Monday 15 September 2014

Short Story 2014 Longlist, Anmol Ankita

Dear Devil

“Can we just forget each other?”
“What? Are you drunk?”
“I am serious.”
“Huh! What are you talking about? How can I forget you Samar?”
“Just do it!”
“It’s not a command Samar. Will you shut up? Can you do the same? Can you forget this Kasam?”
“Yes I can.”
“Whom are you trying to fool? I know you cannot. And I won’t.”
“Will you shut your idiotic mind and stop freaking me out! You know I hate such mood of yours. You are not going anywhere. Just by heart it. You simply can’t break your promise.”
“I won’t break any of my promises to you Kasam. Nevertheless, I do not want any strings attached to anybody. A day will eventually arrive, when I will no more have that place of mine in your life. So why can’t you make up your mind from now onwards?”
“Am I included in your ‘anybody’ Mr?”
“You do not understand me... You never understand me.!”
“I really don’t want to.”
“Let’s not talk to each other for some time.”
“Are you asking me or informing me? And why do you always find excuses to run away from me? And then it’s you who blames me for not being in touch.”
“Just listen to me.”
“I won’t. I cannot. I just can’t stay without you.”
“I am just allowing you some time to make up your mind. I know you will be fine soon.”
“Don’t judge me! I really cannot get any clue for your reaction. Why are you doing this to us?? Samar? Samar?
“Yes Kasam.”
“What if I keep calling your name and you won’t pay any heed to any of it?
What if I have a great news and you won’t be there to listen to it?
What if something makes me upset and you won’t be there to listen to my cries?
What if I write something and you won’t be there to listen to it?”
“You will come to know”
“You can’t go away. My nights will turn scary waiting for your number to flash on my screen. How can I sleep soundly without your song?”
“You’ll learn. You will move on. You will succeed. You will be stronger. You will always be happy. Bye.”
“Mom?” “Mom? Wake up mom!”
“Yeah? Kia? Oh! Was I dreaming loudly?”
“No but you were panting. Are you alright? You don’t seem well. Was it any nightmare?”
“Oh no dear. Why won’t I be alright! So everything’s ready?
“I guess so. I am finished with all the packing. We are all set, provided you have made up your mind.”
“Do I have an option? (Did I ever have?)”
That was Kia, my 15-year-old daughter, matured than her age, might be because of what all she has faced in such an early phase.
I still could notice her withheld tears. She has been trying to put on a mask ever since she lost her dad.
It has been 10 long years since we lost Aman. A noble human, a responsible doctor, a caring father and a constant supporter for me. We had an arranged marriage, where two doctors were tied together under the rituals. Yet I would agree, life would not have been that easy if it wasn’t Aman out there. It has been a difficult phase for Kia to lose her super hero at such a young age.
Time passes, taking many chances, inquisitive hopes, innocent dreams and long driven desires, but it has given me everything back in the form of Kia. I know she cannot bear her mom to be upset about anything. She misses her dad every time she finds me smiling just for her, she reads my eyes beaming her reflection, and she smiles back at me with the same void smile hoping to avoid pain in my life. Sometimes we simply smile for each other.

“How important is my presence in your life?”
“Are you always filled with so many questions Samar?”
“That’s not my answer.”
“Huh! You never answer any of my questions!”
“I won’t, until you do.”
“Same boring dialogue...”
“You are diverting from your answer.”
“You are irritating!”
“Forget it...”
“Oh am I not supposed to answer anymore?”
“Nope. Okay I have to sleep. Bye.”
“Bye? Now what is this? You got upset! Again?”
“Yes Kasam”
“Nobody can ever take your place in my... in my life. I wonder if I can place the same quantum of trust on any other person. I write only if it can touch you in any manner. Your presence is something, which inspires me. Your absence is something that works against my strength and desires. If I will lose you ever there would be...”
“...a void in your life. Isn’t it?”
(and our hearts smiled silently!)
“Kia? Call Ramu and ask him to get the car ready. We shouldn’t be late else we will miss the train.”
(Where is my diary? How can I be so careless? It was in my drawer all this while. Where did it go then! Where’s that little devil!)
Among the countless memories, the diary had preserved an entire me; the Kasam whom I hardly remember, the Kasam whom I cannot erase from my past, the Kasam who had left me years ago.
