Tuesday, 1 September 2015

Short Story 2015, Shortlist Sufia Khatoon

The Blue Moon

’The blue moon in its glory,
Hidden behind the night’s veil of fury,
Stood waiting for its time, 
To light the twin heavens,
Merging blue water with dark night.’’

Dear Sebastian once you had asked me why I had fallen in love with the blue moon? I had thought about it quite often and I came to this conclusion that the blue moon was a rare sight to my sour eyes. Something which tied me to this world, what else is there to keep me believing that this world is beautiful? Only the blue moon has the answers to my maladies, to my restlessness and my chaos. These lines by you have kept my faith unmoved all these years. You must me wondering that why I wrote a letter of this length to tell you about the blue moon, I want you to read this tale that I am going to tell you, read it with your heart and then you shall get your answer.

Once there was a toad that lived in the mushy farmlands of a farmer in Paris. His best friend, a caterpillar was his only eyes through which he saw the world outside. On learning that the world was going to end some day, the toad decided to travel the various lands before he died. Biding goodbye to his friend, the toad left for new adventures. The cater pillar made a point that he wrote to his friend everyday sharing his experiences as he was scared of leaving his cosy home in the trees. But as fate would have it, things began to change around the garden of the farmer. Seasons changed and the farmer uprooted the older trees to plant new ones which could bear more delicious fruits. 

The caterpillar was forced to leave his home and travel like a wandered on the grasslands fearing every now and then that he was going to die. When the sun bid adieu, the caterpillar being tired of his journey rested under the shade of a tree, very soon he spotted a toad standing at a distance staring at the blue moon in the sky. He was constantly staring and singing songs of love, unmoved by the world’s mysteries for his beloved. The caterpillar thought that he was his friend Mr toad; jumping in joy he scaled towards him only to realize that he was some other toad. 

Curious to know his story, he asked why he was staring at the moon. The toad replied that he had fallen in love with the blue moon as it was bright blue and shining with love. He was sure that the blue moon also loved him and to unite with his lover he had to be also blue in colour. The caterpillar got confused and wondered how he would be able to do that. The toad begged him to assist him in his quest. Expecting something exciting would happen, the caterpillar agreed and together they hopped to the farmer’s house. The farmer too engrossed in his lose didn’t notice them entering through the window. The new plants had not bore the fruits he had expected for which he had uprooted the older ones and now he had nothing left with him. 

The toad showed an opened bottle of blue ink to the caterpillar and explained his plan. He was sure that once he would dip himself in the ink, he would turn blue and unite with his blue moon the next night. So he dipped himself in the ink bottle the whole night and chatted with the caterpillar, who obviously was regretting making that hasty decision; while listening to the toad’s song, he was soon fast asleep.

 The birds chirped the next morning waking the world once again.
The farmer woke up with a hope to plant his older uprooted trees to see if they were still alive but the new ones had started flowering, he thanked the lord and plated the older ones too. The caterpillar opened his eyes and to his amusement he saw that the toad had came out of the bottle and was in fact red in colour. He hadn’t realized that the ink was red and now he was red from top to bottom, so red that which was his face and which was his bottom was hard to locate. Cursing the passion of love, the toad walked away with a chameleon when he realized the red colour would never go away and if he left the opportunity he won’t get a chameleon also in the end. The caterpillar laughed hysterically at the silliness of the toad and left for his new home. He wrote back to his friend Mr Toad telling him about his adventure and pleading him not to fall in love with him when he returned as he had transformed into a blue butterfly. In the end every night the blue moon remained where it was and like a faithful lover shined brightly for his beloved night.
 
You see now Sebastian like the toad and the farmer you are making a hasty decision to leave Paris because Rose died on you. But see the caterpillar who took a risk and went outside his comfort zone, he had learnt the biggest lesson of his life, he learned to take life as it came and to have faith that something unexpected would happen soon and like the blue moon to be always passionately in love with the sky.
 
Love is something which none of us can understand or everyone can, but sometimes we should free ourselves from the burden of experiencing pain in love because only love can free our soul, only through love can we attain wisdom and become a better human.
Think about what I said and be that blue moon my child. Whatever maybe your decision, I shall always love you.
 
