Pipi had not been seen for a few days. She could not even be
contacted over the phone. What happened to Pipi? Kitu decided
to go to Pipi's house. But before he could do that, someone
delivered a letter to him. This was what was written in that
My father has kept me grounded in my room. He is not allowing me to go out. I haven't seen you for a long time. My bed is drenched with my tears. If I remain like this for some more time, I will surely die. Rescue me from here in whatever way you can. So long.
Pipi had not been seen for a few days. She could not even be contacted over the phone. What happened to Pipi? Kitu decided to go to Pipi's house. But before he could do that, someone delivered a letter to him. This was what was written in that letter:
Kitu's blood began to boil after reading the letter. He must rescue Pipi in some way or other. He was not very afraid of Pipi's father. But Pipi's elder brother was someone he was afraid of. This brother was tall and well-built. He was really strong. So far, Kitu had not had to put his own strength to test. Now the time had come.
Kitu quickly opened the drawer of the table. He pulled out his revolver. He put it in his hip pocket.
Kitu's father asked him, ``Where are you going?''
Kitu replied in a serious tone, ``I'll be back soon.''
Then he descended the stairs swiftly. His moped was standing outside. He jumped on the moped and started it. The moped started running.
After a while, the moped stopped in front of Pipi's house. Kitu got down from his moped and rang the doorbell. He touched his hip pocket with his hand. No, the revolver was not quite needed yet. If negotiations work, that would be the best. If not, that would be the time for the revolver.
The domestic servant opened the door.
Kitu asked, ``Is your master home?"
``Yes, he is.''
Kitu smartly stepped in and went upstairs. Pipi's father was sitting alone in the balcony. He had a newspaper in his hand. He looked up when he heard someone's footsteps. Seeing Kitu, he folded his newspaper and put it aside. He asked, ``You? What's the matter?''
Kitu did not waste any time. He said, ``Where is Pipi?''
``I want to see her.''
``I want to take her with me.''
``I will marry her.''
``Why is that impossible?''
``I want Pipi to be married to a Cabinet Member's son, or to a doctor, or an engineer, or at least to a government officer. I won't let Pipi marry an ordinary boy like you.''
``Is it for this reason that you have kept Pipi grounded in a room?''
``Yes. I don't want that Pipi goes out and meets you.''
``This is torture.''
``This is not torture. This is a father's duty for his daughter.''
Kitu assumed a dramatic pose and said in a deep voice, ``I think you are forgetting something.''
Pipi's father inquired in an unperturbed tone, ``What is that?''
``That I am the hero of this story. You cannot possibly win over me. I will win.''
Pipi's father smiled and said, ``I am quite familiar with the heroes of modern stories. They are weak, pitiable, spineless, helpless and ponderous. In short, they are worthless. Of course, there were great heroes in the classical age. They are admirable. Now is the age of anti-heroes. Rubbish!''
Kitu protested, ``I am not an anti-hero. I am the real stuff.''
Kitu pulled out his revolver from his hip pocket and pointed it at Pipi's father. In a stern voice, he demanded, ``Where is Pipi?''
``In that room.''
Kitu looked at the room, and found that it was locked.
``You have put her in that room and locked it?''
``Unlock the room.''
Pipi's father rose up from the chair. The key to that lock was lying around. He unlocked the door. But he did not step inside.
Kitu stepped in. He found Pipi lying on the bed, with her eyes closed.
Kitu called her by her name.
Pipi opened her eyes. When she saw Kitu, she sat up on her bed and exclaimed, ``It's you!''
``Yes, it's me. I rushed here as soon as I got your letter.''
``But what is that in your hand? A revolver?''
Pipi started crying. She said, ``I am scared.''
Kitu inquired, ``Why?''
``You might lose if there is a fight. Do you think you will be able to tackle my brother?''
``Of course I will be.''
``I am not sure. My brother will kill you. Leave as soon as you can.''
``I will leave, but taking you with me.''
Just at this time, Pipi's brother entered the room and said, ``That's impossible. You are day-dreaming.''
Kitu pointed his revolver at Pipi's brother and said, ``Get out of my way.''
Pipi's brother said, ``Why should I? I will kill you. You have the audacity to...''
Kitu said, ``I am telling you again, get out of my way. I have a revolver in my hand.''
``I am the hero of this story.''
``It means that I cannot die.''
``You will die, in this story.''
Kitu pulled the trigger. Pipi's brother swerved swiftly to a side. But no bullet came out of the revolver. Kitu pulled the trigger again. Pipi's brother once again swiftly swerved to a side. But this time also no bullet came out of the revolver. What happened? Kitu had no idea. He started pulling the trigger in a frenzy, again and again. No bullets whatsoever. Then he suddenly realized that before leaving home, he had forgotten to load the revolver in a hurry. Disappointed, he started cursing the author of the story in his mind. If he had known it would go like this, he would never have become the hero of this story. But nothing could be done now. He stashed the revolver in his hip pocket and stood there.
