The front of the Ray Chowdhury palace looks like a ramshackle brick structure with three arched entryways; on one side, a sacred fig tree has spawned its roots through the crimson orange brick wall.
The structure is mostly hollow inside – no roof, instead aerial prop roots hang from above, slowly preparing to engulf the entire complex.
With the wuthering breeze of a mid-day, as the dry leaves move idly, you know that is how loneliness sounds like. There is a black iron board in the front that says 'Ancestral home of Oscar-winner Satyajit Ray'.
Something crept up on me and said, "As the living souls have left this place, maybe this is where 'Bhooter Raja', the benevolent king of ghosts from the ever-green Gupi Gayen-Bagha Bayen, has taken refuge."
Satyajit Ray might have sent them here, to the ancestral mansion of his grandfather Upendrakishore Ray Chowdhury, in Mosua, Katiyadi.
Kotiyadi and present day Kishoreganj was then a part of the greater Mymensingh region. And Harikishore Ray Chowdhury inherited the zamindari of this large estate in the mid-19th century.
His residence was the place we know now as 'Mosua Zamindar Bari' or as the locals call it 'Babur Bari' or 'the palace of the masters' till today.
Standing inside the remnants of the Ray Chowdhury palace of Mosua somehow gave me a déjà vu. It took me back to the late 19th century.
When a president named Abraham Lincoln was reforming the US to be the future world's leader, on the other side of the world, a childless Zamindar Harikishore adopted a boy Kamadaranjan and named him Upendrokishore Ray.
Thirty-one kilometres away from the Kishoreganj Sadar, the village Mosua in Katiadi Upazila still has remnants of the Ray Chowdhury palace.
The lonely complex that I started the article with was the prayer hall or the 'puja mandap'. At the back, the main residential building adjacent to it stands dilapidated.
There is a staircase at the back that takes you to the first floor. The stairs are surprisingly well-constructed.
Later I came to know that the stairs, along with the 'pukur ghat' (stairs leading to the pond), were renovated by a former MP of Katiadi.
The entire residence plan stretched out for about 4.3 acres, which included a two-storied residential palace, a prayer hall, and a kitchen. Adjacent to the prayer hall, there used to be a work space, commonly known as 'Kachari Bari'.
Currently, there is a pucca corrugated-tin shed room in its place, which is being used as the local land office.
To some of the older generations, this puja mandap still has its obscure charm. Narayan Chandra Biswas, a former high school teacher of that area shared his memories with us.
There is a big pond in front of the complex, everyone calls it 'hatirpukur' or the elephants' pond, as the Zamindar's elephants were once bathed in its water. We were sitting on its ghat.
Natayan Chandra said, "I was little when we used to come here to see the Zaminder's Durga Puja. It was glamorous. But nothing remains now."
After the Liberation War, the remaining house was raided a few times. From window frames to even bricks, everything was stolen. The black patches on the remaining walls tell us that it has been burnt too. Narayan Chandra's bleary eyes shone while talking to us, as if they were trying to take us back to that time.
The 'hatirpukur' is surrounded by giant archaic rain-trees and banyan trees. Some are thought to be 200 years old.
There was another small pond behind the residential building, but it is now a dried up hole.
I wondered - did Satyajit Ray ever wish to visit his ancestral home, a ghost house that is now connected to his name?
It turned out that the villagers were not bothered by my romantic question.
In fact, I found one of them rather upset about it. Rofiqul Huq Akhand, a historian and writer born in Katiadi said, "Satyajit Ray never came to this home, and he never had any interest regarding this place. Then why do we call it Satyajit Ray's home?"
According to him the place has not been introduced properly and should be called- 'The ancestral home of Upendrakishore Ray', because neither Satyajit nor his father Sukumar Ray bothered to come back here.
The building is extremely dangerous as the bricks are falling off randomly and there is a big crack on the ceiling. It seemed to be an ideal place for snakes in the monsoon as the surrounding is quite cool and mossy.
Even this hostile existence did not spare the complex from human possessions. The first floor reeked of human faeces and cigarette butts were strewn all over the roofless homestead's floor.
The Upazila Chairman Mushtaq Rahman said that they have urged the government to renovate this place and after the Covid-19 situation improves, they will work on it.
However, just like me, Rofiqul Huq Akhand was also not hopeful about it. He said, "This place could have been turned into a film school, or at least an exhibition hall, a museum. It is not money that prevents us from doing beautiful reconstructions. It is the lack of aesthetics and vision.'
I listened to him and nodded in agreement. But deep in my mind, I recollected the murmur of the dry leaves, and somehow I pictured a destitute Bhooter Raja. With dreary eyes he might be feeling lonely and thinking of moving to another place.