Friday 5 October 2018

Short Story 2018 Longlist, Amit Arora

The Snow

There had been no sun for a week now. Had been snowing. It was almost knee deep now. The white slopes looked barren. It was difficult to spot the stooping trees from a distance. They were being weighed down by the white of the snow. 

Those two walked down the slope, holding each other’s hands, leaning on and holding on. Smiling. The snow did not seem to bother them. As if it did not exist. 
Actually, nothing existed for them.

They walked down the snowy slopes almost every day. He collected dry wood for his fire place. She was fond of collecting wild flowers. Not many she would find in this weather. Neither did he find dry wood. They would still take this snowy walk every day.

They reached the road. It was almost late afternoon but the old battered road was still alone. The only companion was the tea stall. 
Chai Chacha… They used to call him.
They both sat down on a wooden plank supported by some stones and Chai Cha-cha served them tea. They sat there for how long…. Even they didn’t know. Just that when the shadows grew longer, they got up and walked home.

Which they had made at the edge of the ravine. Wood, it was made of. She loved wood and he just loved what she loved. A pale-yellow kerosene lamp flickered on the entrance giving the entire house a feeling as if it was alive and was trying to get up and meet its owners. 
They went in. She immediately started setting the wild flowers. The entire house smelled like the forest. She would like put some in her hair now, he knew. 
  He let her be. He knew she loved to be alone. Move around the house. Make everything perfect. He set up his favorite, the fireplace. The fire was lit. And he spread out on the yak wool rug. He could hear her moving around in the kitchen now. He smelled the biryani. He loved it and she knew it. She walked in with a single bowl. They never used separate things. Never felt the need. She sat beside him and they ate. Just looked at each other n smiled. That’s all was needed.
He could make out that she was sleepy now. All he had to do was to stretch a hand out. She quietly held it and snuggled up to him. They had slept. The fire kept the room warm. He kept her warm. They never had to speak to each other. The need never came.

Morning brought the Sun out. He had woken up as every day and was making the morning tea. He loved making tea for her. He set the big mug in the tray and turned towards her.
The rays were coming in from the eastern windows and falling on her. She glowed. A wild saffron. He stood still. Watched the aura the rays created. He loved her. He kept watching. She moved under his gaze. Opened her eyes. Her eyes smiled. Now she waited for him to kiss her forehead. She hadn’t got up without it forever. The only time was when he had gone to wrap up some work to the city and was away for full two days. She hadn’t slept those two days. She couldn’t.

She smelled of last night’s wild flowers. Tea was as usual quiet. He sang. He sang every day. He knew what she wanted to hear in morning. 
Every day for the last four years had started like this. Ever since they had sold of their house in the city and moved here. Their jobs just gave them money. They needed each other more. And this was her idea to which he could not have said no.
They had made this house and bought a shop in the market. The tourist gave them enough money to live. They as such didn’t need much. 

It was time for the shop. He made some breakfast while she made kahwa. They discussed some works she needed to be done in the shop and walked towards the shop. She kept making small changes at home n shop. He always smiled and just did them. The shop was at the corner of town square. Big enough to fit in his collection of handicrafts and her ittar and small enough that she could see him all day. 
  She had to see him every little while. Just had to. They kept glancing at each 
She had to see him every little while. Just had to.

They kept glancing at each other all day. Once when a whole group of tourists had walked in and surrounded her for a long time. She had got restless. She waited for an hour, then had quietly made her way through the Italians and reached him. She just stood close to him and watched him. He knew what she needed. Just held her hand for a brief moment and looked into her eyes. She had then gone back to her ittar counter. Content.

Lunch was when she was hungry. And was when the talked the most. What he sold? Who all came? What needs to be bought? What new she wanted? He had kept it very simple for himself. Whatever she wanted. It’s all about you, he always used to tell her.

By evening, she would start wrapping up. Eight is when they would shut down. She would hold his right middle finger n walk with him. By now, everyone knew about them. In a small town where the people were not used to holding hands so freely, they had accepted these two as mad ones. Their hugs also didn’t raise any eyebrows now.

Dinner time was the what she always loved. They would either eat at the corner data. Or he would go home and make her some sandwiches while she brewed some coffee. She somehow preferred the sandwiches.

They didn’t have a television set. Hadn’t bought it ever. She sometimes used to tell him, u entertain me enough. And he sure did. He would sing to her and make her dance. Would pamper her to the core. So much that sometimes she would herself tell him to stop. 
You need to start treating me like a wife, she used to fight. He would just smile n keep doing what he loved and knew that she loved it to.

The night brought them back home which was still smelling of last night’s wild flowers.  By the time the church bell had announced 11, they had slept. 
The wildflowers were happy. The sun waited for its rays to make her glow, saffron and for him to fall in love, all over again…

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