After minutes of searching, I found it at a place, which I did not want. It was in Kia’s bag, placed within her stock of outfits. I didn’t take it out. My stubborn mind did not back off (as always!). Let Kia explore the old me. She can find out many things which my words would not have supported me in teaching the essence of life. She will know what changes are, and what transformation is. She will definitely catch the thoughts and innocence the silly girl in the diary had. She ought to know how the silly girl has redefined herself into the present mom she knows. That might help her come out of her own grief.
I repacked it and zipped it up. Turning back, I found those lustrous mirrored eyes trying to trap all her hidden emotions. Our eyes could not betray our untold miseries, some silent thoughts flowing in their own accord. Few more moments, and my Kia freed herself of those years long preserved tears. She ran into my arms like the kid I had been missing all these years.
“I love you mom.”
“I know that...”
Perhaps that was the reason behind my patience and devotion to this life.
“I want you to be happy forever. I want you to smile always. I want this silly girl to live her dreams and turn into Dr. Kasam soon.”
“Aye mister! Thy words are my command”
(and our hearts smiled silently!)
 We boarded the train with an unexpected ease.
“Journey on a train always gets on to my nerves.”
“Yeah, but why?”
“I don’t know.”
My eyes fixed to the window, trying to steal the beauty of the evening. However, what seems so beautiful and enchanting is it really that peaceful and nostalgic...?
The passing breeze,
Touching my senses to the core,
I go back to the memory lane,
Apparently faded...
And yet refreshing and shaded;
With mystic innocence from some unending path,
Some whisper asking me to knock at its door...
“Oh here are they.”
“Yes baby”
“You didn’t react when you saw your diary with me. Are you not upset?”
“Why would I be dear? Rather I am curious about how will you judge that girl in the diary. Just go through the pages. They will unfurl many things I have left behind. Remember one thing; do not allow your conscience to judge it from the very beginning. Let the words get inside you; let they help you to understand the feelings engraved in them, let it unfurl you all that the girl was going through. Then do your task and let me know your perspective. ”
Dear devil,
I wrote, he saw;
I talked, he smiled;
I waited, he didn’t respond;
I expect, that hurts;
I decide to go away, destiny plays itself;
I try to be stubborn; the tale seems to end;
I hope of a silver lining, the tale never ends...
Yours angel.
“Your word.. Mom? They are poetic... You write?”
“I used to. Things have changed.”
(Suddenly my tone went rough)
Dear devil,
Today he said that he wishes to see me in a red sari once. Why is that so? I did not ask him the reason (as always!). Will I look good in red? No idea!
Yours angel... 

Deep in my thoughts, it was always the same known stranger haunting my mind and guiding my actions.
 “I am thinking to write a story this time. Help me find one.”
“A story? Write about us.”
“Shall I? Do you permit me?”
“Huh? Believe me, you will love it.”
“I don’t want to love it. We don’t have any story Kasam.”
“Shut up! Okay at least name the characters of the story, the boy and the girl?”
“Devil & Angel.”
“Huh? You, devil and I, an angel?”
“The boy, Devil and the girl, Angel”
The train journey finally came to an end. We headed off to a lodge. I was already growing homesick. It was only emergency call for my duty that made me step out of my safe house. Thank god! There was Kia to accompany my hideous outing.
All these years after Aman left, often I kept myself equipped in my mother’s job. I had my clinic built at home. However, my seniority and experience in the profession kept me in touch with specialists all over India.
“So who’s this patient you are going to see mom? Anything serious?”
“Sort of. I came to know from Dr. Sharma that he is suffering from intestinal cancer. Due to improper diagnosis, his treatment got delayed. This has seriously enhanced the disease. Anyway they want me to go through his reports and see if it would be proper to continue the treatment out here or ...”
“We will have to shift him to USA. Nevertheless, we cannot take any more risk. I will try to meet him in person.”
“Hopefully. But I am not able to reach the doc. I think I will pay a visit to the hospital and meet him.”
“Okay very well. I am equipped with your diary this evening.”
“Don’t stress yourself much on that.”
“Good luck mom!”
Dear devil,
I was totally upset regarding my placement in a proper med college. Seeing me panic, he tried his might consoling me. This time his tone went out of track. He sounded sweet and concerned, unlike his usual ‘why would I be bothered’ tone. Unknowingly, but his reflexive heart made him to utter a promise, “I will always be there to support you Kasam, even if you do not need me.”
