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12 July 2012
4D,FairView Apartments- The cell phone buzzed twice. Snuggled up in her blanket, she was neither asleep nor awake; she was somewhere in between. And she couldn’t be bothered to check a text message at the moment. It was a depressing day nevertheless; it had been raining for the past two days in Mumbai. What was the point of checking a text message? Her apartment which had always been cozy and warm enough for her was now small and cold. The earthy coloured upholstery that was so peaceful after a stressful day for her now bothered her in this silence rhythmically interrupted by rain drops splattering across the windows. The rains which she so had loved all her life made her retreat further and further back in herself and it astounded her how much a person could close themselves to the world. The cool breezy wind did not feel teasing anymore, it made her cold more than anything else. She brought the blanket closer to her face and brought her face closer to the blanket in a lazy motion. Sleep deprived and yet with all the time in the world to sleep, she shut her eyes that had opened up at the ugly sound of the vibrating phone kept on her cluttered side table that also inhabited her books, watch and a few accessories. She was never this messy but who cares?
A few minutes later, she reached out to her phone. Surely checking the message isn’t going to change anything and I will get atleast that bit of peace of mind if not anything else.
*1 new message*, the cell phone screen read.
She clicked on the envelope icon and briefly closed her eyes out of tiredness. When she opened them back again she looked at the screen reading a few words here and there, never reading more than two words at a time. It was a random message from a colleague. Not quite a colleague though, more of a work acquaintance. The words a bit inappropriate flashed in her mind but she brushed the thought away. She locked the phone and closed her eyes again.
And then it hit her.
She threw the blanket over and grabbed the phone with both her hands only to go through the message again.
“You know you think too much, look here is an idea.”
Her friend’s words a week back ringed in her ears now.
She was pleasantly caught off guard by the universe.
5 July 2012 (a week before)
The big glass office on the 34th floor, Smart Banking Solutions- “Sir may I come in?”, Abhijay asked his manager.
The manager looked up and nodded.
Abhijay had only just arrived at his workplace after working overtime last night. He had been working overtime since the past 8 days to compile the loan recovery statistical report that his manager had asked him to prepare. New to the job, he was anxious to impress his superiors.
“Sir, here is the report you asked for”, he said and extended the report towards the manager.
“Which report?” he asked with a scorned expression that was characteristic of the seasoned executive.
“Sir, the loan recovery statistical report.” Abhijay said as the pace of heartbeat increased.
“I asked for that last week, why are you giving it to me a week later?” the manager looked the same.
“Sir, but there was so much of the data and I worked overtime this past week to complete the report!” Abhijay explained.
“So? Is that my problem? If I asked for something one day it means I want it that day or the next day by latest. Not a week after when it is of no use!” the manager returned back to his work.
“What happened and why was he shouting on you?” the peon asked as he came out.
“Umm nothing, it was my mistake!” he answered the peon and walked back to his cubicle.
He threw the report in the dustbin and banged his fists on the table which caused the pen stand to fall and consequently the pens and pencils to fall which infuriated him further.
He put his head in his hands and had been sitting like that for a while when his cell phone vibrated. He pulled the phone out of his pocket and checked for the missed communication. He had a missed called from a friend and 5 unread messages. He checked all of them one by one, when the last one by his sister, Shubhani, made him laugh hard. It was a stupid joke but he laughed heartily. Just about the thing I needed.
A few hours later. . .
Cafeteria, Smart Banking Solutions- Sitting at one of the many tables was an old man in his 50s who was mostly invisible to everyone because he preferred to keep to himself. He was a simple man who lived with his wife in his ancestral home in Chandni Chowk in the capital city. He had friends in his neighbours who had all lived in the same places they did when they were kids. He did not need any friends at workplace though he was quite considerate of people he worked with and they liked their good old man who would ask about their well being even if he did not have a favour to ask for in return. His son, Shaurya, was in Merchant Navy and currently away to Cape Of Good Hope near the southern coastline of Africa. He did not get to see his son much since he graduated from the academy 3 years back. He was always away to far off lands and would tell stories of the exotic places he would go to on coming back. Since for a long time the parents were dejected that they would never see or hear from their son because of his job but now the things were a little better. On the urging of his son, R.K Aggarwal learned how to use a cell phone. He could now text his son everyday even he could not talk to him everyday due to the constantly varying time zones. He never used the phone for any other reason and would always give out his landline number, he could not understand why anyone would want a phone on them all the time. He figured it would be quite annoying.
