Sonali Basu, Longlist, Short Story 2017

Her Lost Paper Boat

Sonali Basu

It’s raining cats and dogs from early morning. Tanya woke up as usual at the alarm of her mobile. Today is Saturday and she have to go to the office but there’s no hurry like the other days. She pulled the curtains off the window to let in the first sun rays of the day but was a bit surprised when she got hug from cool wet breeze rather than warm sun rays. She took out her palm and felt the rain drops. It isn’t drizzle but a heavy shower. She put her head a bit out to see how’ the two sparrows doing in their nest in this weather. The couple isn’t in their nest, maybe gone for search of food or search of a better shelter.  Tanya felt like taking a leave from office. She thought of spending the whole day as she wish. She went to the bed side table opened the laptop and mailed a holiday application to her immediate boss Mr. Aryan Singh. After she mailed she once more went to the window to enjoy the rain.

She used to run out to get wet in rain when she was of around thirteen. Until then ma didn’t let her get adventurous in rain. She fell ill with fever or cold very often. Her parents had to spent sleepless nights due to this. After ma left for heavenly abode and she almost became alone in this world. Her father Alok Garg started going to business trips every now and then leaving her under the supervision of Mrs. Latika Burman, a distant relative of Alok. Tanya felt like crying in that big apartment with no one to listen to her. Latika aunt was good home keeper but not a person with whom anything could be shared. Tanya started writing down her feelings on the notebook she used as rough copy.

The mobile rang out. Tanya moved from the window to receive the call. Aryan has called. “Hello! Good morning sir”
“Good morning Ms. Garg; you have applied for a leave. Is there any urgency?”
“Yes sir I’ve to visit a dentist, I’ve a toothache. And till now I didn’t take any leave”
“Ok, your performance is very good and so Mr. Sukla has granted you a leave.” “Thank you Sir. Good day.” She has said a lie and didn’t feel sorry for that instead smiled.

Tanya switched off her mobile; she didn’t want to receive any calls for today. Then she went to bathroom and got fresh. Then she went to the kitchen to make upma for breakfast. Today she has planned to go against the regular routine. Suddenly there is a loud rumbling sound of thunder immediately after the flash of lightening. Tanya remembered to jump on the lap and hold her ma’s neck tight when there was such lightning and thunder. Ma used to say a story of goddess Durga and God Shiva to make her fear go out.

But Tanya couldn’t remember now the theme of the story.
After breakfast Tanya went to the terrace with a cup of coffee. The shower has slowed down but the heavy clouds floating indicated that it won’t stop throughout the day. Tanya stepped out in the rain. She felt the cold drops of water kissing her body. Water drops got mixed up with her hot coffee. She gulped down the coffee kept the coffee mug and spread out her hands like a butterfly. She first danced in rain when she was of fifteen. Tanya started learning Odishi when she was of five. Her ma liked classical form of dancing. Baba never objected; he always said he knows Sandhya is very concerned about the future of Tanya and he is free from any worries. After learning for four years Tanya first performed on stage in a competition. Her performance rewarded her first place. Baba and Ma was so pleased that they gave her a special treat in a famous restaurant of the city and bought her all the toys she wished to have.

She first met Joy on one such rainy day. Though it wasn’t rainy season but starting of autumn. She was returning from school riding her bicycle when suddenly it started to drizzle. It was just Tuesday and she didn’t wish her school dress to get wet. So she took shelter under a tree. She has forgotten to bring her raincoat that day. She prayed to god to stop the rain immediately so she can return home and start the shower after she has reached home. Closing the eyes she was praying with such devotion that she didn’t notice someone to run under the shade at the moment. “Are you praying for the shower to stop, then pray on behalf of me too.” The voice startled Tanya and immediately she opened her eyes. A teenager is standing near her with his bike beside him. How these boys get license to drive a bike, she thought. “Are you dumb?” he said again. She got irritated “No”
“That’s better. Did you hear my request?”
“You pray for yourself; I don’t pray for strangers.”

“Oh come on you aren’t a stranger to me. I know you very well and until now thought that you too know me but now I understood I was wrong.”
Tanya stared at the boy without answering. He said “Oh you can’t recognize me. Well I stay in the opposite complex of yours’, a floor above. You must have seen me while standing on the balcony didn’t you?”
Tanya remembered now that she has seen him but never gave him any notice. He said “My name is Joy and yours’?”
She answered “Tanya”
“Sweet name!”

