Haven't I all on a sudden met one of them today, this story might never be born.Ten years ago, I had to take a job in a furniture shop for some days. The shop was big in size and aristocratic in type. Outside, its name was beautifully inscribed in a not-so-big-but-not-so-small signboard, and inside, the items for sale were arranged artistically.
Maybe it was sharp noon. The scorching sun was outside, I still remember. Sliding the glass door, they entered into the shop. The age of the one who entered first would be around post 30. Dark skin, sharp body, wearing an ash-colored pant and a white shirt. A girl after him. Slim figure, sweet face. Dark and big eyes.
I was silently lounging on a chair; noticing them, I stood up and told, 'Please come and sit.'No one sat down. They started viewing the pieces of furniture arranged all around.'You must've come to find some furniture?' I asked.
'Yes', told both simultaneously.'Then keep searching, here you'll find all types of furniture you need. And if you don't like the ready-made pieces, you can, if you wish, leave an order; we'll make the pieces just as you want. We don't do fraudulence.'
Till now they both were listening to me silently and sometimes were watching the surrounding by spinning their eyes like a windlass. As I stopped, the man said, 'We need a lot of furniture, got it?
I mean which are necessary to arrange a room- like, say, an almirah, a beautiful dressing table, a strong bed. A sofa set. Besides, if you'd understand, I'd like an easy chair - o, how relaxedly you can sit stretching your hands and legs, can't you?'
'You're right, that's why they're named 'easy' chair. They're made in such a way so that you can be easy and relaxed when you sit on them. And to tell the truth, a Marwadi ordered five easy chairs a few days ago, he might take those to his house within one or two days. Please come and see in your own eyes. No, no, it's alright to sit down, please sit down. Try sitting down.'
Stretching his body, the man sat down on an easy chair. His face, and especially eyes, seemed to be glowing. He asked some time later, 'What'll be its price?
' 'I won't want from you more than the original price', I said. 'After all you are Bengalis, we are brothers by our nationhood. The price was Taka 150 per chair for the Marwadi. For you Taka 125 is alright.'The man was startled, 'Taka 125!'
I said, 'Tell me what we'd do, for we're not doing our business to cheat people. The pieces require so many materials and so much cost to be made. So, the price will be a little higher. If you go anywhere else - no, you don't have to go far, just go to the next shop, you'll see they will with their alluring words give you a chair also maybe with lower price.
You might think you won, but take that to your home, I can swear, that'll last only six months, or one year, and after that you'll see termites have started eating that. Actually . . .'I wanted to say something else I don't remember.
The girl stopped me in the middle. She was watching with her big and deep eyes a dressing table. Suddenly she exclaimed, 'Look, what a nice table!' While speaking, her face filled with the innocent smile of a child. For a moment she viewed her reflection in the glass and asked, 'How much does it cost?''Not much, Taka 275.'Her smile blew out instantly. Stretching her eye-brows upwards, she said, 'That much money!'
'Yes . . .' I wanted to say something. But that I don't know why stopped in my throat. Eventually I said, 'Look, I won't be able to sell this to you, even if you give Taka 275. A gentleman has had this made with special order with a view to presenting this to his daughter in her wedding. If you want, we can make another one like this for you.'
They observed the dressing table attentively for quite a long time. Then they wanted to know the prices of a bed, some almirahs and a sofa set one after another.I told only what actual prices were. In reply, they expressed their surprise.
I was quite comfortable with them by this time. In the course of our interaction I managed to learn many things about them. Only a few years passed they married. Were living in the town too. The man worked in a government office. The job required very hard work.
Nevertheless, they succeeded to save some money within these years. Now they wanted to decorate their room with some pieces of furniture. This was the high time. Later when children would be born, could it be possible to do these types of shopping?
Never.In the mean time, I ordered two cups of tea and some biscuits in the nearby tea stall. The two seemed to feel shy as I requested them to have tea. The girl didn't say anything. She drank silently. After they finished taking tea, I said, 'So, will you leave some money in advance?'
They both looked at the faces of each other for a moment, then with some hesitation the man said, 'We didn't bring money with us. I'll come tomorrow and leave some money to you as advance for the almirah, the bed, the dressing table and the easy chair.'
The girl said, 'Make sure they remain alright.'I said, 'You don't have to tell that. If the pieces are below standard, our fame will be damaged. You can be sure in this matter.'Sometime later, they went away sliding the glass door just like they came into.
After that incidence, I worked three more years in that shop.The man told that he would come the next day.He didn't come even in the next year.Not even the year after next year.Then ten long years. Haven't I all on a sudden met one of them today, this story might never be born.
The girl may have died by this time, that's why I didn't see her today with the man. I saw him in a furniture shop of one of my friends. When I met him, I noticed that he has evidently turned to an old man in all these years. The face is broken, some white hair in his earlobes. The dresses he wore are dirty.
Standing in the middle of the shop, he was saying as if he were crying, 'We need a lot of furniture, got it? I mean which are necessary to arrange a room. Like, say, a beautiful dressing table, a strong bed - besides, if you'd understand, I'd like an easy chair. Oh, how relaxedly you can sit stretching your hands and legs, can't you?'
(The short story was previously published on ntv. online portal)
The writer is a martyred intellectual,
novelist and filmmaker
Translator: Bishnu Pada Roy
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