Biography
Samaresh Majumdar is one of the most celebrated prolific contemporary Bengali writer. Though, he lived all his life in West Bengal, India, he is emensly popular among Bangladeshi readers. He spent his childhood years in the tea gardens of Duars, Jalpaiguri, West Bengal, India. He was a student of the Jalpaiguri District School. He completed his bachelors in Bengali from Scottish Church College, Kolkata. His first story appeared in "Desh" (a Bengali magazine) in 1967. "Dour" (Run) was his first novel, which was published in "Desh" in 1976. Some of his important novels are transformed into movies. Director Goutam Ghose recently made the movie “kalbela” based on his novel. He has written nearly 100 novels and many stories for Children. Some of his famous novels are: • Dour , Uttaradhikar , Kaalbela , Kalpurush , Garbhodharini , Aattiyoswajan, • Ani , Harinbari , Janajajok , Boro Paap Hey , Ujangonga , Lokkhir Pachali , • Showar, Unish Bish , Shatkahon , Aabash , Shoronagoto , Ferari, Din jay rat jay, Bondinibash , Buno hanser palok , Nikotkotha , Sroddhanjali , Kulokundolini, Ora ebong oder maayera, Haaramir haatbaksho , Takapoysa, Ei ami renu, Teerthojaatri , Bile paani nei • • & for younger readers : • Khutimari Range , Khunkharapi, Kalimpong e Sitaharan and many others. Awards: Ananda Purashkar 1982, Sahitya Akademi Award -1984 for Kalbela

Malady of love

- by Samaresh Majumdar (Translated from the Bengali by Gautami Das)

 “Enough is enough,” Shubha exclaimed. “There’s no point anymore.”

It was three in the morning. Goutam had just driven himself back home. He didn’t drink at night, especially if he had to drive. Letting himself in with his own door key, Goutam found Shubha sitting on the couch holding a book. Her words hit Goutam as soon as he walked in.

    “Well…” Goutam paused.

    “Don’t give me any excuses. Our love is dead; it’s time we give it a decent burial and end this.” Shubha stood up to go inside.

Suddenly, Goutam’s heart skipped a beat in pure joy.  Divorce!  Really? Trying not to show his elated excitement, Goutam didn’t say a word.

    “I bet you have nothing to say.” That’s typical Shubha, always answering her own questions.

Goutam looked at her. She was looking rather pretty. It had been a long time since he kissed her. This wonderful proposal definitely deserves a forty-second kiss, he thought. “May I kiss you?” Goutam was dead serious.

Shubha’s face hardened, “Really, you are a beast!” She left the room. Goutam heard her bedroom door slam with a bang.

In his own room, Goutam laid himself on his comfortable bed without changing into his pajamas. For a long time he had been wanting to hear this, waiting for Shubha to ask for a divorce. He knew he would be more than happy to get a divorce, but he just couldn’t propose it himself. He couldn’t. What if Shubha posed the inevitable question, “Why do you want to be free now? Why did you love me in the first place?”

“Why did I love her?” Goutam asked himself lying down.  Then, he had no choice; he had to love her. But, now, Goutam knew they couldn’t live together any longer although that didn’t mean he had stopped loving her. If he didn’t, how could he want to kiss her?  How could you lick someone’s lips if you don’t feel any love? However, it was also true that they were not compatible. Goutam appreciated Shubha’s honesty—it made him love her a bit more at that moment.

“That’s life,” Goutam thought, “you lose some, you gain some.” When Goutam came home he was in a bad mood, but he was feeling happy now. It never crossed his mind that Shubha was seriously thinking of separation. For the last three years, they had been sleeping in separate bedrooms; they didn’t have any real conversations anymore. Shubha had her complaints—the typical complaints wives have against their wayward husbands. Goutam did try to change a few things; he promised not to drink after eight in the evening. Because only the hardcore drunkards drink before sun down, Goutam decided he would only drink between six and eight—he never considered himself an alcoholic. For last three months, he had been true to his promise. He had been to parties, played cards, ate snacks, but never did he touch a drink after eight, even when he was pressured by his buddies. They made fun of him, called him henpecked, yet, when he drove home in the dead of the night, his head was clear. He could see every detail of the road as if he were driving at midday.
Enough is enough. There’s no point anymore. That’s Shubha. She could always express herself with such precision. “There’s no point anymore” meant she was ready for a divorce. She would move out of the house. Her family lived in another city; she wouldn’t be able to continue her teaching job living with them. She might get college housing, a small apartment. Their house was at least three times bigger than that tiny college apartment. Suddenly Goutam realized that, for last six months, he had not even set foot in some corners of his own house. What good was this big house doing them?

