Sunday, October 05, 2014

That Summer Farewell: A Short Story

Posted by Sunaina Patnaik at Sunday, October 05, 2014
Picture Source: Kelly Redinger Photography
“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.” 
― F. Scott Fitzgerald


One summer, I decided to visit my grandparents' town as I was entering my third year of college, and I knew I would find no time to spend time with my dear ones for the next few years. I packed a few essentials, clothes, a walkman, and a gameboy, and reached the town after an overnight journey. It was those remarkable days where life beyond Facebook existed, when long letters were sent to friends during vacations, when pocket money was spent on buying music cassettes, and greeting cards from Archies Gallery; when life was simple yet beautiful.

A week passed and it almost felt like time was haunting me. Every minute was spent counting seconds. I had nothing to do, but gorge on the delicious meals and sweets my grandmother made-her culinary skills were exceptional, something my mother inherited, thankfully. One evening, I decided to walk around the streets and explore the town, I walked aimlessly, noticing every tiny detail. The bougainvillea trees, the stray puppies, people sitting in their courtyards, and children playing cricket in the streets. I followed this ordeal, every evening, for the next five days. But that evening, I decided to take a different route. 

It was just two streets away from my home when I came across a library. I wasn't much of a reader, nevertheless, I decided to go in and read some magazines as I had nothing useful to do. Unfortunately, the library too, was scarcely occupied with any magazines I read. However, I took a copy of India Today, and sat down in the corner.

Little did I know I was in for some surprises! 

I was skimming through the pages of India Today, reading various topics ranging from how Shiv Sena came to power in Maharashtra, and how Bombay became Mumbai to the reviews on Mani Ratnam's Bombay, that hit the screens. This place too didn't interest me and as I was ready to leave, I saw her--she sat right in front of me, she was immersed in a book that looked pretty huge, she smiled often-maybe the lines were funny, I assumed. She was dressed in white, and had spectacles that were a tad bit huge on her otherwise tiny face. She looked delicate with a tiny mole above her lips. She was in a different world, altogether, oblivious of her beauty, and the world around her. I knew I would not be leaving anytime soon. So, I sat there pretending to read the magazine, under the pretext of stealing glances at her. As she left, I took a library membership, for I knew where I would spend my evenings hereafter.

The next evening, I reached the library by 4 P.M, and noticed she had already reached. She occupied the same place; devouring her books like a hungry reader. I have never read books, really, and I could not fathom why anyone would read so much. I had no time for Fiction, I was on my way to become a man of medicine, and I always believed Fiction was for women. Such a stereotypical brat I was! But each time, I saw her laughing, or smiling while reading, or at moments, when her forehead creased, and she wiped her tears, secretly hoping no one noticed her, I wished I too read like her, to have been lost in the world where she was building her own. I craved to be a part of it. 

While I cannot give you the details of all the moments, I know for a reason that only God knew how many evenings I have spent that way, trying to initiate conversations, or pass her notes that I have written back home, hoping she would follow me to the end of the Earth. I was forlorn and lost in eternal damnation--love. I made long STD calls to my friends, explaining them every minute detail of the time spent in the library while they took playful jibes at me.

I was in love, and I let the world know it.

I've passed the entire May just staring at her. June arrived like a whirlwind, and I summed up all my courage to talk to her. With a week left for my return, I did not want to waste my time any longer. That day, I reached the library a little earlier than the usual, picked a magazine, and settled down. The vastness of the library, the fading paint, the lamp shades that looked quite ancient, boasted of the timelessness of the place. How many tales of love does this library hold, I mused to myself, when I saw her walk into the library. She went straight to the massive book shelves, and for a change, she picked a book that didn't belong to the Victorian era. She chose John Grisham's The Rainmaker--a bestseller according to my magazine, and settled down. She looked up, and smiled at me. 

