Ashok Kumar Nath
I had hoped my bad childhood habit would disappear, but it did not. The same attraction, liking and earnestness for the plane. Whenever I heard the hum of a plane I would feel the urge to rush out of the house. I took to coming out very carefully and on the sly. I did not feel embarrassed about my action before my mother, but my father’s presence made me a bit shy.
One day I landed at the Lokapriya Gopinath Bordoloi International Airport to buy some books. I saw an airplane from very near, how it landed and took off. I shook all over in awe. I lost my breath at the deafening sound of the huge airplanes. A strange excitement overtook me. The hair on my entire body stood on end. Tears rolled down my cheeks relentlessly. I tried desperately to have a glimpse of the pilot from the edge of the airport premises, but in vain. At one point of time I lost myself in a beautiful airplane and the airplane lost itself in the beautiful sky.
As I returned home from Guwahati by bus, I thought the earth was not spherical, first it was beautiful. I took a number of important decisions on the bus itself; I would surely marry, I would make my child a pilot and one day...
When asked what they want to become in life, most students of my school say their ambition is to become pilots. I feel pleased to hear that. I imagine finding myself as a child in their midst. Sometimes, however, I get worried lest they would inherit my bad habit. Indeed, they did. A few boys really inherited my bad habit. One day a guardian came to my house and said in a lighter tone, “So Rajen, why have you implanted the disease of becoming a pilot in the mind of my son?” I explained to him, “Let it be, let them become pilots. Let them fly across the sky. They were born to fly. Don’t stop them.” The man sipped the tea in silence and after finishing it, said, “You are right.”
I spent another five years after my sister’s wedding putting up with my mother’s logic and protestations. After that there was no way out. I decided to fulfil my parents’ wish. Around that time itself, I incidentally came across Nayana.
Nayana’s parents had died in a road accident when she was only one year old. Hence she grew up in her maternal uncle’s home. I liked her at our first meeting. And one day I tied the nuptial knot with her.
Normally I do not talk less; I talk quite a lot. But Nayana is just the opposite; she only likes to listen. I am basically the witty type. She smiles softly at my humorous remarks. I have a weakness for one more thing; laughter, spontaneous laughter. I respect soft smiles. I like Nayana’s soft smile as much as I like an airplane; an inexplicable attraction.
Sunday noon. I tried in vain to write a poem. Poetry is my favourite food. Of course, till date I have not been able to cook this food myself, only buying and eating the stuff prepared by others. Anyway, Nayana must be in the kitchen. I carefully wrote the title of the poem – Nayana. Momentary silence. The humming sound of an airplane fell on my ears. Nothing else mattered now. As I was about to rise from my seat hurriedly, Nayana came and stood beside me. She held on tightly to one of my hands, ensuring that I would not be able to rise. I was caught red-handed and looked at her shyly. She might have been observing my activities and learnt about my fascination for airplanes from my mother. But I had never told her anything about it. Anyway, since I was caught, nothing could be done about it. I too touched her hands gently. She is now expecting. I said to her, “We will make our child a pilot.” She held my hand more tightly and smiled softly. And taking advantage of that smile a few drops of tears flowed down her cheeks. She responds to whatever I say with a soft smile, she says nothing. Actually she cannot speak, she is dumb. By birth.
As I wiped her tears I suddenly felt like a pilot. The pilot of a soundless airplane.
(Translated from the Assamese by Biman Arandhara)