Pipi asked, ``What happened?''
Kitu said, ``The author of the story has betrayed me. I forgot to load the revolver before coming here.''
Kitu remained silent.
Pipi's brother now started advancing towards Kitu slowly. Kitu, afraid, started stepping backwards, towards the wall. Pipi cheered him, ``Back steps won't do. Go ahead and fight.''
Kitu said, ``But how?''
Pipi said, ``Why, fight the way Dharmendra fights, Amitabh Bachchan fights, Mithun fights.''
Suddenly, something happened to Kitu. He felt like he was possessed by some gigantic power. He pounced on Pipi's brother with all his might. In a few seconds, he pinned him to the ground and stood there with his right foot on his chest. Pipi's brother was trounced. He could not even get up.
At that time, Pipi's father entered the room and said, ``Let him go. I beg you.''
Kitu took his foot down from Pipi's brother's chest and said, ``I'm letting him go only because of your request. Otherwise...''
Kitu did not finish the sentence. He asked Pipi, ``Let's go. We can now leave without fear.''
So Pipi left her home with Kitu. No one dared to stop them.
The moped was parked outside. Kitu first sat on the moped. Pipi sat at the back. The moped started running. Pipi asked, ``Where should we go now?''
``To my home.''
In about ten minutes, Kitu reached home with Pipi. He got down from the moped and said, ``Come on Pipi.''
Kitu entered his house. Pipi did the same.
Kitu's father, just like Pipi's father, was reading the newspaper at that time. But he was not sitting in the balcony. Rather, he was sitting in a room.
Kitu entered the room with Pipi. At the sound of their footsteps, Kitu's father looked up. He put the newspaper down and asked Kitu, ``What's the matter? Where did you go?''
Kitu said in reply, ``You know Pipi, right?''
``Yes I do. But what about her?''
``Pipi's father kept her grounded in a room.''
``So that Pipi could not see me.''
``And, what did you do?''
``I rescued Pipi.''
``I love Pipi. I want to marry her. Pipi will stay here from now.''
Kitu's father burst into rage. He said, ``Impossible.''
Kitu kept his cool as much as possible and demanded, ``Why is that impossible?''
``I want someone who can do household chores.''
``What do you mean?''
Kitu's father did not reply directly. Instead, he looked at Pipi and asked, ``Can you sweep the floor?''
Pipi said somewhat angrily, ``No.''
``Can you wash clothes?''
``Can you cook?''
``Then what can you do?''
``I don't have to know these things.''
``I am the heroine of this story.''
``Don't heroines have to know these things?''
``No, not at all. Does Hema Malini know? Does Rekha know? Does Sridevi?''
Kitu's father gnashed his teeth and said, ``I don't want a heroine in the house.''
Pipi said, ``Your wishes are irrelevant.''
``Then whose wishes are relevant?''
``Who is the hero?''
Kitu's father was surprised: ``Kitu, a hero? Does he have any of the qualities of being a hero? He is a good-for-nothing.''
Pipi protested, ``Wrong. He has rescued me after considerable fight.''
Kitu's father smiled and said, ``The fight is not over yet.''
Pipi almost burst into tears, ``Still more fight is needed?''
Kitu's father said, ``Certainly.''
``Against whom this time?''
``This time, against the police. If Kitu wins, I will accept him as a hero. Then I won't have any qualms about allowing you into my house as a heroine.''
Kitu had not said a word in a while. He had been listening quietly. Now he said, ``So you won't accept Pipi as my wife?''
``Are you driving Pipi away?''
``Not only Pipi. You as well.''
Kitu heaved a sigh and said, ``I realize that this is the script of a two and a half hour movie. The fight will not end easily. Anyway, we will see.'' He then turned to Pipi and said, ``Let's go Pipi. There's no point standing here.''
Pipi said, ``Let's go.''
The two came back on the street. They rode the moped.
Pipi said, ``Did you load your revolver?''
Kitu said, ``I don't need bullets.''
Pipi said, ``But why? Suppose you have to fight against the police?''
Kitu smiled and said, ``I will fight with bare hands.''
Pipi was surprised, ``Would that be enough?''
Kitu said, ``Sure. I am the hero.''
Pipi did not ask anything further. Kitu started the moped. The moped started running.
Pipi asked, ``Which way are we heading now?''
Kitu said, ``I don't know.''
``So we are heading for the land of the unknown?''
Since her childhood, Pipi had heard of the land of the unknown in many poems, songs, stories and movies. Heroes and heroines always want to venture out for the unknown world. But no one knew how that world was. The answer was not given clearly anywhere. Only that phrase existed. So Pipi could not have traveled to that place even though she wanted to. And today, she was heading towards that unknown world. She was thrilled. But she could not stay immersed in the thought of this unknown world for a long time. She came back to the real world in a little while.
