I am not really sure why Einstein, on his way to Darjeeling, got down at
Ranaghat and why he was eager to give a talk ‶On
... so on and so forth” at the Municipal Hall there. I was not present there at
that time, and consequently am not in a position for giving you a first-hand
account of what happened. I can only tell you what I heard from others.
The crux of the matter is that, after being exiled from Nazi Germany,
Einstein was probably somewhat short of money. So he came to India with the
intention of giving some lectures and earning some money. Everyone knows that
he was going around giving talks, and I have nothing new to add in this regard.
Ray-Bahadur Nilambar Chattopadhyay, who was the professor of Mathematics at
KrishnaNagar College at that time, was a competent person. Like many
intellectuals, he was overwhelmed by Einstein's remarkable lecture ‶On the Unity
& Universality of Forces” at the Senate Hall in Calcutta. He really wanted
to invite Einstein once to his college for delievering a lecture, but the
Principal stood in the way.
He said, ‶Ray-Bahadur,
I don't have any other objection. I am only worried about one thing: do we
really want to invite a German in this sitation?”
Ray-Bahadur said agitatedly (as agitated as he used to get when someone
hinted at a debate during the evening sessions of Bhagabat readings at the
outer room of RamMohan the lawyer): ‶What
do you mean? German? Did you really say German? You call Einstein German? Can
you really assign such sages, such savants, such great people to any one
country? Or to a single race? What I say is...”
The Principal interjected, ‶No
no, please, I more or less agree with you. But look at the situation around
us...” And the two senior professors got involved in a heated argument.
The Principal was a scholar of Philosophy. He cited the example of John
Scotus, the great exponent of medieval Scholastic Philosophy. Scotus was born
in Ireland, but was driven away by ninth century fanatics and had to take
refuge in France. Could he return to Ireland ever? No. But people do care about
his philosophy, though not so much about the man himself.
In any case, the Principal could not be persuaded ultimately, so Ray-Bahadur
had to give up on the idea. Presently he came to know that Einstein would be
travelling to Darjeeling. Since his arrival in India, he had been busy with
delivering lectures and did not have the time to see the Himalayas, and now
that he was so close to the mountains, he did not want to give up on the
Ray-Bahadur thought, ‶Why
not ask Einstein to get down at Ranaghat on his way to Darjeeling and have him
give a lecture there?”
He went to Calcutta to meet Einstein at the Grand Hotel.
Einstein said, ‶Please
tell me something about Indian Philosophy.”
Ray-Bahadur sensed trouble. He taught Mathematics, and did not really care
about Philosophy, in particular about Indian Philosophy. Fortunately, he had
the habit of reading from the Gita at times. So he clutched on to the raft of
the Gita in the endless ocean (not in any spiritual sense of course) and tried
to mutter a few things like ‶Basangsi
Einstein said, ‶Once, when I read Max Mueller's essays on Vedantic Philosophy, I really
wanted to learn Sanskrit. In Philosophy, I was a follower of Spinoza all along.
Spinoza presented his philosophy in the form of a mathematical deduction. He
had the mind of a mathematician creator. That is why I was attracted to him.
But then I found new horizons when I read Max Mueller's writings on Vedantic
philosophy. Spinoza had the mind of a pure pragmatic, like that of Euclid,
where even sophistry takes a predicted route. But I am a romantic at heart....”
Ray-Bahadur looked at Einstein's face in great astonishment and said, ‶You are?”
Einstein smiled and said, ‶Why
are you surprised? Don't you think that my unification of time and space was
moulded by imagination?”
Ray-Bahadur was even more surprised. He started mumbling, ‶You are the
harbinger of new dimensions, the great discoverer of new universes right after
Newton... to think that you indulge in imagination...”
But he looked at the poetlike long hair and dreamy eyes of this scientist,
the greatest of our times, and his words remained in his mouth. Probably one
could not become a great scientist unless one had plenty of imagination,
thought Ray-Bahadur. He was going to say something when Einstein picked a cigar
case from the small side-table and placed it in front of Ray-Bahadur. Then he
pulled a fat cigar, cut the tip with a pair of scissors, and handed it over to
Ray-Bahadur. Ray-Bahadur's Bengali sentiments made him shrink with
embarrassment. Could he, a nondescript Mathematics teacher, really light a
cigar in front of such a big scientist? And, not to forget, the scientist was a
sahib. Sahibs ... the incarnation of flesh-eating Gods. Ray-Bahadur took the
cigar and said, ‶Won't
— No thanks. I don't smoke.
