Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home

 

Kaminee

(NOTE: I was much impressed by Adnan Fakir's Kaminee poem, so searched for this timeless classic Bengali spook. Luckily, I found it in agGhost story collection and I thought this is such a great story, unfortunately most of the teenagers may never have read it. So, I decided to translate it and share it with the readers of RS. I hope my translating mistakes are forgiven.)

Surnath Babu, dressed in a hat and a suit, stepped down from the train as soon as it stopped at the station. The station is small, not a lot of people stopped here, so it whistled passed the station within a minute. He was a postal inspector. Recently a number of new post offices were launched in the surrounding villages, and it was his duty to inspect them. It was the first time he visited the area. He left the station carrying only a small suitcase, carrying a few of his necessities.

The local post office was nearby. It had both the post and wire facilities. Run by a postmaster, his assistant and two peons. The postmaster lived along with his family at the back of the post office. At about 11 AM Surnath Babu arrived at the post office and revealed his identity. The local postmaster welcomed him inside, and arranged for his afternoon meal.

After the meal, Surnath babu rested awhile, and then got ready to start his inspection routine. In the meantime, he found out that there were three post offices in the surrounding areas and the closest one was some 12 miles away on a half baked road. He “borrowed” the peon's cycle. He would reach the village by evening and come back by the next day after inspecting. After that, make way for the next post office.

As he got ready to start his journey, the postmaster informed him about the road ahead. “Some four five miles later the road is forked. The right hand road is a little longer, as it goes around a bit, but I would suggest you take that one.”

“Why? What's wrong if I take the left road?” “Because sir, the road is not good.”

Being warned, Surnath Babu started for the village. In a few minutes, he left the town behind on the open countryside.

Here and there were patches of wood. The countryside is a mixture of deserted open and bare knolls. The air is fresh and windy. Surnath Bbabu pedaled lazily; only a few miles to go, how long will it take?

Surnath Babu was about 40 years old. He had a short strong body, somewhat good looking. His wife died some three years back. He felt the need to have a second wife many times, but then again, being single gives him a feeling of independence which he longed.

After traveling some 6 miles, he came across the fork on the road. Suddenly the sky became dark and everything around him was covered by a thick veil of darkness. There was no other life form or villages in sight. He remembered the postmaster tell him that the left hand side road was bad but it was short. He needed to reach the nearby city before it became night, so he took the left hand road.

He understood why the postmaster advised him against the road. The road is rickety at best, full of pebbles and cracks. However, he cycled on carefully, not to fall down accidentally. He pedaled faster now.

After cycling for some 20 minutes, he saw a ray of hope. There were a few small huts on either sides of the road far ahead. He could make out the silhouette of a few human forms. After traveling a little ahead, suddenly, as if by magic, a mud hut appeared beside the road at the entrance of the village. Surnath babu stopped his cycle. A little ahead, sitting at the porch of the hut, was a young woman. Her eyes attracted Surnath Babu's eyes like a magnet. She wass daughter of a farmer, he thought. Skin as dark as copper, her body was oozing with youth. She had a beautiful face, with big beautiful eyes. She adorned a saree but no jewelries. It was hard to determine whether she was a virgin or married or a widower. It was as if you are looking at a hot burning fire if you looked at her for sometimes.

“Hi, where will you go?” she asked. Surnath's heartbeat increased rapidly. An urge to overcome his deepest desires, which he kept insatiate for long, seemed to crave him all over. Nevertheless, he was not fickle and he practiced self-restrain and answered her “Ratanpur”.

The young woman shook her legs and smiled. There was something in her smile that would ignite the senses of every man. “Ratanpur is so far away, it would take you the whole night to go there”. Surnath looked at the raid ahead. It was completely dark now. “Is there any place where I can stay for the night?”

“Stay here if you will”.
Surnath looked at the woman with surprise. There is a calling in her eyes, a mystery in her voice. Surnath became excited, but he kept his cool, “Where are the men of the house?”

“They have gone to the field to protect the paddy, there are thieves you see”.
“Well… of its not much trouble, then I will stay here for the night”.

The woman smiled with all the sweetness of the world, a flash of blindness played through Surnoth's eyes. “Keep you ride beside the house, I am coming” she said.
She brought him back a towel and water, “Wash yourself. Do you like tea? I will bring some.” She entered the house again.

Surnath was gripped by provoking thoughts. His mental condition needs no describing. He felt like a wounded deer, about to be devoured by the hungry lioness.
“Here, I have tea for you”. Her fingers touched hers, “I am going to cook something for you”.

“Please do not bother, bring some muri, I will be well satisfied”
“That will not do for you, it is a cold night, it will only take me an hour”. Surnath Babu started to drink his tea. He noticed that there were two rooms in the hut, one a kitchen, so the other must be the bedroom. He would probably spend the night in the porch. That would be just fine for him; he would wake up early morning and start for the next village.

The woman returned after an hour, “Dinner is ready, come with me”. Surnath entered the house behind her. It was much colder inside than outside. She prepared a simple arrangement; rice, daal and vegetable. Surnath started his dinner. The girl talked about her household chores. He noticed that while cooking, she somehow managed to put on some alta on her feet. She talked to her normally, but he could utter nothing but “Hum”. He felt he needed to talk well with her; after all, she gave him food and shelter for the night. He decided to come out of his shell.

“You haven't yet told me your name.”
The girl smiled, “Kaminee” at once Surnath's skin burned, he entered his shell again. After dinner, Kaminee looked at Surnatha and told him, “I have prepared the bed in the next room, you can sleep there”. Surnath's heart jumped, his tongue began to flutter, “I can spend the night outside”

“Oh my, how can you sleep outside, the cold will get you. Go and sleep in the room”. Surnath dare not contradict, neither did he ask where Kaminee would sleep, He entered the bedroom as ordered. There was a candle in the room. The bed was prepared on the floor over some dry grasses. Surnath changed clothes and went asleep. As he closed his eyes, he could hear the clattering sound of dishes being washed. His senses became sharp. The storm that was raging inside his head came out as a sound of long deep sigh. A drowsiness grew on him when, suddenly, he woke up straight. He observed that, undetected by him, Kaminee had made a place beside his bed, a strange dangerously arousing smile on her face.

When Surnath Babu had not returned by the third day, the postmaster became worried about him. Not only him but also for the sake of his bicycle. He informed the police and they looked for him all over. He had not visited the three post offices that he was supposed to. The police began official investigation.

He was discovered after seven days. His lifeless body lay on the left hand road. Not a hut on site around the location where he lay. His body was discovered amongst the bushes beside the road, the cycle laying a little ahead, along with his suitcase. The case was intact, nothing was missing.

Surnath's body bore no injury mark. It was dry like the prehistoric Egyptian “Mummy”, dry and skinny. As if a ferocious blood-sucking bat had sucked all the blood out of his body. The police sent the corpse to the hospital. When the Postmaster heard the story of the discovery of the body, he just shook his head and said, “He must have been done by the witch. Kaminee the witch is still around in that area. She must have seduced him to his death. I warned Babu, 'do not take the left hand side road', but he didn't listen.”

By Shorodindu Bondopadhyay
Translated by Tanvir Hafiz


 
 

home | Issues | The Daily Star Home

2006 The Daily Star