The moped kept running. Gradually, its speed increased. Pipi asked Kitu, ``How many kilometers does your moped run in an hour?''
Kitu replied, ``Sixty.''
``Does it shake too much?''
``Can I place a piece of paper on your back and write a letter?''
``Just as we see in the advertisements?''
``Just like them, yes.''
``Can your moped climb hills?''
``Can it cross rivers?''
``Can it glide through air?''
``That's very interesting.''
``That's right, very interesting.''
At this time, Kitu spotted a police jeep through the rear-view mirror. He said, ``The police is following us. There's a police jeep behind us.''
Pipi asked, ``How did the police come to know about us?''
``Your father and brother did not leave us alone. They have reported against us at the police station.''
``So now we will have to fight against the police. Your father had predicted it right.''
``That's how it seems.''
``What shall we do now? I am scared.''
``Nothing to be scared about. The police would not win.'' He increased the speed of the moped. The moped started running at lightning speed. The police jeep followed it. As the moped increased its speed, the jeep also increased its speed. There were times when the police jeep almost got hold of the moped. But in the next moment, the moped increased its speed further and created a huge gap between the jeep and itself. The driver of the jeep started sweating. The police officer was exasperated. He asked the driver, ``Which make is this moped?''
The driver said, ``It's new in the market.''
``Amazing. I'll have to buy one of these.''
Another person said, ``So will I. It competes with a jeep! That's not a joke.''
Another person said, ``Sir, order firing.''
The police officer said, ``It's not the time yet.''
Then he paused a little, and told the driver, ``Increase the speed some more.''
The driver increased the speed. Kitu increased his speed as well. But at one stage, he could not continue any further. He found that his moped was only about a handshaking distance ahead of the jeep. Immediately he pressed a button. The moped left the ground and started rising up in the air.
Pipi said, ``That's fun! We are flying in the sky.''
Kitu said, ``Don't talk now.''
The driver of the jeep, seeing the upward motion of the moped, asked the police officer, ``What should we do now?''
The police officer said, ``Stop the jeep.''
The jeep stopped running. The officer stepped on the ground. Following him, four constables also came out of the jeep. They all gaped at the sky.
The police officer ordered, ``Fire!''
The four constables took aim at the moped and started shooting bang bang.
Kitu said, ``They are shooting at us.''
Pipi almost burst into tears, ``What should we do now?''
Kitu consoled her, ``We are the hero and the heroine of this story. None of the bullets will hit either of us. They will fly past us.''
And that was what really happened. The police constables fired quite a few rounds. No bullet touched Kitu or Pipi.
In a while, Kitu reached some place far away from the range of the rifles. On their way, they saw many towns, crossed many rivers, many farms and fields. Presently, they reached a forest.
Pipi said, ``The forest is very beautiful.''
Kitu asked, ``Do you want to get down here?''
``Let's get down.''
Kitu then landed, with Pipi behind.
Pipi said, ``I have never set foot in a forest before.''
Kitu said, ``Neither have I. Should we?''
``Yes we should.''
The two then entered the forest. The moped was left outside the forest.
The forest was not dense. There were large trees all around. Flowers were in bloom on the trees. Birds were chirping. Deer were grazing about. Peacocks were dancing, exhibiting their plumage. Pipi was beside herself at the sight of a deer. She said, ``Look, there's a deer.''
Kitu was beside himself at the sight of one peacock. He said, ``Look, there's a peacock.''
Pipi said, ``Beautiful.''
Kitu said, ``Very pleasing.''
Pipi said, ``I have seen such forests in many movies.''
Kitu said, ``So have I.''
Pipi said, ``There's always a big lake in such forests.''
Kitu said, ``I am sure there will be one in here.''
Pipi said, ``There will be lotuses in the lake. And ducks swimming in the water.''
Kitu said, ``I am sure there will be those things here.''
They started walking and saw many more deer, peacocks, many kinds of flowers on the trees. They heard the buzzing of the bees. They heard the chirping of the birds. They stopped at one place. Then started walking again.
In the course of their walk they found a lake indeed. They saw lotuses in full-bloom in the lake. Ducks were swimming in the lake.
Pipi looked at everything and said, ``Wonderful. Everything agreed with my expectations. I thought about a lake. I got it. I thought about lotuses, about ducks. See, there are the lotuses, and there are the ducks swimming. Strange, isn't it?''
``Yes, very strange.''
Pipi said, ``I will not go anywhere from here.''
Kitu said, ``You don't have to.''
Pipi said, ``We will build ourselves a hut here. We will have cows as pets, deer as pets, peacocks as pets. We will plant flower plants around our hut. And fruit trees as well. We will take good care of them.''
