Calcutta – 1977 – Bally Junction Police Station.
Never before had Mihir seen Calcutta rain like this, piercing like needles falling from the sky as he walked braving the strong winds that came along. He was carrying his promotion letter and did not even bother to keep it in his bag. The envelope felt like clothing being drenched in the rain and he crumpled it with his thick wide palms and threw it away.
The promotion he got was due to him for more than two decades, the price he paid for being a police officer with Calcutta Police. Assistant Sub-Inspector Mihir Nandy, a husband to a murdered wife and father to a son who was burnt alive because he dared to arrest a child trafficker. All these thoughts came to his mind as he rested his head on the steering wheel and clenched it with his palms. Not a day ever passes when he doesn’t curse himself, his corrupt colleagues and the creator of all.
Mihir drove through the darkness, the rain has stopped and he slowly drove his jeep looking around. He is always a policeman, even if he is not on duty. His piercing eyes stopped when he noticed a young girl slowly walking on the pavement of the Willingdon Bridge.
“Is there someone with you young lady” He said stopping his jeep beside her. Mihir couldn’t take his eyes off her, her radiant face with beaming eyes which was mysterious than the night itself. Her child like smile was decorated with her broken (and some missing) milk tooth. “Not more than 7 years old and she is definitely alone” he thought to himself as he couldn’t see a single soul around. He also couldn’t help noticing his watch which struck 11pm.
She said nothing and looked at him with a half satisfactory smile as if she was really happy to see someone in the lonely bridge.
“Hop in the jeep, I will drop you home” Mihir said, already thinking about the earful her parents were going to get when he meets them.
The girl happily obliged and did not show any signs of doubt about hopping on into a vehicle with a stranger. She introduced herself has Dipta and told him about her home which is inside a temple complex and how she sneaks out at full moon night to stand on the Willingdon Bridge just to look at the reflection of the shining moon on the silent surface of Ganges.
“Is that a real gun? How many people have you killed” she said with a tinge of thrill and excitement. She got nothing but silence from Mihir. Her smile faded away after looking at Mihir’s expressionless face and saw his eyes turning moist.
“This gun never fired a bullet…never” his voice was deep. “As an enforcer of the law, I never fired a single bullet but my boy was burnt after being soaked in kerosense right before my eyes” Mihir felt a hand on his shoulder and looked at her. Her face still smiling and it brought calmness to his heavy heart. She still had that soothing smile on her face.
Mihir started laughing after looking at her. “I can see your missing milk tooth when you smile, makes you look real funny”. “I am glad” she said feeling a little embarrassed. “I am happy that I made you laugh” pointing him towards the directions to the temple where she lived.
“Do you want to know the irony?” he said looking at her, smiling. “As a policeman I have never fired a bullet with all the evil I see and work with but I have lost count of the number of bullets when my wife was killed”
He parked his car and did not forget about the mouthful he wanted to give to her parents for not being alert enough about their little child.
He entered the temple compound and realized that they were not walking together anymore. It was he who was following her and his curiosity started to grow on him. He reached the main courtyard of Dakshineshwar Temple. It housed Godess Kaali, one of the most revered Godess especially in East India. The padlocks started falling like pins as if the temple courtyard was welcoming her.
“Who are you?” Mihir murmured. Dipta turned around and smiled at him, this time her glow blinded him and all he could see was her outline. His body was cold and felt the moisture and sweat freezing and a whiff of fresh air made its way to his lungs. He stared looking around; the light was not blinding him anymore and looked around for Dipta.
She made her way out of the temple standing and smiling at him waiting for him to say something. “Do you like my home” she stood above the stairs under the starry skies and her voice echoed all around.
“Please tell me who are you” this time his hands were folded, his voice thinner and pleading on his knees.
“For you I am Dipta, but the world calls me by different names, Durga… at times Kaali”
The following morning the temple complex was swarming with media, police and curious onlookers. One of the police officers saw the Assistant Commissioner of Calcutta Police staring for quite some time at Mihir’s face.
“Sir, is there something you see…” he said hoping that he must be close to finding a clue.
“I am looking at his face… I have known him for more than a decade…and this is the first time I have seen him smile”
Legend has it that a well-dressed beautiful young girl walks on the Willingdon Bridge (aka Vivekananda Setu or Bally Bridge) every full moon night. Some of the bits have been edited or restructured as per my conversations with different people around this location.
Among the 1008 names of Kali, Dipta means ‘She who is light’.