Mr. Chowdhury, in his mid sixties, well built with five feet ten inches body is relaxing completely withdrawn, reclined in an easy chair placed on the front balcony of Zamindar
Meeting Room overlooking a huge pond.
Though it’s late morning, but incessant drizzling from the gloomy sky has made the ambience look early evening. Sporadic gust flutters his long hair making his gray locks visible.
‘Chowdhury Villa’, a huge walled complex, standing as a living witness of five generations of Chowdhury dynasty. A typical Zamindar Meeting Room is located on the south of the massive complex, about fifty meter in front of the main gate, built on the high bank of a huge pond.
About ten thousand square feet rectangular Meeting Room perched at the center of five feet raised foundation with slanting roofed balcony all around. Long stairs stretching along whole length of the building are cascading down into the pond from the front balcony.
It appears that rainy season has set in early this year. Weather Department has forecasted heavy rain and people are even apprehensive about deluge.
This dynasty has history of two hundred years.
Chowdhury Estate is located on an area of about hundred acres of land. The Estate especially the Mansion was built by the First Chowdhury but the successive Chowdhurys’ have renovated keeping in line with the modern concept. Though all Chowdhurys’ were sensitive about the tradition but none did stop the contemporary renovation be that in case of building or garden or orchard.
It’s a huge Mansion, it has chandeliers of Mughal period and also has modern fittings and furnishing from Italy, Greece and Turkey, making it a grand conglomeration of old and new, oriental and occidental. Outside look reminds bi-centennial history but interior is a nice blend accommodating changes keeping the old ones.
This blend is evident not only in buildings but also in garden and orchards.
Founder Chowdhury has made a Will that the ‘properties other than the Estate will be distributed among the siblings as per existing law, but the Estate is neither sellable nor distributable, it would belong to the first born, but all surviving members will retain the right of using it.
Besides Chowdhurys’ there live two other families inside the Estate through generations. They live from the time of founding Chowdhury.
Founding Chowdhury built two separate homestead inside the Estate enclosure but away from the Mansion; one for Collector, who is responsible to collect revenue from the subjects and pay taxes to the govt. and the other is a farmer, mainly to look after the farming inside the compound. He made a will stating that the two families will stay free of cost in those houses through generations. All renovation and maintenance would be done from maintenance fund. But they won’t be able to buy or own through Will of any part of Chowdhury Estate land.
None of the two families are local, Chowdhury brought them from Assam.
These two families live in Chowdhury Estate through generations. Besides getting monthly remuneration they enjoy the produce of the Estate free of cost. In effect, the families have to spend very minimum for their lodging and food.
No one questions about the farsightedness of First Chowdhury. He built the Mansion and the two followers’ quarters on high grounds raised like hills. As a result a number of water holes were created inside the Estate.
Having stayed in different cities in home and abroad, the present Chowdhury returned to this Estate to live rest of his lonely life.
He is first of five siblings of fifth generation Chowdhury. His other brothers and sisters are all highly educated and live elsewhere in home and abroad, almost estranged their connection with the Estate.
Present Chowdhury, being the eldest is under obligation of preserving the Estate along with its tradition and grandeur. Having finished his graduation, his father chose a girl from their relations and got him married.
They were a nice understanding family. She became pregnant after about two years. Unfortunately, she died while giving birth to a baby boy. The sky broke down upon him.
He remained gloomy ever since and could never came out of that shock. He hired a matron to look after his son.
His parents died seeing him in that plight.
Chowdhury went to US putting his son in a boarding school and the Estate under custody of a family Lawyer.
Having spent about two decades he has come back about two years to spend rest of his life.
-Sir should I ask for a cup of tea for you? Voice of Ramdoyal got him out of his deep thought.
-It shook me out my pensiveness. I was quite startled. Firstly, it too late for tea and I already have had my breakfast and tea along with my family lawyer before I came here.
As such, I don’t have any thirst for tea. Indeed I was lost in my thought about the Will that I have finalized today about the disposal of Chowdhury Estate after I won’t be any more.
-More so, Ramdoyal, our farmer is asking me about tea is quite irrelevant.
-May be he took it as a pretext of discussing about something. I thought.
Every morning Ramdoyal brings about fifty labor through the main gate for different sort of works. Half of them are almost permanent, like tractor driver, gardener etc. He takes
rest on requirement basis. All are almost old faces to Ramdoyal and he knows them by name. He pays some of them weekly and some daily. He spends his whole day for managing them.
Monsoon started early and it rains almost daily since last week, consequently, Ramdoyal does not have much to do. As such, he came at this time to discuss about some of his personal matter, I thought.
I asked him to sit without mentioning anything about tea.
Ramdoyal took off his farmers’ hat and sat on the floor leaning against the wall. He and others normally does that whenever come for any discussion.
They are very faithful. They get enough from the produce of Chowdhury Estate beside their salary ,so they don’t face any problem running their family. Besides being subject to human limitation, they don’t pose much problem about misappropriation etc.
Ramdoyal being an alien, does not have much social connection beyond work related affairs with the local people.
