The Death of a Reader | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, July 21, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, July 21, 2018

The Death of a Reader

(A Translation of Banaphool's “Pathoker Mrityu”)

It was a long time ago.

I was waiting for my train at Asansol Railway Station. Just by me was another man carrying quite a heavy looking novel with him. It was after the initial small talk I came to know that he would have to wait the whole day for his train as well. I had three hours to kill for mine.

Both of us were Bengalis.

So, the very first question on my part after making acquaintance was- “May I have a look at your book, sir?”

“Sure, why not? Please!” The response came right away as it was expected.

In no time I grabbed the book and made myself comfortable.

It was a wonderful afternoon of a bright summer day.

We were sitting in a tin-roofed station.

And then everything else around me disappeared.

A strange novel it was!

Darting a quick glance at me, the owner minded his own time-table.

I stopped breathing as I read.

An excellent book it was!

As a matter of fact, I don't think I have ever come across such a good read before!

Two hours went by just like that.

While toying with his wrist-watch, the gentleman by my side broke the silence-

 “Seems you don't have much time left. So..”

He cleared his throat.  I was engrossed and couldn't care less.

I checked the time. Still there was about one more hour to go. I wasted no time talking, and continued devouring the book.

A gripping tale it was!

The hour passed by as if flying.

The bell for my train rang.

But I still had quite a few chapters to go!

I felt a strong urge to finish it, anyway,

- “No worry, I will go by the next train. I am not leaving before I finish the book.”

The other man coughed a little, giving me a blank stare.

The train left. I kept reading.

Alas! Still I couldn't finish it! Few pages in the final chapters were missing!

Enraged, I kept repeating, “Why didn't you tell me about the missing chapters?  Shame on you!”

The dumbfounded look on the face of the other man explained everything.

 

***

I came across the book once again after ten long years. It was in my sister- in-law's house. I escorted her back to her residence and was about to return that very day. But the sight of the book tempted me to stay over.

With a great fervor, eventually I began to read it. I didn't want to start randomly from where I had to stop at the station. So, I decided to start afresh.

After a few pages though, I got confused. I read a few more, and yes, it was the same book!

I kept reading. Something seemed unusual. I kept going, anyway.

After a while, I had to say to myself, “No, not possible!”

I wondered! Is this the same book that I found so fascinating on a beautiful summer noon at Asansol Station ten years back?

How could people write such rubbish!

How could I ever think of reading a book like this and then finishing it!

With a profound sadness did I discover that somewhere within these ten years, the curious reader in me had died in silence and I had not even noticed it.

I could not finish the book this time either!

 

Motiur Rahman is a Lecturer of English at East West University.

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