Entry and Exit
Sayantan Pal Chowdhury
The ground of the stadium was full with a huge crowd to the brim. Not a single space could be made for another short man in the jostling crowd if he could be saved from being trampled. On the stage the famous singer was singing the famous rock numbers. The youth was dancing in front of the stage like a gang of suddenly released mad people and making a mess to get rid of the customs which they had to abide by in the asylum. But it could not be said that the other corners of the square field of the stadium were free from the madding crowd. The youth dressed in colourful jackets and sweaters and mufflers which carried the tags of some renowned brands were dancing while jostling with each other with their hands rising to some unknown points to the sky. If they could be saved for being the members of the new generation, how could the old be judged for following the youth? Some old people who were standing far from the stage moved their waists to and fro with a dizzy motion and made unforgettable expressions on their faces. Some children were also following their elders. One thing that was the relief was that all of them were dancing together irrespective of gender. But status was something that was a matter. Groups were made on the basis of high and low status. Never the young boys and girls of a group of high status danced with the group of the boys and girls of the low status. A very delicate line was drawn knowingly or unknowingly between the groups of different classes. It was a time to rock.
To entertain the madding mob a group of tea sellers were scattered here and there in the field with their kettles containing tea, plastic cups and other materials like coffee packets, tea bags, sugar and milk. “Chaaye, coffee” they were shouting their trade cries every now and then. With the bursting sound of the huge boxes and the trade cries of the mobile sellers the ground seemed to be buzzing. And the more was the chatting of the audience who gathered that evening on that ground not only to hear the rocking music of the rock star and dancing with the rhythm, but they had come to that place to have a get together with friends and relatives also.
The programme was to start at 6 O’clock in the evening. It was also announced in the hoardings and posters all over the town. The venue had been decorated so dazzlingly that any passer-by who had hardly an intention to watch the programme would certainly peep into the venue only to see the preparation. It was also announced that the present government wanted the programme to be a success and so the ministers wanted a bursting-of-crackers programme at the end of the day. Though there might be a political motto behind such an intention, people were more interested in what they would get at the end.
It was the ending day of a seven-day-long programme. So, it should be identifiable. 6 o’clock in a winter evening was quite late for the people of this place at the foothills of Sumsing. Still, it was a different and distinct one from all other programmes. The place had never witnessed such a huge budget programme ever before, the committee had assured. The announcers hired a van and aired their voice in all the neighbouring places from where they expected people to gather at the stadium. The committee had bought a slot of ten minutes in a local TV channel to reach the people of the distant places. The Radio 24 had been broadcasting their advertisements at the end of every programme. The RJs were very happy to announce that they were also taking part in the programme by insinuating that everyone should go as they were also going to the programme, “I’m gonna rock, aren’t you?”
People were crazy about the programme in the surrounding places. Everywhere in the market or at the schools, colleges, even in hospitals also everyone was excited about the day. The patient parties were afraid if the doctors’ minds remained busy with this thought of securing a place near the stage even while operating on a patient. Thanks to God that no such incident took place in those days. No newspaper heading could be noticed retelling such incidents. Only the students jumped on the cliffs and into the rivers while rhyming,
Rock, rock, rock,
Crowing like a cock,
Forget pen and chalk,
Only fun and mock.
Undoubtedly they were very enthusiastic about the rock music though they could not distinguish like many elders among the various types of music available in the market of our culture. Despite that they shouted throughout the days and nights and left going to school for at least seven days. Once the teachers thought that they should close the school till the end of the programme. So the schools were closed. When the SI came to visit the schools he found them locked and went back when he heard about the programme.
It was an atmosphere of fun and frolic everywhere. When the final day came, people almost forgot to cook their food. From the morning everyone was working like a machine while their minds were preoccupied with the single thought of the evening programme. The day seemed endless to everyone. When the sun crossed over the head and steeped towards the west, everyone started to count the hour. From the late afternoon people started to dress in bright coloured attires. No final touch seemed to be complete to the ladies.
At last the time came when people started their journey towards the stadium. Hundreds and thousands people started to gather at the stadium gate where the ‘ENTRY’ board was hanging. The gate opened at 5.45 pm. People jostled with one another and started to enter the stadium leaving everyone behind only to secure the front row. It seemed to be the gateway to the world. Thousands of people were waiting for their birth on the shore of Lethe and as soon as the entry was permitted, they started to enter the world to start their life’s journey. Irrespective of their caste, creed, gender, they entered together kicking others in the marathon of the beginning. But everyone was not the same. Many people took their time and entered through the gate calmly. The hawkers were also among them. Their shoulders were loaded with their belongings with which they had come to the programme not to watch and enjoy it but to get their items sold. Some brought tea, coffee while others brought potato chips, muribhaja, nuts and packets of papad.
At 6 o’clock the Minister came on the stage and was soon garlanded. The lamps were lighted. With his speech the programme started. People were still rushing in the stadium. From this side to the other the stadium was full with audience.
When the rock start was invited upon the stage at about 8 o’clock after a few local programmes, the crowd burst into loud claps. In no time he came on the stage and shortly the crowd came under his control. He was singing one after another, the audience were dancing madly with his rhythm. The hawkers were scattered all over the stadium and keeping pace with the rhyhm with their trade cry “chaaye, coffee, badam bhaja, muri bhaja, chholey, papad.” Some were buying chaaye, some coffee, some nuts to munch them while enjoying the programme.
A boy was standing at the threshold of the inner gate showing his back to the stage and was busy in making chaaye and coffee which his father was taking to the audience after filling up his empty container. The boy seemed to have no intention to look at the stage or have a look of the famous rock star. He was more deeply involved in his business of making chaaye and coffee. Undoubtedly he was a school student or at least of a school going age. Every time his father was coming to him with his empty container, he was filling it with chaaye and coffee. He was also keeping the money that his father earned on every return. He went up to the gallery and came back with nearly empty or fully empty containers. The boy was only stirring the tea on the oven. His back was to the stadium as if he was showing his back to the whole world—the world where a huge number of youth of his age was dancing and shouting loudly. They were so excited that they felt warm even in the coldest evening of the year. They opened their expensive leather jackets. The boy who was stirring tea and coffee could only manage a half sweater on his full sleeve shirt of white and black. He was making tea; they were dancing on the current number that the rock star was singing.
At 10 pm the programme came to its close. Still people were urging the new singer on the stage to sing at least another song for them. After two such requests the singer dropped the microphone on the stage and left straight to the car waiting for them at the gate with the board ‘EXIT’. They rushed towards the gate while the journalists were following them with their cameras and microphones. The boy was then packing their stall. His father was helping him arranging the containers and other materials. The singers passed them which the boy could not notice. In the jostling of the crowded journalists a container fell from his hands down. He stooped and kept it very tenderly. No complain he had against anyone.
As the main programme was over then there was the time of bursting-of-crackers. The committee took no time to place the crackers on the midfield. The Minister came again to make the opening. Within fifteen minutes all the crackers burst making huge sound and light in the sky.
Now, it was the time to return to house. People were exhausted. Some held their jackets, some their children in their hands. The EXIT gate was opened. There was no hurry in their exit. Everyone was making space for others to exit. No caste, creed or gender was distinguished. In the crowd the boy came out holding his materials over his head and his father on one side. No rhythm, no dance, no shout. Only a numbness and silence prevailed. Everyone came out of the stadium. Lethe was once crossed to the reverse—to the heaven or hell or limbo.