The Oyster

The little boy was rubbing the crayons on his paper for sometime now. Finally, disgusted, he threw them at a distance. Frowning he went up and outside and sat there in the porch. The sound of the waves could be heard from there. He sat there looking towards the direction of the sea though it was not visible from there. His father went up to him and sat beside him.

“What is the matter?” he asked.

The boy didnt reply.

“Tell me,” the father pursued, “if you have a problem, I’ll solve it.”

“Its the crayons” the boy replied, “they have become old and hard. They do not give good colour.”

“Is it so?” he asked.

“Yes” the boy replied, “most of the boys in my class have nice sketch pens, brushes and colours. They make so nice pictures. But I can never make it.”

The father understood. He knew that the cheap crayons got hard very early and it was difficult drawing with them. But he didnt know how to explain to his kid that their poor condition didnt allow them the luxury to buy the expensive colours and brushes and all those stuff for just a few drawing classes. Buying his books and copies, plus his school fee used to take a huge chunk of his little earning. And they had other family expenses too. Only a very little amount of money could be saved and that had to be kept for emergencies. But it was too hard for the little kid to understand the situation.

“Lets go to the beach” he said standing up, finding no way.

In a few minutes the father and the son were among the little waves. Playing with the waves the kid had forgotten about his problems with the crayons for sometime. After playing the two of them started walking on the shore. After a few paces, the father picked up an oyster shell.

“Do you know what this is?” he asked his son.

“Yes” the son replied, “its an oyster shell.”

“Do you know what this does?” he asked.

“Yes” the son replied triumphantly, “our madam said pearls come from oyster shells.”

“Do you know how?” was the next question.

“No” the boy said, “madam didn’t tell thet yet.”

“Ok, let me tell you” the father said, “You see the sand. Sometimes a sand grain gets inside the oyster shells. Sometimes some other very small things, even some sort of dirt gets inside them. Then the oyster works with it. For a long time it works very hard with it patiently mixing with it all its nacre layer after layer, which then gradually forms into the pearl. So you see just from a grain of sand or a speck of dirt, it makes a pearl.”

The boy was hearing with amazement. He couldn’t believe that anything so insignificant can turn into something so magnificient.

“So what do we learn from the oyster?” the father asked. The son looked at him quizzically.

“We learn” the father explained, “that life may give us things that are not special. But it is upon us to work with them hard giving our best to bring out something that is extra-ordinary. The secret of success doesnt lie in the tools but in the minds that use them. Understand?”

The boy nodded looking down. He understood. May be not everything but he got what his father ultimately meant. And just then his father took him up in his arms and said, “But I promise, I am going to work harder and when I have more money, you’ll get all the colours you want. Okay?”

The boy smiled and kissed his father’s cheeks.

© Arindam Dey

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Sorry

“Hi”

“I am sorry.”

“I am really sorry.”

“Just talk to me once.”

“I love you baby.”

“Just reached office. Love you.”

“Still angry? Ok, I promise I will never fight with you again.”

“Drink water. Lots of water.”

“Ok. I have to run into a meeting now. Just don’t be angry anymore honey. You know nothing seems good when you are not smiling at me.”

“My God! That was a long meeting. Or may be it was not that long. May be I was just missing you. Checked the phone five times in between.”

“Still angry. Ok. Must be in the shower now. Good! It will cool you down. Haha!”

“By the way you remember the time we took that shower together. Wanna do that again honey?”

“Come on love. Just one smile. One only!”

“Just had lunch. It was so delicious. Must say you cook better when you are angry on me. Haha!”

“Come on say something.”

“By the way, did you take your medicine after lunch?”

“Missing you honey. Pick up the phone once. Come on. I love you. I am sorry.”

“Ok. Its almost 16 hours now that you haven’t spoken to me. Your earlier record was around 20 hours. Remember the fight we had after our 2nd anniversary last December? Haha!”

“Talk to me once. Please. Pick up the call.”

“See, if you don’t reply now, I am never going to come back home again.”
“I have a beautiful secretary here, and I am considering running away with her, if you don’t talk to me.”

“Come on say something now.”

