First Fold: Bicycle
The wooden desks, two in each, black cemented board with white letters on it. The fifth graders were obviously tired from the day long learning and wished to leave the musty room and embrace their colourful world once again like other days. Bivek took a peek through a window. The summer sun was indeed still hot and bright. His floating gaze came to a halt when a brilliantly shining handle bar of a bicycle caught his eyes. Among the dozens of bicycles neatly arranged in the parking lot, it was the one reflecting back the total sunlight and of course it was new and red in colour. Bivek was a good student or not undermining the evaluation of his teachers he was the best in his class.
As soon as the clock showed four, the school bell rang sharply which marked the end of learning with a bunch of homework that ought to be submitted by the following day. Nevertheless, though it was a daily chore, the enthusiasm used to be always on a par. The glow on faces, the stuffing of backpacks, the quick galloping feet towards the exit and the flock of bicycles flowing through the big iron gate of the school. Amid these happenings Bivek would stand quietly outside the gate and stare those passing bicycles and finally adjusting his backpack to his comfort would move his legs for his home.
A desire that he longed for to be fulfilled, which he kept up to himself, never even acted in the way that would leak it out of him. He wanted to feel the joy, the joy of a sudden surprise that would come carrying the seamless blithe which he had already seen on the faces of many of his friends and cousins. If it were comparable then no one would be more deserving than he. He had every charming aspect that one seeks for in his/her boy. How would it be like to ride one of those as the red one? Or maybe the yellow with green stickers and broad tyres, would it make his friends jealous? He would often wonder.
Sitting in his small magazine shop, the old man clad in his aged but thick woolen coat could see Bivek in the school uniform, carrying his backpack and nonchalantly hitting stones with his shoed leg. He felt sorry for the boy but the man could do nothing. Whole day long his mind was full with the thought of the boy and no wonder he remained less interactive with his customers. The fading sun soon invited the winter chill and the old man drew a small glass and a half emptied whiskey bottle from the drawer of his desk. Swallowing a couple of shots of whiskey he pulled the shutter down and walked down his place.
Another day at school ended for Bivek and with it yet another day of staring, dreaming and wishing. A bit of perspiration spotted his white shirt as he reached home. In the middle of the front porch there stood a bicycle and before he could say something his father sitting on a stool next to it spoke, “It’s for you.” The long white chalk squeaked as it ran against the abrasive black board. The more it ran, the shorter it grew making the white loose dust descend down slowly onto the floor. The dwarf chalk finally vanished and silence followed it. “With a bit of work on it, it will appear new.” His father added. Bivek stood still and examined the bicycle. Both tyres flat and severely torn up, rusted rims, faded black colour and deformed mud guards. “Would it look like the red one?” He wanted to ask his father but he never did.
Second Fold: Quest
She hated rain and the wet streets it caused. She suffered a strange phenomenon. The reflections of the red tail lights on the damp road made her sad, depressingly sad. Sometimes she used to trace back and try to find out the point, in her thirty three years long run life, where it actually began. But each time she used to come with no result and often remained puzzled and confused.
The past five years had given her a different set of life. The daily rituals would be home to work and work to home and in between during the travel or free time at work she used to flip the pages of a novel and read some lines of it repeatedly that she thought were relevant to her. But there were always weekends to indulge and mingle with friends, liquor and sometimes with strangers too.
A drizzle was what left after a heavy downpour. She had a busy day at work but was fortunate to find a taxi as she walked out of her office. Every now and then the driver set the wipers go to and forth on to the windscreen and a small furry dummy hanging besides the driver’s head constantly swung with the motion of the taxi. She didn’t have much to remember that one would call memorable. Despite the foundation being love her marriage lasted just for two years. The first six months were undoubtedly gleeful and passionate. But the later days began to invite wrangles that required no cause, the suspicion of infidelity lurked in the mind of both and sex which works as a sensual bond in any relationship slowly became a taboo.
