Monday, 15 September 2014

Short Story 2014 Longlist, G.S.Vasukumar

It could happen in life

‘Rehan, I would like to gift you something before I leave for my place,’ Amithi said, and pulling him along with her into a nearby Crossword bookstore. They went into the fiction section.

‘You know, I have never read fiction so far…’ Rehan protested.

‘You should inculcate something good in your life and let go something which isn’t really good, you know!’ Amithi said, glancing at the row of books, until her eyes found what she was looking for, and her fingers went to fetch it.

‘Here you go! You could start reading fiction with this book which I love a lot!’ Amithi said, thrusting the book into his hands, with a broad smile on her pretty face.

‘Till The Last Breath?’ Rehan read the title, turning the pages of Durjoy Datta’s “Till The Last Breath” novel, ‘I don’t like love stories, you know that!’ He said, closing the book and looking at her triumphantly, with a smile on his face.

‘I know you don’t like love stories. I even wonder how you fell in love with me in the first place…’ Amithi said, glaring at him quite seriously, ‘But this one is much more than a love story…!’ She added.

‘Not a normal love story? Then what is it about?’ Rehan asked her.

‘Well, read it to know!’ Amithi said, smiling again.

‘Do I have to read so many pages to know a story?’ He asked, flipping through the pages of the book.

‘Yes, you have to! You’ll never know the magic each book holds until you read the story,’ She said, ‘and I am giving you two weeks time to complete
this book!’

‘Just two weeks? Are you my teacher or what? I need more time.’ He said, walking with her out of the book store.

‘If you don’t read it within two weeks then you may never read it!’ Amithi said, looking at him.

The reached the railway station and the train arrived just then.

‘Give me a parting hug!’ She said, stretching her arms, with a smile.

‘Are you crazy? So many people are around here!’ Rehan said, turning around, though he wanted a hug too.

‘Alright, then let’s go back to your apartment, and you can give me a hug there!’ Amithi said, coming forward hugging him hard and giving him a peck on his cheeks, ‘I love you, my dear!’ She whispered into his ear.

‘I love you too!’ He said.

‘I didn’t hear it…can you be a little louder please!’ She cried, after parting from him, picking up her luggage.

‘I love you too!’ He said a bit louder.

‘I still can’t hear you!’ Amithi said, smiling at him mischievously, as she entered the train compartment.

The guard blew his whistle and waved the green flag. The train started moving and leaving the railway station behind…

‘I’m still waiting to hear what you said….’ She cried, standing near the door of the compartment, and pointing her finger at her ear.

Rehan took out his mobile, speed dialed her number, and said; “Amithi, I love you too! I would also miss you while you’re gone…please come back soon!’

‘That is the reason why I gave you that book…so that you could read it in my absence…take care and I would be back soon!’ She said, waving her other hand at him.

Rehan too waved back his hand at her as the train left the railway station. He started walking back, flipping through the pages of the book. He found Amithi had written something in one of the pages…

‘To my love…Rehan, without whom, I can’t imagine my life…please read the book! With lots of Love, Amithi..’

It brought a big smile on his face. He found an empty bench in the platform, sat down and started reading the book. It seemed something different and held his interest.

***

Next morning, he was shocked to see the headlines in the newspaper that the train in which Amithi was traveling had been derailed. Seventy five people had died and sixty nine were injured. Rehan took his mobile and dialed Amithi’s mobile number. However, her mobile number wasn’t reachable!

He then dialed her brother’s number. It was ringing, but he wasn’t answering his call, so he called her father’s number.

‘Rehan! Amithi had spoken a lot about you! We are going to the hospital to see if she is among the injured…’ Her father said, ‘I would give you a call when I get some information about her..’

‘Thank you, Uncle…I would be waiting for your call!’ Rehan said, hanging up.

Rehan switched on the news channel on the TV, in which they were showing the rescue operation from the derailed couches of the train. He found many charred bodies lying near the tracks covered with white clothes. People were everywhere…some were crying for their lost relatives…some running around to help the injured.

‘God! Please let her be alright…please!’ He cried, a drop of tear fell from his eye and landed on his arm.

After sometime later, his mobile started ringing. He answered the call.

‘Rehan, we went to the hospital…’ Amithi’s father said.

‘Did you find Amithi there, Uncle? Is she alright?’ He cried, interrupting him.

‘No, son, we didn’t find her in the hospital…so we went to the mortuary ..’

‘…and we found her there.…’ Her father said, ‘Are you coming here to see her for the last time?’

‘No, Uncle…I just can’t see her in that way…’ Rehan said, dropping the mobile. He clinched his face in his hands and broke down into tears…God had taken away one person whom he had loved so much in his life!

***

Some days passed by, he completed reading the novel and he liked the book very much. The book was her last gift to him, so he preserved it carefully. He used to turn the page where she had written that sentence for him. Rehan used to close his eyes and remember the wonderful moments they had together. Amithi was very much alive in his mind…in his heart…part of his soul as well.

Rehan went to Amithi’s blog and made a note of her favourite books. Then he went to the Crossword book shop and purchased all those books.

That night, while he was in deep sleep….Amithi came in his dream…the dream felt so real… Amithi gave a peck on his cheek.

‘Rehan, did you like the book?’ Amithi asked him.

‘Yes, I loved it!’ He replied, looking at her.

‘Good. I see you have bought my other fav books as well. Read them as well. After my last breath, I realized how much I loved you…I wanted to be with you…so I am here! You may not see me, but I can see you…’ Amithi said, ‘Remember! What I had told you sometime back….You should inculcate something good in your life and let go something which isn’t really good…’

‘Yes, but what habit do I have which isn’t good?’ Rehan asked.