“Ok. Guess what. I am coming home early tonight. And you can start getting ready. I want to go out for dinner tonight. Would you mind if I asked you to be my date? I may have some surprises for my date!”

“I know you are not angry with me anymore.”

“Come on! Ok here’s my next card. I am taking a leave tomorrow. All day, just us. How do you want to spend it? Outdoors? Or…. Indoors?”

“Ok honey, I am off! I am flying towards you now!”

“Started getting ready? Will you be my date tonight?”

“My date can’t stay angry with me that long.”

“I am so sorry. I love you. I love you. I love you.”

“I am almost half way.”

“Come on love, tell me once, you lov

The last chat was not completed yet. The officer looked at all the other ‘sent’ chats once more. Miraculously the phone had escaped with only a minor crack on the screen and stayed on. The driver was not that lucky. The car had been rammed on the driver’s side by the truck. Apparently it had jumped the signal by mistake.

Putting the phone in the packet for later delivering to the deceased’s family, the officer looked once more around the broken, overturned car for other belongings. A briefcase, a bouquet of flowers and a gift wrapped box remained scattered. And with them remained an unanswered message of love.

© Arindam Dey

Telephone


I see you have retired, my old conversation box. But I will never let you go, my friend. Only our yesteryears know what stories lie there in your heart. Countless promises, endless heartbreaks and timeless silences, they are all buried there. And yes, they are beautiful.
Its true, you are replaced today by more sofisticated technologies, less humongous, more smart. But who will ever replace the romance of your mystery. Of identifying that stranger by just a sound. Of imagining a face lighting up by just hearing your voice. Of feeling that tear rolling down between long sighs of silences. Of restless waits for the ring. Of nervous rotations on the dialer. Of ecstatic ‘hellos’. And heartbreaking ‘goodbyes’.

Today you lie there, retired, useless. But I know, you are not dead. When the world is busy somewhere else, I will come to you. I will put my ear to your earpiece and listen once more, the voice, laughters and sobs that I have died to hear for ages now. And I will whisper to your mouthpiece, words that I have chained to my heart for eons.

And even if the world sees us, let it think, we are two old fools busy in our madness. Let them discard us. But we will still have our beautiful stories. Stories that only love could have created and you could have carried. Yes, you will always be special. Rest now, my friend, until we speak again.

Story & Photograph © Arindam Dey

Ashtami

“Father”, his son-in-law exhaled heavily over the phone, “we had to bring her to the hospital.”

“But”, he summoned all his efforts to say, “but there was more time.”

“I know”, the son-in-law replied, “could just come up once?”

He kept the phone back. Sweating, he ran through his chores as fast as he could, but it still took him half-an-hour to rush out. At 60, he was not that fast anymore.

Sitting in the bus he looked out. It was almost 9 in the morning and the ladies were walking in groups dressed in new sarees, with flowers and sweets in plates to the nearest puja pandals. He remembered, it was Ashtami.

‘Time has a cruel way of pricking old wounds,’ he thought. Six years ago, on this very day, he had lost her, the love of his life. The third and most important day of Durga Puja had only left to be an occasion of mourning since then. Never again had he stepped in a house of God. 

He tried calling, but the call would not connect. He sweated heavily, and an uncomfortable lump kept disturbing at the throat. He looked out to let the wind on his face.

“You take care of them”, she said that day six years ago, when he sat by her bed alone on that Saptami evening.

“Don’t worry”, he had somehow managed, “you just come home soon.”

“I will”, she had promised, “I will.”

That night never saw the morning again. 

The bus was stuck in the jam for quite some time now. He looked at his watch. Almost 10. 

“You take care of them” he remembered again. Not even six months had gone by when their dog had died. Of grief mostly, they said. It had almost stopped eating after the day she died. It was inevitable. “I failed you” he had said to her photo that night they buried the little spaniel in their backyard. “I could not save him. But I will never let anything happen to our daughter and son.”

The promise was well kept till now. The daughter was married off a couple of years back. And the son was already looking for a job. “We have managed somehow,” he remembered saying to her smiling face in the photo, the day their daughter got married, “You said you would come home. I needed you so much today.”

