Tuesday 10 August 2021

Raja Yousuf, ShortStory 2021 Longlist


Translation in English by: Imran Yousuf

Fortune had eventually knocked at his door. After a long time he was offered a role. A role to perform on the stage of the grand Tagore Hall. He had been a handsome and a brilliant artist but seven tough and rough years of unemployment had burnt the oil of his veins and sucked up the marrow of his bones. His once beautiful curls were now a frustrated mess unable to cover his scalp properly. Wrinkles on the forehead and varicose veins of his throat had started to gain prominence. Puffing on cigarette butts had wrecked havoc on his face; the sunken cheeks had consumed all the charm and glow.

When curtains were raised and he stepped on the stage, he forgot every memorized line which he had to utter in his performance. All his carefully memorized lines just vanished like thin air. He found himself thoroughly bedazed- his head completely blank.

He was lost in his own miseries. His miseries took over his imagination. All he could think about was the five thousand rupees that he would be paid for the Performance. What shall I do with that money, he thought. What shall I buy and how much?

His daughter-Shanu- her feet- fair, comely- how they blushed in embarrassment through so many holes of her worn out canvas shoes. Wouldn’t she like to play with all those kids outside? Throw snow balls at them. Make a snowman. Wouldn’t she! But what will she wear?

Ah! These thoughts. His face turned a faint shade. Pallid yellow.

The shirt of his son Sahil, how old was it? Two years? Three years? Didn’t he burn it on his Kangri? What remains of it now? A neck with a few shreds hanging down like leeches on a beggar.

Red. Bleeding red. His face turned red.

The roof. How it leaked! How many vessels were enough to collect that dripping water? Fortunately this year heavy snowfall came to the rescue and Chillai Kalan froze everything on the roof. Only Icicles hung up there like ugly chandeliers. Snow turned to freezing ice and the drippage stopped.

Then there was Mother. Medicines for her blood pressure. Lali’s thyroid. She needs a Doctor. And medicines. And…

At every thought his face changed colors. Each misery bought its own hue.

He looked everywhere. Right, left, above, below. All he could see was haze, fog and smoke. For a while he rested his head on his knees and then suddenly looked towards the roof of the stage. Within a fleeting moment tears rolled down his cheeks. Bitter, cold tears. Drop by drop they fell on the stage. In two minutes of performance, two thousand expressions passed through his face.

The sound of camera phones clicking pictures were echoing; videographers and cameramen were capturing his every single expression with intensity. Spectators were clapping and shouting and whistling in astonishment. Another artist came on the stage, held his arm and got him off the stage.

His face with a hundred mercurial expressions on the stage had stolen the show. Soon enough the video of his performance had gone viral on social media and within no time he had received thousands of ‘likes’ and ‘comments’.

What expressions!

Award winning performance.

“Who told you to get on the stage,
You could not utter a single dialogue
You devastated the whole play”

Furious Director

Before leaving, the infuriated Director of the show put a note of 100 rupees in his hand.

Thousands of his dreams thawed and flooded his unfulfilled wishes as if Kolahoi glacier had melted with a single spark.

One single ray of the Sun had melted the snow on the roof and icicles below it.
The Roof had started to leak again. The dripping water had overflown the muddy vessels.

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