He tried to remember Shubha’s face. Why did she get so upset? All he wanted was to kiss her! When did they last kiss? It was so hard to remember. Definitely not in last three years. Before that, when? He needed to remember; this uncertainty was killing him. “Why not ask Shubha? She never forgets anything,” Goutam thought. He remembered their first night together after the wedding. In his rush, Goutam came to bed skipping his nightly routine of brushing his teeth. Shubha kept reminding him of this little incident for a long time afterwards. Grabbing his mobile phone on an impulse, Goutam typed out a text message to her: “When did you last kiss?  I mean, kiss me?” As soon as he pressed the send button, he realized what he had done. Why did he write the second part?  Did he ever suspect Shubha of cheating on him? Had he ever thought Shubha was having an affair? Had this thought been brewing in some deep subconscious level of his mind?  It wasn’t right; he shouldn’t have added that part. But, the button had been pressed. Like a thrown arrow, a sent message can never be unsent.  He was quite apprehensive about the reply he was going to receive. But the phone never rang. After waiting for what seemed like a long time, Goutam closed his eyes.

It was quite late when he woke up. Gopal’s mother, their housekeeper, had already put his first cup of tea on the bedside table along with the newspaper when he got out of the bathroom. As he took his first sip, the phone rang. A woman’s voice demanded, “Whose number is this?”

“You called me. Tell me who you are,” Goutam could not disguise his annoyance.

“You sent me a message last night. Why would you send me such an obscene message? Who are you?”

“I didn’t send you any messages.”

“Don’t lie. Of course you did. You sent me a message early in the morning.”

“Look, I don’t know you; I don’t even know your number. Why and how would I send you a message?”

“I am doing the questioning here. Do you know I can go to the police for this?  How old are you?”

“Thirty…eight,” Goutam slipped, “but, I would never write anything obscene to someone I don’t even know.”

“Alright. Hang up; let me forward your message back to you. Call me back after you are done reading it. You’ll be in trouble if you don’t.”

The line got disconnected. Goutam couldn’t make anything of this conversation. What a mess, he thought.

    He turned his mobile on. A text message! Of course, “When did you last kiss? I mean kiss me?” Oh shit! He checked the number. The number he sent this message to ended with 21;Shubha’s mobile number ended with 12. Riddle solved.  At least, he felt relieved that Shubha didn’t get the message.  Now, all he needed to do was calm this woman down.  He dialed her number. She answered immediately, “Well, what do you say now?”

    “Believe me, I dialed the wrong number last night; it was a mistake.”

    “What were you doing at that hour? Drinking? Do you drink?”

    “A little, every once in a while. Would you just forget and forgive?”

    “No, tell me first—to whom did you write this junk?”

    “You want the truth?”

    “I don’t like to be lied to.”

    “I wrote it to my wife who is still forced to be called my wife.”

    “What do you mean forced?”

    “She doesn’t want to be my wife anymore. She’s already talking about getting a divorce.”

    “That’s natural. Why should she stay married to a drunk who sends vulgar messages in the middle of the night? You are fortunate I was not awake when the message actually arrived. I’d have called the cops right then. So, has the divorce been filed?”

    “Almost there.”

    “I must say you have guts sending her this message now! If her lawyer produced that in court, the Judge would double your alimony. You’re lucky that I got it. Bye.” She hung up.

Goutam breathed a sigh of relief.
   
It was a holiday. After the housekeeper left for the grocery store, Shubha paged Goutam asking him to meet her in the living room. Goutam found her sitting on the couch indifferently.

    “Well?” Goutam sat opposite her.
   
“Are you going to contest, or should we go for a mutual divorce?”
   
“Have I ever contested you?”

    “Bullshit. I talked to my lawyer this morning. The law says a couple has to live separately before a divorce is filed. My lawyer said after she files the divorce, it will take about six months for the hearing. We should live in separate residences for those six months. Then she won’t have to lie to the court.”

    “We must abide by the rule.”

    “Today is the twenty-fifth. I’ll move to my college housing on the first.”

    “You can stay here. I’ll find another …”
“Oh, you want people to say I forced you out of your house!  No, I’ll move out. Is there anything else you want to say?” Shubha stared at him.