-Sir, my first wife has come back about two days.
First wife of Ramdoyal is from Garo tribe. Ramdoyal has few children from her. His wife did not want to live here with Ramdoyal leaving her own tribesmen. She lives with her own parents ever since their marriage.
Randoyal married another woman. He has two son and one daughter from his second wife. He sent his eldest son to work as domestic servant with a high official. Having stayed for about ten years, his master has helped him making a Car Garage in the capital city. Second son works with some Shipping Company and stay at the port city.
His second wife serves in a garment factory. His daughter also serves in the same Garment Factory with her mother. Her mother arranged her marriage with a fellow Garment Worker of the same factory. They hired a house near the factory and stay there.
Ramdoyal’s wife stay in the same house with her daughter and son in law. It’s about two years her son in law went abroad on a job. Factory owner’s son has arranged money for his job.
Ramdoyal lives alone. No hustle from life.
He need not to do anything for his children from his first wife. But his first wife has come for a peculiar requirement. Ramdoyal has come to Chowdhury for that reason.
I sat up a bit straight. I know that Ramdoyal is a very lonely fellow. His ancestors left their own kinds centuries ago and tried to make this place and people their own. They have managed to adjust with the new culture and land but their phenotype makeup of physical body betrays their origin.
His language, behavior, thinking everything is akin to this place. But if someone takes a look at his face one would easily understand that he does not belong to this place. Whenever he sits in abstraction, he looks very lonely and helpless, like a stranded star from its orbit.
Sadanondo, Chowdhury Estate’s collector arrives as Ramdoyal has started talking.
Incessant rain has rendered them out of work like fish out of water.
Sodanondo also sat beside Ramdoyal. They resemble each other all most in everything. He is also an apparent out of place human.
But Sodanondo is educated and thoughtful, he is calculative and farsighted and to be true calculation is his profession.
Though Sodanondo is also a visible outlandish figure here but he did not spread that in his next generation. He married a poor local girl and also bought some lands in the locality. He tried to educate his children to his best capability. Sodanondo is against sending children away and has kept all his children with him.
-Sir, normally Ramdoyal’s wife does not come without any reason. This time also she was very reluctant to come but her chairman forced. Either Ramdoyal has to go and stay with his family in tribal area or he has to divorce his wife.
Sodanondo paused a bit.
-Ramdoyal does not know anything and anybody in that area. There is no light, no road and the jungle is full of pests, how would he live there?
He stopped and heaved a sigh.
-And how would he divorce his wife? He has children with her. He is not responsible for not being able to live together.
It seems that Ramdoyal and Sodanondo discussed before they came here.
Rain drops are falling incessantly from the sky. Rivers have outburst and flood water is entering the land and villages submerging all. Nature is playing havoc. All living beings are suffering helplessly.
-Sir, one English madam called you from America, she is on the line.
Chowdhury got a shock at the information given by a middle aged servant.
Christine is her name. Chowdhury entered into a contract marriage with her for getting his residency. Thus he got residency for him and later on for his son.
Christine is completely different, unlike other girls who enters into contract marriage for some return. Christine studied with Chowdhury in the same University. She lived with her single mother. She had a year left for graduation when she met Chowdhury. She married Chowdhury basically for monetary help and a faithful shelter. She also accepted Chowdhury’s son as her own and took his responsibility.
Chowdhury shared almost all his past with Christine. It did not take much time to turn the contract marriage into true love.
Christine assured Chowdhury repeatedly that apprehension of any responsibility must not hinder their natural urge for each other. She vouchsafed that she would never become any type of hindrance on way for Chowdhury to materialization of his dream.
In the course of time they begot girl.
Chowdhury left US leaving behind his fifteen years son and four years old daughter.
-I am financially capable lady now, earning enough money to look after myself and your children. In this country, one does not face much problem without husband or father. You don’t worry about us, we would faithfully remain yours. And your children won’t be able to live in your country you know that. You go assured, I’ll let you know if required.
Christine assured Chowdhury before he left US.
Chowdhury really loved Christine. But he was reluctant to share his woes with her. He is very faithful to his wife but totally hid a medical report from her. Indeed, he came here to die in seclusion.
It seems that the rain won’t stop. Flood water is gushing around engulfing all and putting the river and surrounding on same plane.
The villagers are living here through generations and they don’t have any other place to shift. They are also not much bothered about the condition of other places. They are concern only with their little world. They are trying to adjust with nature and to live here.
Thanks to the farsightedness of First Chowdhury, the Chowdhury Mansion and other two homestead are still safe as built on high land. But how long they can survive being cut off from the rest is known to none!
Sodanondo has his relatives close by and they are visiting him often by boat.
What would present Chowdhury do? What is he going to tell Christine? And what advice he would give to Ramdoyal.
He himself is also an islander like Ramdoyal.
I had a long career in Army. I was trained to follow orders, instructions and set rules, taking those as axiomatic. That strayed me a bit from free thinking as happens with all technology users. Basically I am a free thinker always and now in search of some basic truth in my own way. ([email protected]).