Authors: Budh Aditya Roy
RIVER OF LIFE
Copyright Â© 2011
All rights reserved - Budh-Aditya Roy
No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, graphic, electronic, or mechanical, including photo-copying, recording, taping, or by any information storage retrieval system, without the permission, in writing, from the publisher.
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his book is dedicated in all humility to the Master Architect of the River of Life for His unfathomable craftsmanship and His invisible presence in the daily simple life of the mankind.
his is a work of fiction. The names of certain places that were prevalent during the period of time covered by the story have been retained in the fiction. However, with due respect to the sentiment of the people of India, those names should be read as under:
Bangalore as Bengaluru; Bombay as Mumbai; Calcutta as Kolkata and Puna as Pune.
Bend in the River of Life is a literary fiction. The author describes it as an epic novel.
The principal character of the novel, Rana Roy was born in a well-to-do family in British India in the thick of the Second World War. His life though has not been a bed of roses. Before he was two, his parents went through a bitter separation. His mother went back to her parents, but little Rana was told that she passed away and would never come back. Consequently, he was brought up by his grandma and a young aunt. In a year or so, the British Raj decided to partition the Indian sub-continent on communal lines into India and Pakistan. Rooted to the Pakistan side of the border for centuries, his family was forced to migrate to the Indian side amidst racial bloodbath, leaving behind their fortunes.
Life began in exile from the scratch. When Rana was nine, his mother came back out of the blue to the surprise and embarrassment of his family. Rana was astounded, for to him his mother was dead almost all his life and now she virtually arose from the ashes. He was also stupefied for the prevarication of the entire family on whom he reposed his absolute trust. Notwithstanding the inconveniences of life in exile and emotional upheaval due to his parental disharmony, Rana graduated with Honors in Economics and got a promising job with an American bank. He met his sweet heart Keka in a mountain resort and married her after a period of courtship. A son was born. But due to complications at the birth of their
daughter, Keka passed away shockingly, leaving Rana dazed and desolate. Despite the tragedy, he achieved success at work, traveling round the globe at the behest of his job. His promotions were brisk and he was named an International Officer soon.
Shortly, keeping his two children in the custody of his parents he moved to London. His far-flung travels also fueled a number of relationships that brought him both pleasure and pain. While attending a seminar conducted by his bank in Taipei, Rana came across Kim Wang who was in striking resemblance with his departed wife Keka. Initial astonishment gave way to curiosity and curiosity to emotional relationship. Their apparently impractical long distance romance continued for three years and marriage came in their discussions. However, finally it all came crashing down when her obnoxious father forced her to marry his business partner for his own selfish financial interests. Rana vowed to himself never again to be involved in any emotional relationships. Nevertheless, during an assignment in Bombay, he gave into the persistence of his late wife's friend Iris, despite his initial effort to shun her aggressive overtures. But the relationship ended when her father suddenly passed away in Goa and Iris had to relocate there to support her old mother. While in London, Rana met Heather in her business. From a simple business encounter a friendship developed. In her personal life, she was a divorcee with two children. In the eyes of Heather's children Rana saw the reflections of his own children. Little by little, he found himself getting entwined in Heather's family. On an emotional evening, Heather asked him to settle down in London and marry her. But Rana could not reside in London perpetually because of his international job contract, requiring mobility. On the other hand, Heather could not be mobile, for her life was entangled inextricably to London. Meanwhile, three years passed away like the twinkle of a star and he was transferred to America. So the marriage remained unfulfilled. He lost Heather at another treacherous bend of the River of Life.
From London Rana moved to Miami and then to Buenos Aires and brought his children to live with him after a long hiatus. The father and children lived four years together in song and laughter. Subsequently, when he was transferred back to Miami, his daughter was reluctant to move, for by then she had a boyfriend in Buenos Aires. Obviously, she had no other alternative but to move for her dad was obliged to move by the dictates of his employer. However, not long after returning to Miami she became eighteen and dropped out of school to go back to her boyfriend. Willy-nilly her wedding was hurriedly arranged in Miami and she went back to Buenos Aires happily with her husband, leaving her dad broken-hearted. All the while, the River of Life kept flowing relentlessly, unmindful of his joy and sorrow, for its sights are trained unwaveringly to its distant destiny, the ever evasive Eternity.
