“Sita!” He yelled at top of his voice. The voice resonated with doubled intensity from the mountain top upon which he stood. He screamed out her name again but the answer remained the same as before. He walked back dejected, like always. It felt more like a routine that he couldn’t escape. Every morning he would walk towards the narrow point and seat himself on the only bench present at the place. Most days, we would find him staring into the clouds, as if he is looking for answers from above. But the last month seemed a little rough on him than before. He wasn’t his normal calm self. There were many instances like today where he ran towards the point, only to stop himself by a moment while letting out her name in sheer despair. Helplessness seems to define him, and the pain instead of reducing with time, only grew.
The fifty five year old Ram Shankar Bisht had lost his Sita Mahalakshmi in an avalanche at that very spot, five years ago. Their love affair was nothing short of a folk tale. Both belonged to different regions, and shared no common language in between. Sita had met Ram when she had come over as a tourist to Kullu. It was Ram who had taught her the basics of Skiing. He was helping his father at his skiing business as he filled in the role of an instructor due to absence of the other. It was his first day at work, and Sita was the first person he attended to. And like it always happens, he fumbled while fixing the gear on her leg. He tried again but it didn’t work. He held out a nervous smile towards Sita, who smiled back with assurance that he could try again. This time it worked and she was all set for her first lesson. It was at this instance that Ram noticed Sita for the very first time. She had those big round eyes with neatly lined mascara around them. Her curly long hair was tied behind with perfection while the smile, the most beautiful one Ram ever saw apart from his daughters, flashed nervously at him. He held her hand and looked straight into her eyes and whispered, “Sita, it’s going to be all okay.” And she believed in him, straight away. It was strange though but his eyes seemed trustable to Sita unlike any stranger she had met before. It all began at that very moment, and they never looked back after that. The relationship, the opposition and finally their marriage; they saw through all by standing their ground, hand in hand with the other, without a word, without a thought of ever to let go. But fate, as we know it, is unpredictable. Not all things are in our hands; some we control, some control us.
Ram Shankar died a little, every day since that accident, but his twin daughters were the ones who kept him alive to see the light of another day. It was Isha, the elder one, who introduced me to Ramji. I was looking for a job as a guide, and Isha was my brother’s college mate, so I had asked her for help. It has been an year since I worked for him, and not a day had passed without him narrating a story or the other of his deceased wife, his Sita. And that day was my last at Kullu; I had a flight, early in the morning but the purpose of my stay, the answers to my questions, they all still remained in a blur. I settled down near the fireplace of Ramji’s house with a peg of whisky in hand while beginning a conversation with Ram Shankar Bisht that eventually changed the course of my life.
I often find myself staring at the blank word document absent-mindedly, lost within my train of thoughts and the little world I so price upon. The music breezes around these phrases, the incomplete things which I had never chanced upon to say and probably would never convey. In between those “I wish that happened” and “I regret doing that” thoughts, I find my piece that fits for me to write. The piece which stirs my universe, pushes the boundaries, and allows me to live a character of the stories that I try to sketch. That moment of time, when everything comes flying together, I see my piece wide and clear. Rushing with this sense of enigma, I journey along with my ambivalent thoughts to finally arrive at the top of the mountain from where I see my piece coming to life. And the time when the journey ends, I find another story sprouting out. The process remains unfinished; a story more remains to be told.
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“I dare say, I speak for defiance,
I speak of winning and conquering,
I dare say again, I speak of truth,
I speak for peace and harmony,
I doublespeak; I make my notions
I make history according to present,
I am no devil, I only create it out of you.”
The windows had been fluttering for a while and the curtains kept flying like a ghost, meanwhile I kept tucking my head inside the pillow to avoid any form of light so possible. I didn’t know how to fight it, I didn’t know who to side with, but all I managed to do was listen, even when I didn’t want to.
The fight had raged for over an hour, neither my mom nor my father had calmed down, instead they fired each other with insults and abuses, all the things they had accumulated in their 10 years of marriage. I was only 8 then, and didn’t knew that this would be our last day together. I didn’t even understand what was happening, until the judge had me asking whom I preferred to live with. The answer was simple then but may be a lot difficult now, I decided to side with my mother, knowingly or unknowingly I did let my father down for whom I was the biggest treasure in this world.
