Telephone

Time: 5 minutes

Madhumita translates a Bengali story, , by Satyajit Ray. Biresh Babu, a wealthy doctor’s family lost a diamond , mysteriously seven years ago. It was a king’s to his doctor grandfather, who had cured him. A telephone call reveals the mystery of the missing . Who was this strange caller? How did he know so much about Biresh Babu, his son and family? Find out what happened, in the weekly column, in this amazing translated story, exclusively for Different Truths.

Trrng trrng… Trrng trrng… Trrng trrng…

Biresh Babu looked at the telephone placed on the table beside his bed, with irritation. The clock on the table beside the phone showed it was 12.

Twelve, midnight. Biresh Babu was just about to shut the book he had held in his hand and switch off the light. And the phone began ringing. He picked up the receiver.

A voice said, ‘Hello…’

‘Yes…’

‘Is Biresh Babu there? Biresh Chandra Niyogi?’

‘Speaking.’

‘Oh I see. Namaskar.’

‘Namaskar.’

‘Please don’t mind my calling at this late hour.’

‘It’s alright. What is the matter?’

‘I need to talk to you.’

‘May I know who is calling?’

‘I am Ganapati Som.’

Biresh Babu’s irritation went up a few degrees more. He said, ‘But this is not the time to talk. I was about to go to bed. Besides, I don’t even know you.’

‘But I know you. You are a doctor by profession. It has been three months since you have come to live in this . There was a devastating fire in your previous that caused a lot of damage. So you had to leave that and come here. Your wife has passed away eleven years ago. You are 55 years old. You have a son—an engineer—he stays in Bhopal. Am I not right?’

Biresh Babu was amazed. “How did you know so much about me?’ he asked.

‘Let’s suppose it is a very special capability I have. Now tell me, would you like to listen to what I have to say?’

‘Hope it won’t take much time, will it?’

‘No. But if you talk in between and it becomes a conversation, then it might take some time.’

‘Okay. Tell me.’

‘I am talking about a time seven years ago. I was a lawyer by profession. You lived at Muktaram Babu Street then, isn’t it?’

‘Yes, you are right.’

‘Your son’s name is Arup.’

‘Yes.’

‘He studied at City College then.’

‘Yes.’

‘Do you know he had a friend named Sripati?’

‘He might have had. I didn’t know much about all his friends.’

‘This Sripati is my son. The middle one. He was a very good boy—in studies, in his behavior too. Among his friends he was closest to your son Arup. But it was a misfortune that my son fell into bad company as a result of which he acquired various bad habits. Arup tried his best to stop him from being in the company of these ill-behaved boys, but failed. He, however, did not stop being fond of his friend, Sripati. He was determined to bring him around to his past sober ways. But all his efforts went to waste. Do you know of this?’

‘I have seen this friend of Arup’s. But that he kept bad company, I was not aware of.’

‘Now I shall tell you of a mishap. My son took to gambling. He began going to the races. He lost most of the times and borrowed from one and all. Deep in debt, he had finally gone to Arup. He would have no option but to commit suicide if Arup did not help him, he said. Do you know how Arup had helped him then?’

‘I think I now understand.’

‘What do you understand?’

‘There used to be something very valuable in a casket in our . It belonged to my grandfather. A diamond ring.’

‘Yes. Your grandfather was a private doctor to the king of the Chandipur Estate. Once he had cured the king of a serious ailment and the king had presented him the ring, with gratitude, as a reward. Am I not right?’

‘Right.’                                                              a

‘Your son took this ring from the casket and gave it to my son.’

‘This is strange! We could never solve the mystery of the vanished ring. Neither could the police.’

‘How could you? Or the police? Your son is such a fine boy, how could anyone suspect him?’

‘Yes, that is true.’

‘The ring, however, remained with my son. He liked it so much that he did not wish to part with it, ever. Ultimately, when I came to know of my son’s miserable condition, I borrowed money from a money-lender and cleared all his debts.’

‘Is the ring still with your son?’

‘Yes, and now he wants to return it to you. His fascination with the ring is gone now. He wishes to clear his conscience by returning it to you. Besides, there’s a sense of guilt in your son’s mind that needs to be cleared too.’

‘Does your son wish to meet me?’

‘Yes—and, right now. He is on his way. He must have almost reached by now.’

‘What did you say his name was?’

‘Sripati.’

‘And your name is Ganapati?’

‘Yes.’

‘Were your names in the papers lately?’

‘Yes, they were.’

‘Wait, let me remember.’

And Biresh Babu didn’t take long to remember. He said, ‘Yes, I remember. Your names were mentioned in yesterday’s newspaper. There was a head-on collision between a truck and a private car on Barrackpore Trunk Road. All three people in the car were spot dead. The driver and a father-son duo—names, Ganapati Som and Sripati Som.’

‘You are right. I am the very same Ganapati Som.’

‘Y-You…that means…’

‘That means just what you are thinking.’

‘But that is impossible!’

‘Impossible? Why? Do you hear something?’

‘Yes, I can.’

‘What can you hear?’

‘Somebody knocking at the door.’

In the of the night, Biresh Babu heard a clear knocking sound—rat-a- tat—rat-a- tat—rat-a- tat—

And then he heard on the phone—‘Open the door. My son is waiting.’

‘No—No—I won’t open the door.’

Biresh Babu felt his throat becoming dry. His right hand, holding the receiver, was shaking. The voice in the phone again said—‘Even if you don’t open the door, he can enter. He has that power. Listen again. What can you hear now?’

‘Sound of footsteps, coming up the .’

‘Don’t worry, Biresh Babu. He will not disturb you. He will only go to the next room and keep the ring on the table.’

Mortally scared, Biresh Babu said, ‘No—No—please call your son back.’

‘It is no longer possible. He cannot be called back. He has already reached the first floor.’ Biresh Babu heard a clear sound of footsteps in the adjoining room. The sound stopped for a moment and was heard again. The sound was now of footsteps going down the stairs.

The voice on the phone said—

‘Relax now. You need not worry anymore. Keep the phone down, go to the next room and see. It was good talking to you. Good Night.’

Biresh Babu placed the receiver on the cradle. Despite this being a cold Poush night, his forehead was sweating. He softly walked towards the adjoining room and pushed open the door that was ajar, and switched on the light. Yes, it was on the table. Even in the dim light, it shone and gleamed—his grandfather’s diamond ring, lost, and found again, seven years later.

Translated by Madhumita Ghosh

©Madhumita Ghosh (for translation into English)

Pix from the Net.

Madhumita Ghosh

Madhumita Ghosh

Professor Dr. Madhumita Ghosh is also a poet and editor. Her poems have been widely published in print, e-books, journals and magazines all over the world.She has authored four poetry books titled For All You Lovely People, Pebbles On The Shore, Flowing with the River and My Poetry My Voice, and also William Blake; A Prophet for Mankind, a critical study on the British poet. Madhumita has presently a novel and a book of short stories are in the pipeline.
Madhumita Ghosh

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