— I see.
— I have a thought in my mind.
— Let it out, please.
— Do you think we can pull a good crowd if we arrange a seminar at Ranaghat?
What do you think of Ranaghat?
— Good place. I think we will have a decent crowd.
— I need some money right away. Whatever I had, I had to leave it in
Germany. They did not let me take out even one Mark from the bank. So I am
quite broke now.
— I will try my best at Ranaghat, Sir.
— Do they have a big auditorium there?
very big. But there is the Municipal Hall, which will do.” And after a while,
Ray-Bahadur wanted to leave, because he thought that it would be unfair to
impose upon such a great man's time.
Einstein said, ‶Please
take some of my posters and advertisements. I will tell you the title of the
talk in a few days. How much do you think the tickets should be priced?”
very high of course, let's say...”
does three Marks sound? Or ten shillings?”
way Sir, that will be disastrous. This is a poor country. Ten shillings would
come to about ten rupees. We don't have people in this country who would buy
tickets at that price, Sir.
better. And one shilling for students.”
Einstein smiled and said, ‶People
from the university should be exempted. After all, I am a school-teacher myself,
so they should get some kind of preferential treatment where I am concerned. It
was the same at Bombay and Benaras Hindu universities. Students should not have
to buy the tickets. Anyway, take these leaflets and handbills for advertisement
Ray-Bahadur took the leaflets, tried to read them, and exclaimed with
disappointment — ‶But
Sir! This is written in French!”
— Of course in French. I printed them before my talk in Paris. Why, won't
anyone understand French here? I heard the other day that French is taught at
the University here.
— No Sir, that won't do. Maybe a handful of people will understand French.
We don't learn French here usually, Sir. English is the lingua franca. No one
would understand French.
— Now that's a problem! Could you please have it translated into English and
printed at some local press?
— I ... okay ... why not ... yes I will.
Ray-Bahadur thought that he would go to Baliganj and take Binod's help. That
guy knew French well. It was getting quite embarrassing having to say ‶I don't know”
every so often in front of such a great man.
Binod Choudhury was his eldest brother-in-law. He knew a lot of things,
including many languages. He translated the bills enthusiastically into Bengali
and English, and said, ‶I
will most certainly go to Ranaghat on the day of the lecture. My acquaintance
with the theory of relativity is very little, only through the book by Linden
Boulton. But I consider Einstein to be a great savant of our times. A savant
with an inner eye. You see, those who discover the truth have this inner light.
I may not understand long and clumsy equations, but make no mistake, I can make
out who belongs to which league.”
Ray-Bahadur realized that his clever brother-in-law was making fun of him.
He smiled and said, ‶Ah
well, so you also decided which league I belong to.”
— God forbid! I never said anything to that effect.
— You really didn't?
— Do you think it is possible for a person like me, tangled so much in the
web of space-time continuum, to guarantee either my state of existence at any
given time, or what I say in that state? Anyway, why don't you stay over for at
least half a day?
— That would be impossible. I have so many things to do now. I have to
ensure that the great man gets some money in his pocket. Let me go back and
butter up the chairman and the vice-chairman of the municipality. They are all
big rogues. Anyway, I will have to try to book the hall.
— What are you worried about, Chatterji? Once you mention Einstein's name,
is there anyone who won't give the hall to you? It's a pity, really, that at
this old age, such a great scientist has to go around giving lectures for
collecting some money. The world does not know its greatest...
— You still talk like a child, Binod. What you said at the end is what is
right. I will have to use a lot of persuasive techniques. Let me catch the
• • •
Ray-Bahadur remained very busy during the next few days. He met the chairman
of Ranaghat Municipality, the vice-chairman, the school headmaster, lawyers,
attorneys, government employees and businessmen, and explained the plan to
them. He found, to his surprise, that all of them felt very happy and excited,
as if they were going to touch the moon.
