Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Short Story 2015, Longlist Vasu Gangapalli

The Empty Chair

Diary Entry – by Ankitha
Have you ever wondered that the little birds in some nest on some branch of some tree would grow up, learn how to fly with their little wings and one fine day, they would desert their loving parents and fly away to start a family of their own. They perhaps tend to forget or ignore the fact that with how much love and care their parents had brought them up! It is almost the same with the human children as well. They do the same thing to their parents, so it’s better not to have any expectations whatsoever on your kids or even think that they would return some part of the love and affection you had given them, when you grow old and they grow up!
***

Present
Abhishek sat on the couch, kept staring at the empty chair that was facing outside from the balcony of the apartment. The balcony was decorated with beautiful and colourful flowering pots by his mother. She used to spend her time in the evenings, seated on that chair and looking outside from the balcony.

Memories of the past started coming back to him like the waves of the sea. He tried to visualize his dear mother seated on that particular chair in the balcony. It was her favourite chair.

Past
‘Mom, why do you like this particular chair so much?’ Abhishek had asked her while he was a kid.
‘Well, you know something?’ She asked him back, smiling at him.
‘No, I don’t!’ He said.

‘My grandfather used to sit on this chair and tell me wonderful stories when I was a kid of your age!’ She replied retaining that wonderful smile on her pretty face. The smile added beauty to her face like the colours did to some beautiful painting on some wall.

‘You told all those stories to me, right?’ Abhishek asked, smiling back at her.
‘Most of them, I think,’ She said, ‘some of them are still hidden in some part of my brain and I am trying hard to find them so that I can narrate the same to you.’
‘Did your grandpa tell you his own stories?’

‘Well, I think his grandpa should have told him while he was young. It should have come down from the generations like that. I think one of them from the older generations had written them long time back.’

‘That’s really nice!’ Abhishek said, ‘I wish that you could tell me each one of the stories your grandpa had told you. I would like to write them down in a book, so that I could get them published someday. It would be really nice if the coming generations gets to read those stories as well.’
‘That’s a good idea!’ His mother said.

Present

Abhishek opened the old family album which was on the small table before him. His son of eight years, Vinay and wife Pooja were seated beside him on the couch. They too were looking at the pictures in that photo album. The album started with black and white pictures…one of the pictures was of his mother while she was seven years old.
‘Dad, you look so much like her…’ Vinay said.

‘Yeah, I know!’ Abhishek said, feeling the picture with his fingers. He had got used to people saying that when he was young. Then he used to protest that he was different fro her, but deep inside his heart he felt happy that he resembled his beloved mother whom he adored a lot!

The next picture was that in which his mother was on a swing. Maybe, it was taken when she was ten years old or so. She had told him that her father had clicked that picture then.

‘Where is this park, Mom?’ He had asked her then.
‘It’s in a small town far away from here!’ She had replied.

‘The swing is just like in the park you used to take me in New York, dad.’ Vinay said.

‘Yes, it used to bring me back the memory of this particular picture whenever I used to take you to that park over there.’ He said smiling.

The next picture was that of his mother dressed in a school uniform. She looked so cute in that picture that Abhishek had told her that he wanted to marry a girl like her when he grew up one day.

‘Well, then you need to travel back in time to find someone like me then, as I am sure that you won’t find one like me when you grow up.’ His mother had told him.

‘I will become a scientist when I grow up and invent a time machine so that I could travel back in time and find someone like you there..’ He said smiling.

‘Really?’

‘Yes, I would do that!’

