The Pride of Kadampur.
Kadampur is a country village which is destitute of natural or artificial attractions and quite unknown to fame. Its census population is barely 1,500, four-fifths of whom are low-caste Hindus, engaged in cultivation and river-fishing; the rest Mohammadans, who follow the same avocations but dwell in a Para (quarter) of their own. The Bhadralok, or Upper Crust, consists of two Brahman and ten Kayastha (writer-caste) families. Among the latter group Kumodini Kanta Basu’s took an unquestioned lead. He had amassed a modest competence as sub-contractor in the Commissariat during the second Afghan War, and retired to enjoy it in his ancestral village. His first care was to rebuild the family residence, a congenial task which occupied five years and made a large hole in his savings. It slowly grew into a masonry structure divided into two distinct Mahals (wings)—the first inhabited by men-folk; the second sacred to the ladies and their attendants. Behind it stood the kitchen; and the Pujardalan (family temple) occupied a conspicuous place in front, facing south. The usual range of brick cattle-sheds and servants’ quarters made up quite an imposing group of buildings.
Villagers classed amongst the gentry are wont to gather daily at some Chandimandap (a rustic temple dedicated to the goddess Durga, attached to most better-class houses). Kumodini Babu’s was a favourite rendezvous, and much time was killed there in conversation, card-playing, and chess. Among the group assembled, one crisp afternoon in February, was an old gentleman, called Shamsundar Ghosh, and known to hosts of friends as “Sham Babu”. He was head clerk in a Calcutta merchant’s office, drawing Rs. 60 a month (L48 a year at par), which sufficed for the support of his wife and a son and daughter, respectively named Susil and Shaibalini. After a vain attempt to make two ends meet in expensive Calcutta, he had settled down at the outskirts of Kadampur, which has a railway station within half an hour’s run of the Metropolis. Sham Babu’s position and character were generally respected by neighbours, who flocked to his house for Calcutta gossip.
On this particular occasion talk ran on Kadampur requirements, and somebody opined that another tank for bathing and drinking purposes ought to be excavated at once; he did not say by whom.
“True,” observed Sham Babu, “but a market is still more necessary. We have to trudge four miles for our vegetables and fish, which are obtainable in a more or less stale condition only twice a week. If one were started here, it would be a great boon to ten villages at least.” Kumodini Babu assented, without further remark, and the subject dropped.
It came up again on the following Sunday, when Kumodini Babu said to his friend:—
“I have been thinking about your idea of a market in this village, and should like, if possible, to establish one myself. How much would it cost me? As an old commissariat contractor, I am well up in the price of grain, fodder and ghi (clarified butter used in cooking), but I really know very little about other things.”