It was almost 11 when he stepped out of the bus. Breaking through the Sealdah crowd he almost ran towards the hospital. Panting, he entered at last. But they were not there at the visitor’s lobby. Nervous, he asked the nurse, who informed that the patient was still in OT. Sweating, he took the elevator to the fifth floor. When the door opened he could see his son-in-law standing outside the operation theater. The OT light was off. Apparently, it was over.

Lost and anxious, he walked slowly out of the elevator towards his son-in-law. Seeing him, the son-in-law rushed to him.

“What?” his voice was almost failing.

“They just took her out,” he said, and then embraced him, “she is here.

For a moment the words did not make any sense. Then it dawned. He stepped back. His son-in-law smiled at him for the first time, “you are a grandfather now. Its a daughter.”

He kept looking blank at his son-in-law who kept explaining that the how it had become critical, but now both mother and daughter were now ok. He kept saying that all the others had gone out to buy sweets the moment they heard it. He kept saying how they all said that it was their mother who had returned as their daughter now, on the same day she had gone away. 

But he heard nothing. Slowly he stepped back and sat down on the bench by the wall. And then holding his head in his hands, for the first time in six years, he broke down in tears, sighing, “You kept your promise. You came home.”

The son-in-law gave him a moment. The others had come back with sweets. Slowly he stepped closer and put his hand on his shoulder. 

“Father,” he said, “come, we can see her now.”

A moment later he stood up, smiling and wiping away his tears. ‘Its not everyday, not often,’ he thought ‘but sometimes, if we suffered enough, time could put a permanent balm on an old wound as well’.

(Inspired by true events)

© Arindam Dey

Last Evening

​She sat at the other end of the cab backseat all the way, looking away. Well, we were coming back home tired last evening after a long hard day, and she was angry with me. We were only midway when it started to rain. And by the time the cab reached our area, the skies had broken down completely and the entire place was deserted. She was about to bring out our umbrellas when I told her I didn’t need mine.

“Fine” she replied.

Leaving the cab we started walking, she under the umbrella and me in the rain. I noticed she was struggling to hold it in the wind. I came closer and said, “come let me hold it for you”.

“I am fine,” she was still angry.

“Keep your anger for home” I told her, “let me hold it here. Or you’ll get wet and fall sick.”

“Look who’s talking!” She retorted at the completely drenched me.

Upon some insistence she let me hold the umbrella. Still we weren’t talking. Don’t know what came up upon me, a minute later I started humming, “pyar hua, iqraar hua, pyar se phir kyun darta hai dil”. Stunned, confused, and still angry, she glared at me. But before she could say anything, I added, “kehta hai dil rasta mushkil, maloom nahi hai kaha manzil,” in a female voice, well as far as I could.

She stopped. So did I. Staring at me she remained quiet for a few seconds. Probably making up her mind. And then she burst out laughing and pulled me closer under the umbrella.

“Finish the song” she whispered,”in both the voices as it were. And I may accept your apology.”

Rains continued in the deserted lanes as we walked slowly kicking the puddles, taking a longer route back home last evening.

© Arindam Dey

Two Minutes

The mobile phone rings in my pocket as I rush to pick her up from the bus stop.
“How long will you take to reach?” She asks.
“Give me a couple of minutes,” I reply, “Almost there.”
“Are they all there already?” she asks.
“I don’t think so,” I am not sure though.
“Ok, waiting,” and she hangs up.

I walk down the pavement, under the flyover and across the road. As I approach the bus stop, my eyes starts searching her in the small crowd gathered there in patient anticipation. There is an old man sitting on the bus stop seat, constantly checking his watch and the road. Two young boys stand leaning on the railing, chatting. A lady with a big bag keeps talking over her mobile walking up and down the stop. There are others too.

And then I see her, standing in the left corner of the bus stop, looking around, not sure where I would be coming from. She has not seen me yet. I check my watch, its 7:05 pm, already 20 minutes more than the time I told her, I would be there by.

“As usual,” I smile, thinking what she will say, just like she always said whenever I was late, “2 minutes is same as 20 minutes to you. Right?”

I am about to move towards her when something holds me and I stop. I stop there in the dark, barely 20 paces away from her, looking at her.

