Maa khuh chihal a panjam hastam

The hit counter on my blog reached 20074 today. Why you may ask, is that news, and why hadn't I cheered myself up when it was at 20,000 for example? Well, it is news because 20074 has been a very special number for me during my entire college life: it was my admission number, and my system-wide unique identity.

It is strange, and surprising, how these numbers become a part of our identity. The social security number, the passport number, the id number in the college, or even your roll number somehow becomes an almost innate part of the day-to-day life. As soon as I see the same number somewhere else: maybe on a telephone, on a hitcounter, maybe somewhere else... a thousand memories are triggered. As my eyes struck the hitcounter showing 20074 right now, I was thrown back to memories of filling up exam answer sheets, hostel admission forms, library recall requests, and so much more! I believe that number was present on almost every official form which I filled in college: even when I was filling out forms to get money from the authorities for Ganesh pujas! Somehow rapid connections are built around these: it is like seeing your name on a piece of paper and then getting surprised, and then suddenly realising that it was just your namesake. Kind of weird, isn't it?

For that matter, I think even our names which we cling on to so tightly are nothing but almost unique numbers assigned to us from birth. Come to think of it: you might argue that the name has a meaning and therefore it makes more sense to be recognised by that rather than by some number... but couldn't you just as well be proud that the digit seven in your number represents round-the-clock activity, or the occasional zero symbolises the highest form of detachment and self-realisation? Perhaps the names are something we believe that will stay with us forever, and so we love them so much. But now the famous Bard's saying of rose smelling as sweet when it is called by any other name takes a whole new meaning --- the essence of the person is not in the name, but what personality he or she carries. I sometimes feel amused when people say 'Thank you' when they are told that theirs is a nice or a sweet name.

You might be wondering what the title of the post means. It is from Syed Mujtaba Ali's Deshe Bideshe, a Bengali novel. A group of dacoits were being transported across the country as prisoners in Afghanistan and one of them managed to escape under the cover of the night. The guards, upon discovering this the next morning, knew that they'd be skinned alive if they reached with one man less. Hence they grabbed an innocent shepherd who was unlucky enough to cross their path that eventful morning. He was forced to share the fate of all these other dacoits in the dungeons of the king. Although many letters were written by him claiming his innocence to the king, the warden never let them reach their destination because then he might be tried for letting in an innocent person without verification. Fellow prisoners also never spoke up in his favour because they hoped that the escaped convict might help them break the prison there. And so he remained in the prison --- away from home, hearth and family for twenty five long years, in the desperate hope that some day justice will be done unto him; without a trial, without a crime, just living through the punishment of it all. After a long long time, a child was born to the king, and amidst all the celebrations, retrials were ordered for all the prisoners in all jails across the country. One or two old cronies then testified on behalf of this fellow's innocence before the judge, and he was summoned. The judge (or perhaps the king himself) tried to ask him who he was, where was his family, etc: and all he could manage to say was, "Maa khuh chihal a panjam hastam", meaning I am just prisoner number 265! The old identity of the person had been erased, and his sole (soul's?) identity then was only what he could remember: he was prisoner number 265! Qyaidi number saatso-chhiyasi, anyone?

Comments

  1. Oh look... it is at 20115 already! Man am I popular or what? :P

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  2. hey, i just managed t0 breach the 4 figures myself...:)
    feels great!

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  3. nice blog! Good style of writing.

    Rani

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  4. Numbers are indeed a very intrinsic part of our lives...they appear in our daily routine n to some extent predict our fates (lucky numbers !!)...the story u mentioned in the second part of the post was sad...numbers cannot in any way judge the identity of a human being !!..how can we possibly get that close to them ?!!-Non MAC Anonymous

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  5. P.S....congrats on the hit counter thing..keep rocking-Non MAC Anonymous

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  6. Rani, hey! Welcome onboard... and thanks a lot :) Will visit your blog now.

    Non-MAC Anonymous, yeah well lucky numbers are a wholly different story altogether! And yes that story was saddening, I mean if look at it from that guy's perspective you kind of lose faith in the existence of a God and universal justice and all that bullshit.

    P.S. - Thanks for the good wishes about the counter: it does seem to be on a roll these days!

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  7. Sudipta, you have narrated a very sad story. Its tragic, the way that fellow behaved and started to think. It would be nice to read the whole story.
    CONGRATS. Soon it will be in 5-6 figures.

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  8. Alka, yes... I too felt sad thinking about the story. But it did happen, I believe. And yes, do read the novel or its translation if you can: it is one gem of a book by any standards!

    Oh, BTW, thanks for the good wishes. Yes the counter does seem to be jolting on at high speed these days :)

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  9. Why saatso-chhiyasi?

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  10. Makhu chihal pancham hastanam means , I am number 45 not 265. And it was the Prince of Afghanistan who either got married or became father not the Amir (wrongly referred to as king here) . And the Shepherd was imprisoned for 16 years.

    You better read my blog (which is not full of false facts). My blog address is www.animalsalute.blogspot.com

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