‘India is not such a disgraceful country after all!’ – exclaimed Ruskin. He was having a black currant cone ice-cream. His facial expression confirmed he was enjoying every bit of the same. Ruhi watched him for a few moments; then became busy in checking the geometric patterns of her shorts.
Ruskin nodded. ‘No, I mean, you can’t be so morose. You will be visiting your homeland after such a long time!’
‘My homeland is Ireland Ruskin, and… at least, YOU know that!’Ruhi pocketed her emotion, and started walking towards the Ha’penny Bridge. Ruskin couldn’t enjoy his softee anymore. He followed Ruhi. ‘I didn’t mean that honey! Wait, listen to me you Bong!’ He grasped her wheatish palm. Ruhi stopped and grinned.
The evening Sun was on its way back home. Liffey River was blushing as always with her pitch dark water to welcome the clear dark night of the spring. Ruhi was slightly shivering from the cool breeze flowing subtly within the medieval bye-lanes of Dublin. Her chicks were turning red: Ruskin knew, the weather alone was not to be blamed for this. Ruhi was trying to hide the tinkling droplets in her eyes; at the very same time she was feeling Ruskin’s fingers that cuddled hers. The effect was florid indeed.
‘Let’s go to Temple Bar and have some exotic whiskey to cheer up your mood!’ Ruskin controlled his passion to kiss his girl.
‘Why? Is it to celebrate my last evening at your arms?’Ruhi was crestfallen.
‘Of course, not! Listen Ruhi, I am not leaving you at all! But you are fully aware, your Grandmother is not well. She wants to see you once for the last time! Probably, she has even forgotten your face! How many years back, have you met her?’
‘Umm, probably, I was five then. That was the last time, I visited Kolkata.’
‘Calcutta? Or India, dear!’ Ruskin’s eyes narrowed.
‘I beg your pardon!’ Ruhi’s eyebrows squeezed.
Ruskin sat at the harbour chair and closed his eyes. ‘Whenever I close my eyes, I can see the dusk gripping my home land. Regularly, my people are struggling day in and day out to survive. I wish I could fight along with them. But, I can’t. I don’t know, whether my grandparents are alive even. Death is such a casual word there. You are lucky dear. You all have voluntarily moved out of your country. We, as you know, were forced to refuge in some foreign land. I just don’t miss my city, I miss my entire nation. ’
Ruhi understood the underlying pain frothing through the veins of Ruskin. ‘But you have not been to Calcutta, I mean, India! The environment there is so filthy! I even can’t drink water from any source at my will to avoid intestinal infection! The roads are so dirty, horribly crowded! I mean…’
She could not complete her sentence. Ruskin was not looking at her; in fact he was staring flatly at the dark ripples of the river, flowing through the heart of Dublin. ‘When I pointed the word Nation, I didn’t mean a country merely defined by its geographical lines. I mean all its titbits – its odour, its flavour, its colour…everything. May be India is not perfect; so is Ireland. Same goes for my country as well. If you cannot respect your roots how can you flourish with all your stems and branches spread through the entire universe? I won’t mind Ruhi, if you do not come back to Dublin, to me. But, I will surely abscond if you do not use your opportunity to visit Calcutta!’
Ruhi embraced Ruskin’s arms.’ Uhu, India!’
That night they laughed happily, had a drink or two, hugged and smooched each other until the dawn.
Last scene is probably the shortest!
Next morning, Ruhi took the Emirates flight to Kolkata; Ruskin aka Rustam went for a deadly suicide mission. His last whatsapp message to Ruhi read, ‘You have a country of your own! Live there blissfully! I am a refugee; used and crushed by the world! I longed to go back to my homeland. Pray for me, so that my wish gets fulfilled in my next life! Love you loads – My Bong!’
By Parijat Banerjee