Its been over fifteen years that he has superannuated. Arun lived with his wife, son, daughter-in-law and grandson in Ballygunge. Now he is old and weak and seldom ventures outside alone. Most of his time is spent at home lazing around and playing with his grandson after he returnes home from school. He often thinks about his youthful days when he and his pal Biren meet at the maidan (grounds) every Saturday evening. Arun’s office was near his house and Biren’s was in Shyambazaar. Every Saturday after office hours they boarded a tram to Esplanade, meet and from there walked down to the maidan(grounds) and sat and chatted for hours. They were friends from school days and were both interested in varied topics. Their animated discussions would range from literature, politics, sports, cinema and mundane everyday life. Even after their marriage they continued their meetings although it gradually decreased to once or twice a month. It became even rarer with time as their families grew and they aged. Now they mostly communicated through post and telephone.
After a long time today Arun felt like visiting their meeting ground. He felt Biren would also be there waiting for him. Curzon Park was no longer as beautiful as before since a tram depot has been built inside its confines. Evening has descended and the shadows grew larger. There was a great hustle and bustle on the streets as commuters were busy returning home. Since metro railway’s existence the trams have changed its routes. Its tracks no longer went past the beautiful lines of trees in the maidan and now travelled through the concrete jungles of a crowded Kidderpore and Kalighat.
It was past seven now and darkness has descended all around . Arun kept waiting at the Curzon Park for his friend. All sorts of hawkers gathered to sell their edibles which ranged from fruits to sweetmeats, toffees to ” jhal muri’ (puffed rice) and peanuts. Lovers were sitting on the lawns or beneath the trees . The place has taken the shape of a shady joint he thought. As hours flew by the crowd became thinner. He sat there waiting for his friend to turn up. It was at eleven that the last tram which left for Ballygunge went passed him chiming its bell. He looked around but still there was no trace of his friend. The whole area bore a deserted and eerie look. It was high time he made a move towards home. He felt depressed and betrayed that his presumptions went wrong. Biren was unseen. There was a solitary cab standing nearby and he thought it wise to avail that to travel back home. He wondered whether he waited for his friend at the wrong place. Maybe, who knows he may have boarded the last tram to his house and on reaching not found him there. Many a times in the past they slept over at each other’s place.
When he finally reached home he found the last tram standing near their stop. He quickly paid off the taxi driver and went inside. Everyone was anxious and his wife asked, “Where have you been so long ? We were all so worried .”
“Did anyone come to visit me during my absence?”, he countered back and was met with a denial. He had his dinner and went to bed upset that night. He dreamt he was walking through a mountainous road and there were many tunnels he had to pass through. At the end of each tunnel there was light. At last he entered a long dark tunnel and he walked on and on until he finally saw a faint light at the other end. He was jubilant but as he walked on towards the light it didn’t grow bigger or brighter. He was so weary by now that he couldn’t carry on further. He sat down to rest and soon fell asleep.
That morning when he woke up it was already nine o’clock. His wife came in with a cup of tea and as she left the room the telephone which lay beside him on a table rang aloud . He picked up the receiver and was greeted by Biren’s son at the other end.
“Uncle ,I have a sad news . My father passed away last night,” he murmured. “For a few days he had been talking about you a lot and wanted to see you.” Arun couldn’t reply back. Maybe that man in his dreams was his friend Biren and not him after all.