Through the life of Rana Roy the novel imparts a subtle message that the invisible hands of God keep working behind all human activities in their daily conduct of life. This message is transmitted by means of the motif “River of Life.” The last chapter of the book elucidates the River of Life in the context of the story. In a nutshell, the River of Life, which is a hypothetical phenomenon, comprises human lives and the natural and extra-terrestrial forces, acting as the invisible hands of God. The novel also underscores that though man belongs to the River of Life, they have two distinct identities. During many vicissitudes of life hope and despair alternate in human mind, but staying discreetly detached the River of Life flows on inexorably, oblivious of the emotions that rend the mankind asunder.
he fate of the world was hanging in the balance, civilization at the crossroads. The war was still raging in Europe and Asia-Pacific. Swirling clouds of death and destruction were casting a pall of gloom over the entire Southeast Asia. Burma was bombarded and the Malay Peninsula was brought under the occupation of the Imperial Japanese forces. The bombers of the Japanese Air Force made forays into Northeast India also. Even the periphery of Calcutta, once the capital of British India, was invaded and a few bombs were actually dropped to scare away people from the metropolis. Nightly blackout was firmly established all over East India. The foundation of the British Empire was shaken up to its roots.
It was the winter of 1944. In the stillness of the dark sky the drone of a single aircraft was piercing the silence of the jet-black landscape. Perhaps a military aircraft of the Allied Air Forces was carrying emergency supplies to a forward post somewhere in Northeast India bordering Burma. In the fourth hour of the desolate night the only son was born to the well-to-do Roy family in the maternity wing of their sprawling mansion at Birpur, a burgeoning village about 300 miles Southeast of Calcutta.
Born in the thick of the war the boy was affectionately christened Ranadhir, meaning, “He who is calm and composed in war or, in a greater context, in the struggle of life.” The family name “Roy” was an anglicized distortion of the social title “Rai,” synonymous with the influential landed gentry in that part of the world at that time in history. As it happens always, by the indulgence of the adoring
friends and family, before long his Ranadhir name stood abbreviated to simply Rana.
Roy family was pretty large. Joint family system was still in vogue. Rana's grandfather had passed away couple of years before he was born. Rana's father Amit Roy was, therefore, saddled with the responsibility of his widowed mother Rajani, two younger brothers, Sumit and Sudip and a very young sister, Devika. His other sister Kamala was married away a few years earlier when their father was still alive. It is, therefore, not difficult to understand that Rana was the apple of everyone's eyes in the joint family.
Amit Roy was a businessman. Apart from his family's land related establishment, he owned a trading company importing from and exporting to Europe and Far East. He was also a distributor of the imported goods in the domestic market. Besides, he had substantial investments in textiles, banking and insurance companies. Without an iota of doubt, Amit Roy was a very busy and hypertensive professional. Nevertheless, commensurate with his impressive credentials he was also too demanding an individual to be of comfort to his family and associates. Be that as it may, as Amit's business prospered it was becoming increasingly apparent that he should move closer to his business. Otherwise, he was burning a lot of time and energy traveling. The family thus moved to the subdivisional town and the river port Nawabpur. Rana was just one when the move took place. As such, he carried with him no recollections of his place of birth.
At Nawabpur Rana started growing up rapidly. What was most attractive to him in the new house was the orchard, especially, the mango grove. That was where Rana spent many happy moments with his aunt Devika who was just nine years older to him. Thus, emotionally, she was closest to Rana than anyone else in the entire family. Devika was Rana's only playmate and a constant companion. She was the one who made a swing for him in the mango grove. She was the one who used to take him to her school and everywhere
else. And it was she who gave him courage by holding his hand from behind when he was scared to face the camera for the first photo shoot of his life because the cameraman mysteriously disappeared under a black cover before his very eyes! Rana could not simply think of life without Devika. Talking about Devika's school, even today Rana could see in his mind's eye that high-walled single storied white edifice round the bend just a couple of minutes walk from their house. There is a reason for that special recollection. Every time he accompanied Devika to her school it would turn out to be an event by itself. The word of his presence in the school would go round like wild fire. Everyone of her age and older would drop by her class and cuddle him. He used to be tossed around like a bobbing ball much to his dislike.
During their stay at Nawabpur, Rana suffered the first topsy-turvy of his life. He lost his mother Monika from his mental spectrum. It was not death that caused it. Monika just walked out on her husband Amit. Rana was not even two years old at that time. He was told that his mother passed away and would never come back. The mind of a two-year old was not competent enough to question that. His tender brain had hardly any capacity to contain her memory for a sufficiently extended period of time. Monika thus slid into oblivion from his innocent mind before long. Much later in his life when subsequent events propelled him to retrace the lost steps, he tried to piece together the puzzle. The genesis of the tragedy lay in the social status of the two families. Amit Roy's family was Rai, the landed gentry. Monika's father was Raja, the feudal king. In social hierarchy Raja's were one step above the Rai's. Nevertheless, hierarchy aside, Amit was also a successful business man in his own right. He was proud, impatient and short-tempered. In his mind, everyone around him should always be at his beck and call. Monika resented it. After all, she was the daughter of a Raja! No one in his senses ever dared to raise one's voice at her! How could she tolerate such ham-handed behavior? Monika simply decided to quit.
