For Books by Rabindranath and others, visit
The Parabaas Bookstore


 




[an error occurred while processing this directive]
There's no enemy any more

Ramanath Ray


Translated from the Bengali by Palash Baran Pal




Raju declared, “I will marry Disha.”

Raju's father said, “Impossible. You cannot marry Disha.”

This put Raju in a fix. His mother had passed away two years ago. If she were alive, there would not have been any problem at all. She would have argued with her husband, taking Raju's side. Raju's father's objections would not hold water. Mother would have made sure that Raju would get married to Disha. Raju dearly felt his mother's absence after a long time. He had no idea of what to do. But he did not give up. He asked his father helplessly, “Why can't I?”

Raju's father said, “We are rightists. Disha's father is a leftist. We have been enemies for a long time. That's why this marriage is impossible. In our scriptures, it is written that if such marriages occur in one's family, one will be ostracized by the clan. We would be shunned by the society. That would not be a good thing, would it?”

Raju felt like laughing. Disha's father was leftist. What had that got to do with Disha? “Disha is not involved in anything political. She does not subscribe to any ism anywhere.”

Raju's father explained, “You know that a Brahmin's son is a Brahmin and a Kayastha's son is a Kayastha. Likewise, a leftist's children are leftists, a rightist's children are rightists. We cannot do anything about it. But of course, one can officially change one's religion through a proper ceremony. Our scriptures approve of that.”

Raju could see the light at the end of the tunnel. He said, “Then that's the way to go. You call a ceremony conductor, I will be transformed to leftism.”

Raju's father said, “Shame on you! Don't even think about such things!”

Raju was stupefied. He said, “Why?”

“One should not give up his ancestor's religion. One should try to uphold it.”

“Suppose I don't do that? Suppose I change my religion?”

“In my opinion, it is better to be dead than to give up the religion of your ancestors.”

Raju did not say anything in reply. It seemed to him that what his father was saying was correct. One should not give up one's ancestral religion. But what would happen then to him? Would he not get married to Disha?

— 2 —

At one time, Disha's father had gone through some economic hardship. He lived in a very crowded township. He lived a miserable life. Then, with suggestions from his friends and well-wishers, he delved into politics and made a lot of money. He built a house for himself in Salt Lake and moved there. He did not keep any connection with the people from his old township. He had become a political leader, and spent time with the rich and the famous. Disha was his only child. His wife passed away after giving birth to Disha. Since then, he had brought up Disha with great care and affection. Disha meant everything to him. Now, Disha was twenty-five years old. She ought to get married. Without Disha's knowledge, her father started looking for a good leftist boy. When Disha came to know about it she fumed and advised her father, “Don't try to arrange my marriage.”

Disha's father startled and said, “Why?”

“I won't marry anyone except Raju.”

Disha's father shuddered and said, “That's impossible. Raju comes from a rightist family. We are leftists. Our scriptures forbid any marital alliance between these two communities.”

“I don't care for those rules.”

“You cannot just say that. One has to obey the scriptures.”

“What if I don't?”

“If you don't, then we will be ostracized. I won't be allowed to contest any election in the future. My party will expel me. We will be looked down upon. That won't be good, would it?”

Disha said angrily, “Then what are we supposed to do?”

Disha's father said, “There is a way out. You ask Raju to change his religion and become a leftist. Then there won't be any problem.”

“And if he doesn't want to do that?”

“Why shouldn't he want to, if you ask him to?”

“Well, he may not. Worse, he might be angry with me.”

“In that case, you ask him to come here. Let me talk to him.”

“That's a good idea”, said Disha, and called Raju immediately, “Dad wants to talk to you about our marriage. Can you come today?”

“Today I am very busy at the office. I wouldn't be able to make it.”

“Then when will you be able to make it?”

“Tomorrow. But will the talks do any good?”

“How will you know, until you talk?”

“Right. I will be there after my office tomorrow. Ask your father to be there.”

— 3 —

Raju came the next day, around seven in the evening. Disha's father said, “Sit down please.”

Raju sat on the sofa. But he did not sit by the side of Disha's father. Instead, he sat facing Disha's father. Disha stood by her father.

Disha's father did not beat around the bush. He asked, “You want to marry Disha?”

Raju said, “Yes.”

“What do you do for your living?”

“I have a job.”

“How much do you earn?”

“Thirty thousand and three hundred.”

Disha's father was pleased by the amount. However, he did not express his satisfaction. He asked Raju, “Is your father a professor?”

