Original story by Satyajit Ray, translation mine

[babu = Mister; ]

I got the diary of Professor Trilokeswar Sonku fom Tarak Chatterjee. One afternoon I was working in my office checking proof of a story for the festival issue, when Tarakbabu called. He dropped a red coloured notebook on my desk and said, “Read it. This is a gold mine!”

Tarakbabu had brought stories earlier as well; not that they are all great stories. He knew my father; from his tattered clothes, I had an impression that he was a poor man, so every time he would bring in stories, I would pay him five or ten bucks.

This time though, I was surprised; he brought in not a story but a diary.

Professor Sonku has disappeared for about fifteen years. Some people would claim he lost his life trying a dangerous experiment; I have also heard from other that he is alive; he has hid himself in an unknown place somewhere in India and is working in quiet; he will come out in time. I do not know which of these is the truth, but I knew he was a scientist. There is nothing odd about a scientist keeping a diary but how did Tarakbabu get hold of it?

When I asked him, Tarakbabu wryly smiled, picked pieces of cloves from my spice can, and said, “Do you remember what happened in the Sunderbans?”

Come again! the story of the tiger! I do not like the way Tarakbabu brings up the issue of tigers in everything. Peeved, I said, “What about that?”

“Well, there’s only one thing. The meteor shower.”

Yes of course. I should have remembered. This was real. The newspapers reported it. A few years ago, a piece of meteorite struck in the Matharia region of the Sunderbans. It was a rather large sized rock. There’s one in the Calcutta Museum, but this one was bigger, almost twice in size. I remember when I first saw its image in the newspapers, it looked like a dark skull.

I said, “How is this notebook connected to that meteor shower?”

Tarakbabu said, “I’ll tell you about it, don’t rush me now. I went there, in case I could get some tiger skin. I reckon you realise you can make good money selling tiger skins these days. I said to myself, after all, so many animals died, how about a few tigers. Well, I was too late. There was nothing, not even deers.”

“So?”

“They had a few snake skins. I brought some of that home. Then, there was this notebook.”

I was surprised, “You found the notebook there …?”

“Yes, right in the centre. The rock created a crater, I suppose you know. It was large enough to hold four lakes. It was right in the centre.”

“You got to be kidding me”

“Well, I suppose it was close to where the rock struck. I saw something red in colour was showing through the debris. I ferreted it out. As I opened the notebook, I saw Sonku’s name in it and pocketed”

“So you found a notebook inside a meteorite crater? Does this mean …?”

“Read it. You will get to know it all. You of course write made up stories, so do I. But this is way more interesting. Look, I wouldn’t have parted with it, except these being trying times …”

I did not have much money with me. Besides I really did not believe in the story, so I gave him twenty bucks. I saw he was pleased with even that money and left.

Afterwards because of the festival I forgot about the notebook. The other day as I took out the dictionary from the cabinet, I found the notebook again.

There seemed something strange about the notebook.

As far as I remember the first time I saw the notebook, the ink was green. As I opened the notebook today the ink was red. How could this be?

I put the notebook in my pocket. I must have mistaken with some other green inked writing somewhere else. I took the notebook home. As I reached home and reopened the notebook I was startled. I now saw the ink was blue.

Afterwards a strange thing happened. The blue colour turned to yellow; no error this time — the colour of the ink was really changing.

My hands trembled, the notebook dropped on the floor. My dog Bhulo bites everything it can get at, this notebook was no exception. Surprise! the dog ripped out my new sandals the other day, but nothing happened to the notebook.

I tried to rip apart a few pages, I realised it was impossible to tear the pages of this notebook. The pages were getting longer like an elastic but would get back to their original size as soon as I would release.

I lighted a matchstick and tried to burn the paper. Nothing happened, it did not burn. I left the notebook inside a burning stove for five hours. The colours of the ink kept changing as before, but nothing else happened.

That night I did not sleep; till three in the morning I read the notebook. I am leaving the text of the notebook for your examination; whether all these are true or not, whether these are possible at all, whether you’d want to believe these, is up to you.

Associate Professor of Epidemiology and Environmental Health at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand. Also in: https://refind.com/arinbasu

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