AbhoyBabu, the old attorney, said, ‶What's
the name again? Aa... how does it go? Aa-yin stah-in? Ah yes, very famous name.
Everyone knows about him. He is a celebrity by any standards. Of course, I am
very familiar with his name.”
Ray-Bahadur seethed in anger and muttered to himself: ‶Your foot!
That's what you are familiar with, damn old idiot! You are not talking about
ShyamChand Pal, the wholesaler of cloth. Celebrity! Connoisseur! Huh! It will
take three generations before his name reaches your family! Someone spent all
his life coaching people to give false evidence in court, and now he has
decided that Einstein is a celebrity! Is there no limit to idiocy?”
On the scheduled day, Ray-Bahadur boarded the morning train with a few
students of KrishnaNagar College and got down at Ranaghat. His brother-in-law
Binod Choudhury had written to him that he would not be able to come, and
lamented that not everyone could be so fortunate as to listen to Einstein, and
so on. Ray-Bahadur felt sorry about him. He really thought that his
brother-in-law was a connoisseur, and it would have been really great if he
could come. Bad fortune indeed!
As he came out of the railway station, he was dumbfounded by the sight of
the boundary wall facing him. What was going on? He saw a huge multicolored
poster stuck to the wall, and it read as follows:
She will be here! She will be here!!
She will be here!!! (in black)
At the Bani Cinema Hall. (in blue)
Who?? (in black)
When?? (in black)
She is the famous film star Indubala Debi (in red)
And the date and time is 27th of Kartik, at 5:30 pm (in blue)
She will greet the people there!! (in black)
Entry fees 5, 3, 2 and 1 rupees, (in black)
For women, it is 5 and 2 rupees. (in black)
Don't let this rare opportunity pass by. (in red)
Ray-Bahadur took out his handkerchief and wiped off his forehead the sweat
that gathered there even on that November morning. Then he read the date again,
carefully. No mistake, it was indeed today, the 27th of Kartik, Sunday.
Absent-mindedly he walked a little while and saw the same poster again. He
walked more and more, and saw more and more of the same three-colored poster.
He saw at least thirty-six of them at different places before he reached the
house of the Vice-Chairman of the Municipality.
Vice-Chairman SrigopalBabu was sitting in the small porch by his flower
garden and was rubbing oil on his body. When he saw Ray-Bahadur, he assumed a
more formal posture. He smiled and said, “Looks like I am fortunate this
morning! What brings you here so early in the day? Greetings!”
— Greetings, of course! I see that you are getting ready for your bath. Do
you really take your bath so early on a holiday?
— Yes, indeed, I like taking my bath early.
— At home?
— No no, I go to the river. I don't feel like it is done unless I plunge
into water... It's a habit since my childhood. Sit down please. Now that I have
you here, you must stay for a modest lunch.
— Don't worry about that. No formality. I have to visit my cousin Niren, or
else he will be offended. I could not even go to his place when I came the last
— Okay, then at least a cup of tea?
— I won't mind that. Let me now tell you the reason that I am here. I found
out that there is some trouble. Some Indubala Debi is coming to Bani Cinema
— That's right, I have seen the posters as well.
— And that's really today?
— Yes, I was worried. Will there be a clash of interests?
— But now we cannot change the date! Everything has been arranged. We have
finished distributing the handbills and the posters. Einstein will arrive by
— Yes, I know. I thought about that.
— You know what I feel? The crowd that would go see Indubala would not be
interested in the Sahib's lecture. And the people who are interested about the
lecture will show up no matter what else goes on.
Ray-Bahadur was furious at the word "Sahib" used to refer to
Einstein. Why did he ever put his efforts into bringing Einstein, the greatest
scientist of the world, to a place like this? Is Einstein a jute-mill manager
or a railway ticket inspector that one should call him "Sahib"? Can't
one be a little more careful while mentioning such names?
But when he spoke, he just said, "Yes, I agree."
Vice-Chairman SrigopalBabu was famous in Ranaghat for his hospitality. Tea
appeared on the scene, accompanied with a plate of snacks. Ray-Bahadur had
both, and left because he had to go to many other places, meet a lot of people
and arrange a lot of things.
Before leaving, he asked, “What about the key to the Municipal Hall?”