Like everyday he was having his routine meal, packed in a lunch by his wife. He heard a few people laughing near his table were a bunch of young men. It seemed like one of them was telling the others something that was funny. It was Abhijay, the same young man he had bumped into while coming over to the cafeteria. The joke told by him was indeed quite funny and it made the Aggarwal senior chuckle to himself. He suddenly pined for his son who looked much like the man who was having a good laugh with his friends. A man who had been brought up well. A man who was destined to become a bigger man than his father. But most importantly, a man who had been loved and will always be. He imagined his son seating around with his friends on a big giant ship navigating in the endless turquoise depths. He imagined him laughing like the stand up comedian too. He could probably help in then by sharing the joke with him. He would not call because the sailor might be sleeping yet but he could text. His son would read them whenever he was up. Then maybe they could laugh over it on the phone someday. Or when he comes back.
7th July 2012
Cape Of Good Hope- Shaurya woke up after a brief sleep that was still a luxury given the hectic past three days. It was going to be a lazy day today, they had a ball party and he was considering sleeping in. He did not feel like a cavalier today. He got up from his bunk and freshened up only to return back to the bunk. He sank back in the nothingness and ended up leaning against the wall adjacent to his bunk. Sorely tired he sat like that for a while. He loved the job but he missed his family more. Some days at night when he would stand by the ship railing under the night sky, he’d wish his parents would get to see this boundless continuity too. He’d wish his parents would see the velvet spherical horizon graced by millions of tiny little stars. It truly was a sight to him. He clicked pictures that he could and tell them what he could but it was not quite the same thing as living it. But then it was probably naïve to hope they would want to live this life too. This is a life he chose for himself, they had made their choice a long time back and have always seemed content with it. But he did have his savings building up quite sufficiently now, he was planning to take them on a cruise vacation whenever he would return. He hoped they would not sea sick though. He leaned forward to his lamp table and opened the drawer to take out some pictures he carried of his family and his time in Delhi. He would go through these pictures after every 3-4 days or so. And no matter how hard were the imprints of those pictures in his mind, he would still get his eyes all moist on looking at them. He would always look at a particular picture longer than the others. It was a picture of his 3rd birthday, he stood in front of a cake of face of Mickey Mouse. Like any child he was immersed in his reverie, giggling at the celebrations around him. But in the picture he didn’t look at himself but at his parents. Where he looked at the world around him, his parents looked at him with their ever-smiling faces. He had seen them being angry, frustrated and disappointed too but he only remembered their smiling faces. He hoped he would one day become a man even remotely like his father. A man who is respected among his people. A man who is true to his work. A man who knows how to love and care for his family. He remembered how he had helped his father to learn how to use the cell phone he gifted him on his 56th birthday. He suddenly jumped forward to take out his own phone from the same drawer. He was going to call when he instead saw the message sent by him. He had shared a joke with his son. Shaurya laughed for the first time in a long time. He quickly dialed back home to laugh even harder.
10th July 2012
Somewhere in the Indian Ocean- Being a bartender for a Merchant Navy ship wasn’t something Yasmin could have every imagined in her wildest dreams when she passed out from Hospitality management school but yet here she was. It was better than working in a hotel or a club because the men here were chivalrous which was usually missing at the bars in Madras. The gentleman here could occasionally lose it after drinking a bit too much but even in their inebriated state they would be civil to her. They would often tell her stories of battles and of hardships which she so used to love. They would tell the stories of soldiers yearning to go back home to whomever it was who cared enough to wait. And although she wasn’t a soldier, she too had someone waiting for her. It was her fiancé, they were supposed to get married by the end of the month. She was yearning to be a bride. It was also her family that was waiting for a bittersweet celebration. She was cleaning the cabinet where she kept the decorative umbrellas and lemons when a young man came and asked for a beer.
“Yes, beer it is!” he laughed.
“Here you go” she passed him a bottle of beer.
“So Yasmin, how are you? Eager to get married, are we?” he asked. Everybody knew their bartender was getting married by the month end and they all were invited except they lamented that they won’t find their favourite bartender at the bar in the wedding. However, Yasmin promised them all she would mix them drinks atleast once which was met with cheers at the bar.
“I’m awesome and yes! Very much!” she replied in her usual composed way with a smile that was oddly charming.
“That’s great! Hey you know what? I’m taking my parents on a cruise vacation when I get back to Delhi. I haven’t told them yet, I’ll surprise them with the tickets. I’m so excited!” he gushed.
“Wow really? You are such a nice man Shaurya! Some day some girl would be so lucky!” Yasmin said.
“Well, you left me and now you say so!” he said in mock contempt.
They both laughed and talked for a while. Finally Shaurya went back to his work.
Yasmin took a break to call her fiancé in Madras, she told him about her day. She told him the stories she heard. She told him the jokes she laughed at. She told him the things Shaurya told her, the jokes he told her and the joke he heard from his father in Delhi. She told him she missed him and her family. And when her voice would go small at the mention of her family, she would quickly share another anecdote of her job. She couldn’t afford to fall into despair while being so far away from the people she wanted to be with. Who would cheer her up if she became melancholy?