Tanya didn’t answer but noticed the shower has stopped completely so she mounted her cycle and started off. Joy too started his bike and passed her in a second. Though she didn’t wish but they met again in her best friend Itulika’s birthday. Tanya was late to reach the birthday party. When she reached Itu said “Come here immediately. I’m waiting for a long time to cut the cake. And you are so late”

Tanya smiled and advanced. When they were eating dinner someone whispered from back “You are looking pretty.” Tanya turned around to notice Joy behind her. Itu who was standing beside her said “He’s always like this. Don’t mind.” Then she said “Let me introduce him to you; he’s Joy my brother, uncle’s son. They live in the flat opposite your complex.”

They became friends after that. When Tanya’s mother died in kidney failure Joy gave her mental support. She cried her heart out in the rain the day she came to know baba is marrying a new woman with an excuse that he cannot live alone and need a partner for life. At that time Joy stood beside her to get her out of the mental distress but without a question. He was such a good friend that she shared her every moment with him. She even took his help when she chose her subjects in the graduation level. Unlike other boys Joy didn’t propose her on Valentine’s Day with a rose as he believed love is a deep feel towards someone and not a thing to show off in public. But they both knew they are going to hold each other’s hands for life when they get settled in their career.

He and she separated when Joy got an opportunity to join an international pharma company in Germany. He promised to keep contact with her through mails and phones but that ceased with the time and which at last had stopped for past one year. At first she tried hard to mend up the relationship but he turned cold to all her efforts. At last she stopped keeping any connection. She didn’t shed tears as she could understand the distance between Joy and her place has created a distance in their relationship too. 

Tanya finished her studies and struggled hard to get a good job for herself. But in the meantime she cocooned herself within a hard shell which stopped any person to go near her heart and she also forgot her romance with rain. Today this unexpected rain has brought back her love for it. Rain drops kissed her and made her shiver with its cold hug, but still she stood in it.

After baba married again she leaved her father’s flat and went to the hostel and now she lives in this rented apartment. Tanya is aware that her baba lives in the same city but she doesn’t keep any contact with him. She had expected more love from her father towards her mother. The sky is turning deep grey more and more unlike her mind. Everything is turning to a more deep shade of grey getting drenched in the rain. The tune of her happy heart is turning to sad notes. Tanya thought of writing down few lines in her diary. She came down the stairs to pick up her diary from the table in her small study. But she needs a change first, she is dripping all over.

The door bell rang with a bird’s sweet twitter. At first Tanya didn’t notice the sound but when it rang out repeatedly she answered in a loud voice “I’m coming!” She walked past the drawing rubbing her wet hair with the towel towards the door and opened it. She was astonished when she saw who’s standing at the door. Joy was standing with a big smile and a bouquet of white tuberoses. His raincoat was all wet. She silently let him in. He said “It’s raining heavily today.”

“May I help you to open your raincoat first?”
“Oh yes…I should open the coat first. The floor is all covered with water. I’m sorry”
“Give me the coat, I’ll hang it in the proper place”
“This is for you” he handed over the bouquet to Tanya. “You still remember my favourite choice of flowers!”
He smiled and then said “I returned from abroad two days before and my first choice was to meet you but was afraid at the same time whether you are still in the city or has shifted to some other place. I couldn’t contact you on phone so I sent a mail. I feel you didn’t notice it”

Tanya replied “I was busy past one week at office. Today I took a leave or you wouldn’t have found me here now but how did you know about this address?”
“Uncle gave me”
Tanya felt she won’t be able to stop her eyes from overflowing so she asked in a hoarse voice “What will you have now tea or coffee?”
“You know my choice, don’t you?”

Tanya went to kitchen and silently sobbed making tea in the electric kettle. She had so many odd thoughts about the silence from Joy’s end, but she was so wrong! And baba still keeps a watch on his daughter though he is not near her as she wished not. And this was how she behaved! She couldn’t forgive herself now. A hand touched her shoulder and she shivered with this expected touch. Joy turned her towards him “Why are you crying my love? Did I hurt you in any way?”
She shook her head in deny while rubbing her eyes from behind her palms. Joy said “Then why?”
“I thought everyone has forgotten me but…”

“How could I have forgotten? My career took me to far off country but I never forgot you. In the crowd I always felt your absence. I know it’s my fault that I couldn’t keep contact with you but your thoughts came back to me often. So when I got the first chance to return homeland I thought of returning!”
Tanya hid her face in his chest hugging him tight. Joy smiled while taking her in his arms. She could feel his heart beating for her. Then he took her face in his hands and said “Today I’m going to ask something special from you and I feel you will agree too… I wish you to be part of my life. Will you marry me?”
Tanya blushed and just nodded in acceptance. Joy said “Let’s go to uncle’s house in the evening and ask for his blessings too”. She smiled.

 

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