SrigopalBabu said, “I am sending the Hall employee Rajnidhi right away. My
family servant will also go. They will open the Hall and keep everything ready.
There is a free reading room there, some people will come to read the newspapers.
I will ask some of the younger ones among the readers to help set up the
benches for the audience. Don't worry.”
When SrigopalBabu returned to his house after his bath, his eldest daughter
(SrigopalBabu had been a widower for three years; his eldest daughter, married,
was visiting her father at that time and managing all household affairs) said,
“Dad, could you please buy five tickets for us?”
— Tickets for what?
— Haven't you heard? Indubala is coming to Bani Cinema in the evening! She
will dance and sing. Everyone from our neighborhood is going.
— Who is everyone?
— You name anyone! Just now Ranu, Alaka, Tepi, Jatin uncle's daughter
Dhyaros, they all came here. They said that they have reserved a box enclave —
there are reserved seats for women if one pays for a box enclave. Why don't you
reserve a box for us too?
Srigopal retorted, “Huh, box indeed! You think I am sitting on top of a pile
of money, don't you? I took on the burden of this family way back in 1903, and
carrying it on ever since. The only thing I hear is everyone whining for
Grumbling, he opened the drawer and tossed a ten rupee bill and some coins
towards his daughter.
A little later, their neighbor RadhaCharan Nag popped his head in their
their drawing room and said, “How are you doing, SrigopalBabu?”
— Come in, Doctor. How are you? I assume you will be there in the evening?
— That's exactly what I've come to ask you about. Are you going?
— Of course we are! This is an unprecedented good news for Ranaghat. We all
— I was saying exactly the same thing at home. Of course some money will be
spent, but then money is for spending. But such an opportunity... Everyone at
home wants to go, so I gave them ten rupees. You see, I am now fifty six years
old, and no one knows when life comes to an end. So before that happens...
— Sure. How often does one get such an opportunity? We the people of
Ranaghat are incredibly fortunate to have such a person visiting us today.
— I was saying exactly the same thing at home. Before we get too old, let us
see what is there to be seen and hear what is there to be heard. If some money
is spent in the process, so be it.
— Besides, such a famous...
— Of course! Anywhere you look these days, you will see the name of Indubala.
Ads for soap: there is Indubala. Perfumed oil: there is Indubala. Sarees and
dresses: Indubala's picture again. To see her in person — specially in such a
dungeon as our Ranaghat — that's great fortune indeed! Unbelievable fortune!
SrigopalBabu stared at Mr Nag in wonder. For a while, he could not even
utter a word. About two minutes later, he gathered himself up and muttered,
“But I was not talking about that! I was talking about the lecture by the Sahib
at the lecture hall.”
RadhaCharan raised his eyebrows and asked, “Which Sahib?”
— Haven't you heard? Einstein, Mr Einstein!
RadhaCharan pretended that he just remembered the matter and said, “Ah, that
German or Italian Sahib! Yes, I heard about him, my son-in-law was talking
about him. What is the subject that he is going to lecture on? Anyway, at the
age that I have reached, I mean, I have no connection with the academic world
for a long time. Those lectures should be attended by school students, they are
Srigopal was going to protest faintly, but RadhaCharan continued, “So what
are you going to do?”
— The women from my family are going to the cinema hall. But I will have to
go to the Sahib's lecture. Ray-Bahadur NilambarBabu has been pestering me for a
— Who is this Ray-Bahadur NilambarBabu?
— He teaches at KrishnaNagar College. He is the main organizer of the
lecture. He has made a special request to me...
RadhaCharan winked and said, “Let me tell you something, my friend. For one
day, you forget your promises. Let's go see Indubala. There is a lot of
difference between Indubala in a picture and Indubala in the flesh. That would
be something to remember for the rest of your life. You have seen a lot of
Sahibs, and will see more. Every morning or afternoon, wait at the railway
station at the time when Darjeeling Mail or Shillong Mail would arrive, and you
will see Sahibs. But the opportunity of seeing Indubala... you may not...