Love, your grandmother
 Amanda Jones.
P.S:  I am certain that now you would to let go of your pain if you had truly loved Rose ever.
 
Sebastian looked at the one way ticket to London in his hand and tore it into pieces. Sighing deeply at what he had read he folded his grandmother’s letter gently and preserved it in his memory. His grandmother was a woman of values who had lived her life to the fullest with 20 children and 50 grandchildren. Sebastian loved the way she said such meaningful things with such ease. He had to let go of Rose, it almost had been a year since she had died in a train accident in Paris. Sebastian, a travel reporter by profession had married his childhood sweetheart Rose after they had graduated; they had a beautiful six year old daughter named Mary and two years old son named Tyler. They were happy till Rose was gone from their lives, it was so weird that at one moment one breathes and the next moment one is lying motionless, as if the heart forgets to pump life’s body and the soul goes in deep sleep. He had only one thing to do now, to focus on bringing up the kids, even though he missed Rose, he would have to let go of the pain and remember their beautiful time together.
                                                      …………………………………….
Mary was standing at the entrance of Paris Museum of Art and Culture observing the round glass gate opening and closing at the same time, and his little brother Tyler believing it to be a merry go round entertaining the guests who had come in for the painting exhibition of artist Sofia Anderson. Sebastian wasn’t interested to join in the commotion of people showing off about art when they hardly knew what the real essence of a painting was, always considering it as a product of the elite and fashionable but never a meaningful inspired art. While his friend Peter kept pulling him to talk to the known celebrity faces to get clients for his travel agency, he detested them, he was a travel reporter for God sake, and he had no business in such a place.

Putting his children in the care of his grandmother, Sebastian left for the central gallery to have a look at the paintings at the request of Peter who claimed it could change his life and his entire perspective about things if he looked at them for once.

Sebastian browsed through the exhibits carefully, first lightly then seriously, each painting forwarding a unique thought, a dream like sequence where he could feel his spirit was floating away to unknown lands. He could feel the strength of the universe which cleverly weaved each subject to one another; the universe was God’s master piece indeed. How love overpowered every sensible idea and unbridled the chained desires to reach the climax of love.

“Anything you liked, I have been observing you for quite some time, and your expression tells me I have succeeded in showing you what I saw myself”
Sebastian turned and saw Sofia calmly addressing his awe and surprise.
“Hi, yes I was really speechless at the depths of these paintings; it’s amazing how you have brought such complicated truths on a canvas. In fact I was quite taken aback.”
“Oh really, well that is then indeed a pointer for me, next time I’ll blow your mind away” she laughed saying so.

Mary came running towards Sebastian complaining that Tyler was trying to eat the painting of an apple. Sofia laughed at their innocence; children could be so full of life, she always wished she could see the world as they did; it was a different perspective all together.
“You have adorable children; hope you had enjoyed your stay, goodbye.”
Mary waved goodbye heartily as Sebastian took his leave and accompanied Peter to his office.
Later that night Sebastian bought some of Sofia’s paintings, especially the one which portrayed the climax of love.

Passion made us not a slave to our life but a soul full of hope to be able to add some colours to our dull existence. Sebastian hadn’t touched his camera for a very long time, photography was his passion and Rose his love. He looked at some of the photos of Rose with him and the children when they were just born; a whimsical photo of his grandmother, Peter washing his dog while he ran after the neighbours cat and all the beautiful memories rushed in his blocked senses. He believed photos had the amazing quality to tell stories, magical stories which gave meaning to life. Holding his camera Sebastian set out towards the grand park to capture life once again on a colourful Sunday with his kids.

Sofia had received a message from Sebastian a month back requesting to allow him to photograph her for his portfolio about artists working in their studio around the city completely immersed in their passions. Sofia really liked people who believed in their creative capabilities, she had always felt only art could change the rigid ideas binding us.
This was the perfect way to let Sebastian get an idea about the artistic endeavours.
Sebastian was enjoying himself, his pent up rage was subsiding slowly as he worked towards his upcoming project totally immersed in the power of art. He had never felt like this before, so energetic and powerful while working with Sofia.