“See, I don’t know law, but if we go for mutual consent, you might not get any alimony. Should we consult the lawyer?” Goutam asked.

“I do not want any money from you. I married you because I loved you. Now that our love is dead, it is over. I don’t want your money.”

“Shubha, that’s not true. Love never dies.”

“Of course it does. You have strangled it yourself!”

“There were two loves. May be yours died.”

“And yours is still alive? You are so selfish. All these years you have accused me of losing my temper, of controlling you, of wrapping you around my finger, of forcing you to do things you don’t want to do. Day after day, haven’t you slandered me?”

“Yes, I have,” Goutam nodded,  I have to admit.”

“Didn’t you say you’d never have married me if you knew the real me?”

“Yes, I did. I thought it’d be better if we separated rather than bickered with one another.”

“That’s the chance I am giving you now.”

“Thanks for that, but my love isn’t dead yet. It may be diseased, but not dead.”

“There is really no point talking to you. I am leaving on the first; I’ll take Gopal’s mother with me. We’ll be just fine.”

“Her?” Now Goutam was genuinely concerned, “Is she going with you?”

“What do you mean?”

“But, how will I survive without her? She takes care of me; she cooks, she cleans, she shops. What would I do without her?  She isn’t going anywhere.”

“Impossible. I hired her, and she is going with me.” Shubha left the room.  Goutam started to feel helpless. He stayed home all day and made some phone calls and found out that there was a food delivery service available in their neighborhood. He could get something from them for one meal, and the rest he would eat out. He also talked to an agency which provided domestic help. They said they could send someone to work for him. The lady on the phone wanted to know Goutam’s choice, “Do you want someone quite young, or would you prefer an elderly person?”

“I don’t care. Someone who can do the job and not rude or impolite, I guess.”

“Ok, I’ll send you a woman about fiftyish?  You will pay her one hundred per day. I could get you a younger girl, but that will cost you more money.”

“How so?”

“Well, you know there’s a risk factor.”

“What?”

“You are all by yourself… you understand? The younger women may feel a little threatened.”
   
“No, no. Send the fifty year old.” Goutam replaced the receiver. He was feeling much better knowing that he would be taken care of after all.

     Recently he had not been drinking at home. He never drank at home after Shubha stopped sleeping with him. That day he did. He started at six and finished by eight. At nine he started watching Gupi Gayen for the second time. The phone rang around eleven. He picked up; the same woman was on the phone, “May I ask you a question?”

    “Go ahead.”

    “If your relationship is over, why do you need to know when she last kissed you?” Her voice sounded keen.

    “Because I forgot.”

    “Why did you write that part about kissing you? Do you think she might be kissing someone else?”

    “I don’t know. I wasn’t thinking straight.”

    “If she asks you the same question?”

    “I’d probably say I forgot.”

    “Suppose she wants to know if you kissed somebody else?”

    “No, not every lip is worth kissing.”

    “Really? What kind of lip do you like?”

    “The lips that attract me.”
   
“What sort of lips attract you? The cherry red ones?”

    “No, maybe a warm smile, I don’t really no.”

    “Are you at home now?”

    “Yes.”

    “Are you drinking?”

    “I’ve finished already. Now I am watching Gupi Gayen.”

    “ Unbelievable. You are watching that movie after a peg or two?”

    “What are you doing?”

    “Lying down, smoking.”

    “Okay.”

    “What do you think about a Bengali woman smoking a cigarette? Are you repulsed?”
   
“Why should I, if your family has no problem with it.”

    “I have no family. I live alone.”

    “I see.”

    “Aren’t you curious?”

    “I didn’t say anything.”

    “I have to admit although I was pretty angry at first, I found your message quite intriguing. I tried to remember when I last kissed someone.”

“Could you?”

“No.  Totally forgot, like you. Anyway, go back to your movie.” She hung up.

She did not call the following day. Goutam felt unsettled. What does she want? He’d rather have a conversation going. The police can easily trace a phone call. He would be in serious trouble if that happened. Shubha would never believe that he sent that message to a stranger by mistake. Mutual divorce would be out of the question. Surely, her lawyer would convince her to accuse him of adultery. If only he could convince the woman not to press charges.

Nobody can leave a long-occupied residence with just a suitcase. Goutam knew Shubha was getting ready to move out. He tried not to care.

He came home around nine at night. His friends were drinking at the club, but he didn’t feel like it. The housekeeper asked him if he wanted his dinner.

“Right now? Isn’t it too early?”