Inside the taxi she was carried away with the thoughts, but the recent ones not of the past. Sometimes she used to watch the dancing wipers, move her head aside and stare at those sticking water drops on the window and in between gaze down constantly at her ruby embedded big fancy gold ring. She knew it well that it wouldn’t last long, but she fancied him to be with her forever. She loved his voice, the very first time she heard. Every word that came out of his mouth penetrated deep inside her producing a sensational titillation which she had never experienced before. Following her divorce, she did happen to meet a couple of men but he was different than others, both from inside and outside.
It was Friday and of course it was her regular bar. It was him who approached her. He drank whiskey, no soda, no ice, just whiskey. No doubt she was enjoying that evening, drinking and chatting at the bar with a complete stranger, yet she was pretending him not to be so. And why wouldn’t she be enjoying? After all it had been countless number of days she spent at the bar with nobody but a couple of pegs to give her a company. The length of their talk hadn’t been worthy enough to be called long but she had already begun to develop feelings for him and felt him closer, too closer.
That night they had sex. The feeling was intense and the tranquility she experienced later was even of greater magnitude. She couldn’t think of any such moments before in her life where she encountered the same level of pleasure and satisfaction. But the following morning did turn out to be as she had conceived. Though alarmed and cautious with his comment the other night, “Pratima, I think that I don’t belong to just one, many deserve me and I should provide them with a chance.” She still wanted to get herself the chance and feel the change no matter if it lasted for the moment or for the life time. That morning she woke up alone in that hotel room.
Amid the drizzle, flock of pedestrians with their umbrellas on and the lit up yellow street lamps the taxi halted in the queue of red traffic signal. The old man looked at her through the taxi window bearing numerous water drops. He could easily read the longing in her face; a search for fulfilling the void, for calming down the turbulence inside her, and most of all making herself feel the very existence of herself.
Third Fold: First Kiss
“Where would it finally end?” Heema inquired her friends sitting on a big rock with her two friends by the river that carried cool and transparent water. “Probably at the place you are meant to be in two months.” One of them replied and that was followed by a loud laughter strong enough to suppress the noise of the raging river.
A small village at the foot of the hill, its small local market and its small number of people living with big hopes and yet bigger dreams. Heema was no exception and her dream was to live in city. And indeed her dream was turning into reality just after two months. She was getting married and her to be man worked in the city. She had once been to the city and that was six years ago when she was fifteen. She liked everything, the crowd, the shops, the streets, the buildings, the taxis, the malls and the multiplexes. Whatever she be doing, cooking, cleaning or washing her clothes she would be dreaming of breathing in and out the city air. In no time her wait came to an end, the two months passed, she got married and began to live in the city with her husband.
Village born and inherently shy she was. Call it her shyness or her reluctance she would let her husband do anything but to kiss on her lips. He tried everything to pursue her, bought her a dress that she always wanted, took her to a fancy restaurant for dinner and even promised to visit her home to see her grandfather. But she didn’t come under the spells of her husband and one cool evening she smilingly said, “Don’t worry the day will come, and it will be me to do it.”
Days passed and months too were dragged along with them. Heema and her husband were just another ordinary couple living their ordinary and regular life amid the restless and rattling city. But soon the things were about to change and it all started when Heema began to experience a recurring pain in her lower abdomen. She thought it to be a natural feminine syndrome at first, but as it grew she had no choice left than to tell it to her husband. Together they went to a hospital for checkup. Few days later the reports showed up and her husband was summoned.
He stood in front of a doctor who was busy skimming the reports. He was just about to inquire when the doctor himself spoke, “How long you have been married?”
“Were you expecting any baby?”
“No.” He said.
“Well, this is not a good news. We found a malign growth on the left ovary of your wife. And we doubt that it is spreading, she should be admitted soon for the chemotherapy.”
A hectic consultation hour, that was what the hospital was witnessing. And on a chair just beside a corner the old man seated, making himself busy reading a newspaper. His eyes drifted from the letters to the balcony, through which he could see the head of a mimosa. The plant stood tall in the hospital compound, and its lush green leaves provided a contrasting background to its bright blue flowers. Indeed, the spring had already invaded the nature and its keepers.
