickly followed her up to the main door and returned. He came in to Rajen’s room and said, ‘What is with that lady? She seemed so sure of herself. She said that she is an old friend of yours and that you are expecting to carry her articles once a fortnight.’
‘I know. I think we can carry some stories on nature and ecology every alternate issue’, was all Rajen could say making every possible effort to conceal anything unusual.
He knew that Priyo had taken note of all her contact telephone numbers and her fax number. He wanted them right then but he knew he would have to wait if he were to act normal so as not to reveal anything he did not want Priyo to know.
When all this was in mind, he had not noticed that Priyo had left. He appeared again and placed some papers on his desk. The first sheet contained her particulars - how to contact her. He noted that the telephone numbers were spread across three cities. Of course, he took care not to show any undue interest.
To be contd…
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