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.