Are you sure, I am supposed to control my emotions and concern before him? His mind seems to have freed his heart, or was it the converse. I need your reply in some possible way.
Yours angel...
“Excuse me? Is Dr. Sharma in his cabin?”
“I am sorry ma’am. He had to urgently fly to Chandigarh this morning. May I know your name ma’am?”
“Dr. Kasam”
“Oh he had informed me that you might come.”
“Did he leave any message?”
“He will be back tonight and about the meeting, it will be tomorrow.”
“Can I have his reports?”
“Sorry ma’am. The reports are with the doc. I cannot access it without his permission. However, the patient was supposed to come and meet you.”
“Oh is he here?”
“No ma’am. Not yet.”
“Uhh! Okay. Never mind. I will see him tomorrow. Fix the meeting and reach Dr Sharma.”
“Certainly ma’am”
Dear devil,
I have so many confessions to make. I just cannot bear them. Choking them within is killing me.
  1. All day long, I keep talking to myself assuming that it’s him on the other side, listening to all my tales. And this means that I have turned mad.
  2.  Often (sometimes...) he does not respond to my calls, which make me sick. The way he acts so careless towards his health makes me yell at him, which he responds in a shocking manner (obviously!).
  3. I just did the most hideous thing tonight. I ignored his call intentionally. In a war between mind and soul, I was biased to listen to my mind this time (the only time).
And to avoid the sin, I promise that I will confess all these directly to him. Huh! I feel a bit relieved.
Yours angel...
I walked into a cab, a bit annoyed at my ruined plan. The city’s traffic was fanning my pathetic mood. The cab got stuck and so were the numerous other vehicles around me.
Meanwhile my eyes peeped through the window to sense a known stranger, next to two cars in line of my sight. My bleary vision and the hustle bustle turned clearer and caught hold of my breath to find the fog fading away.
“Shall I really lose you Samar?”
“We will part someday.”
“And if we part, will it be easy for you to forget me?”
“What happened to you Kasam? Why cannot you accept this and move on? Kasam??”
“I don’t know the reason, but it did hurt me Samar.”
“How can it be easy for you to lose me?”
“No it won’t be.”
“The fact is you won’t lose me ever. I will be the one who will lose you one day.”
Our eyes met. He was close and yet we were far from each other. So many years have passed and my stubborn mind denied reading his mind this time. His thoughts were louder than my mind’s command though (as always!). The same lustrous eyes reflecting a Kasam, whom I yearn every second of my living.
The mist gets darker,
And my mind turns perplexed;
The voice drowns my conscience,
My soul totally jinxed;
There, the foggy shadow turns clearer,
& my beats growing louder;
An unknown silhouette, breathing calmly,
Demands my touch, his hands stretched firmly;
This innocent soul getting melted soon,
& I stretch out my hand, allowing my fate to be in sync with his tune...
Dear devil,
It is not his desire but my choice. Let me just take his command as my fate. I know him more than I know myself, and yet I would pretend the contrary. I will not question his demand. Allow me to have faith on him even at this juncture. Help me perform my duty without hurting anyone. Make me believe that I was never in love, nor can I ever be.
Just a part of the millionth darkness, I have to gulp it down saying that it was nothing, but a phase. A phase that redefined me to somebody, whom am not able to meet my eyes with. For the first time he demanded me something, it is his right to get everything he wishes for. Our story started with the two of us, ended with the two of us involved, letting him to be silent forever.
Yours angel...
Engrossed in life’s unexpected turn, I reached home. It was already too late. Kia’s room was still lit. I went in there to see if Kia was awake. Yes she was! She seemed lost.
I guess I was prepared for the moment.
“Are you happy mom?”
“You are my happiness.”
“Why did not you confess your feelings to him mom? You both had so much within...”
“We trusted each other more than we trusted ourselves. We knew everything about each other, even about what we felt. We did not lose each other. We can never. Good night Kia.”
“Good morning Dr. Kasam.”
“Good morning doc. May I have the reports? I need to go through the details.”
“Yeah here are they. Colorectal Cancer. Last stage. Prominent loss of weight. Enlargement of liver. Uhh name is... Samar Mehra.”