“Yes.”

“Apart from your father and you, who else is there in your family?”

“No one.”

“Who does cooking, washing and cleaning around the house?”

“Don't feel apprehensive about such things. Disha will not have to do these things. We have paid people who do these things.”

“That house, do you own it?”

“Yes.”

“You belong to the Kayastha caste, right?”

“Yes.”

“Which clan?”

“Kashyap.”

“Do your ancestors come from West Bengal?”

“Yes.”

“Good”, said Disha's father. “Our ancestral home was in East Bengal. We are Brahmins. Our clan is Shandilya. But these differences will not stand in the way of your marriage. The problem lies elsewhere. Your family is rightist, and we are leftists. The scriptures forbid marriages between rightists and leftists. Therefore, you cannot get married to Disha. But if you change your religion, things will change and the marriage will become possible. If you have loved Disha, if you want to marry Disha, get baptized into leftism.”

Raju declared solemnly, “I love Disha. I want to marry Disha. But my father told me that one should not give up his ancestral religion. Rather, one should protect it. I cannot defy my father. So it is impossible for me to become a leftist. I wish that Disha becomes a rightist instead. That will solve the problem that we face now.”

Disha snapped, “Impossible. I don't want to give up my ancestral religion. I am a leftist and I want to remain a leftist. I don't want to be a rightist in exchange of anything in the world.”

Disha's father was very happy to hear this. He said, “That sounds like my daughter.”

Disha was not at all pleased with the compliments. She added, “But, I also say that I won't marry anyone except Raju. If necessary, we will go to the marriage registrar's office and file marriage papers there. Let's see.”

Disha's father shuddered at the idea. He said, “Don't even think of doing such a thing. If you marry that way, the society will not accept us anymore. Even your children will have a hard time getting any job anywhere. I think it is much better that you wash your hands off Raju. These days, there are many rich people among the leftists. So we will have no problem finding a good match for you.”

Disha said, “I don't want a good match. If I marry, I will marry Raju. The alternatives are: I will remain unmarried all my life, or I commit suicide.”

Disha's father got very angry at this remark and said, “That is a lousy thought. Shame on you.”

Disha said, “Then you find a way so that Raju and I can get married. Maybe you can talk to Raju's father about it, can't you? I don't see why there's so much animosity between the two of you.”

Disha's father calmed down and said, “Fine. I will see what I can do. But promise me not to think about suicide any more. That's not a good thing.”

Raju was quiet for a while. He then nodded and said, “I agree with you. I also don't approve of suicide as a solution to unfulfilled love.”

— 4 —

Disha's father went to meet Raju's father. He introduced himself very politely, “I am Disha's father. I have come to you to discuss a matter of great importance.”

“Please come in”, said Raju's father, and offered him a place to sit. Then he asked, “Would you like to have a cup of tea?”

Disha's father smiled and said, “No.”

Raju's father said, “Now, tell me what can I do for you.”

Disha's father asked very politely, “Do you know that your son goes around with my daughter?”

Raju's father replied solemnly, “Yes I do. But that doesn't prove anything.”

“It proves that your son loves my daughter.”

“Does your daughter love my son as well?”

“She sure does. Otherwise, why would she go around with him?”

“You should ask her not to go around with my son.”

“She won't listen. Why don't you ask your son not to go around with my daughter?”

“He won't listen. He says he won't marry anyone except your daughter.”

“Likewise, my daughter says that she won't marry anyone except your son.”

“And yet, this marriage has to be stopped. A rightist cannot marry a leftist. This is against all scriptures.”

“I know that very well. But we need to think of a way of saving the poor kids. Otherwise, I am afraid that they will do something nasty. My daughter is contemplating suicide.”

Raju's father was really surprised to hear this. He said, “The problem has gone too far. It is difficult to understand the young generation.” He paused for a little while and added, “I think it is really a matter of your daughter threatening you. She is assuming that you will be afraid if she talks about suicide. So I suggest that you should not feel afraid at all. Rather, you tell your daughter that she can commit suicide if she wants to. Let's see what she does. It is not so easy to commit suicide.”

Disha's father said in a very quiet tone, “These are your angry words. I, as a father, can never tell my daughter that she can commit suicide if she wants to. It is simply not possible.”

Raju's father thought for a while and then said, “Okay, I have another idea.”

Disha's father eagerly asked, “What?”