SrigopalBabu said absent-mindedly, “Yes, I mean... I see what you are saying...
but the point is that I have given my word to Ray-Bahadur, so he will be
RadhaCharan gnashed his teeth and shouted, “The hell with your promises. Who
is this Ray-Bahadur anyway? Why should you feel obliged to whatever you have
said to him? You will tell him that the women in your family wanted to go to
the Cinema Hall so you had to accompany them. They were so insistent that you
did not have an alternative. Come to think of it, that is not even far from the
Srigopal was still absent-minded when he mumbled, “Yes,... that's right...
of course... indeed...”
RadhaCharan said, “So that's settled. That is what you are going to tell
Ray-Bahadur. Okay? Why don't you ask him to go to Bani Cinema as well?”
— Are you leaving now?
— Yes I am. I will see you in the evening.
• • •
Meanwhile, Ray-Bahadur was having an organizational meeting for the evening
session at the local landlord Niren Chatterji's house.
NirenBabu was Ray-Bahadur's cousin. He was the owner of a huge estate and was
an attorney by profession. He was not a very successful attorney, but because
of the income from his estate and the money that he inherited, he held a
prominent position in Ranaghat's aristocracy. And he was well-educated as well.
Ray-Bahadur had had a heavy lunch. The arrangements were lavish at his rich
cousin's house. After lunch, he felt like having a siesta, but could not take
to bed because of the call of duty.
NirenBabu asked, “Tell me, what would be the abstract of today's talk?”
— I am not sure. The title is: On the unity of forces. You will have
to guess the rest.
— He has delivered a big blow to the idea of space. Am I right in saying
— What exactly do you mean?
— He is saying that space is finite. The concept of infinite space will have
to be abandoned.
— Didn't you study Mathematics in your M.Sc.? You know about Geometry of
— I studied mixed Mathematics. But I know what you are talking about.
— I am very happy to know Niren, that you not only manage your estate; you
also keep track of the bigger mysteries of the universe. Maybe not a lot, but
even the little that you know is unknown to many.
— Tell me now, will he go back tonight?
— Probably. He was talking about visiting Darjeeling. He said that he would
stop here on the way to Darjeeling. We should see to it that he can earn some
money from the lecture.
— Why don't you come to my house after the lecture? He can stay here for the
night. There is no train for Darjeeling tonight. So he can spend the night here.
I'll have no problem.
— Alright, I will ask him.
— You should insist that he stays. I will make sure that the newspapers
publish a report on his stay. There are reporters from the Free Press and
Anandabajar Patrika in town.
Ray-Bahadur understood the real interest of his cousin. There was no point
discussing these things now. The important thing is to have the lecture done.
He would feel very much relieved once the lecture was over.
From inside the house, NirenBabu's daughter Mina appeared and pleaded to
Ray-Bahadur, “Uncle, please ask father to give us money for buying tickets.”
NirenBabu chided, “Now, don't disturb us. Go to your rooms.”
Mina begged, “But I did not talk to you Dad, I was talking to Uncle.”
Ray-Bahadur asked, “Which tickets are you talking about, Mina?”
Mina said, “Which world do you live in, uncle? Our neighbor Sabita is a
student at your college. She was telling us that you try to solve Math problems
even when you walk on the street! Is that true, uncle?”
NirenBabu chided her again, “Oh! What a pest! Go away and leave us alone.
You know brother what ticket she is talking about? There is this Indubala or
whatever coming to the Bani Cinema this evening, she will dance and she
will sing, and maybe give a little speech as well, and so everyone has to go
there. The girls are making my life miserable since the morning.”
— Ah well, why not just let them go? You don't expect them to go to
Einstein's lecture. Although, I must say, if they did, they could have boasted
of seeing Einstein once for the rest of their lives. Now, Mina, where do you
want to go?
— Uncle, we would rather go to Bani Cinema. We saw Indubala in the
film "Milon", and since then I have really wanted to see her once.
That she could come to Ranaghat...
Ray-Bahadur completed her sentence: “Was something that you never imagined,
right? Niren, you should give her money for the tickets.”
Mina now became a little bolder and said, “You and Dad will have to come
with us too! I will not accept any excuses. You know uncle, Dad really wants to
go, but he doesn't dare say it in front of you.”
NirenBabu jumped at his daughter and said, “You naughty girl!”