I missed him a lot, may be even my mother did but she never shared. She knew she could not be taken for weak, she knew she had to prove him wrong. All the time she tried to love me till a point where I will forget his existence, but all the time I kept feeling that it would have been better if he was along. I didn’t see my dad for over 15 years, they said he got married again but when I asked my mom the same, I was met with only silence. They said he has a daughter and a son, and a beautiful wife whom he finally loved and lived with, but I could never believe, I may never will. When I asked the same to my mother, this time I met with her tears along with a deeper silence. I could see that she still loved him but knew she would never admit it.
I tried searching for him everywhere till the point I found him on Facebook with a profile picture of his children and him. I was heartbroken, the rumour had finally come true and I wasn’t in a position to accept it. I made a pact with myself to never let him know about my curiosity, about my love for him, but all I was left were thoughts that I would confront him with, the thoughts where I would finally be able to ask whether he ever missed me. But I could never dare to message him until one day when I finally did. Those few hours were my longest till he finally replied with a place for us to meet.
Trying to fight both the emotions, happiness and fear, I made my way to the restaurant where I finally saw him in his trademark mustache which I had always tried to emulate but had failed times so many. I waived back at him with a big smile only to get a cold smile in return, making me question my decision to meet him but I tried hiding those thoughts as I made my way to the table.
After a long silence, he finally spoke.
Him: Do you drink? Shall I order a pint for you?
After having waived the waiter about the order, he tried to look straight into my eyes and tried saying something but couldn’t utter it out. There was tinge of a tear and a heaviness in his eyes when he finally said that he missed me.
I couldn’t control my tears as I replied at the very instant about how much I missed him. He came forward to console me and embraced me with a tight hug which I reciprocated. I was very much like him, very emotional, very sensitive and we always spoke from our heart. I knew it then that how much I loved him, but I just couldn’t leave him and I continued crying on my father’s shoulder.
Him: Calm down my son. I am here, don’t worry.
Me: Why didn’t you meet me or at least call me before? Did you even remember me?
Before I could let him answer, I kept asking him
Me: I needed you all these years but you weren’t there. And now you have come only when I called you, this is wrong Dad. This is very wrong. Did you actually miss me?
Him: I really did son, but I couldn’t do a thing before your mother’s will. She was adamant and for the right reason that I shouldn’t be allowed to meet you.
Me: Why would she say that? She still loves you!
Him: Even I love her and I would always do. But at that time I wasn’t at the right place, I had so many problems to sort that it took me time.
Me: What problems? Were they more important than me?
Him: They weren’t, they will never be. I will tell you about them when time comes, but as for now let’s leave them unanswered.
Me: Is it anything to do with your affair which broke us apart? Is it to do with your marriage?
Him: Yes it’s that affair which broke us apart but that was not the sole problem which I had to deal with. And who told you I was married?
Me: Some of our neighbors, I even saw your pic with two kids.
Him: They are my school children, I teach there.
Me: So you are not married?
Him: No I am not. Now will you stop accusing me and finally allow me to have my drink.
Me: Sure sure! We have a lot to catch up, mom will be really excited if she hears about you.
Him: I doubt that. Let’s put this meet as a secret.
Me: Not possible, you guys love each other then why don’t you give it another chance.
Him: It’s not that simple my boy. Now calm down, let’s see what happens.
Me: Okay, I am really hungry let’s go for the starters.
Him: Let’s go.
The conversation went on for another hour when we finally bid each other adieu, and I returned home to see my mom in tears. Dad had already called her about the meet, and she was happy as I told him but still wasn’t in a position to accept this until I finally opened up. She understood that this was inevitable, but she herself never gave him another chance. We met many more times but my hope for them to come together has remained a reverie. I am surely happy with the things as they are going but would always hope for a family finally; a happy ending some day.
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Late night walks had become quite a routine for some time now, I kind a started getting fascinated with the idea of walking by the lonely roads dimly lit by the yellow halogens. The dark grey areas are also present in them, quite a lot of them though, connecting the lighted paths and one among them caught my attention.