Whether the chemo was curbing the cancer or not, it was difficult to say, but undoubtedly it’s heavy dozes was making Heema weak and emaciated. She dragged herself towards the balcony with her husband giving her a firm support. They stood there for a while speaking nothing. And during the course, her eyes gazed through the city buildings, the streets and the running vehicles, the people walking and chatting in the hospital compound, the mimosa plant and finally the wide, clear blue sky. She held his hand tight, stretched herself up with all the energy left inside her. Something she wants to say, her husband presumed so bowed his head down but instead she closed her eyes, moved her head forward until she felt his lips touching hers.
The Fourth Fold
The dense fog was adamant not to let any warmth seep through it. Cold it was but colder the day it seemed with a fewer people walking on the street and just a couple of them making it to the old man’s magazine shop for their newspaper. Clad in his aged but thick woolen coat, the old man had nothing to do but to sit inside his shop and wait his customers. The barber opposite his shop was of course busy giving shave to a lad whose premature beard was definitely not so rebellious for the sharp edged razor. His small place was filled with a musky smell of after shave, posters of bollywood stars pasted on the wall and a mild, soft hindi song emanating out of his small FM radio. Jageshwor was his name, but the old man preferred his own way of calling him, “Jagay”.
Timid Jagay had definitely proved to be a good company for the old man. Most of the evening leisure would pass with a chat and tea and sometimes with serious talks and whiskey. Jagay resembled his kinds, a wife and a kid back at home and he in the city for the earnings. While Jagay carried out his work with the flow of hindi music, the old man recalled an instance where he inquired him about the old man’s trunk that seemed to bear a padlock hanging all of the time.
“What’s in that trunk?” Jagay asked.
The old man mused for a while and with a hesitant face he spoke, “It contains means, that once I lived with.”
“Now they hunt me, I am afraid of them, so better they be locked.”
Jagay could understand nothing; the old man’s riddle was outside Jagay’s ability to grasp. “So, why are you afraid of them?” He couldn’t help asking.
“I myself created them, gave them an identity, laughed with them and sobbed with them. But I casted a dark curse upon them of which I feel guilty. Every now and then they come to me and ask for justice, but I can do nothing, I am helpless.” The old man halted.
Jagay decided not to go any further. He didn’t want to turn the old man more upset, so pouring down his last sip of whiskey he quietly left the old man’s shop and moved towards his. The barber didn’t get his answer that day, nor did he ever ask again.
Pulling down his woolen hat completely covering both his ears, the old man silently watched Jagay working on his customer. He thought for a while, got out of his chair and squatted by the trunk holding and staring the padlock. He stretched his hand for the drawer which had its key, but couldn’t reach it. In an attempt he clutched the table’s leg hard, leaned his body towards the drawer, pulled it out and took the key. Just then, an intense chill ran down his spine and a severe burning sensation spread over his chest, the key fell off his hand.
The blue wall, as he watched, turned black and slowly the blackness began to engulf everything around him. He found himself standing alone in a street lit with yellow street lamps. A green taxi approached and stopped a few inches away from him. And inside the taxi was the same divorced lady, but this time she had no any trace of glumness on her face rather her face bore a surreal glow. She then smiled at the old man and said, “Hello.” But before he could answer her, he was standing in a different place, a balcony of a hospital and in front of him was standing Heema. She no longer looked ill, her cheeks had a rosy shine and she had grown prettier. The mimosa plant with its bright blue radiant flowers stood tall. The old man felt a touch on his hand and with it Heema drew herself near him, moved her head forward and closed her eyes. And then suddenly she vanished, the old man looked around and all he could see was a meadow covered with green grasses. And from infinity something speeded towards him. In no time it was in front of him. A bicycle it was, new and red in colour and of course sitting on it was a jubilant looking boy, Bivek. He then drove past the old man. He tried to follow the boy but he couldn’t move his feet. Helplessly he stood, with the ground beneath him sinking and sucking him down.
The fog tore apart letting the heat of the sun strike the ground. The trunk held nothing but the vivid imaginations of the old man; his stories, the characters in them and their desires and sufferings. The key rested on the floor, the trunk still remained locked and the lifeless body of the old man stretched flat by its side.
(Source : Author sent it via ‘नयाँ रचना पठाउनुहोस्‘ functionality of this website. )