The Hunter

When I was little child, my father used to take me to the terrace and show me constellations in the night sky – Ursa major, Ursa minor, the Hunter, and the pole star and one of the naked eye planets whenever we got lucky. Over time, I became an expert in identifying The Hunter Constellation; I think it’s also called Orion. When they taught constellations in class, I straightened my neck and beamed with pride hoping that the teacher would ask me a question or two about the stars and the planets. More often than not, the ploy worked. I don’t do that in class anymore. Nor do I scan the night sky except when the news channels are doing a story on this eclipse or the other.


Such was (and is) his passion for celestial objects that he could go on for hours about galaxies, stars, Copernicus, our Solar System. And we had so many power cuts that retreating into the terrace or the compound during that one hour of load shedding was a routine affair. I don’t know if he remembers it now but Papa used to sometimes ask me to study astrophysics when I grew up; if I did that, we could discover the physics of the universe together! Years breezed past. I became everything but an astrophysicist – I completed chemical engineering, served the software industry instead and now I sit in the second row of an air conditioned auditorium and convincingly applaud someone, who while waxing eloquent about a premium bar of soap, claims it could meet self actualization needs of the consumer. 

Really, Sir? I wonder what Abraham Maslow, whom even Christian theism failed to impress, would have to say about a sabun ka tukda complete with a wrap package ribbon waiting to propel him to the top fraction of the pyramid he designed.


“What a man can be, he must be.” – Abraham Harold Maslow


Oh did I mention that I clapped my hands? Indeed I did. And I clapped hard enough along with all the others so that the sound drowned the bile that rose into my throat. So that I did not have to ask myself what I was doing there.


We have fewer power cuts in Guwahati now. And because we’ve had an inverter for over a decade, we’ve traded off the time we spent on our terrace gazing at the night sky, me and Papa. Whenever I’m home I spend time on other more interesting pursuits online. And whenever Papa wants to talk about electromagnetic spectrum, I shift uneasily on my seat because it doesn’t matter to me anymore. Sometimes, I shamelessly tell him I’m busy. But never without a lump in my throat. I’ve let him down.


 Guilt is a cognitive experience that must be the toughest to shake off. Of not being good enough to hold a conversation around astronomy with my father. Of not singing as much as my mother would have wanted me to. Of not writing enough. Of not having once packed a tasty tiffin for Ma. Of not being around the people of my region who need and deserve better lives and instead choosing the easier path of arm chair activism. Of choosing the safest of careers. Of not questioning enough. Of waking up late every morning.


Of sometimes having talked back.


Of not loving freely.


 Of not letting myself be.


Of letting myself be.


If only life were about a pink bar of premium soap.


7 Responses to “The Hunter”

  1. I woke up at three am today after a fitful sleep caused by thoughts on a similar wavelength. But I couldn’t (or wouldn’t) delve into what provoked this restlessness. Your post was a mirror to such thoughts. Of letting myself be, too weary to turn back, too anxious to pave a new path as I watch my life from the sidelines. I am ashamed to read my ambitions in old journal entries, often glorifying all the things I could be. Life’s not bad; secure career, doing my little bit to help others, but somehow I’ve failed me and my father.
    I don’t know about soap over astrophysics, but all through the decade and half I had known you I was always sure that someday you would write books, good books, long books, that I’d read with pride and later would unabashedly show off that I know this wonderful author. That dream is not yet lost, work towards it. And sing too. And don’t fret over the soap, we are loyal Nivea consumers.

  2. I hope I don’t let you down..

  3. mahimathakur Says:

    Snata- you write so well!! Your style is so beautiful, simple/lucid and yet manages to drive home a powerful message!
    I suddenly want to read more of them! Please do write a book- you have the beautiful combination of – sensitivity and talent! God bless

  4. Have you read Alice Munro’s “Moons of Jupiter’? I read it recently. It reminded me of this post. Read it, I guess you will like it.

  5. Jeevanjyoti Says:

    One helluva last paragraph. Loved the effect created by those lines “Of not letting myself be” and “Of letting myself be” … spontaneous outburst indeed! This smudge of guilt shall not be wiped clean by the pink bar of soap.

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