January, 1946. Calcutta. India and Pakistan were about to attain their long-desired dominion status. But the demon of communal mistrust loomed large over the fate of the undivided India. Hindus and Muslims, two inseparable parts of Indian heritage,lost trust in each other.
Mr. Radharaman Chatterjee,a retired judge of Calcutta High Court was the head of a highly educated Bengali Hindu Brahmin family. In spite of his family’s unwillingness, he had given shelter to an orphan Muslim boy,Sultan, who was brought to his door-step by his dying mother. Chatterjee was moved by the woman’s last words and promised to bring him up against the evils of the society.
Sultan got shelter in the family and started looking after Dinu, Chatterjee’s 2 years old grandson.
Sultan came out of his initial uneasiness to become everyone’s ‘Satu’ from ‘Sultan’. The Chatterjee family started liking Sultan. But Satu’s favorite companion in that house was Mr. Radharaman Chatterjee. Satu used to come to Chatterjee’s study to see him after finishing his work.The friendship between the two,inspite of the difference in their age, was spectacular.Satu used to be thrilled even without understanding Chatterjee’s recitation from his favourite poet, W.B. Yeats - “His element is so fine…Being sharpened by his death.”
The young boy used to wear a bangle made of brass in his right hand. It was his father’s last memoir. Chatterjee used to say, “Satu,always remember that your parents wanted to make you a good human being. Never forget your values.”
December, 1946. Calcutta’s soil was wet with the blood of Hindus and Muslims. Everywhere there were communal riots. Chatterjee’s family started objecting to Satu’s staying in that family. Satu, after all, is a Muslim.It would take only moments for him to follow his community first,sacrificing his gratefulness to this Chatterjee family. Mr Chatterjee had to bend down in front of his family’s wishes. He kissed Satu on his forehead and told him, “Please forgive me,my son.I am helpless.You have to leave this house…”
Chatterjee gave him some money and when Sultan was about to leave, he told him, “Satu, don’t forget the values I taught you.” He stood for a moment and went away.
16th December, 1946.One of the darkest days Calcutta had ever seen. Mass-riot and bloodshed flooded Calcutta’s streets. People left their houses and moved to safer places.Chatterjee’s family was about to reach the railway station. Suddenly, a wild gang of armed Muslim men blocked their car, snatched little Dinu from his mother’s lap and cried out,“We’ll slice this child into pieces! Bloody Hindu!!!”The heart-breaking cries of the Chatterjee family could not reach the evils of revenge and hatred and they took the child.
Next day morning the Chatterjee family got back to life when they saw Dinu ,miraculously alive at the nearby Shiva temple. But they shuddered to know that Satu was spotted, running around with that wild Muslim gang.“Ungrateful!!!!…You tried to avenge me with the little innocent life?? How could I believe in you? May you rot in hell!”, Chatterjee screamed. The whole family left Calcutta, that evening and moved to Patna,their ancestral house.
August, 1947. Pakistan and India –two new dominions were born on 14th and 15th August as the last British troop left India. Chatterjee returned to Calcutta after 9 months with Shambhu,his faithful servant. But to his surprise, he found his once-beautiful two-storied palace now standing with a haunted look. They were walking along the lawn and suddenly, found a crowd around the Shiva temple. Shambhu went curiously to the crowd.
“Babuji… The Government is reconstructing that old Shiva temple…Today morning they’ve found a human skeleton behind the temple...may be any of the riot’s victims were buried there…”,Shambhu informed him. Chatterjee went to the spot and the striking sight which broke his heart completely, was a brass bangle on that skeleton’s right hand.
Chatterjee was grief-stricken when he came to know what actually happened on that cursed night. That wild Muslim gang was about to kill the innocent child. But all on a sudden there came a 10 year old boy running…pounded on them like a wild cat…snatched the child from them and ran with all his strength. The Muslim gang chased him like a pack of wolves. But Satu was able to hide the child inside the Shiva temple, closed the temple-doors from outside and ran away from there. The Muslim gang did not find the child, but they caught Satu, killed the ‘ungrateful’ Muslim boy and buried him behind the temple.
Tears trickled down Chatterjee’s cheek. Suddenly he broke down completely in front of Satu’s skeleton, “I knew…I knew…you would not forget my words…forgive me, my son…you re-established my faith in humanity!”
Unknowingly, he started to murmur his favorite Yeats’ lines…
“His element was so fine…
Being sharpened by his death. “