“If our children have to be married to each other, let us send them abroad right after the marriage. They cannot possibly stay in this country. Let them live in some other country. Then we will be able to convince everyone else that you and I did not condone their marriage, so we have disowned them and sent them to exile. In that case, our images in our parties or among the people would not be tarnished. We will remain rightist and leftist just as before. If these two get married and stay here, then both of us will suffer. Our political existence will be threatened.”

Disha's father almost jumped with joy and said, “That's a great idea. I couldn't imagine that such a complicated problem had such a beautiful solution. This is the reason why I believe, deep inside my heart, that the rightists are our real friends.”

Raju's father smiled and said, “I also believe very sincerely that the leftists are our true friends. We the rightists exist because the leftists exist.”

Disha's father said, “At the same time, we leftists exist because rightists exist.”

Raju's father said, “Now let us have some tea together. I won't accept no as a response.”

Disha's father agreed, “Yes, now we can have some tea peacefully.”

— 5 —

Raju did not have to initiate any discussion. Before he did anything, his father summoned him and said, “After thinking about the matter carefully, I now have no objection to your marriage with Disha. There is only one condition: you won't stay in this country after your wedding. You will have to live in some other country. But there's no need to be apprehensive of this condition: all arrangements will be made for you.”

Raju was curious. He asked, “Why should we have to go to another country after our wedding?”

“You know that this marriage should never have happened. If you two get married and live here, you two will be in trouble, and so will we. We have had to struggle a lot since our childhood to reach such positions in our political careers. We cannot let everything go down the drain because of you. So, in our best interest, you will have to leave the country.”

“But we don't want to go away. We want to stay in our country.”

“That's not possible. We are guarding your interest, so you should also guard ours.”

As happy as Raju was on hearing that he could marry Disha, he felt equally dejected when he heard that they must leave. He could not decide what to do or what to say. He remained silent.

At about the same time, Disha's father also summoned Disha and said, “I have good news for you.”

Disha guessed what the good news could be, and said, “I assume that the good news is that you will not object to my marrying Raju, right?”

“That's right, but you won't be able to stay in the country after your wedding. You will have to live in some other country. But don't worry: we will make all the arrangements.”

“But we want to stay in this country. We can of course go abroad for our honeymoon. But we cannot live abroad forever. I will miss you very much and feel miserable.”

“Don't worry about that. I will visit you from time to time.”

Disha remained silent for a while and then said, “Those who cannot find a good job here go abroad. Why should we go? Raju has a very good job here. No Dad, we won't go anywhere after we get married. We will stay here.”

Disha's father got angry and said, “Don't say that. Listen to what I say. I am allowing this marriage only to make you happy. Wouldn't you also try to see what makes me happy? Wouldn't you think about my interests? I have reached a high point in my political career. Don't try to pull me down to dust.”

Disha had no idea what to say. She should look at her father's interest just because her father was looking at hers? That was strange! Disha felt very angry. Of course, she did not express it. Instead, she met Raju once and told him about the whole incident. Then she added, “I don't know what you have in your mind. But I want to stay in this country.”

Raju said, “That's exactly how I feel. We will not leave our country after marriage.”

Disha said, “Then let's do something.”

“What?”

“You write a letter to our Prime Minister, explaining our problem. Let's see what advice he can give us.”

Raju thought for a moment and said, “If we really decide to write a letter, we should write it to the Secretary-General of the United Nations. He is an expert in problem-solving.”

Disha beamed with joy. She said, “Do it. And at the same time, invite him to our wedding. It would be nice if he can attend.”

— 6 —

The date of the wedding was fixed to be the twentieth of February. Raju sent a letter to the Secretary General of the United Nations, saying, “You will have to come to our wedding. We won't accept any excuses for not coming.” And then he added a separate note: “We are going through a lot of trouble. My father is a rightist. My would-be father-in-law is a leftist. In our country, these two kinds are at loggerheads with each other. As a result, marriage between a leftist family and a rightist family is forbidden. If, in spite of the social taboo, a young man and a young woman from the two communities get married to each other, society ostracizes their entire families. In addition, the newly-wed couple has to go through so much of social torture that suicide is the only end left open for them. My father and my would-be father-in-law, because of their kindness to us, have agreed to our getting married. But they have one condition: we will have to leave the country after our wedding. We don't want to leave our motherland. You are a great person. We will be obliged if you try to understand our problem and take necessary action. We are spending our times in great worry. Please help us.”

