“Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go.”
It was class six. Mrs. Ganguly had asked all of us to buy a copy of the hallowed book, much to our initial chagrin. After all, who wants another book added to their backpack to school? With time I realized that it wont be a book I’d tested on, and yet give me something I’d always carry with me.
The lazy last periods those days used to be spent listening to our teacher reading out passages from the book. Rapt in attention, some sixty of us were held spellbound by Shankar and his adventures in Africa. We shivered with fear when lions roared in African veldts, sighed with joy when the moon rays washed the grasses and baobabs in Mombassa, and didn’t dare to move as Shankar pointed his torch at the venomous Black Mamba, oblivious of the last bell ringing and then walking down empty corridors thinking of how dark the nights are in those African forests.
The story of Chander Pahar (“The Mountains of the Moon”) is so deeply etched in my being, even after ten long years. I still feel maybe life is, indeed, about chasing diamonds mines in deep forests of Africa, sitting alone in a desert as remote as Kalahari, braving a Black Mamba, or ravenous man-eating lions, or maybe the dangerous Bunyip himself, risking life and everything withal. Even today, Chander Pahar refuses to be relegated to that cobwebbed corner of memory, fueling still the fire it had flamed. Maybe there is still a Diego Alvarez to be rescued from under a eucalypti, maybe still there is a Death Circle to be overcome, maybe still there is a few uncut diamonds to be found in the scourging jungles, maybe, just maybe.
Bibhutibhusan Bandopadhyay, had spent his life as a loner, losing his wife prematurely, and struggling through abject poverty. He found that beauty never dies, even if misery engulfs your entrails, even if you are in the edge of your living existence. It lives on like raindrops on lotus leaves, and gossamer rays of moon on dark violet waters of Orange River flowing down the impassive Richtersveld Mountain, as does the spirit of Man that lives to oppugn the limits set by nature.
But keep in mind, whatever that is said about Chander Pahar is just an understatement.