Saturday, 28 March 2009

Mukul Revisited

I do not like going to movies. But because of my love for the Feluda stories I accompanied my parents to see ‘Sonar Kella’—the first film that Satyajit Ray made with the story of Feluda (the middle class, intelligent, super sleuth created by Ray himself). That was somewhere in the early eighties, if my memory serves me right.

I fell in love with the film. The immortal characterisation of Lalmohan babu, the photographic tour of majestic Rajasthan, the legendary background score and the handling of the film-making by the master himself, made it a film worth remembering. To my teenaged eyes and mind, it was an experience worth remembering for life.

The film spawned a lot of new stories about Feluda and continues to be the benchmark for the new films being made now in Bengal. But what remained in mind the most is a rather strange thing happening at the end of the story.

The story is based on the quest of a previous life of a child named Mukul who remembers bits of it in his present birth and culminates in him finding his old place of residence in a Golden Fortress in Rajasthan. The film shows the child crossing the ruins mentioning each house with the name of an occupant who used to stay there during his previous birth. Then he approaches his own residence of his previous birth and breaks down into tears in front of it.

As a child and later on too, I have often thought about the reason behind his sudden tears and have never found a plausible reason behind it. After all a child having got what he was looking for, should have laughed out in sheer joy!!!

I have been travelling to Durgapur (the place where I was born and lived up to the first 22 years of my life) quite sporadically of late to meet my professional demands. Durgapur is place of nostalgia to me since the time we left it for good in 1995. Since, the restart of my journeys I had been feeling the ‘call’ to visit the house where I had spent my entire growing up period; the place where my entire childhood and a major part of my youth were spent.

Last week, I had decided to answer the ‘call’ during my visit to Durgapur. The moment I entered the area, memories came flooding into my head. I remembered each of the residential quarters and the names of the occupants who had been my neighbours during the two decades of my stay. I felt like Mukul and just stopped short of mentioning the names of my erstwhile neighbours audibly as I crossed the respective quarters.

Then I stood in front of my beloved house----- the quarter which housed memories of twenty years for me. I looked hard and saw what a lot had changed. The manicured garden is gone, the peripheral hedge has been replaced by concrete fencing, the veranda has been converted into a room and the fruit trees have disappeared. The only remembrance is a single mango tree, planted by my mother, standing tall.

I felt a strange sense of loss, as if, someone has wiped clean a slate containing my childhood.

I suddenly knew why Mukul had cried.