‘Smoking and Drinking!’ She said, ‘I want you to let go these two habits…you are not only wasting money, but spoiling your health as well.’
 
‘Well, some habits are got easy than getting rid of them..I don’t think it would be easy to do that!’ Rehan said.

‘That’s why I’m still here!’ She said, finally smiling at him, ‘When you wake up empty the big cookie glass jar….and I want you to drop in the money you would be spending for smoking and drinking.’

‘Okay…I’ll do that!’ Rehan said.

‘Have you looked at mirror? How much weight you have gained and how old you look? I want you to get up early every day and go for a walk…listen to music…start enjoying whatever you used to like in your life before…I wanted to have a pug…but sadly I couldn’t have one while I was alive…I want you to have one..’ Amithi said.

‘Okay..I’ll get one soon..’ Rehan said, ‘I will do whatever you tell me to do…please don’t leave me and go!’

‘I won’t leave you, Rehan! One more thing…do you know…Dad had donated my eyes! Now, a blind girl can see through my eyes…sadly, she had not lost her sight and her parents in an accident some years back. I am glad that I am helpful to someone after I have gone!’

‘I would like to see her…can you take me to her?’ Rehan asked her.

‘Sure, I will! But first things first…do what I have told you then I will take you to her..’

Rehan suddenly opened his eyes…turned and glanced at the mirror. He had gained weight and looked much older than his age. He turned his face and saw some mark on his cheek. He got up shocked and went closer to the mirror. He then saw the lipstick mark on his cheeks. His fingers touched it and it was real for sure! It brought a smile on his face…and he was smiling for the first time after quite sometime.

He went to the kitchen, emptied and cleaned the big glass cookie jar. He dropped some money into it. He went for a morning walk listening to music in the nearby park. Later, he went and bought a pug home. The pug was so cute and he followed him wherever he went! Rehan named him ‘Tracy’.

Whenever he felt the urge to smoke, he used to chew gum or do something else to divert his attention. He emptied the liquor bottles into the wash basin, and threw the bottles into the trash can.

***

‘Rehan, I’m so glad that you have done whatever I had asked you to do!’ Amithi said, smiling at him, in his dream one night, ‘Now, I know how much you love me..’

When Rehan woke up from his sleep he saw the lipstick kiss marks on both his cheeks and he smiled.

He soon started feeling better and lost the excess weight. He joined the cooking classes and learnt cooking as well. Rehan and Tracy went for morning walk everyday..

Amithi told him the address of the girl in one of his dreams and he went to her place to meet her. When he saw her, he had tears in eyes…

‘Are you crying? I see tears in your eyes…are you alright?’ The girl asked him.

‘Yes, I’m fine!’ He said, looking at her beautiful eyes, ‘Something should have fallen into my eyes…maybe some dust...I was looking at your eyes…they are so beautiful!’

‘Thank You…you know, I was blind before…someone gave me back my eye sight! My name is Adithi and you are..?’

‘I’m Rehan…Nice to meet you Adithi!’ He said, shaking her hand.

‘And may I know why you wanted to see me? How do you know me?’ Adithi asked him.

Rehan told her everything that had happened till now. Adithi had tears in her eyes after he completed the story.

‘I feel sorry for your loss..’ Adithi said sadly. Adithi was a couple of years younger than Amithi.

‘No, she still lives through your eyes…’ He replied.

He had bought the book ‘Till The Last Breath’ while coming to see Adithi. He gave her the book.

‘I would like you to read this book…take care’ He said, before leaving.

‘Would I see you again, Rehan?’ She cried from behind.

‘Maybe, may not be!’ Rehan said, turning back, and waving his hand to her.

***

Soon the cookie glass jar was full of currency notes and coins. Amithi told him in his dream what to do with it…

‘Rehan, I would like you to take the glass jar to the Crossword book shop where I had bought you that book and gift a book to all the people in the book shop and tell them your inspiring story. Maybe, it would bring a change in their individual lives as well, who knows?’ Amithi said.

‘That’s a great idea! I will do it!’ Rehan said.

Rehan went and met the book store manager and told him what he wanted to do. The manager was pleased hearing it.

‘Let us do it in a grand way! Give me some time and I will fix it!’ The manager said.

‘Sure, thanks for the help..’ Rehan said.

‘No worries…as a matter of fact you are doing a wonderful thing! I would also like to help you do it in a big way!’ The manager said, smiling at him.

***

One day, Rehan received an invitation from the Crossword Book Shop…it read…

‘Come! Know the story behind the big cookie glass jar! Don’t miss it on this Sunday evening at 5pm…at your favourite book shop…’

On the Sunday evening, the book shop was crowded with people of all ages. Rehan told them his love story and concluded..

‘Thanks for coming here and listening to my story. Now, I would like gift each one of you with a book of your choice. Just pick your book and I will pay for it with the money from this cookie jar!’ Rehan said, smiling at them.

Every one stood up and started clapping in joy. They had never heard something like this in their entire lives! Also his story touched and moved many of them.

‘Well, just in case if the money in this cookie glass jar isn’t enough then we shall pitch in and pay for your books,’ The Manager announced, standing up, smiling at the crowd, ‘Rehan would like to say something more to you guys!’

‘Well, all I want to say is when I could quit smoking and drinking, you guys can also do it. You too can get rid of bad habits you may have in your life, if you give it a try!’ Rehan concluded, with a smile on his face.

Rehan saw Amithi standing among the crowd. She was smiling and clapping her hands in appreciation. He smiled back at her.

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