 Sofia was working on her visual art project where she wanted to incorporate the power of senses on psychological development.
First it had sounded really difficult but eventually he understood the sheer brilliance of the concept. She had got a few elements representing the various senses like discarded light bulbs represented light. She had made Sebastian run all around the city with her to gather thousands of these light bulbs and stacked up in her studio.
Her studio was a broken down warehouse on the outskirts of the city which gave her the freedom to use the space without any troubles. Since it was huge she could use big section to incorporate the various art pieces. The exhibition was just about a month away.

She created a big circle with the light bulbs like the sun which was ignited at the edges portraying the depths of light and darkness.
The sense of sound was represented through a gramophone build out of a big church gong which she had bought from a scarp dockyard.
Sebastian had helped in the placement of the elements and organizing the exhibition. In such a short time they had become good friends.

The exhibition had been a success; everyone had praised Sofia’s keen observation and the entire town had come down to look at the exhibits. Sebastian had been able to meet other artists through Sofia in the past month and his portfolio was something to look at. It had been able to capture the small details of an idea forming the core of an artistic vision.
Sofia had showcased some of Sebastian’s works to her clients and it was liked by some advertising agencies.
It was time to celebrate their grand success and a positive association of creativity.
                                            ......................................
A week had passed after the grand exhibition, things were working well.
They were now working on a project for the Creative Art gallery where a photographer and a painter were amalgamating to celebrate the galleries motto of supporting creativity.
It had been a long day, after some hours of work they had sat together to have lunch in the open garden at the backyard of her home studio to chit chat about things going around them. To their amazement they had found they had very different tastes but were glued to the creative things. As evening slowly mellowed in, the blue moon rode to its thrown in the sky, making them feel enchanted. The wine had worked its magic; they were floating in their dreamy world, each trying to live their fantasy.

Sofia had never seen a man who thought so deeply about things, a sensitive man who loved his wife more than his life, who had such adorable children and who was a true lover. She had only loved one thing in life, painting; she had no idea what it meant to really fall in love. She was 25 years old, a grown up beautiful and intelligent artist who had travelled extensively, had seen various kinds of men, some wired, some power hungry, some mad and some sad but Sebastian was different, he wasn’t fake, what he was inside his eyes reflected the purity of his heart outside.

Sofia kept staring at him, he was fast asleep, the glass still in his hand, sitting on the chair, the moon’s light touching his innocent face. What a beautiful moment to capture in her canvas she thought. And not losing a moment she started working, she had to capture that innocence; she meticulously painted each movement, every thought, and every desire till she was exhausted and fast asleep.

She woke up the next morning feeling like shit and her head swinging like a yoyo from side to side, holding her head she got up from the floor of the balcony and made her way to the shower. When she was done having a strong lemon tea, she saw her painting, she had managed to capture Sebastian’s child like expression, the moon kissed glow, the silky hair, everything. She was ecstatic and she ran towards the balcony to wake up Sebastian and show him her master piece but he was gone. A little taken aback she looked for him everywhere only to find a note written in his hand lying on the table. It read,

Dear Sofia,
It has been a wonderful experience working with you. Travelling with you in your world and showing you mine. Only after meeting you I realized how much I had missed living life for the past one year. My Rose was the most humble soul that I had ever loved. She had completed me and she had given me the strength to carry on with my life alone. Her death had happened suddenly, I was not prepared for it, and I hadn’t thought she would just die, she was like this always surprising me with things, and she did that in her death too. 


