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Sonar Khadkuto (Gold Straw)

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The Scholar and The Color Pencil (From Gold Straw)

There was a pencil in the showcase of a department store. He was merely an ordinary color pencil meant only for marking the important portions of books. He had got a number of neighbors beside him in the same row of the showcase. All of them were reputed color boxes and drawing pencils; they had been taken and used, by the students of drawing schools, to paint figures of trees, as restlessly green as parrots, or to draw smiling faces of roses. The drawing pencils could draw birds on paper-sheets so perfectly that they seemed ready to leave the sheets right then for the deepest blue of the distant sky. The ordinary color pencil knew he would never be used for such a nice purpose, not even for writing. He felt himself to be a very poor creature; day and night he suffered from the shame and disgrace of being so ordinary. “Oh! Had I the magic to create a picture as colorful as day,” sighed his burning soul all the time.

One day it happened that a student bought him as she needed a color pencil to mark the important lines in her texts. She was to read volumes of heavy and highly theoretical books, for she planned to write a dissertation on a topic unusual and uncommon. Living through great hardship from her very childhood, she looked as skinny, sickly and sad as a shadow. But, since she grew up along with poverty and sickness, she got used to the poor, sickly life.

She lived in the dense, thickly-crowded old part of the town, where drains were filled with clayey trashes and bad smells. The narrow lane where she lived in was dark all the time because of the oldish many-storey houses that managed to huddle together. All the flats panted with the burden of over-crowding. Nowhere there was any place to play in, and children took the lane itself as a playground. Housewives also liked the lane very much for everyday use. They threw household trashes through the windows of different floors all through the day, even till midnight. The lane was deeply strewn with scales of fishes, inedible cores of jackfruits, peelings of potatoes, onions and vegetables, rags and broken utensils. Street dogs lay idly on the garbage most of the time. Children of that lane played “Danguly” pressing and smashing all those things. Any passerby, who was new to the lane, had to face a strange situation as the children would continue playing without leaving the passerby any space. Newcomers made them angry since giving them space would take their concentration away from the game. The inhabitants of the lane, though, did not face any problem with the play-minded boys. In course of time they had learnt the tricks of walking through and across without disturbing their game. The lane was stuffed on both sides by many shops – blacksmith shops, salons, grocery stores, fried-snacks shops and tiny teashops. The blacksmith shops would start their day's work, very early in the morning, with loud beatings of iron rods and sheets. With this sound mingled the high-volume songs from the salon-radios to create a new symphony. It would be added by the angry shouts of housewives, cries of the play-minded children and the high-pitched cawing of crows. All through the day the lane was full of sounds – different kinds of sounds, yells and quarrels. No silence existed there. No birds but crows lived there. All these bad smells of trashes, sounds of hammers and anvils made the scholar feel suffocated. But she had nowhere else to go.