I remember, looking at her from the bus every time as it was about to pull up in front of the bus stop. She used to stand there, holding her folder in front of her chest, with her hands holding it criss-crossed and her head leaning in front, her chin touching the folder. Her eye brows would arch up as she would look around to see if I was coming. And when I would reach up to her, she would complain, “2 minutes, right?” Together we would go to the tuitions. Most of the times there would be other friends too, keeping her busy, as I would struggle to have a word with her, alone.

I still don’t move, and keep looking at her. She is wearing a black saree today. She looks beautiful in this. I remember she used to wear a certain maroon salwar suit often then. There were other dresses too, but I used love seeing her in that. There were times when she would wear that and I would go up to her, telling her that she looked awesome. She used to thank, smiling. I would move away instantly, lest she should read it in my eyes. Tonight, when I see her, I struggle to compare. Did she look more beautiful then, or does she look better now? I think she has grown more beautiful with time. Then, she was a charming girl. Tonight, she has the aura of a complete woman.

She still waits there, looking out for me. Uncertain, she keeps looking on either side. I wonder if she looked for me that day. That day, when her friends were applying mehendi on her hands, when her family was preparing her. I wonder how she would have looked for me that day. May be she was looking, or, may be she was just too busy, for she had a lot of things to go through that day.

I see her fidgeting with her phone. May be she is trying to call me back to check where I am. Almost at the same time my phone rings. But its not her call. I take my phone out to check an incoming message. “Hi,” the message reads, “I am going out with ma. You are meeting them all after 10 years. Take your time and enjoy. Waiting to hear all from you when you are back home. Ok? I love you.”

Just as I look back up at her, I see a little figure coming out from behind her and holding her hand. I didn’t notice her earlier. She may be three or a few months older. May be she is asking her how long they will have to wait. I look at my top right corner of the mobile screen. Its 7:07 pm. 2 minutes have passed.

“Sure,” I type back replying, and then add, “I love you too,” and send back the message to my wife. As the phone flashes delivery report, I smile shaking my head, keep it back in my pocket, take out the chocolate bar I got for the little girl and start walking towards her.

There was a story then, and there’s a story now. In between, don’t know when life interfered. May be someday, somewhere, we shall talk about it, just you and me.

© Arindam Dey

A droplet and a ripple

It was there, clinging on to the edge of the leaf and was about to fall, fall into the little puddle of water below… The Droplet.

Yes, the droplet was ready to give up and surrender its existence to the little puddle below. But something made it cling on, that little longer. Perhaps a desire to stay that fraction of a second more in company of the green leaf. The same green leaf that held it, nurtured it and was now ready to offer it to the little society of droplets underneath.

What was it? Just a droplet! Where did I come from? No one knows. Perhaps a fog, a dew, an overnight drizzle perhaps from nowhere but it was now here. It existed and existed with a distinct identity. An identity that was now to be submerged into the flow of millions – to be lost.

Reluctantly, the droplet left the shelter of the leaf. All the time it went down, it pointed towards its once safe, soft and sure shelter. And then with a little ‘whimp’ it dropped into the puddle.

Don’t know what strength the droplet had in its heart or what amount of agony or what purpose it set itself to make it so heavy. As it fell, it created a huge ripple all around it. Yes, it was the sign of revolution. It said that it was here to make changes, to transform the society of droplets into the way it learnt intuitively from the soul of the world. To live with a distinct identity. But, something else happened. The ripple it sent around gradually died out and with time, silently the pool of droplets engulfed it. And its existence was lost.

But yes, the water in the puddle never remained the same again. Because the droplet fell, the ripple was created, the mud was churned, and the color of the society of droplets changed forever.

We may be a droplet in the ocean of people, but it requires only one to churn what lies within us and change the course of destiny…

© Arindam Dey

Can you see her?

“Can you see her?” my heart whispered.

“I can’t, but I would die to…”

“Just close your eyes… … and unlock your dreams… …and then, look again.”

I opened my eyes…

“What do you see?”