Mina smiled and went inside to her room.
While leaving, she said, “But Dad, you must come with us. We will not take
no for an answer.”
• • •
Five-thirty. It was time for Darjeeling Mail to arrive at Ranaghat.
Ray-Bahadur and a few students, NirenBabu and SrigopalBabu reached the
station. But, what did they see?
Why were there so many people there? All along the platform, there were
hundreds of people — of all ages, of all kinds. Was it really true that the
people of Ranaghat had suddenly woken up to the event of Einstein coming to
their town? And had all gathered to greet him at the railway station? That
would be a reception that would be worthy of a scientist of his stature! The
platform was teeming with people. It looked like a carnival. Ray-Bahadur was
very pleased. Meanwhile, the Mail train thundered into the station.
From a second-class compartment, a wide-eyed Einstein stepped on the
platform, with a small bag in his hand. At the same time, an attractive young
woman got down from the first-class compartment. She was wearing a costly voile
saree and a designer Kashmiri sandal, and carrying a vanity bag on her arm.
Along with the young woman got down two other darker women who were presumably
her maids, and they started busily unloading the luggage.
Someone screamed from the crowd, “There, there! I can see Indubala!”
Within a split second, everyone on the platform rushed to the direction he
was pointing at. Through the crowd, Ray-Bahadur escorted Einstein towards the
gate with great trouble.
Einstein did not really understand what was going on. He thought so many
people had gathered to see him. He asked Ray-Bahadur, “Are they all students of
the local university? Won't you introduce me to them, Mr Mukherji?”
Ray-Bahadur did not want to reveal the truth to this simple-minded and
liberal man, an worshipper of science.
A university at Ranaghat! Probably Einstein had forgotten that this was not
NirenBabu had borrowed the vintage 1917 car of the famous local merchant
Gopal Pal. They all got into that car and proceeded towards the Municipal Hall.
Even when they boarded the car, they saw many people running towards the
station gate. Someone said, “The train has arrived a few minutes ago. Look, it
is still there on the tracks. Run, run.” Someone else from the crowd said in
reply, “But she will come out this way for sure, so we can just wait here. No
point pushing through the crowd. After all, she has a known face, we have seen
her in many movies, most recently in "Milon"...”
Einstein was amused. He said, “These people are also going to the station?
They have no idea that the person they have come to see has already boarded a
car. That's funny, isn't it? Mr Mukherji, which way is the university?”
Fortunately, just at this time one pedestrian fell in front of Einstein's
car and almost got run over, so Einstein's question was drowned in the
screeching sound of the brakes and the wailing sound from the crowd. When the
car managed to get out of the station and past the crowd, SrigopalBabu and
NirenBabu got down near a crossroad. Ray-Bahadur said, “So, I assume you are
coming there right away?”
SrigopalBabu's reply could not be heard. NirenBabu said, “I will come as
soon as I finish escorting my family members. There is no one else who can
accompany them to the cinema hall. After spending so much money for the
tickets, it would be a pity if...”
• • •
The Municipal Hall stood not far from the station. But, what's the matter?
The time 5:30 was mentioned for the lecture. And now it was 5:45, and no one
was there. Not a single soul. Only the municipal clerk Jiban Bhaduri sat there,
with a bunch of tickets lying on the table in front of him, waiting to be sold.
When the car stopped in front of the Municipal Hall, Ray-Bahadur held
Einstein's hand and helped him out of the car. He tried to squeeze a smile when
he said, “Welcome, the greatest of all scientists! Let the historians of the
future note in golden letters that you have set foot in our town of Ranaghat.
We, the people of Ranaghat, are honored by your presence.”
At the same time, he cast a quick and wary glance towards the empty hall.
Where are the people? The rest of the people of Ranaghat?
Einstein stared at the empty hall and said, “No one has come yet? They are
all still at the station. Mr Mukherji, you will have to arrange for a
blackboard. I need to draw some diagrams during the lecture.”
Huh, blackboard! Ray-Bahadur was a local, he knew the place inside out. He
looked around, with a empty and disappointed gaze.