Seamless tears choked within.
 “Here he is. Hello Samar.”
The silent prayers murmured by this feeble heart were loud enough. It is not him. It just cannot be him.
“Hello Doc. I had come yesterday. But I couldn’t meet the one whom you were talking about.”
(I wish I could fail recognising his voice)
“Oh yeah Samar. Here she is. Dr. Kasam.”
I turned to face the ugly truth. I could see the same cheerful eyes, now turned pale in an instant notice of our presence.
“I studied the case and to be frank we’re simply wasting time treating him in here. Though it has got no survival chances but still if we can take him to USA as soon as possible, we might literally add a few more days to his life. What’s your advice doc?”
“Yeah we will. Dr Sharma? Are you sure...?”
“What sort of doubt is this Doc? I am sure you know the ultimatum. Are you fine Kasam? You don’t seem to be yourself.”
“I am staying tonight. Tomorrow morning we will leave as soon as possible.”
I walked into his cabin where he had got admitted. Every step I treaded was a walk towards eternity, towards a lost dream or an illusion in the form of a dream. There he was laying peacefully, his eyes staring at the roof, searching for something.
(Knock! Knock!)
“So Mr. Samar missed me?”
(Phone rings at 3.00am)
“Good morning ma’am!”
“Hello? Hello?”
“Ugh, it’s 3 in the morning stupid!”
“I know that! How could I tolerate your sound sleep?”
“You mean you were missing me?”
“Miss you? Not even in your dreams!”
“Missed you? Not even in your dreams!”
And there were 2 hearts living each other’s promise and yet those charismatic eyes, reliving their secluded moments.
“You won’t go home Kasam?”
“You want me to go Samar?”
“No. I want you to stay.”
“Well, can I have the privilege to have one of your evenings?”
“You mean before I leave”
And my eyes could not bear his sweet pain. (He even cannot!)
“I mean before we fly to USA.”
“Just be ready tonight. I will pick you at 7.”
“Don’t you have anything to say?”
“You know everything Samar.”
“But still it’s better if you say it yourself.”
“Why am I always the first one to say?”
“You have got no choice dear!”
“Now don’t start off.”
“What if I say that I like you?”
“I will say that it was obvious.”
“You are an idiot!”
“Huh! You just can’t do it!”
“Huh? Do what?”
“Yes Kasam...”
“Promise me that you will never forget me.”
“I can’t forget you Kasam and I promise that I won’t... ever...”
“Promise me that you will look back whenever I will call out your name.”
“You won’t be behind. I will stay at your back. Whenever you need me, just turn and I will be there.”
“Will you hold my hand if ask you to?”
“...even if I won’t be there”
“Samar? What if I say I love you?”
“I will say... I love you too Kasam.”
“You do?”
“Have always... and will always...”
 (And our hearts smiled silently...)
“Promise me you will love me forever”
“...I love you for eternity...”
Our eyes held each other so close, that nothing could betray us.
“So Mr. Samar is in white kurta today?”
“And Dr. Kasam is in red sari”
“You always wanted to see me in this.”
“And you wanted me to try this only before you.”
(and our hearts smiled silently!)
(Why didn’t you say this Samar? Why did you have to hide it all these years? Didn’t you trust my love? Was I not the girl for you? How am I supposed to forgive myself?)
“So Kasam what are your latest writings all about?”
“It was always about you Samar. You know it.”
“What do you mean? You have not stopped writing. Did you?”
“I had lost my inspiration somewhere in the dark. I tried reaching him with all my might. Alas! I failed.”
“Kasam? You are strong, you are beautiful... You are my angel...”
“Can I ask you why Samar? You know I did not want anything in life but you. But you left. Breaking your promises. I lived to live your promises. I became a doctor, I raised my family, I smiled and I ...”
“Didn’t I live my promises Kasam?”
“You are leaving me again. That is not fair. How can you be the one to decide about us always? Why?”
“I never left you. I will never leave you. I couldn’t have lived, if it wasn’t you, your voice and your undefined presence near me.”
“Why this Samar? Isn’t my love true? Why is god doing this to us?”
“Everything happens for a reason my dear.”
“Our silences were always clearer than our words.”
“I can never forget you Kasam. Not in this life. Not beyond it.”
“And... I will love you for eternity...”
(and our hearts smiled silently...!)

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