Short Story 2018 Longlist, Shivani Dua

The Frantic Search

It was a tranquil dawn, saffron rays of Sun God were entering my window and the birds could be heard twittering. Soothing morning breeze was blowing. I quickly got up, ready to be a part of the scenery. I took a shower, put on my best ensemble, gulped my breakfast and thinking about my pleasant imageries rushed out. But lo and behold, I found myself on a busy road full of traffic and honking. I was walking amidst school buses, children, office goers, cars, clouds of dust and smoke. The scene at the road made a mockery of the picture which I had witnessed early morning, the imagery I seated in my heart. I quickened my steps to get out of this web. I reached office-exhausted. Yes, in the morning itself I was exhausted. I slouched in a chair and had a glass of water. A pile of files was awaiting me. I forgot everything else- I forgot both the early morning bliss and late morning fuss. I lost myself among the files.

After working for a couple of hours… I felt suffocated, choked, feverish. I threw the pen away and peeped through the window. A bunch of urchins were playing. I got jealous… I also wanted to be happy but could not even smile. I closed my eyes. The tick tock of the clock in the deadly silence of my room irked me. I got up, informed the boss about my ill health but he turned a Nelson’s eye towards my problem. I wanted to scream but contained myself, remained firm and declared that I wanted – was in dire need of a half day leave. I looked at my boss’s face getting red with fury. I ignored his frown, turned and came out, slamming the door behind me. I wanted everyone to know—I was frustrated. I wasn’t a machine working 24*7. I was a full blooded human being in need of relaxation, love and respect. I walked in a relaxed gait while going back home. I was in no hurry. For the first time in life, I observed many colourful insects crawling on the ground. I felt the gentle touch of air caressing my hair. I felt so light like a cloud floating in the sky.

Some children were playing in a park-I saw innocence, untouched by selfishness, ego or malice. I threw my bag, shoes, socks, on a bench and joined them in their game. I laughed my heart out, shouted in happiness. Tears welled up in my eyes. I felt the moist touch of that dew drop which was coming out of my eyes and settled on my cheek. Yes! That’s life-carefree, light like a soft breeze. All these years I was just a dummy or to be more specific a mummy-Yes! I was dead. There was no trace of life left in me but today I felt as if fresh blood was circulating inside me, gushing into my veins, bringing a fresh lease of life inside me. It was then I realised that too much wisdom and graveness which has become the trademark of adults had served me no good.

Rather, being crazy, a bit wild, carrying a child-like innocence inside has the miraculous power to soothe us from within. Somebody was tapping continuously on my shoulder. ‘Uncle! Uncle! Please throw the ball.’ I smiled and rejoined the children. “Uncle! You play so well. Why don’t you play with us everyday?” One of them remarked. My face beamed at this unexpected compliment. I worked diligently at my office but never got a compliment. The result of my sincerity was more and more work- an unending list. This, according to my boss was a perfect protective device that could save me from being on cloud nine. He never thought that praising someone can be a source of motivation too. But these little ones were so happy with my work and lauded my efforts whole heartedly. I gave them a treat of their favourite ice cream which they licked happily. I was even happier than them. In fact I was the happiest. For the first time in life, I tasted happiness-understood its true meaning and realised its true worth. I went home and slept soundly like a child. I got the fresh air back into my life. My frantic search was over. It was happiness which was missing from my life. I found it today.

Ah! I am ready to stake anything for that whiff of fresh air.

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