Original story: by Sharodindu Bandopadhaye 1899-1970. (Author of Byomkesh Bakshi series).
Newly graduated barrister Nondolal was relaxing in the drawing room of his Amherst Street house and reading a newspaper while occasionally puffing at his cigar. The smoke filled the entire room, sometimes making it quite dark. It was almost seven thirty in the morning when all of a sudden his friend Promothonath showed up in his room. “Ah this smoke! I knew it had to be you,” said Promotho, trying to suppress his cough, “how can you sit in this well of fire?”
Nondo put down the newspaper and said gleefully, “I am not a foreign- returned sanyasi like you that I will give up smoking cigars.”
Promotho made himself comfortable on a chair. “The sanyasi name actually suits you better.
“Your addiction to ganja and cigar is killing you,” he said.
Nondo laughed. “Are you angry my brother? But I did not compare you to a ganja addicted sanyasi.”
Nondo and Promotho were not childhood friends; however, their circumstantial friendship had turned into something quite deep. Nondo was dark, well built, and strong with spectacles. Witty and confident, he was not the handsomest of men but he was not bad looking either. Lean and fair, Promotho had a definite glow on his face. He had a touch of softness to this character, which made him quite incapable of refusing anybody’s request.
Promotho, heir to great wealth and fortune, had gone abroad to study law. Nondo was the first Bengali he met while studying there.
However, Nondo’s history of going abroad was quite complex. Born in a poor family, Nondo was ambitious and had a burning to desire to go abroad for higher studies. He did not like the idea of taking help from his relatives.
One day, he found a job on a ship en route to London. Once in London, he supported himself by working as a porter. Luck smiled on Nondo when he accidentally ended up carrying Promotho’s luggage. Young and alone in an alien land, Nondo and Promotho became friends. Promotho agreed to pay for Nondo’s education.
In course of time, the two friends became barristers and returned to Kolkata. Nondo started his own business and made a decent income. Promotho, on the other hand, remained unemployed; he spent his time reading newspaper, discussing politics and hunting.
“When will you stop smoking that cigar?” asked Promotho.
“Not before Yamdoot takes me with him,” replied Nondo. “You will quit smoking once a special person comes in your life,” said Promotho.
“And by that you probably mean my future wife, whosoever she may be! Well do you think she will be more powerful than Yamdoot himself?”
“Women! Yes they are powerful,” said Promotho.
“Ah! That is precisely the reason why I stay away from women,” said Nondo.
“So you are not getting married.”
“No,” replied Promotho happily.
“This is news to me. Can you be kind enough to tell me the reason?” asked Promotho.
“Marriage is an old ideology. There is no romance in that anymore,” replied Nondo, picking up his newspaper.
“My dear friend! That is where we seem to differ. I still believe marriage is a new beginning just like a new year,” said Promotho.
“Look here is the proof. Marriage has become so trivial that even newspapers carry these ads,” replied Nondo, throwing the paper towards his friend. Promotho picked up the paper and started reading it with utmost attention.
“I feel tired. I need a cup of tea. It is not yet eight o’clock. It will probably be one o’clock by the time you go back home and have lunch,” said Nondo.
Promotho was too busy reading the paper. He did not reply. Nondo asked the servant to get him a cup of tea.
Promotho seemed amused by something he was reading.
“Ah ha listen to this ad,” so saying he read aloud, “Wanted a young barrister bridegroom for a rich beautiful and accomplished Baidya girl. Girl’s age sixteen.”
“Ah ha there you are the barrister groom. Fast. Send an application. It will be romantic,” said Promotho.
“I am not the only barrister here. I think you are the suitable groom for this sixteen year old,” replied Nondo.
“Never. As long as Nondolal Sengupta is here, Promotho will not dare to do this,” laughed Promotho.
“Then let it be. Let some other barrister go for this one,” said Nondo with a sly smile.
However, Promotho remained adamant. He wanted to have some fun. Nondo gave up.
“All right then. You may send the application if you so desire.”
“Uuh not me. You do.”
“This is not fair Promotho. You want to have fun…… well then, let us do a lottery. Whosoever’s name comes up, gets to write.”
Promotho had no choice but to agree to his friend’s proposal.
As luck would have it, Promotho’s name came up the lottery.
“Bhagyam phalati sarvatram na vidyang na cha pouruhang,” cried Nondo.
“Oh have mercy on Sanskrit language my friend,” said Promotho.
“Let’s make haste. What should we write in Bengali or English?” asked Nondo.
“Bengali I guess.”
Nondo picked up a paper and pen and started writing,
I am a barrister; I want to marry the girl mentioned in the ad
“I think it will be better if you remove my name from the application. Put a fictitious name. It will be very romantic,” said Promotho trying to find an excuse to avoid writing his name in the letter.
“All right. What name would you suggest?”
“A synonym for the word Promotho.”
“Very well then. What is the meaning of the word Promotho?”
Nondo’s young sister Amiya who had come to serve tea to the men interrupted them. Slim and pretty, she wore a sari in the traditional Bengali style. She was not married. Nondo’s parents had passed away soon after his return from London. Amiya was his closest relative now.
Promotho felt uncomfortable and shy.
“Does the name mean anything romantic?” asked Nondo.
Amiya had just kept the cups on the table. She burst out laughing.
“Amiya, do you know the meaning of Promotho?” Nondo asked his sister.
Amiya threw a glance at Promotho and grinned.
“Why don’t you write Bhootnath,” cried Promotho.
Nondo got the hint. He understood the meaning of his friend’s name and started laughing. He cut the word “Promotho” from the application and wrote “Bhootnath” instead.
Amiya got curious. She tried to peek at the letter. However, Promotho was feeling embarrassed and uneasy. As he hurriedly sipped his tea, he cried, “Ah my tongue…”
“Is it too hot?” asked Amiya.
By now Promotho was feeling so shy that he could not even look at Amiya. He hastily took another sip from the cup and this time he was careful enough not to cry aloud.
“What about the photograph? I do have your photo somewhere…” so saying Nondo reached for an album lying on a side table in one corner of the room. He was so engrossed in his act that he did not hear his sister leave.
“Hmmm I cannot find your photo. Where can it go?” asked Nondo.
The one who had heard the footsteps of Amiya leaving blushed. “It must be there somewhere….”
“No it is not here. Look at this page. Somebody must have removed it from here. It is empty. Amiya, hey Amiya…..” cried Nondo
“Ugh why don’t you send your photo instead?” asked Promotho.
Nondo stared at his friend for a brief moment and then burst out laughing. “What are your intentions my dear friend? So many lies in one letter… I hope I don’t go to jail.”
“Don’t worry Nondo. You will not go to jail. Send the photo. That does not mean you have to marry,” assured Promotho.
Nondo obeyed. “All right then. From this moment on, I am your guardian. I will talk to the girl’s family if they do respond,” replied Nondo. He put his own address just in case the other party was interested. He sealed the letter and took a sip from his cup.