My world was shattered but I had my kids and life was going slow. Even though I was breathing I wasn’t doing justice to my little ones, they are what I have left of Rose now, and I cannot lose them as I lost her. Yesterday I was happy; I had seen a glow in your eyes, a friendly glow. I was touched at the way you were trying to help me leave my pain behind and walk forward, live each moment, you’re the reason I took to photography again. I cherish our friendship but last night I felt things started changing between us. I don’t know how to explain it but something’s should remain unexplained I guess. I love what you did with my face; I didn’t know I looked like an owl when I slept. Hope you could understand it.
Best Wishes, 

Sebastian

Sofia sat on the floor a little confused, she thought love was a gift, but it was painful, she understood that now, but she didn’t cry, there was nothing to shed tears on, she had known and touched the depths of love. Love had many forms; Sebastian’s love was also like that. Though he knew that she had fallen for him, he had the dignity to accept it and reject it at the same time, men were strange, smiling at the thought of that she began painting again to see if she could reach that depth which she had felt before.
                                                        …………………………………….
A year had passed,
Sebastian had been travelling to various cities to work on his solo photography exhibition.
Sofia had just received an honorary award form the City Museum for her latest installation on ‘Silence’.

Life had never been better; initially they both had missed each others company.
Though Sofia never spoke about the effects of the letter with Sebastian, he always felt she was deeply saddened by his sudden dismissal of things which could have made them happy.
His constant travel kept his mind away form that night but she constantly struggled with it, and her paintings became darker and darker.
She understood what an emotion like ‘love’ could do to a person, either it changed them or consumed them.
But she was tough, she knew she needed to touch that depth of love to know love completely and her journey with emotions became intense and quite realistic.

She was a little nervous today, she was invited to Tyler’s birthday party by Amanda, she secretly wished Sebastian was there but at the same time dismissed and regretted her decision to go.
Sebastian too felt quite awkward, he was content about the fact that somewhere Sofia still remembered that night. When he had heard about her honorary award in an her interview, it took him sometime to hold realize that she was indeed in love with him, the paint that everyone talked so extensively about was his dishevelled body on that moonlit night.

The taxi halted in front of the restaurant in the alley, one which both of them loved to hang around in.
The kids sat in the restaurant waiting for Sofia to arrive and take them to see a movie. They were singing when Sebastian came running with gifts for both of them. It was Tyler’s birthday and everyone had come to celebrate it. Sofia came in with the clowns and magicians accompanying her, singing and dancing for the birthday boy.

Sebastian had remained aloof; he wasn’t ready still to accept life as it came. One look at Sofia and he knew something had happened; he wasn’t the old Sebastian anymore, but a more powerful person.
Amanda took a close look at both of them, each trying to avoid the other’s presence, it was saddening to see how people ran away from love believing they had all the time in the world to live and find it again. Love was a powerful portion which once consumed couldn’t let the consumer sleep in peace till it was had worked its magic and the lovers were united. She sighed in seeing both of them like that, each yearning for the other, each building harder walls around the beating heart.
She had to do something, life was too short for second chances, and they both deserved that.
She took hold of Sebastian arm and dragged him outside, the blue moon was partially visible from beneath the clouds, and it was too waiting to be united to his beloved night.

“My dear, child, why are so stubborn and blind? Don’t you see what I see? I don’t believe you don’t love Sofia, if you do love her it doesn’t mean you are betraying Rose. I think Rose too would have wanted you to take this chance, go tell her before I announce it to in front of everyone. ” she patted his back, kissed him and walked back towards the children.

Sebastian breathed in constantly arguing with himself about his reasons to not tell Sofia and at the same time tell her about his confusions, he hesitantly walked towards Sofia. He had been away for such a long time and he had no idea how she would react, but as Amanda said, he had to take this chance.

“Hi, long time”
“Yes, long time, I thought you must have been dead, but here you are, in front of me, giggling, I guess” she said in a sullen mood. This was going to be tough he thought.
“Ok, now that’s encouraging, a good start.” her look still passive at his remark.
“ I was thinking if you, I mean, if you were free to go have dinner with me, tomorrow or anytime next week” he started to walk away seeing her face drop, the canary was about to sing.
“And I thought you would never ask, men I tell you, what took you so long?” Amanda laughed seeing Sofia’s expression.

 Sofia decided looked at Amada as Sebastian was about to kiss her and smiled knowing she was going to paint a better world for him. Amanda and everyone joined in the celebration as the two kept their guests entertained by their cat and dog fight, lover’s quarrel, the funniest thing one could ever come across. It was indeed a start of an interesting journey when the blue Moon finally kissed the dark Night.

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