A vast blue ocean under an endless blue sky where little white clouds sailed on and off greeted me. And with that, a gentle cool zephyr blew on my face that brought with it a strange, sweet and inviting fragrance of some far unknown land. I looked around. It was a small stretch of sandy shore followed by a long rocky beach. On the backside, I saw a forest that separated the seaside from the world across it. And from there I could hear the sweet chirp of birds and the melody of the sea breeze playing with the leaves of the trees. As I stepped forward, I saw a small boat in the mid of the ocean that was out of my sight, lost in the ocean in a moment again. And the next moment the strange, sweet breeze from the sea brought to me an enchanting tune from the flute of some distant lover…

“What place is this? Is this heaven?”

“Is it? You know this place, don’t you? You have dreamt of this place so many times, haven’t you?”

“I don’t understand.”

“Look down.”

With baited breath, I did so. And I saw something familiar. It was a pebble. I picked it up. It was round… It was smooth… And, it was blue, just like ocean in front of me. As I looked around I saw similar things all over the beach.

“I know this place, I know this place.”

“Yes, you know this place. You have known this all your life, and even before that. Its you who created it in your dreams, the most beautiful place, anywhere. It’s…”

“It’s Neel Noorie…”

“Yes, it is Neel Noorie… the land of the blue pebbles… tell me… can you see her now?”

“Where is she?”

“Look… there… on the rocks…”

There at a distance, I saw someone sitting on a rock right at the edge of the sea. She wore a dazzling white gown that contrasted brilliantly with the richness of her dark skin. She was sitting there with her arms folded around her knees and her head immersed in it. Her dark dense long hair covered her back just like the beautiful night that blankets the mysterious world underneath. After a moment, she looked up at the ocean as her locks danced passionately on her innocently pious smiling face. And yet she had a tear just out of her eye, no less pure than the morning dew. And then she stood up, right at the edge of the rock. Slowly, she raised her head looking towards the sky at the seagulls, and then lifted up her beautiful bare arms, spreading them like the wings of a free flying gull. And then she stood there inviting the ocean, closing her eyes. The waves craved to touch her, but they broke down crashing on the rock, only managing to kiss her beautiful feet before going back. But then, one lucky wavelet managed to fly and splash on her face. The droplets dripped down her forehead, some tenderly caressing her angelic eyelids and blissfully chiseled nose, while others stroked down affectionately her beatific cheeks, washing away that solitary teardrop and kissed her shivering petalled lips, before tickling her nervous throat and dripping down further, exploring the veiled world of her bosoms and beyond. As she stood there with her arms wide open, the wind and the water rushed on her making every strand of her hair dance in joy and each strand of her gown embrace her like her true love. She stood there in beauty, in freedom, in strength, in chaste and… in love…

“Do you see her now?”

“Yes, I see her.Who is she?”

“You tell me.”

“But I dont know her!”

“Oh yes you do. You always have.”

“But…”

“Tell me what do you feel?”

“I feel… I feel like seeing an angel of heaven exuding her charm over my world, robbing my self completely.”

“And what do you want?”

“I don’t know.”

“You don’t know?”

“I am confused.”

“What do you mean?”

I didn’t know what I meant. As I stood in front of her looking at her eyes, I was not sure what I felt like. I felt excited as well as scared, I felt lost as well as rediscovered, I felt strong but I trembled as well. I didn’t know what I should do. I wanted to talk but her smile had already muted me. I wanted to touch her but she seemed unattainable. I wanted to feel her presence in my life but she seemed an angel of a distant world, a world beyond my reach. What was I supposed to do? Was I to go upto her? Was I to talk? Was I to love? Was I to worship? Or was I just to stand there silent and admire? Was I to surrender? Had I already? I didn’t know. Yes, I was confused, I ever was, but I knew one thing. In my dreams, in my land of the blue pebbles, where I still see the blue sky, the white clouds, the blue ocean, the white sands, the raging waves, the dark rocks; where I still hear the chirping birds, the chanting woods, the roaring sea, the enthralling flute; and where the breeze still brings the scent of a far unknown land; where the souls of heaven and earth meet to form something words are not made to describe, she will always be there with all her blissful beauty and her arms wide open waiting for the flute’s tune, the waves, the breeze… and perhaps… me…

© Arindam Dey

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