12th July 2012
Perceptive Gallery, Madras- Kabir was a happy man now. His best friend of life had agreed to marry him and made him the luckiest man on earth. Although his photo gallery, one of the bests in Madras wasn’t getting much work these days but that didn’t bother him much now. There were a lot of special things in life and he didn’t want to miss out on any of them because of any of the other. He had talked to Yasmin only yesterday; she seemed a bit sad to him. Kabir thought it was because she was apprehensive of leaving a familiar world to settle into a new one. But then he remembered that both of them lived nearby and Yasmin could visit her first family whenever she wanted to. And once again he made a mental note of doing whatever it takes to keep her smiling. Playing back their conversation in his mind, he was reminded of a hilarious joke her friend Shaurya had told her. It was a good joke really. He promptly typed it and sent forwarded to his friends. Of late, Kabir was a great believer of spreading cheer. Usually a moody person, he had been in his best moods since a long time and he was even happier now. Though one could say that he was almost giddy but he believed in looking at the silver lining, more so at this time. He had anyway some offers lined up from potential clients to showcase their work but he felt most of them were monotonous. It was the same portfolio all over again. The same abstract pictures that had no perspective in his eyes. He never understood why anyone would showcase abstract art anyways. If any, that art could only make sense to the artist. If no one else can get anything from it then what is the point? Kabir felt people could have their own perspective of such art too but he didn’t believe in art that was so hard to make sense of. He believed pictures should bring a smile on a person’s face or result in a realization almost instantaneously. That was the definition of art for the young gallery heir. He was looking for an eye that was the most unique of all and yet universal in its appeal. Only such a photographer could pull the crowds to the gallery. He was waiting for a portfolio that was arresting in first glance. He was going over some pending portfolios on his desk when a picture caught his eye. It was a monochrome image of a woman standing by a window half open in a dingy room. It was a picture of the woman looking at the traffic so far below her room, it seemed like a picture of continuity vs. stillness. Kabir went through other pictures of the portfolio and he loved most of them. He could almost understand the mind of the photographer and yet she was but a stranger to him. He looked at the name on the album. “Well not much of a stranger then”, he thought to himself.
He quickly called her up to inform her about the good news.
Later that day in Mumbai. . .
It was dark by now in Mumbai and her day had been the same uneventful day. Although things had changed a wee bit since the morning after the happenstance. A week back when she been lamenting about her life to a friend about how she felt stuck and was longing for some direction, her friend had told her ways of the universe. She had told her how destiny takes its course in due time, how everything was predetermined and how if something is meant to happen takes places against all apparent odds. Shubhani had brushed away it as a ruse.
“Life is difficult and people need to place their faith in something because that makes hoping against hope easier. Some believe in God while some in destiny. But the truth is that it’s all chaos.” she reasoned cynically.
“You know you think too much, look here is an idea!”
“I will forward a random text message from your cell phone to some people in your contact list. Now I say if something is about huge is about to happen for you, then you will get this message back. Somehow it will come back to you.”
“Seriously, you think a message is going to change it for me? A text message?” Shubhani waved her phone in her friend’s face.
“Give it a try, please! Even if I’m wrong, it won’t hurt you since you don’t believe me anyway!” her friend pleaded hopefully.
“Oh well, okay. It can’t hurt.” Shubhani caved in.
Sitting by the window sill, she played over the conversation uncountable times in her head. The weather was still cool but it didn’t bother her much anymore now. Monsoon had always seemed to her like a time when people let down their insecurities and false pretenses. It was as if the change in climatic weather changed something in the human nature too. The gradual calm yet the tenacity seemed palpable enough. Shubhani felt the rains lent a nature of hope and perseverance to a place unlike the cruel summers and bittersweet winters. As she looked out she saw traffic moving on busy streets of Mumbai. She saw the little circles of lights fighting the dominating presence of dark. She saw the other colours of charcoal which one could see only when it was wet and surrounded by light. Stability was never beautiful, instability somehow always was. She felt hopeful but had learned not to build up her hopes too high.
Her phone rang.
She rushed to receive the call from Kabir, the person who been the reason for uplifting of her spirits in a long time.
“Hello?” she said cautiously.
“Shubhani, Kabir here!” the other side of the line said.
“H-hi-i how are you?” she said, still unsure.
“Hey listen, I was just going through some portfolio’s to showcase in the month of August when I saw your album. And it is absolutely brilliant! We at Perceptive studios would love to feature your work in the next month! Say, are you up to it?” he said.
“Oh wow! Well that is just amazing. That is the single good news I have had in months! I’m so grateful to you and Perceptive studios!” she said taking her time with each word in a soft voice.
Both talked for a while and Shubhani considered asking Kabir as to how he had received the message but thought better of it. She decided she was happy now and did not have to know.
The story is based on the theory of Six Degrees Of Separation that is based on the idea that an average person is six steps away from any other person on Earth and they can be connected by way of introduction or other communication. It’s a small world after all.