I was overwhelmed with joy and wanted to take a quick backflip. Lost in unduly happiness and bliss, I forgot smiling back at her. I was an utter idiot. A wasted opportunity, I sighed. But, I was wise enough not to pass those notes to her. "You do not pass notes of gushing love to a stranger," my elder sister warned me over one of the phone calls. I sat dumbfounded, looking at her, with an unrestrained smile. Unsuccessful at my attempt of striking a conversation, I walked home rather morosely with a disheartened expression written large over my face.

That night, I paid no heed to my sister's warning, or my friends' baseless suggestions, I tore a sheet from my notepad, and wrote down:

"Summer love, lingering thoughts, anxious nights! Let the Monsoon hold a different charm, with your words.

Instead of sleeping in peace, I had an inanely restless night tossing and turning in bed, disturbing my grandfather's sleep, inviting snideful remarks from him. I counted minutes all through the day, and ran to the library in the evening, and saw her seated in the place. She wore a red skirt that reached her ankles, and a white top. Her hair was tied up high, and needless to mention, she was lost in her book. I sat across her than she looked up at me. This time, my smile didn't falter, I grinned like a fool, and she returned it back. I looked around just to make sure no one was around us. The library was barely populated, I sighed in relief, and looked at her, not wanting to drag any unwanted attention, I slid the note in the magazine, and passed it to her. 

"Page no. 17," I whispered, and looked at her intently. She looked at the note, and pursed her lips and looked straight at me. Oh no, the last thing I wanted was to get thrown out of this place. But, to my utter shock, she burst out laughing, attracting a lot of attraction. Obviously, the large bills with "silence" written all over them made no sense anymore.

She passed me back the magazine with the note that read, "Words have always been my forte!"

Let us just say that, my joy knew no bounds. I wasn't a man of adjectives. 

The next five days passed exchanging more notes--I've learned that she was studying Literature in a local university, she loved Ruskin Bond, and old Telugu movies; she laughed loud, and cried when her fictional heroes died. There was more to her than what she showed. The ritual of passing notes, having coffee at a roadside stall pretending to be two absolute strangers, walking behind her till she reached home every night happened every day. I spent my nights writing poems and love notes to her--which were totally senseless, but she loved all of them. I loved how she smiled warmly at me. Her letters were always better, and I felt a tinge of guilt to feed her my stupid ones. I preserved all her notes and letters in my bag, and read them time and again. My phone calls to my friends and sister ceased; I dedicated all my time just to her, and gave her flowers every day. Never in my life, I anticipated I'd fall in love. But I did, and it was such a steep fall that I knew there was no return back.

It was time; I had to return to my hostel already. You have no idea how badly I wished the moments to cease. I had no liberty to stretch my vacation. I was studying medicine; and it wasn't a joke, right?

On our last meeting, we sat across each other; silence engulfed us. We looked at each other, and smiled occasionally, but the image of staying away from her tore every fiber of my body. We know we would write to each other, and make those occasional phone calls, but we also knew the repercussions. 

I could vividly remember that meeting--still fresh in my head, the library, her gloomy face, the large wall clock, the books on the table, my sweaty palms, her kohl lined eyes.

***
To be continued....

8 comments:

Soumya Sahu on 12 Oct 2014, 09:31:00 said...

Awaiting climax.

Sunaina on 12 Oct 2014, 21:01:00 said...

@Soumya: :-)

veturisarma on 17 Oct 2014, 01:38:00 said...

neatly written....Telugu Movies caught me :) Waiting for the next part

Sunaina on 17 Oct 2014, 02:15:00 said...

@Veturi Sarma: Thank you.

Jyotsna Bhatia on 19 Oct 2014, 01:21:00 said...

Lovely.. Loved how you built up the whole thing. Awaiting the next part :)

Sunaina Patnaik on 19 Oct 2014, 05:37:00 said...

@Jyotsna: Thank you.

saichandra sv on 24 Oct 2014, 12:57:00 said...

Lot of Telugu movies passed by as veturi sarma said.starting from tholiprema to recent eega.... You have great skills holding readers interest

aditya macharla on 6 Nov 2014, 03:21:00 said...

Enjoyed every flick of it..
Anticipating an enticing and prompt other half..

 

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