- Where Asian writers get unpeeled -
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The Girl in Blue
Alia, clad in a blue polka dot frock, cried out from her colourfully decked up stall that faced the frolicking waves of the sea on the beach, “Only five rupees per story! Only five rupees per story!”
Out of curiosity, I decided to check out what she had to narrate for just five rupees. I went to her stall and paid her five rupees. I suppose I was her first customer for the day.
Thrilled to the core, Alia said, “Thank you, Saabji. Please sit down. You are my first customer. God bless you!”
Then, she carefully ironed out the five rupee note I had given her and kept it inside her small wallet.
She came closer and whispered in my ear, “Saabji, would you like to listen to a happy or a mysterious story?”
I replied, “Tell me a mysterious story, please.”
Alia began, “Once upon a time, there was a girl called Estelle. She was the apple of her parents’ eye. She lived with her parents in an old, colonial house in Cochin, Kerala. Her father was a retired librarian and loved to read and collect books. Estelle also acquired this habit from her father. Once, when her parents went out of town, Estelle decided to explore the locked rooms of her home. So she climbed the stairs leading to the first-floor bedroom. The bedroom was painted in peach and white hues and was huge. Estelle managed to get the keys to the bedroom from the secret spot her Dad thought she was unaware of.
“Slowly, she put the keys and turned the knob. As expected, a slow creaking noise of the door could be heard. But wait! She heard some other noise too! For a second, Estelle wondered if her too-imaginative mind was playing tricks with her! She looked sideways to inspect the source of the other noise. As she stood there pondering what to do, she heard the same noise again—it was a low murmur cum whisper, as if somebody was talking to her. Cautiously, she walked toward the source of the murmur. She didn’t see anybody but could still hear a human voice murmuring at her. The voice seemed to emanate from an old black-and-white photograph hanging on the wall. For a minute, Estelle got lost in the beauty of the photograph. Staring out of the photograph was a couple—a young man in a black suit and a young lady in a beautiful laced white frock. What struck Estelle were the young lady’s eyes. Those eyes were arresting and seemed to look through her into the unknown world. Her eyes seemed to tell a tale, a tale of love perhaps; a tale of lost childhood, a tale of things yet to come. While the lady bewitched Estelle with her eyes, the man in the photograph captivated her with his manly confidence!
The lady murmured, “Estelle, Estelle!’”
“Estelle couldn’t believe that the lady in the photograph was actually talking to her! Stunned with fear, Estelle stood rooted to the spot. ‘The lady continued, “Estelle, it’s me. I am your long-lost Auntie. I know I am etched in all your memories. But please believe me, I am alive through this photograph. The man next to me in the photograph is my husband who fought during World War II. But, he has been missing ever since World War II ended. A few days after the war, he swore his love to me and said he is going somewhere. When I asked him to specify the place, he said ‘time would tell me.’”
The lady moved her hands to hug Estelle. Suddenly, Estelle felt dizzy. Her head spun and so did her body. Estelle though in a semi-conscious state could still hear the same voice talking to her. She reached out to hug her Auntie, and instead she saw her Dad standing over her with an anxious look on his face. He splashed some water on Estelle’s face, and suddenly Estelle regained her full consciousness,
“Dad, your sister is alive! I just saw her and talked to her. In that old photograph…”
“Estelle, don’t play with me. Your mind as usual is playing tricks.”
“No, Dad! I am telling the truth. Come with me to the upstairs bedroom.”
Her Dad followed her to the upstairs bedroom. As she opened the door, she realized that the old photograph was no longer there!’
“So, Saabji, do you believe that photographs can talk?” asked Alia.
I replied wistfully, “Yes, if only all photographs could talk and re-unite people!”
Blinking her eyes, Alia asked me, “Saabji, why do you say so?”
“Well, I left my wife to explore strange and unknown places around the world. During my travels, I found out so many interesting tidbits about many cultures around the world. In one of my trips, I managed to meet a fortune teller from Arabia. In his small tent on the deserts of Arabia, the fortune teller, clad in a long grey cloak, spread his sea shells on a mat in front of me and said, “Young man, you have wanderlust in you. Till now, you have roamed across Iran, Egypt, Morocco and Sudan, and I see that you have the thirst to travel and explore more, in search of elusive happiness.”
Stunned, I replied, “Sir, you are right. I do not know how you know so much about me. But, yes, I am in search of happiness.”
The fortune teller made a pattern with the sea shells and said, “I also see you have left your beloved wife and a baby girl back home. Your wife is depressed as she misses you.”
The fortune teller smiled mystically and took out an artifact; it was a small sapphire blue peacock made of crystal. He handed it over to me and said, “Young man, take this and keep with you as a travel memento. One day, you will definitely re-unite with your wife and daughter. On that day, gift it to them as a token of happiness.”
“I thanked him and continued my travel and managed to do a lot of fun activities. I learnt how to milk a camel from the Sheiks of Arabs, I learnt the tricks of the gypsies of Morocco, I spent time under the faraway stars, gazing at the moonlit skies from an open tent, and the list is endless…Alia, I am the man in the photograph, Estelle’s Auntie’s husband.”
With awe and tears, the girl replied, “I am your daughter, Alia. You left us when I was just six months old. I love you, Pa. I missed you so much. Ma has been waiting for you to return ever since you left us to fulfill your wanderlust.”
I hugged Alia and held her for a few minutes. A complete man, I looked forward to present the crystal peacock as a token of pure happiness, a memento of restored faith, a tribute to a new life to my beloved wife and Alia. A million sun beams will not reflect the gleam of happiness that my face reflected. I held my daughter’s hands, held my head high, raised my nose high in the air as a proud father would do, and we walked in unison to the approaching sunset - the sun was a fiery orange ball drowning into the open arms of the sea. BW
I love traveling in my flights of imagination and use these flights to craft short stories and poetry. I am a budding writer from India.
My passions are reading, creative writing, listening to music, learning new languages, meeting new people, getting acquainted with different cultures and traveling.
Although these days I do not get much time to pursue all my passions as I have a five-month-old baby, I try to devote some time to some of my passions. Authors like Isabel Allende, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Carlos Ruiz Zafón, genres like magic realism, historical romance, and writing styles that are imaginative and flow effortlessly fascinate me. I love to unwind with a book curled up on a sofa or by gazing at the stars by the sea shore. I am a nature lover and spending time admiring the sunset and sunrise is relaxing for me.