‘I wish you could do that, so that I could travel back in time and relive my sweet memories once again.’ His mother replied, smiling at him.
Diary Entry – by Ankitha

My dear husband, Sanjay had passed away a few years back…and it was then that I had seen my son, his wife and my grand son, Vinay for the last time. My son had asked me to go along with him to America, but I couldn’t make up my heart to leave the place where I had spent so many years since my childhood…So, I have been living all alone in this apartment. I do chat with my son and his family online every now and then. We even have video chat once in a while, but I would rather prefer the person to be seated in front and talk to me..…I had asked my son to visit India and stay over here for sometime. He had been promising me to visit India and it hasn’t come true so far. Hope to see them one last time before my time comes to leave!
***

Present Day

The next picture in the photo album was his mother’s class photo. It was taken while she was in 4th standard.
‘Who was grandma’s best friend, dad?’ Vinay asked looking at that picture.
‘Swomya!’ Abhishek said, pointing his finger at a girl in that picture.
‘And who is that boy in that picture?’ Vinay asked him, pointing to another picture.
‘He is her pen friendm Mohan!’ Abhishek replied.

Abhishek remembered when he was a kid; he was looking for one of his toys in the attic when a bundle of letters fell upon him. He found that all those letters were written by a boy called ‘Mohan’. He went and asked his mother, who the boy in those letters was?

‘Oh, Mohan, he was my pen friend!’ His mother had said, smiling and taking those letters from him. She started feeling them with her fingers.

‘And you both wrote to each other...’ He said.
‘Yes!’ She said, ‘Mohan lived in another city which was quite far from mine.’
‘Did you get to exchange photos? How does he look like?’ Abhishek had asked her.
‘Oh, yes!’ She said, looking at the envelopes, ‘It should be in one of these envelopes. Let me look for it.’

Finally, she found the passport sized black and white photo of Mohan. She glanced at it for a few seconds, before handing it to her son, Abhishek.
‘He looks so handsome!’ Abhishek said, looking at the picture, ‘Did you fall in love with him?’
‘No, we were good friends then,’ She said, smiling at him. She took the glue stick and stuck that passport picture in the photo album.

‘So what happened to Mohan? Did they ever get to meet each other?’ Vinay asked his father.
‘Well, Mohan had another name and that was Sanjay!’ Abhishek said, turning and looking at his son.
‘So, grandma ended marrying Mohan, is it?’ Vinay asked, surprised.
‘Yes, she did! I came to know that that day itself.’ Abhishek replied, looking at his mother and father’s wedding picture.
***

Diary Entry – by Ankitha
One could always make money anytime, someway or the other, but not beautiful memories that could be framed and kept in one's heart for future remembrance and also for giving meaning to one's life!

I do have some beautiful memories from my past, but not any from the present which would become bitter past soon!
***

Abhishek went through all the pictures in that album with his son Vinay and his wife. The last picture in that album was Abhishek’s picture with his son and wife. He closed the album and stood up.

‘Time to leave, dad?’ Vinay asked him.
‘Yes, I have one last thing to do before we take leave..’ Abhishek said, walking towards the empty chair in the balcony. He bent and hugged the chair with both his arms, tears rolled down from his cheeks and he managed to whisper, ‘Sorry, mom, I couldn’t come early to see you!’

He turned back, wiped his tears and walked back towards his son and wife.
‘Come on, let’s go!’ He told them, who were ready on their feet.
‘One thing, dad!’ Vinay said, ‘You didn’t just hug the empty chair…you hugged grandma who is seated on it right now!’
‘Can you see her, son?’ He asked, rising his eyebrows in surprise, ‘what is she doing right now?’
‘She is looking away from the balcony with her diary in her lap…I think she is missing you a lot, dad!’ He replied.
'I know, son!' He said.

Abhishek turned and glanced at the balcony. All he could see was just the empty chair and not her. As they walked towards the main door…the page of the dairy which was on the lap of his mother flipped…

Diary Entry – By Ankita

My Son, Abhishek, his wife, Pooja and my grand son, Vinay had reached Bangalore, India from New York, America. They were coming home in a city taxi when they met with a fatal accident. Sadly, none of them survived. Now, I am waiting for my time to come... so that I could leave this world..leave my memories both good and bad behind- forever!

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