“I’m not feeling well. She isn’t home.”

“Where is she?”

“I don’t know. She said she wouldn’t come home tonight.”

“Just leave it in the oven. I’ll eat later.”

She did as was told. Goutam was pensive. Shubha did never spend a night outside their home. Where did she go? Well, after the first, she would spend all her nights somewhere else. Why should he worry now?

    The phone rang. “Hallo,” he answered.

    “How are you?” Asked the familiar voice.

    “Alive,” Goutam sighed.

    “Missing your wife already?” She sounded amused.

    “You find it funny?”

    “Listen, I went through the same thing.”

    “Really!”

    “What’s your name? It feels strange talking to a nameless person.”

    “Why?  I prefer it this way.”

    “It feels like I’m talking to a ghost,” she was laughing.

    “I am Goutam.”

    “That’s it? Goutam what?”

    “Pakrashi, Goutam Pakrashi.”

    “Funny name. Do you want to know my name?”

    “If you want.”
   
“You sound quite indifferent.”
   
“No, no, please tell me.”

    “Suchitra Dutta. My father was a big fan of Suchitra Sen.” Goutam could hear her laugh.

“Goutam, I was thinking.” She said.
   
“Thinking what?”
   
“What if I talk to your wife?”

    “Why?’ Goutam became tense.

“Why not? We could become friends.”

“Is that necessary?”

“Let me think about it. Good night.”

Goutam couldn’t even guess what was going on. He felt restless.
   
The following night he was waiting for the call with rising nervousness, but the phone didn’t ring. Gopal’s mother called him around ten, “She is calling you.”

Goutam was lying on his bed; he sat up. Usually Shubha wouldn’t talk to her so late at night. “Is it Suchitra Dutta? Has she contacted Shubha?” Goutam wondered.

    He walked into the living room. Shubha came out of her room a minute later, “I need to tell you something.”

    Goutam didn’t say a word.

    “I just found out that I am not getting the apartment right now. It might take a month.”

    “Well.”

    “So, I can’t leave on the first.”

    “I never said anything. Go whenever you want.”

    “It’s not about what I want. I am leaving because I have to.” Shubha was walking away.

    “One thing…” Goutam said.

    Shubha stopped.

    “I have a problem.”

    “Why should I bother?”

    “You might get bothered.”
   
“What do you mean?”

    “The night when you finally told me your decision, I sent you a text message,” Goutam said in a hushed voice.

    “To me?”

    “Yes, but I messed up the number.”

    “I am not surprised. That proves you are a drunkard. After all these years how could you not remember my mobile number?”

“I never talk to you on your mobile phone.”

“As if you talk to me otherwise!”

“No, can’t say I do.”

“So?”

“That message was sent to some woman’s phone. Since then that woman has been attacking me.”

“What did you write?”

“Something that I could have written only to you. I understand why she feels insulted, I have apologized, but she is adamant.”

“What can I do? You have to suffer the consequences of your own stupidity.”

“What if she contacts you?”

“I don’t want to get involved,” Shubha faced him directly, “What did you write?”

Goutam stroked his own cheek, “I was feeling kind of sentimental. Tried to remember our past, but couldn’t remember when the last time I made love to you was. I just wanted to know.”

“Oh God!” Shubha gasped.

“Yes, something like that.”

“What did you write exactly? You wanted to kiss me right after I mentioned divorce. You must have written something about kissing.”  Shubha closed her eyes trying to remember something. “Strange, I can’t remember anything either. You are one of a kind. I’ll let you know if it comes to me.” She left.

Goutam felt much calmer as he came back to his room. He was sure Shubha would not care if the woman called her.

Next night the call came at eleven.

“Goutam,” her voice cracked.

“Yes.”

“I want to see you.”

“What?”

“If I ever kissed you, and if you couldn’t remember my kiss, would you have sent me a text?”

“We don’t have that kind of relationship.”

“I know, but it could happen, couldn’t it?”

“What are you saying?”

“I am jealous. You could have sent me the message, I mean to me. Goutam, I’m sorry if I offended you. I apologize. Can we meet?”

“Meet?”
“Yes, come to my apartment. We’ll just talk,” Suchitra Dutta said. “Your wife won’t know anything until she becomes your ex.”

“Let me think about it,” Goutam turned the phone off.

He regretted talking to Shubha about Suchitra Dutta. Shubha never talked to him in such a voice. He wished this call had come before his last conversation with Shubha.

The next day Goutam changed his number.