``I will go out of the house with a bow and arrows, hunt deer, hunt birds.''
``In the evening, the moon and the stars will shine in the sky. We will sit by the lake.''
``I will relate the adventures of my hunting to you. You will sit there and listen to me.''
``I will give you briefings about household things. You will sit there and listen to me.''
``The evening will give way to night at some point. We will feel sleepy.''
``We will fall asleep here.''
Kitu paused a little and said, ``There are advantages of living here, but there are disadvantages as well.''
Pipi's legs were hurting. She sat down there and said, ``What kind of disadvantages?''
Kitu did not keep standing either. He sat down by Pipi's side. And then he said, ``You like watching movies. You won't find any movies here.''
``You like eating chili-chicken. You won't find that here.''
``You like to ride on the underground trains. You won't find underground trains here.''
``You like fashionable clothes. You like cosmetics. You won't find any of those things here.''
Pipi had tears in her eyes. She said, ``What should we do then? I won't be able to survive without those things.''
Kitu said angrily, ``You wanted to head for the land of the unknown, didn't you?''
``Yes I did. But at that time, I did not know that if I go to the land of the unknown, I won't be able to watch movies or eat chili-chicken or ride underground trains or wear fashionable clothes or use cosmetics.''
``You should have known.''
``I don't know whether I should have. I will not stay here.''
``You will go back to your father and your brother?''
``That's what I will have to do if you are a good-for-nothing.''
Kitu fumed at these words, ``Did you just say that I am a good-for-nothing?''
``If you aren't, why did you bring me to this forest?''
``Bah! You asked me to land the moped here. I landed. You wanted to enter the forest. We entered. You had so many good things to say about the forest for a while. And now you find the forest disagreeable! And I can't believe that you are blaming me for this!''
``I don't want to argue with you. Take me back to my home.''
Just at this time, the sound of a helicopter was heard. Kitu and Pipi both looked up in the sky. They saw a helicopter hovering in the sky. Then it started descending and vanished behind the forest.
Pipi was surprised, ``What's the matter? Why a helicopter?''
Kitu said somberly, ``They have come to catch us.''
``Who are they?''
``Police once again. Will there be a fight?''
Pipi clapped in delight, ``That'll be fun!''
Kitu said, ``There's no fun in it. You hide yourself somewhere. Otherwise you will get killed. For me, it is the last fight. I will win or die.''
Pipi said, ``We are the hero and the heroine of this story. We cannot possible die.''
Kitu said, ``I don't trust the author any more. I am not sure how this story ends.''
Pipi inquired, ``Why don't you have confidence on the author?''
Kitu said, ``Just a little while ago you called me a good-for-nothing, and then you wanted to go back home. How can I trust the author after this? The hero is now biting the dust.''
Pipi consoled Kitu, ``I will never say such things again. Forgive me please. I will now watch you fight. You will let me, won't you?''
Before Kitu could reply, he saw Pipi's brother walking along the forest path with a garland in his hand. His father and Kitu's father were following him. Kitu stood up on seeing them. So did Pipi.
Kitu said, ``I don't think there will be a fight.''
Pipi asked, ``Why?''
``Can't you see, they are carrying a garland.''
``That's disappointing. Where are the police?''
Pipi's brother slowly advanced and stood face to face with Kitu. Then he put the garland around Kitu's neck, shook Kitu's hand and said, ``Bravo! Keep it up.''
Pipi's father hugged Kitu and said, ``You are not a Cabinet Member's son, or a doctor, or an engineer, or an officer. You are much above all of them. You are a real hero. Not an anti-hero. I have no hesitation in offering my daughter's hand to you.''
Kitu's father gave his blessings to Pipi and said, ``I have no hesitation in accepting such a heroine as my daughter-in-law. I don't care whether you know household work.''
Kitu touched his father's feet. Then he touched the feet of Pipi's father and elder brother. Pipi did the same.
Pipi's brother said, ``Let's go. The helicopter is waiting for you.''
Pipi asked her brother in surprise, ``Where did you get the helicopter from?''
Pipi's brother growled, ``Now don't act stupid. Where do they get the helicopters from in movies?''
Pipi understood. She did not ask any more question.
She walked, keeping pace with Kitu. Kitu was wearing the garland on his shoulder, and a big smile on his face.
Kitu softly touched Pipi's hand and said, ``See, we won in the end.''
Pipi smiled and said, ``But you had lost faith on the author twice.''
``I am sure the author will forgive me for that.''
``That's up to the author.''
Published in Parabaas, June, 2011.
The original, titled Hero-Heroine (হিরো-হিরোইন) by Ramanath Ray is included in his "Collected Stories (Vol.1)" (গল্প-সমগ্র, প্রথম খণ্ড), published by Banishilpo, Kolkata, 2000.