Shampa never ceases to amaze Pranab. Inexplicably she has been very friendly with him this evening after a long period of indifference. Was it six years? Or was it five? It doesn't really matter. They were again talking to each other today. Pranab is very happy and elated. At least, he can leave Dibrugarh happily. He leaves for Pune tomorrow where he works as software professional in a computer firm.
The next day Pranab reached the station timely. As the train chugged out of Dibrugarh station, Pranab settled down in his compartment. There were a few passengers around. No one really spoke much to each other. Pranab prepared for a good rest.
Since yesterday, for even a single moment he couldn't stop thinking about Shampa. He recalled their first meeting. They had first met around eight years back. They were distant cousins, and her Mom, Mrs. Anita Bhattacharyya, had invited him when he came to Dibrugarh for the first time.
He had back then joined Dibrugarh University as technical personnel.
Soon, he was flooded with pleasant memories of yesteryears. After a sumptuous meal, they had an animated chat on diverse topics. They discovered they had several common interests and liking.
In due course, friendship blossomed between them. They saw many movies together. They ate in good restaurants on numerous occasions. Contrary to convention, Pranab rarely had to foot the bills. Shampa, who worked in a bank and was the only daughter of her rich parents, took care of the
payments on almost every occasion. They never made a fuss about it though and it never affected their friendship. They were just happy and enjoyed each other's company. Rather Pranab thought so. Days passed by merrily and their friendship cruised along.
Once they paid a visit to Shillong, Scotland of the East. Shillong is 104 kilometres from Guwahati, the nearest rail-head. After reaching Guwahati, they boarded a bus bound for Shillong. The journey took approximately three and a half hours and was somewhat strenuous.
Shillong is the biggest hill station of India, breathtakingly beautiful and many spots evoke the feeling that one is amidst those Scottish hills and greenery. It is the capital of the state of Meghalaya. Dominated by the three tribal communities Khasi, Jaintia & Garos, it is however very
cosmopolitan. They found people from all parts of India.
Among the many attractive tourist spots they saw included the beautiful Wards Lake. They really enjoyed the boating experience in the lake. They also saw a few waterfalls, Botanical Gardens, Churches, one of the best Golf courses in the whole of Asia, good parks, and the Barapani reservoir - the source of hydroelectric power for the town.
One fine morning they trekked up towards Upper Shillong at a distance of about 10 kilometres
from the town. They got a panoramic view of the whole town from Shillong peak. Elephanta Falls, in the vicinity, was the next to be seen and at this spot they clicked several photos to be taken as souvenir.
The beauty of the town with an abundance of pine trees had them captivated. They could really understand why Nobel laureate Tag ore had such a strong bond with Shillong and wrote some of his dramas like "Raktakarabi" while he was here. Some of Tag ore's other writings like "Sesher kobita" used Shillong as a backdrop.
In the evenings, they took a stroll through Police Bazaar, the hub of the town. They discovered that Shillong is pricey. However, they purchased the famous Naga Shawls for their relatives & a few items from the emporium. They also tried momos at a few restaurants.
During this visit they also made a trip to Cherrapunji at a distance of about sixty kilometres from Shillong. It is famous as the place which received the highest rainfall in the world previously.
While returning back they made a trip to "Ma Kamakhiya" temple. They also saw the zoo, and visited Kaziranga Sanctuary.
Two years passed in a jiffy. By now Pranab was almost smitten by Shampa. Her charm had him fall head over heels in love with her. Pranab felt she too liked him as much.
One day Pranab decided to express his love for Shampa. He knew he was too shy to be able to tell Shampa verbally his undying love for her during their conversation. And so timidly he wrote a letter to her wherein he revealed his inner feelings.
Good times don't last too long. Pranab had judged Shampa wrongly. After she had read the epistle Pranab had written to her, Shampa changed her behavior suddenly. She asked Pranab to destroy the letter and her rejection was conveyed in just a few words. Since then, she abruptly stopped talking with him. She began ignoring Pranab. All of a sudden, their friendship ended leaving Pranab lovelorn.
Occasionally, Pranab used to visit her house under the pretext of meeting her distant aunt. Shampa always avoided him. In this manner, a few months drifted by quickly. Meanwhile, Pranab managed a lucrative job in a computer firm in Pune. He took up the job since future prospect of growth seemed pretty well in the new company.
A new chapter in Pranab's life started in Pune. He worked hard. He climbed up the corporate ladder in a few years. Moreover, he learnt filmmaking alongside and made some realistic documentaries. It won him critical acclaim, and a much deserved recognition.
His trip to Dibrugarh had stopped for a while. The memories of Shampa still remained and haven't dimmed in spite of living in different places. He simply couldn't erase her from his memory. Overpowered by nostalgia, Pranab visited Dibrugarh. He even went to meet Shampa and her mother the very next day. To his utter surprise, Shampa's behavior towards him this time had changed for the better.
Has Shampa started liking him? She hasn't told him though. Could she be in love with him? The difference between their ages is hard to ignore. She is senior to him. She came into this planet eight years before him. He knew their relationship would create a furor if it ever came to light.
Traditional Indian society wouldn't accept them willingly. His parent's would never be able to accept Shampa as their son's bride.
"Is the age factor so important in a marriage?" Pranab asked himself. Why can't most Indian families accept such relationship? "After all my love for Shampa is pure and sacrosanct," he consoled himself.
He doesn't know Shampa's feelings fully yet though. Her recent behavior is an indicator of some kind of love perhaps. Else why did she remain unmarried for so long?
The train arrived at a station. Pranab ordered a cup of tea. As he began sipping from his cup his thought process continued. He remembered Shampa playfully telling him once 'Women, like wine, get better with age.'
Soon, the train started and picked up a tempo. Pranab continued weaving dreams of fantasy involving him and Shampa. Why am I calling it a fantasy? What is wrong with their love?
A few months later, one day in the month of February Pranab received a greetings card. It was a Valentine Day's card. The sender's name inscribed on the card read 'Shampa Bhattacharyya.'