A few days later, Raju got a reply from the Secretary General of the United Nations. This is what the letter said: “I am delighted to receive your letter. The problem that you have mentioned in your letter is very distressing. I have discussed your problem with the presidents of USA, France, China and Russia. I have also talked to the Prime Minister of Great Britain. Everyone is sympathetic towards you. You have no need to worry. I am going to China on the twentieth of February. So, please pardon me for not being able to attend your wedding. I will send a personal envoy to your wedding ceremony to represent me. He will announce a decision of the United Nations that will make you happy.”

Raju leaped with joy after reading the letter. He showed the letter to Disha.

— 7 —

The twentieth of February arrived in no time. The rituals of the wedding would start at 9 pm. The invited guests started arriving from the early evening. The groom's car arrived at 7 pm. The girls performed the welcoming rituals and led the groom inside the house. Raju was accompanied by his father and other relatives and friends. There was a separate room for them. Disha's father led them to that room and asked them to relax in there. Rose water was sprinkled on them. Each one of them was offered a cup of coffee. Some people from the bride's side sat among them. Conversation began to flow.

Disha's father asked Raju's father, “Did you have any trouble finding the place?”

Raju's father said, “Not at all.”

Disha's father said, “There has been a lot of criticism among the leftists regarding this marriage.”

Raju's father said, “The rightists are also not taking this marriage in good humor.”

“Big problem.”

“Yes of course. But I think all criticism will subside once they go abroad after their wedding.”

“I also feel the same.”

Just at that moment, everyone was startled to see a tall healthy white person entering the room. He was flanked by two black bodyguards. They carried rifles. Among the people there, some became terrified at the sight. Some others overcame their initial shock, gathered their courage and advanced towards the white man.

The white man addressed everyone present there and said, “There is nothing to be afraid about. The Secretary General of the United Nations wanted to attend this wedding very much. But he had to go to China for a very special reason, so he could not come. I have come as his representative. The Secretary General has sent his blessings to Raju and Disha. He also has sent his message, taped in a cassette, for everyone in this country. Please hear what he has to say.”

A cassette player started running. “I, the Secretary General of the United Nations, after consultation with the American President and the heads of some other nations, want to convey to you the news that all kinds of religious altercations amongst you is being declared to be prohibited from now on. Instead, from now on all of you will become followers of one single religion, and that will be called `marketism'. All of you will be known as a marketist from now on. If any party calls itself leftist or rightist in the future, strong disciplinary action will be taken against it. They will not be allowed to receive any foreign aid. Even the business houses of the country will not help it at all in the coming elections. Moreover, …”

The taped speech ended at some point. Immediately after that, the white man asked, “Where is Raju's father?”

“Here I am”, said Raju's father, as he came forward.

The white man then asked, “Where is Disha's father?”

“Here I am”, said Disha's father, as he came forward. The white man took one hand of Raju's father and one hand of Disha's father, held them together, and said, “Today marks the end of the long-standing enmity between the two of you. From today onwards, you are not a rightist, you are not a leftist: both of you are marketists. From now on, you should live happily ever after, wrapped in a blanket of amity.”

Raju's father asked, “What will be our words for prayer?”

The white man said, “You will chant liberization, privatization, globalization, nuclearization, dehumanization…”

Disha's father asked, “Shall we have to use the same prayer words?”

The white man smiled and said, “Fine, if you don't want the same chant words, then you should say industry, revelry, rivalry, chemistry, jugglery…”

The people around asked, “And what about the rest of us?”

The white man said, “You are at liberty to say whatever you wish.”

Some of the people started chanting, “Altercation, simplification, fornication…”

Some others said, “Jewelry, scenery, slippery, theory…”

The white man then called Raju to his side. He called Disha as well. He put two diamond rings on their fingers and said, “You need not go to any foreign country. You can stay here and try to make this country foreign to you. I bless you that you two have a happy married life. Let the aim of your life be liberalization, privatization, industrialization, globalization. Join the voices of the others and chant, industry, revelry, jugglery…”

Raju and Disha could not say anything. Shyly, they stood there, their heads bowed down.



Published in Parabaas, July, 2011.



The original, titled Keu ar shotru noy (কেউ আর শত্রু নয়) by Ramanath Ray is included in his Best Stories (শ্রেষ্ঠ গল্প), published by Banishilpo, Kolkata, 2006.

Translated by Palash Baran Pal [পলাশ বরণ পাল ]. (b. 1955) is a physicist by profession. He mainly writes research articles in his field of research, but ... (more)

Illustrated by Ananya Das. Author of several books and an illustrator, Ananya Das is based in Pennsylvania.



Click here to send your feedback

©Parabaas 2011