I had been walking for over half an hour and I knew I had quite a distance to cover back, but what lay ahead of me just didn’t allow me to go back. There in the midst of the darkness I saw a lush green park having two giant trees in between. The moon shined just enough to sparkle the dew droplets settled on the benches. In middle of all this, I felt the cold breeze passing by my hair, sending shivers down my spine making me only tuck my hands deeper into my hood. I gathered myself and moved towards the extremely cold bench and managed to sit, wondering why am I here in the first place.
I have a strange way of measuring cold, I would try to puff out air from my mouth and depending on the white smoke I would decide how cold it is. While I was trying that in vain, I found a similar smoke appearing from behind. Then all of sudden I heard her voice.
Her: Who are you? What are you doing in my garden?
Me: I didn’t know it was a private area. I am sorry; I will leave after I complete my verse.
Her: Okay. ~Sceptically accepting my defence
A deep silence reverberated between us, while she stood viewing the moon with hope, hope for her prince to arrive. She was dressed in simple clothes but her eyes were the ones which shun out brightly, making me feel the hope she was searching in the moon for.
Her: So are you a poet?
Me: Kind of. ~With a sense of uneasiness
Her: What happened?
Me: I know I can make things rhyme a verse or two. But I could never finish a poem that told a story in turn. That was one of the reason for my long night walks and today for the first time I thought I found a perfect place.
Her: Perfect place?
Me: Yes. A perfect place which could inspire me to weal a story around, a place where I could be true to myself.
Her: So this place does all that?
Me: Not yet, may be in sometime, maybe not.
Her: I don’t understand.
Me: Just wait for a while, you will.
I started penning my poem, I had found my first words a while ago but the end I came to know only now.
“Hustling past the shadows of dusk,
The green laid barren while the dew lay still;
Filling them with life, filling them with purpose,
Moonlight makes its entry, slow but steady,
Only to find a thing missing, only to realize a voice to break
Their long cast spell, their long tired sleep,
The voice that spread sweetness, the eyes that spoke of hope,
The very eyes that awakened my poetic spirit,
The spirit strong enough to wait, to surrender
Before you, just to catch a glimpse of the twilight twice,
One in the sky and other in you”
Her: Have I to wait for the sunrise for thou to leave, Shakespeare?
Me: No mademoiselle, not at all.
Her: Then how will you witness the twilight, twice?
Me: How far is the sun from here?
Her: I get you. Now I will probably leave, don’t stay here for long.
After a silent nod from my side, she spoke again.
Her: The poem, it was quite something. Thank you.
Me: Not every day, not every time I feel so inspired.
Her: Does the rhyme ever stop?
Me: Not today I believe.
Her: I shall leave now.
Me: At least let me know your name?
Me: Ryan, I am Ryan.
She left swiftly with a pleasant smile on her face, the one I would remember for decades ahead.
Photo Courtesy: taringa.net
Exploring the tinsel town of Allahabad was an experience I wouldn’t dare to forget. I had been posted here only a few days ago and was working as a Graduate engineer trainee in one of the reputed construction firms. I had been sent here to add the numerical strength to the depleting supervising bench of the firm over there, which I was initially hesitant but later convinced myself when a convenient incentive was offered.
But I was all stuck and confused, as all the names of the shop were in Hindi and being a South Indian, it was bit of challenge to comprehend. But I did find the shop which I was looking for, the mobile recharge shop. I had to buy a new SIM as I couldn’t tolerate the roaming which was already killing my meagre salary. The shopkeeper assured me of activation within 24 hours, which in actual took another 24 to be put it in use.
And the first message as soon as the number got activated wasn’t even from the telecom provider but it was from some hot shot bank. I opened in curiosity and found lakhs of rupees being transferred into some account number which was also displayed along with the message. Within a span of one hour, I had ended up receiving 20 messages, each carrying a message from the same bank and the same amount. I didn’t think it was some advertising propaganda because the balance kept increasing and stood at an astonishing 1 crore rupees as displayed in the last message. I was in total disarray because I couldn’t comprehend such a huge transaction, all done in parts and all done on a single day.
Three days later
Sipping my tea while I watched the fog engulf the road ahead; the cold had started to take its toll but mind remained restless to know why these messages where delivered to me and why haven’t they stopped. As I unchecked the last message, the phone starts beeping again but all the more continuous this time, so I decided to answer to this unknown number, totally unaware of the mess I was getting into.
Writer’s Note: This is first of the three part series, titled “The Phone Number”.