Jiban Bhaduri approached Ray-Bahadur and whispered, “So far I have sold
tickets worth three rupees only. And even then one person has not paid, he just
promised to pay later. Tell me sir what do I need to do now. I have to
accompany my family members to Bani Cinema. Indubala has come from
Calcutta, so all of them want to go see her. It's hard, sir, with my salary of
thirty-five rupees a month, but I say, there is hardship in whatever you want
to do. People like her do not come often from Calcutta. So, if I have to spend
five rupees for seeing her, so be it. You will have to let me go sir, in a few
minutes. By the way sir, who is this Sahib? I don't think you will find anyone
to attend this Sahib's lecture today. Who will, in his right mind, come this
Jiban Bhaduri explained the accounts and left. Inside the auditorium, in the
jungle of chairs and benches, there remained only two creatures — Einstein and
Einstein was busy laying down some props on the table, things that he would
need during his talk, In the meantime, Ray-Bahadur slipped outside and looked
anxiously at the streets.
People were rushing, nicely dressed women riding horse-drawn carts,
pedestrians walking briskly — and they were all headed to the Bani Cinema.
An advocate, an acquaintance of Ray-Bahadur, was following the crowd with a
walking stick in his hand. When he saw Ray-Bahadur, he exclaimed, “Hello! Has
the Sahib arrived? How is the crowd inside? His lecture unfortunately clashed
with this other thing. On any other day... today I just can't... the women of
the house all went there, so I must accompany them...”
Ray-Bahadur whispered to himself, “Oh yes, very unwillingly.”
• • •
Half an hour passed by. Six-thirty. Then six-fortyfive. Seven.
No one showed up.
Bani Cinema Hall was teeming with people. Many people could not get a
ticket and were standing outside in groups. A few persons tried to forcibly
enter without tickets, and failed. The balconies on two sides, where the women were supposed to
sit, were so full that there was some apprehension that they
would collapse. The curtain was lifted. Film-star Indubala was singing songs
made famous by her when she sang them in the movie "Milon", songs
which were on everyone's lips — children, young people and seniors — like
"The wind from the wilderness", "The pet bird from the unknown
land", "The Prince on his horse", and so on.
At this time, Ray-Bahadur entered the hall and was quite surprised to see
SrigopalBabu sitting in front of him. Not far from him, NirenBabu was sitting
as well. He said, “So... you are here then!”
SrigopalBabu felt like a thief caught red-handed. He fumbled, “I did not
feel like coming here... but you see, the women... someone had to... anyway,
how was Sahib's lecture? Did you have enough people?”
— How can I have enough people if all of you are here? Who will go there?
— Where is Sahib? Has he left?
— No, here he is.
Einstein was standing right behind Ray-Bahadur.
SrigopalBabu got up from his seat and politely offered the seat to Einstein.
• • •
I have, in my possession, a piece of a page from a very old newspaper. I am
quoting from it below.
The price of potato is going up. The price of rice is gently decreasing.
Malaria is spreading around. The local Sub-Divisional Officer has been very
kind and efficient in motivating the health officials to work on the outbreak.
Last week, the famous film star Indubala graced the Bani Cinema Hall.
With her ethereal skills of dancing and singing, she kept everyone mesmerized.
In particular, the people of Ranaghat will never forget the level of art she
had displayed in her "Black Bat dance". There was unprecedented crowd
at the cinema hall on that day — a veritable sight indeed! The overwhelming
attendance caused the beams of the women's balcony to bend. Thankfully, it was
quickly detected and a catastrophe was avoided.
Famous German scientist Einstein stopped here to give a lecture at the
Municipal Hall. He was also seen in the audience at Indubala's program at the
Bani Cinema Hall.
Published in Parabaas, October 2015
The original story
Einstein and Indubala (আইনস্টাইন ও ইন্দুবালা) by Bibhutibhushan Bandyopadhyay was first collected in the book titled Upalkhanda (উপলখণ্ড) published by Mitra & Ghosh, Kolkata, on April 16, 1945.
Palash Baran Pal. [পলাশ বরণ পাল
(b. 1955) is a physicist by profession. He mainly writes
research articles in his field of research, but ...
Amitabha Sen. Amitabha has been a regular contributor of cartoons, sketches and articles (in English - which have been translated into Bengali) to Parabaas. He is the founder of...(more)
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