One rebel morning when no one else was at home, she packed her clothes, took Rana along and left for her father's little kingdom. Those days it was unheard of for the ladies to travel without a male escort. In her case, the only male escort was the two-year old Rana! However, Monika knew her way and arrived safely to her father's palace at Ranigar. Rana could not remember the journey. Obviously, he was unaware of the sharp bend that was taking place in his life. After about a month, emissary came from Nawabpur to take Monika and Rana back. Monika did not return, but gave away the son. Rana had no recollection of the return journey either. Perhaps he slept through the distance in utter confusion. No other attempt was made to bring Monika back. Nothing was heard from Monika either. Rana said to have enquired about his mother a few times on returning from Ranigar, but was told that she passed away and would not come back ever. In a month's time Monika faded away from Rana's memory and was replaced by his grandmother Rajani and the young aunt Devika. Until late in his childhood Rana perceived Rajani to be his mother. But Devika was something else; perhaps a combination of mother, aunt, sister, friend and playmate. Sleeping or awake, he always craved for Devika's company.
The account of Nawabpur would not be complete without mentioning that the only place other than the mango grove in their house, which used to make Rana animated and happy, was the river port that he visited often with Rajani and Devika. He could literally sit there for hours together watching the waves crashing on the bank, the boats, the steamers and the people. Where they came from and where they went was beyond his imagination. But he just liked to watch the intense activities around the river port.
As the void crept into his personal life, Amit began devoting more time and energy to his business. He assumed greater responsibility, burning more electricity and staying late at work. Soon the operation of his company moved to Dacca, the state capital, prompting him also to move with the entire family. They had some
extended family in Dacca. One of them was Amit's first cousin Sheila whom Amit trusted and confided in most. She was few years older to Amit. But they grew up together like siblings in Birpur. Despite her many years of marriage the childhood bond remained intact. So the transfer to Dacca augured well for him psychologically. Introduction to Aunt Sheila's family was a great event for Rana. He had seen Sheila a few times in Nawabpur. She used to visit with them once in a while for a day or two. But Rana was too young to remember about those visits. Nevertheless, the more he saw her in the new place, the more he began to love and admire her.
Soon Rana was panic stricken, confronted with a stressful event involving a child of his age belonging to their neighbor. The child was bitten by their own dog that developed rabies. The boy suffered from hydrophobia and died shortly. The incident left such a mental trauma in him that he would scream at the sight of a dog even from a distance. That fear of dog continued in him till he was sufficiently grown up.
In consonance with the move to Dacca, Rana's learning lessons commenced at home. Introducing Rana to education was a fun for the family. Rajani and Devika, two mother figures to Rana were educated enough to add his education to their daily routine. Rana though was not a quick learner. Yet sometimes his scholarly gestures would create a hilarious situation. He would hold Devika's books upside-down and pretend the act of reading. Everyone in the family would be amused at his precocious pretense. Then he would also join everybody else to laugh it off in merriment.
Growing up under the benign influence of Rajani and Devika, some remarkable traits of their character started reflecting upon Rana's behavior. He had a natural fondness and adoration for flowers. He used to accompany Rajani and Devika to the garden of the house to pick up flowers for offerings to God at Rajani's prayers. Rana would never pluck a flower himself because Rajani asked him not to. Rather he would make sure to pick up the ones dropped on
the grass and give them to Rajani or Devika. He learned to put away things strewn around for he would observe Rajani and Devika also to do the same. He would never destroy anything or create a loud noise to annoy others. He would never be choosy or demanding unreasonably. It was easy to make him happy with any gifts. If anguished or hungry he would silently shed tears in a corner of the house. He had an innate sense of civility to avoid causing inconvenience to others.
Amit's business was growing rapidly. The move to the big city was actually paying off. He was seriously thinking of sending Rana to the best missionary school in the region. He was also planning to buy an estate in the fashionable district of the town. He wanted to see his son among the elite of the society. So Amit's business was flourishing and he was dreaming and planning. Rana was also dreaming of going to school soon. As if to demonstrate his readiness to go to school, he would carry his books in a school box at home from the morning till evening. He was beginning to perceive himself as a grown up. Rajani and Devika too were happy in anticipation of greater things to happen to the family. The River of Life was flowing to its brim.
Dreaming and planning are two of the numerous attributes of God. When God created man in His own image He bestowed on him the gift of mind and intellect, which was capable enough to understand God and to dream and plan in the context of the earth, for God gave him the authority to govern His planet earth. Mind and intellect are the two greatest gifts of God to His greatest creation man. Making best use of them man can construct a zillion castles in the air; perhaps he can even build a whole new universe. But using them negatively he might also make the biggest cesspool imaginable. However, it is to be understood clearly that in the event of a disharmony between God's dream and that of man, God's dream will always stand supreme.